From the Mouth of Bayla #1

If  you are a parent undergoing cancer treatments, the first thing you should do is try to stop eating (and drinking): beer, wine, coffee, anything with sugar and anything with caffeine. Then there are some gross drinks you should drink (ie: beat, ginger, lettuce and/or spinach, celery and carrott juice and/or medicinal tea) after you have had all of those drinks it reduces the chances of throwing-up during chemotherapy.

Personally I think that I am getting less time with my mom and more time with my friends. It  may seem to you like a big treat but to me I like spending time with my family but don’t get me wrong I also like spending time with my friends just when you are in a situation like this you like spending time with your family.

The supporter experience #1: don’t panic

Don’t Panic. Those are the insightful words that grace the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the fictitious guide in the earthly book by Douglas Adams. I’ve tried to live by those words for most of my adult life. When our home was broken into in September 2006; don’t panic. When United Airlines lost our luggage last Christmas; don’t panic. When I discovered I didn’t have my wallet with me when I was at the grocery checkout a couple of months ago; don’t panic.

As the loved one and primary support of someone diagnosed with cancer, don’t panic is a golden rule. Throughout the process you will hear a variety of cancer experiences from people all too willing to share whether you want them to or not, whether they understand the impacts of their stories or not. Surgeons, oncologists, nurses and anaesthetists will use words you’ve never hear before and will talk about side effects and will likely allude to long term impacts from treatments.

You may even have an experience like we had a week after Andrea’s breast cancer diagnosis. Andrea’s dentist found a cyst in her mouth and suggested it be biopsied. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing (Andrea must have bitten the inside of her cheek). However, for four stressful hours, we dealt with the possibility that the cancer wasn’t confined to Andrea’s breast.

Don’t panic.

Being the primary support means you need to be rational and calm. New language, information and ideas need to considered as part of the whole and you need to remain coherent when throwing in the towel seems the logical thing to do. It’s completely okay to be emotional so long as you don’t let your emotions interfere with being an advocate for your partner, communicating with your medical team and making sound decisions.

I’ll talk more about emotions as I share more of my supporter experience.

Thoughts from Tween-age Me

A comment from Brenda (here) made me think of the following poem, which I wrote when I was 13:

Hatred

Hatred is a weed that grows,
Inside a troubled mind,
Churning thoughts of wretched things,
That twist and knot and bind

The remedy is only this —
(if you’ve an ear to lend),
A laugh, a kiss, a cheerful glance,
The kindness of a friend.

— Andrea Ross, age 13

Hmmm……

Pictured above, tween-age me and  Olivia Newton John — breast cancer survivor.

Thanksgiving in Quebec City

Two days after Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer, we took the train for a much needed four day vacation in Quebec City. It was Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

Listen in as Lucy and Bayla order our lunch in French, we share what we’re thankful for and the sounds of street musicians in the heart of Quebec City.

Journey Learning #2: I Count

Years of early indoctrination infused in me an unshakable sense of worthlessness and, as a result, self-loathing. Despite huge efforts throughout my adult life, this injury kept me distracted from the great good that surrounds me and left me raw and reactive to the snipes and whims of every toxic family member or acquaintance.

The unabating care and kindess of friends, family and community members during this health challenge is providing me with a steady stream of invitations to boot my belittling beliefs, to accept and focus on the good, and to let the saboteurs slide.

Will I accept the invitation? I’ll certainly try.

Thank You, 2009

Mark mumbled early this morning some plans involving scotch and the ringing out of “this horrid year”.

But doctors believe breast cancer takes six to eight years to develop to a detectable size and this was the year we caught it, cut it out, clubbed it and commenced construction of kick-ass “KEEP OUT” mechanisms.

So I say, “Thank You, 2009.”

and good riddance!

Other happenings that rocked our 2009:

January 14

Nortel (my employer at the time) seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and Canada.

Not a huge surprise but it definitely rocked our world.

February 24

We adopt our pooch, Phaedra.

After 6 years of daily pleading, coercing, negotiating and plotting, we caved in. Little did we know she would become my very own Dr. White.

March 30

I leap from Nortel, and 22 years of software development, to a 12-month term position as a Technical Writer at EDC.

It was my first time without health benefits in my entire adult life, but it was walking distance from home and a chance to swap the stress of software development for the creative bliss of writing.

April 5

My “father”, Keith Ross, attempts to break into our home, spends who knows how long smashing on our front door, screaming through our mail slot and tearing out our mail slot and curtain.

As traumatic as this was for our entire family, it marked a clean endpoint of what has been an extremely painful, life long dysfunctional relationship.

July 6

Lucy attends her very first sleep-away camp.

It was a week at Time Travellers at Upper Canada Village where she and 40 other youngsters dressed in period costume and lived the role of an 1860s child. Lucy LOVED every minute of it!

August 15

I’m reunited with my long lost cousin, Kelly Clavette.

Kelly was my favourite cousin and a constant holiday companion throughout my childhood. We lost touch in our tweens. Thirty years later, Kelly and I “almost accidentally” reconnected and our renewed friendship with Kelly and her family brings our whole family true joy daily.

October 6

My diagnosis bridges the gap between myself and Mark’s parents, Rhoda and Bert Blevis.

Religious differences, unclear expecations and my own social anxiety had made my relationship with Mark’s parents a rocky one but the minute they received news of my diagnosis, Rhoda and Bert let bygones be bygones and promptly made themselves available to support our little family in any and every way.  We couldn’t have made it this far (this sane) without their unbelievable support.

October 12

My diagnosis reunites me with my long lost brother, David Ross.

I’ve missed my little bro terribly and, regardless of the circumstances, I’m thrilled that we’re in each others’ lives again.

November 25

Mark abandons his own media endeavours and takes an exciting new position as a digital public affairs strategist with Fleishman-Hillard.

Health benefits and insurance and security, Oh My!

December 18

Our friend Caroline Coady announces she is cured of Stage 4 Colon Cancer.

WooHoo!!!

December 21

Mark’s long time friend David O’Farrell loses his battle with cancer.

December 22

I revel in 14 years of Mark Blevis.

On December 22, 1995, while on a date with someone else and thanks to a huge number of coincidences, I met Mark Blevis. Lucky me! We’ve doubled the seven year itch and I’m still itching to be with this fabulous guy.

Thank you, 2009…  Bring On 2010!!

Head shaving party

It was 3 a.m. on the second day of her first chemo cycle and Andrea still couldn’t get to sleep. So she occupied herself with plans for shaving her head before her hair falls out — a certainty with breast cancer chemo. That’s when she pitched her idea to me (I was also awake). Inspired by a cancer blogger who lives in our neighbourhood (See going bald), Andrea suggested we invite a number of our family and friends over for munchies, drinks, cake and the opportunity to be a part of her head shaving experience.

That party happened last night (view photos). And with it, comes the launch of this website, WeCanRebuildHer.com.

We invite you to follow our journey to making Andrea a breast cancer survivor. We’ll blog our experiences and thoughts and share audio, video and photographs of the process — from diagnosis on Oct. 6  to Survivor.

Opening theme prepared by John Meadows. Closing song, Session, by the Robert Farrell Band.

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