Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yoga cancelled this week

For those of you who attend the Breast Cancer Action yoga class on Thursday, Patricia asked me to pass the word that there is no class this week.

I will be practicing the pose in the photo on my own at home.

One Week

In 1998, when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I headed off to Nova Scotia to be near the ocean. In 2007, just after having surgery to remove a tumor from my lung, I went to Africa for a month. Last fall, I delayed starting chemotherapy for a few weeks so I could once again go ‘home’ to Halifax and the ocean.

So when I saw the movie One Week a few days ago, I identified with the character’s reaction to being diagnosed with cancer: he bought a motorcycle and decided to drive from Toronto to the ocean in BC. (I really think he should have headed east, but that’s just my opinion). I think the character must be an introvert because, rather than jump into treatments like his family wants, he takes the time to process things and confront his own mortality.

I’ve heard this movie described as a “love letter to Canada”. This is not your typical Hollywood film, but rather a quirky Canadian road-trip movie, complete with Tim Horton’s and the CN Tower. The movie asks the question “What would you do if you had 1 week, 1 month, 1 year to live?”

Some people may be a bit uncomfortable with the honesty of his thoughts about the diagnosis (e.g. he pictures himself in his coffin). But I found the movie real, uplifting, and at times, funny.

Only in Canada, eh?

Thanks to Sue for recommending the movie and to Vanessa for being my 'date'.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Zak is back!

My doggy buddy Zak has been visiting me since last night. Don’t you think he looks like an ewok?

More columns by Sue Hendler

For those of you who follow Sue Hendler’s column in the Kingston Whig Standard, I think I finally have links to just about all of her columns since she started writing about her cancer journey in July of 2008. Here are the ones that I’ve been missing:

Wanted: Legacy Coach? Not! Nov 14, 2008
A tongue-in-cheek look at how not to get breast cancer Oct 31, 2008
Outwit, outplay, outlast: Am I a breast cancer survivor? Oct 17, 2008
Friends ready for Run for the Cure Oct 3, 2008
I’ve learned to hang on tight during my roller-coaster ride Sept 15, 2008

If you would like to read other columns by Sue Hendler, click on her name below after "Labels".

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Beauty of the Cause

I spent this afternoon getting my chest painted. No, I don’t mean a chest of drawers; I mean my actual CHEST.

2010 will be the fourth year that Emilie Robertson and Nancy Davis have published The Beauty of the Cause calendar and I agreed to be a “model”. All proceeds go to the Weekend to End Cancer, a 60 km walk benefiting the Cancer Foundation.

Sylvie Lalonde is the artist and Jen Davidson photographs the pictures that will appear in the calendar. They managed to make sitting topless for over 2 hours in Emilie’s kitchen an interesting and fun experience!

In case you were wondering, no, this picture is not of me (I wish!). It's the cover of the 2009 calendar. In the interest of modesty, I'm keeping which month I'm featured in the 2010 calendar a secret!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Busting the Myths

In an article on the MAMM website, Shana Aborn writes about the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network: What We Need Now. Below is an excerpt from her article, busting some of the myths associated with metastatic breast cancer.

Busting the Myths

There are still a lot of misconceptions about metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer, according to Ellen Moskowitz. Here’s what she has to say:

Myth: Being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer means you have just a few months to live.
Everyone is different, and no one is a statistic. While it’s true that metastatic disease is incurable, new treatments are allowing us to live longer than the two to three years once thought the norm.

Myth: If you fight hard enough, you can beat this.
We’ll never stop hoping and working for a cure, but the fact is that metastatic breast cancer can’t be “beaten”—fight or no fight.

Myth: If you stay strong and positive, your cancer won’t spread.
A positive attitude is a great thing to have, but it’s not a miracle drug. Telling us to be upbeat all the time also makes us feel that it’s not okay to be angry, depressed or afraid.

Myth: I had a mastectomy, so I’m safe.
It is estimated that 6 to 10 percent of patients are metastatic at their first diagnosis. The rest of us have already been treated for early-stage cancer, but surgery, chemotherapy and radiation didn’t stop the disease from returning and spreading to other areas of our bodies.

Myth: You look too good to be that sick!
Not everyone with metastatic disease looks sick. The treatments we get are usually less aggressive than the first-line therapies used on early-stage cancer, so the side effects may not be as harsh. But even when we look fine on the outside, we may still be exhausted, in pain and emotionally fragile.

Myth: You either beat breast cancer or you die from it.
We’re living with breast cancer, we’re very much here, and we want to be recognized.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nursing a cold

I have a cold so I’m spending a few days curled up on my sofa with my favorite blankie (from Victoria Quilts). I had lots of practice doing nothing when I was on Taxotere, but this is a whole lot easier.

I haven’t posted much in the past week or so because my Mom was here visiting. She came out and walked with our Saturday morning group and, of course, out for brunch afterwards.
Mom took the picture below of me, Meridy and Mary when Meridy had us over for lunch. (That's a lot of Ms!). We look damn good for 3 people with cancer, don’t you think? Meridy went to Montreal yesterday to consult a doctor about whether she's a condidate or not for a procedure with radio-active beads inserted into the liver to cut off the blood supply to the tumours. Mary (the trooper that she is!) is heading off to Europe inbetween Taxotere treatments.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Positive thinking

Several years ago, Kevin, a work colleague was diagnosed with cancer. He came to me, still in the deer-in-the-headlights stage of dealing with the news, because he knew that I had had breast cancer and just needed to talk.

I mostly just listened, but I remember giving Kevin this one piece of advice: I told him that he shouldn’t be afraid of his emotions and spending some time on ‘the dark side’ (as I like to call it). People were going to tell him to 'just be positive’ but he shouldn't try to live up to the expectations of others.

Not that I think that positive thinking is a bad thing, but I told Kevin that my experience was that the pressure to be strong for yourself, as well as for everyone else, can just be too much to take sometimes. Since my own diagnosis, I’ve needed to spend some time grieving to really put things in perspective. It’s a natural response to having a serious illness and fighting it can sometimes just make it worse.

Sue Hendler wrote about advice from others to ‘be positive’ in her last column in the Kingston Whig Standard. There are some interesting comments from readers posted in response to her column. I tried to post my own comment but couldn’t figure out how (damn technology!), so I’m posting it here:

I’m not surprised at the different responses to Sue’s latest column. The emotional dark side of living with cancer can be uncomfortable, or even painful, and we want to pretend that if we just stay positive, everything will be OK. Of course, people are well meaning when they say to ‘be strong’ and ‘think positive’, but it’s not realistic or even healthy to try to live that way all the time. Sue is showing her own strength and courage by sharing her feelings and experiences in her columns. Fear, sadness and anger are all natural emotions when dealing with a serious illness. I find it interesting that the last commenter doesn’t seem to be aware that some of those same emotions come through in what she/he wrote. People who love Sue will not turn away just because she is honest enough to say what is helpful to her and what is not.

If you would like to read other columns by Sue Hendler, click on her name in the labels below.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Weekend away

This past Sunday found me up early to catch a train to Belleville. Part of the adventure was in navigating the public bus system (which I have taken about 3 times in 10 years) to get me the short distance to the train station.

The train trip was pleasant, with thawing fields of straw-like vegetation along the route indicating that perhaps spring is truly on its way.

My mom, who drove from Niagara Falls, picked me up at the Belleville station and we had a picnic lunch beside the Lake on the Mountain, overlooking the Glenora Ferry. We stayed the night at the lovely Merrill Inn in Picton.

The afternoon was spent checking out the local shops and then we met Mary & Eric for dinner at the Carriage House in Bloomfield.

On Monday we headed to Ottawa, stopping in Kingston on the way to meet my email-buddy, Sue. We've been corresponding for some time now, so it was nice to meet up in person. We had a great visit, talking about many things we had been writing about in our emails (and Sue in her newspaper column and me on my blog), but it was great to be able to do it face-to-face. My only regret is that I forgot to take a picture of the two of us, so you’ll just have to imagine us smiling ... and looking quite stunning, of course! :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Don't burst my bubble!

Fans of Seinfeld may remember “The Bubble Boy” episode, where George gets into a fight with a man living in a plastic bubble over the correct answer to a Trivial Pursuit question.

I’ve been thinking of myself as living in a bubble lately -- only in a good way. Mine is a protective Zen-like bubble that I’ve created for myself to avoid stress, conflict and anything else that causes me grief. Inside the bubble, I feel calm and safe.

I know it’s not realistic to live your life in a bubble. But right now it feels right: it’s what I need to do to take care of myself.

I think I’ll stay here for awhile.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I love getting comments on my blog! I've had lots of comments about Dance with my Father: some at the bottom of the linked story, some by email and some in person. Thanks to all of you who have given me encouragement or let me know that you have identified with something that I've posted.

To add your comment:
- click on comments at the bottom of the posting
- type your comment in the box
- type the characters you see in the Word Verification box
- if you don't want to log on, scroll down and click on Anonymous
- click on Publish your Comment

When you post a comment, an email is sent to me with a copy of your comment. Anyone who looks at my blog will then be able to view your comments. Feel free to include your name at the end of the comments, or not, it's up to you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The kindness of strangers

The reporter from the Grimsby Lincoln News got it right after all…

The write-up in the paper about a recent event held at Curves in Fort Erie where my mom is a member said: Curves offered free manicures, massages and makeovers, with all donations going toward Lynds' cancer treatment.

I thought that the money was going to the Canadian Cancer Society, but I just got a card and a generous cheque in the mail to help with my treatment drugs from the lovely ladies at Curves. I certainly wasn’t expecting that, but it will come in handy. My monthly injection alone is over $600. I’m lucky to have a drug plan that covers most of it, but I still have to pay $131 out of my own pocket each month.

A huge thank you to Patricia Walsh and the members of the Fort Erie Curves. The women who attend there are doing wonderful things for their own health through their membership, and I appreciate the efforts they went to to help me out (and they’ve never even met me!). It’s a wonderful example of the generosity and kindness of women!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bloggin' is good for the Noggin

My email buddy Sue (who writes a column about her cancer journey in the Kingston Whig Standard) emailed me about my recent post about my dad. She asked me how it felt to get my feelings out by writing about it. I’m answering her in this rather public way because I want to share with others the benefits of writing about our experiences.

As I’ve been finding with the whole process of blogging, it was a release to write about my relationship with my dad. As you might imagine, it was a rather emotional exercise, but it felt really good to express my thoughts and feelings about something that I've been working through for most of my life.

I did a little digging on the internet and found out that there have been studies about the benefits of journaling (or blogging) through our cancer experiences and that there are even courses that you can take on doing just that. According to Ezinearticles, “A study published in the journal 'The Oncologist' in the February issue of last year supports the notion that expressive writing is effective in easing the stress of cancer.”

Some of the benefits I’ve had from writing this blog have been:
- It helps me to process my thoughts, feelings and emotions
- It helps me keep friends and family up-to-date on what’s happening with me
- It’s an opportunity to make connections with others with similar experiences
- It serves as a record of both my medical and emotional experiences
- It helps me express myself as an individual, rather than a statistic
- I get to be creative and show my ‘quirky’ side

And I don’t have to worry so much about the quality of the writing, because after all, it’s just a blog, right?

If you want to try writing as part of your healing, you might want to check out the website Writing Through Cancer, where a weekly writing prompt is posted to help you get started.

(Even more) cancer terminology

I came across an old medical report from August 1998, in which the doctor uses a rather funny term to say that there is no cancer in my other breast.

It states that the mastectomy site appears well healed and there is no evidence of infection. It goes on to say "The left breast is unremarkable".

I think that's a matter of opinion!!

(The bra in the picture is one of many interesting exhibits in the The Artful Bras Project.)

Ongoing adventures of Adam and Tara

It looks like Adam and Tara ran into a few of our distant relatives on their recent trip to Morocco.

I had no idea that goats could climb trees!

Friday, March 6, 2009

More cancer terminology

I was scrolling through some of my past posts and came across something I wrote a few days ago: “For the record, I think of myself as ‘incurable’, not ‘terminal’”.

When I read that, it struck me as rather strange that I had referred to myself as ‘incurable’. Actually, it's the cancer that is 'incurable', not me! I find it interesting to look at the choice of words I use to describe cancer and its effects.

I’ve sometimes heard myself refer to 'my' cancer. I really don’t want to own it, yet it is unique to me and my body will deal with it in a way that is different than the next person. So I guess it is mine, whether I like it or not.

I said in the same posting “I also think of myself as a ‘survivor’". Another term that I sometimes use is cancer ‘thriver’.

In this week’s column in the Kingston Whig Standard, Sue Hendler explores the use of the word ‘patient’, in I may have breast cancer, but I don’t have to be (a) patient.

If you would like to read other columns by Sue Hendler, click on her name below after "Labels".

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dance with my Father

I've been thinking about my dad a lot the last few days. We weren’t close, but that didn’t make his sudden death last October any easier to deal with.

I’ve always said that this blog is a form of self-therapy, so I decided to write about my father, as a way of dealing with his death.

It’s a rather sad story, but it felt good to let it out by writing it. I share it in the hope that someone else might find something in it that could be helpful in their own loss and/or complicated family relationships.

Click here to read Dance with my Father

First and Last Skate

Two years ago I was recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from my lung. It was the first time in several winters that I missed skating on the Ottawa canal. Because of my cancer treatments, I thought that I would once again have to pass this year. Now would not be the time to fall and break a bone.

I heard on the radio this morning that today would be the last day that the canal would be open. It was a beautiful mild day and the Ottawa website said that the canal conditions were good.

I decided that today was the day; it was meant to be.

I laced my skates up and headed for the canal. I resisted the urge to buy a beaver-tail and just enjoyed the sun and the opportunity to glide along the canal with the rest of the last-day skaters. It did my heart good to know that I didn’t miss out on one of my favorite winter activities, even if I went slow and for a short time.

It’s days like today that make me feel fully alive!

Further adventures of Adam and Tara

Adam's latest Facebook posting says: Adam is riding a mule through the Atlas mountains in Morocco... and can't believe he gets mobile reception here.

The dolls in the picture were made by my niece Erin (Adam's cousin) as a wedding gift for Adam and Tara. I love that she used velcro so they can hold hands.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


My Mom emailed me and pointed out that I have not been on my “blob” (as she calls it) for awhile and wondered if everything is alright. I’m not sure if I have chemo-fog or I'm having a blog-posting slump. Or maybe I just haven’t had much to say lately.

I must admit that some days my brain is slow to function. I keep losing things. The other morning I was looking everywhere for my fleece pants. It took me awhile to realize that I had forgotten to take them off the night before, had worn them to bed and was still wearing them. A few hours later I was on the search for my sunglasses, which turned up ON my head UNDER the hat I was wearing!

It’s hard to tell what is from the Taxotere and what is from the new drug. I still get tired easily and I’ve had some pain in my arms and hands the last few days. That didn’t keep me from enjoying a wonderful weekend away with friends in Algonquin park this past weekend.

Dianne (to the left) is missing from the group photo. I’m not sure if she’s hugging me or trying to keep me from sliding off the ice ledge I’m sitting on :-)