And For My Next Trick…

Aside from the obvious feats for the squeamish (injections, surgeries, claustrophobic scans and implanted heart vein stuff), the past 3 months have provided me with opportunities to perform the following impressive stunts (please hum “The Final Countdown” while reading this list):

  • lasting 3 weeks — and counting — without entering a store, coffee shop or restaurant
  • grinning and bearing various brutally insensitive so-you’ve-got-cancer remarks
  • surviving Christmas Day without coffee or chocolate
  • juicing and guzzling a potent veggie combo every single morning for 10 weeks, and counting
  • popping more pills and supplements than in my entire pre-c life combined
  • wearing the same 8 or so tights, T & hoodie day in and day out for weeks
  • enduring outrageous family flare ups without losing my mind
  • peeing red (Epirubicin portion of FEC chemo)
  • peeing blue (radioactive dye)
  • sharing my home, against my will, with … wait for it … RATS (yup! the vermin moved in 4 weeks into this challenge and have yet to vamoose)

Ta da! (AD)

My Stay At Home Healing Routine, so far

I’m settling seamlessly into my new Monday-Friday Home Alone Healing routine. My days are actually pretty full and, so far, they’re flying by. Here’s how I fill them:

  • make and sip Flor-Essence tea
  • supervise and/or make packed lunches and breakfast for Lucy and Bayla
  • juice and guzzle: ginger, beet, celery, spinach, carrot & lemon
  • down a slew of supplements
  • bark orders at Lucy and Bayla and/or enjoy pre-school time with Lucy and Bayla
  • walk Lucy and Bayla to school
  • walk to the Gratitude Statue and back for my gratitude and affirmation meditations (5k)
  • enjoy peanut butter and toast and tea
  • catch up on email, blogging, blog reading, the news, do a little housework, maybe prepare a decent dinner
  • do a 30 minute excercise tape
  • read, dally, nap etc
  • jog to the Gratitude Statue (unless the pathways are snowed over)
  • dinner, family time
  • enjoy an episode or two of “Arrested Development”, “The Office” or “The Simpsons” (with popcorn, if possible)
  • sleep.

This coming week will be post-chemo, of course, so who knows what my routine will be. But I’m hoping my health stays fabulous and I’m able to keep enjoying this nurturing groove.

Get Well Wishes from some Rock Stars of Reading

We treasure this touching Get Well message and can’t help sharing it again here (we originally posted at our JustOneMoreBook! children’s literature/literacy site)…

Our friend author Richard Michelson arranged and sent us this amazing video Get Well message which was filmed on November 8, 2009 during the 20th Annual Children’s Illustration Show at the Richard Michelson gallery. The video features an incredible gathering of authors and illustrators sending get well soon wishes to me. How cool is that?!

A huge Thank you to everyone who beamed us these good wishes and to Richard for the beautiful sentiment. We missed you this year and we’ll be there for sure in 2010!

YouTube Preview Image

Front Row: Heidi Stemple, Rebecca Guay, Jane Dyer, Jeanne Birdsall, Diane deGroat, Barbara Diamond Goldin, Nonny Hogrogian, Susan Yard Harris.
Second Row: Brooke Dyer, Shelley Rotner, Norton Juster, Jane Yolen, Lesléa Newman, Brian Karas, Barry Moser, Susan Pearson, Anna Alter, Alice Schertle.
Third Row: Wendell Minor, Jeff Mack, Rich Michelson, Kathy Brown, Nancy Sippel Carpenter, Jeannine Atkins, David Kherdian.
Back Row: Carol Weiss, Mo Willems, Scott Fischer, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Mordicai Gerstein, Paul Jacobs.

The Supporter Experience #3: Applause

Today was Andrea’s second chemotherapy session. As always, she was a champ. I sometimes wonder how I would fair in the same situation.

Today, as I watched Andrea’s medicine bags drain I clued in to a celebratory atmosphere just opposite where we were sitting. It was a gathering of nurses making a happy fuss over someone as they were disconnecting all of the tubes; disconnecting for the last time as it turns out. Then there was a procession of nurses clapping and hooting as they followed the patient down the hallway of clinic for what will hopefully be their last visit there.

My focus for chemotherapy is to keep our heads down and power through. If we can keep Andrea healthy, she can remain on schedule and we can listen to the nurses cheer her on as we leave the chemo clinic for the last time on April 2.

Happiness Is…

Life with Mark Blevis.

Fourteen years ago this very week a hunky young whippersnapper enticed me to a rendez-vous with the promise of  “The Internet for Dummies“.

I’m not interested in the internet,” I replied, “but I’d love to meet you for a mega-foamy latté.”

We met. We lattéed. And the rest is history.

Who could have guessed that that bearded young whippersnapper, his joy, optimism, wit, generosity, creativity, brilliance and fierce family devotion, would save my life — literally and figuratively?

Lucky, lucky me.

Journey Learning #3: Wow

Scrambling through a stuffed slate of commitments, from the wee hours of morning til the wee hours of night, we often glimpse others while they’re scrambling just the same.

This challenge has provided me with the opportunity to stop, spot and soak in the real goodness of the many people who have squeezed, and continue to squeeze, time into their own busy schedules to shine light on our family.

My life is brimming with good, good people.

I am immensely grateful.

Meeting Myself

Words of wisdom from Cheryl Crowe, breast cancer survivor:

I remember my radiologist saying to me, “Your mission now is to ask yourself every day, ‘Am I doing what I want to be doing?'” And  I do ask myself that, every day. I try to make the answer yes, even if it requires saying the word no and disappointing someone.

My experience was about letting go. It was about really experiencing all that was happening at the deepest emotional level, for that is where the big changes occur. That is where you meet yourself. Where you begin remembering who you are and who you were meant to be. I don’t believe you have to be diagnosed to come to these lessons, but sometimes the catastrophic moments in life force you to focus in on the immediate.

“Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips” by Kris Carr.
Skirt! Publications, 2007

What, Me Worry?

I’ve biked across this country, coast to coast. I’ve spoken hard truths, when most wouldn’t dare. I’m not afraid of the things that don’t scare me……It’s just that most things do.

Fear of failure, fear of injury, fear of judgment, fear of change. Fear of rejection, fear of responsibility, fear of being misunderstood, fear of loss. I’ve bypassed a lot in life, thanks to fear.  I’ve shed vats of tears and spent hours in anguish replaying hurtful scenarios and guarding myself from social snipes. I’ve lived small and safe. I’ve let fear rule.

Yet, here I am dealing with a life-threatening disease — facing surgeries, injections, toxic chemicals, long-term side effects, loss of income, mortality — and I’m taking it pretty well. I’ve cried more over a single nasty coding bug and anguished more over any of a million family affronts than I have during this entire challenge to date.

And almost daily I’m told I’m brave.

Is it the lack of malicious-intent? The lack of choice? The fabulous team that’s supporting me?
Who knows?

My social anxiety certainly remains intact and  I still get stung by the handful of relatives who continue to snipe or snub me. As much as I’d like to, I haven’t really changed since my diagnosis.

I can’t explain it.  But I sure am grateful.

Happiness Is…

Popcorn!

Mark & I have shared a huge bowl of popcorn almost every single night for years and years.

Sometimes olive oil & freshly ground pepper.
Sometimes olive oil, sea salt, cayenne & nutritional yeast.

These days it’s more than a delicious treat (which happens to fit within my new coffee-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free restrictions).  Sharing our nightly popcorn — and laughing at our millionth viewing of Arrested Development or The Office — makes me feel like life is normal.

And that’s extra delicious.

Captastic!

Look what just arrived!

A peachy chemo-cap from our friends Katherine Matthews and Rob Lee.

My barren head will be nice and cozy thanks to our generous and skillful friends.

Thank you!!

Strip: Hand made head warmth from talented and generous women  1. Katherine Matthews, 2. Debbie Etherington, 3. Whitney Hoffman & 4. Whitney Hoffman. Thank you!

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.

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.

Click here to subscribe to our blog/podcast.