Sunday, May 31, 2009

Calling all Cancer Heroes

I am always looking for positive stories about people who have had a recurrence (local or metastatic) to post to this blog. I call the subject of these posts “Cancer heroes", because anyone who is a role model of how to live a full life with cancer is my hero!

If you have had a recurrence of cancer and are living your life with meaning and purpose, I would like to add you to my list of cancer heroes. If you are willing, please send me your answers to the questions below, along with a picture or two that I can post to the blog.

I may not use all of your comments (I like to keep my posts rather short), but will put together something that will hopefully capture the spirit of your story.

When was your original diagnosis?
When did the cancer return and how?
How did having the cancer return affect you? (Mentally, physically, emotionally)
What changes have you made in your life since the cancer returned, if any?
Where do you draw your strength from? How do you look at life today?
Do you have any advice for others with a recurrence?
Anything else to add?

A good-news story about cancer

Read about Princess Margaret's one-day service from biopsy to treatment plan in Julie Mason's Ottawa Citizen column:
A good-new story about cancer.

Read other columns by Julie Mason

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sue Hendler's latest column

In today’s Kingston Whig Standard column, Sue Hendler writes about new math, my results and a potential solution to the parking problem.

You can read other columns by Sue by clicking on her name below, after Labels.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Energy Therapy

Last summer I saw an energy therapist in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. His name is Rene Grieder and he practices Yin-Yang Frequency Neutralizing and Homeopathic Plant Essences Therapy using Needleless Acupuncture. The treatment is based on the theory that healthy cells have a different vibration than pathologic cells. Using acupuncture points, natural medicine essence frequencies target areas of the body which are most in need of healing.
I don’t claim to understand how it works. What I do know is that since seeing him last fall, the tumors in my lungs have disappeared. My oncologist claims it’s the chemo. My mother claims it’s prayer. But maybe it’s a combination of everything, so I saw Rene Grieder again last week.

I was impressed on my first visit when Rene told me that I had bacteria in my right jaw, without me telling him that I have TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problems. During my most recent visit, he said that my pancreas is not healthy. I hadn’t told him that I went to emergency after my first chemo treatment with a pancreatitis attack.

I did tell him about the swollen lymph nodes in my chest wall and he said that my lymphatic system was stressed and spent a good part of the 2 hour visit working at unblocking it. I have a CT scan scheduled for next week. It will be interesting to see if the size of the swollen lymph nodes has changed since my last scan.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Return to Peggy's Cove

No trip to Halifax would be complete without a drive out to my ‘special place’ – Peggy’s Cove. I’ve been there in all kinds of weather: on a beautiful day when the sun warms the rocks; in the evening as the sun sets and the lighthouse reflects on the water; and even at 3 in the morning (in my teens, after the prom). Whenever I go, it’s always special.

I don’t usually repeat blog postings but I think this one from almost 2 years ago captures how I feel.

September 2007. It's half-way through my week alone in Halifax and a perfect day to visit one of my favorite places in the world - Peggy's Cove.

I find a lovely little shelter from the wind on a rock that looks designed to be a seat, as if it was waiting for me. "Welcome back Chris" the rocks and the ocean seem to say. "We've missed you. We have life and energy to share with you. We'll be here whenever you need to come back and long after you are gone".

Sitting on the rocks, looking out at the water makes me feel alive, as if the world is full of possibilities. I am filled with joy and wonder in this magical place. I would think that such a powerful place would diminish me and make me feel small. Instead it shares it's power with me and I draw strength from it. The rocks are worn and broken, yet beautiful. Maybe it's OK to be broken; maybe I too am a beautiful work of imperfection. Maybe life isn't meant to be smooth, unblemished or organized.

I breathe in the salt air and feel life and health fill my lungs. I may not be as indestructible as the rocks and the ocean, but I am strong and tough and, like them, can take a beating and weather a storm. Because the rocks and ocean will be here for another million years, so will I. Because there will always be a part of me here at the edge of the world at Peggy's Cove.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jennifer: Cancer hero

Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. Despite a recurrence in her bones, lungs and liver 3 years later, she hasn't let cancer keep her from doing the things she loves, or from trying new things.

“I have done more things in my life in the last 3 years then I did for the first 28 years. I have experienced life and done things that I always wanted to try. Some of the things I tried were photography, kayaking, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, hiking, snorkeling, singing, swing, Latin and ballroom dancing. I received my Reiki master, scuba diving certification, directed 2 plays, and I'm working toward my black belt in Kenpo (martial art). I have traveled more and have been to Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and Paris among my favorites. I also returned to school for something I have wanted to do almost my whole life.”

Jennifer’s advice for others:
“You made it through the first time so that means you have the strength and determination to make it through again. Take one day at a time and still continue to live your life. Don't let this run your life, take control.”

"Cancer Heroes" are people with cancer who are continuing to live life in a way that inspires others.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome to Halifax!

This is the view this morning from my sister’s condo in downtown Halifax. I am looking forward to actually seeing my home town, but we certainly can’t see it from the 15th floor this morning. On the other side of the fog (which is common in Halifax) is a beautiful view of the harbor.
Nadine, the family chef, is leafing through magazines, planning a belated mother’s day brunch. Mom arrives late today and Erin (my niece) arrives home from a school trip on Thursday, so ‘the girls’ will at least have a few days together at the end of the week.

Even though I haven’t lived here since I was 17, it feels good to be ‘home’.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I understand so much better now

Since her diagnosis of metastatic cancer, Sue better understands some of the challenges her sister Celia faced when she was struggling with her own illnesses. Sue writes a moving open letter to her sister in today’s Kingston Whig Standard. Anyone who has a loved one with a serious illness can learn from Sue's reflections on the period of time before her sister’s death.

An open letter to my sister: by Sue Hendler

You can read other columns by Sue by clicking on her name below, after Labels.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

American Idol

OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a huge American Idol fan. I'm glued to the set each week, enjoying the performances and waiting to see who will be voted off.

I was sad to see Danny get eliminated last night -- but Adam Lambert is, as Randy puts it, my 'top dawg'. Maybe it has something to do with the name, but you can’t deny that the kid can sing (and he's not too hard on the eyes!).

What struck me last night, as they showed the finalists visiting their home towns and reuniting with family & friends, was that all three seem like genuinely nice people. I was really moved by the hug between Kris and his dad; being the mother of a son around the same age myself, I could identify with the love and pride that showed on his face.

I can't wait to give my own Adam a big hug like that when I see him in June. In the meantime, I'll keep watching 'my boys' on American Idol.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Good news!

I saw my oncologist and got the results of my CT scan today: nothing in the lungs, liver or bones! They will be watching 2 lymph nodes on my chest wall that are slightly larger than last time but, all in all, it’s excellent news.

I made an appointment to see the energy therapist in Nova Scotia that I saw last summer. Since then, the numerous tumors in my lungs have disappeared (they said there were too many to count). Was it the energy therapy? The chemo? A combination of both? Who knows… but I’m planning to cover all the bases.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bosom Buddies

I met my 'bosom buddies' in a support group in 1998. Unfortunately, all but one of us has had a recurrence of some sort - either local or metastatic. Our friendship has not only been a support to me, they have become like sisters, part of an extended family.

Patricia was visiting from Victoria last week and four of us got together for lunch.

In the picture: Beverly, Mary Lou, Patricia and Chris

Missing from the picture: Jill

Tip toe through the tulips

I’ll be too late to see the tulips in Holland, but I got my tulip fix at the Ottawa festival this past week, where the tulip beds at Dow’s Lake explode into a kaleidoscope of color.

The royal Dutch family sends 10,000 bulbs to Ottawa each year as a thank you for sheltering their princess during the 2nd World War. Her daughter, Princess Margriet, was born here at the Civic Hospital.

The lovely tulip photography is courtesy of Peggy & Anne.

In the picture: Judy, Bev, Joanne, Peg, Anne, Anka & Chris

Good friend

I just had an email from my friend Anka that made me laugh. I'm not sure why she was thinking about this early on a Sunday morning ... but she said she thought she should shave my neck hair before I leave for Halifax next week.

Isn't it great to have friends who will tell you when you have excess neck hair or broccoli in your teeth?

Isn't it great that I have excess hair that needs shaving?? :-)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ongoing adventures of Adam and Tara: Berlin

Here's Tara at what's left of the Berlin wall. As usual, Adam's behind the camera.

Tara just got a new racing bike so Adam will never catch up to her now. When we were biking together last year he threatened to buy a scooter and wait for us in the pubs in each town along the way.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Trekking in Nepal

It was the winter of 2000, two years after my original breast cancer diagnosis, and I was travelling to Nepal looking for adventure. What I didn't realize was that it would be a spiritual journey and that the people there would teach me something about happiness.

We had been climbing up, up, up for most of the first day of an 11 day trek. I had done a fair bit of hiking in the Gatineau Hills, so the uphill wasn’t new to me. However, I wasn’t prepared when the trail suddenly turned a corner and continued on the side of a mountain, with a sheer drop on one side. I was never fond of heights (what was I doing on a mountain in Nepal one might ask…), but I had never experienced severe vertigo before. But there I was, literally clinging to the side of the mountain, unable to move one foot in front of another. After what seemed like an eternity of coaxing by my companions and guides - when it became clear that there was no rescue helicopter coming for me - I decided that I had no choice but to move forward. It was 4 days before I could relax and finally appreciate the most spectacular view that I have ever seen.

Our group of 15 women was travelling with a huge entourage of sherpas, porters and cooks. Many of the porters wore only rubber flip-flops, while carrying our duffle bags, tents, food, dishes, and everything else we needed for the trip on their backs. Every night when we arrived at camp, our tents were set up and waiting for us, along with a dining tent with table and folding chairs. How they managed to prepare and serve such wonderful food in the middle of nowhere I’ll never know. Every morning they were up before us to serve breakfast, pack up the camp, and start the whole process over again.
These people worked incredibly hard for very little pay. You would think that when they were done for the day, they would fall asleep exhausted. But no, when the work was done, it was then time to party. They sang Nepali folk songs and danced and laughed like they were the happiest people on the planet. Some of my favorite memories of the trip are of dancing by firelight, on the side of a mountain, with a sky full of stars that sparkled brighter than any disco ball from the 80’s.
Because we took a trade route rather than a tourist route, we passed through small villages that seldom see western faces. The children ran up and down the steep slopes like mountain goats. They had nothing, yet they appeared to have not a care in the world.

While taking a break one afternoon, a Nepali woman came and sat beside me on a rock. She hesitantly reached out and touched my blonde hair, obviously fascinated by it. I took it out of the pony tail I was wearing so she could have a better look. She offered me some seeds that she was carrying in a shawl wrapped around her waist. I have no idea what I was eating but we sat together, munching on the seeds, communicating somehow, even though we didn't speak the same language.

The only time we camped more than 1 night was near a monastery run by Buddhist nuns. We awoke both mornings to the sound of a conk shell calling the nuns to prayer. They were gracious enough to invite us to join them, which we did, still sleepy eyed and wrapped in our sleeping bags. Two hours of chanting in a language that I didn’t understand went by amazingly fast. I remember feeling a sense of belonging and love, as if all was well with the universe.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

10,000 hits

Wow! I just noticed that my blog has had 10,000 hits since I started counting in October! I guess it's not just my mom that's reading my daily ramblings...

Thanks to everyone who has given me encouragement to keep posting. It's very therapeutic and I've made some great connections along the way.

Picton with my road-hos

Thanks to Chris’ Jocks (Run for the Cure team), I got to spend a night at the lovely Waring House in Picton with friends this weekend. They received 2 gift certificates for 2 and they kindly gave one to me. There was a draw for the other one and my road-ho Vanessa won it. (According to an online slang dictionary I consulted, road-ho means “female travel companion”. Am I cool yet? Do people still say “cool”?)

In the picture: Vanessa, Tara, Melanie & Chris

We invited Melanie & Tara along to round out our foursome. After a picnic lunch at the Lake on the Mountain, we hit the shops in Picton and then spent some down time on our balcony at the Waring House with a few bottles of wine. I threw my healthy eating plan out the window and enjoyed a yummy dinner and breakfast. What’s a gal to do?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

How YOU doin'?

In this week’s column, Sue Hendler shares some humorous and honest answers to the question that people with cancer are asked every day: How are you doing?

In case you are wondering, I'm doing great today. Well, that depends on who you are... :-)

To read more columns by Sue Hendler, click on her name below after Labels.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Stories of Trials, Perseverance and Hope

Surprise, surprise. I’m not the only woman living with advanced cancer that has a blog. :-)

When I read what others write online, I often want to link to videos or other websites that they reference. In the interest of sharing information (not just stealing other people’s links!) here is a video I found on Laurie K’s blog, featuring women living with metastatic breast cancer.

Metastatic Breast Cancer: Stories of Trials, Perseverance, and Hope
Laurie’s Blog

Cottage Dreams

I had an interview with a woman from an organization called Cottage Dreams this afternoon. The purpose of the program is to provide cancer survivors time away at a donated cottage with their families and/or friends. I don’t know for sure if I will get a cottage, but it is looking good for a week this summer.

For more information: Cottage Dreams