Encore

A rallying cry from the reluctant hero of Zorgamazoo:

Now, sometimes you lose and sometimes you win,
but my Pop always told me: You never give in!
And if he were here now, I know what he’d say:
Morty, my son, when you’re caught in a fray,

or your travels are tough and the going is rough,
or you’re up to your neck in the slippery stuff,
or say some old robots are on the attack,
then I tell you, my son: You start fighting back!.

Zorgamazoo, by Robert Paul Weston
RazorBill, 2008.

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It never hurts to double-check.

Back in December, I got pretty freaked out about a line of lumps along my right arm.

I fretted. I frenzied.

And celebrated big when I got the good news.

Two weeks ago, I had the long-awaited ultrasound and left to the words “I wouldn’t worry if I were you”.

And I didn’t.

Yesterday my oncologist gave me a cheery call. She’s ordered another look at a reactive lymph node.

Lucky me. More practice at trusting my body. More practice at not worrying.

Pretty soon, I’ll be a pro.

It’s just something the body does when you shake it.

Hooping, it turns out, is perfect post-breast-cancer-treatment therapy. Almost.

It challenges my co-ordination, balance and spatial awareness.
It entirely occupies my mind.

Its frantic, erratic arm movements sneak my damaged limb into places I thought I’d left behind.

It allows me to flail and fail without drawing the attention of the likewise intensely occupied others.

And gives me ample opportunity to tame my uber frustration reflex.

It’s brand new, so there’s no kicking myself for lost progress.
It’s great exercise.
It’s fun.

And it’s my first class with Lucy in 10 years.

But last night I discovered the Almost.
Chemo’d chicks don’t spin.
Or at least they shouldn’t.
I discovered.

It’s easy to forget how disgusting chemo was.
Last night’s hoop-induced nausea was a vivid reminder.
Of how lucky I am to be healthy.
And happy.
And chemo-free.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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.

Thank you, 2010

I absolutely adored 2010.
We were healthy, happy and together.
We had loads to celebrate. And we celebrated often.

Yet, reflecting on the year, this morning, I was shocked at its rockiness.

Where reactions and reconnections reigned 2009, 2010 was a year of overcoming obstacles. Of attempted relationship resuscitations. Of some painful — yet freeing — realizations. And relief.

It was a year of adjusting to the new me.
And of testing out the me that has been there all along.

As I reflected on 2009 and looked hopefully toward 2010, I never dreamed of the treat I had in store.

And I have high hopes for 2011.

Thank you, 2010. Welcome, 2011.

Some Zigs and Zags of our 2010:

February 6 (our 11 year wedding anniversary)

Our insurer refuses to honour my critical life and disability insurance claim.

This was a cruel and devastating blow. Not only because they robbed us but after stringing us along for 4 months but because I’d been over-insured for the twenty some years leading up to my leap from Nortel six months before my diagnosis.

April 1

Chemo ends!

And life begins afresh.

April 22

We are spared the pain of the long-awaited trial and Keith Ross accepts a Section 810 Peace Bond which prohibits him from having any contact with us for a period of 12 months..

Our world has been peaceful since.

May 20 (Mark’s 40th birthday)

The perfect storm of physical, financial, parenting and family challenges bring me to my knees.

Yet we survived.

June 15

Radiation ends.

We did it.

June 21

I take a first bite at my fear of public speaking.

I’m so glad I did. (Photo thanks to Alexa Clark.)

June 16-Sept 13

My first summer with my lovelies since Bayla was a newborn.

The most fabulous summer of relaxing, reading, biking and being with my lovelies.

August 28

Our long, long, long awaited victory celebration.

Wine, munchies and good, good people.
Pure bliss.

September 14

Back to work.

Two more days a week than I had hoped but simply grand to have an income again.

November 25

Port-a-cath gone.

Scary and thrilling.

December 22

We celebrate fifteen fabulous years of Mark Blevis.

Lucky, lucky me.

Thank you, 2010… Let’s all enjoy a happy, healthy 2011.

WoooooooHoooooooooo!!!!

All is well.

The doctor assures me that the lumps are absolutely no problem at all. She has a number of theories involving muscle, tendon, scar tissue etc and has ordered an ultrasound, just to be safe.

Yahoooooooooooo!!!!!

Yes, I’m a certifiable hypochondriac. And, yes, this very good news is worth the hours of teasing that Mark is currently enjoying.

Thank you for your good, good vibes.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Happiness Is…

The Kindness of Strangers.
One year ago today, I started chemo.
Days before — in anticipation of my hairless winter — Lucy, Bayla and I had combed the annual Originals Christmas Craft Fair in search of a funky chemo cap.

An extremely generous and talented stranger, by the name of Debbie Etherington, absolutely insisted that I pick out any of her cozy handknitted toques and accept it as a gift.

That cozy toque, with its warm thrumbed lining and its even warmer history, kept my bald head warm all winter.

Today, Debbie and I met again. This time I brought good news, gratitude,…

And a set of home made pillow cases.

Happiness Is…

Good Friends and, as it turns out,
Hooping.

When those lumps came to light on Friday, I spun into a vortex of terror.
I wandered like a distracted zombie for the better part of four days.

Sharing my worries here and in real-life has lightened my load but the real sand-blasting of my buzzing brain was thanks to an introductory hooping class.

My spatial ineptitude and lack of co-ordination meant my entire mind was focused on a festooned hoop.

No stabbing cancer scenarios for one solid hour.

And I’ve felt fairly human since.
A drained, dull and distracted human. But a human.

Thank you to Andree for your friendship and for the class.
And thanks to the many friends whose kind words and deeds are helping us through this scary limbo.

Hoping to be shouting happy, happy news on Tuesday.

How A Sitcom Saved My Life

Today was my first Toastmasters speech.
My icebreaker
, if you will.

The goal was to introduce myself to the group….

Now the story of how a sitcom saved my life.

When I was a kid, there was no need for daycare, summer camps or after-4 programs.

We had TV.

Ours was minute, black and white, with an aerial on top and 2 fuzzy, fuzzy channels. But we’d rush home from school for Flintstones at lunchtime. And we’d get up for cartoons so early Saturday mornings that we’d have to stare at that black and white test screen for ages – and the sing along with Oh, Canada when the station finally started up for the day.

Eventually, my parents splurged. They bought a Jetsons-style colour-TV. With a huge 12” screen. And cable.

Now we could watch everything.
And we did:

  • I Dream of Jeannie
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • The Brady Bunch
  • Laverne and Shirley
  • Mork and Mindy
  • Donny and Marie
  • The Gong Show
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Magnum PI
  • Chips
  • Dallas
  • The Love Boat


Then – boom – University.

No Time. No TV.


When I finally did have access again, I realized I despised TV.
And, that was that.


Fast forward to 2006.

Mark ran out to rent a movie and – like Beanstalk-Jack – came home with something else.
A TV show.

I turned up my nose.

We popped in the DVD and I prepared to give it a gong.

It was the story of a wealthy family who lost everything
And the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.

It was Arrested Development.

Jam-packed with family dysfunction and subtly placed laughs.
In no time, we were hooked.

With two young kids, two full-time jobs, two sets of crumbling family relationships and the production of at least two demanding podcasts, Arrested Development became our sanity.

We’d work like dogs ‘til midnight or so then pop some popcorn, slather it with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, pour ourselves some red wine and enjoy an episode or two of non-stop laughs.

Instant, dependable entertainment.
Fee-free, effective therapy.

Night after night, we’d make our way through the two-and-a-half seasons.
Then we’d start again.

We soon spoke in AD quotes.
And bonded with others who did the same.

We realized that there weren’t too many situations in life that didn’t have a relevant quote.
And the more aggravating the situation – the more the quote made us laugh.


Then came cancer.

Life turned upside down.

The tests, the surgeries, the injections, the scans.
The nausea.  The pain.
The chemo-induced roller coaster of emotions.

The baldness.

And at night we’d watch Arrested Development.
And laugh.

Arrested Development was a taste of our old, innocent lives.
It was the craziness that made our craziness bearable.

And when the going got really tough,
And my thoughts were dark and my outlook was bleak,
A well thought-out blog post and a perfect AD quote lightened my load in a way nothing else could.

And I survived.

And thrived.

And that’s how a sitcom saved my life.

Share a Story

I learned early in this journey that the aggressivness of breast cancer and its spectrum of treatments is dependent upon many factors: The age and pre/post menopause status of the woman. The size, location, estrogen receptor status, progesterone receptor status and Her2 status of the tumor. Lymph node involvement.

In those early days, I was desperate to find and follow happy, healthy survivors sharing my particular permutation and combination of these factors.

I needed to know the journey was do-able. That it had been done before. That there were happily ever afters.

Rethink Breast Cancer has opened its Tell Her2 Story Gallery up to all of us.

Have a story? Leave a story.
Need a story? Find a story.

Stories are powerful.

Happiness Is..

Healing Time.

A year ago today was my second cancer surgery (complete axillary lymph node removal).

I wish I’d known, going into those surgeries, that my right arm and upper body would be permanently damaged. And I sure wish I’d known to try breaking that scar tissue up right away.

But something else I didn’t know, back then, was whether I’d be here today.

I’m grateful that I am.
And for my resilient family, our working limbs, our healthy bodies and our joy.

A Snap, A Slap and One Last Flush

Today was my final trip to the chemo unit — for one last port-a-cath flush.

To mark the momentous occasion, I snapped this photo. Then that one.

“Mrs. Ross,” someone called. I assumed it was time for my flush. But the receptionist continued, “no photos allowed in the hospital.”

I was stunned.

“No photos in the hospital, Mrs. Ross. It’s hospital policy.”

“My blog’s in trouble,” I ventured, when I’d recovered from the shock. But she didn’t see the humour. Then a feeble, “But it’s my story.”

“Hospital policy.”

At each silence, she kept on:

I have to delete any photos I’ve taken. Pause.
If I want to take photos I need to have “Security” accompany me and approve each one. Pause.
If she called security they’d make me delete them right here and now.

Yikes.

Since I learned of it on May 4, I’ve been hoping to eventually join the hospital’s Community Advisory Committee.

Today’s sweet encounter was the perfect little nudge.