Friday, July 31, 2009

Update on Katey the wonder dog

I've always kind of liked dogs. But OK, I admit it, I have sometimes secretly rolled my eyes when someone has gone on about some cute little thing that their ‘precious’ furry friend did. After all, it’s just a dog, right?

Well… that was until Katey came to live with me. I’ve only had her for 3 days and I can’t believe how much I love her! (Now it’s time for YOU to roll your eyes, especially if you aren’t a dog lover).

She follows me around the house, loves to ride in the car and is the most well behaved dog I know. (Really!). When I come back from being out, she’s waiting at the door and runs back in forth in the kitchen when she sees me. Usually it's the dog that has separation anxiety, but in this relationship, it's me.

They say that having a pet lowers your blood pressure and reduces stress. Having Katey around makes me so happy that she must be good for my health!

I will post pictures that you can oooh and awww over … when my camera comes back from being repaired.

Katey the wonder dog
Health benefits of having a pet
Katey's blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Impossible dilemmas

In theory, if grownups of sound mind with devastating, intractable and painful illnesses clearly want to choose an early demise, I firmly believe it's their right to do so. But the right choice is not always so clear.

By Julie Mason, The Ottawa Citizen, July 26, 2009

Read the full article

To read other articles by Julie Mason, click on her name below after Labels.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The monsoons cometh

Due to our Ottawa weather this year, here is the latest in footwear fashion.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Katey the Wonderdog

I am in the process of adopting Katey the Wonderdog. Adam says that they should do a story about her for one of the animal rescue shows on TV.

Katey was found wondering the streets of Ohio and taken to an animal shelter. No one was interested in her because she is an older dog (8-9 years) and was in rough shape. But, because she is such a sweetie, the shelter people decided to turn her over to Loyal Rescue to see if they could find her a home.

After probably spending the first part of her life in a puppy mill or with a backyard breeder, Katey had recently given birth when she was found. She was brought to Ontario to live with a foster family in Orleans, probably though a chain of volunteers who work like an across-country relay team. When she came to live with her foster family, she was very thin, full of fleas, and afraid of everything and everyone. Her foster family spent 4 months getting her well, both physically and emotionally.

Katey was making great progress until about a month ago when she was attacked by a 110 lb bull-mastiff during a walk in her neighbourhood. Katey's only about 14 lbs and the larger dog put 8 puncture wounds in her back. She was understandably traumatized by the attack, but the foster family continued to work with her and helped her to feel safe once again.

This picture was taken during our first walk together. Katey's ears are back and she looks pretty uncertain, but I'm happy to say that we have bonded since then. She came for an overnight visit last night and hopefully will officially come to live with me in her new home sometime this week. She follows me all over the house and enjoys walking by the river.

Despite everything she's been through, Katey's spirit is still there and she is learning to open her heart and trust again. Both of us old gals have been through a lot and I think we will be good for one another.

Loyal Rescue
Katey's blog

Friday, July 24, 2009

Me and my doctor, by Sue Hendler

In today's column, Sue has a conversation with her oncologist, Dr. Yolanda Madarnas, about what we do, and why we do it.

When asked why and how she's been able to share the stories of her cancer experience in her columns, Sue replys "It's become an escape as well as a healthy dose of realism", which is exactly how I feel about writing this blog.

If you would like to read Sue Hendler's previous columns, click on her name below, after Label.

Read my post: Bloggin' is good for the noggin

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where did my little boy go?

Adam had his 32nd birthday this month. How did that happen?

It didn’t really bother me when I turned 50 but it was shocking when Adam turned 30.

Inside I still feel 32 myself. How can I possibly be the mother of a grown man? I guess that’s why I still refer to him & Tara as ‘the kids’.

Ongong adventures of Adam & Tara

Adam hasn’t posted any new pictures on Facebook since Berlin, but he’s been to Turkey, the Czech Republic (with me!), Belguim, Edinburgh and Oslo. That’s just since May! Tara is currently in Calgary visiting family and Adam is home 'home alone'. Behave yourself Adam ... and don't forget to water the plants! :-)I took this picture of them at a restaurant in on the beach in Den Haag.

Monday, July 20, 2009


My friend Sue is ill. Not just a little ill, like with a cold. Not even seriously ill, like with an early cancer diagnosis.

Sue is ill enough to have a team of friends taking turns to care for her so she can stay in her home as long as possible. Sue is shockingly open about her prognosis and is preparing herself and those around her for the inevitable, determined to take some control of what she can as long as she can. I have joined Sue's 'care team' and will be taking a shift this Saturday to be with her, to cook a meal, dole out medications, share a laugh, have a cry; whatever she needs on that particular day.

When I first started this blog I naively intended to write only good news stories. I assured others that my postings would not be depressing or morbid. I would share news of long-term survival and people who are responding well to treatment. I would write about kicking cancer in the ass. My motto would be (as stolen from Jackie Farr) FUCK CANCER! My profile says that “I want to create a blog that is about living in the moment and finding joy in the small things”.

But what do I do when one of the amazing friends I have met on this journey is not doing well? Do I ignore their struggle and my sadness and write something fluffy and positive? Isn’t it easier to just not deal with the fact that others die of the same disease that I have? Is it rational to feel a bit guilty that I’m doing well when others are not? Wouldn't writing about it be a downer and just remind others that none of us are invincible?

If I was Sue I’d be angry, wondering why I was in that situation while Chris was off visiting Europe and enjoying a cottage with friends. But I think I’d be even angrier if Chris didn’t appreciate her good fortune.

I’m not Sue, I’m Chris and my latest CT scans show that my cancer is responding to the treatments. But I am connected to Sue and what she is going through; a bond formed by late night emails when steroids made sleep difficult or times when I needed company but couldn't face seeing anyone in person. We emailed back and forth almost daily for a while, comparing treatments and sharing our common views on everything from American Idol, to topics for Sue's newspaper column, to making difficult treatment decisions.

When my dear friend Carol died in 2001 I vowed to live my life for both of us, to not take for granted the things that Carol could no longer do that I could. Back then it was just Carol; now the list has become incredibly long.

I recommit to life, in honor of Sue, Mary, Meridy, Mary Lou, Alice, Sylvie, Laurie, Jim and all of the others who are travelling this journey with me. Tomorrow I will put on my big-girl smile and face the world with hope and determination.

But tonight, I choose to be sad.

Fuck cancer

Cottage dreams

I’m just back from a week of eating, drinking, swimming, napping, socializing and relaxing at a beautiful cottage in Minden Ontario. (Notice I put eating and drinking first?).
The week was arranged through a cancer recovery initiative called Cottage Dreams, which offers recent cancer survivors the opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate recovery in a positive and relaxing setting.

After showing us around on our first day and making us feel very comfortable, our very generous hosts, Jim & Victoria, left us to enjoy their beautiful cottage for the week. The 5-bedroom cottage overlooks a picturesque lake and was the perfect place to relax and enjoy the company of my mom and some ‘extended family members’.

Mom & Mary & I were there for the full time, with visitors coming in two groups. Jennifer, Frances & Joanne left because of other commitments after the first few days. Unfortunately they missed the best weather days but I think they had fun anyway. Dianne, Anne & Sylvia came later in the week and enjoyed the warm and sunny weather.
So, in total, 8 cancer survivors were able to benefit from the donation the owners made. We were all amazed at their generosity and trust in handing over their lovely cottage to a group of strangers. I guess we didn’t look like the types to go all ‘rock star’ and trash the place. :-)

This was definitely a positive experience for me and I would recommend it to both cancer survivors and cottage owners. I was glad to see the recent addition of fall cottage visits on the Dream Cottages site. Unfortunately the deadline for applying was July 13th and has now passed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Here is a message I received from the Live Strong organization:

Without your commitment to fight cancer, our leaders won’t pay attention.Lance talks about why he’s riding in the Tour de France and why he needs your help right now.

I returned to cycling this year for one reason: to fight for the 28 million people affected by cancer worldwide.We are making tremendous progress in this fight, but there’s still so much to be done. By next year cancer will be the #1 killer in the world and yet most of the world’s leaders lack any real plan to fight back.During my 20-day ride in the Tour I'm calling on leaders around the world to make major commitments to fight cancer worldwide – but I can’t do it alone. As a first step, will you join me and sign the World Cancer Declaration – a major global push to pressure the world's leaders to act now on cancer?

As an added incentive, a donor has pledged to give $30,000 if we can collect 30,000 signatures before the end of the Tour. I'll send these signatures to world leaders after the Tour de France and pressure them to make cancer a priority in their own countries. It’s our best chance to push for better treatment, more funding for cancer research and access to care for everyone around the world.Without your commitment, these leaders won’t pay attention. Will you sign the declaration then ask your friends and family to do the same?

When you sign the declaration, you'll be able to dedicate that action to a cancer survivor or caregiver who has inspired you. I dedicated my signature to my mom, who stuck by me – and fought alongside me – throughout my cancer fight. Who will you dedicate yours to?We’ll be keeping you updated on our progress over the coming weeks – meanwhile, join me at LIVESTRONG Action and make your commitment now:

Lance and the LIVESTRONG Action

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Maybe I'm a ginger at heart

I always thought I was meant to be a blonde, maybe because blondes have more fun. But my brother is a true redhead and my sister (his twin) has dark hair with red highlights.

A few of us had fun trying on wigs that one of the gals brought to yoga class this week. I tried this red one on as a laugh, but was surprised to find that I actually liked the color on me.

Maybe it's time to rethink the whole blonde thing, even though Adam tells me there is discrimination in Britain against what they call 'gingers'...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Clinical trials

In this week's Kingston Whig Standard column, Sue Hendler writes:

I'm not on trial -- the chemicals I take for my disease are

"Being part of a clinical trial can make you feel good in that you are getting the very latest drug development -- state-of-the-art treatment -- for your cancer. It can make you happy that you are doing something altruistic, too, as you are helping the medical community assess whether this drug is worth more study if it is deemed to show promise.

It can also be scary to be a participant in this kind of research. No one really knows what the drug will do to an actual human body, so that's a little unnerving. On the other hand, you're getting what seems to be an infinite number of tests to see how your various organs, as well as your body as a whole, is dealing with the drug."

Read the full article

To read other newpaper articles by Sue Hendler, click on her name after Labels below.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I can't help myself. I've been searching the dog rescue websites again...

When I think of Chihuahuas, I picture the toy dogs that celebrities carry in their purses - not a 'real' dog. But I am quite taken with Katey and am considering adopting her. She is an older dog (8-9 years), has had a rough time and just needs some love, so we may be a good match for one another.
Isn't she adorable? How can I resist those eyes?

There is a lot of red tape involved in adopting a dog through the Loyal Rescue organization (phone interview, home visit, reference checks). I'm hoping to have a home visit in the next few weeks. I know that Jennifer and the other 'aunties' will help me out in a pinch if I need any help.

Boob adoptions

Laurie K posted on her blog recently that she had a prosthesis that was looking for a new home. It just so happened that my friend Jill was in need of one. Jill had been wearing a prosthesis that broke apart and leaked, and has taped it back together numerous times. I wish I could show you a picture but I’m still having camera problems.

I jumped on the chance to help Jill replace her mangled and often repaired ‘breast’. (I hesitate to use the term because it looked more like a boneless chicken breast that had been attacked by a pit-bull. No offence to pit-bull owners.)

I picked the little ‘puppy’ up at Laurie’s and delivered it to Jill last night. (Please forgive my tendency to be inappropriate at times, but I've been a bit dog-obsessed lately). A few friends that were there were in agreement that it's time that Jill kicked the old one to the curb. We could have a ceremony and bury it in her yard, but she has dogs and they’d probably just dig it up…

In the spirit of paying it forward, Jill gave me her old prosthesis to see if I can find a home for it (not the mangled one; an older one that doesn't fit but is like new). She thinks it’s about a 34/36 B. If you know of someone who might be interested, please pass this on.

Laurie's blog: Not Just About Cancer

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Two years

I was going through some old papers and came across something I wrote two years after my original diagnosis. The Women’s Breast Health Centre was putting together an information book for newly diagnosed women and they included several personal stories, including mine. The last I heard they were still giving out the book. Maybe it’s time to update the stories…

It’s old news, but here it is if you are interested in reading it.

My after Europe slump

A few people have commented that I haven’t been posting much since I got back from Holland. I think I have a case of the after-a-great-visit blues.

It has rained every day since I got back. I’ve been watching too much TV (if you want to know anything about Michael Jackson's life, I'm your gal). I’m having battery issues (my watch, camera & cordless phone all died at the same time and I’m having a hard time finding replacements). I’m usually the budget-queen and can stretch a dime into a dollar, but I keep putting off reworking my finances since going on long-term disability. I have a basement full of boxes that should go to the Sally Ann, yet there they sit.

I had severe cabin fever yesterday so paid an impromptu visit to Jacquelin and her two munchkins, Alex & Marcus. They are adorable and full of beans (would show you pictures but see camera battery note above…). Marcus climbed all over me, showed me just about every toy he owns and even cuddled with me on the sofa. Alex gave me so many hugs when I left that I thought I’d have to take him with me. (Did I mention that they are adorable?)

This morning is grey and dismal looking again. Where is our summer? I miss the beach in Den Haag... but most of all I miss Adam & Tara!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ottawa Citizen: Columns by Julie Mason

Here are Julie Mason’s latest columns in the Ottawa Citizen:

The F word: Fatigue is the most common challenge of cancer -- pervasive, life-changing, and not responsive to rest. But there is an answer

The moral implications of the fight against cancer

A show of hands: 'Please, Dr. Dogood or Nurse Caring, would you mind washing?'

If you would like to read other columns written by Julie Mason, click on her name after “Labels” below.

The Last Lecture - discussion 3

In this week’s book club assignment on the Last Lecture by Randy Paush, Dennis Pyritz says:

“His [Randy's] cancer really did help him to focus. In “I’m on My Honeymoon, But If You Need Me…” he offers advice that we as cancer patients can readily connect with. “Time must be explicitly managed,” “You can always change the plan, but only if you have one,” and “Are you spending your time on the right things?””

My response:

I now plan less than I used to. I like the freedom of waking up in the morning and choosing exactly what I want to do with my day (when I’m feeling well enough, of course). I’ve let go of my need to be ‘productive’ and have more fully experienced the days and moments. I don’t commit to things ahead of time; I’ll sometimes play the cancer card and ask if I can decide at the last minute because I might not be feeling up to it that day. I’ve let go of the guilt of what I used to think of as wasting time. Sitting under a tree on a beautiful day now feels like time well spent.