Friday, January 29, 2010

A Dog's Purpose (from a 6-year-old)

I continue to be amazed at how much I enjoy having a dog in my life. Here's a story that's been making the email rounds about what we can learn from dogs:

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker 's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said,''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?'' The Six-year-old continued, ''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
Take naps.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On hold

I am in on-hold-hell.

Yesterday it was with, trying to track down a book that I ordered that never arrived.

Today I’m listening to really annoying elevator music, waiting to order a part for my vacuum.

I think when the “service” rep (I use the term loosely) comes back on the line, I’ll put him on hold and go to the bathroom. I'm sure I'll need to go by then.

More on positive thinking

"Some days are lousy, and I can't imagine having to spend those days trying to psych myself out with positive psychobabble. That would take far too much energy, and I can't imagine the pressure if I believed a negative thought could cause my cancer to come back."
-R.K., leukemia survivor

This seems to be a topic that pops up again and again. Here are a few online articles by Lori Hope (interesting last name for a cancer thriver who wrote a book called "Help me live").

When you can't think positively - celebrate!
When positive thinking isn't working, get real

What I'm grateful for today: Yoga class, because I really need to stretch.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Guest blogger: Katey

A few people have commented that I haven't been updating my dog-blog lately. I've been dictating but my mom hasn't been posting for me. What's a dog to do?

I think I'll have to bite her ankle every once in awhile to remind her...

signed Katey the Wonder Dog

Visit my blog at

What I'm most grateful for today: kibble, chicken livers, treats, my bed, my favorite pillow and my Pawz booties that protect my tender tooties from the salt.

What my mom is most grateful for today: me!

A real hero

In case you haven't seen it, this has been circulating by email:

John Gebhardt's wife, Mindy, said that this little girl's entire family was executed. The insurgents intended to execute the little girl also, and shot her in the head...but they failed to kill her. She was cared for in John 's hospital and is healing up, but continues to cry and moan. The nurses said John is the only one who seems to calm her down, so John has spent the last four nights holding her while they both slept in that chair.
The girl is coming along with her healing. John is a real Star of the war, and the hero of peace. You'll never see things like this in the news. Every person can make a difference in the life of someone even if it is one little girl.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busting Out

This picture was in the Ottawa Citizen a few weeks ago; I think it was part of an advertisement for a recent cancer telethon. They must have really had to dig in the archives for this one because that's me in the front, wearing the headband and I haven't been dragon boating in several years.
Seeing the picture made me think back to what a great experience it was to paddle with the Busting Out breast cancer survivor/thriver team. During the 7 years that I was on the team, I had the opportunity to participate in many festivals including Halifax, Vancouver and even China.

But the best part of being on the team were the people I met. Even today most of my closest friends are people I met on the Busting Out team. What a great group of active, supportive, and optimistic women.

Busting Out Dragon Boat team

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Not-So-Secret

Back when it was all the buzz I bought the book “The Secret”, more out of curiosity than anything. “The Secret” turned out not to be much of a secret, but rather the law of attraction, a concept that has probably been around forever. The premise is that thoughts are very powerful and everything that happens to you, you attract to yourself through your thoughts.

The three steps in The Secret are to Ask, Believe, & Receive and our desires will be manifested. On the flip side, so-called negative thinking can attract negative things, including poverty, disaster and disease.

I have a hard time accepting that I “attracted” cancer to me. That implies blame and I don’t believe my thoughts were to blame for getting cancer any more than I believe that the people of Haiti attracted the recent earthquake. I’m much more comfortable believing that, for the most part, random bad things happen to random people, both good and bad.

However, I do think that negative people attract other negative people and positive people attract other positive people. And the more positive people you have in your life, the better your life will be and the better equipped you will be to cope when random bad things happen.

The only cancer-related thing that I think we have responsibility for is how we deal with it. Finding the positive in a negative situation just makes sense, if for no other reason than it improves our quality of life.

I personally found “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Vicktor Frankl more powerful than The Secret. It illustrates how the strength of the human spirit can triumph over even the unspeakable horror of the Nazi death camps.

(And it doesn’t have pictures of angels or kittens, or Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, which for me is a bonus).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And now for something completely morbid...

"They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days."
Garrison Kielor.

When I was a teenager I used to hear songs on the radio and think “I’d like that played at my wedding”. As I get older, I’m more likely to think “I’d like that played at my funeral”.

Let’s face it, whether you have cancer or not, you’ve probably thought about your own funeral. How many people will come? Who would you want to speak? Will that so-and-so ex-boss show up and feel really guilty?

I came across an interesting site called “My
Wonderful Life: Plan your funeral, your way”. You create a book with your final wishes, a survivor checklist and even letters to loved ones. You assign “angels” who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes. Being someone who likes to organize things (and have the last word!), the idea appeals to me.

While it’s not something most people like to talk or think about, there is something satisfying about knowing that it’s taken care of when the time eventually comes.

In the meantime, I’m getting on with the business of living.

What I'm grateful for today: For the things that I have control of. I'm working on letting go of the rest.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thufferin Thuccotash

There are a gazillion blogs out there written by people with cancer (and I thought I was the only one!), so many in fact that I can only manage to read a few on a regular basis. One of my favorities is called Thufferin Thuccotash - Laughting and Suffering. While the posts usually make me laugh, there is almost always something I can relate to in a serious and real way.

Here are a few lines from a recent post about the author's
thoughts while waiting for x-ray results.

"I thought of the worst case scenario and how I might react? Surgery, chemo, bald, thin. Lord knows I've been on worse diets! I remember my reaction the first time I was diagnosed with cancer. I was hysterical, phoning everyone I knew, and then I started at the beginning of the phone book with people I didn't know. It was all about me! I panicked. I cried. I planned my funeral and thought of songs I wanted them to play. You know that song from the movie Platoon -
Adagio for Strings, opus 11? Gah..that's such a moving song, perfect for my rainy afternoon funeral in March, a few days after my birthday where I turned 51 years old and so cute still!! The songs I chose would make me cry and then I'd get depressed. I was gnashing my teeth (what few I have left), back of my hand to my forehead. I picked out a lovely coffin, even wrote my guest list on a post-it note. Had chemo, went bald and survived (so far).

Now I sometimes feel guilty that people who grieved with me initially are annoyed that I dragged them into an emotional frenzy yet I didn't die. I mean, all that drama for nothing (or for, what now feels like, nothing in the scheme)."

What I'm grateful for today:
All of the amazing, honest, crazy, ballsy, funny and inspiring women so willing to share their heart and souls with all of the other amazing, honest, crazy, ballsy, funny and inspiring women out there who need to know they are not alone.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Crazy incoherent rant

Writing is good for the soul. It allows me to process my thoughts, express my emotions, and get things off my chest.
I’m pretty open about my life and try not to hold back from writing about things that might expose my mistakes and shortcomings. I also try to be careful not to write anything on this blog that might paint others in a negative way.
But a few things have happened lately that have gotten under my skin. People I care about have been caught in a shit-storm of not talking to one another and I’m struggling to understand.
So, in consideration for the privacy of others, here’s my ‘general’ rant for the day (or maybe the year). This will make absolutely no sense to 99% of you; just indulge me, OK?

I am not perfect. I can’t read people’s minds and can’t do anything about something if I only find out about it after the fact. Let me know while I can still do something about it because I haven't yet developed the ability to change history.
I sometimes lose my temper. Losing my temper is something that has come to me rather late in life and I haven’t yet perfected using it in a productive way. I’m willing to say I’m sorry and take my portion of the blame. Please be willing to hear me out, especially if you yourself have been known to lose your own temper in the past.

Not talking to the person you are mad at doesn’t resolve anything. Things just fester to the point where you don’t even know what you are mad about anymore, you just know that you are not talking to that ‘b$#+h’.
‘Poor me’ isn’t a healthy place to stay for long. Playing the role of victim will only attract people that will help to keep you there, not move forward. As a friend of mine says "suck it up buttercup" and fix what's worth fixing.

Consider the possibility that not everything is about you. Instead of inventing reasons in your head why the person did what they did, why not just ask them? Maybe your insecurities and paranoia are f--king with your head again - it may not have anything to do with you.
I am willing to talk things out after a disagreement, but I don’t have the time or energy to chase anyone and plead with them to ‘play nice’ and ‘make up’. If a hand is extended once, it may not be again. That makes it your move.

Whew! That felt good. Even if half of my family isn’t talking to me now.
Oh, that’s right, they weren’t before I wrote this...
What I’m grateful for today: That my mom arrived home safe after her 7 hour drive today. And that she’s still speaking to me. :-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good CT scan results

My mom & I went to my cancer clinic appointment this afternoon, pretty certain that I’d be starting a new chemo drug next week. But my oncologist said that the results were better than he expected and that one of the two tumors that showed up on the previous scan had disappeared. The remaining one stayed the same size but looks denser. (Is ‘denser’ a word, or is it ‘more dense’?). So, the plan is to continue with the Faslodex and have another look in two months.

When I saw Rene, my energy guy, in Mahone Bay in December, he said that my Ph level was excellent and that he didn’t think the spots on my lungs were cancer. He felt it was an amoeba (parasite) that caused the lesions. At first I thought that was a bit crazy. After all, I had more spots on my lungs than they could count a year ago, so it was pretty likely that these new ones were cancer too.

But now I’m thinking… could he be right? It seems strange to me that my monthly injections of Faslodex would stop working enough to allow 2 cancer lesions to appear and then start working again enough to have one of them disappear.

I think it’s worth further investigation, but for now, I’m just happy not to be changing treatments.

What I'm grateful for today: Faslodex, energy therapy, amoebas, and good test results!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Excited to be alive

A good friend visited a concentration camp this past year and, as she felt the evil and horror of the place, she had this epiphany: There actually are worse things than having cancer!

I've had good days, bad days, and days that downright sucked. But as I was telling my mom this evening, I have a pretty good life. (OK, except for the cancer).

I get up and do exactly what I want to do everyday, without pressure or responsibilities. I'm still able to do the things that I enjoy and Katey the wonder dog makes me smile each and every day. I have the most amazing group of friends (not to mention that I have an awesome mom, and I'm not just saying that because she's visiting now!)

Who would have thought that people with cancer could still appreciate life? Even be excited to be alive after surviving cancer or a crash such as the 'miracle on the Hudson'?

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

~Agatha Christie~

Roger and Kathy Cawthon write about being excited to be alive in the latest Cancer Crusade newsletter.

Read the full article

Ongoing adventures of Adam & Tara - Jeruselum

Adam's Facebook status says:

Adam is in Jerusalem. Such an intense yet fascinating city.

Adam and Tara went to all of the stations of Jesus' walk with the cross and the room of the last supper. They were in Ciaro for Christmas, then on to Jordan, and rode camels through Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed.

I'm happy that they had such a wonderful trip but will be glad to know they are home safe and sound tomorrow.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Favorite Moment of 2009

Sylvia, Frances & I had a wonderful ski after their lesson at Mooney's Bay this morning. Sylvia mentioned that at a recent family reunion everyone was asked what their favorite moment of 2009 was.

As I wrote in my last post, I had a lot of great moments this past year. But my favorite one was probably sitting on a patio in a small town in the Czech Republic with my son. Adam had surprised me with a trip to Prague and then a few days in the country side. The patio was in a square in the centre of the town and the waiter didn't speak English. The only thing remotely recognizable on the menu was something called "Gordon Blue".
Adam ordered what he thought was a glass of red wine, which turned out to be a bottle. I'm not much of a drinker, but we were in wine country and the wine went down very easy. I got tipsy, on a patio in a square in a town who's name I can't remember, with my grown son and I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. The four days I spent with Adam in the Czech Republic will certainly go down as four of the best days of my life.

What was your favorite moment of 2009? Please leave a comment to share a special memory from the past year.

What I'm grateful for today:
Sylvia & Frances, for agreeing to go for a ski with me, even though they were already tired from their ski lesson.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Year in Review

After ringing in the new year at home with my mom last night, she turned to me and said “I sure hope this year is better than the last”.

I was surprised because I actually thought I had a good year. Yes, there were some really crappy parts: Sue Hendler's death was a blow and my own cancer is now acting up again, but I have to say that I felt well for most of 2009. Here are a few highlights (OK, more than a few...):

Who am I?. Professional photos remind me that I’m not just ‘cancer woman’.
Good News!!!. No signs of tumors on my lungs.
Goodbye to Taxotere. Switched to less invasive Faslodex.
Support Groups. An amazing community of women for support and friendship.

Good news for Jilly-Bean! So many friends with a cancer history are well and cancer free.
Saturday WRAP Group. Our weekly gatherings continue, despite the winter weather.
Happy Birthday to Jennifer. So many wonderful friends to enjoy activities and celebrate with.
Let It Go and Life Is Good becomes my new mantra.
Applying for LTD. Approved for long-term-disability coverage.

I was well enough to have a lovely
First and Last Skate on the Ottawa canal.
Beauty of the Cause. Posed for a calendar to raise funds for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer.
A beautiful
Weekend away in Belleville with my mom.
The kindness of strangers. Curves raised money to help with my drug costs.
Chemo-fog doesn’t stop me from snow shoeing in Algonquin Park.

Anka's back!. Happy to have my activity partner and pedicurist back in town.
Happy Birthday to Sue!. Attended a birthday party in Kingston for Sue H.
My Bucket List. A wealth of accomplishments so far, with more to come.

Continued to visit Rene in Mahone Bay for
Energy Therapy treatments.
Return to Peggy's Cove. Went back to my ‘special place’.
Continued to get
Good news! From my CT scan results.
Bosom Buddies support group friends reunite whenever we can.
Tip toe through the tulips. Many wonderful outings with special people.
Picton with my road-hos. A fun girls’ weekend.

First day in the Netherlands. Dutch art. Food, glorious food. Visited Holland and explored Den Haag.
Adam surprised me with a
Road trip to the Czech Republic.
My surprise. Neil Young concert with Adam.
EJ and BJ. Elton John and Billy Joel concert.

Katey the Wonderdog. Update on Katey the wonder dog. Katey & I found each other.
Cottage dreams. A magical and relaxing week away with friends.

Cancer and Happiness. Still finding meaning in life.
Enjoyed the
Lazy days of summer at Anne’s cottage.
Continued to get good
CT Scan Results.
Aged to near perfection :-) Celebrated my birthday with family & friends.

Enjoyed a day of pampering at the
100 Man Run Spa Day.
Getting ready to participate in
The Run for the Cure.

Meditation class helped me get back on track.
18,790 visitors to this blog in 1 year.
Just Doing It wins an award 9 years in a row.
Participated in
The Run for the Cure.

Canterbury Craft Sale , Sweater obsession & More sweaters. Took up a new hobby.
Granny Fest. Joined the Ammas for Grammas to raise funds for African grandmothers.
Thar's snow in them thar hills. Hiked in the Gatineau hills.

Peace on earth. A hike is a good break from the hustle & bustle of the holidays.
The conditions were great for Skiing in the Gatineau hills.
All I want for Christmas . The Toonie Tuesday gals visit Santa.
Crap and what I'm grateful for. Hiking with friends makes the crap so much easier to take.

So, all things considered, I'd say I had a great year!

I wish all of you health, happiness and peace in 2010.