Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New life, new choices

14. Hold the door open for the next person. Do it for guys...it drives them crazy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Best medicine

Laugh today. Laugh often and laugh loud.

This put a very big smile on my face.


Monday's health links

Starting this week, I will be posting links to interesting news stories about health and wellness.
  1. Choosing traditional pasta over whole wheat versions ok according to GI book author.
  2. Drinking water with your meal may help you consume less calories. But is that just because the water is taking up all that space in the tum?
  3. Childhood obesity can lead to early puberty for girls. And that can lead to increased risk for breast cancer and high blood pressure.
  4. Making new diet and lifestyle choices can ward off prostate cancer. Some studies estimate that up to 75% of all prostrate cancers could be eliminated by dietary changes.
  5. Mediterranean diet to receive recognition by the UN.  And, it has been linked to lowered breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If I could have a moment of your time...

Lately, I have seen a rather unpleasant number of disdainful and ignorant comments about what some call the "cancer industry." Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. But one of the less appealing things that comes with it is the opportunity it gives to bozos to sound off on news websites. Anonymity is the invisibility cloak of the ass.

I welcome thoughtful debate on the merits of the myriad cancer studies, on the drug companies that fund many of them, on the possible use of breast cancer as a marketing tool...come to the table with your ideas and let's find the best path towards cures for all diseases and chronic conditions. But if you are going to sit behind your laptop and lob incendiary devices into the middle of thoughtful dialogue you better be willing to post your name and community.

So that is one of the costs of a free Internet - sorting through the chaff. What is one of the gifts? Websites that make it easy to find the kernels of knowledge and experience. The Being Cancer Network provides people in the cancer community an opportunity to find and reach others on the same path.

Being Cancer Network is the brainchild of  Dennis W. Pyritz. As a cancer nurse and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor, Dennis has an intimate connection with the disease.  From his website: "So my intention then for this blog was to create a community of people whose lives have been transformed by cancer.  The intention for my writing is to stimulate emotion and thought, and to promote sharing of experiences and of what those experiences meant to our gifted and measured lives.  Some of this will be history, some stories, other times themes around which we can share our thoughts and feeling. It will become a resource center for a community of cancer bloggers and answer seekers."

To that end, one of the most moving and valuable resources he provides is his vast and growing list of cancer blogs. And this summer, Dennis has set a goal for his list to top 1000 cancer blogs. The list is well organized (by cancer type) and extensive. If you are looking for a blog that speaks to you, you will find it here. You just need to start clicking. And, if you have a blog and want to help Dennis help you help others, send him your URL. Do it soon! Help Dennis reach his goal.

***Late addition - I send my heartfelt thanks to Dennis for including me in his blog roll. I am honoured.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New study links moderate alcohol consumption and breast cancer

According to an article published yesterday in Bloomberg Business Week, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, Washington, are reporting in today's issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that women who drink one alcoholic beverage a day are at higher risk for developing estrogen receptor- and progesterone receptor-positive breast cancers.

That study found that, when compared to non-drinkers, women who drank seven or more drinks a week had a higher risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, but only lobular carcinoma, not the more common ductal carcinoma.

Please click on the link to read the entire article. And here is a link to the abstract published in the journal.

If any of my team are reading this, my fluffy beast was an estrogen receptor-positive invasive ductal carcinoma.

New life, new choices

Ok - not sure about that as a name, but perhaps it is less morbid and less cringe-inducing for my guy.

12. Put it away now. If you just leave it lying there, and then leave other things on top of it, you are going to take a simple task and make it harder. This is true of books, mail, dirty dishes, toys, clothes, and fat! :-)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Things to do before dying...*my husband still wants me to rename this :-)

11. When faced with a seemingly unmanageable task - due either to the size of the job or the level of your anxiety - pick one part of it and just do it. I often use this in my job as a writer - if a job is stressful enough I don't know how to begin. The job sits in the corner of my psyche getting bigger, stinkier and nastier. So, I try to pick one thing, separate it from the larger task, and finish it. Sometimes I try to find the easiest thing that I know I will finish quickly, other times I pick the source of the biggest stress.

Right now I'm applying this rule to my house. A year of cancer has led to a messy house. Stacks of books, piles of kids' schoolwork, bags of goods destined for the Sally Ann...it all needs to be sorted, tossed, put away or transported. But I'm too tired. So, instead of focusing on how much work there is to do, this morning I just got up, picked a corner of a room and processed it. I feel better, the house is tidier, and I am energized by my ability to actually create order out of chaos. The key is to keep going.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things to do before dying...*my husband still wants me to rename this :-)

10. Don't take what doesn't belong to you. See - why do you need me to tell you this? Well apparently some of you still do.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Things to do before dying...

9. Be the person you want your children to be.

Things to do before dying...

My husband suggested this morning that I might like to occasionally mention that this theme isn't the result of some recent "bad news."  So, no I have not had any bad news about my cancer. In fact, at my last appointment, my oncologist examined me, found nothing of concern and reassured me that I am doing very well. But I get it - people casually visiting my blog may assume I am getting ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

But maybe I am. The point of my self-examination is that now that I have had to face the possibility of dying earlier than I had planned, I have started to look at life differently. And perhaps others may want to as well.

9. Embrace your guilty pleasures. Me - I like Van Halen's Panama, Crunchy Cheetos, tapioca pudding, and root beer floats. Scotch on the rocks, raw chocolate chip cookie dough, Cherry Garcia ice cream, and crime novels. Do not regret them, or see shame in them. Relish them. Celebrate them. They are your comforts for a reason.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Things to do before dying...

8. Don't let bad weather keep you inside. Walk in the rain, play sports in the snow, garden in the wind. (Within reason folks - no swimming during lighting storms or biking in gale force winds.) Layer up and assess the need for rain gear - then get outside! Make the decision about whether you can handle it from outside, rather than inside, the house - it isn't usually as bad as it looks!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Things to do before dying...

   7. Let a child teach you how to do something. I was going to write, Ask a child to teach you how to do something, but that is rarely necessary. Most children are itching to teach and to lead. And they are remarkably patient teachers. And see, right there, that's worth learning all on its own.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Things to do before dying...

  1. Talk less and listen more.
  2. Play hide and seek whenever you get the chance.
  3. Agree to disagree, gracefully. 
  4. Find someone you like to argue about movies with.
  5. Grow your own food.
  6.  Learn how to cook three things really well: one for breakfast, one for company, one for yourself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things to do before dying...

  1. Talk less and listen more.
  2. Play hide and seek whenever you get the chance.
  3. Agree to disagree, gracefully. 
  4. Find someone you like to argue about movies with!
  5. Grow your own food. You will know where it comes from and how it was grown. You will share an important skill with your children. And you will know the incomparable taste of a warm tomato straight off the vine.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More things to do before dying

  1. Talk less and listen more.
  2. Play hide and seek whenever you get the chance.
  3. Agree to disagree, gracefully. 
  4. Find someone you like to argue about movies with! It is with a very heavy heart that I watched the last episode of At the Movies tonight. I was a huge fan of the original show with the Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel. They didn't just make it cool to seek out non-Hollywood films and to love documentaries. They also made it acceptable, preferable even, to disagree about a movie loudly and enthusiastically. (And almost always gracefully -see point 3.) I was such a huge fan I once convinced a friend to get Roger Ebert's autograph for me when I couldn't attend a screening he was introducing at a Vancouver Film Festival, back in the 80s. Over the years, I continued to tune in, sporadically, watching the hosts come and go but always enjoying the original premise of two people reviewing a movie rather than the traditional one found in newspapers. So, not it's gone but there is a bright light (aside from the ongoing presence of Roger Ebert's website) - news that Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz, are working on a new movie review show. I can only hope it will continue to encourage people to not just watch movies, but to dissect, debate and delight in them. And for that we really do need a companion.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cheerful things

A cancer diagnosis is, obviously, overwhelming. Life literally seems to stop as you struggle to cope with your new reality. But you need to move forward, do the work, and live your life. For me, striving to maintain a sense of normal, within my new reality, was key. Because facing death is normal. We will all do it.

It is kind of funny, but looking back there were some key ways I carved out my new normal. It helped me to have something happy in my day - something that cheered me when I looked at it. I had lovely friends give me some wonderfully, cheery things. A robin's egg blue scarf,  a classic Bill Cosby CD, happy books, beautiful flowers, cookies, hats and more hats (thank you to my lovely people)... they all gave me a moment of relief during my stressful days and that helped. My mom gave me a perky pink, yellow and white striped cosmetics bag to store all my drugs. Her rationale was that it would make it hard to lose. In reality, it was just nice to associate cheerful colours with my cancer treatment.

So along that line, if you are facing a cancer diagnosis or love someone who is, I highly recommend bringing cheerful things into your daily routine. It doesn't need to be big or expensive. My Bunny gave me "baby" rocks and Boomer brought me "just because" cuddles.

Along that line, in an effort to encourage my friends to drink more green tea, I'm thinking about this for Christmas. It is made by a company called Monkey Business and available to purchase from Giftlab in the UK. Because it isn't just us cancer kids that need cheering up now and then. :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Things to do before dying...

  1. Talk less and listen more.
  2. Play hide and seek whenever you get the chance.
  3. Agree to disagree, gracefully. You might actually be wrong. And it's easier to save face later if you didn't make an ass of yourself defending your opinion.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things to do before dying...

  1. Talk less and listen more.
  2. Play hide and seek whenever you get the chance. (I just interrupted a game to come and add this to my list. My cohorts are 5, 6, 8 and 9!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

If you knew you were going to die...

...you would probably start living your life differently. You know it's true.

My best guess is almost everyone who faces a life threatening disease experiences a stunning moment of realization - "Holy crap, this might kill me!" And it is this fear, this acknowledgement of mortality, that brings a lot of us quickly to the conclusion that we have to start making better life choices now.

These days, I see this most obviously in my parenting. I don't feel like I have the latitude to make mistakes that I might have had before. If I die in the next few years, my children are going to remember the way I treated them now. So I remind myself to be more patient, and less quick to anger. I try to make a better effort to make the consequences match the infraction, to catch them being good more often, to find the teachable moments that are meaningful and relevant. And, when I screw up I apologize, quickly and sincerely.

You have probably seen those bucket lists where people advocate making life changes before they, um, kick it. Before I was diagnosed, I thought I paid attention to the messages they contained. But in reality, I forgot about them pretty quickly. Then cancer came, shoved me up against the wall and smacked me so hard upside the head that I am still spinning. And the penny dropped.

So, if I could have just a moment of your time, could I ask you to just believe me. If you were in my shoes, you would see the need for more thoughtful living. It would resonate in your soul in a way few other things do. And I would really rather that you not have to get cancer to learn this lesson.

So, starting now I begin my list of the new choices I am making in my life. I'm going to try to make this a daily posting. If you are so inspired, please share your own. Which reminds me what my first choice was going to be...

1. Talk less and listen more.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why my kids make me smile

My mom thought I should share some of the funny things the kids have said over the past year. What a good idea!

One of my favourite memories is from the day before I went into the hospital to have my left breast removed. We've talked pretty openly with the boys about what is happening to me, believing that knowledge is power and they will be less frightened if they feel like we are not hiding things from them. So I was sitting on my bed in the morning, cuddling with the boys and took that moment to remind them about the surgery. We have talked a lot about other people who have had cancer and survived. One of them was the custodian at Boomer's school, who lost one of his arms to the disease and had been given a prosthetic arm with a hook. Kind of like a pirate. I think that is what inspired the following exchange:

Me: So tomorrow, remember that I'm going to the hospital in the morning and the doctor is going to remove the breast that has cancer in it.
Boomer: I know that.
Bunny: I know that!
Me: And that is going to help me get better. 
Boomer: Ok.
Bunny: (saying nothing but poking me in the left breast with his finger)
Me: Do either of you have any questions?
Boomer: (with an expression of great hope and insight on his face) Yeah - are they going to give you a wooden one?
Bunny: (still saying nothing but now with a look of sheer delight on his face).



If you have talked to cancer survivors, you will have noticed that anniversaries figure prominently in their stories. Now I too have something to celebrate. The last week of July marked the one year anniversary of the day I stepped out of the shower at camp and noticed that my left breast was, well, pink.

A little background. In the summer, we like to go to United Church camp at Naramata Centre, in the idyllic little village of Naramata, British Columbia on the shores of Okanagan Lake. It was during last year`s trip to camp that I made my momentous discovery. (Ok - it didn't feel momentous at the time. It went more like, Jon, Jon. Look at my breast. No seriously. Does it look pink to you? What is up with that? Was it pink yesterday? Jon,  why would my breast be pink? No, I don't think I slept on it funny. Are you kidding me? I've been sleeping on them since I was 12.)

OK - back to camp. We visit Naramata as a rather big bunch. Typically, there are the four of us, plus Jon's parents, Jim and Lillian, Jon's sister, Diana, and her two kids. The kids spend the mornings with other kids, grouped by grade and led by terribly cool and enthusiastic leaders. The grownups take classes (film for most of us this year, pottery again for Jon). Then the afternoons are spent at the beach, some of us reading, some dozing, some swimming. Depending on the day, some of us may also catch a morning service, attend an evening concert, eat ice cream in the village, go to the farmers' market, wine taste...it`s a full week. :-) The kids charge around, free-range, and absolutely glow from the sun, the singing and the FREEDOM!

This year, we also had the great pleasure to share some of it with Jon's daughter, Deyne. She is working in Penticton this summer and it is a short drive out to Naramata. For the most part, when she was off work, she was with us. And it was really lovely. She got to play with the kids, chat with us and catch us up on her life. She even attended an improvisational singing workshop with Diana and me one night, and we giggled out into the dark, hooting at the humour and marvelling at the magic of it. So, I guess, to sum up, this was a pretty good week at camp. Lots of laughter, lots of talk, lots of thinking.

How does it compare to last year? Last year, I was distracted by a pink breast. It was a naive, "what if" kind of distracted. When we returned from camp, I was plunged immediately into a scary whirlwind of medical appointments and diagnostic procedures. The whirlwind was followed by the devastation of the diagnosis and, ultimately, the work. This year, I was distracted by twinges where my pink breast used to be. But I no longer have the luxury of being naive. So, I acknowledged my concerns, thought about the options and then told myself that, even if it is cancer, I have good doctors who will do everything they can to help me. I do not need to let fear knock me back. I can face the fear and keep on doing the work.

I had been looking forward to going to Naramata, but was a little uneasy about how I would respond to it given last year's experience. My father-in-law, Jim anticipated this and checked in mid-week to see how I was doing. Happily, I could report that I was feeling pretty good. If there is a place on earth where one can feel recharged and centred, it is here. You are surrounded by community. Compassionate, supportive, engaged community. I watched movies about conflict and took part in fascinating conversations about them. I enjoyed my children and enjoyed other parents enjoying theirs. I ate good food, laughed, cried and laughed some more. Ultimately, I shared. I put myself out there and allowed others to do the same. And it is this extension beyond the internal that will get me through the stress of breast cancer. Residing alone inside my brain is the opposite of beating this disease. To begin the rest of my life, and to make it meaningful, I must step outside and join hands with my community.

So how do we celebrate? I think a cup of green tea is in order. :-) But when I pass my anniversary of the diagnosis in a couple of weeks, I am poppin' the bubbly. And the first toast goes to my lovely family and friends. My community.