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

Am I Touching Something?

“You can keep them bottled up, but they will come out, Michael. Sometimes in the most unexpected… Hey, where the @!*# are my hard-boiled eggs?!

– Tobias Fünke. Good Grief! Arrested Development 2004.

My life is brimming with beautiful people. Wise, interesting, creative, curious, passionate, compassionate, generous, articulate, level-headed, fun-loving people.

I’m lucky.

So I’m always shocked at the hair-trigger hostility I stumble into. Seemingly reasonable people who spray me with hatred over a sideways glance.

It confuses me.

Are they stretched to the breaking point struggling to maintain some decent facade? Are they barely bottling up frustration, dissatisfaction, loneliness, insecurity, envy and rage? And why bother spewing venom at inconsequential me?

In the online world, it’s especially easy to lay out and examine entire interactions. And I’ve often done just that. Weighing a scant response from me against the lengthy and personal ferocity that results.

And my confusion remains.

But I’m learning to scrounge up some compassion for their barely bound pain. Beam some healing, happy vibes.

And move on.



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 15, 2011

August 15, 2011 at 11:12 am.

13 comments

And now for those last few cobwebs…

“The first thing to remember is this: as long as you make an identity for yourself out of the pain, you cannot become free of it. As long as part of your sense of self is invested in your emotional pain, you will unconsciously resist or sabotage every attempt that you make to heal that pain. …because you want to keep yourself intact, and the pain has become an essential part of you… [The pain] is the living past in you, and if you identify with it, you identify with the past.

A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the of the truth. ..The truth is that the only power there is, is contained within this moment.”

– Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now“.

More forgiveness musings here.



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011 at 7:49 am.

1 comment

Happiness Is…

Hanging. Twisting. Stretching. Trusting.
Letting go…

I just experienced my first ever wall yoga.

Four students. Two instructors.
Loads of gentle adjustments and narrative.

Pure Bliss.

And to think I only joined as a personal dare.

Thank you Basia. Thank you Natalie.

For the heavenly new addiction.

Related Links:



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea July 6, 2011

July 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm.

2 comments

Practicing Safe Wrecks

Fear of failure and regret have tortured me my whole life.

The first strangulates me, lest I do something stupid.
The second beats me ruthlessly each time I do stupid things.

Lately, I’ve been lowering my standards. Practicing accidental failure.

Turns out sloppily slipping into failure is the easy part.

The real trick is skipping the resulting regret, disappointment, embarrassment and frustration.
The not beating myself up.

Luckily, I’m giving myself loads and loads of opportunities to practice.



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 July 5, 2011

July 5, 2011 at 8:58 am.

2 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

Happiness Is…

A Fresh Start.

Just days before that lump jumped to centre stage, Mark presented me with this birthday card.

Its message so maddeningly trite but true.

Since then, life has seemed a series of countdowns. To surgeries, celebrations and ends of various treatments.

Escaping to the I Can Do It! Conference this weekend reminded me of the importance of choosing :

  • flexibility
  • happiness
  • openness to new perspectives and new possibilities
  • self care
  • healthy thoughts and habits

Above all, it reminded me that every breath can be a chance to start fresh.

I think I’ll take a few.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea June 2, 2010

June 2, 2010 at 6:56 am.

3 comments

I’ve Made A Huge Mistake

Following my final chemo last week, I published some musings on family.

I’m thinking now, though, I might have judged too harshly.

In response to today’s Happiness Is… post, celebrating the end of my chemo and the beginning of spring, we received the following first blog comment from my estranged mother, Josephine Ross:

TIME FOR YOU TO STOP ALL OF THIS SLANDER AND HATRED………….. AS THEY SAY IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES AND OWN UP TO YOUR OWN PROBLEMS.  IT IS ALWAY EASY TO PUT THE BLAME ON EVERYONE ELSE. JOSIE

Gee, thanks mom.



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 April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010 at 8:48 am.

17 comments

Forgiveness Gym

Forgiveness is a skill. Like any other skill we have to practice it… We have to practice forgiveness daily, all day long, … to build up our forgiveness muscles.

Lama Marut. What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t. 2008.



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea April 10, 2010

April 10, 2010 at 7:44 am.

2 comments

Journey Learning #6: Family

This journey has led me to think a lot about family.

My Family Is Not

My family has not been my sister, Linda, from whom I’ve heard word zero for months, despite my email updates and her easy access to this blog.

My family has not been my brother, David, who popped into my life briefly following my diagnosis, who is, apparently, able to send me good vibes but has not bothered to follow this blog or to correspond.

My family is not my parents, Keith and Josie, whose only reaction to my journey has been self-pity, blame, hostility and poison.

My family has not been Mark’s sister, Barb, whose correspondence has been a total of two terse email responses to two of my email updates in the early days of this journey.

My Family Is

My family is Mark, Lucy, Bayla, Mark’s parents, Rhoda and Bert, my cousin Kelly and her family, my Aunt Barb and Uncle Wilf, our dear friends near and far, those of you out there with whom we’ve shared friendship, support, laughs, ups and downs before and during this challenge, and those with whom warm friendships have recently started to sprout.

And with whom we’ll continue to share friendship, support, laughs, ups and downs for years to come.

It’s been a painful learning but I am grateful for the realization and the healing which I hope will follow it.

And I am grateful for my family.

Related Posts:



More Journey Learnings here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea April 3, 2010

April 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm.

18 comments

Pondering Patterns to Peace

Prior to this journey, I had a long-standing, comfortable, mutually supportive, fun, close relationship with exactly one member of my family.

My sister, Linda.
In Boulder, Colorado.
Three thousand kilometres away.

That’s one out of 78++ family members:

  • 4 direct family members of mine
  • 4 direct family members of Mark’s
  • 18 maternal first cousins of mine (a hint of one promising relationship)
  • 52 paternal first cousins of mine (one friendly but distant relationship)
  • my 35+ aunts and uncles
  • not to mention Mark’s cousins, aunts and uncles.

During the first five months of this journey, long lost cousins Tracy, Kathi, Betti and Stephanie have found and chosen to follow this blog and have offered hints at new beginnings and good vibes.

One very special cousin, Kelly, has become a pillar of emotional support, providing frequent and dependable doses of cheerleading, wisdom, humour and good company. She has become a huge part of our little family.

And without a single physical meeting or even a phone call, my long lost Aunt Barbara has become as much an aunt to my own girls as they have ever known.

This burgeoning renewal of faded childhood connections has been nurturing, healing, educational and warm. And I am immensely grateful.

Yet even the failures at reconnection have been educational.

Some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking phenomenon have been the reverberations — both positive and negative — of my diagnosis on the most painful, ever-present histories, lurking hurts, disconnections, uncommunicated expectations and disappointments of the relationships with 7 of our direct family members.

This morning, as Mark joined me for my morning Gratitude trek, we tossed around our impressions, observations and feelings about the dances that have grown out of my diagnosis and the five distinct Patterns to Peace which have naturally emerged:

  1. Instantly Committed — Hands On
  2. Instantly Connected — Hands Off
  3. Unchanged — Innocuous
  4. Cautious
  5. Unchanged — Destructive

Perhaps you’ve seen similar patterns in your own experiences?

It’s a long conversation but it’s important for us to share it. We hope you will give it a listen and that you’ll grant us the privilege of your thoughts, below.

Thank you for listening.

Related Posts:



We’ve had our audio recorders running during a good chunk of our journey. You can hear more audio collages here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea March 13, 2010

March 13, 2010 at 3:35 pm.

19 comments

A Question

I love this quote because it makes not-forgiving seem just plain ridiculous.

Now the question is, does forgiveness require reconciliation?

Can I successfully forgive an irreparably destructive force without interacting with it or re-establishing a relationship with it?

What do you think?



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 2, 2010

March 2, 2010 at 6:16 am.

16 comments

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.

- Anonymous



More Borrowed Words here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea February 28, 2010

February 28, 2010 at 11:44 am.

4 comments

Time to forgive me

It was February, 1998. I was healthy, happy, fit and in love. I was having exciting adventures. I had good friends, a great relationship and a satisfying job. Life was fine.

There was just one tiny, huge problem: I was getting dangerously close to thirty-five, my biological clock was thrashing wildly and my twenty-something live-in sweetheart was firmly rooted in Funville. Kids and commitment could wait. And for him, they really could.

I made myself miserable. Sure, our daily life was fun but when my youth had fled, he’d gallop off for kids and commitment elsewhere.

It hurt.

And my young beau didn’t get it. For “christmas” that year, he’d flippantly dug the dagger deeper, presenting me with what was obviously a gift-wrapped ring box. But wasn’t. And very much enjoyed the joke.

Back to February, 1998. My young partner becomes an uncle, again. He’s thrilled and proposes we drop in and meet the new baby.

I thought I could do it.

But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t face the beautiful new baby. I couldn’t face the joyful mother. I just sat in their kitchen. And waited. And felt wretched for doing that. And felt wretched for the envy and hurt and despair that made me.

And all these years I’ve hung onto that shame; cringed at my inability to suck it up and at least fake some happiness for the mother and child.

I’ve forgiven Mark for the engagement-ring gag. I’ve forgiven him for carting me over there.

It’s time I forgave myself.



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 26, 2010

February 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm.

11 comments

Happiness is…

Coffee.

This morning I had my first cup of coffee since my diagnosis, exactly four months minus one day ago.

Sure, it was take-out, tepid and left me feeling jangled and quite sick to my stomach.

I simply forgave it.

Freedom and forgiveness — it’s a very groovy time.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea February 5, 2010

February 5, 2010 at 11:06 am.

4 comments

From the Mouth of Bayla #7: My Family

To me,  my family is the best most AMAZING part of my life,  sometimes most of the time I fight with Lucy, but she’s my sister, doesn’t everybody fight with their siblings? Sure, mom and dad get mad at me and Lucy , but that’s normal. Don’t normal familys have their problems too? One of our problems is that mom has cancer. These are my thoughts; mom should connect with the ground pretend she is growing roots on her feet and they are growing deep in the darkness  of the deep dense soil, that should make her feel really good.



Bayla (Now 9!) is the youngest member of the Clan Ross-Blevis. You can read more from Bayla here.

Bayla Posted by Bayla February 3, 2010

February 3, 2010 at 6:17 am.

4 comments