Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Soundtrack of My Life

So my idea for this blog was inspired by the many emails, calls and texts that I have received since I joined the Big C. I have had so many old friends reach out and write to me about the good old days and share their memories of me and our times together. I have so enjoyed reminiscing and it has also conjured up many of my own memories. I actually find that my memory is directly linked to music. I often can’t recall certain dates and times related to events in my life however if I hear a song I know exactly what year it was popular and what I was doing when I heard it. It must have something to do with my obsession with music in general. I lived and breathed “the mix tape” of the 90s and put so much time and care into each compilation. I remember one summer of lifeguarding where I would wrack my brain and CD collection (this was pre download) to come up with the best mixes that would make everyone ohh and ahh as each song hit the tape deck. So what are some of the memories that stick out?

Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh – Oh his smooth as leather voice was the soundtrack to our family road trip through France when I was 9. I distinctly remember a portion of the ride when my sister decided to stare at me for a whole hour or so without breaking character. I now applaud her commitment however I was truly terrified she was possessed and tried to construct a wall from a towel!

I can see clearly now – Jimmy Cliff. A good and very old friend of mine and I used to call each other and sing this song loudly and badly (on my part) over our speakerphones!

Strawberry Wine – Deanna Carter. Now this song suddenly popped into my head a few weeks ago and reminds me of my old friend and I driving in her ford explorer (AKA Bijoux) and belting out this sweet country tune.

The Diarhhea Medley – You know who you are! We were literally in a hotel closet singing the blues over missing a spot on the 8 Nations Swim Team and belting out this classic yet crude medley! Was made even funnier by being caught out of our rooms after hours by our coach and being threatened with suspension!

Tainted Love – Imagine the scene: A group of four girls and one guy hiking through a very hot and very dry forest on an island off Australia in the habitat of many a poisonous snake. I had heard that snakes sensed vibration and were scared away by it, so I began singing this 80s classic and without anyone saying one word, we were all singing in nervous unison trying to dissuade any potential snake attacks! Everyone was accounted in the end!

Superstar – Love Inc: Now I actually managed to choreograph my own dance to this song and have performed many a times in my university pub (the Pit), dorm rooms and even took it out of retirement for one night in a London living room!

Any song by Blue Rodeo: A classic Canadian band that my Euro friends would have no clue about. Two very good friends and I lived and breathed this band! Every song had a meaning to us and we knew every word by heart.

I’m Yours – Jason Mraz. Heard this song the moment I realized I was truly in love with my husband! Enough said!

Well those are just a few of the songs that literally formed the soundtrack of my life! So many wonderful memories that make me laugh, cry and remember how great my life has been so far. I intend to make many more “mix tapes” for years to come and spin that dj deck of life into many more memories to keep.

What is the soundtrack to your life?


Monday, May 30, 2011


Well it is day 12 and I still have a full head of hair and I have not been struck down by some terrible infection. So things are generally okay in the world of C. I had a busy weekend and managed to take my daughter to the park solo which was a real treat. She is running around and everything she sees is new and exciting. Oh to see the world as toddlers do!

As my strength and spirit have been getting better each day, most of my recent thoughts have been focused around luck and life. It all began when I heard some tragic stories of two young women who were both given terminal prognoses and sadly lost their battles. It really got me thinking about luck , life and how every decision we make leads us to where we are now and where we will be tomorrow.
I have told many people since I joined the C world that I was always going to get cancer (it was in my genes) but boy was I lucky to have it caught literally by chance now. I sometimes play devil’s advocate and think what I would have done if I had been told I had 6 months to live. How does one process that information and how would I have spent that time? Morbid thoughts I know but when one dances with mortality you are forever changed by the experience. People are surprised that I feel the way I do but the way I see it – what other way is there? It also ties in with this amazing quote I saw on Oprah a few weeks ago (this woman has the answer to everything!). It pertained to forgiveness and how we perceive it. A lot of people sometimes struggle with forgiveness (be it over a person or situation) because we often think that by forgiving we are saying that what happened was okay or acceptable. And for this reason we have a hard time getting to the point of release. But our dear old friend Oprah had a wonderful definition, she said that “Forgiveness was giving up the hope that the past could have been different.” Incredibly poignant words that make so much sense to me. I have used this definition in my own battle at coming to terms with my situation. I realized that there was no point asking the what ifs – like how would things have been different if they had caught this back in October when my first issue arose, or did I drink too much alcohol in my 20s, or if that little mutations hadn’t happened, or if I ate my body weight in blueberries! All of these questions are pointless because my reality is this and nothing I can do can change what has happened. The only power I have is for the present and for my tomorrow. It is actually quite liberating letting the past go as it allows you to see the here and now so clearly. It is so easy to blame and look for reasons why one should dwell on the different factors that got you to a certain situation but it can be so draining. I personally want to use every ounce of energy I have on getting healthy, being with my family and finding the good in everything. Of course it would have been great if I hadn’t been tapped on the head by the C-Fairy but she chose me and she must have had a good reason! I clearly was up to the challenge!

Love and light,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Okay so today things started out fairly well. My daughter slept in a bit later, which meant I got more sleep, I got out of bed actually fancying some real food and the sun was shining. All in all a good start to one’s day. Once I was on my own, I did my yoga, made my antioxiodant rich smoothie and sat down to watch an episode of Downton Abbey. Love the British period dramas! It was at that moment that I noticed two long strands of hair on my white robe. They stood out against the white terry cloth like two corpses just discovered by the police. After careful examination, I had full confirtmation that these two strands had indeed come from my own head. Oh God! It is starting!

Like any other woman, I totally freaked out and tried to call my husband for some reinforcement. I then proceeded to take a shower and use the gentlest possible lathering technique and was actually afraid to comb my hair. I then spent the rest of the day doing constant 360 perimeter search of my shirt looking for other strays. It’s like one of them send out the signal – okay girls it’s time to go. Why didn’t I get that memo? Now I don’t actually know if it is truly my time or I am just being OCD. However what became dangerously apparent to me is that even if it didn’t start today it would indeed be started tomorrow, or the next and so on. I was on hair death row waiting for my number to be called and have my last shampoo! This was very real and by next week I would most likely be resembling a ball on a pool table! Even after going through hell last week during those first few days of chemo, I think this is one of the hardest parts of the process. I am not ready and never will be ready but it is happening whether I like it or not. I even hate my wig now not because it isn’t nice (because it is) but I hate it purely because it isn’t my hair. The real me. And I even practiced walking around the house with the headwraps on, and sure they don’t look too bad, but they make me look like cancer. And really who wants to look like a dreaded horrid disease?

Maybe it isn’t the actual loss of my hair that I am fearing so much but the fact that when it is gone, I will be left exposed and vulnerable. I will lose my anonymity or chance to blend in. Now I know plenty people won’t even think twice when I walk by or notice anything different, but I will know and that is what I hate. I am dreading those looks of pity from people who realize I am ill or even worse that I am ill and have a young family. There will surely be days I want to just go home, hide under the sofa and never come out again.
But as this is OBB the superhero writing and we all know I always find a silver lining to every dark cloud nor can I live under a sofa for 6 months so here it is. I think the experience of losing my hair will of course make me vulnerable and self conscious but it will also show me that I am not defined by what I see in the mirror. I am so much more and it will be up to me to decide who I am. One thing I know is that I am not cancer. I am so so much more. I am a dedicated mother, loving wife, supportive friend, aspiring writer, devoted daughter, and caring sibling. I love McDonalds cheeseburgers, early morning coffees, swimming in the rain, walking in the evening, Eskimo kisses, surfing celebrity gossip, and eating cake for breakfast! Who and what defines you?

A scared but hopeful, OBB

Monday, May 23, 2011

What got me out of bed today

What got me out of bed today:

Well this will be a brief entry because I am beyond tired and can’t seem to shake these 3 sherpas clinging to my back as I try to get around! I am trying to conserve energy to make it to my first solo outing – the physio! Truly riveting I know.
I am now on day 5 and I was really hoping I would be feeling better by this point. I am not sleeping well at night and barely conscious during the day. I feel like I am walking around with cotton stuffed where my brain should be and my extremities have gone all tin-man on me. And for someone who never really ever napped in her life, I had my first nap of the day by 8am so as you can see I am zapped.

Being on my own for the first time today, as my husband is back at work and my daughter in daycare, I must fend for myself. The thought that got me out of bed today was about other people going through this like me. But unlike me, people who didn’t have a supportive and loving partner, or a cheery and innocent giggling toddler in their house to lighten the mood, or a generous extended family who show up at the drop of a hat or a network of amazing friends. How do they do it? Because I am definitely not the first mother to get cancer, nor am I the first young person either. Plenty have gone before and many have done it without the amazing OBB team I have. So that is what made me push myself into the shower and out for a little walk to clear my head. Like I said before…perspective is everything.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Surviving Hurricane C

Well people this are the first actual keystrokes I have made since things really started heating up at the C-spa. I am up early as I had all these interesting ideas running through my head and felt compelled to write them down here before my C-brain forgot.

So I have been bravely riding out the Hurricane C that has been pounding me with its giant waves and strong winds for the past two days. Deep down I kinda knew I wouldn’t get a free pass from the side effects as I have always been what one would classify as a delicate flower. And I know I have heard the studies that tell you the more positive you think the less side effects you will have but I think this is one area I was being more realistic then pessimistic. For those who know me well, you have either witnessed my pregnancy that put me in a state of extreme nausea for 4 months (I think I threw up in every main London tube stations) or been with me after a big night out and seen one of “my migraine state” which also involves extreme nausea and other fun symptoms. So in some ways I am no stranger to being ill and clearly don’t have a fear of vomiting (and not in that eating disorder way!). However I was not entirely prepared for this experience and it is especially hard to deal with when you know it will be rearing its ugly head again in three weeks time. Ughh!!!

The actual process of getting the chemo is not the hard part except maybe the waiting room where I completely lost it and started bawling like a 2 year old. I think the C-spa is the one place where people don’t bat an eyelid when they see you lose it completely because I am sure almost everyone here has had “that moment” when you just plain get upset about the crappiness of the situation. Well I think I did get the attention of the nurses as a half hour later I was riding the big white Valium unicorn through the clouds and was blissfully unaware of them attempting to find a vein to pump the pac-man guys in to eat all the bad C gang thugs (thank you to my Brystkraft women for that empowering image). It was all over in less than an hour and I was ready to go home.

I think it was a few hours later when I noticed a change in the weather and it did not let up until pretty much this morning. I literally spent 16 straight hours in bed and subsisted on little drops of water. It was tough going people and I also desperately missed my gorgeous little daughter who was with her grandparents. If there is one thing I want to avoid it is letting my daughter see her mother so ill so we have an arrangement for her to be away one or two nights every treatment cycle. It is far from ideal and I have been looking longingly at her toys and empty bed and have those familiar heart aches. But toughness is required when fighting the Big C and every choice I make it is for this best so this Amazon keeps her head up!
Now for all those of you who have wondered about my hair – it is still the same. The woman who sold me my wig (and who had been through this herself) told me it was easier o just do it in one go. Funnily enough now that I am literally on the clock (10 days till Sinead pops up), I woke up this morning with this innate desire to bob it out today so I may see if someone in the neighborhood can fit me it. Pics will follow peeps!

Well let’s see what I have learnt in the last two days:
I am tougher then I thought.
I can do this.
I have an amazing circle of love surrounding me across oceans and mountains.
Being afraid is okay and doesn’t make you any less brave.
Hair grows back.
Apple juice and seltzer water are the best.
I have some very special guardian angels watching over me – I love you Dad.
And Cancer is not the end of one’s world. It is a new beginning.

Much love from OBB

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The night before C-Spa

Like before any big trip, one has lots of things to prepare and the C-spa is no exception. Instead of lazing away my final day of freedom, I was running around like a madwoman trying to get everything done and here I am exhausted before I have even begun my toxic trek.

I wanted to first tell everyone how much I appreciate all the support and kind messages I have received from friends and family from all over the world. I am amazed by the love people have to give and am in awe of how well all of you have dealt with this news as I am sure it scares everyone and awakens fears of mortality. I can’t tell you how much it brightens my day when I receive a beautiful card or a package with my favorite chocolates or magazines. I have quite an army behind me and the Big C doesn’t stand a chance. And it is so wonderful that so many old friends that I lost touch with have reached out and told me how much they are behind me. It makes it hard for me to have a low moment with so many cheerleaders picking me up! So thank you again to you all and please know that every word makes a difference.

So it is the night before Chemo and all through the house… Sorry couldn’t resist. Well after a wild goose chase through Oslo pharmacies to hunt down my final chemo cocktail drug, a trip to the dentist for a last minute clean (trips to the dentist are generally a no-no during chemo) where I broke down in tears when the doctor asked me the innocent yet loaded words, “How are you dealing with this all?” and an attempt to celebrate my husband’s birthday today (it is sadly tomorrow – poor guy) have made up my frantic day. Now as daylight fades from the sky, I sit here wondering how it will all be so very different tomorrow. Suddenly my reservation date is here yet my mind and body feel so unready for this enormous challenge ahead. I already have sympathy nausea today for Pete’s sake so how the hell will I fare tomorrow! I mean seriously where is the valium when you need it?

So I hope I get some rest and don’t spend too much time wondering how it will be, will it hurt, how will I react, will I cry, when will the hair go…? Weaker people (physically speaking!) have been through this and come out the other side and so will I. So I will open my veins and mind to the experience and remember that I am doing all of this to safeguard my spot in this world for a very, very, very long time ahead. Bring on the poison!

Sleep well all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Day the Info Tsunami Hit OBB Island

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Well today started out very promising indeed. I was walking with a spring in my step listening to a cool Coldplay tune after dropping my daughter off at daycare (she didn’t cry when I left for the first time ever) and was en route to my first of three C-related appointments. The first being the psychologist in C-Town which I was actually looking forward to. I had lots of things to get off my chest (many of which have been written about here) and it was comforting to know I could tell her anything and she wouldn’t be shocked or scared by my revelations.

I first met my Crink (my name for a cancer therapist) the day I was told my initial prognosis following all the tests so she has seen me on a bad day and she has indeed seen me cry. Today I bounded in looking healthy and energetic and started talking a mile a minute about how good I was feeling and dealing with things. I used all those positive words and rationalized the fears and negative thoughts I had. I think she was wondering at that point what I was doing here. Maybe I went there so show to myself that I was okay and I wanted to have this professional tell me the same thing. I have always been the type of person who needed positive reinforcement and liked having “cheerleader” types around me to celebrate the victories and pick me up through the losses. So my crink was my cheerleader in a way. Or maybe I was secretly showing off and demonstrating what a tough cancer b*&%h I am and that nobody, even cancer, puts baby in the corner!

Well what a flip as here I am hours later on the verge of tears and feeling like the weight of the next 12 months will literally crush me! How did I get here? I was so prepared and knew what was coming so why am I so deflated? I think knowing something is very different from actually being told the same information and being given an actual timeline. It makes it all too real again. I think I was half hoping maybe they realized I didn’t need a trip to C-spa and there had been a mistake. However the tour operator (AKA my oncologist) informed me today that my reservation on this magical nausea filled holiday begins next week. Next week! That is 7 days away. How am I supposed to be ready for this? How do I get everything done like cut my hair, buy my wig, go to the dentist, get silly drunk, and the list goes on…The truth is no one is ever going to be ready for their C-spa reservation and I am no exception. I remember when my partner and I fell pregnant and we were both of course scared and anxious. However I remember realizing that there would never actually be a perfectly convenient time for a baby nor would I ever totally be ready for one but you just need to go for it. I guess it is the same here. It is something I have to do in order to ensure I live a long and healthy life. I just wish I got a baby instead of baldness, nausea and fatigue at the end of it!

So I am still finding my breath after the wall of news hit me this morning and waiting for the lifeboat to fish me out of the sea of my own fears. And rest assured that boat will come probably in the shape of a big glass of Sancerre later this evening! However with every beginning comes an end and when this ends, I will be able to look back a year from now and be so proud of the way I got through it. And really what’s a year in an entire lifetime?



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hair and Wigs 101

Hair and Wigs 101

Hair brings one's self-image into focus; it is vanity's proving ground. Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices. ~Shana Alexander

Well another day, another task to tick off my list of pre-chemo things to do. A rather large to do item is to deal with my impending hair loss situation. Now if you would have asked me a year ago whether I would ever wear a wig other then on Halloween, my answer would have been a swift no. I have always liked my hair and once even figured out on average how many hours a year I typically spent styling it (I know I clearly need a hobby). I think it worked out to something like 23 consecutive hours a year! Case in point - I am clearly into my hair. I have been pretty much every colour throughout my 31 years of life...blond, black, brown, red...even blue. My hair acted as an armour that protected me on days when I felt full of spots or served as an instant perk up after a spectacular blow out at the salon. Like the quote above, hair is a key and essential accessory to a women’s femininity and I think it actually holds magical power. I mean think of Rapunzel who basically found love because she had a great head of hair. Hair can draw a man in and keep him there. So would I be like Rapunzel and lose all my power when my precious locks were gone?

To shave or not shave is the next question and we ain’t talking about body hair here ladies! Now I really need to weight this out heavily because there are several opinions on this one. Some people say shaving your hair before it falls out can be empowering and puts you firmly in the driver’s seat. No shockers like waking up to clumps of hair on your pillow or being on the receiving end of an unforgiving gust of wind! Yet there are others who think maybe just maybe I will be the exception to the rule and perhaps my hair won’t fall out. And then there are the others who are just too afraid to take matters into their own hands and are happy to let nature take its course. So where do I stand on this? I think I am somewhere in between. I remember so often walking out of salons with a frown and holding in tears because they had cut it too short. How would I react now to the ultimate short cut? And there is something highly exposing about getting your head shaved in a public place. I don’t think I could do it. Instead I have decided to cut a lot of my hair off but still keep it bob-like for now. It is a toddler step to the next stage and I think I feel the most comfortable with the Dorothy Hamill look first before I venture into Sinead territory.

So with hair loss comes wig shopping. I actually walked by a wig shop a few days ago and decided to go in. I was sitting there between one woman who was clearly 90 or so years old with pencilled on eyebrows and an older man who had clearly gotten the bad end of the baldness gene. It is sufficed to say I felt very out of place. Well after trying on a few styles as inspired by Raquel Welch (she is apparently “a big wig” in the fake hair world), I have to say that it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Thankfully wigs have come a long way from what I remember of them and I just might be okay with this. And if anything it is the chance to try out any hairstyle or colour I want. I might be able to even have a little fun with this and will definitely have to get a Britney style pink bob for special occasions! Everyone loves a little Cotton Candy!

So I will make the dreaded call to my stylist and book myself in for the next step next week. And learn to channel my other superpowers while my hair takes a much needed break! I look forward to my new virgin hair when it finally grows back and how fabulous I will look!

And Cut!

Monday, May 2, 2011

In the words of Bob: Because everything is gonna be alright

Well it was a big week for me. I had my post op appointment this week that I had been worrying over for weeks. I was having all these scary thoughts and rarely letting anyone know about them because I felt like once I vocalized them it made them somehow even more real. However I am pleased to report that the fear factor has diminished as I finally feel for the first time since this nightmare began that I am really going to be okay. And exhale…

Now I have been overwhelmingly positive since I got the big news and have really really tried to stay the same person I was pre C. I think I have succeeded on the most part as many friends tell me how they often forget I have the Big C when they spend time with me. Go me! However the cracks always end up showing if only to me. The little voice inside my head that I so desperately try and push under the carpet brings me back to my fears of things going wrong or getting worse, new pathology reports with bad news, having to face my own mortality when I haven’t done half the things I want to or my daughter growing up never knowing her mother. I am sure that those of you who know me well probably find it a bit scary to read my deepest thoughts. They make things all too real and force us to think the unthinkable. But if cancer does anything, it definitely addresses the elephant in the room. However large my elephant is I do now feel very confident now that this is a hurdle I am going to have to climb and you bet I am going to get over it and have one big mother of a cocktail on the other side!

So after my appointment that left me feeling like things were turning up, many people were shocked to hear that a trip to the C Spa was part of the “good news.” Even though they managed to remove all the C bugs from my body given my age and the aggressive nature of my initial diagnosis, the full package deal is a must! But like all the other tough things I have tackled so far in my life, I will use the same tools to get through this challenge. It is weird that I actually find the idea of losing my hair far more exposing then losing a breast. I guess it is the point when this illness finally puts its public stamp on you. I will have to hold my bald head high and forge ahead into the unknown. But it is so nice and comforting to know how many good people will be standing with torches along the way to make the journey that much brighter and easier.

Now I look forward to four restful weeks of mental and physical prep for the C Spa and also plan on organizing my PCP – AKA Pre Chemo Party. I am going out in style and breaking out the vintage Dom for this fest! You better believe the hangover will be worth it! And wasn’t PCP that nasty old chemical they used to put in Styrofoam? Quite fitting really if we are thinking along the theme of toxic nasties we ingest because isn’t chemo one of the nastiest?

So that is the news with me peeps. Over and out.