Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Looking for a Canadian resource? Check out Rethink Breast Cancer

Rethink Breast Cancer is a Canadian, volunteer-driven, registered charity working to help young people concerned about and affected by breast cancer. They provide innovative breast cancer education, research and support programs. Visit their website to get access to, among other things:

The Underwire is Rethink Breast Cancer's newsletter. Published four times a year, The Underwire provides up to date research on diagnosing, treating and preventing breast cancer, as well as other news for people affected by breast cancer. Lots of very good, current information.

Breast Cancer Now What
Popular British Columbia sex educator Saleema Noon spoke at a cancer breakfast I attended soon after my diagnosis. Her breast cancer was diagnosed when she was in her mid-30s, newly married and planning a family. She was a perfect example of how younger people with breast cancer usually have a different set of concerns than those fighting it later in life. You may be undergoing treatment while attending school, starting or building your career or raising small children. To help young people connect with and support others going through the same thing, she suggested Rethink Breast Cancer's program Breast Cancer Now What. Visit this site to learn about current research and connect with others on the discussion board.

Tell Her 2 connects Canadians affected by HER2+ breast cancer. Share your story and read those of others. Find current information on estrogen positive breast cancer and then give or receive emotional support and inspiration.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cool diversion

Some days it can be hard to be inside my head with "the cancer." On those days, I look for a way to get outside of my brain. Here are a few sites I turn to to help me think about better things.

Kiva - Kiva connects people who want to help with people who need help - in the form of microloans. As of November, 2009, Kiva has facilitated loans totalling more than $100 million. Kiva makes it so easy to connect your desire to help with someone in actual need. See how it works here.

Color Me Katie - Katie Sokoler is a freelance photographer and street artist in Brooklyn. The joy she injects into life around her makes me want to be a more creative and spontaneous person.

Nienie - Stephanie Nielson and her husband survived a plane crash, but the road to recovery is long and challenging. Her blog covers every step on that road, with much humour and grace.

make something - crafty list of things to do Karyn owns the Toronto shop the workroom where you can take classes, sew by the hour on her sewing machines and sergers, and more. I can't visit her store but I love scanning through her running list of "things to do" to find inspiration closer to home.

not martha - Megan talks about crafting, cooking, blogging, technology and more...and takes damn good pictures of all of it. She's in Seattle and I love finding out what we should check out the next time we visit.

dooce - Heather Armstrong writes about being a mom, wife and blogger. She survived post-partum depression, became a succesful auther, got a show on HGTV, drinks good bourbon and takes pictures of her dog Chuck with things balanced on his head. Why are you still reading my blog when you could be reading hers?

Stretching your dollar

From time to time, you will notice me recommending products, books, clothes and the like - things on which one might spend money. Let me say up front that I do not advocate the LET'S SHOP FOR FUN! philosophy that some bloggers do. I believe that rampant consumerism is a huge problem in today's society, leading people to submerge themselves in debt and our landfills in junk. And, if you are someone coping with a chronic or life threatening illness, you have likely taken a financial hit. Now more than ever we must make careful choices on how we spend money.

If you have to spend money, do it mindfully. That means shop used (Craigslist, garage sales) before new, and reduced (sales, liquidation stores) before retail. Buy local before imported and quality before crap. And do your research first. That means reading comments from previous buyers when you buy online and checking out performance reviews on sites like Consumer Reports, Cooks Illustrated and Epinions. If you are looking at a site like Etsy for quality, handcrafted art, clothes and gifts, remember to checkout the feedback left by previous customers.

Please know that if I recommend a product or website, I strive to follow these rules. And when I learn about new and better ways to help you save money, I will pass them along here.

And for the love of all things holy, please don't let all the fashion, home decorating and beauty websites feed any sense of dissatisfaction with yourself or your life. Be happy with what you have, or get crafty and make stuff you love. Plant some seeds, paint a wall, frame a child's artwork. Stop letting people sell you things that they think you need. Take back control of how you spend your money.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

PICC insertion

Because my oncologist was in a hurry to begin my chemo treatments, he ordered the insertion of a PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) immediately. Then, given I was going to be receiving infusions for a year (chemo followed by Herceptin), I would have a port surgically implanted at a later date.

A PICC is inserted in the arm opposite the breast with cancer. The tube is inserted in a vein in the arm and advanced through increasingly larger veins until the tip comes to rest near the heart. A tube extends from the underside of the arm, above the elbow, and the chemotherapy drugs are infused through that tube. By infusing the drugs almost directly into the heart, the toxic chemo drugs do not damage the veins in the patient's arm, a significant concern with long term chemotherapy. Instead, they travel immediately to the heart which flushes the drugs into the body quickly with little damage to surrounding veins. In between treatments, the tube is covered by gauze and plastic dressings. Home care nurses monitor the PICC, flushing it freqeuently to ensure the line is clear and monitoring the entry point for signs of infection.

Given the stressful event that was my surgical biopsy, I was worried about the PICC insertion. I needn't have.

The wonderful woman who would be inserting the PICC was gentle, clear and informative. She guided me through the procedure using diagrams, checking often to ensure I understood what would happen. She also outlined aftercare and how I would need to adjust my life to accomodate the PICC. I would not be able to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds, so she ran through ways I would have to adjust how I managed my two young boys.

Then she gave me advice that, at first, shocked me. But in the months since then it is advice that has helped me again and again. It was bad, she said, to hold my breath. Holding my breath would put too much pressure on the PICC tube and could cause problems with it. "When you need to cry, you must cry. Don't hold it in." She locked eyes with me and did not look away until I had nodded. This was the first health care professional who had acknowledged that crying...fear...sadness...would be part of living with cancer. It was a remarkably empowering and moving moment.

Then I put on a gown, was settled on the bed and  met the nurse who would be assisting. And we were off. First up, "What do you think? You look like a Nora Jones person. How would that be?" Are you kidding me? With that, the stereo was turned on, the lights were dimmed and we were underway. It took most of the album to complete the procedure, but it was painless and stressless. Compared to the surgical biopsy, it was like going to the spa. (And for, like, a happy procedure like a scrub or massage rather than a bikini wax.)

The after care was the problem. Because chemotherapy is very hard on your body, you can develop skin sensitivity. This happened to me. Never one to have any skin issues at all, I was dismayed to learn I had developed a sensitivity to plastics and latex. The plastic dressing over my PICC led me to break out in a dreadful rash. The nurses needed to replace the plastic dressing with gauze and paper tape and I needed to be vigilante about the use of any more plastic dressings during any form of treatment. Other than that, the main concern was keeping the dressing dry. I could not shower or bathe without covering the dressing with plastic. Typically, I used (and reused) disposable plastic shirt sleeve protectors, purchased at a local Japanese dollar store, Daiso. Sort of like a gator for your shirt. I also used plastic bags, opened at both ends, along with elastic bands and additional tape to ensure a tight seal.

Living with the PICC was not a huge challenge. But it was inconvenient. It is very hard not to lift your children, laundry or groceries. Pretty significant shifts needed to happen in my home. I could not do yoga, swim or bike ride. Sleeping was really uncomfortable. And the rash made my arm sore. There was a significant concern that the rash could lead to infection. Luckily it did not. But I knew there was no way I could do the entire year's worth of treatment with the PICC.

And luckily I didn't have to.

Up next - port insertion. :-)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer dishes on the horizon

Find a balance between eating food that's good for you most of the time and food you love a little bit of the time. Win-win when you find food you love that is good for you. I'm picking and choosing from the list below over the next month, with an emphasis on lots of lightly steamed or raw vegetables with every lunch and dinner, and small portions of desserts.

Doris Day's popovers - normally, I would slather them with butter and jam or honey, but now I`ll have them with fruit salad and plain yogurt...and leave the slathering to the kids. From Delicious Days.

And the healthier breakfast choice - Multigrain Waffles from 101 Cookbooks

Dips, dips and more dips - get your veggies in with this selection from Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn.

Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint from the Smitten Kitchen is a nice match for flank steak. I love flank steak. I really do. Here's Mark Bittman's recipe. :-) I love Mark Bittman. Did I say that I love Mark Bittman? I really do. It's ok - my husband loves him, too. And flank steak.

I`m getting my omega 3`s from Cooking with Amy`s Slow Roasted Salmon. I don`t think you have to use Copper River salmon. :-)

Lentil Artichoke Stew; Cucumber, Mango and Spinach salad; and Green Goodie Smoothy - three cancer fighting recipes from dieticians with the Cancer Project.

Sour Cherry Slab Pie from the Smitten Kitchen, last year.

Looking for something to do with all this year`s great rhubarb? Rhubarb Tart with Lemon Verbena at Chocolate and Zucchini, Rustic Rhubarb Tarts at the Smitten Kitchen and Roasted Rhubarb from Orangette look great (and if you need a giggle listen to Orangette's Molly Wizenberg's Spilled Milk podcast on the lovely fruit...uh...vegetable...uh plant.)

Olive Oil Cake, because I'm dying to try this Kim Boyce whole grain flour cookbook. From the Wednesday Chef.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chemotherapy and mouth care

Cancer helps you meet the nicest people in the world.  It's true! Case in point - within 3 days of sharing my cancer diagnosis with the mother of one of my 7 year old's buddies, I was receiving a gift from her mother. Tucked in a bag were a a bottle of Oxyfresh Zinc Mouth Rinse, a note of encouragement and an email address. Pat is a retired nurse who has been through the cancer story herself and she has been the source of great, practical advice. First piece, look after your mouth. Chemotherapy often leads to mouthsores. Invest in a soft bristle toothbrush and be gentle with your gums. And, consider adding a good, gentle mouth wash to your routine. I used this Oxyfresh mouth rinse everyday, morning and night. Results? Not one sore.

Oxyfresh can be hard to find. Here in Canada, it is carried by some dental practices. Or, you can purchase it online through their website.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chemotherapy and constipation

Here's a fun topic! Ok - cancer has rendered me shameless so if you don't want to hear about poo stop reading now. Ready?

Some chemotherapy drugs loosen your stools and some plug you up. Mine did the latter. Big time (or not so big time, if you get my drift). During the first two months of chemo, I experienced more distress at being constipated than at any other side effect. No joke - it was seriously mentally distressing to not be able to poo.

So I will give you the big heads up NOW! Do not let it become a problem. If you are proactive, you can avoid this distress.

1. Increase your intake of dietary fiber. Women are advised to consume approximately 25 grams of fibre a day. If you are constipated because of chemo, you will need to eat at least that. I turned first to lists of high fiber foods to find out what foods I could quickly and easily add to my diet. I found this list of high fiber foods and an additional chart that guides you through making choices from the various categories of foods by fiber content. My first revelation - a medium avocado has over 11 grams of fiber. A cup of cooked black beans has almost 15 grams! I started adding quacamole and garlicky black beans as side dishes to my meals to significantly increase my fiber intake, painlessly. I knew prunes were an option but now I could add in other dried fruits (figs - 3.7 grams in 2, apricots - 2.89 in 5) more appealing to my tastebuds. And for fresh fruit, the chart showed me that blueberries were a good choice (4.18 grams per cup), but raspberries (8.3) were twice as good. Grapefruit and papaya were also good choices. Cooking greens? A cup of mustard greens has 2.80 grams to collard greens' 2.58, but kale has 7.2! You get my point - using the chart made meal and snack planning much easier.

Some people will also tell you to decrease the amount of animal protein you are consuming. During chemo I didn't eat much animal protein so it was hard to cut back. But see if this works for you.

2. Drink up. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids, especially non-caffeinated ones. Best - water. Nurses will tell you to try prune juice so give it a shot. I usually ended up diluting it so I could get it down. Advice you may not hear in terms of caffeinated beverages - try some coffee. I made sure I had a big latte every morning, hold over advice from a lovely doctor who oversaw my repair after the delivery of my huge headed first baby. ;-) If coffee is what works for you in normal circumstances, it will probably work for you now. It certainly won't hurt.

3. Move your body.  Have I told you yet that my husband is a retired tank commander? The first advice out of his mouth when you are feeling crappy is either go get some exercise or suck it up. Since sucking it up was not an option, we walked. Around the block in the wind, around the block in the pouring rain. Nothing. Around the block again. Nothing. But I kept going and eventually there was a bit of, um, movement.. Every little bit of physical exercise does help your body fix the problem naturally. Plus you get additional benefits  from the exercise. 

4. Talk to your nurse or doctor about laxatives and stool softeners. What worked for me was Senokot S, a natural source laxative with an additional stool softener. I'm sorry - I should probably dance and sing here - woohoo!!! In your face constipation!! Movement of the business with no cramping at all. The key is start taking it one or two days before chemo to prevent the constipation from starting rather than trying to reverse what has already happened. A straight stool softener, docusate sodium capsules for example, is another recommended option but for me it didn't help much.

Now - my best advice - ExLax is only for the truly desperate. One pharmacist recommended Extra Strength ExLax. Good lord. The cramping was so bad it left me sweating, crying, and curled in the fetal position, something I thought I had left behind when I stopped mixing scotch and oysters. I will never take it again. All of the nurses say the same thing - try everything else before you try that.

Again, be proactive. It is easier to solve the problem when  you begin focusing on your stools a day or two before your chemo infusion.

Alright - now we're done. :-) Happy pooing!

Monday, June 7, 2010


Last night we needed supper on the table quickly. It was late, it was Sunday. A quick trip to Chow led to a super easy, super yummy stovetop macaroni and cheese. I used medium cheddar since that is all I had. And I added hot sauce at the table since the kids...well they`re kids. Next time, I`ll add a blend of cheddars and some gruyere. I`m normally a roux girl when it comes to mac n cheese. But this was so easy and so great. I`m trying this baked next time, with a a few good canned tomatoes stirred into half of the dish (I`m the only one here that likes them) and buttered crumbs and more cheese on top. Not the most cancer friendly dish, but a salad on the side and fruit for dessert evens it out. And come on, this is a family that has earned some comfort food! :-)

Life saving tip of the day

Whether you are a cancer patient yourself or a caregiver, get yourself a good cookbook. My current favourite is The Cancer Lifeline Cookbook.  It has appealing, easy to make recipes, some great pictures, and lots of tips for recipe adaptation and food preparation. But, more importantly, it has a mass of current, valuable information that has fundamentally changed the way I shop, cook, and eat. Kimberly Mathai, MS, RD and Ginny Smith cover topics ranging from the top ten superfoods and nutrients that promote good health, to coping with treatment side effects and getting help from family and friends. Recipes have been included from top chefs as well as cancer patients, cancer survivors and people working in the cancer field. You will want to make the dishes for the way they taste, not just for how they will help your health. My favourite recipes so far are Black Bean Soup (they add kale and shitake mushrooms making this my new go to version), Gingered Carrot Soup, Summer Rolls with Red Chili Peanut Dipping Sauce, and a rockin` citrus marinade that is great with chicken and with fish. In our near future, Seafood Stew and Pronto White Bean Chili.
Located in Seattle, Cancer Lifeline is a non-profit organization providing emotional support, resources, and education to cancer patients, and their support network, at all stages of the cancer process.  They help patients, survivors, their families, friends, co-workers and caregivers throughout the Puget Sound and in 16 Western Washington counties. They do good work. If you are in need of support, and live in Western Washington, consider getting in touch with them. If you need to talk, call their 24 hour lifeline at 206-297-2500 if you live in the Seattle area or 1-800-255-5505 if you are further afield. Or visit their website for information on their services, classes and events.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cool diversion

Etsy is an online global marketplace where you can buy or sell handcrafted goods. Jewelry, clothing, food, makeup, art, cards, perfume, leather goods...where does it stop? Find goods nearby or buy from the other side of the world.

I'll give links in the future to favourite sellers and special finds. As a start, check out the lovely work of April Kawaoka.

Deep breaths

Ok - so after the needle biopsy confirmed the presence of cancer cells in my breast, my surgeon scheduled a surgical biopsy for a few days later. Problem was, he was heading out of town on holiday so a locum would be doing the procedure.

I arrive at the hospital on time and, after getting robed and prepped by the nurses, settle on the bed and wait. After 20 minutes of harried phone calls and under the breath muttering from the nurses, the locum is located and asked politely (told) to get over because his patient is waiting! Turns out it is his first day at the surgical practice and the hospital and he is having trouble getting everything together, parking pass, id etc. to check in at the hospital himself.

Deep breaths.

So finally he gets here, introduces himself to me, shakes my hand as I lie flat on my back (get used to this - you will shake lots of hands while half nude and on your back) and says "How are you, darlin?" before getting started. No sedation, just local freezing and away we go. For the next, I don't know, half hour, I lie there, head turned away, looking at the wall while he slices into my breast and begins removing chunks of the tumour and my skin.

Deep breaths.

After a few moments, the nurse takes my hand, smiles at me and suggests a little music on the stereo. Nurses are really good. So now the procedure continues to the tune of a little light rock from a local station. Now I am not a huge fan of light rock. But I would have listenend to a selection of  Bobby Vinton's greatest hits at that point.

Ok -so the first song up is Can't Fight the Moonlight. Now add in the sporadic interruptions of the surgeon's cell phone ring tone - which I think must have been a sample from the soundtrack to Kung Fu Hustle. I'm not joking. Every five or ten minutes, off goes the phone. Swish...swoosh...aaaah...dada dada dada da da da. Ok - can you put it on vibrate or something, please?

Deep breaths.

Once he gets up close to the tumour he starts talking to the nurse about what he is seeing. He isn't happy. The tumour is big. And many blood vessels are involved. He starts taking pieces and placing them on slides for the pathologist. After he has taken several samples of the tumour, he announces he will be taking samples of the skin. I don't know if this is standard with all surgical biopsies, but it is certainly necessary if Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is suspected because they are checking for the presence of cancer cells in the skin.

Deep breaths.

Finally he cauterizes the tissue, sutures the incision and finishes me up. He asks the nurse how long it should take for the pathologist to prepare a report. "Ten days or more." He doesn't like that. "Can we put a rush on it?" he asks politely. My heart stops. "We can try," is the response. More smiles for me from both the surgeon and the nurse. And then he is out the door. He is a kind, if distracted, man. But I know he is making an effort to be positive and attentive. She is a pragmatic, empathetic nurse who sees a lot. I feel cared for, but dazed.

I am a little shocked by the abruptness of the procedure, of how aware I was going to be of every little slice, every off hand comment. During the procedure, be prepared to hear your surgeon discussing what he or she is finding with the nurse or with you. Do not be alarmed. Your surgeon's observations are going to help your medical team determine the best way to fight your cancer. Information is good. The more your doctors know, the more effective the fight will be. I really wished someone had warned me that I would be both awake and aware during the procedure (I never asked). I would have been in a better frame of mind to process it all.

The pathologist did rush the report and within the week my oncologist had received it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Life saving tip of the day

Vitamin D - talk to your doctor about whether you are getting enough. Many studies (like the ones cited in this article) suggest that the sunshine vitamin can be a powerful tool in extending your life and warding off diseases like breast cancer.

1,000 IU of vitamin D is the daily dosage recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society. During the spring and summer, that can be accomplished through normal daily exposure to the sun. Some advise that as little as 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a day twice a week will allow the body to generate sufficient levels of the vitamin. In the fall and winter months, especially here in Canada, a vitamin D supplement may be necessary. You could also increase your consumption of oily fish or fortified foods.

But don't overdo it. 2,000 IU is the daily maximum tolerable amount as established by the U.S.-based Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Exceeding it could be very dangerous. Health Canada warns people that taking too much can lead to kidney stones as well as damage to the heart, lungs and blood vessels.

Talk to your doctor about vitamin D and your health. And if you have children, talk to your doctor about ensuring they are getting enough as well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cool diversion

Last year, I was very sad when Craft magazine folded. But while the paper version may have died, Craft lives on in their very cool online presence Craftzine.com. What I'm loving right now - their blog features this DIY dry erase board originally designed by Brittni of paper n stitch. I'm making one for the front hall this weekend.

Chemo and the hell it plays with your tastebuds

Ok - so, my order of treatment has been (1) chemo (2) surgery (3) radiation (4) ongoing herceptin and tamoxifen. That may not be the order you do it in. Often surgery comes first, but I had a really big tumour and my oncologist wanted to try and shrink it first. And he was succesful.

So let's talk about chemo. Everyone is afraid of it. I certainly had a mental picture of what it would be like based on, I don't know, after school specials and very sad movies. But mine was very manageable. Yes I lost all my hair, most of my eyebrows, all but 7 eyelashes (total between the two eyes) and lots of other body hair. Yes I was tired, green, irritable and, sometimes, very shakey and cold. But at no point did I think I had to stop. Everyone's experience is different though. And I talked to many people who did want to stop. Work with your doctors, nurses and other health carers to try to make your journey as manageable as possible.

The single biggest problem I experienced during chemo involved eating. I was never nauseated to the point of vomiting. The new steroids worked wonders for me. But food never tasted good and eating became a challenge. Water tasted like death. And the thought of eating made me angry. I love food - cooking is my single biggest hobby and I read cookbooks for fun. My altered tastebuds were torturing me.

So I turned to the Internet and books. I found very good advice from others further down the cancer path - keep trying. Try new foods. Try foods you used to hate. Try foods again even if they tasted awful before. My tastes continued to change throughout treatment. Food never tasted good - but sometimes, some foods tasted close to normal. Cucumbers, which ironically had been a craving during my pregnancies, were one of these foods. Apples, bananas, raw vegetables in general were ok. Small portions of whole grain bread. Oatmeal porridge. Meat wasn't great. Coffee wasn't great. Wine was dreadful. And hot dogs - lord - hot dogs were horrific.

But you have to eat - even when food tastes awful. Eat healthy foods as much as you can. But also choke down the foods that bother you least, even if they aren't spectacularly healthy. Some days a fast food hamburger may be the thing that doesn't bother you - eat it. I think I ate just ice cream once for supper. Cherry Garcia.

That reminds me of another thing I read that was not good advice for me. Some people said don't eat your favourite foods during chemo as it can ruin your love of them after you finish treatment. I tried that but out of desperation returned to old favourites, like Thai curries and Ben and Gerry ice creams. They were fine - not great - but manageable. And it has not had any impact on my love of these foods now that my taste buds have returned to normal.

Finally, if you are having trouble eating, talk to your nurses. They usually have lots of advice, tricks learned from years of helping people like us. And, if you happen to have joined a support group or have informally built relationships with others undergoing cancer treatment, talk to other people to see how they are coping. Make it a priority to find out how to make eating more enjoyable.

Life saving tip of the day

Walk! Take a trip around the block and then keep going. Studies (like this, this and this) show that exercise can vastly improve breast cancer survival rates. And, like with green tea, studies (like this one) have found a link between exercise and lower rates of depression. Do what I do - grab your mp3 player and get going. I listen to podcasts but music may be your thing. A pedometer (my iPod has one built in) will track your steps and give you that much more motivation. Yesterday, I cranked out close to 10,000 steps listening to Terry Gross's interview with The Daily Show's Samantha Bee - painless! And don't wait for a sunny day - some of my best walks here on the rainy west coast of Canada have been on pretty drizzly days. Greet the people you meet on your walk with a smile and, most of the time, you will be rewarded with one in return. Win win. Win. :-)

Cool diversion

Haul out that crockpot and head to A Year of Slowcooking. I first found it when researching yogurt makers. I eat a lot of yogurt, as does my family. Well, via Stephanie's website, I found out how to make it myself without investing in another piece of kitchen equipment. Click here to find out how and then take a tour of her site to find lots of yummy ways to shorten your time in the kitchen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Life saving tip of the day

Drink green tea. Drink it now. Drink a lot. Drink it hot, drink it iced, heck, drink it lukewarm. Just get it down ya. Preferably straight, no milk or sugar. Learn to love it.

New studies have shown that green tea may not only be a powerful tool in the fight against breast cancer, it may actually help prevent depression in breast cancer survivors.

Buy someone you love a teapot and throw in some tea. Please and thank you!


Cool diversion

Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools - Spend an hour, or more, learning how other people have figured out how to make your life easier.

Gettin' through

Cancer is scary. I think I said that before! And you will spend a lot of time thinking about it. And you should. Denial is not your friend anymore.

But, you need to give yourself a break, think about other things. In this case, technology is your friend. One word - podcasts. My husband bought me an iPod and everyweek I fill it. Then I turn on the iPod, turn off my brain and just listen. Listen to what is happening anywhere, everywhere else.

NPR is a huge source - Fresh Air, All Things Considered, All Songs Considered, Story of the Day, World Story of the Day.... CBC is a good resource for humour. Laugh Out Loud saves me some days. And Vinyl Cafe is an old friend that gives me a nice sense of normal on stressful mornings. Wire Tap is a great new find. And Eli Glasner On Film keeps me in touch with the movies I'm not seeing. Tavis Smiley's PBS podcast is a comforting friend. And I can lose an hour relearning long forgotten conjugation skills with French Verb Drills.

Be sure to check out Radio Lab, How Stuff Works, TED Talks, Old Jews Telling Jokes, BBC Desert Island Discs and the World in Words. For everything that interests you, there is a podcast. Audio and video. Cooking lessons to yoga. Current events to science breakthroughs. See what works for you. It's all free, except for the initial outlay for an iPod.

Podcasts have given me much more stress relief than relaxation cds or classical music. I turn them on and walk for hours, squishing the cancer cells with each step I take. And I turn them on late at night, when I cannot sleep and my brain aches with fear. In a moment, I am transported...out of my head and back into the world. I like it there.