Sunday, November 30, 2008
Well, I made it.
I posted a lot of "filler" this month. I also found that many of the more substantive posts that I have wanted to write (book reviews and news of the conference I attended) remain in draft form. The need to keep cranking out the posts made me less willing to go back to half-written ones and edit them, lest they take up too much time. I will enjoy giving myself the space to write more thoughtfully and to give myself the time to set things aside.
On the other hand, NaBloPoMo made me dig a little deeper, take in the world in a different way (I was constantly wondering, "could I blog about this?") and post some things it never might have otherwise occurred to me to share. The post that probably got the most reaction was the one about toilet sprouts.
The very first year, I did NaBloPoMo, I was diagnosed with mets and never missed a day. In contrast, I faced many fewer challenges this year. On the other hand, November 2006 was filled with stories that were more compelling than the SpeedFit. At least I think so.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Why just go for a run when you can take your treadmill on the road?
This is a real company and they are completely serious. S. thinks we should ask Santa to bring me one.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I have lots on my plate today (and I don't mean Thanksgiving leftovers, living in Canada and all) so I thought it would be a good day for a meme. I stole this one from Average Jane.
1. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names):
2. NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad):
3. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of your first name):
Kilaur (I kind of like it!)
4. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal):
Blue Dog (or should that read Blue Dawg?).
5. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you live):
Anne Ottawa (that's just plain odd).
6. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optionally add “THE” to the beginning):
The Red Black Velvet (or alternatively Red Wine but I don't like that nearly as much).
7. FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name):
8. GANGSTA NAME: (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie):
After Eight Chocolate Chip (now that's just silly).
9. ROCK STAR NAME: (current pet’s name, current street name):
10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on):
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I want to thank everyone who took the time to leave advice or thoughts on my post about tantrums.
As a direct result of your comments, I kept five year old D. home this morning, just to hang out and have fun together.
We played Dog-Opoly (like Monopoly, except that instead of buying property, you buy dogs. It's a laugh a minute) for almost two hours. We danced to the soundtrack from the SpongeBob Squarepants Movie (D. insisted that we take turns dancing while the other watched. He's a real little showboat). We went out to lunch at Subway.
As we were eating our sandwiches, I said, "I'm feeling happy."
"Me too!" he said.
He ran happily into the school when I dropped him off. Our morning went by in a heartbeat. I realized how quickly he's growing up. He can read and add up two numbers on dice (his future as a gambler looks bright. He even blows on the dice before rolling them). And, as a dancer, he really does have some great moves.
We had fun. And we cuddled. It was good.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I know several women who discovered they had breast cancer much later than they ought to have, because they were refused access to screening, their doctors dismissed their concerns or their breasts were so dense that tumours were not easily detectable by ultrasound or mammogram.
And then, today I read in the Globe and Mail that a new study coming out of Norway, revealed that some cancers will disappear on their own and that more sophisticated testing, such as the MRI, can lead to "overdiagnosis":
The study, published yesterday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, suggested breast-cancer screening may be leading to overdiagnosis, with about 22 per cent of cases likely to resolve themselves without treatment.The study's authors argue that, since it is considered unethical to treat cancer once it has been detected, more aggressive detection can lead to unnecessary treatment that may cause more harm than good.
Once a breast cancer is found, however, it would currently be considered unethical not to treat it. So - if the theory is correct - large numbers of women may be having surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments that would never have been needed if their cancers had not been detected.
Radiation can damage the heart and coronary arteries. A previous randomized controlled trial showed that about one in 10 women who receive radiation for breast cancer will die from heart damage attributable to the treatment, he said.
In a telephone interview from Oslo, Dr. Zahl said that if he and his co-authors are correct, two women die from complications of breast-cancer treatment for every woman saved by screening.
"And that's a very bad tradeoff."
I was feeling a little uneasy when I read this article and trying to articulate why, when I read a response from Dr. Amy Tuteur (thanks to Jenny for the link). Her last paragraph was the clincher for me:
Finally, and most importantly, there is no way to tell the difference on mammography, or by any other technique, between the cancers that will disappear and the ones that will go on and kill the woman. Without a practical way to separate those who need to be treated from those who do not, the finding is intriguing and worthy of further investigation, but cannot guide us in determining the best way to screen for breast cancer and the best way to treat it.It's hard, when reading this stuff, not to consider my own situation. My breast cancer was diagnosed after I found the big, hard lump in my right breast. The kind of cancer I have is aggressive, and by the time we found it, fairly advanced. If I had had an MRI and my tumour had been discovered before the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, the chance of metastasis could have been much lower.
How would doctors know which cancers to ignore and which to treat?
Until we have the answers to those questions, this study seems to me to be meaningless.
And I hope it doesn't used as a reason to deny tests to women who are high risk or who suspect they might have breast cancer.
Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The CBC just announced the five books and panelists for this year's Canada Reads competition:
"Canada Reads announced the contenders Tuesday for its annual contest to choose a single book all Canadians would enjoy reading.
The field has five Canadian books, including two debut novels and works by Quebec's Michael Tremblay and New Brunswick's David Adams Richards.
CBC Radio One, host of the Canada Reads series, also announced members of the panel who will defend the five books in an effort to get theirs chosen.
- TV personality Avi Lewis defending The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
- Singer Sarah Slean defending Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards.
- Actor Nicholas Campbell defending The Outlander by Gil Adamson.
- TV host Anne-Marie Withenshaw defending The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant (La grosse femme d'à côté est enceinte ) by Michel Tremblay, translated by Sheila Fischman.
- Author Jen Sookfong Lee defending Fruit by Brian Francis."
I haven't really paid attention to Canada Reads since the first year. This year's list however, contains two of the best books that I have read in 2008 - The Outlander and The Book of Negroes (which I loved so much that I might actually get emotional if someone says anything bad about it. It was published in the US and elsewhere as Someone Knows My Name, something the author had mixed feelings about). This makes me intrigued enough to want to read the others (Mercy Among the Children is the only one I had heard of. It's about a part of the world I know very well and I fear it will depress the hell out of me).
The panelists will make it interesting, too. I like Avi Lewis, and Nicholas Campbell is always entertaining.
I think I need to log onto my library' s web site and place some requests.
Care to join me? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
Monday, November 24, 2008
The guy at the UPS Store asked me this question (I was using UPS to send some photos to my publisher because PSAC members at Canada Post are on strike).
I looked around to see to whom he was speaking.
Then it dawned on me.
"Yes, I am."
Or at least I'm working on believing it.
I've mentioned before that I have been meeting with a coach since last January. Joyce has a Masters in Education and is part therapist and part life coach. She works with lots of struggling artists and writers, many people currently working in the labour movement and several cancer survivors.
I have always made my living with words but this year I pledged to begin to think of myself as a writer. This need for this had become acute as I relinquished the sense of identity I had derived from full-time work and as the struggle to stay alive had (thankfully) moved the back burner.
With Joyce's input and guidance, I established three goals for this year:
I wanted to finish my book. I am proud to say that I accomplished this (although it never seems to be quite done and I am currently reviewing the copy-editing). I could not have done this without Joyce.
I wanted to build links to other younger people with cancer and spread the word that many of us are living long and well with metastatic breast cancer. I feel really good about my contributions to this blog, Mothers With Cancer, BlogHer and MyBreastCancerNetwork.Com. I also attended a wonderful conference, organized by Living Beyond Breast Cancer.
This networking has gone so well that I burned myself out a little. I have taken a step back of late.
My third goal was to write fiction. I started by playing around a little with my "morning pages" (which I don't always write in the morning). I read and did exercises from several great books (Writing Down the Bones, The Artist's Way, Bird by Bird and The Writer's Path).
Joyce suggested that I needed a writing group and it dawned on me that I could start one. I've done that.
Joyce suggested that I should sign up for an online writing course that would give me some progressive assignments to work on. I did some research and registered for one called "I've Always Wanted To Write Fiction." We are in week four and I am up to date on my assignments.
I am not thrilled with what I have produced so far but I am proud that I have done it. My prose still seems stilted and pedestrian but I am putting my toes in the water. Everything I have read tells me that art takes hard work. I may not be Virginia Woolf (or even Sue Grafton) but I can make art for its own sake. And mine.
And as I re-read this blog post, I realize that I have come a long way this year.
Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I was really looking forward to my book club tonight. I even tweeted about my excitement.
We read Run, by Ann Patchett. I really liked the book but I was especially looking forward to getting out and seeing my friends.
I really wanted a beer with dinner (we were having pizza) but I passed because there is always wine at book club. I even got my spouse to pick up a bottle this afternoon, so that I could contribute.
I gathered up my purse and my knitting. I hadn't organized a ride, so I got ready to call a cab. I looked up the host's email to confirm her address and because I wanted to make sure that I was planning on going to the right house. My memory is not what it once was.
I was right about the house but wrong about the date.
My book club is November 30th.
My kids felt bad for me because I took a shower and put on clean clothes for nothing.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I love him for his potatoes.
Last night, I made this.
I am, at best, an indifferent cook. I am working on changing this, as I don't think it's fair for my spouse to do all the cooking. Also, if I want more control over what we eat, I need to contribute.
This week, I made (or helped to make) an unprecedented four meals. Macaroni and cheese (with onions and garlic). Chicken cacciatore in the slow cooker (with bottled tomatoes, onions and garlic). Updated hamburger helper (my friend L. instructed and did all the chopping. I browned the meat and stirred a lot).
So, as you can see, a recipe that requires fresh herbs and boiling the potatoes before they go into the roasting pan is a bit of a departure for me (I roasted my first chicken two years ago. At least three times since then, I have roasted the chicken upside down.)
Last night, I painstakingly followed all instructions. It wasn't that hard. And it worked. The potatoes did not look as golden in as in the photo but they were delicious.
I don't even like potatoes and I had seconds.
And more for breakfast, swooning and moaning all the while.
I kept saying, "I made this!"
I'm still a little stunned. I have never, ever been able to say about anything that I have cooked, "That was the best I ever had." It felt good.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Please help us settle an argument.
My spouse, who grows sprouts in our kitchen, thinks this is a good idea. So does S., my oldest son.
I think it's disgusting. My sprout growing friends (yes, I have sprouting friends) agree with me.
Take a good long look and let me know what you think.
It's a theoretical discussion because, as long as I live in this house, we are not growing sprouts in my toilet.
- More cool how to projects
Thursday, November 20, 2008
We have been struggling with temper tantrums around here lately.
When my spouse and I turned to the Internets for advice, we came up with some wildly different, even contradictory advice:
1. We need to institute a "systematic behavior management plan" that includes time-outs. The time out should not start until he is seated and quiet.
If I could get him to be seated and quiet, I wouldn't need a time out.
2. We need to investigate his diet and exposure to allergens. Also, hugs are more effective than time outs:
"Until you find one that works, however, hold your son gently when he falls apart and talk to him softly in a singsong."When my son is having a tantrum, I can't really get my arms around him and the screaming tends to drown out my gentle crooning.
3. Call the cops and have the kid arrested.
This is what one Florida school did:
"To subdue the unruly kindergartner, school officials phoned Avon Park's police department ("committed to enhancing the 'Quality of Life' of the community"). When the cops arrived, young Desre'e attempted to resist arrest by crawling under a table. But Avon Park's finest pulled her out, cuffed her, put her in a police cruiser, drove her to the county jail, and charged this 50-pound menace with a felony and two misdemeanors."
I think I'll call the doctor, make sure he never gets too hungry, talk to his teachers (they assure me that the tantrums are not occurring at school or day care), reinforce good behaviour and keep hoping that it's just a phase...
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
This was actually taken on chemo day but it kind of sums up what I feel like doing. Note the bed, the book and the laptop. The only thing missing is a great big chocolate bar.
And yes, that is the world's meanest cat, all cuddled up with me. Don't be fooled by appearances. One false move and he'd slit my throat.
I've actually been doing some non-blog writing today, so not much left over for this space. Please bear with me. There will be a more substantial post one these days, I promise.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
My spouse and my ten year old son are reading Maus together right now. So, so hard.
I am glad S. wants to learn this but so sad he has to learn how cruel people can be.
S.: "So they were just allowed to shoot Jews for fun?"
T.: "Jews were not considered human."
S.: "They were treated like vermin."
S. and T. together: "Like mice."
T.: "Not all the Germans felt this way but when your government and all the news and your neighbours are all telling you one thing...People get swept up."
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
"I think we are asking the questions that will get us funded, not the questions that that will solve the problem."
- Lovell A. Jones, PhD, MD Anderson Cancer Center
(This was part of the closing key note to News You Can Use, organized by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. The conference was excellent but this last session, entitled "Helping Promote A More Equal Approach to Health Care", just blew me away.)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Me (after a harrowing conversation among a group of my friends) to my dear spouse: "Are you leading a double life?"
Long-suffering spouse (who has been single-parenting lots of late): "Are you kidding? My first life is out of control. Why would I want a second one?"
Good enough for me.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
I love you very much and I hope you are having a wonderful day.
I love that are fiercely loyal and love with great ferocity.
I love that you are kind, compassionate and caring and yet you really know how to hold a grudge.
I love that you give so much of yourself to others.
And I worry that you don't always ask when you need something in return.
I love that you offered to come to chemo with me today.
But I am glad that I was able to say 'no.'
Thank you so much for being my friend. I am so lucky to have you in my life.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Photos of the puppy. Or as the vet calls her, my "hairy little monster."
It is very difficult to get a good photo of a black dog. However, I discovered that a good camera can really make a difference.
I spent the last couple of hours trying to come up with a post for NaBloPoMo. I also needed to re-take some photos for the book. Instead, I took photos of my dogs and turned them into a post.
Although, now I just want to photograph everything I own with this camera.
Too bad I have chemo tomorrow. Although maybe I'll take photos of that, too.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
October 31st, 2008. I was in Philadelphia when this was taken but I am told that the effect in person was even more spectacular.
By the way, those are my shoes. They fit S. perfectly. He spent the evening before Hallowe'en walking around the house in heels, with his hand on his hip, saying "You betcha!" It got to me every time.
S. says he didn't mind the shoes or the pantyhose. He did, however, find the fake boobs really uncomfortable.
I hear him on that one.
Friday, November 07, 2008
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember this blanket. Some of you occasionally ask me about it.
I have never sown it together. All 120 pieces still sit in a big basket in my bedroom. Sometimes, I refer to it as my 120 potholders.
This blanket, however, has recently served to teach me a valuable lesson.
Last week end, I was fortunate to spend some time with my friends Jacqueline and John in Philadelphia (they came all the way from New York to hang out with me). During our visit, we talked a bit about my book. I told them that I was feeling lukewarm about the cover design (we were considering stepping stones. I loved the idea we were trying to convey of an unfinished journey but was finding the image a bit new agey). Both of my friends gave it the thumbs down.
I asked if they had any other ideas and Jacqueline asked if I had an image that was more personal, that meant something to me (and to which I owned the rights) that I could use.
I was doubtful.
That night, after we went back to our respective hotel rooms, Jacqueline went into my Flickr images and came up with an amazing concept:
"i love the metaphors for:She had made three different mock-ups from the photo above that included my title and name.
the optical illusions of the patterns
the coming together
the perspective of the image implies a path but the image is more personal and ALL YOURS."
I love it!
My editor loves it.
The design/marketing team love it.
There was only one problem. The photo isn't high resolution enough to use, so I have to re-take some pics this week end.
The moral of this story? Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off for a whole year.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Reading The Retreat by David Bergen was good for me, in the way experiences that provoke and make you uncomfortable can be good for you.
But it was hard going.
Even at the outset, the reader is aware that the story will end in tragedy (and not just because it says so on the dust jacket). From the very first page, the sense of foreboding is almost oppressive. And on several occasions, I had to put it down and take a few deep breaths, so intense was my discomfort.
From the book's jacket:
In 1973, outside of Kenora, Ontario, Raymond Seymour, an eighteen-year-old Ojibway boy, is taken by a local policeman to a remote island and left for dead.The book is beautifully written, filled with complex, believable, interesting and unhappy characters. Woven throughout are the twin themes of betrayal and existence (there are multiple references to the way other characters treat Raymond as though he is invisible and his own need to "verify his own existence."
A year later, the Byrd family arrives in Kenora. They have come to stay at “the Retreat,” a commune run by the self-styled guru Doctor Amos. The Doctor is an enigmatic man who spouts bewildering truisms, and who bathes naked every morning in the pond at the edge of the Retreat while young Everett Byrd watches from the bushes. Lizzy, the eldest of the Byrd children, cares for her younger brothers Fish and William, and longs for what she cannot find at the Retreat. When Lizzy meets Raymond, everything changes, and Lizzy comes to understand the real difference between Raymond’s world and her own. A tragedy and a love story, the novel moves towards a conclusion that is both astonishing and heartbreaking.
Set during the summer of the Ojibway occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora, The Retreat is a finely nuanced, deeply felt novel that tells the story of the complicated love between a white girl and a native boy, and of a family on the verge of splintering forever. It is also a story of the bond between two brothers who were separated in childhood, and whose lives and fates intertwine ten years later.
I most affected by the scenes involving Raymond and I found myself becoming almost frantic as I read about his attempts at survival after being abandoned on the island, as the snow begins to fall:
"He scraped together some moss and laid it down in the hole, and then he curled up in the shallow dip and covered himself up with more moss. He was shaking severely. He pressed his hands between his thighs and blew warm breath down the inside of his jacket...In the grey light he finally started a fire...he warmed his hands and feet and bent towards the flames like a requester who sees the possibility of salvation but is too abject too cry out."
I found Bergen's description here to be quite vivid and made all the more poignant by the fact that Canada has a shameful history of this sort of occurrence and that more than one such instance has ended in tragedy.
I can't say that I enjoyed The Retreat. It did however, move me profoundly. I will remember it longer than many books I have enjoyed and read with much more ease.
*This is book was sent to me via Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I always tell them that cancer is scary and traumatic now matter how you experience it.
And besides, it wouldn't make things easier for me if someone else were sicker.
Last night, I was at a beautiful event, celebrating the career of Deborah Bourque, the former President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (this is not a non-sequitur. Please bear with me). It was also an opportunity for women working in the labour movement to get together, celebrate our own achievements and commiserate on the challenges we face as women members, staff and leaders of unions (we also ate great food, had a few drinks and shared some laughs).
It was a bittersweet event for me. I saw many wonderful women I hadn't connected with in a great long while. I loved that part. But it's hard to be reminded that I am not really part of that milieu any more. Those day to day struggles are no longer mine.
I don't miss the stress but I do miss the adrenaline.
I don't miss the bureaucracy but I do miss the work.
I don't miss the workplace politics but I do miss the collaboration.
I don't miss the frustration but I do miss the joy that comes with success.
It is easier now not to feel this loss so acutely. There are so many good things about my life. Now that the book is finished, I feel that I have an accomplishment that I can talk about. And now that I have begun to think of myself as a writer, I don't feel the loss of identity as a union activist so acutely.
This brings me back to the original point of this post.
I was out for a walk with the dogs today (it's beautiful and unseasonably warm in Ottawa) and feeling a little bit sad. And then I felt guilty because there are so many women who are forced to work through cancer treatment and pay a tremendous physical price (others work find it helpful to work, which is a different thing), who don't have health insurance, drug coverage, a supportive spouse, or a roof over their heads. I felt guilty that I should be feeling sad when I am healthy enough to play with my kids, go out with my friends and walk my dogs on a beautiful day.
But I was reminded at the conference this past week end that cancer is a very personal thing, in it's manifestations and in how it is experienced.
We gain nothing in judging ourselves or each other.
And we gain nothing when we deny our sadness, anger or joy.
Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
First stray thought:
We have lost our digital camera. I'm pretty sure it must be somewhere in our tip of a house but its disappearance means that not only did I not have a camera on my trip but we couldn't take any pictures on Hallowe'en! We are relying on the kindness of friends to transmit, so I can share.
If I had a camera, I could also embarrass myself by posting photos of my ill-groomed, excessively hairy dog.
Second stray thought:
One of the speakers at the conference addressed the inequities in the American health care system. He mentioned that social workers, who help patients navigate the system, are always the first to get cut when cutbacks occur.
Cancer care is extremely complicated (so many ways of treating and so many different health care professionals and staff to deal with). As a cancer patient, I have to advocate for myself on a regular basis at every stage of care (I was reminded of this today, as I followed up on the fact that I haven't received confirmation of my next chemo appointment. Turns out it was never booked and now I have to chase down my oncologist to make sure that happens). I am educated, middle class and pretty enfranchised. I can't imagine how challenging treatment would be if I were unable to understand the system, communicate my needs or were affected by a mental illness.
Third stray thought:
Homeland security left a little note in my bag to tell me they had opened it and rifled through my underwear (OK so that's not exactly what they said I did but that's the part that gives me the creeps). This has never happened to me before.
The Yarn Harlot has written that it happens to her on almost every trip. This makes me wonder if the search was provoked by knitting needles.
I usually bring only one project and carry it in my purse. I knew I was going to have some down time on Friday, I had a big suitcase that was only half-full and I couldn't make up my mind, so I packed a second project in my suitcase (socks, with lots of little pointy needles).
Fourth stray thought:
The cliche about absence making the heart grow fonder must be true. My littlest, with whom I have been locking horns of late, was extremely happy to see me. He crawled into my bed this morning with a very satisfied, "Mama!" and told me that he had missed me "very, very much."
That's it. Even my stray thoughts have escaped me...
...except to say that I feel so incredibly fortunate that Jacqueline and John came to visit me (and Jacqueline came up with a brilliant idea for the cover of my book!). This is only the second week end I have spent with them and yet I felt as comfortable as I do with old friends. And they are such smart, creative people. They really do inspire me.
* this post brought to you courtesy of NaBloPoMo.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
I stole this badge from Sara.
I will be attending my conference all day today and I may have something interesting to say once its over.
I'm hoping to hang out with Jacqueline and her husband John this evening (and tomorrow, too), though, so it make take me a couple of days to post anything substantive.
I just counted. I've brought three of Jacqueline's garments with me, one of her pieces of jewelry and her Songbird Scarf. And I have more at home, too.