What I'm grateful for today: Finding a drugstore that's open on boxing day to stock up on kleenex & other supplies to treat my Christmas cold.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
What I'm grateful for today: Finding a drugstore that's open on boxing day to stock up on kleenex & other supplies to treat my Christmas cold.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Two days on the road with questionable weather, too many Christmas treats, and family members with a wide range of very different expectations of how to celebrate the holidays all left me feeling stressed and exhausted.
This morning, while on what I thought would be a short stroll with Katey, I discovered a magical trail through a wooded area just outside Halifax. The water from an icy brook along the path was so much more soothing than mall music and Christmas bells. There were no shoppers bustling or cars speeding on the slushy roads; only fresh deer prints in the snow and a hoot-hoot from a far off owl. I felt like I was right where I needed to be, in the woods with my dog, a reminder of what’s really important, letting go of stress and negativity.
As we walked, I felt the joy seep back into my heart and the calm that I strive to achieve becoming part of this Christmas Eve day.
I wish you the same joy and peace throughout the holidays.
What I'm grateful for today: Those small and sometimes overlooked moments of joy each and every day
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Unfortunately, Katey the wonder dog thought so too.
I left them on the coffee table and they proved too tempting for her to resist. She ate 3, which doesn't seem to be a lot, but that much chocolate can cause serious health issues in a small dog, including seizures and even death.
This was a VERY expensive treat. Katey spent a few hours in the vet emerg getting a drug to make her vomit the chocolate up. Her mom spent a few hours in the vet emerg and $258.00.
What I'm grateful for today: That Katey is now fine, unlike a few of the other pets we saw at the animal hospital last night.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
By Julie Mason, The Ottawa Citizen, December 13, 2009
I thought I knew a thing or two about living with cancer. But I'm completely baffled by the Canadian Cancer Society's latest advertising and fundraising campaign called Fight Back.
Read the full article
What I'm grateful for today: Katey the wonder dog. She is the best little dog in the world. My apologies to other dog owners... but she really is. :-)
You would think that I would know what to say to other people with cancer. After all, I’ve been there myself. Yet sometimes I struggle, mainly because I know that we are all so different. What may be comforting to me may be upsetting to someone else. It also depends on the day and how the person is feeling.
Because I’m pretty open and practical about my prognosis, my honesty can sometimes make others feel uncomfortable. A friend (who also has metastatic cancer) and I have established a signal; if one of us crosses the line too far over to the ‘dark side’, the other person will simply hold 2 fingers up to form an ‘X’. We haven’t had to use it yet, but I feel better knowing that there’s a way out for my friend if I unknowingly babble on about something that is upsetting to her.
Keeping in mind that every person with cancer is different (and can have a different reaction on any given day), here is a list of what has personally been helpful to me in the past:
Appointment partners. I no longer feel the need to have someone with me, even when the news isn’t the best. But back when I first found out that the cancer had returned, I was grateful for the friends who came to appointments with me, first when I had a biopsy and then when I saw the oncologist and got the news that it had spread. (Thank you Anka & Peggy!)
Food. When I was going through treatments last time, I ended up with the most wonderful assortment of soups and meals in my freezer and some friends even came and cooked for me in my own kitchen. (I’d list them here but there were so many that I know I’d miss someone). Containers that don’t have to be returned are appreciated.
Muscle power. My next door neighbors kept my walkways clear all last winter. They didn’t ask – they just did it. (Thank you Marisa, Dale & boys!)
Visits: I enjoy having company and it was great to have visits (short when I wasn’t feeling well).
Hold the pity! There is nothing worse than the ‘pity look’. I’d much rather someone say “Well, that just sucks!” than “Oh, you poor thing”.
Stay in touch. Even though he lives in Europe, my son Adam calls, emails & sends postcards when he travels. We don't often talk about my cancer; I just love hearing about what he's up to and feeling that I'm part of his life, even if from a distance.
Too much advice. In their effort to be helpful, people will pass on information about new drugs, treatments, holistic healers and witchdoctors. Most of this is old news to us. If there’s something out there worth looking into, chances are we’ve already looked into it.
Over-reactions. Everyone has bad days. People with cancer have them too but sometimes we try to hide them because it seems to worry and upset others if they think we are down.
Support of decisions. You might do something different if it was you. But you really don’t know for sure unless you’ve walked in our shoes. What’s right for one person may not be right for another.
Laughter. After my mastectomy in 1998, a male co-worker said to me “Oh well, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em both”. Someone else might have been offended but he knew that I have a twisted sense of humor and he gave me the best belly laugh I’d had in a long time.
How to Talk to a Friend With Cancer By Claudia Wallis
How to Talk to a Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patient By Beth Slomka
How to Talk To, or Help, Someone Battling Cancer - During Treatment and After By Nikki
How to support a loved one reeling from cancer diagnosis By Sheila Chase
Cancer survivors explain how support from friends and family was critical to fighting the disease By BETH DECARBO
Tips for family and friends By Chris Lynds
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I finished yet another sweater. My old bear kindly agreed to act as a sweater model.
All of the sweaters I have made are for sale, with the proceeds going to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign to help African women who are raising their grandchildren because of the wide-spread of aids.
You can see the sweaters available at http://ammasforgrammas.blogspot.com/2009/11/blog-post.html. I'm also taking custom orders if you would like to choose the colors and size.
What I'm grateful for today: Katey the wonder dog. You can visit her blog at http://kateythewonderdog.blogspot.com/.
Friday, December 11, 2009
PS: I'm missing my buddy, Anka!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
“Death Can Wait” is a book full of survivor stories, including those written by Alice McClymont, Barbara MacIntosh, Cheryl Kardish-Levitan and local newscaster Max Keeping. All profits from the sale of this book support cancer research, with a goal of raising $1 million. You can order it through Amazon at the link above.
What I’m grateful for today: That I am able to stay indoors today and don’t have to go out and brave the storm that is brewing outside my window.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
What I'm grateful for today: Honey mustard. It really is better than regular, don't you think?
Sunday, December 6, 2009
When I called Visa to report my card missing, they said there had been a charge to the card at a Gatineau Loblaws for $140 that same Friday. I was still thinking that I had left my card somewhere and someone found it, until Jennifer mentioned that she had read online that there have been a rash of car breakins in Gatineau Park. The thieves take only one credit card, so you don't notice it right away. They mainly use it for purchases at grocery, liquor and electronic stores.
I still didn't think my car had been broken into until I noticed what I first thought was a rust spot next to the keyhole. It took a few weeks, but I've finally pieced it together and figured out how my credit card went missing.
What I'm grateful for today: That Visa covers charges made with a stolen card.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I had a look at my chart while I was there and I was right, the tumors are in the lower lobe of each of my lungs. I thought that’s what my onc had said, but I wanted to read the report. What I missed was that the nodules on my chest are also slightly larger.
So I paid $139 today for an injection that isn’t working ... although I am hoping that it is at least slowing things down.
In the midst of crap there are always things to be grateful for. So I’m going to try and write “What I am grateful for today” at the end of my posts. Here is my first one: What I am grateful for today: Friday hikes. We had a larger than usual turnout this morning and we hiked to Keogan cabin for lunch. What a wonderful day, wonderful surroundings, wonderful friends.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
According to a Canadian study: “Breast cancer patients with low levels of vitamin D were much more likely to die of the disease or have it spread than patients getting enough of the nutrient.” Read more…
In a recent Ottawa Citizen column, Julie Mason writes: “To D or not to D: It's not a question. The science is clear: Vitamin D is an inexpensive pill with powerful benefits. One reputable study showed a 60 per cent reduction in the incidence of cancer among people who had higher levels of vitamin D, as compared to those who were vitamin D deficient.” Read more…
It has also been reported that people with breast cancer have lower levels of melatonin. I’ve never been sure if the lack of melatonin causes the cancer, or could it be that the cancer depletes one’s melatonin (or vitamin D for that matter)?
I've been eating 2 tablespoons of flaxseed every day for about 10 years. It seems rather foolish; after all, it didn’t keep the cancer from returning.
But I keep taking it. Who knows, maybe it kept it from coming back sooner. I really don’t know, but I’m too superstitious to stop.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Let someone do your Christmas baking. Bakery items are ready for pickup or delivery, from our freezer to yours.
As well, we have everything from handmade ornaments to African made jewerly for sale. All proceeds will return to African grandmothers and the orphaned children in their care through the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign (part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation).
Browse the items by category at the link above or here: http://ammasforgrammas.blogspot.com/. Contact me at email@example.com if you would like to make a purchase.
Thank you for your support.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Adam is driving around Switzerland. Next stop: Zurich.
The one before that says:
Adam is in London for a weekend of 'football'. Saturday (EPL): Chelsea vs. Blackburn at Stamford Bridge. Sunday (NFL): Patriots vs. Bucs at Wembley.
Where are my postcards? I did get a rather noisy call from a pub in London though. My sister & brother-in-law were there for the NFL game as well, so the phone got passed around. I love talking to drunk people at 4:00 in the afternoon! (our time, not theirs).
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Taxotere (Docetaxel) - twice
That does not include Neupogene (a white blood cell booster), steroids, anti-nausea pills, antibiotics, anti-depressants and complimentary naturopathic remedies meant to reduce the side effects of the cancer drugs.
It looks like I’ll be starting a new drug in a few months, once they have another look at my lungs. Some of the possibilities include Xeloda, Naveline, Abraxane, Ixempra, Gemzar and Fareston.
This weird cancer language also includes terms like: tumor marker, cancer stage, aromatase inhibitor, extrogen receptor, metastases, port-a-cath, and ablative therapy. What sounds like Klingon to most people becomes common place for those of us who are riding the cancer roller coaster.
Common breast cancer terms and definitions
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I found this quote on Daria's blog in the video called Cancer Survivor Inspiration. It's worth clicking on the full screen button.
The good news is that we’re not rushing back into chemo. I have no symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath) so my onc suggested we wait a few months and have another scan to see how aggressively (or hopefully non-aggressively) the cancer is progressing.
While it’s disappointing, (OK, it sucks), it didn’t come as a huge shock. The doctor reminded me that this is a chronic illness that needs to be managed. A particular treatment will work for awhile and then things will ‘flair up’, which indicates the need to consider a new drug.
The worst part is having to tell my family when the news isn't good. I talked to my sister and mom yesterday, and I just got off the phone with Adam in Holland. That's the part that makes me want to scream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Note to self: Don’t get test results on Friday the 13th again
No apologies for the dark cartoon; it's my way of coping. I'm picturing myself as the person in the mask, not the chicken.
Anka dropped off some homemade soup and rice pudding so I'm going to go self-medicate with food.
Grandmothers to Grandmothers is part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s campaign to support grandmothers in Africa who are raising their grandchildren due to the high incidence of aids related illness and death.
One of the questions on the minds of some of the people who hear about the campaign is: Why not help Canadian grandmothers and Canadian grandchildren? Shouldn't we be helping our own first?
I won’t deny that there are people in need, even in prosperous countries like our own, and we have a responsibility to take care of those who truly need our help. But in addition, I think it’s important to reach beyond our own borders and help those who are in even greater need.
I’ve seen first hand during my travels to countries like India, Nepal, Tanzania and South Africa that so many people on our planet do not have the options for assistance that we do. While it’s not a situation that I’d wish on anyone, people in need here do have options; options such as shelters, food banks, unemployment, and social assistance.
For those in similar situations in developing countries, there are very few places to turn. They have limited access to education, therefore little hope that the future will be different. If they are not able to support themselves, they die. The people that are most affected are children and the elderly – the people that the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign is focused on helping.
Yesterday I attended a ‘granny fest’ gathering of the various groups in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. There were workshops on group development, advocacy and fundraising, and it was a great opportunity to connect with other groups and hear about their events and challenges.
If you are a cancer patient and decide to get the vaccine, don't bother waiting in line at one of the immunization clinics. Based on my experience on Friday, they seem to be giving them routinely to anyone with an appointment at the cancer clinic. I was in and out of there in about 5 minutes.
The nurse who did the injection told me that I might have flu-like symptoms. She was right. Along with a surprisingly sore arm (I'm used to getting a large needle in my butt every 4 weeks, so I thought I was tough), I am feeling like crap: headache, nausea, sort of achy all over. I might not have been so quick to roll up my sleeve if I had known...
If you are currently on chemo, you may want to read what Laurie was advised at Chemotherapy and the H1N1 vaccine.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Review by Alice McClymont
Laurie Kingston was 38 with an active life, a family and a demanding job when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2005. In November 2006 she learned that the cancer had spread to her liver. Her book “Not Done Yet” published in 2009 by Women’s Press Toronto is a very personal journal of her diagnosis and treatment, written with the utmost honesty, wit, insight and feeling. What makes the book unusual is that it is in the form of a blog with various lengths of entries and that it is a positive, witty and inspiring book in spite of the severity of the topic. Reading this book is like reading someone’s personal journal which involves the reader in the day to day life of Laurie, her very supportive spouse Tim and her two sons. Especially touching are the entries about her sons Sacha and Daniel and, as children often do, they provide some light moments in the midst of difficult times. For example when the boys are playing “pirate treasure” they find Laurie’s prosthesis in a box and ask what that pinkish. squishy thing is. When Laurie replies that it is something to make her look the same on both sides her sons retort with “ Cool”, taking it all in stride.
The book is very informative about various procedures such as bone scans, chemotherapy, ultrasounds and radiation and gives an honest account of both positive and negative communication with various health professionals. It is chilling to read about the kinds of comments that can be made by those who should know better like the medical student who referred to her portacath as a “lump” and the radiation oncologist who, when told the area radiated was still too tender for a prosthesis said ”Well, you have to wear something in public”, this the same doctor who objected to her having a different surname than that of her spouse.
The book will be of interest to different people for different reasons. To other cancer patients or survivors, the book shows how someone with a difficult prognosis can have a superlative outcome and the ups and downs of getting there. To the medical professionals, there are many hints about the importance of treating the patient with care and respect and being very careful of what one says. It is always better to look at the glass as half full no matter the prognosis. To relatives and friends of a cancer patient, the book clearly shows the importance of small gestures and kindness. As one of Laurie’s cards says “Between me and insanity stand my friends”.
As a breast cancer survivor with metastasis I particularly related to this book. I am much older than Laurie but relate so well to her love of reading and how getting into a good book can take your mind off the cancer, and like Laurie I believe a glass of wine can cure many ills. I also relate to Laurie’s wanting to write about her experience, both as therapy and to provide information to others who need positive stories. No one would choose to have cancer but as Laurie says “ my life with cancer is infinitely better than I would have thought possible”.
I did venture from 'my specialty' to make this hat & scarf set.
As mentioned before, these items will be on sale at the Canturbury Community Centre Craft sale on November 29th. All proceeds go to the Stephen Lewis foundation to help grandmothers raising their grandchildren in Africa.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
November 2, 2009
"Despite the long lineups at flu shot clinics, there are still an astonishing number of Canadians who say they aren't planning to get the H1N1 vaccine, including the usual suspects: the vaccine conspiracy theorists who think it's all a money grab by Big Pharma; the health purists who won't put anything in their bodies but reverse osmosis water and mung beans; and the thrill seekers who smoke, drive without seatbelts and bungee jump from high places."
Read the full article
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I've been making these sweaters for a group I belong to called Ammas for Grandmas (part of the Stephen Lewis foundation
The sweaters will be for sale at the Canterbury Christmas Craft Sale on Sunday Nov 29th, along with a variety of other handmade crafts and baked goods.
Date & time: Nov 29th, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Before I had cancer, I had up days and down days. My down days were usually because of something that happened at work, or a disagreement with a friend or family member, or even because they didn’t have double bacon cheeseburgers at McD’s as advertised (there’s a story there…).
That hasn’t changed. However, my down days are more likely to be related to my health, simply because that’s where I’m at right now.
I won’t deny that I’ve felt sadder and more reflective since Sue Hendler’s death, even though I knew it was coming for some time. But overall, I think my spirits are pretty good. I’ve had good results with the current treatment and very few side effects. So please don’t worry (Mom!).
Do you think it’s best to be honest and open about the ‘dark days’ or do you tend to protect others by always trying to appear ‘up’? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Here is part of a message I received about next week's meeting:
Our guest this week will be Ron Seguin from the Funeral Home, Hulse Playfair and McGarry.
The one and only time I attended, they talked about hospice care. The group is called Living for Today but my fear is that it's more about dying than living.
While I know that some people in the group might be ready for that information, I'm not.
To use one of my mom's sayings: "mark me down for no!!"
For some participants the feathers and ringing were symbolic, or reminded them of other experiences they had had in the past. I simply focused on seeing and listening without feeling the need to analyze the experience to death.
I spent so many of my earlier years analyzing my experiences, my relationships, searching for meaning, asking WHY? It feels good just to live in the moment and just BE.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Maybe I just need a good cry. During the class (while I was supposed to be chanting and breathing through my chakras) I found myself trying to remember how many times I’ve cried in the past year. Aside from the open floodgates of my father’s funeral just over a year ago, there have only been a few.
I remember getting weepy for no reason last Christmas when I was going through chemo and feeling over-tired. The tears came again when I was saying goodbye to my son Adam at the Amsterdam airport in June (airports make me emotional because I always seem to be saying goodbye). Other than a few sniffley moments watching The Time Traveler’s Wife (the part where he met his mother on the train got to me), that’s about it.
Some women can cry and then look like a million bucks afterwards. Not me. My upper and lower lids swell up and look raw enough to be more at home on the ass end of a dog in heat than on my face. They stay like that for about 2 days.
So if I need to have a good cleansing cry (which is where I think this cranky feeling is heading), I’d better make sure it’s worth it. It may be time to bring out the big guns: Out of Africa. I’ve probably watched it 5 or 6 times and have never been able to get through it without what Oprah refers to as ‘the ugly cry’. Not only do I cry at the sad parts, I know the movie so well that I start to cry just before the sad parts, in anticipation.
I may be wearing sun glasses for the next few days…
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
On days like this I find my mind involuntarily asking questions. Questions like:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
The mom's name is Daiva and she writes a blog at http://daivastory.blogspot.com/. I read through Davia's blog and came across information about a resource called Army of Women.
I finally joined the "Army of Women" today (www.armyofwomen.org). Their goal is to have more than a million women join their group so that they can get information on breast cancer studies and be available for research. I urge all you ladies out there to join.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The read more about the calendar, click on the label Weekend to End Breast Cancer below.
If you are a breast cancer 'thriver' and are interested in posing for next year's calendar, contact Emilie and Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Beauty of the Cause
Friday, October 16, 2009
Telegraph Journal, Published Thursday October 8th, 2009
TORONTO - In a world first, Canadian scientists have decoded all three billion letters in the DNA sequence of a metastatic breast cancer tumour and identified the mutations that caused the malignancy to spread.
Read the full story
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I did a combination of walking and snail running, crossing the finish line in just under 38 minutes. For those of you who don’t run, that’s an incredibly slow time, but I ended up running much more of it than I would have thought I could.
The Just Doing It team once again took the prize for the highest amount collected by a women’s community team. Year after year this team of survivors raises money and participates in the run. Year after year more women are diagnosed. But the women on my team and the enthusiasm of the crowd continues to give me hope that eventually there will be a cure. Until then, I'll continue to run, walk and/or crawl.
~ Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is to not stop questioning. ~ Albert Einstein