Monday, October 29, 2012

sometimes you confront it

photo: Andrea Ross

A few years ago I wrote a list that I turned into a blog post called "whiskers on kittens." This is the opposite of that post, because sometimes you need to deal with fear head on:


Getting old. (I'm aware of the irony of this.)


Being a terrible writer and not realizing it. (I had a dream last night that a former boss morphed into my father and he/they said, "You don't write. You just throw words on paper.")


Being irrelevant.

Going blind.

Fears too big to name. (They involve loved ones and I'm just not going there.)

Being at a cocktail party with nothing to say.

Being forgotten.


photo: Mark Blevis

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

time is still relative

November 1st.

That's when I'll meet the radiation oncologist, ask some more questions, get more information and most i mportantly - MAKE A PLAN.

This morning, I spoke to Rejeanne, the nurse who works with my medical oncologist. I must have gasped when she told me the date of my appointment because she said (and kindly),  "If Dr. Gertler thought the appointment needed to happen sooner, he would have said something."

And so I wait. November 1st is only a little over 2 weeks away. 

It feels like an eternity.

Monday, October 15, 2012

have you read "Not Done Yet"?

Have you read this book yet?

I think I have all the remaining copies of Not Done Yet : Living Through Breast Cancer in my attic. I'm selling them for $25 (tax included) plus shipping. 

I'm told it's a pretty good book. You should read it. Or give it to someone you love.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

don't freak out

Have you heard the supposed ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times?"

Things just got a little more interesting around here.

The routine MRI I had on October 5 revealed a 20mm lesion in my cerebellum. 

My oncologist and another from whom I got an unofficial second opinion are very optimistic that this thing can be easily zapped with stereotatic radiosurgery (also called Cyber or Gamma knife surgery), which isn't surgery at all but a very precise form of radiation. Treatments are few (between 1 and 5 sessions) and cause very few side effects. 

It's a really weird feeling knowing I have a cancerous mass in my brain. It does explain all the falling down (the cerebellum controls balance). I've always been clumsy but the last few months have been ridiculous.

I'm having a harder time dealing with the fact that the cancer has returned. I've been in remission, or NED, for five years. It's become easy to entertain the fantasy that the cancer was gone for good. My oncologist has even mused about that possibility.

This relatively little (I'm assured it's small by medical standards) tumour is a sobering wake-up call. I have Stage 4 breast cancer. That is always going to be true.

Still, I continue to be lucky. Herceptin came onto the market in time to save my life. Ottawa is only one of three Canadian cities to have Cyber knife technology and that is only as of this summer. Time is once again on my side.

So please join me in not freaking out (or in only freaking out a little bit). Life around here continues as normal (or at least our version of it). The day after finding out about the tumour I joined Weight Watchers. How mundanely optimistic is that?

I'll know more once I meet with the radiation oncologist. Meanwhile, I really want this t-shirt:

I'd order it, except that  Ihopefully would only get to wear it a couple of times before I'd have to change "have" to "had." I don't want to waste my money.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

limits on multi-tasking (on not doing pelvic lifts while I brush my teeth)

You'd think that since I don't have a full-time job (or even a part-time one) and both my kids are in school that time management would be a breeze, yet I still find myself struggling to get things done.

Part of that is pure procrastination (it's a slippery slope from checking my email to reading 10 tabloid stories someone linked to on Facebook). 

Part of it is feeling overwhelmed (where to start on a large project? which project should I work on first?).

It's also that I have changed the way that I live my life. Before cancer, when I worked full time, it seemed that every minute needed to be spent in a productive way. I tore myself out of bed in the morning as though jolted by a starter pistol and collapsed back in long after I knew I was tired. I answered emails while watching TV, talked on the phone while I played with my kids, read over documents while I rode the bus. There were seldom any truly quiet moments.

Cancer pushed me off that treadmill. In some ways I miss it but in lots more ways I don't.

While I still keep lists obsessively, I try not to obsess over getting through them. And over the last few months I've begun to embrace the efficiency of doing one thing at a time and doing it to the best of my ability. I still have a long way to go.

Every time I read a newspaper online or leaf through a magazine, I am urged to multi-task in every possible way. "Give yourself a facial while you make dinner!" "Fold laundry while you return calls!" "Tighten your butt muscles while you brush your teeth!" It all feels exhausting to me.

I am very fortunate to have been given the gift of time. I'm working at making it work for me. I want to focus on playing the game, not worrying about whether I'm going to drop the ball.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

brain fart

Today, I set myself up to do a phone interview with an author based in Los Angeles, California. 

The whole thing was set up through her publicist and we'd worked out a time of 12:30pm PST for me to call.

Counting the three hour time difference in the wrong direction, I came very, very close to calling her at 6:30am PST. This would have been bad, especially because she writes in her memoir that she is most definitely not a morning person.

This is embarrassing. The publicist first suggested an earlier time and I balked because it would be "the craziest possible time in our house, as we try to get everyone out the door." The time suggested had been 11:00am PST, which really would have been 2:00pm EST, which would have been fine.

I really should know better. I spent three years on the West Coast, in the heart of PST-land. I also spent 15 years working for national organizations and was adept at working out time zones.

My brain is rusty.

The interview is really scheduled for 3:30 EST. I will be in the middle of my afternoon slump but at least I know I'm ready.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

keep your head down

It's begun.

The annual barrage of pinkwashed crap and pinxploitation is in full swing.

And I really don't feel like talking about it. What I want to do is stay home for the rest of October and not open any emails until this month is done. Enough already. Now that it seems that more people can relate to my pink ribbon anathema, why haven't the pitches slowed down or the products become harder to find?

I want to make like an ostrich and just wait until it all goes away.

Instead, and to spare myself the need to get worked into a lather, I'll direct you to the right sidebar of this blog. Scroll down to the "labels." Click on the one marked "don't buy pink crap" (or just click on this link to go there directly) and you can read rants, observations, a little analysis and links to the blogs of some compadres.

Speaking of compadres, these great bloggers are kindred spirits, when it comes to pinkwashing:

i hatebreastcancer

Uneasy Pink

Gayle Sulik (author of Pink Ribbon Blues)

The Assertive Cancer Patient

Nancy's Point

and, of course, the late, great Rachel of Cancer Culture Chronicles

I'm sure I'm forgetting some bloggers and I'm sure there are more that I don't know. Do you have others you could add to the list? Let's make an anti-pink blogroll!

(As an aside, I note that all but one of these blogs is written by women with metastasis. I will be writing more about living with mets amidst the pink ribbons in the next few days)

I also can't resist another chance to put in a plug for Pink Ribbons Inc, the movie that explains it all and does it very powerfully.

Updated to add:

 A great article from the web site xojane: I Hate Breast Cancer 'Awareness' Month.

October:  Breast Cancer Awareness Scam Month by Suzanne Reisman. Suzanne writes a post for BlogHer on this subject every year. And her words meant a great deal to me in October 2006 when the shock of a pinkwashed world first hit me. I even quoted her in my book!