Good Times, Noodle Salad

Lucy and Bayla are having a fabulous weekend. Lots of company. Loads of fun.

And I’m 100% grateful for their good health, their happiness and our beautiful life together.

Still, sometimes I get jealous.

I don’t want to but I do. It washes over me. And sticks. Like heavy, poisonous mud.

I get jealous of other families’ carefree lives. Their athletic endeavours, financial security, freedom, vacations, hobbies and warm relatives.

If I could cut out these feelings as easily as I cut out foods, I’d be set.

Virtual radiation treatment (with commentary)

Andrea brought her audio recorder along to one of her radiation treatments and captured her experience. Join Andrea, virtually, as she’s greeted, positioned and treated. Her “director’s commentary” makes it possible to understand what’s going on.


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Andrea Needs to Care Less

During my twenties, I had the coolest boss. Handsome, hard-headed, capable and curious, he was a windsurfer, a motorcycle-driver and an incurable devil’s advocate.

For our seven years as colleagues, I was a star resource, but Steve often bemoaned two of my big failings: my need for confidence; and my need to chill.

This week, on this blog, Steve may have helped with the latter.

When I’m dithered by diet decisions or fretting over family fiascoes impending or past, I’m going to repeat my new Steve-supplied mantra, “Andrea needs to care less”.

Its third-person perspective seems to squeeze issues down to a less scary size.

Maybe I’ll be chill yet.

Happiness Is…

The Wild Oat.

I’ve had a lot of firsts since chemo ended, but the only one to make me cry was my first visit back to The Oat. And I cried just as hard at my second.

The Wild Oat was our family’s cozy oasis — every day — for more than three years.

Its earthy attitude, funky, friendly staff and unbeatable organic coffee, baked goods and meals were well worth the line-up each weekend for breakfast.

Its mellow, homey atmosphere and steaming espresso machine sang backup each weekday morning as Mark and I recorded our daily discussion for Just One More Book.

We knew the staff. We knew the customers. All four of us felt completely at home.

Right up to my diagnosis.

I cry for the pre-c freedom The Oat represents. For our lost podcast. For my lost employment. And for the carefree morning “dates” that Mark and I enjoyed each day before work.

Still, happiness is The Wild Oat.

Journey Learning #7: Mind-Reading

Mind-reading got me through my young life — constantly scanning faces, words, inflection and situations for the teeniest clues of disapproval, displeasure or impending danger, and then adjusting my actions accordingly.

It helped me negotiate volatile and irrational authority figures.
It likely improved my software analysis and design.

But I’m learning that, when dealing with fairly decent human beings, my hyper-vigilance often backfires.

Disguised fear may look like dismissal. Extreme sympathy may be disguised as awkward rudeness. Colossal insecurity may be disguised as arrogance and (in the grand scheme of things, harmless) hostility.

And that, disguises or not, I’m safe.

So, thank you, Mind-reading, for getting me to safety.
Enjoy your long-overdue retirement.

Unfinished Learning

I think of cancer as a teacher that was not invited but has come to my house to visit from time to time nonetheless. It sits on my left side whispering insistent questions that I cannot answer but still must explore: Who am I when I stop doing? What have I come here to give? What is unfinished for me to learn, to experience? Am I leaving a legacy that enables others to live bigger lives than I have?

I Will Not Die An Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion , Dawna Markova
Red Wheel Weiser, 2000.

One Down. Five To Go

I’ve completed the first five of my 30 radiation sessions.

So far, so good.

The weather has been unseasonably cool and it’s been threatening rain all week, so my 45 minute walks to and from the hospital have been pleasant.

I’ve enjoyed having a destination each day. The daily commitment has forced me to pick up the pace of my sloppy stay-at-home routine. And, given that my post-chemo body is too sore to jog and my hole-fallen-into upper body is too sore for my 30min exercise tape, the long walks are perfect.

The radiation targets my entire upper right side — including my neck and portions of my back. I’ve been slathering myself with Glaxal Base and Calendula lotion three times each day in hopes of keeping my skin on long enough to avoid the infamous blisters and weeping sores. Fingers crossed.

All in all, a good week.

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Of Mending and Manners

No Lifeguard on Duty

It is difficult
when one is drowning
to wave to the people on shore

one wants to be
friendly, of course

but perhaps it is
more important
to keep

Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad, 1990. Fine Black Lines: Reflections on facing cancer, fear and loneliness.

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Accented Light

The Circle of Life

The stories of cancer survivors reveal a common thread that runs through all their experiences. After the initial shock of being diagnosed with cancer, their  worlds turn black. But, as they go through the journeys of cancer treatment, all the colours of the rainbow become more vibrant against the dark background.

The journey exposes the importance of family, friends, colleagues and the caring medical community. As the circle of life closes, many survivors find a need to give back to the community and begin to help others through their own journeys.

Unfortunately, there are still those who do not survive the disease. Many of these patients have tried experimental procedures that were not successful for them and the lessons learned helped many others to survive. These courageous people must never be forgotten.

This quilted wall hanging is dedicated to all those who have had cancer touch their lives. It was made by the women of the Country Club Quilters group in Beacon Hill under the leadership of Thelma Robbins and was presented to The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre on April 19, 2010.

Pattern by: Marti Mitchell
Quilted by: Grace Whiting
Framed by: Rothwell Gallery