Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I see the Light!

Eventually light follows darkness.

I woke up this morning and realized that my hips and lower back weren't aching! Navigating my way down the stairs wasn't a major undertaking! I could possibly be feeling more like 80 than 110!

Despite the dreary sky (and threat of the S-word), I actually feel like I might be coming through the other side of my lost days. I'm happy to potentially be part of the real world again. Maybe I'll go crazy and go to Starbucks for coffee... or maybe I'll take pleasure in simple tasks like preparing healthy food or loading my dishwasher... or maybe I'll go for a walk.

Feeling like crap for a few days makes me appreciate getting outside even when the weather isn't great. Darkness gives us an opportunity to reflect and hope, and to trust that eventually everything, even the weather, will turn from dark to light.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Eight years after her original diagnosis, Marie-Andrée’s cancer returned in the same breast. The good news is that there was no signs of metastasis anywhere, but it meant a mastectomy and more chemo. She is now waiting for surgery to remove her ovaries and may consider prophylactic mastectomy once she has the results.

When I first met Marie-Andrée on the dragon boat team, one of the things that was obvious is her love of family. Her son is now 12 and we’d often see him and his dad at dragon boat events. The Busting Out dragon boat team has been a huge source of support and pride – so much so that Marie-Andrée wore her team shirt to all of her chemo treatments!

When a chemo patient finishes their last treatment, they get to ring a bell in the chemo room.

Marie-Andrée writes:
"How do I look at life today? Some days with fear but most days with hope and a very deliberate attempt at making every moment count big time. Watching our son grow and play and become a fine young man is what I want to keep on doing for a very long time.

A few tips from Marie-Andrée for others with a recurrence (in no particular order):
· Accept the kindness of others with grace - the people around you want to help so much - take all that you need. You deserve it.
· Be your own advocate with the medical system and with those who surround you. Only you can speak for you.
· Trust kids. They can teach us so much and they deserve honesty.
· Go for a walk everyday - if you can with a supportive neighbour.
· Read good books or, if you can't concentrate, watch funny movies.
· Keep on living as much as you can...enjoy the small moments of everyday life."

You can read Marie-Andree’s story in her own words at "Marie-Andrée".

If you would like to read about other women living with cancer, click on "Cancer Heroes" below.

The Dark Days continue

I know what it feels like to be 110. Small things like walking up and down the stairs take a major effort. After making the bed, I slumped down on top of the comforter and it took me about 15 minutes before I found the energy to move again. I've had back pain before that was caused by sore and tight muscles, but this pain is in the bones and no amount of stretching helps. I have morphine pills and sometimes they seem rather tempting, but I want to try and make do with Ibuprofen. I'm hopeful that tomorrow will be a better day...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Dark Days

OK, I'll admit it. I'm cranky and feeling sorry for myself. Some days are for fighting; some are for recovery. Today is a recovery day.

These are the 'dark days' that I don't usually write about. The days when my stomache feels like raw hamburger and the taste of the inside of my own mouth makes me want to gag. The days when when my hips, shoulders, and just about every other joint aches at some point. The days when my internal organs feel like I've been hit by a bus. The days when I might not brush my teeth until noon and I don't always have the energy to make it into the shower.

The 'dark days' can be pretty boring. I sleep on and off and watch too much TV. Lying on the sofa for so long doesn't help my joints, and contributes to the pain in my lower back. Sometimes I get down on the floor and try to stretch it out. Sometimes I force myself to go for a walk, moving one foot methodically in front of the other.

But mostly I just give in to it and ride it out. There's something satisfying about wallowing in my own self-pity, knowing that the chemo cycle will eventually complete itself and I'll be able to appreciate the 'light days' again. Until then, I'm going to curl up into the fetal position, eat bad food, and rest my tired body.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wrapping in the rain

I've been feeling relatively OK since my latest treatment. I have slight nausea, which is mostly settled by needing to eat often, and the horrible metal taste (like I've been licking dirty ashtrays) has returned. While I'm able to do some activities, I have to rest often. Mary & I went for a nice walk yesterday and then I spent the evening on the sofa.
This morning our W.R.A.P. (walking, running & poling) group met at the new cancer survivor park on Riverside & Industrial. We got pretty wet but managed to dry off and warm up at the Local Heroes afterwards. Time for another few hours on the sofa with my quilt and a good book...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Run for the Cure photos

You can view more Run for the Cure pictures on my Snapfish account. You don't have to log on to Snapfish; just click on View Now on the top right. You will see 2 albums: Chris's Jocks and Just Doing It. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Kitchen

Moving off the cancer topic for a bit, my kitchen renovations are coming along, slowly but surely. The old flooring was ripped up yesterday and it's ready for the ceramic tile to be installed. My fridge and other kitchen furniture is in the diningroom, and the rest of my house is generally in a mess with the overflow, but it's great to be making progress!

Chemo - Round 3

Yesterday was my third treatment. I usually only post on my 'good days', but I think I'm going to try posting every day during the next 3 week cycle, as a record of the ups and downs of a typical chemo cycle.

The first week is usually a time of 'anything goes'. Nausea, fatique, and various intestinal problems (I won't get into that... just use your imagination) are all common side effects. You can generally feel like you have a bad flu. I haven't had much nausea and I still have energy, probably because I'm still on the steroids. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the steroids is increased appetite - I've been eating anything not nailed down over the past 3 days. Weight gain is common.

From day 7 to 14 is when you are at most risk for infection. Your white blood cell count can drop and your immune system is compromised. I have to watch carefully for a fever because if that happens you have to be admitted to hospital because you probably have an infection somewhere and your body has nothing to fight it. I've had bone pain, muscle pain, mouth sores and fatique during this time. You can also have numbness in the hands and feet. They put oven mitts packed with ice on me during chemo to try and prevent this (and to prevent the nails from turning black and sometimes falling off). Numbness in the limbs is not a good thing, because the damage can sometimes be permanent.

Towards the end of the 2nd week, the effects typically start to ease up and week three is my 'play week'. I've felt well enough in the 3rd week to hike, bike and do some other activities. I'm usually rushing around that week to get things done before the cycle starts all over again.

Another side effect of chemo is that it can age your body up to 20 years. With this being my 2nd round, that puts me at 20 years older than my mother, which may explain why she can run circles around me at 70!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Steroid induced Insomnia

It's 5:30 am on the morning of my 3rd chemo treatment. I estimate that I have had somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours of sleep, so if this post doesn't make a lot of sense, you'll understand why.

I am supposed to take 2 steroid pills (Decadron) in the morning and 2 at night for 3 days - the day before, the day of, and the day after each treatment. Unfortunately, one of the side affects of Decadron is insomnia.
So in an effort to lull myself to sleep, I finished reading half of The Reader and watched George Stroumboulopoulos interview Alanis Morrisette on the Hour.

I watched an infomercial on The Magic Bullet and wondered why mine doesn't crush ice like the one on TV does.

I watched a expose on Gary Bussey on Access Hollywood. (Did you know that he's been drug free for 13 years and that his rather bizarre behavior is caused by brain damage from a motorcycle accident?)

OK, tomorrow night I'm bringing out the big gun sleeping pills.

Congratulations to Carolyn Sturgess!

I recently wrote about cancer survivor/thriver Carolyn. She's living in Viking Alberta, but recently came back to Sudbury Ontario where she was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Laurentian University, along with her brother Shawn.
You can read about her many accomplishments as a basketball star on the Laurentian website. Congratulations Carolyn!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Pink too Passive???

October is Breast Cancer month. There aren't too many stores that you go into this month that aren't selling pink merchandise: pink fleece jackets, pink mugs, pink cooking utensils. Hell, one store is even selling pink toilet paper!

Thousands of people ran or walked the Run for the Cure and there is no end to the number of fund raisers that happen throughout the year.

Why then have they not found a cure yet? Maybe it's time to stop being so nicey-nicey and "pink" and raise a little hell. Maybe instead of passively walking in fundraisers, we need to lobby to have more of the money raised devoted to prevention and not just treatment options.

Don't get me wrong - I have walked the Run for the Cure for years and have bought my share of pink products. But maybe it's time to switch from pink ribbons and pearls to red, and kick some serious butt. After all "red is pink with attitude".

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Miracle of Spring

Mary & I both received a gift bag with some tulip bulbs and some delicious cake from our friend Judy. The note she put in the bags was the best part of the gift and I thought it was worth sharing. Here's what she wrote:

Dear Chris & Mary:

Some years ago a relative presented me with a beautiful selection of bulbs as a hostess gift. It was October, the month when all hell broke loose in the cancer diagnosis department. It was a month I feared and would have avoided entirely if at all possible. It was (and still is I guess) a month I tiptoed through with baited breath.

Anyway, I appreciated the gift, thanked the giver and put the bulbs aside . Weeks later I found the bright packets and examined the chubby little corms. It seemed miraculous that the magnificent flowers pictured would spring from these homely little orbs. It became my miracle.

I decided that I would indeed plant these bulbs and that I would also be there when they bloomed in technicolor. Down on my knees in the snow (I am definately a procrastinator) I dug and planted and wheeled and dealed with the gods and the bulbs and the powers that be. I would witness the blooming of this miracle. And I did!

Every October since then my relative presents me with more bulbs. I really don't think she is aware of all the implications of her gifts. She would probably be surprised to know that they have become magical symbols to me - symbols of hope, of endurance, of love and kinship - of all the things that really matter.

Please find a place for these bulbs in your garden (even in a pot). Try to beat the snow. Watch for them in spring and be thankful. Next fall we can all start planting again!

Love Judy

Friday, October 17, 2008

No, I'm not bald; I'm just taller than my hair!

When I was a kid some women wore wigs just for a change of hairstyle. I can't imagine why because they are hot, itchy and uncomfortable. Most of the time I wear a scarf or hat on my head, but there are times when nothing but a full head of hair will do. So I have several options...
The Blonde Bombshell. This is what my real hair would look like if it didn't have a mind of it's own.
Shirley Partridge. This is my backup wig in case I take bread out of the oven wearing the Blonde Bombshell wig. Don't laugh, I did it 10 years ago and melted the bangs into a solid clump.
Broom Hilda. A friend passed this one on for me to use as my 'hat wig'. Wearing a scarf or hat on top of my good wig can damage it (they are very fragile!) so this one will do in a pinch. Even the hairstylist who trimmed it for me said it was rather 'broomy'.

Pretty in Pink. A picture is worth a thousand words.

(see also Run for the Cure)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Carolyn - Cancer Hero

I've never met Carolyn in person. She was what I guess you could call an internet 'survivor hook up'. She's a friend of a friend who read my blog and decided to write to me.
What we have in common is that we both have metastatic breast cancer. What we don't have in common is that, while I'm in my 50s and my son is grown, Carolyn is only 38 years old and has 2 small boys (4 and 3).

Carolyn was first diagnosed in 2006 when she finished breast feeding and soon discovered that it was in her bones. She was on chemo (Taxotere) for a whole year but still managed to do the 60 km weekend walk to end breast cancer the past two years. I admire her determination and commitment to spending quality time with her family.Carolyn writes:

Cancer changed my way of thinking about life. I have two young boys and if I hadn’t gotten diagnosed I would have continued to work and rush home to feed the kids so I can get them to bed, etc. Now I am taking the time to smell the roses with them. Mentally, it has made me draw on my sports mental skills of filing away mistakes you make, now I try to file away the anxiety that I feel at times. Physically, I eat better now than I did before, mostly organic, I read labels and I have very little processed food. Emotionally, I still cry and get overwhelmed with emotion wondering whether I will be around to see my kids graduate…or worse yet, get to kindergarten.

I draw my strength from my children. I see life for what it is and I try not to let the little stuff bother me anymore. You can’t let the cancer beat you, so you have to file it away. You have to carry on, do things so that your mind doesn’t wander into the negative realms that cancer brings. Be inspiring to the next one diagnosed and love with all your heart.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I received this quote in an email from Patricia. It reminded me to live my life with gratitude.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Today I am grateful for all of the support I continue to receive. I've had calls, emails, cards, flowers, books, movies, food (great soup!), visits, rides, and numerous offers for help from too many people to name. (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! THANK YOU!)

This is a picture of a "emergency diva kit" sent to me by some coworkers when I lost my hair.
Oh yes, I'm also grateful for my new laptop computer!

Run for the Cure

On October 5th I joined 10,000 other participants in the Ottawa/Gatineau Run for the Cure. Together we raised $1,600,000. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported me that day, financially and/or emotionally. Luckily, I felt well that day and, while it was the first time in 12 years that I walked rather than ran, I was happy to reach the finish line without running out of steam.

For so many years that I’ve lost count (8?) I’ve been fortunate to be part of the Just Doing It team, an amazing group of survivor/thrivers. Each year since the team was formed we have won the award for most money raised by a women’s community team. This year we raised over $33,000. Way to go, Just Doing It!!A wonderful group of my co-workers from Carleton University formed a team called Chris’ Jocks and showed up in full force to complete the 5k route. They organized various fundraisers at work in the month leading up to the event and I was touched by their enthusiasm and support. Chris’ Jocks rock!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Update on Mary

I've written about Mary in the past and she was also a "guest blogger" who (ironically) wrote about her hair issues.

A week after I started treatments, Mary started back in chemo as well, so we're sporting the same hairdo these days. I hate that Mary is back in treatment, but it does mean that I'm in great company.

The picture above of Mary's newly bald head was taken the day of the Run for the Cure. The pink spots surrounding her pink ribbon are lipstick kisses made by friends.

Mary continues to be a great source of support and inspiration to me. She is staying active and one of the ways she keeps her creative juices flowing is by taking a writing course. Because I enjoy Mary's humourous writing style, she sometimes sends me what she writes for her class. I thought Talking Turkey was timely and worth sharing (with her permission). Enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Meryln Lynds - My Dad

LYNDS, Merlyn Russell - 72, Wilmot, passed away unexpectedly Friday, October 3, 2008, while enjoying the outdoors that he loved so much. Born in Melvern Square, he was a son of the late Russell Lee and Mary (Demmons) Lynds. Prior to retirement he had a career as a dental technician with Modern Dental, Halifax. Merlyn was an avid outdoorsman, who particularly enjoyed hunting and fishing. Surviving besides his wife, the former Gloria Hounsell are daughters, Christine Lynds, Ottawa; Nadine (Doug) Allen, Fort McMurray, Alta., and her twin brother, Darrell (Catherine) Lynds, Cold Lake, Alta.; stepsons, John (Lisa) Hounsell, Dartmouth; Walter Croft, Ontario.; sister, Anne Hache, Lower Sackville; grandchildren, Adam, Erin, Nicole, Jennifer, Daniel, Andrew, as well as great-grandson, Brady. He was predeceased by an infant brother. Visitation will be held from 7-9 p.m. today in Middleton Funeral Home, 398 Main St. (902) 825-3448. Following visitation, cremation will take place. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, October 7, 2 p.m. in Melvern Square Baptist Church, Rev. Sharon Budd officiating, with interment to follow in Maple Grove Cemetery, Melvern Square. By request, family flowers only. Donations in memory may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia. On-line condolences may be made through: http://www.middletonfuneralhome.com/ My dad died doing something that he loved to do – hunting – surrounded by nature. I’m thankful that he didn’t suffer. His ashes were buried with his mother, behind the church where his parents were married, and beside the house where he grew up.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chemo - Round 2

Although today was a long day, I’m wide awake at just after midnight, probably because of the steroids I’ve been taking for the last 2 days. My first appointment was at 8:30 at the Civic Hospital to have a port-o-cathe implanted in my upper chest, beside the collarbone. The original treatments in 1998 left my veins scarred and collapsed and finding a vein for chemo or drawing blood was becoming more and more difficult. The port-o-cathe will eliminate all that poking, prodding and bruising.

The port is the bubble looking piece in the picture that sits just under the skin and the long tube or catheter connects the port to a vein. When drugs need to be injected or blood samples drawn, the piece on the right is inserted into the silicone tube of the port.

A small incision was made in my skin to insert the port-o-cathe. They used sedation and told me that I would probably be aware of what was going on but not much care. I must have been pretty tired because the next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room.

My next appointment was in the afternoon for chemo at the General. The chemo went well and I’m feeling pretty good so far. Margaret, my daughter-in-law Tara's mom, is in town from Calgary for one night on business and she stopped by on her way from the airport. I was really glad that I felt well enough to enjoy her visit.

A huge thanks to my drivers Louise, Nancy and Greg for getting me to today’s appointments and safely home again!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, the professor at Carnegie Mellon University who inspired countless students in the classroom and others worldwide through his highly acclaimed last lecture, died of complications from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008. He was 47.

You might not think of Randy’s story as a ‘good news story’ (which was what I said I wanted the posts on this blog to be about). He died far too young and left behind a wife and 3 small children.

But Randy Pausch is still my hero. He lived more in the last 2 years of his life than most people who make it into their 90’s do. He shared his story, his humanness, his courage, his fears, his humor and his wisdom, and he inspired millions. I’m reading his book ‘The Last Lecture’ and it’s just about as far from depressing as anything could possibly be that was written by a dying man.

Randy’s book isn’t about dying; it’s about living. He was a shining example of how the value of a life can’t be measured by the number of days we breathe, but rather what we do with them. Some people live the same day over and over again, while Randy lived 47 years, each new day at a time.

The postings on Randy Pausch’s blog are chronological, so it of course starts off with a notice that Randy has died. But the postings leading up to that last sad one, represent a life well lived.