Thanksgiving – One Year of Survival

Last week — as part of my new risky living — I joined Toastmasters. I was scheduled to present a “thought-for-the-day” at today’s Thanksgiving week meeting. But it was canceled so I’m sharing it here…

A year ago today, as I left a meeting of the EDC Charitable Campaign, I got a call.

It was my doctor telling me “I’m afraid I don’t have good news. It’s cancer.”

I listened. I texted Mark. I scrawled a few notes.
Then I excused myself from the office and walked home.

I thought that was the end. The end of me.

But it wasn’t.
I’m still here. And I’m stronger, happier and more grateful than ever.

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring.
But we do know what we have right now. Our families. Our friends. Our working limbs. Our pain-free, healthy bodies. Our peace. Our freedom. Our homes. Our incomes.

Our hair.

Marrianne Williamson said “Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things are.”

We can call it gratitude or we can call it joy. Whatever we call it, all our moments are better lived when we focus on all the good we have right now.

So let’s.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.

Thank you

Thank you so much for joining me in my effort to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation by sponsoring me here.

You donated $6308! and put both me and our No Pink for Profit team among the top ten fundraisers for all of Ottawa-Gatineau (which is pretty good, considering there were more than 9,000 participants).

It couldn’t have been a more gorgeous day.

Thank you for the research you have made possible.
Thank you for the spirits you have raised.
Thank you for the families you have buoyed.
And thank you for all the little girls who may live without breast cancer’s shadow.

My sincere thanks to all of you for your generosity and your moral and financial support:

Sue Breen
Dave Delaney
Simon Chen
Farida Dowler
Tom Merritt
Anne Donnadieu
Deborah Freedman
Victor Ciobanete
Amanda Kelman
Louise Legault-Hatem
Glen McGregor
Carla Howatt
Anne Wiltshire
Jan Annino
Zetta Elliot
Mitch Joel
Sue Murphy
Carolyn Dittburner
Linda Corsini
Corinne Demas
Kaveh Adel
Heather Jopling
Lee Edward Fodi
Snookie & Norman Lomow
Sheree Fitch
Pam Hunter
Anita Neubert
Bob Goyetche
Kevin Chouinard
Evelina Vezarov
Heather Duggan
Mare Swallow
Todd and Christie Bastianon
Ana-Maria Popescu
Lori-Ann, Curtis & Olivia
Laura Bergen
Paul & Sheri Goulet
Kelly Clavette
Todd Tyrtle
Heidi Estrin
Dave Fleet
Eden Spodek
Esmé Codell
Anthony Marco
Angela Misri
Troy Wilson
The Waters Family
Alvina Ling
Katie Davis
Hugh McGuire
Mark Tafoya
Miranda McCurlie
Isabelle Michaud
Liz Murray
Jim Puckalo
Dwayne Melançon
Tamir Israel
Jennifer Johnston
Shari Greenspan
Phenix Dental Clinic Team
Janice Toewes
Sydney Lennie
Eden Spodek
Stephanie Lawrence
Tracy Bialecki
Connie Crosby
John Sparks
Candace Ryan
Morris Johnston
Jeff & Margie Hooper
The Sinanan Family
Carol Grannick
Coreen Corcoran
Rich Cantrell
Patricia Kahn
Sriram Venkatarman
Stacey MacNevin
Ebony Haywood
Joan Buzick
Tanglewood Books
Mary Antolovich
Jay Schmidt
Daniele Rossi
The Bonsall/Small Family
Joanne Lennon
Greg & Andree O’Donnell
Betti Stiff
Cher & Mo Willems
The Giassa/Whammond Family
Whitney and John Hoffman
Barbara Reid-Crysler
Geoffrey Butler
Bert and Rhoda Blevis
Armeda Vanderwoude
Wilf and Barb Clavette
Clare Rogers
Denise Doyen
Garry and Kathi Tysick
Stephanie Calmenson and Mark Goldman
Carol Heyer
Diane Greenseid
Cathy Arneson
Nancy Pevey
Lane Smith and Molly Leach
William Flanagan
Orit Fruchtman
Diane DeGroat
Sally Ito
Hugh Brewster
Paul Zelinsky
Tania Carriere & Gerry Gaetz
Marla Frazee
Bob Ledrew
Tanya Snook
Robert McCarty
Richard Christie
Chris Brogan
Tom Tentoglou
Mary Lee Hahn
The Gupta/Gustyn Family
Andrew Quayle

Be happy and be well.
Love,
Andrea
xo

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.

All is well

I’m just back from my first post-treatment mammogram and ultrasound.

And all is well. Woooohooooo!!

I learned a lot today:

  • That I have two staples in my right breast (!).
  • That my enlarged right breast may be a delayed reaction of radiation (?).
  • That the constant snapping of photos during the ultrasound is not necessarily a bad sign.
  • That no matter how unbelievably terrified I am during the tests, all the terror can be wiped away in an instant by a happy, happy result.

Happy, happy day!

Thank you to everyone whose good wishes got me through this week and to this happy, happy result.

Woooooohooooooo!!!

$5148 and counting

Two days ago, Paul and Sheri topped up Andrea’s Run for the Cure fundraising efforts, pushing her to $4000 — her goal at the time. That’s when we discovered Andrea was the third highest fundraiser in Ottawa.

We announced the milestone on this blog, Twitter and Facebook, asking for help to put Andrea in the pole position for fundraising in Ottawa.

At this moment, Andrea is second overall in the city with sponsorship of $5,148!!! That’s incredible. And yet, there’s still opportunity to be part of fundraising history by making Andrea the number one fundraiser for the first time in her life.

If your name isn’t on this list, sponsor Andrea and help make history. You have 29 days left.

Huge, huge thank yous to:

Glen McGregor
Carla Howatt
Anne Wiltshire
Jan Annino
Zetta Elliot
Mitch Joel
Sue Murphy
Carolyn Dittburner
Linda Corsini
Corinne Demas
Kaveh Adel
Heather Jopling
Lee Edward Fodi
Snookie & Norman Lomow
Sheree Fitch
Pam Hunter
Anita Neubert
Bob Goyetche
Kevin Chouinard
Evelina Vezarov
Heather Duggan
Mare Swallow
Todd and Christie Bastianon
Ana-Maria Popescu
Lori-Ann, Curtis & Olivia
Laura Bergen
Paul & Sheri Goulet
Kelly Clavette
Todd Tyrtle
Heidi Estrin
Dave Fleet
Eden Spodek
Esmé Codell
Anthony Marco
Angela Misri
Troy Wilson
The Waters Family
Alvina Ling
Katie Davis
Hugh McGuire
Mark Tafoya
Miranda McCurlie
Isabelle Michaud
Liz Murray
Jim Puckalo
Dwayne Melançon
Tamir Israel
Jennifer Johnston
Shari Greenspan
Phenix Dental Clinic Team
The Sinanan Family
Carol Grannick
Coreen Corcoran
Rich Cantrell
Patricia Kahn
Sriram Venkatarman
Stacey MacNevin
Ebony Haywood
Joan Buzick
Tanglewood Books
Mary Antolovich
Jay Schmidt
Daniele Rossi
The Bonsall/Small Family
Joanne Lennon
Greg & Andree O’Donnell
Betti Stiff
Cher & Mo Willems
The Giassa/Whammond Family
Whitney and John Hoffman
Barbara Reid-Crysler
Geoffrey Butler
Bert and Rhoda Blevis
Armeda Vanderwoude
Wilf and Barb Clavette
Clare Rogers
Denise Doyen
Garry and Kathi Tysick
Stephanie Calmenson and Mark Goldman
Carol Heyer
Diane Greenseid
Cathy Arneson
Nancy Pevey
Lane Smith and Molly Leach
William Flanagan
Orit Fruchtman
Diane DeGroat
Sally Ito
Hugh Brewster
Paul Zelinsky
Tania Carriere & Gerry Gaetz
Marla Frazee
Bob Ledrew
Tanya Snook
Robert McCarty
Richard Christie
Chris Brogan
Tom Tentoglou
Mary Lee Hahn
The Gupta/Gustyn Family
Andrew Quayle

Woohoo!

Last month, I invited you to join me in my effort to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation by sponsoring me here.

In the 6 weeks since, you’ve raised $4000!

(….and made me the 3rd highest fundraiser for the Ottawa-Gatineau run, so far!!)

Huge, huge thank yous to:


Lee Edward Fodi
Snookie & Norman Lomow
Sheree Fitch
Pam Hunter
Anita Neubert
Bob Goyetche
Kevin Chouinard
Evelina Vezarov
Heather Duggan
Mare Swallow
Todd and Christie Bastianon
Ana-Maria Popescu
Lori-Ann, Curtis & Olivia
Laura Bergen
Paul & Sheri Goulet


Bob Ledrew
Tanya Snook
Robert McCarty
Richard Christie
Chris Brogan
Tom Tentoglou
Mary Lee Hahn
The Gupta/Gustyn Family
Andrew Quayle
Glen McGregor
Carla Howatt
Anne Wiltshire
Jan Annino
Zetta Elliot
Mitch Joel
Sue Murphy
Carolyn Dittburner
Linda Corsini
Corinne Demas
Kaveh Adel
Heather Jopling
Barbara Reid-Crysler
Geoffrey Butler
Bert and Rhoda Blevis
Armeda Vanderwoude
Wilf and Barb Clavette
Clare Rogers
Denise Doyen
Garry and Kathi Tysick
Stephanie Calmenson and Mark Goldman
Carol Heyer
Diane Greenseid
Cathy Arneson
Nancy Pevey
Lane Smith and Molly Leach
William Flanagan
Orit Fruchtman
Diane DeGroat
Sally Ito
Hugh Brewster
Paul Zelinsky
Tania Carriere & Gerry Gaetz
Marla Frazee
The Sinanan Family
Carol Grannick
Coreen Corcoran
Rich Cantrell
Patricia Kahn
Sriram Venkatarman
Stacey MacNevin
Ebony Haywood
Joan Buzick
Tanglewood Books
Mary Antolovich
Jay Schmidt
Daniele Rossi
The Bonsall/Small Family
Joanne Lennon
Greg & Andree O’Donnell
Betti Stiff
Cher & Mo Willems
The Giassa/Whammond Family
Whitney and John Hoffman
$4000!!!! $3000!!! $2000!! $1000!

WOooHooo!!

What generosity will the remaining 34 days of sponsorship bring?

The party was off the hook

We’d been waiting for last night for a long time. It was our opportunity to thank our amazing support network and collectively celebrate great health. We invited 140 people who were instrumental in getting us through the last year. Of course, this is a time of year when people are squeezing the last few hours of summer into their lives. About 50 were able to join us.

It was an incredible evening of hugs, smiles, laughing and lots of food and wine. And after the party wound up, a few hardy friends came back to our house and kept the celebrations going till nearly 3am.

Thank you to everyone who was able to come and be a part of the fun. And… a MASSIVE THANK YOU to our dear friends Athina, Tracy and Jessica (the amazing staff of the First Avenue Day Care) for sharing their space and for being the best hosts ever!

Photos of the party are now online.

Soul Supplements

Last month, I invited you to join me in my effort to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation by sponsoring me here.

In the few weeks since, your generous gifts of financial support for cancer research and moral support for our little family have infused all four of us with gratitude and with joy.

Along with your donations of close to $4000, I’ve even received the following juicy little notes of encouragement that feed my soul:

Andrea, I don’t find the right words to describe how much I admire you for the way you have managed to go through the battle with cancer, and for what you are doing right now… I wish you all the best!!
— Ana-Maria

Go, Andrea!!! You inspire me. Cheers.
— Mare

Kudos to you Andrea for all that you have been through and for remaining strong, as well as, giving others hope. Have a great run!
— Pam

xooxoxoxo
— Sheree

Wow.. Andrea you are a true inspiration.. Bravo!
— Snookie & Norman

Best of luck on the run & your battle!
— Kaveh

Thinking of you and sending warmest wishes!
— Corinne

Best wishes Andrea for good health and happiness
— Linda

You continue to inspire, Andrea!
— Sue

Stay healthy
— Mitch

You’re such an inspiration, Andrea–good luck!
— Zetta

We all believe in you, Andrea. thank you for this opportunity. go, go, go, girl! thank you for your love of children’s books.
— Jan

Run fast. Wobble a bit. Laugh at funny things.
— Chris

Congratulations! If you’re looking to build a posse to run with on the big day, let me know.
— Tanya

Go Andrea Go!
— Bob

Never, for one moment, doubt the possibilities that lie ahead. Count us among the many that stand behind you.
— Tania

Good luck, Andrea!
— Paul

You go, Andrea!
— Hugh

Go Andrea!
— Diane

I wish you all the best and hoping for a speedy recovery.
— Cathy

For Andrea, lots of good thoughts and encouragement for your run!
— Diane

Go, Andrea! You have our thoughts and best wishes.
— Stephanie & Mark

Made in support of Andrea’s and my grandmother’s, Marion Morris, cancer battles.
— Denise

You inspire us Andrea.
— Clare

Go Andrea!
— Barb

With you all the way! We know that you will make it on all accounts!
Rhoda & Bert

Sending lots of love
— Barbara

You are amazing
— Andree & Greg

Andrea, I can only imagine what the last 9 months has been like for you. What’s obvious from your blog is you’ve faced it with strength & optimism! I’m glad your treatment is over & I hope you stay cancer free. Have a great summer with your girls. Good luck with the run.
— Joanne

It is awesome that you are doing this, Andrea!
— Jay

You are awesome Andrea!! xoxoxo
— Mary

We wish you the best!
— Joan

All that is yours by Divine Right is now released and reaches you in a perfect way under Grace.
— Ebony

Andrea -you are an inspiration!
— Stacey

Dear Andrea, wish you all the very best in life. Great initiative in running for breast cancer awareness and raising money for the Foundation.
— Sriram

Have followed your journey and am so proud of you and Mark.
— Rich

With wishes for a sustained recovery and a lifetime of productive years.
— Carol

Go Andrea, go! We applaud your efforts and thank you for running to raise funds and awareness. Love to you.
— Jenny

Thank you!

What wonders will the remaining 40 days of sponsorship bring?

Incredible. I’m Having an Incredible Year

On August 24, 2009, I turned 44.

Twin digit years being lucky, I slipped into this one with humble hopes for undefined improvements.

Within a week, I’d found that lump.

It’s tough to fathom the changes that followed.

And the improvements.

I could have done without the terror, the discomfort and the physical and financial diminishments. But the net gain this year has truly been incredible.

This year I learned that life is short. That I am strong. That people are good. That my supporters are many.

And the importance of practicing joy.

This twin digit year leaves me a better, stronger, happier me.

I am immensely grateful to Mark, to Lucy, to Bayla and to everyone whose words, smiles, meals, notes, playdates, care and thoughtful actions helped create this incredible year.

And I am thrilled that I will have a chance to say some thank yous in person this Saturday as we celebrate life, good health and good, good friends. I can’t wait.

p.s. Does anyone other than Mark, Mary, Jay, Caroline and myself laugh out loud at these Arrested Development titles, I wonder?

Thank you

Last month, I invited you to join me in my effort to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation by sponsoring me here.

In the 3 weeks since, you’ve raised over $3000!

Huge, huge thank yous to:

Bob Ledrew
Tanya Snook
Robert McCarty
Richard Christie
Chris Brogan
Tom Tentoglou
Mary Lee Hahn
The Gupta/Gustyn Family
Andrew Quayle
Glen McGregor
Carla Howatt
Anne Wiltshire
Jan Annino
Zetta Elliot
Mitch Joel
Sue Murphy
Carolyn Dittburner
Linda Corsini
Corinne Demas
Kaveh Adel
Heather Jopling
Barbara Reid-Crysler
Geoffrey Butler
Bert and Rhoda Blevis
Armeda Vanderwoude
Wilf and Barb Clavette
Clare Rogers
Denise Doyen
Garry and Kathi Tysick
Stephanie Calmenson and Mark Goldman
Carol Heyer
Diane Greenseid
Cathy Arneson
Nancy Pevey
Lane Smith and Molly Leach
William Flanagan
Orit Fruchtman
Diane DeGroat
Sally Ito
Hugh Brewster
Paul Zelinsky
Tania Carriere & Gerry Gaetz
Marla Frazee
The Sinanan Family
Carol Grannick
Coreen Corcoran
Rich Cantrell
Patricia Kahn
Sriram Venkatarman
Stacey MacNevin
Ebony Haywood
Joan Buzick
Tanglewood Books
Mary Antolovich
Jay Schmidt
Daniele Rossi
The Bonsall/Small Family
Joanne Lennon
Greg & Andree O’Donnell
Betti Stiff
Cher & Mo Willems
The Giassa/Whammond Family
Whitney and John Hoffman

You rock!!

What generosity will the remaining 56 days of sponsorship bring?