It’s hard to be vain when you look like this: Another post devoted to my hair

Finally, enough hair to show up in a photo!

Finally, enough hair to show up in a photo!

I finished my chemotherapy on April 8 with four rounds of Paclitaxel. I took this photo last night, June 26, and there’s enough to show up on a photo! My onc said that many women actually shave their heads for a while when their hair starts to grow back because it comes in unevenly or patchy. I intended to shave mine too, particularly when I gave Luka permission to shave out a Bat-Signal centred on the back of my head, maybe like this one:


Unfortunately, Luka and I were too ambitious, because you actually need a decent growth to do a fade like this. Mine was a washout. The good thing was, even though Luka cut loose with the shaver, after a few weeks you could barely see the shape, so I plunged ahead and did not do an all-over shave.

Now I just have to wait, and wait, and wait…



To eyebrow, or not to eyebrow?


Way back in February Tessa and I attended a Look Good, Feel Better seminar. I was pretty successful at getting my skin cleansed and toned and moisturized and made-up, all except for the eyebrows. From that day:

After putting the eyebrow pencil dots at the right co-ordinates, using the inside of my eye and the outside of the iris to line it all up, the seminar leader came over and told me I had lovely eyebrows and we had to get rid of the dots. But what do I do when the eyebrows go the way of the rest of the hair on my head? Then I’ll be making strategic dots and filling in the rest. Ugh.

So, here I am, parked outside of a hospital, with barely any eyebrows left, but what I thought were artfully feathery-pencilled-in fauxbrows. When I checked in the mirror for a last look before exiting the car, the right one didn’t look so good. I tried adding a bit more, and the curse was cast. A little more was too much, so I had to add a bit more to the left side. That proved to be too much, so I wiped it all off. I drew the dots, filled them in and it looked like I was trying to channel Jean Harlow from Bombshell. I supply a poster image:


I scrubbed off both fauxbrows to start all over. By the time I thought I was happy with the right side and started the left again, I saw Jean staring back at me. I wiped off the left side once more, then took this picture, hoping to get a more objective look from a photo than from my visor mirror. I did. It was a disaster! I removed both sides, fluffed the bangs from my wig well over my forehead and into my eyes and vowed not to attempt eyebrows again, but wait for them to grow back.

They’re starting! And I have peach fuzz, and some horrible little eyelashes, but anything will be better than the lizard/alien eyes I have had for the last two months or so. Yay!


Enjoying cPR


Some girls celebrate with a mani-pedi, others with a new pair of shoes—this girl celebrates with silky gravad lax. Image courtesy Donald Russell:

Some girls celebrate with a mani-pedi, others with a new pair of shoes—this girl celebrates with silky gravad lax. Image courtesy Donald Russell:


Feeling just like King Julien

I’m still basking in the glow of my cPR (complete Pathological Response), and trying to spread the love back to everyone who sent their prayers and positive vibes my way through the first six months of this unwelcome side trip in my life. I wanted to do some kind of celebration, maybe a real party, but that would involve all kinds of planning and energy that I don’t have, so after the pathology appointment Tessa, my man and I headed for the St. Lawrence Market. When I was an editor at Toronto Life magazine and later at WHERE, the market was one block away, and I would be there at least twice a week, usually more. I love that place, but since working at CAMH, getting there is a virtual impossibility during the week, and I’m happy to stay out of the downtown on the weekends, so going there was a huge treat. On the list of the celebratory purchases were a full pound of Domenic’s house-cured gravad lax with lemon zest and dill, St. Urbain bagels (Montreal style, baked right there), Jelly Belly’s (my fave), Callebaut milk chocolate chips (not for baking, just for precision portion controlled eating) and other little treats. We ate the gravad lax right from the butcher paper as we were driving home—and there was still plenty left for a vodka toast when we got there (yes, I have read the articles, I had barely a third of an ounce, thank you). We said we would properly celebrate when things return to the new normal anxiety-wise.


Shaking off that anxiety angst

I’m working on it, although I haven’t had a chance to really catch up on all the quality sleep I missed while twisting in the how-much-cancer-is-left?? wind. Luka was still on his Ottawa school trip this morning, and I had no appointments to get to, so I planned a good, long lie-in. Unfortunately the message was not relayed to my brain, which pinged awake at 6:40 and would not shut off.

But I didn’t have an endless loop of what-if-it-spread-past-the-original-five-nodes-and-the-chemo-doesn’t-work thoughts. Instead, my mind just wandered around: should we try to visit my dad this Sunday? Will my breasts take a two-hour drive each way? Maybe some tensor bandages and the sports bra together? What would he like for a present? Normal thoughts. What a relief! (I just read that over, and I crack myself up. Asking yourself if your breasts can stand a two-hour drive is a normal thought?)


Radiation planning

The morning after the good news appointment I was at Princess Margaret  Hospital for 9:30 to sign consents for radiation. I was in an excellent mood, feeling very positive, on time. I met my second-in-charge radiation oncologist and my radiation tech, of course had to whip off everything above the waist—what else is new? I’m surprised my pharmacist and dentist don’t ask the same thing—and when the doctor started to explain radiation, I asked if it was OK if I recorded our conversation. Either Tessa or my man has accompanied me to particularly info-packed appointments, and if I take notes I have them as a back-up should I forget something. Plus, as treatment goes on, I have found it difficult to actually grasp some concepts, so recording seemed like the best plan. My sisters and I often record doctor visits with our parents so we can share info with the other siblings. But my new doctor said no. I blinked. I explained that I was alone, that I was very anxious (hadn’t been up to this point), that chemobrain was making me stupid, that note-taking was physically laborious and required too much concentration to be able to keep up. She said she would talk veeeeerrryyyyyy sloooowwwwwwllyyyyy, and I lost it. I started shaking and tears literally bounced out of my eyes and down the front of my stupid hospital gown. She handed me a box of tissues and asked if I would like to take a moment. Yes, I’ll have a moment in early 2001, after Luka was born but before Graydon got leukaemia, when Tessa was dancing and my marriage was still intact. That would be nice. I choke-sobbed for a minute or two, then splashed my face and opened the door and took notes I can’t even read.

I will have 25 doses of radiation, five doses a week, to my right breast, axilla, and because my cancer is metastatic, the internal mammary lymph nodes and supraclavicular lymph nodes too. It can’t start until my plastic surgeon, Dr. Musgrave, gives the word that my healing is sufficient. I see her on the 18th, and then radiation mapping on the 26th, and then we see when I start. Radiation should start four to six weeks after surgery, so I should be on track.


Dining like a queen

This afternoon the lovely lady from Presidential Gourmet arrived and delivered dinners four and five: rainbow trout and a quinoa and grilled vegetable salad, and a baked pasta with garlic bread. I cannot say thank you enough to the Good Food Fairy who has made it possible to have delicious, healthy dinners five nights in a row—no planning, no grocerying, no prep and virtually no cleanup. It is incredible, and appreciated by all of us. And it couldn’t have come at a better time: I have just enough energy to really enjoy the spoiling!!

Thank you, whoever you are!


Tuesday morning as I was trying not to rise to consciousness because that would mean starting to worry about my pathology full-time for another day, Tessa wandered up to my room and said:

“I got a weird call just now.”

“How weird? A breather?”

“NO! Not that kind of weird, a nice weird…”

“So, tell me?”

“No, not til later.”

“What do you mean later? What weird call can wait?”

“This one. It’s kind of about you.”

Then followed wheedling, and strategic questioning, and some reverse psychology, none of which worked. So I had to wait until late afternoon to find out what “weird” was.

Mid-afternoon Tessa cleared the kitchen table where she was working on her philosophy course. Not a big hint. Eventually, a really smiley young woman came to the door with a large black cloth bag. Tessa was grinning ear-to-ear, so was I, but like an idiot, since I still wasn’t clear. The woman said that a friend of mine thought that I could use some help with meals right now, and so had arranged to have FIVE DINNERS, from Presidential Catering, delivered starting that night. How could anyone have know the stress level in my head and house? I haven’t given a care about food for this week, and the kitchen shows it. If it wasn’t for Tessa, no one would be eating anything.

The menu was developed by an oncologist. The ingredients are organic. The chef is five star. We have had salmon in citrus olive oil, baby bok choy, rice, an arugula, tomato and sunflower seed salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, incredible cauliflower soup (we’ve had it hot and cold and both are delicious), quesadillas with fresh salsa, and shepherd’s pie, all incredibly delicious. And two more meals to come.

This is such a thoughtful, insightful gift, and the timing couldn’t be better. The worry over this pathology report has had me in pieces. Even now, there is no energy in me. So, thank you, whoever you are. I completely respect your desire to remain anonymous, and that makes this gift even sweeter, that someone is generous enough to give a gift on this scale, and not want any credit or public acknowledgement. Know then that my appreciation is huge, and I feel very humbled by your kindness and thoughtfulness.

And I’d like to say that if anyone is looking for a caterer, I thought Presidential Gourmet was a large-scale catering firm, but these fresh, delicious, clever meals show they can do anything.

Thank you again. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I’m bigger and stronger than the cat. But maybe someday you’ll tell me who you are?

Crack out the fireworks: Best possible outcome I could have hoped for!!!

This is what is going on in my backyard tonight. Bring a blanket! Courtesy of

This is what is going on in my backyard tonight. Bring a blanket! Courtesy of


I am so happy! Even though the surgeon told me my pathology wasn’t available yet, THREE WEEKS after surgery when it should have been ready in seven days, and then he sent his nurse off to find out why, and I stood in the hall afraid I would actually throw up, and his nurse came back and said it was just being signed off and uploaded, and we—Tessa, my man and I—went to sit down and wait, when he finally handed it to me and said, “Here you go. It’s all gone,” I could barely believe it.

“You mean I had a complete pathological response?”


“So this is the best possible thing?”


“So this gives me the best prognosis?”

“Yes. There is no cancer in any of the nodes, except for the first one, of course [the one he removed for the diagnosis]. And none in the breast tissue.”

And he handed me the report, which Tessa and my man and I went over line by line, with varying levels of understanding. My oncologist will explain it tome in such detail in a week that she said I will understand every single word of it. For now, it says no evidence of cancer and that’s enough for me!!!


Here is a beautiful display of Kumano fireworks, the best in the world. Turn off all the lights in the room, go to full screen, and imagine you are in Japan enjoying hanabi.




Pathology appointment in less than 24 hours


You guys better be finding no cancer in those lymph nodes!!!

Like it says in my very imaginative and teasing title, tomorrow is pathology report day. I am experiencing an abnormally high level of anxiety over this. To be honest, I am going freaking crazy. Swooping from “I am going to beat this!” to “I am going to die.” I have resisted the urge to troll for any more journal articles after the last one that outlined the time between distant metastases and death for triple negative patients. I feel like I am wallowing in my misfortune, and then I think, “misfortune?” It’s my freaking life that’s being threatened!!

This is a useless post. I have slept and rested (depressed) for days, and now I feel like I have to do a million things. Laundry for Luka’s class trip (leaves tomorrow), strategizing contents of garage in the wake of the Yard Sale for the Cure that Tessa and my sister Heidi held the day after I came home from my surgery, organizing my room (forget it), replying to emails, getting the lawn mower blades sharpened (if I wasn’t so torqued I would never have agreed to the usurious $40 the sharpener man charged), blabbing to my neighbour Tracy all kinds of stuff (she is very nice and patient), and more. I have not taken any ativan today, and I don’t even know why. Maybe the same reason I didn’t demand more pain killers post-surgery when mine ran out? Suffer, girl, suffer?

I am taking ativan now and will try to peace out. Please cross your fingers.

No pathology report yet—crud, or ^#%@^&!!!


princess-and-the-pea-2Better living through chemistry…

Life after surgery has been pretty crummy for me, hence the lack of activity on my blog or phone (texting or talking). Surgery was on May 22, and my good pain pills ran out on Day 4. After my plastic surgeon told me at the hospital that I would only stay for one night, then be booted out of the hospital, I said, “I sure hope you’re sending me home with plenty of meds.” The plastic surgeon told me, “You won’t need much medication,” and I said, “Oh yes I will,” and she said, “I don’t think so, not for this.” So when the good pills ran out on Day 4 I did not call her office for more. I went through the ends of other bottles—Dilaudid, T3s, and few Ultram, until I had exhausted my emergency supply, and it’s been Advil and naproxen since then, and to very little effect.

Post-surgery fun…

My right arm is half numb, which is really freaky, and half hurting. My right breast aches all the time, the left one less so. When I am lying down with pillows tucked in at all the right support places, I am in my most pain-free state. But it’s hard staying like that. Driving is murder over Toronto roads after this last winter—I embarrass the kids by cradling my chest the entire time I’m driving, gasping with pain with every pot hole I can’t avoid. Even walking hurts, every time my right foot hits the ground. In the house I can walk very goofy, and have no problem. If I walked like that outside the house, I think I would be arrested for drunkenness in a public place.

Sweating to the oldies…

I keep doing range of motion exercises, and others included with my discharge papers. The numbness makes them difficult, since I’m not supposed to strain, but if I’m numb, how do I know what’s straining?

I’m no longer a plumbing display…

The drain, needed because of the removal of levels 1 and 2 of my lymph nodes, stopped working well after five days, and the blood/lymph fluid started leaking out down my side. It was yucky. My CCAC nurse—Stephanie, an amazing woman in her own right as well as an excellent, caring nurse—kept it as clean and dry as she could, and I went in May 28 so my oncology surgeon could give it a good look too. It stopped being effective, and was removed June 2. No gushing, so it’s all good.

Plastic surgeon visit…

I saw the plastic surgeon today. She says my incisions look good, the healing is good, the shape looks good. She put new paper tape over the incisions and gave me the all-clear for showers—half sponge-bath, half Saran-wrap showers have been a pain. All of the removed breast tissue was sent to pathology, and I for one am anxious to get back the pathology on it. Especially hoping for any sign of the missing or invisible primary tumour. At the end of her appointment, she contacted the lab to see if my pathology report was ready, and said I could get the results with both her and Dr. Simpson, my oncology surgeon. That would bump up that appointment from tomorrow to today, and have me getting the news alone, instead of with the supportive presence of my man, but in a couple of seconds we learned my report was not ready, and wouldn’t be, for days. Oh God, more anxiety, a full week of it. I think I need a week’s supply of MDA and a lot of water and a time machine back to the ’80s.

June 11 is the culmination of this particular run of anxiety…

So, the new date for all of you to cross your fingers, wear you lucky lingerie, send good vibes and pray is June 11. Please cross/wear/vibe or pray for a pCR (pathological complete response), with no cancer left in the lymph nodes, and no DCIS in the breast tissue, and evidence of that stupid invisible primary!

Reviving the 20-Minute Workout…

I have come to the sad realization that I am going to have to exercise. SAY IT ISN’T SO!!! With my H/I breasts gone, and C/Ds in their place, my midsection is looking out of proportion (yes, read, fat 😦 boo hoo). Of course, this makes Tessa absolutely grin and quiver at the thought of slave mastering me though exercises and diet/nutrition instruction. I am glad she is so interested in this stuff naturally. I have a pro under the same roof!

That’s it for now. Must rest arm.