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

Delicious News

Just when I thought it would never be safe to go back in the kitchen, look what arrived last night — out of the blue:

A review copy of The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson.

I am so thrilled, I barely slept.

After seven months of bad food news and giving up favourites, this beautiful and brainy book brings me and my family 150 brand new science-based and scrumptious-looking recipes in more than 200 pages packed full of meaty and easily digested nutritional know-how.

Recipes are indexed by symptoms, from anemia through weight loss. A “Culinary Pharmacy” sings the specific praises of 98 common cancer-fighting foods. Tips for shopping, cooking, storing, reheating and customizing recipes are sprinkled generously throughout. Mouth-watering photos and inviting, informative preambles join prep time, cook time and fascinating facts for each carefully crafted recipe.

Soups, salads, pilafs, roasts, filets and chick pea burgers. Smoothies, salsas, creams, compotes, dips and drizzles. Custards, cookies, puddings and macaroons. All built to build bodies that give bad cells the boot.

Can you see why I couldn’t sleep?

I’ll be lugging this hardcover treasure to radiation, soaking up every word.
And drooling in the waiting room.

Stay tuned…

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You can view a webcast of the Cancer-Fighting Kitchen Workshop online on specific dates in late April. Check the schedule here.

Playing Hooky

In my 20 years of software design and 18 years of school, I often dreamed of stepping off the treadmill and spending a day at home.

Well, I’ve been home four months now and today I’m playing hooky from that.

I skipped the 7:00-9:00 ritual of chasing children, barking orders and threats. I skipped my supplements, my juicing and my morning walk. And I’ve decided to give my whining muscles a desperately needed break from what the pre-c me would have considered an extremely light exercise routine.

I do feel frustrated by my post-chemo crash. That my right eye’s still blistered. That I can no longer jog and have two limbs seized by pain. And I do feel some guilt about calling in sick today.

But I’m going ahead with radiation and, starting Monday, daily zaps will dominate my world for at least six weeks.

So, today I’m just breathing and doing exactly as I please.

It’s funny how different — and good — it feels.

Happiness Is…

Long lost family …

Found!

Born just one month before me, my cousin Kelly was my very first friend.

From toddlerhood through tweendom, we spent countless weekends and vacations playing, chatting, imagining and growing up.

I was painfully shy, socially inept and my family life was rocky. Kelly’s constant, generous friendship likely kept me sane.

Somewhere in our teens, though, our paths diverged. We did school, got jobs, found partners, and raised our own children to tweendom — without ever crossing paths.

Then, almost by accident and just days before I found that lump, we reconnected.

Luckily for me.

Kelly’s warmth, wit, wisdom, exuberance, understanding and support throughout this journey have been absolutely astounding. She has become the loving aunt we always craved for our girls — her beautiful children the spunky, loving cousins we thought Luba’d never have. And her super-hero husband rocks too.

We’re going to enjoy getting our grandkids to tweendom together. And lots of happy family memories until — and after — that.

To Zap or Not To Zap

Five days ’til radiation.

But I’m having second thoughts.

Living the aftermath of chemo — the swollen eyes, the mounting fatigue, the weakness, the aching, the blurriness, frustration and fog — I’m questioning the wisdom of this four-fold onslaught.

Mark’s concerned that turning down radiation and hormone therapy would make me low priority for any relapse treatment.

It’s a tough call.

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Chemo Brane

I didn’t opt for the regular brain MRIs and chemo brain study, so I don’t know for sure how my grey matter fared, but here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • memory leaks (I keep losing things because I simply can’t recall where I put them)
  • crazy word snafus (even though my brain says the appropriate word, my fingers type “duo” instead of “duel”, “link” instead of “leak”, and “your” instead of “you’re”; questioning spelling of simple homophones like “here” and “hear”; and even completely reversing words when typing)
  • word loss (when speaking, I know which word I’m searching for but just can’t find it)
  • balance burps (I have little balance challenges where I otherwise wouldn’t have had)
  • short attention span (I’m actually hoping this is just due to fatigue)
  • constant spouting of Arrested Development quotes (no, wait, I’ve always done that).

If this is the extent of my impact, I’ll consider myself lucky.

How Much Could a Banana Cost? $10?

Since early December, meal planning has been a mix of Broken Telephone and Pin The Tail On The Donkey.

Mark without the inside scoop on pantry inventory, ingredient subtleties and brand preferences. Me without SMS or cell phone access.

That changed yesterday. I shopped, myself.

Vegetable selection was thrilling.

Chance encounters with neighbours, refreshing.

And dinner was delicious.

Okay, Is There A Carbon Monoxide Leak In this House?

I continued to work through the diagnosis, the surgeries and the corresponding recoveries.

I put my head down and powered through the chemo.

Maybe it’s catching up to me now. Or maybe it’s all my recent celebrating, real-life and staying up way past eight.

Whatever the reason, I’m spent.

Procrastination now drags my daily exercise to almost the full day and, due in part to my hole-falling-into experience on Sunday, I’ve had to replace my daily jog with a second leisurely stroll.

But I’m alive.
And healthy.
And happy.

And grateful.

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.

Put our heads down and power through

Now that chemo’s over and Andrea’s nearly completed her full recovery cycle (which means she’s about a week away from being able to be out in public without an elevated risk to her health), we can start thinking about the next stage of her cancer treatment… radiation.

We love Andrea’s radio-oncologist. He’s an incredibly nice and patient man. We experienced a remarkable trait of his during our consult with him last week; even though he may know where we’re going with a particular thought or question, he waits until we’ve finished speaking before responding. He doesn’t jump to conclusions or feel it necessary to cut short our thoughts.

Andrea will have a CT scan in the next few weeks. During that appointment, a technician will mark the two locations at which the radiation treatment will be directed. This ensures the treatment is always directed at the same spot.

Beginning in May, Andrea will have radiation treatments each weekday for six weeks. Despite the frequency and duration, radiation seems much less scary to me than did chemo. There are no meds, and no physically- or emotionally-crippling side effects.

We’ve been told to expect Andrea to feel fatigued over the course of the treatment as her body works to regenerate cells that are being killed off each day (just as it got the regeneration process underway from the previous round). We’ve also been told to expect that Andrea will present sunburn-like skin irritations and discolouration beginning in the treatment area around week four of the program.

After she powers through radiation, Andrea will begin hormone therapy. Given what we’ve been through, that’s not as far off in the future as it sounds.

Stride

I’ve had a recurring dream throughout this journey.

I’m biking on a remote, rural highway, alone. It’s almost dark. I’m without lights, panier, or even a lock. And I can’t believe I’d set out for some destination more than 200km away without any preparation.

In last night’s version, I was on foot. Still alone, on a darkening, remote, rural highway with no supplies and miles from anywhere.

But this time, I made the scary decision to leave the road for a wooded path.

The path morphed into a university library and the librarian held up a line of complaining clients while drawing me a little map.

He told me the path was frustrating but it should only take me 30-45 minutes.

I’m not making this up.