Monday, May 31, 2010


I just received the sad news that Meridy died this evening at May Court hospice. I met Meridy years ago when we were both teaching the Christopher Leadership course and we more recently reconnected after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The positive spirit that I remember from the early days stayed with her throughout her illness.
A memorial service "A Celebration of Meridy’s Life" will take place at the Tubman's Funeral Home at 3440 Richmond Rd on Saturday, June 5th. The visitation will be at 10:00 am, followed by the Memorial Service at 11:00, Refreshments will be served following the celebration.

Rest in peace, Meridy. You will be missed.

Here is the obituary from the Ottawa Citizen:

Meridy Foster

FOSTER, Meridy Anne Meridy passed away with grace on May 31, 2010 at the age of 61, after living courageously with cancer for 2 1/2 years. Loving step-mother of Brad (Linda - Anna, Sarah) and Tim (Chris - Beth, Jack, Owen, Ruby, Daniel), god-mother of Jamie Stewart, devoted family friend to Karen and Dennis Gorr, Bob and Barb Stewart, numerous other long-time friends in Canada and her native Australia, as well as other countries around the world. She also leaves to mourn Jessie Stewart, Alie Lunn, Kristin Gorr, her niece Rebecca and nephew Matthew, her sister Beverly Silvius, and predeceased by brother Stephen. Meridy is grateful for the care she received at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, CCAC and The Hospice at May Court. A special thank you to all those wonderful friends who assisted and spent time with Meridy on her journey. All who knew and loved Meridy are welcome to share memories and bid farewell by attending a memorial service at the Garden Chapel of Tubman Funeral Homes, 3440 Richmond Road (between Baseline Rd. and Bayshore Dr.), Nepean on Saturday, June 5, 2010, at 11:00 a.m followed by refreshments. Prior to the service there will be a visitation from 10 a.m until 11 a.m. Condolences, donations and tributes can be made in Canada in her memory to any CHF project in Vietnam at , in Australia to Sunrise Orphanages in Cambodia at www.sunrise, or to The Hospice at May Court, Ottawa www.hospice Until we meet again...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

German New Medicine

I went to a retreat on German New Medicine (GNM) this weekend, but decided it was not for me so I left early. The old me would have felt that I was committed, that I should stay there because I paid to go, and that I should stick it out until the end. But I’m much more selective about how I spend my time these days so I headed out on Saturday afternoon to Dianne’s where I sat in the sun with her and Katey for a bit before heading home.

I've outlined some of the concepts of GNM, as well as some of my own comments in a separate post.

What I’m grateful for today: Options. While some options may take us down a dead end path, it’s good to know that there are many available to consider, to embrace, or to reject. One of the options is to take each day as it comes and enjoy life as I can. I think that’s the best option for me right now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Welcome to my life

I just got a call to say they have a spot for me to have a CT scan of my lungs at 1:20 at the Civic (that's 1 hour 20 mins from now so I better move it!). Tomorrow is my Faslodex injection at the General. I'm waiting for a call to go and get my markings for radiation.

Last week my mom went with me to my appointment with the radiation oncologist. The appointment was long and he was hyper and hard to follow (maybe he was pre-testing the steriods to make sure they were ok for me to take...). I then had to go get an xray and then return back to the cancer clinic to wait for the results.

As we sat in the waiting room, my mom and I were both tired and a bit overwhelmed. I said "Welcome to my life". My mom leaned over and said under her breath "Your life sucks!", which cracked me up.

While having cancer sucks, my life doesn't. But it was a relief to know that my mom can finally see some humor in the day-to-day crap. She's come a long way!

Bone marrow/stem cell transplant

I’m sure the latest O magazine has triggered a lot of questions to oncologists about bone marrow transplants.

"Turning a Death Sentence Into a Passport for Life: When Katherine Russell Rich was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, she was told she would likely die in 24 months. That was 17 years ago."

The article tells the story of a woman who had a successful bone marrow transplant 10 years ago. I also know of a woman who is living cancer free 12+ years after a bone stem cell transplant.

Bone marrow and bone stem transplants were done in a clinical trial several years ago. It involved harvesting your own (or a donor’s) bone marrow, high dose chemotherapy, and then re-injecting the harvested bone marrow.

Bone marrow transplants are no longer done because of the high risk and low success statistics. It is my understanding that a high number of the women in the study died during or shortly after the treatment.

Yet, there are some people that it worked for. When I asked Dr C about it, he said that, while they all know people who did well, the overall statistics don’t support the procedure and therefore are not an option.

When a woman has metastatic cancer and is running out of options, I think this should still be available. Knowing the facts, we should have the right to take the risk if we choose. I suspect that cost is a huge factor (it is a tricky procedure and involves a long hospital stay).

What do you know or think about bone marrow transplants for metastatic breast cancer?


I started taking Decadron (Dexamethasone) yesterday – not my favorite drug. It usually makes me manic and affects my sleep; after all, it is a steroid. Also, one of the side effects is WEIGHT GAIN (shoot me now!).

Hopefully it will give me energy to get some things done around the house, but in this heat, I’ll probably have to resort to other outlets – like incoherent blog postings.

I’m attending a New German Medicine retreat at the Carp Wellness Centre this weekend. It will be interesting to see how steroid-hyperness and sessions on meditation and spirituality mix. I don’t want to share bunk beds (4 to a cabin) with strangers so I’m going to Dianne’s for the 2 nights and Katey will be there during the day. I’m sure Dianne and Brian won’t mind me using their pool at 2 a.m. to work off my steroid agitation… :-)

What I'm grateful for today: My basement 'guest suite'. It was so hot last night that Katey and I slept down there because the temperature was noticeably cooler.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ongoing adventures of Adam and Tara

Facebook says that "Adam is 'Back in the (former) USSR' -- in Riga, Latvia on a summer-like day." I guess the ash has cleared again over Amsterdam because the prodigal son is on on the move. I can't keep up with him!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: I had a chest x-ray this morning and nothing showed up in my lungs. We'll have another look in about 6 weeks with a CT scan. Also, Dr C recommends putting off radiating the lesions on my spine until I have symptoms.

The bad: I still don’t know what is causing this horrible cough. I missed a message from the nurse saying that Dr G had prescribed Decadron (a steroid) and another drug (not sure what), but I was too late to call back, so I’ll have to wait until after the long weekend to get the prescription. I’m not in a hurry to go on Decadron anyway because it makes me manic and puffy, but I need some relief from this chronic cough after 5 months.

The ugly: I also had an x-ray of the rib that has been causing me pain and it appears that there is cancer there. So the plan is to do 10 radiation treatments to the rib in the next few weeks.

Mom and I had quite the morning at the zoo (aka the cancer clinic) so one of Anka’s magic pedicures was just what I needed this afternoon.

What I’m grateful for today: pampered feet. Heh, I might glow in the dark, but my feet look good!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I have a case of the crankies today.

Maybe it's because I've had a cough since December and have had 4 different prescriptions with no improvement. If anything, it feels worse, and I've become short of breath doing normal things like walking up stairs. My last CT scan in February said that things were stable in my lungs, but I think it's time to book another scan, sooner rather than later.

Or maybe I'm just cranky because I'm missing Adam. Why is it that, the better the visit, the more I miss him when it's over? I’ll just have to reflect back on the wonderful week we had together and start planning a trip to Holland for the fall.

We pigged out had dinner at a favorite restaurant, Host India, on Mother’s Day. Adam finally got to meet Katey the Wonder Dog and we tooks lots of walks together. We even had a mother-and-son spa day :-) at Le Nordik in Chelsea. I had booked a massage for both of us but the masseuse wouldn’t do mine because I have cancer in my spine, even though I got the OK from my onc the day before. We enjoyed the pools anyway and had a lovely lunch outside.

Towards the end of the week, Mom joined us and we took in the Ottawa Tulip Festival. This was the 65th anniversary and celebration of the role of Canadian troops in the liberation of the Netherlands at the end of the war. The tulips are a gift from the Dutch royal family to the City of Ottawa for providing a safe harbor at that time. Adam bought a print of tulips with Parliament Hill in the background to display in their home in Den Haag.

Tara arrived from Calgary just in time for the Prodigal Son party on Saturday night. They got to meet some of my friends who only know them through my never-ending stories, and Adam got reacquainted with old friends, some who have known him since he was a boy. I cooked a turkey on the BBQ and took them off to the airport with full bellies (and a few tears) on Sunday.

There, I feel better, just looking at the pictures and thinking about the great time we had together.

PS – Another reason I may be feeling cranky is because I felt like I’ve been leaving messages in the PDN Black Hole (a.k.a. the voice message system for my Personal Designated Nurse at the cancer clinic) about the cough. I’m happy to report I just had a call from her and she will speak to the radiologist I’m seeing tomorrow about getting a chest x-ray.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nicole Bruinsma

I came across this sign on a trail in Chelsea last week. (It's in French and English but there's a glare on the French side of my picture - apologies to my Francophone friends).
Nicole Bruinsma was one of the original members of the Busting Out dragon boat team. I didn't get to know her well but I remember thinking that she must have been well loved in Chelsea. The town really rallied around her when she was ill and even organized a fund raiser to help pay for some expensive treatment she had in Germany.

Nicole was one of so many Busting Out paddlers that have made a difference in their community.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I’m behind in my postings and I have lots to catch up on: the Appetizers with the Ammas event, more on the conference in Philly, mother and son spa day, and the prodigal son party. For now, I’ll stick to the latest and hopefully come back to the other topics at a later date.

Yesterday was emotional with Adam and Tara leaving to go home. We BBQ’d a turkey for lunch and had ‘Festivus’ on my sunny deck before taking them to the airport. They got stuck in Frankfurt because of the volcano ash and had to take a train from there to Amsterdam, but they are finally home safe and sound. My heart is happy to know that they have such a great life in Europe, but it also aches a bit today because I miss them already.

The rest of me is a bit achy too because I had my first Pamidronate infusion this morning. It has left me with a few flu-like symptoms so I’m spending the evening in front of the TV finding out who won the latest Survivor. (I can’t believe that show is still on. Even more so, I can’t believe that I still watch it!).

I don't want to outwit, outplay, or outlast anyone.

I'm just fighting to stay in the game.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oncology visit

My son Adam came to my oncologist appointment with me today. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea or not but I want him to feel that he is involved in my health care, at least as much as he can considering that he lives in Europe. The distance has its advantages and disadvantages: it makes denial easier but I think that being parachuted into an appointment at the cancer centre during his vacation leaves him feeling, understandably, a bit shell shocked.

The plan is to keep me on Faslodex and add a monthly Pamidronate IV to strengthen my bones and prevent fracture. I have an appointment next week with a radiation oncologist to discuss treatment for the lesions on my spine.

What I’m grateful for today: The leisurely walk that Adam, Katey and I took along the river today.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to me!

The good news is: Adam has finally arrived! We went out for Indian food to celebrate Mother’s Day and I’m enjoying catching up and just hanging out with him. I’m so happy that his life is going well (he just got offered a full-time job at Shell) and amazed that I somehow managed to produce such a nice and impressive son.

The bad news is: I had to tell him that there is cancer on my spine and that I’ll have to have radiation treatments. One of the worst things about having metastatic cancer is having to tell my family bad news. I’m realistic and getting used to the ups and downs, but it’s always a blow to Adam and my mom when there is a change for the worse.

I see my medical oncologist this week and the radiation specialist next week. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy every minute I get to spend with Adam.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My room of 6+

I received an email asking me to make a wish and pass the quote below on to six special women. If this group of women were ever to be in a room together, there is nothing that would be impossible.

I'm usually reluctant to forward these things on (because I'm suspicious that chain emails are just a way for the originator to get more email addresses to spam). And besides, I had a hard time picking just six women. My list would be a long one, which tells me that I am blessed.

Here is the quote:

"May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

What I'm grateful for: The remarkable women who make me laugh, show me kindness, listen when I need to vent, challenge me to be a better person, keep me from going off the deep end and continue to touch my life in a variety of interesting ways. (You know who you are!!!)


The prodigal son returns in:


Friday, May 7, 2010

Overcoming Survivor's Guilt

The latest Cancer Crusade newsletter is about Overcoming Survivor's Guilt. I remember all too well the feeling when my friend Carol had a recurrence only 2 years after I met her in a support group. I asked myself "why her and not me?" but there was no answer.

Now that I've had a recurrence myself, I could ask the same question about other women who have not had it return; "why her and not me?". Again, there is no answer.

"...celebrate the one you have lost and to keep the flame of his or her life shining brightly by giving something good and beautiful to the world with your own life. It doesn't have to be big, but it has to come from a big place in your heart. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it must be generous of spirit."

Read the full story

Energy Therapy in Nova Scotia

Someone was asking recently about the energy guy I see in Mahone Bay, but I can't remember who asked. (I also can't remember what I had for breakfast, where I put my keys, or the name of my dentist).

Here's a link with information about him.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A friend

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

--Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Secret Garden

While our hotel is smack dab in the middle of the city, it has a beautiful courtyard – an oasis from the busy streets of Philadelphia. Leaves grow up the stucco walls, the bricks are mossy underfoot and it feels like I’m in my own secret garden.
Being at the conference with 200 other women with metastatic cancer has certainly reminded me of how important it is to enjoy the unexpected magic moments in my day.

As I soak up the ambiance in my secret garden before heading for the airport, I’m grateful for so many wonderful moments in my life: drinking wine on a patio in a small town in the Czech Republic with my son Adam; sitting on the rocks at Peggy’s Cove feeling the power of the ocean; riding a camel in a rain storm in Tanzania; listening to the chant of Buddhist nuns in the mountains of Nepal; gliding down a river in a wooden boat on the Mekong Delta.

I could go on and on… I am truly blessed!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I am sitting in a hotel in Philadelphia, happy to have internet access once again. (If there’s not a support group for this addiction, there should be).

I just spent the weekend at the LBBC (Living Beyond Breast Cancer) Conference for Women with Advanced Breast Cancer. The speakers were informative, the breakout sessions were interesting, and the food was tasty and plentiful.

But the best part of the conference were the attendees themselves. About 200 women attended, some young and some not so young, some bald, some wearing wigs, some looking amazingly healthy, some struggling with symptoms and/or treatment side effects; everyone looking for information, for advice, for answers, for hope.

I attended a session this morning called Creative Coping: Healing through Writing. The facilitator had us do several exercises where we wrote free-style for 5 minutes. As some of the women shared what they wrote, you could feel the connection in the room. We didn’t know each other, but we didn’t need to; no judgement, no need to explain. It felt like a weight lifted to be with people who understood.

Here are a few random lines that I made note of because they moved me.

I’ve come back. Again and again, I’ve come back.

We huddled together, my sister and I, knowing that I am going to die.

Because I have a season…

One of the exercises we did was to look at a picture of a flower and write whatever comes to mind. I chose a poppy and here’s what I wrote. I’m no poet (and keep in mind that we had 5 minutes to write, without thinking about it!), but here it is, for what it’s worth.

Poppies remind me of Theresa.

Theresa, painter of poppies,
mother of young daughters,
friend to her bosom buddies.
Theresa, feisty, determined, opinionated, concerned, talented, bold, loved.

I carry Theresa and the other women that have gone from my life, not as a burden,
but as internal companions; reassurance that I can follow on their path and that my family will be OK and carry on.

Theresa, Carol, Sue.
These sisters of my heart will always be part of me,
And their examples continue to guide me on my journey.
I feel their love and strength as I carry them with appreciation for all they brought into my life.

What I'm grateful for today: That I am not alone.

The prodigal son returns in: 7 days