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

Happiness Is…

Surviving and thriving.

That’s us, to the right. Two years ago today.
Moments after sharing the bad news with Luba.

So early in a surreal journey.

Behind that smile, a big part of me thought life was over. All of me hoped it was just beginning.

We headed to Quebec City that week. As planned.  I tossed and turned in the hotel bed, hoping I’d somehow fall asleep before Lucy, Bayla and Mark finished watching “The Corpse Bride”, “Beetlejuice”, “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

I was awoken, one of those nights, by a ringing thought: This was the beginning of “The Spicy Me”.

Before this ordeal, my aim was to get through life. To make it to some far off end without losing any of the fabulousness I’d stumbled into. New territories and aspirations were reserved for Luba. As a matter of course.

Two years ago today, I opened my eyes.
I became alert. Aware. Present.
Grateful plus.

I started examining. And choosing. And imagining more.

The two years since then have brought trauma and mourning, recovery and joy. I’ve made friends. I’ve taken chances. I’ve explored new territories. I’ve become the Spicy Me.

I’d never choose cancer. I never want it again. For any one.

And I’m supremely grateful for the efflorescing goodness I’ve been treated to since that mind-boggling beginning. Two years ago today.

I’m aspiring to many, many more good years.
By the way.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea October 6, 2011

October 6, 2011 at 10:29 am.

11 comments

Happiness Is…

Carefree times with my healthy, happy, healing, better-than-ever Sweet!



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea August 2, 2011

August 2, 2011 at 3:39 pm.

2 comments

Bees??

Congratulations to Lucy and Bayla on qualifying for and participating in their very first school-wide spelling bee.

And to Lucy for taking second place.



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 26, 2011

January 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm.

5 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

Happiness Is…

Celebrating life with good, good friends.

(to enlarge, click image twice — or view details here)



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea August 29, 2010

August 29, 2010 at 9:46 pm.

2 comments

What’s The Surrogate Doing Here?

Summer schedules are busy. And the last week before school may be the craziest time to book a celebration.

But celebrate we must.

We will miss saying huge in-person thank yous to our absent friends.
We hope our gratitude beams reach you wherever you are.



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 August 27, 2010

August 27, 2010 at 12:28 am.

2 comments

Good times, noodle salad

We digital folk find it difficult to be without our online community. We love our digital relationships so much that anytime we’re presented with a decent 3G signal, we find ourselves temped to check our email. Frankly, Andrea and I have done pretty well over the last few days. Then, curiosity got the better of us.

We’re touched that since posts to WeCanRebuildHer.com slowed down we’ve been receiving lots of email asking how we’re doing; how our children and dog are.

I’m pleased to report that life is grand, full of celebrations, fresh air and the kinds of family and friends that make this life great! In fact, as I write this, we’re transitioning from one wave of celebration and relaxation to the next — which involves a fire pit, sticks and gooey mounds of sugar.

I hope you’re enjoying the beginning of summer as much as we are — whether online, offline or both.

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Day!



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 June 30, 2010

June 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm.

5 comments

One Rawkin’ Reaction

At a 40th birthday bash last night, Mark and I ran into an acquaintance from our early days of parenting.

She asked about JustOneMoreBook! and I told her we’d replaced it with a breast cancer blog.

“When did you have that?!” was her shocked response.

That beautiful, knee-jerk, past-tense reaction swelled me with glee. And it’s been echoing in my head ever since.

Cancer in the past tense.
The distant past tense.

Like a bad cold
or a fall
or a notch on my belt.

Thank you, Ashley. For being the first.

Related Posts:



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 June 13, 2010

June 13, 2010 at 1:54 pm.

4 comments

A celebratory night out

Out of concern for Andrea’s health, particularly due to immune compromise during Andrea’s chemo, we haven’t gone out for dinner in about five months. That means Christmas, our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, etc… they were all at-home celebrations.

Tonight, that changed.

My parents took us to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and the end of Andrea’s chemo. We had a fabulous dinner at Saint-O in Ottawa’s east end. It was a meal and celebration worth the wait, and the first of what I expect to be a lifetime of celebrations.

It was particularly fitting to celebrate with my parents. They’ve been nothing short of amazing to us since Andrea’s diagnosis. They canceled a winter in Florida and kept themselves available to us at all times. The list of things they’ve done for us is long and impressive. Thank you, so much, Mom and Dad!

It felt great to be at a restaurant with Andrea (and my parents). I’ll never understand how Andrea soldiered through chemo the way she did. I’m amazingly proud of and inspired by her.



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 April 17, 2010

April 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm.

12 comments