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

Tomorrow is The Big Day

Tomorrow is Mark’s long-awaited surgery.

Beaming happy healing vibes for a caring, capable team, a smooth and successful operation and Mark’s swift, smooth, permanent recovery.

I love you, sweet. Looking forward to the beginning of your new pain-free chapter.



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 July 24, 2011

July 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm.

5 comments

Up here, Michael.


In October 2009, I was desperate to have both breasts removed.

Thanks to my insistent surgeon, I didn’t.

They’re small. They’re lopsided.
There are scars on both.

But they’re here. And so am I.

Lucky me.



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 20, 2011

May 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm.

1 comment

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

Happiness Is..

Healing Time.

A year ago today was my second cancer surgery (complete axillary lymph node removal).

I wish I’d known, going into those surgeries, that my right arm and upper body would be permanently damaged. And I sure wish I’d known to try breaking that scar tissue up right away.

But something else I didn’t know, back then, was whether I’d be here today.

I’m grateful that I am.
And for my resilient family, our working limbs, our healthy bodies and our joy.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea November 13, 2010

November 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm.

1 comment

Happiness Is…

Good Health.

One year ago today, was my first cancer surgery.

Today, that’s all a distant blur.

I’m strong. I’m healthy. I’m happy.

And I plan to stay that way for a good long time.

Lucky, lucky me.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea October 26, 2010

October 26, 2010 at 8:21 am.

12 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

Happiness is…

Healing.

Eleven days after my First Surgery

This gruesome* photo was taken 11 days after my first surgery (Oct. 26, 2009, lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node removal).

* don’t click if you’re squeamish

Four months after my Second Surgery

This much less gruesome* photo was taken exactly 4 months after my second surgery (Nov. 13, 2009, complete auxilliary lymph node removal).

* don’t click if you’re squeamish

Unbelievable. I am so grateful to the magic of the human body.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea March 16, 2010

March 16, 2010 at 5:41 am.

6 comments

Oncology Update: Q & A

No surrogate at my pre-chemo#5 oncology appointment today. Here’s the scoop:

  • Can I avoid the full week of Taxotere-induced agony this round? If so, how?
    The answer was pretty much “Not really”. My oncologist entered the room shrugging and saying “I told you Taxotere would be bad”. She recommended I extend my steroids (dexamethasone) further beyond the 5x8mg doses and to take any combination of my many prescriptions that may help, as needed.
  • What’s her opinion of my long-debated bilateral mastectomy?
    My oncologist is not against the bilateral mastectomy and would support it if it puts my mind at ease. Apparently, though, there is no evidence that would prompt her to recommend it. She gave us the bad news that recurrence in the breast is not as likely as spread elsewhere in the body. Obviously, I can’t remove every organ in my body so I don’t think I’ll put myself through this major surgery “just in case”.
  • When does radiation start? And is it still within walking distance of our place?
    We will meet with our radio-oncologist in the near future to address these questions. It sounds like radiation is no longer available walking distance from our place, though. darn.
  • Can I ask now about plans for my ovaries?
    Yes, I was allowed to ask. The answer was, “We’ll see.”
  • What’s with the sunken, bright read hollows under each of my eyes?
    After hearing about the various possibilities of recurrence and spread of the cancer, I really didn’t care about the look of my face.
  • Is my 105 year old skin here to stay?
    See above.

Scary news or no, I still plan to survive and thrive.

Maybe not long enough to grow my own 105 year old skin, but for a long — healthy, happy — 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 March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm.

8 comments

Happiness Is…

Arm Mobility.

Two months ago today was my most recent lymph node and breast surgery… and look what I can do now.

It’s been more than three months since my most recent yoga class, so my whole body is less stretchy than ever.

But two months ago today I couldn’t lift that limb one bit.

So, I’m glad.



More Happiness here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea January 13, 2010

January 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm.

3 comments

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)



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 11, 2010

January 11, 2010 at 6:52 am.

2 comments

Difficult Decisions

Being decisive is hard, especially when new information causes you to constantly revisit, rethink and even reverse your decisions. That’s par for the course when you’re dealing with something like cancer-related surgery.

We’ve had our audio recorders running during a good chunk of our journey. This includes conversations and telephone calls as we considered which of either a lumpectomy or bilateral mastectomy was the best course of action.

It was interesting distilling three hours of recorded conversations to this 10 minute story, and particularly surprising to think this process dates back three months already (this audio was recorded leading up to Andrea’s first surgery, October 26, 2009).

CREDITS

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We’ve had our audio recorders running during a good chunk of our journey. You can hear more audio collages here.

Mark Posted by Mark January 10, 2010

January 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm.

2 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

The supporter experience #1: don’t panic

Don’t Panic. Those are the insightful words that grace the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the fictitious guide in the earthly book by Douglas Adams. I’ve tried to live by those words for most of my adult life. When our home was broken into in September 2006; don’t panic. When United Airlines lost our luggage last Christmas; don’t panic. When I discovered I didn’t have my wallet with me when I was at the grocery checkout a couple of months ago; don’t panic.

As the loved one and primary support of someone diagnosed with cancer, don’t panic is a golden rule. Throughout the process you will hear a variety of cancer experiences from people all too willing to share whether you want them to or not, whether they understand the impacts of their stories or not. Surgeons, oncologists, nurses and anaesthetists will use words you’ve never hear before and will talk about side effects and will likely allude to long term impacts from treatments.

You may even have an experience like we had a week after Andrea’s breast cancer diagnosis. Andrea’s dentist found a cyst in her mouth and suggested it be biopsied. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing (Andrea must have bitten the inside of her cheek). However, for four stressful hours, we dealt with the possibility that the cancer wasn’t confined to Andrea’s breast.

Don’t panic.

Being the primary support means you need to be rational and calm. New language, information and ideas need to considered as part of the whole and you need to remain coherent when throwing in the towel seems the logical thing to do. It’s completely okay to be emotional so long as you don’t let your emotions interfere with being an advocate for your partner, communicating with your medical team and making sound decisions.

I’ll talk more about emotions as I share more of my supporter experience.



Mark is primary support, cheerleader and project manager of Andrea's recovery. You can read more from Mark here and on Mark's real blog, MarkBlevis.com.

Mark Posted by Mark January 3, 2010

January 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm.

2 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

Journey Learning #1

Whether or not we believe this disease has intentionally presented itself to do so, it’s definitely encouraging me to learn and grow in ways that my stubborn adherence to justice, fear and inertia has always prevented.

So, while the medical gurus cut, stitch, poke, scan, radiate and infuse me, it seems my role in building a new, improved, bionic me is to grasp the many opportunities for learning and then to choose and use new beliefs, patterns and perspectives that will build a stronger, happier, healthier me.

Journey Learnings.

I’ll track them here, one at a time, in no particular order.  Let’s start with a big, small one:

Journey Learning #1: I can survive without coffee, sugar and red wine.

Whodathunkit?



More Journey Learnings here.

Andrea Posted by Andrea December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009 at 8:00 am.

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