We Can Rebuild Her
Better than she was before… Better, Stronger, Happier. A Breast Cancer Journal

Forget Regrets. Enjoy the Wondrousness.

The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don’t look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.

Derek K. Miller (June 30, 1969 – May 3, 2011)

Thank you, Derek, for your strength, your humour, your wisdom and your authenticity.

Thinking of you, Airdrie, Lauren and Marina. Wishing you healing and many years of happiness and good health.
Love,
Andrea



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea May 4, 2011

May 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm.

3 comments

Up From The Ashes

On Christmas evening, 2009, as I lay recovering from my first round of chemo, our vacationing neighbours lost their home to fire.

In the fourteen months since then, we’ve watched…

As their cute little house stood vacant and charred.
Then was swapped for a gaping hole.

As a new foundation was poured. New walls were framed. Drywall and gorgeous new windows were installed.

And, this week, as cozy nighttime lighting announced that their new house is becoming a home.

All the while, the young fivesome trudged contentedly through typical family routines.

Never guessing how their resilience was rippling.
Or how an unknown neighbour was rebuilding right along.



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011 at 8:08 am.

1 comment

Medicinal Deceit

Three weeks ago today, Mark lost his job.

It was no laughing matter.
But, thanks to a whack of relevant AD quotes, we laughed a lot that day.

Often, it’s not what happens so much as how we frame it.

This weekend, I did a hard-core search for a healthy way to look at braggarts, bullies and poseurs.

Thanks to mulling, sharing and listening to you, I think I struck gold:

Medicinal Deceit.
Medicinal Bragging.
Medicinal Superiority.
Medicinal Bullying…

I laugh just thinking these terms.

Bring it on.

(And, thanks!)



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea February 21, 2011

February 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm.

1 comment

The Something of My Ways… Wisdom?

I took a timeout from teleworking today to enjoy a walk with Phaedra.

As my ever-burgeoning buttocks bounced happily behind me, I wondered what tweaks to my daily habits might reverse that jiggling trend.

A young man caught up to me on the all-but-deserted pathway, “You’re going to think this is very forward of me, but I’m a personal trainer and…” bla, bla, bla.

The lengthy exchange was pleasant and professional and I returned to my walk feeling triumphant at having successfully deflected all compliments and steered clear of a pitch.

It was only as my mind was drawn back to my jiggling behind that I realized what I’d done.

How often do I nip opportunity in the bud?
Why do I put pride ahead of progress?
And, what’s the scoop on this Marvin guy? I wish I’d got his last name.



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea February 7, 2011

February 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm.

2 comments

You Have High Self-Esteem, Right?

My weaknesses, my wrinkles, my weight, waste and wussiness.

My inner-critic’s bounced right back to full-time abuse.

It’s powerful. It’s persistent.
But it’s no match for my gratitude.

Those bullying thoughts bombard me.
As they always have.
But I bash each one. Because I’m glad to be here.

I’m alive. I’m healthy.
And, bit by bit, that inner-critic’s going down.



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea January 29, 2011

January 29, 2011 at 7:54 am.

8 comments

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

I’m often asked for tips for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, their family and friends. But every situation is different — and it’s tough to tell which of or whether my choices have actually helped.

The best I can do is offer personal reflections on my various decisions.

So, here is a rambly whack of them…

The Good: I’m glad I chose to…

Insist on a Port-a-cath
Although I was fairly terrified leading up to it, the port-a-cath installation procedure turned out to be a total breeze — and well worth the cyborg result. My port-a-cath saved a good length of vein from chemo-induced damage and allowed me unrestricted, convenient use of both arms for my 18 weeks of chemo.

Mark’s pretty eager to have it removed, but as long as I have blood-work to be done, I’m thrilled to have this built-in valve.

Look to real-life role models
This journey would have been lonely and dismal were it not for the brilliant examples and support of friends like Caroline, Laurie, Derek, Gloria and Eden, whose dignity, courage, resilience and generosity showed me that life is what you choose to make it.

I am so immensely grateful to these shining lights.

Stay active
I’m convinced that getting up and out of my PJs each morning, doing breakfast and walking to school with Luba, sticking to a fairly demanding exercise routine and taking care of household chores helped my body and mind cope with the rigors of treatment.

Chemo threw my emotions into turmoil one week every three, and staying active kept me myself and helped me climb out of that trough again and again.

Enjoy Energy Therapy
Throughout my treatment, I benefited regularly from the talent, generosity and skill of three energy workers. I’m sure the resulting insight, healing and optimism played a major role in minimizing my treatment side-effects, improving my outlook and speeding my well-being.

I am so grateful.

Ask for and accept help
I’ve never been comfortable doing either, but asking for and accepting help not only solved the many logistical problems posed by hectic medical schedules and diminished physical abilities, it deepened friendships, introduced our young family to the beauty of community, filled me with healing gratitude, nurtured my always-battered self-esteem and left me longing to pay-it-forward.
Capture and share our story
We broadcast my diagnosis as soon as it hit us. Right from — and especially at — the very beginning, we audio-recorded and snapped photos of our journey: sharing the news with Luba, attending appointments, celebrating milestones and living life in between.

I believe capturing our journey gives me a sense of moving forward, of anticipating the victorious sense of looking back, and at the very least preserves precious memories for Luba.

Sharing our journey, specifically and authentically, allows me to help those who may, unfortunately, follow. And distilling overwhelming situations to web-sized chunks helps me get to and focus on their vital core.

Juice veggies
As gag-inducing as these morning concoctions are, the ritual of selecting, chopping, juicing and somehow ingesting a whack of fresh vegetables every morning makes me feel like a healthiness hero.

My daily juice includes beet, carrot, celery, ginger, swiss chard, lemon and, if I have it, bok choy, broccoli or cauliflower. Powerful veggies but possibly more powerful superstition.

Daily juicing of fresh cut wheat grass is a salubrious luxury that I only wish I could afford to keep up forever.

Embrace temporary baldness
Our head-shaving party (video) helped me take control of my impending hair loss and enter temporary baldness with a resounding sense of support, victory and even joy.

Choosing funky, friend-infused hand-made hats over wigs and baring it all when temperatures permitted, gave me the comfort, freedom, acceptance and playfulness that I don’t think hiding under a wig could.

Supplement Vitamin D3, Curcumin, Vitamin C, Resveratrol and Green Tea Extract — and drink lots of Matcha
I’ve tried a tonne of supplements during this journey, but after reading numerous books and articles (and not retaining the details of any) this is the handful I’m left feeling starve cancer best.

This feeling is far from scientific. I’m sharing it, anyway.

Reboot me
I’m so grateful that I have taken this time to examine my life, my thinking, my habits, relationships, choices and outlook — trying to toss out what wasn’t working and deliberately striving for new patterns.

My daily practices of gratitude and forgiveness have been far from perfect, but I feel lighter than my old self, and I feel much better about myself and my world.

Celebrate every victory and milestone
Ever since that lump turned up, we’ve been pulling our way through time by anticipating the celebration of milestones and victories, big and small.

When there is something to look forward to, life is good.

I’m so grateful that, as a family, we look for and find these things.

The Bad: I’m glad I chose not to…

Regularly consume sugar, white flour and other simple carbs
Research shows, high GI foods, such as sugar, white flour, potatoes and white rice, trigger hormones such as insulin and IGF growth factor which, in turn, lead to inflammation and cancer growth.

Since sugar, unlike dairy, offers close to no nutrition, I ended up deciding to mostly do sugar socially. Way easier than giving up coffee (which also raises insulin levels). I’m glad I did.

Work during chemo, radiation and hormone therapy ramp-up
Yes, I probably could have worked during a good part of my treatment. And, yes, a lot of people do it.

I’m glad I decided not to. For me, the personal benefits of focusing completely on healing far out-weighed the financial benefits of working. I’m thankful for Mark’s job and that we all made adjustments to make it work.

Hide my situation from our daughters — or myself
None of us know what’s ahead of us.

And we always hope for the best.

But we’ve been honest with ourselves and our girls since the very beginning of this journey. And I’m glad of that.

Venture into public places during chemo
It was inconvenient, isolating and not absolutely essential, but avoiding public places for 18 weeks was a tiny price to pay to avoid the colds, flus or H1N1 viruses that may have stretched out my treatment — or worse.

My chemo-cocooning gave me time to exercise, reflect, create and, most important, heal. And it protected me from the world I had yet to find my new spot in.

Choose the attitude of fighter or invalid
I didn’t choose cancer. But I do get to choose my attitude.

There are lots of options.

I’ve been happy with mine.

The Ugly: I wish I hadn’t…

Fought so hard for bilateral mastectomy
I left my first post-diagnosis appointment absolutely adamant to remove both breasts. I remained so for three full weeks.

After several late night phone calls, and just days before my long-awaited surgery, my fabulous surgeon made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I reluctantly agreed to a lumpectomy.

Turned out cancer had reached all 3 sentinal lymph nodes and recurrence could be anywhere. Removing my breasts wouldn’t have helped.
I am so grateful for Dr. Lorimor’s perseverence and care.

Wasted energy on impossible relationships
My diagnosis and publicly shared journey gave me opportunities to reconnect with long lost friends and relatives, near and far. Those renewed relationships have enriched our lives.

My diagnosis also gave me an excuse to work on some very broken family relationships. But after wasting precious energy and effort, they’re right back where they started — or worse. I should have put that energy into worthwhile relationships and healing.

Bothered with daily Flor-Essence Herbal Tea
During much of my treatment, I bought this pricey powder, followed the 24hour brewing and straining procedures then woke up earlier than I otherwise would have each morning so I could prepare it, drink it and wait 30 minutes before I could eat or drink anything else.

I have no idea whether this or any of my practices did me any good, but this one was inconvenient and costly and I eventually gave it up.

Neglected my protein intake
Chemo eats away at muscle mass but I had hoped that by jogging, walking and doing strengthening exercises throughout my treatment, I would keep my muscles strong.

Turns out, my plan should have included more protein.
I ended up with two sets of tennis elbow and a brutal case of plantar fasciitis, which worsened after chemo ended and has prevented me from jogging ever since. Live and learn.

Deprived myself of coffee and dairy
I did not sleep one wink the night I received my diagnosis. And I guess, at that time, I figured I’d never sleep again. So, I cut out coffee. Cold turkey.

Four months later, I realized delicious coffee was a treat I deserved. No great loss, I know. But enjoying a delicious coffee treat makes me feel like me, so I wish I’d relented sooner.

As for dairy, it has a pretty bad reputation in certain circles, but with chemo-induced menopause and bone-robbery, skipping dairy was one of my stupider choices.

Sorry for this absurdly long post. I wanted it to be a one-stop shop for anyone who may need it.



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea September 12, 2010

September 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm.

7 comments

Published Pride

Lucy and Bayla wrote and submitted an article to our very local paper, last month. We’re proud to announce, that article was published today.

Here it is:

On October 6th, 2009, our mother, Andrea Sue Ross, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, less than eleven months later, we have already raised $3,500 almost $5,500 for ‘Run For the Cure’ of which our mom is a proud and worthy participant.

Through 2 surgeries, 1 MRI, ultra sounds, radioactive injections, mammograms, biopsies, a port-a-cath installation, 6 chemo treatments and 30 days of radiation our mom has hardly complained at all. Now, well into hormone therapy, our mom is only four years away from being “officially” a cancer survivor. Though in our opinion someone who has made it this far IS a survivor because you have to be really strong to have the confidence, courage, compassion and over all the perseverance that it takes to kick cancer’s butt. Our mom is strong. Our mom is confident, courageous and compassionate. Our Mom perseveres.

Our mom kicked cancer’s butt. So can you. You can help weather it’s by donating money to help find a cure, supporting a friend with cancer, or, if you to are, or will be, a cancer survivor then telling your story and inspiring others. YOU can make a difference.

Our mom is running for the cure. You can to.

Find more about our journey at WeCanRebuildHer.com



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea September 10, 2010

September 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm.

8 comments

Picking A Productive Perspective

When your happiness depends on what somebody else does or does not do, you’re trapped, because you cannot control what they think or what they do.

You will discover a true liberation, a freedom beyond your wildest drams, when you discover that your joy does not depend on anyone else. Your joy only depends on what you choose to give your attention to.

Sarah, Book 1, Esther and Jerry Hicks, 1995. Hay House Inc.



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea September 9, 2010

September 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm.

1 comment

Twisty Paths

By the time you reach 101, you will have learned many lessons. For instance, you will have learned that almost nothing turns out according to plan. And you will know that when we get what we wish for, it is often because we have followed a twisty path.

After Hamelin, Bill Richardson. Annick Press. 2000.



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea August 27, 2010

August 27, 2010 at 8:42 pm.

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What would I do if I didn’t know I couldn’t?

“But turtles can’t fly,” said the bird.

“They can’t?” said Tudley. “I didn’t know that.”

He looked down at the shocked faces of turtles below.

“Did you know that turtles can’t fly?” he called down.

They all just nodded.

Tudley Didn’t Know by John Himmelman.
Sylvan Dell Publishing
2006

I’m going to start reading this picture book first thing every morning.



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea June 7, 2010

June 7, 2010 at 2:04 pm.

1 comment

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.



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea May 14, 2010

May 14, 2010 at 6:41 am.

1 comment

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



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea May 7, 2010

May 7, 2010 at 5:17 am.

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You Are Here

Our Tulip Festival‘s brewing, so my walk today was dotted with cheery cyclists checking maps.

I considered the comfort of having a map to consult.

Then realized,
we never really have one.



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea May 5, 2010

May 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm.

3 comments

Andrea on Electric Sky

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Mark’s fabulous audio documentary program, Electric Sky.

And guess who’s featured.

Me!

What an honour.

You can listen in as I share my thoughts about facing breast cancer here.

Thank you, Mark, for your support, your encouragement and your pride. I love you.



Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea May 3, 2010

May 3, 2010 at 4:49 am.

1 comment

I’ll be in the hospital bar

The challenge of having a naturally positive attitude is the tendency to take for granted that things will always be smooth. It can be extremely sobering when you get a shot across the bow to remind you that, particularly where chemotherapy is concerned, you’re tinkering with the complex and delicate systems of the human body.

Today, we recognized that shot.

Even though Andrea’s receiving Neulasta injections (which help stimulate white blood cell production), subjecting herself to practical elements of an alkaline diet, jogging and exercising daily, avoiding (as much as possible) contact with people outside our immediate family, getting plenty of sleep and receiving regular energy treatments, her white blood cell and neutrophil counts have dropped significantly. Thankfully all is well and chemo number three proceeded as scheduled. However, it was a revelation that we may yet face setbacks in Andrea’s chemo program.

It was also a shock to consider what the situation might be like if the above list wasn’t true. Those thoughts rattled Andrea. We actually took a picture of Andrea in an unsettled state and had hoped to use it for this post since it was just as relevant a moment as any of our happy moments are. Unfortunately, it seems my iPhone had different plans as it chewed the photo up and spit it out when we weren’t looking.

This is where having a naturally positive outlook is particularly important.

Andrea and I talked about what the counts mean and we agreed that the counts are high enough and Andrea strong enough that she’s remained healthy to date. We also realized how lucky we are that we’re able to get Neulasta and that Andrea’s commitment to exercise and good health has played a key role in protecting her from even lower counts so far.

I’m reminded of another belief I have which I sometimes forget: celebrate every victory, no matter how small. This simple approach sustains motivation and focus, and keeps away challenges that have the potential to overtake me. With that in mind, I’ll refocus my attention from finishing the sixth treatment as scheduled on April 2, to making sure Andrea stays healthy and can proceed with chemo number four as scheduled.



Mark is primary support, cheerleader and project manager of Andrea's recovery. You can read more from Mark here and on Mark's real blog, MarkBlevis.com.

Mark Posted by Mark January 29, 2010

January 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm.

7 comments