On January 22, 2016 I went for a mammogram, to confirm that a lump in my right breast was a cyst. It was. And it saved my life. Because I was overdue for my breast screening, imaging was also done on my left breast  The mammogram and ultrasound came back “highly suspicious” for breast cancer...

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On Treatment

My course of treatment has involved chemotherapy, surgery and radiation (the full enchilada). Because my breast cancer is hormone responsive, I am now also taking a long-term hormone blocker, Letrozole (Femera). Proactively managing the side effects and preparing for each treatment has been a constant theme of the year. Posts in this section share my tips and strategies.

April 15, 2018

You've received a diagnosis of breast cancer (or a friend has): now what? Some information to help you navigate the early days.

February 21, 2017

The Decision

My treatment plan always anticipated radiation. The established threshold for radiation is “if there were four or more lymph nodes positive for cancer” on post-surgical pathology. A bright line. I knew from my initial ultrasound and biopsies that I had at least one positive lymph node and one enlarged node. When my surgical pathology came back, it contained a welcome surprise. Only one of the nine lymph nodes taken...

January 24, 2017

[Guest Post] As I move myself to the other side of cancer treatments, I find the following post on the theme of "do you always have cancer", both timely and relevant. Kerri Morris has kindly allowed me to include her reflection.

"Do you believe that once you have cancer you always have cancer? I guess I'm "one of those" who does. "I was at a social gathering a few weeks ago, a group I’m new to, and the conversation turned...

January 15, 2017

What’s Old is New Again

Broth has been making a comeback recently (although, as one friend has said ‘it’s been trendy in the poor homes of New Brunswick for as long as I can remember’. Recently “a steaming cup of bone broth” was been identified as “New York City’s latest health trend”; “a trend worth its salt.”[1] Many virtues of broth have been proposed. The presence of gelatin helps to repair joints and improve hair, skin and...

October 17, 2016

Surgery is mostly about what comes after. However, there are a few tips to share about preparing for surgery: 1) If the surgeon will  

be taking lymph nodes, request a single incision for both breast surgery and accessing the lymph nodes; 2) request a nerve blocking procedure prior to surgery as it permits lower levels of anesthetic and lower dose pain (morphine) pills; 3) If you're not planning on reconstruction, direct y...

September 15, 2016

My saying here is that 'I may have finished chemo, but chemo hadn't finished with me'. Over the six-months, various after effects and side effects began to catch up with me, even with my good preparation. I think it would be a rare person who escapes chemotherapy unscathed.

Two months after my last chemo, my fingers and toes still had (receding) neuropathy. My nails were still on the mend. I became a little casual – to my peri...

August 28, 2016

Chemotherapy, done. PICC line, out. Skin, healed over. Weather, hot and sunny. Delores, set aside. Finally able to answer the call of the Gatineau River and ease myself back into the water. Swimming, it is not. But, a magic moment when a dragonfly seeks a smooth landing spot and settles on my head.

Wonderment and peace.

August 7, 2016

Because I had at least one positive lymph node, I was given the choice to do chemotherapy first and did so. I believe this is becoming standard of care. In this post, I set out how I approached chemotherapy and the various strategies I used to mitigate (or at least minimize) its effects on me.

Information is one thing. But, fear is another as you face chemotherapy. There’s no doubt your body will take a hit from chemotherapy. Y...

July 31, 2016

Although I took a very proactive approach to managing chemotherapy, I chose not to seek out formal complementary or integrative cancer care during chemotherapy (for example, as offered by the Ottawa Integrative Care Centre). Some friends have done so and found it helpful. Others have fully embraced it to little or no effect. It can be expensive and time consuming - with little firm science on whether or not it's effective. At...

July 9, 2016

[A letter to a cousin.] Just sitting with my Saturday morning Java and reading the papers. A pleasure at the end of a week. I’ve been very conscious that it’s taken me a while to write to you about my thoughts on getting cancer and my choice concerning treatment. I know you’re still reeling from losing your mother to cancer. And that you’ve been exploring whether alternative treatments might have helped or would be an option i...

February 10, 2016

Before I was diagnosed, both Angie and I had a family physician in Ottawa who we’d seen occasionally over twenty years. I’d had one visit to the Wakefield Hospital emergency room when I’d had a ‘technical mishap’ assembling a squirrel-proof bird feeder system and needed a stitch or two. Angie had a trip to the CLSC in Masham for a stitch after a malfunction of ice-crampons. In other words, we were not high users of the medical...

February 8, 2016

One day, unaware of cancer; the next day, in the middle of a 'scare', enroute to a potential crisis. How to manage these early days?

The First News: Suspicious Mammogram or UltraSound

If you’re concerned going into your mammogram or ultrasound (as I was actually), take someone with you. If the radiologist sees a problem, he or she will likely talk to you on the spot. This is the moment, you will begin to go into shock no matter...

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