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

Happiness Is…

Closing the oncologist chapter.

This morning, I unexpectedly graduated from my oncologist’s practice. Time to update AboutMe:

ExplorerWife. Mother. Yogini. Friend.

Happy

Healthy

Learning

Loving

Stumbling and fumbling, but getting back up.




Surviving and Thriving.
And intending to continue doing so.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea May 29, 2013

May 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm.

11 comments

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

Ease

I don’t dream of flying, fulfillment or fame.

Even my life-long boat, plane and elevator disaster dreams are almost always preempted, these last few years, by the horrid-family-problem theme.

But last night I had an absolutely, extremely, wonderfully atypical dream.

I dreamed the path I was walking was littered with bills. So many bills, here and there, that I began to leave most of them, stooping only to snag the curled and crumpled red fifties.

I didn’t feel greedy. Or guilty. Or even thrilled.

I felt lucky.
Tickled.

And I awoke feeling good.

It was so out of character, I just had to ask google:

A dream of finding money suggests that the dreamer is becoming aware of their intrinsic value to themselves and others, from a spiritual, rather than a material perspective. It can also indicate a recent success or imminent achievement in their waking life in which their self worth is visibly manifested. Often this dream indicates that the dreamer possesses special artistic or creative abilities that they are in the process of becoming aware of…

Dream Message
You are worth more than you think you are, and should not feel reticent about taking the chance to prove your value to yourself and others. As you become more aware of your own self worth, you will become more confident at exploring opportunities in your waking life that are to your advantage.

(Ian Wallace, Finding Money)

I’m glad I checked.

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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 June 1, 2011

June 1, 2011 at 11:53 am.

9 comments

Thank you, 2010

I absolutely adored 2010.
We were healthy, happy and together.
We had loads to celebrate. And we celebrated often.

Yet, reflecting on the year, this morning, I was shocked at its rockiness.

Where reactions and reconnections reigned 2009, 2010 was a year of overcoming obstacles. Of attempted relationship resuscitations. Of some painful — yet freeing — realizations. And relief.

It was a year of adjusting to the new me.
And of testing out the me that has been there all along.

As I reflected on 2009 and looked hopefully toward 2010, I never dreamed of the treat I had in store.

And I have high hopes for 2011.

Thank you, 2010. Welcome, 2011.

Some Zigs and Zags of our 2010:

February 6 (our 11 year wedding anniversary)

Our insurer refuses to honour my critical life and disability insurance claim.

This was a cruel and devastating blow. Not only because they robbed us but after stringing us along for 4 months but because I’d been over-insured for the twenty some years leading up to my leap from Nortel six months before my diagnosis.

April 1

Chemo ends!

And life begins afresh.

April 22

We are spared the pain of the long-awaited trial and Keith Ross accepts a Section 810 Peace Bond which prohibits him from having any contact with us for a period of 12 months..

Our world has been peaceful since.

May 20 (Mark’s 40th birthday)

The perfect storm of physical, financial, parenting and family challenges bring me to my knees.

Yet we survived.

June 15

Radiation ends.

We did it.

June 21

I take a first bite at my fear of public speaking.

I’m so glad I did. (Photo thanks to Alexa Clark.)

June 16-Sept 13

My first summer with my lovelies since Bayla was a newborn.

The most fabulous summer of relaxing, reading, biking and being with my lovelies.

August 28

Our long, long, long awaited victory celebration.

Wine, munchies and good, good people.
Pure bliss.

September 14

Back to work.

Two more days a week than I had hoped but simply grand to have an income again.

November 25

Port-a-cath gone.

Scary and thrilling.

December 22

We celebrate fifteen fabulous years of Mark Blevis.

Lucky, lucky me.

Thank you, 2010… Let’s all enjoy a happy, healthy 2011.



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 December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010 at 8:44 pm.

8 comments

Andrea on Electric Sky

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Mark’s fabulous audio documentary program, Electric Sky.

And guess who’s featured.

Me!

What an honour.

You can listen in as I share my thoughts about facing breast cancer here.

Thank you, Mark, for your support, your encouragement and your pride. I love you.



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 May 3, 2010

May 3, 2010 at 4:49 am.

1 comment

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

From the Mouth of Bayla #7: BULLIES

When you’re in the gym getting ready for the walk over* and one of your WORST enemies is bullying you, you don’t really want to go tell your principal because you are kind of too tired to go from the third floor to the gym to the first floor so you just yell to a counselor that he is being mean to you…again. Your mom has cancer and you are putting up with: being hit in the back, being kicked, being laughed at and when you finally get an appoligy this is what it sounds like: “I am not sorry.” WHAT? I don’t think so!

*walk over is a walk to after-care and until everybody is there, you stay in the gym of your school and you wait in line with your friends  (bullies are there in line too so they always start to bullie me Lucy and two other friends.)



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

Bayla Posted by Bayla February 4, 2010

February 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm.

3 comments

Happiness is…

Peace.

Where I grew up, children were to demean and not heard.

I guess Mark and I over-corrected on this one, making parenting at our place an exhausting and noisy affair.

Yesterday morning was a peaceful exception.

I’m glad I took a photo or I’d think I had imagined it.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea February 4, 2010

February 4, 2010 at 10:58 am.

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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

Journey Learning #5: Braving Eye Contact

Christopher was a large crab who lived as a pet in one corner of a pull-out lobster tank at the generous and friendly Butland’s Seafood, just outside Fundy National Park.

Surrounded by lobsters of every size and colour, and occasionally picked up and showed off to lucky customers, he dealt with the terror by closing his eyes. If he couldn’t see us, then we couldn’t see him.

I’ve always done the same.

When faced with the terror of possible judgement, rejection, criticism or the source of a deep and open hurt, I simply refuse to look.

Family gatherings, group activities, crowded school yards, you name it, I protect myself by averting my eyes. If I can’t see them, they can’t see me. They can’t judge me, reject me or hurt me. They can’t see into me.

Reading this post by our friend Daniele Rossi, I realized this is another hamstringing habit that has to go.

To let go, to connect, to be fully alive, I need to open my eyes. I need to take in what’s really there.

I need to touch the burner.

Part of me knows I’ll be pleasantly surprised.



More Journey Learnings here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea February 1, 2010

February 1, 2010 at 6:18 am.

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Journey Learning #4: Releasing Resentment

Being bullied, belittled and abused from birth definitely didn’t make me the most carefree of characters. It left me raw and responsive to random nastiness. It made injustices cling — each incidental injury tearing into the stinging wound within.

And the clinging hurts became cancer.

I’m realizing now that I have to let go. That to flush the cancer from my body, I need to flush out the pain. I need to expel the anguish I feel every single day. I need to release the resentment towards the handful of people who have hurt me most; who continue to hurt me, through snipes, spite or snubbing.

I must.

But how?



More Journey Learnings here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea January 12, 2010

January 12, 2010 at 11:47 am.

5 comments

Happiness Is…

My Family.

Based on the shouting, stomping, screaming and slamming of doors, our neighbours would never guess that our feisty little family is my absolute bliss.

We’re more BLAM! (Bayla, Lucy, Andrea, Mark) than Lamb (Lucy, Andrea, Mark, Bayla) but I wouldn’t trade even our most explosive family moments for the world….

…OK, now I’m just lying for no reason (AD).

But really, my feisty little family is my absolute bliss.

Image: Ian PK of KilMil.com



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea January 12, 2010

January 12, 2010 at 6:53 am.

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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.



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 January 10, 2010

January 10, 2010 at 7:00 am.

3 comments

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!!



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 December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009 at 4:28 pm.

9 comments