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

It’s just something the body does when you shake it.

Hooping, it turns out, is perfect post-breast-cancer-treatment therapy. Almost.

It challenges my co-ordination, balance and spatial awareness.
It entirely occupies my mind.

Its frantic, erratic arm movements sneak my damaged limb into places I thought I’d left behind.

It allows me to flail and fail without drawing the attention of the likewise intensely occupied others.

And gives me ample opportunity to tame my uber frustration reflex.

It’s brand new, so there’s no kicking myself for lost progress.
It’s great exercise.
It’s fun.

And it’s my first class with Lucy in 10 years.

But last night I discovered the Almost.
Chemo’d chicks don’t spin.
Or at least they shouldn’t.
I discovered.

It’s easy to forget how disgusting chemo was.
Last night’s hoop-induced nausea was a vivid reminder.
Of how lucky I am to be healthy.
And happy.
And chemo-free.

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 February 15, 2011

February 15, 2011 at 11:08 pm.

6 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

A Long-Overdue Apology

It hit me during Bif Naked’s un-freakin-believably honest, poignant and entertaining address at the conference last weekend.
And it hit me hard (thanks to you).

With a dramatic roll of her eyes, Bif described how breast cancer had saddled her with the pieces-picking-upping of her inconsolable family and friends. And the survivor crowd gave a massive been-there roar.

With all the whining that I did about inappropriate reactions, complete collapse (well, even the slightest tearing up) was a possible reaction that had never crossed my mind.

I blasted the world with my news as soon as I got it. By email, SMS, twitter, blogs, newsletter, gchat and in person, I shot my message out with faith that the returning vibes would get me through it.

Not a single adult cried. Not even Mark.

And, no matter how scary things got, my close friends and family always shrugged my worries off. And I guess I followed suit.

I realize now, it was not because they didn’t care. It was because they did.

So thank you, my beautiful friends and family, for shielding me from concern.
And please accept my sincere apology for not appreciating it sooner.



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 5, 2010

November 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm.

9 comments

Mystery Loves Company

I’m just back from Body, Mind, Spirit: The Canadian Breast Cancer Network’s National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Canceralmost 48 hours solid of education and encouragement with 340 breast cancer survivors from every province and territory across Canada.

What a gift.

I left the conference with 14 pages of handwritten notes, a stack of books and brochures, and my brain abuzz.

The speakers and workshops were first class, the food was free, the facilities fitting.

And above all of this were the women.

340 women on journeys just like mine.
The lump-finding. The bad news. The pokes, prods and zaps.
The baldness. The isolation. The decisions.
The uncertainty. The losses, the triumphs and lingering impacts.
The crazy mood swings. The shockingly thoughtless comments.

Young families side swiped. With meals to be made and dishes to be done.

I’m back home. But I’m not alone.

Here’s a tiny sampling of my learnings:

  • Newfoundlanders rock. Thanks to Yvonne Jones for reminding me.
  • Cancer cultivates compassion. Thanks to Joy Smith.
  • I need to start each day with lemon water, add ginger to my daily matcha, and remember to eat 2 brazil nuts, 2-4 tablespoons of flax meal, some rosemary and 1 teaspoon of tumeric each day. Thanks to Dr. Natasha Zajmalowski.
  • Love heals. Death and recurrence do not equate to failure. Thanks to Dr. Rob Rutledge.
  • I won’t rule survivor advocacy out of my distant future. Thanks to Ryan Clarke.
  • It’s about time I explored Venus Envy. Thanks to Dr. Sally Kydd.
  • I can do my own lymphatic massage. Thanks to Anna Kennedy and Pamela Hammond.
  • Even a sexy, hilarious, intelligent, compassionate, super down-to-earth rock star feels stupid and isolated when she gets hit by breast cancer. Thanks to Bif Naked.
  • Sleep’s much more important than supplements and therapies. Thanks to Christine Maria Gross.
  • Your honesty reflects your intelligence. Thanks to Carol Anne Cole.

Massive thank yous to 340 strong young women from coast to coast to coast and to the inspiring survivors who put the conference together and shared their wisdom. And thank you to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for the scholarship that made this enriching experience mine.

I can’t wait for next year!

Don’t take my word for it….Conference talk around the web:



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 3, 2010

November 3, 2010 at 12:06 am.

3 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

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?



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 23, 2010

August 23, 2010 at 8:54 am.

23 comments

Free at last



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 15, 2010

June 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm.

13 comments

Darn



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 15, 2010

June 15, 2010 at 9:48 am.

5 comments

One More



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 14, 2010

June 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm.

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Two radiation sessions to go!



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 11, 2010

June 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm.

7 comments

Three More



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 10, 2010

June 10, 2010 at 12:53 pm.

2 comments

Four More



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 9, 2010

June 9, 2010 at 10:45 am.

3 comments

Almost Done

Today I completed my 25 days of full radiation — my entire right chest from breast bone to neck to underarm and wrapping around my right side and over my right shoulder.

Because I’m young — and expected to survive and thrive — and because my tumor margins were small (1mm), I’m getting a 5 day “boost” of radiation. Just in the area of the tumor. Starting tomorrow.

Five more days and I’m done.

WooHoo!!!

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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 8, 2010

June 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm.

11 comments

Zapping Cancer

As of 7:55 this morning, I’ll have notched 19 of my 30 radiation treatments.

And — touch wood — pinched muscles and speckled redness have been my only noticeable side-effects.

In an imaginative attempt to keep it that way, I spend my 10 minutes of daily zapping assigning little shields to each of my healthy and valid heart, lung, bone, muscle, throat and skin cells.

I watch as the healthy cells, with shields over heads, deflect the harmful rays onto any cancerous neighbours.

And as any and every cancer cell is dramatically blasted into oblivion.

I’m not much for action scenes, but this one I enjoy.

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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 May 28, 2010

May 28, 2010 at 5:58 am.

1 comment

This isn’t turning into the party hang out I hoped

I’ve been having a rough week.

  • gaping bald patches (especially at the front of my scalp — exactly like the irate Taxotere victims)
  • continuing harassment and threats from Josephine and Keith Ross
  • news from my medical intuitive of two new areas of cancer
  • distressing in-law challenges
  • continuing discomfort in my right arm, upper back and left leg
  • extreme parenting challenges
  • declined EI medical benefits
  • and the joy of sleepless nights

On the plus side, my good friend Caroline let me rant today as we walked to the hospital and back, so I’m feeling well enough to write this curse-free post.

ps. Andrea needs to care less…Andrea needs to care less…Andrea needs to care less…

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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 May 19, 2010

May 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm.

24 comments