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

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My port-a-cath has been out two months, today.

I can hardly believe it’s gone.

And I can hardly believe it was actually there.

I am so grateful.



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 25, 2011

January 25, 2011 at 8:27 pm.

1 comment

Nothing On The Inside

Ding! Dong! My port-a-cath is gone!

Unlike my solo insertion day, today’s happy occasion was a family affair.

And, despite my squeamish worries, I co-operated fully during the local-anaesthetic-only procedure — I didn’t once faint or kick or flail around. I must admit, though, I was highly unprepared for:

  • the pre-incision warning that there was a chance removal of the port would be impossible
  • the Interventional Radiologist‘s struggle to dig and pry and snip it out

But it did come out and it’s all done but the 6day shower-free healing.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank 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 November 25, 2010

November 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm.

9 comments

Say Good Bye To This

Take a good look, ’cause it’s the last time…



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 November 24, 2010

November 24, 2010 at 7:20 am.

7 comments

A Snap, A Slap and One Last Flush

Today was my final trip to the chemo unit — for one last port-a-cath flush.

To mark the momentous occasion, I snapped this photo. Then that one.

“Mrs. Ross,” someone called. I assumed it was time for my flush. But the receptionist continued, “no photos allowed in the hospital.”

I was stunned.

“No photos in the hospital, Mrs. Ross. It’s hospital policy.”

“My blog’s in trouble,” I ventured, when I’d recovered from the shock. But she didn’t see the humour. Then a feeble, “But it’s my story.”

“Hospital policy.”

At each silence, she kept on:

I have to delete any photos I’ve taken. Pause.
If I want to take photos I need to have “Security” accompany me and approve each one. Pause.
If she called security they’d make me delete them right here and now.

Yikes.

Since I learned of it on May 4, I’ve been hoping to eventually join the hospital’s Community Advisory Committee.

Today’s sweet encounter was the perfect little nudge.



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 November 12, 2010

November 12, 2010 at 9:05 pm.

3 comments

From the Mouth of Bayla # 29 : Good-bye Cathy

For ten months Mom has had her.

Through six chemo treatments Mom has put up with her.

Through nine blood tests Mom has braved her.

Through five flushes Mom has endured her.

Good-bye port-a-Cathy!!!



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

Bayla Posted by Bayla October 17, 2010

October 17, 2010 at 10:22 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

From the Mouth of Bayla #11: port-a-cath person

Two nights ago, mom suggested to me that “tomorrow you could draw a face around my port-a-cath, because it kind of looks like a nose”. So, last night I drew the person. I was going to put 2 GIANT hairy nostrils on the bottom of the port-a-cath but mom wouldn’t let me. I can’t believe I did the person without hurting mom. Today I woke up and  the port-a-cath person was smudged.



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

Bayla Posted by Bayla March 8, 2010

March 8, 2010 at 5:10 am.

7 comments

I don’t know why, but that’s it

I don’t know why, but that’s it.

For the first time since my first surgery way back in October, I’m throwing in the towel and going right back to bed. No juicing, no supplements, no exercise, no shower.

I know it’s chemo and I’m grateful to be doing as well as I am.

But I’m outa here and I mean it this time.

I don’t need a justification (I’m living it), but if you do, here’s a partial list:

  • two days of throbbing aches all over, numbness, disorientation, weepiness and stomach woes – no appetite, limited taste, sore throat, tongue, ears, teeth, head
  • two nights of writhing in pain and delirium
  • one thawed canal
  • one slushy, grey world
  • two thread-bare, ten year old boots soaking two already aching feet with icy slush
  • one first ever sleeping pill at 3am this morning
  • one puffy, quickly aging, eyelash-free face
  • one transmuting port-a-cath
  • and did I mention our insurance company and broker are both robbing us blind and ruining our lives?
  • oh ya, and the police knocked on our door early this morning informing me that I’m due in court April 28 and 29 as a witness against my bully of a “father” as a result of his attempt to break in to our home on April 5, 2009?

Is that a reason? I mean, is that a reason?

Oh, and today’s my half-birthday. Which means it’s six months since this all began. Halfy Birthday to me.



Andrea Posted by Andrea February 24, 2010

February 24, 2010 at 9:01 am.

13 comments

Oncology Update: Mysteries Solved

Woohoo! All mysteries were solved at my pre-chemo-2 oncology appointment today:

  • Why is my port-a-cath migrating in my chest?
    Apparently, this is just the result of reduced swelling around the incision (just like Mark told me it was).
  • What’s with the new lump just above my lumpectomy incision?
    Apparently, this is just the result of increased swelling and scar tissue around the incision (just like Bayla told me it was — in fact she had a whole blog post explaining her theory but we didn’t allow her computer time).
  • Why are my forearms and wrists weak and painful since chemo #1?
    No specific response to this but likely in line with steroid response, below.
  • How much will the port-a-cath puncture hurt?
    Thanks to an Emla patch and a hilarious and spunky nurse, the puncture barely hurt at all (although my major squeamishness about the whole thing still needs some work).
  • Can I avoid the 3 day post-steroid hangover following chemo without giving up my beloved post-chemo steroids? If so, how?
    Turns out I was accidentally given a prescription for twice the intended dose of steroids. No wonder I was hit with major munchies, turbo energy and a surge of creative brilliance throughout my rockin’ post-chemo-1 weekend! Much to my disappointment, my doctor has halved my dosage for this round to avoid the 3 day post-steroid hangover. Fingers crossed chemo is totally fabulous (and effective) this round…



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 6, 2010

January 6, 2010 at 2:38 pm.

7 comments

Gearing up for Chemo #2

Mysteries which I hope are solved at my pre-chemo oncology appointment today:

  • Why is my port-a-cath migrating in my chest?
  • What’s with the new lump just above my lumpectomy incision?
  • Why are my forearms and wrists weak and painful since chemo #1?
  • How much will the port-a-cath puncture hurt?
  • Can I avoid the 3 day post-steroid hangover following chemo without giving up my beloved post-chemo steroids? If so, how?

Stay tuned…



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 6, 2010

January 6, 2010 at 7:04 am.

1 comment