Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Where did the year go?

Suddenly it is the end of December...again...and we realize that with giant strides we started in January and within a blink of an eye, 2008 is gone!

A big "Thank You" to each and every one of you, for the huge impact you had on my life this year. Especially for all the support I have received...without you, I'm sure that 2008 would have been much more difficult.

May 2009 mark the beginning of a tidal wave of love, happiness and bright futures.

To those who need someone special, may you find that true love.

To those who need money, may your finances overflow.

To those who need caring, may you find a good heart.

To those who need friends, I am always here for you.

Thank you for being my friends!!

Wishing you all a very happy and HEALTHY 2009!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


A Politically Correct Christmas Story

12 Days of Christmas...the Canadian way, eh!

But seriously everyone, today being the 23rd, I figured a holiday post would be appropriate. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday. Celebrate and enjoy this special time with your family and friends.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We interrupt our regular scheduled programming to bring you a Menopause Moment...


Menopause Survival Kit ...

Put M&M's into a cute container and follow these directions ...

To temporarily calm your craving for chocolate eat the
BROWN one ...

At the first sign of hot flashes eat the RED one ...

Eat the ORANGE one to minimize depression ...

The GREEN one calms your frustrations, when you want to be left alone ...

If you feel a headache coming on eat the YELLOW one ...

The BLUE one reduces bloating ...

If all symptoms occur at the same time ...

eat the WHOLE DAMN BAG!!!


All kidding aside, at 6 weeks post-surgery, I'm definitely into full-blown surgical menopause. I was definitely in peri-menopause before my surgury having very irregular periods, and already experiencing night sweats and some hot flashes. Well, I'm not sad to see the periods go and as for the night sweats and hot flashes, well, they've intensified some, but nothing I can't handle. I am experiencing some insomnia and irritability, but nothing major (at least DH hasn't complained too much about my mood swings). I may have more symptoms yet to come, but so far, I feel pretty damn good!

If this is far, it's a breeze!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Surgery Update and Pathology Report

My follow-up with Dr. Vilos went very well. His resident saw me first; unfortunately, I can't remember her name, but she's wonderful...she was terrific after my surgery as well. She certainly remembered me...I was the one who had my uterus attached to my bladder and the complications associated with that (bruising of the bladder and bleeding) from my severe endometriosis. She asked how I was recovering, examined me and removed one lone stitch that hadn't came out on it's own. I then saw Dr. Vilos to discuss my recovery, pathology report and return to work date. Everything was fabulous. He noted some abnormal things found in my pathology but they are benign and he said it was nothing; don't worry about it; there was no cancer or pre-cancer....THANK GOODNESS!!! This was a HUGE worry for me as so many women have this preventative surgery only to find cancer with the pathology anyway. Here are the results:
  • cervix - no pathological abnormality
  • endometrium (uterine lining) - proliferative phase (first phase of menstrual cycle)
  • myometrium (middle layer of uterine wall) - adenomyosis (the dreaded endometriosis)
  • right fallopian tube - adenomatoid tumour (benign, relatively rare neoplasm occurring primarily in the genital tract)...leave it to me to have something rare!
  • left fallopian tube - no pathological abnormality
  • right ovary - follicle cyst (is formed when the follicle does not release its egg)
  • left ovary - cystic corpus luteum (these occur when the corpus luteum fills with fluid or blood to form a cyst)

It sounds like a lot, but Dr. Vilos assures me all of it means nothing just...NO CANCER!!! YIPPEE!!! Having all these abnormal results just reinforces that surveillance would have been a bumpy road and chosing surgery was my only option. I've already had scares with large ovarian cysts showing up on transvaginal ultrasounds in the past and that was not fun. I can't say enough about Dr. Vilos...I couldn't have asked for a better surgeon. His knowledge, skill, caring and compassion is incredible. When I was leaving and thanked him for everything...he gave me a hug. He is definitely a doctor who cares very much about his patients.

I'm happy this stage of my journey is it's on to the next stage and being completely on "the other side". That journey starts in January with another breast MRI and my first visit to the plastic surgeon, Dr. Claire Temple, with surgery hopefully in late winter / early spring...let's hope the surgery scheduling Gods and Goddesses shine on me for that one!

I want to wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy Holiday Season and New Year. Thank you to all my "readers", family, friends and internet buddies...I couldn't make this journey without you.


Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 18, 2008

London Bound

Looks like the weather Gods are smiling upon me. I panicked yesterday when I saw the snow squall warnings for today as I didn't want to miss my follow-up appointment with Dr. Vilos. The warnings have now been cancelled and the forecast is for sunny periods....YEAH! I'll update shortly about how my appointment went. I've been feeling really good so I'm hoping all is well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Study of Breast and Ovarian Cancer in High Risk Families

I received a big envelope in the mail yesterday from London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), London Regional Cancer Program. It contained a consent form and a research questionnaire as part of a research study to improve understanding of the prevention and treatment of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. LHSC has been invited to participate in a multi-site research study called Risk Factor Analysis of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Study. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Steven Narod of Women's College Research Institute, Toronto. This is a 10 year study and I will need to complete follow-up a questionnaire every two years after completing my baseline questionnaire.

When Karen Panabaker, my Genetic Counsellor, originally asked me to participate, I said I'd be more than happy to.

This is going to be interesting and if taking 30 minutes out of my day to complete a questionnaire can help someone else out in the future, I'm all for it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thought for the day.

The BRCA Crystal Ball ~ Blessing or Curse?

I was the first in our family to learn of the genetic mutation. Going by our family history, I inherited the mutation from my mother who inherited it from her father who inherited it from his mother. That was my great grandmother Lavina.

Knowing you are BRCA+ is often viewed as either a blessing or a curse. Yet, many days it certainly feels like both to me. I guess that is how life is...grey and not black and white, right? Nothing is ever perfect. Life is hard and full of tough decisions.

When all is said and done, the knowledge is a huge blessing in my eyes. Not knowing wouldn't keep me safe. Knowing gives me choices...choices my mother never had.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now on the lighter side of things...

What to do with all those leftover tampons and pads?!?!?!?!

How about some tampon Christmas crafts?

or a tampon blow gun?

for more fun ideas, go to Tampon Crafts

and to find out how to make these stylin' maxi pad slippers, go to

On the other side...well, partly anyway!

I thought I had better post an update. I had my hysterectomy and BSO on Friday, November 7th, 2008, at St. Joseph's Health Centre in London, Ontario. My surgeon was Dr. George Vilos. I can't say enough about this man...he's a fabulous doctor and man. The entire staff at St. Joseph's from the nurses, to doctors, to the office staff and porters were FABULOUS!!!! I couldn't recommend a better facility. I received the best care anyone could ask for.

I was originally scheduled for a Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy (LAVH) and a Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO). My surgery started out as planned, but part-way through, Dr. Vilos had to change to abdominal. I had very bad endometreosis (I never knew...explains why I never had kids) and my uterus had attached itself to my bladder. This made surgery much more difficult. Dr. Vilos ended up doing a subtotal hysterectomy (with preservation of the cervical stump) instead of a total. During surgery blood started to appear in my urine so Dr. Vilos called in a urologist to do a cystogram (bladdar scan) to ensure there was no tearing of the bladder from removing the uterus. There was no tearing, but definitely some bruising. I had blood in my urine until Sunday when I was released from the hospital. It was really bad on Saturday and Dr. Vilos thinks that was from irritation from the cathetar and because I was on heparin (blood thinner). He told the nurse to remove the cathetar and things started to clear up right way.

I did have a bit of a melt down on Saturday. I was in some major pain and was terrified by the amount of blood in my urine. I imagine some of my emotional state was caused by suddenly having no hormones either! At one point I told my sister I wished I hadn't done the surgery, but she said mom would have wanted me to do it; I knew she was right. During a crying spell and while my sister was consoling me, Dr. Vilos walked into the room. I tried to hide my tears, but he was incredibly caring and sympathetic and kept telling me not to worry, I was going to be fine.

After the cathetar was removed on Sunday, I had to prove I could pee on my own 3 times before they would consider releasing me. Dr. Vilos showed up at my room around 5:00. He asked if I was peeing on my own...I said lots...and he said "go home!" I asked when he wanted to see me again and he said in 6 weeks and not before :)

So now I start on my road to recovery. I still am in a fair amount of pain and imagine I will be for a while. DH has been fabulous waiting on me hand and foot. Since I'm not too sure about tackling our big old staircase, I've been sleeping on my own on a fold-out couch in our TV room in front of the TV and fireplace. It's quite nice and cozy. My cat and 2 dogs have become little nurses. I know they can sense when you're not well, and these 3 haven't left my side. My cat sleeps with me at night and won't leave me until I wake in the's so sweet.

That's about it for now, I'll update again when I have more news and feel up to it. Thank you to everyone for all your emails, messages and good wishes. and an extra special thank you to DH, Wayne. I couldn't have done this without you!!! xoxo

Friday, November 7, 2008

We all hope you're back on your feet soon!
Lots of love and hugs !

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Surgery tomorrow...

I'm off to London today. My Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy and Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy is scheduled for 8:00 tomorrow morning. I'm to be at the hospital at 6:00 am so that's why we're heading there today. There's a guest house adjacent to the hospital so will be staying there tonight and dh will be staying there while I'm in hospital. We're going to do a little shopping today and then go out for a nice dinner tonight.

I'm pretty nervous at this point but am so ready to get this over with. I've been told the stress relief will be unsurpassed and the emotional weight removal is enormous.

I'll update as soon as I can. Thank you to everyone for your good wishes and prayers. I couldn't do this alone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008


Since I still haven't received my referral for the plastic surgeons or a date for my follow-up MRI, I called the nurse practioner who works with the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeons, Margo, to ask again if she's heard anything. Short answer...NO.

She had wanted my MRI done before my hysterectomy this Friday, however she said "they must have thought differently". She said they won't want to do the MRI now until at least a month after my surgery. AAAAAHHHHHHHH That will push my mastectomy / reconstruction surgery date even further. I asked about surgery timeline and she said honestly it will probably be months because of resources (mainly operating room time). I was so upset when I got off the phone, I was almost in tears. I just want this over with!!!

One good thing, Margo said she's going to visit me Friday afternoon when I'm back in my room after my hysterectomy. I really like Margo and it will be wonderful to see her.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I received this story this morning from Sandy, a very dear friend of mine, and I just had to share. It's a very touching story; especially for those animal lovers out there like me.

Mary and her husband Jim had a dog named 'Lucky.' Lucky was a real character. Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably, someone would forget and something would come up missing. Mary or Jim would go to Lucky's toy box in the basement and there the treasure would be, amid all of Lucky's other favorite toys. Lucky always stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys stay in the box.

It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer. Something told her she was going to die of this fact, she was just sure it was fatal. She scheduled the double mastectomy, fear riding her shoulders. The night before she was to go to the ho spital she cuddled with Lucky. A thought struck her...what would happen to Lucky? Although the three-year-old dog liked Jim, he was Mary's dog through and through. If I die, Lucky will be abandoned, Mary thought. He won't understand that I didn't want to leave him. The thought made her sadder than thinking of her own death.

The double mastectomy was harder on Mary than her doctors had anticipated and Mary was hospitalized for over two weeks. Jim took Lucky for his evening walk faithfully, but the little dog just drooped, whining and miserable.

Finally the day came for Mary to leave the hospital. When she arrived home, Mary was so hausted she couldn't even make it up the steps to her bedroom. Jim made his wife comfortable on the couch and left her to nap. Lucky stood watching Mary but he didn't come to her when she called. It made Mary sad but sleep soon overcame her and she dozed. When Mary woke for a second she couldn't understand what was wrong. She couldn't move her head and her body felt heavy and hot. But panic soon gave way to laughter when Mary realized the problem. She was covered, literally blanketed, with every treasure Lucky owned! While she had slept, the sorrowing dog had made trip after trip to the basement bringing his beloved mistress all his favorite things in life. He had covered her with his love. Mary forgot about dying. Instead she and Lucky began living again, walking further and further together every day.

It's been 12 years now and Mary is still cancer-free. Lucky? He still steals treasures and stashes them in his toy box but Mary remains his greatest treasure. every day to the fullest. Each minute is a blessing from God. And never forget...the people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards - They are the ones that care for us.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Preparations...'s only a week away. We'll be heading to London on Thursday the 6th because they want me at the hospital at 6:00 am on the 7th. There's no way I'm getting up that early to drive to London, especially since I won't be allowed to even have a coffee!!!

Like I said in my previous post, I've been trying to get organized so have started packing my little overnight bag for my hospital stay. Besides the usual toiletries, etc., I'm packing some fun things to make my stay a little nicer. Here's what I've got so far:
  • Breast Cancer Teddy Bear I won at the Breast Cancer event at Critter Cravings in Kincardine a few weeks ago. Critter Cravings is an awesome store and where we purchase all our dog and cat food and treats...many many treats!

  • A bright pink photo album filled with pictures of my family and pets.

  • Since I was told to pack full coverage underwear (the nurse actually laughed and said "no thongs") because I'll need to wear pads after my surgery (EWWWWWWW!), so I bought some regular underwear at Walmart, but also got this sexy little number. They have an adorable black kitty print and say "Itty Bitty Kitty Committee".

  • I was also told to bring slippers for walking, so I'm bringing these! Should be good for a laugh.

  • They said I could bring my own pajamas for the 2nd day, so following with the theme, these babies are packed! They are black adorable flannel pjs with black cats sleeping on little white clouds...too cute!

  • I'm also hoping I'll get the laptop I want this weekend so I can take it with me too. Apparently you can take your laptop into the hospital; just not cell phones.
I've also told my hubby that I want a TV hooked up as soon as I'm in my room. My most favourite TV show, Ghost Whisperer, airs Friday nights and I don't care how groggy or drugged up I am...I am not missing it!!! LOL

Well, that's about it for now...I'll try post again before I go in to get spayed! Just my little bit of dog and cat lover humour at work there!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Countdown's On

T-10 days and counting.

My BSO / LAVH is scheduled for November 7th and boy is reality starting to set in. I've started have some big bouts of anxiety and am verging on the odd panic attack...not fun!!! A good cry, a scream or two, a hot bubble bath and a soothing cup of tea usually does the trick to calm the nerves though.

My pre-op went really well. I had a telephone interview instead of having to drive to London for another appointment. That was a nice change. It was 101 health questions and then she told me what to expect post-op. She said I should only be in the hospital 2 nights, but then it's 6 weeks of doing nothing! It sounds nice, but I imagine that will drive me crazy after a couple of weeks. I'm going to buy lots of novels to fill the time. I'm also planning on purchasing a laptop and wireless router this coming weekend so hopefully I'll be able to keep up on the message boards and update here from the comfort of my own bed.

I've been trying to get everything in order and organized so that I don't have too much to worry about or do post-op. I have 90% of my Christmas shopping done so hopefully will feel up to completing it about 3 or 4 weeks after the surgery. I hope so or the stockings could be a little bare this year.

Well, that's about it for now...time for aforementioned hot bath and cup of tea!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thanksgiving is the time to remember
all the wonderful things in life you have.

Warm wishes to everyone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Army of Women

If you are a woman or have a wife, mother, daughter ... this is a revolutionary project that needs your help. The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and the Avon Foundation have join forces to create the Army Of Women initiative. This project has two goals :

  1. "To recruit one million healthy women of every age and ethnicity, including breast cancer survivors and women at high-risk for the disease, to partner with breast cancer researchers and directly participate in the research that will eradicate breast cancer once and for all."

  2. "To challenge the scientific community to expand its current focus to include breast cancer prevention research conducted on healthy women."

Unfortunately, this project is currently only open to women residing in the U.S. because, at this time, it only involves American researchers. They are hoping to open the project up internationally in the near future. However, I know there are American gals / guys who read this blog and my Canadian readers all probably know at least one American woman that they can share this information with. This is an important, fresh approach to finding a cause and cure for breast cancer that will benefit all women. The link for the project is here. Pass it on!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Feel Your Boobies!

Now that I have your attention!!!



Did you know the most common in cancer in Canadian women is breast cancer? October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so think pink and support awareness by sporting a pink ribbon.

This year it’s estimated a whopping 21,400 women will develop breast cancer, and 5,300 women will lose their battle against it. That’s about 407 Canadian women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer every week.

Best defense? The pink ribbon campaign promotes prevention and early detection, more research, supporting women and families living with breast cancer, and educating women to “feel their boobies” to stem breast cancer.

So, what’re waiting for? Feel your boobies!

For more info about breast cancer and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, click

Check out the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation website to find out more ways to you can help @

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In the Family Airs Tonight!

PBS' award-winning independent non-fiction film series presents:
by Joanna Rudnick

National PBS Premiere on P.O.V.

Wednesday, October 1st at 10pm(EST)*

*times and dates of broadcast differ by location:

When Chicago Filmmaker Joanna Rudnick tested positive for the "breast cancer gene" at age 27, she knew the information could save her life. She now faces an impossible decision: remove her healthy breasts and ovaries or risk incredible odds of developing cancer. A co-production of Joanna Rudnick, Kartemquin Films and The Independent Television Service (ITVS).

My previous post about In the Family and the trailer can be found here...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pass the Torch

Passing of the Torch represents the hereditary link between breast and ovarian cancer marking the transition from Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Please take some time to honour cancer survivors and those at high risk, remember those whose lives have been lost to cancer, and recognize families that have been affected by cancer.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Little Princess Pumpkin

I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my sweet Princess Pumpkin this morning. Words cannot express what I am feeling right now; I'm not feeling anything really...I'm just numb.

Life just sucks sometimes and can be so damn unfair. Why do these horrible things happen???????????????????????

Rest well my sweet little one.

My Little Princess Pumpkin
1996 ~ 2008

A thousand times I've thought of you,
A thousand times I've cried.
If love alone could have saved you,
You never would have died.

In life I loved you dearly,
In death, I love you still.
In my heart you hold a place
No other one can fill.

It broke my heart to lose you,
But you did not go alone.
For part of me went with you
The day God took you home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oprah, Christina Applegate and BRCA...tune in Tuesday September 30, 2008

Christina Applegate talks to Oprah about being diagnosed with breast cancer and why she decided to remove both of her breasts. Tune in Tuesday, September 30th for a show every woman needs to see. Go to for more information.

View the trailer here...

I'm really looking forward to watching the show on Tuesday.

Thank you Christina and Oprah!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

She Colors My Day

Looks like one of my favourite brands, philosophy, is creating a new bath product, She Colors My Day.

Award-winning artist Amy Grant recently announced a special partnership with Cristina Carlino, founder of philosophy inc., and art of grace, a company for greater purpose and not profit. Grant just recorded “She Colors My Day,” a song written by Carlino, and her business partner Stuart Matheson.

Inspired by the artwork of her daughter, Carlino and Matheson authored and co-created a heartwarming song that celebrates the relationship between a mother and her daughter. The She Colors My Day single recorded by Grant will be available to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. philosophy will support art of grace by creating a She Colours My Day inspirational bath product and will donate 100% of its net proceeds from the sale of the product to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund.

The bath product will be available exclusively at She Colors My Day is a high-foaming green bubble bath to celebrate the bond between mothers and daughters and help give back to a very worthwhile cause. I absolutely love philosphy's Shower for the Cure and am really looking forward to the release of one as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reality is starting to set in...I have a date for my first surgery!!!

I received a letter from Dr. Vilos' office this morning; my Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy, Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy is scheduled for Friday, November 7, 2008 - 8:00 - 10:00 AM at St. Joseph's Health Centre in London. Preadmission is at 6:00 AM...great! We either have to leave home at 3:30 in the morning or go to London the night before.

I have a ton of paperwork to fill out and return to the Preadmission Department. Preadmission will be in touch with me to set up a pre-admit appointment.

After receiving this letter this morning...the nerves hit; I have a huge knot in my stomach; reality is setting in!

Monday, September 1, 2008




Fast Facts About Ovarian Cancer...

  • Ovarian cancer is the most deadly type of cancer that women can develop.
  • Ovarian cancer affects 1 in 70 Canadian women; is diagnosed in 2,300 - 2,600 Canadian women each year and claims 1,500 lives a year across the country.
  • Ovarian cancer is currently the 5th leading cause of death among women.
  • There is no early detection screening test currently.
  • All women should get yearly pelvic exams.
  • Ovarian cancer is difficult to treat because it's often resistant to current treatments.
  • Survival rates are better at the early stage.
  • Most common in older white women.
  • A small number of ovarian cancers are hereditary, linked to the same genes that are linked to breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • The best person to treat ovarian cancer is a gynecologic oncologist.
The Silent Killer

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the "silent killer' because ovarian cancer symptoms are few and often mimic that of many other illnesses. There may be no symptoms present in the early stages, and if there are they are very slight and vague.


Have you been diagnosed with?
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastritis
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Constipation
OR, do you have No clear diagnosis, despite persisting symptoms?

Common warning symptoms include:
  • Abdominal bloating or discomfort
  • Changes in bowel function
  • Unexplained weight gain and a distended abdomen from fluid build-up
  • Nausea
  • Infertility or changes in menstruation patterns

If these symptoms persist for three weeks or longer, see your health practitioner immediately. The list of symptoms may make for scary reading. It can be very worrying to think that you may have the signs and symptoms of a malignant disease. Remember, ovarian cancer is a relatively uncommon disease. Although it can occur at any age, ovarian cancer rates rise after menopause, peaking from age 60-75. The hereditary form, found in families where many close relatives have or had ovarian cancer, tends to occur at an earlier age. Failure to find the disease in its early stages is partly due to lack of sensitive detection tests and to the fact that health care providers and women themselves may ignore warning symptoms.

For more information, go to:

Canadian Cancer Society

National Ovarian Cancer Association

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered

Hereditary Breast + Ovarian Cancer Foundation

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's a go!!!

I had my appointment with Dr. George Vilos in London today. I was really anxious about this one as he was to decide whether or not I'm a candidate for laporoscopic surgery because of a large abdominal scar I have from liver surgery back in 1992.

After a very thorough adominal exam, followed by a vaginal exam, he says he can do it! YIPPEE!!!!! I am thrilled to say the least. I didn't want to have an abdominal hysterectomy as that may interfere with my planned DIEP breast reconstruction surgery and would be a much longer recovery time.

Before I left his office, he had me sign a consent form for a Laparoscopically Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy (LAVH) with Bilateral Salpingo-Oopherectomy (BSO). He said I would be scheduled for October or November. That's quick! He said if I have any questions or concerns, not to hesitate to call him. He said his secretary will be calling about dates, etc.

I really liked Dr. Vilos...he was very nice and put me at ease right away. He had a great sense of humour and made a few jokes that really relaxed me.

Dr. George Vilos

Now I wait patiently for that phone call from his secretary!

Cancer as a Fungus

This video is a fascinating interview from Doug Kaufmann's TV show, "Know the Cause", with Dr. Tullio Simoncini, an MD and oncologist. Dr. Simoncini is a Roman doctor specialising in oncology, diabetology and in metabolic disorders.

I won't get into this hotbed topic, or theories of pharmaceutical company conspiracies, etc., etc., but just let me say, "treating" cancer is one of the most lucrative businesses on earth. I do recall having a conversation with my sister when mom was undergoing a chemotherapy treatment at the chemo clinic in Wingham..."I wonder how much money is running through all these IVs?". If cancer was actually cured (and my bet is that it can be) then there is no profit for the big pharmaceuticals. Just my 2 cents.

This video is about long, but well worth watching! Many thanks to Wendy for bringing this to my attention!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What a Fabulous Night!

This year I participated as team captain of the team, "It's a Family Thing", in the Kincardine event on August 15, 2008. My fundraising goal was to raise $1000.00. Thanks to everyone's generosity, I surpassed my goal and raised $1265.00! 36 teams participated in Kincardine's event and an estimated $80,000.00 was raised, my team contributing $2500.00!!! THANKS TEAM! AND WAY TO GO KINCARDINE!!!!!!!!

Walking the Survivor's Lap with dad.

I'm the one in the "Pre-vivor" t-shirt sporting the teal and pink "fauxhawk". What a fabulous night!

The Morning After

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kincardine Relay for Life Blog

Mike Brough of The Coast FM - 95.5 Classic Hits, who is on the Entertainment Committee for the Kincardine Relay for Life has created a web site for Relay. You can check it out at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It is with great sadness I am writing this. Yesterday morning my dear Shadow Cat left us. Shadow was with me for almost 20 years. Although she was still a frisky, spry kitty (she even caught a mouse her last night with us), her poor old body was failing her very quickly and I didn’t want her to suffer any longer.

The house seems so quiet without her. You who knew her know how vocal she could be. I keep waiting for her to walk up to me and start meowing to be petted…we will miss her dearly.

1988 ~ 2008

I stood by your bed last night
I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying,
You found it hard to sleep.

I meowed to you softly
as you brushed away a tear,
"It's me, I haven't left you,
I'm well, I'm fine, I'm here."

I was close to you at breakfast,
I watched you pour coffee,
You were thinking of the many times,
your hands reached down to me.

I was with you at my grave today,
You tend it with such care.
I want to reassure you,
that I'm not lying there.

I walked with you towards the house,
as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on you,
I smiled and said "it's me."

You looked so very tired,
and sank into a chair.
I tried so hard to let you know,
that I was standing there.

It's possible for me,
to be so near you everyday.
To say to you with certainty,
"I never went away."

You sat there very quietly,
then smiled, I think you knew...
in the stillness of the evening,
I was very close to you.

The day is over...
smile and watch you yawning
and say "goodnight, God bless,
I'll see you in the morning."

And when the time is right for you
to cross the brief divide,
I'll rush across to greet you
and we'll stand, side by side.

I have so many things to show you,
there is so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out...
then come home to be with me.

~ Author unknown

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Thought Worth Pondering

"It isn't easy for any of us to transcend the past, or pain we might have suffered. Yet, there are gifts in those pains, and we can choose to let light into the dark places. We are not alone!"
~ SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy)

I have found many gifts in this process...
  1. Going to the doctor has become routine and I can now go without freaking out like I used to. I mean I would try to avoid a tetanus shot or blood work I needed. Now I can't even work up a good panic attack prior to tests anymore! With a life long medical / needle phobia this is a lot to say.

  2. I now feel I get the medical care I have always felt I needed. Doctors don't tell me I am overestimating my breast cancer risk and try to talk me out of even basic screenings. This happened many times in the past when I stated my concerns of the breast cancer history in our family. The BRCA2+ result is like the gold card for excellent medical care it seems.

  3. Now I am not a paranoid person who worries too much about cancer. I am a responsible person who takes care of my health!

  4. My FORCE friends who are amazing!

  5. My sister is BRCA negative so this means the family curse on this limb of the family tree ends with me. I don't have to worry about my sister's daughter and since I don't have any children it is like the family curse is lifting for us. My sister's daughter, my niece, won't have to bare this weight; for that I am truly thankful. IT STOPS HERE!!!

I truly believe how we see things determines so much of how happy we are in our lives. Occassional pity parties are fine but allowing for the possibility of good to come from pain is a fine trait too.

Click to see full-size picture.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Random thoughts, reflections, ramblings and feelings of insecurity...

I have known my BRCA2 status for a little more than four months now and I often have thoughts that I am different and abnormal because I have this genetic defect. I know that everybody has genetic abnormalities and that I am among the lucky few who happen to have defects that can be identified in these early days of personal genetics doesn't always keep these thoughts in check. I am lucky because I can do something to protect myself from these defects - but sometimes it is still hard to feel lucky or normal.

This journey often reopens the all-too-raw wounds of watching my mom pass away from ovarian cancer last year.

I also noticed along my journey that I build great anxiety before every medical appointment and often get very down a few days afterwards regardless of how the appointment goes. I feel sure this is because each time I see another doctor it reinforces the reality of my situation and makes it more difficult to deny. I often feel trapped between the fear of cancer, the fear that surveillance won't protect me, the fear of surgeries to reduce my risk and the fear of cancers associated with this gene that I cannot do anything about to reduce the risk of. I have been seeing many wonderful doctors and sometimes seeing the fear, sympathy or empathy in their faces somehow makes me feel bad - it reinforces that these really are tough decisions and there are no easy answers or solutions. I’ve been told by my doctors I have a 40% to 60% chance of developing ovarian cancer and a 99% chance of breast cancer. Like anyone who carries the defective gene, I might never get cancer, or I might only get it when I’m very old; but I’m not a gambler; especially with those odds.

I have received varying responses from family and friends about my decision to have a total prophylactic hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy and a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction…a father who doesn’t want me to have surgery, but understands and supports my decision; a grandmother who’s totally in denial about the whole thing; a sister and husband who fully support and encourage the surgeries; friends who totally support me; some who just don’t get it; others who think I’m mutilating myself; and every opinion in between. Some think I shouldn’t do anything until I get cancer and some that say cancer might be cured in a few years if I could just wait. I’ve received responses like "anyone can get cancer", "so, you have a bad gene, you'll be fine", or "you don't have cancer so what are you worried about?".

Lately, I often stare at myself in the mirror, imagining the loss of my familiar shape. I wonder, how will the man I love and married feel about breasts that will be surgically reconstructed, incapable of feeling his touch? What will happen to me emotionallly, sexually, etc. with surgical menopause post-hysterectomy?

The thought that I have this mutation is never far from my times I even second guess my doing the BRCA test. No going back now…

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why I Relay

This mp3 file is a message recorded by myself to be aired on The Coast FM Classic Hits 95.5, Kincardine's very own radio station. The Kincardine Relay for Life's Entertainment Chair, Mike Brough, asked all the team captains to record a message about why they participate in Relay for Life. So, press play and listen to Why I Relay...

I relay in memory of my mother who lost a brief but brave battle with ovarian cancer in 2007.
I relay in honour of my father who is an 18 year survivor.
I relay for myself as a carrier of the breast and ovarian cancer gene mutation.
I relay in memory of those who have lost their fight.
I relay in honour of all those still fighting.
I relay for everyone whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Relay For Life is more than just raising money for a good cause, it is a way to honour and remember family and friends. It is a way for a community to comfort one another in their times of grief and celebrate in their times of joy. And it is a way to take up the fight against cancer, to change our future, so that one in three people will not be diagnosed with cancer, so that one day, we will have no reason to relay.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Feel a Great Weight Has Been Lifted

I don't know where to start this post. If it seems all over the map, that's because I'm so happy, I don't know where to begin, so I'm just spewing everything out...hope it all makes sense!

I had my appointment this morning with Dr. Murial Brackstone. I spent just over an hour with a nurse practitioner, Margo L. Bettger-Hahn, RN, BScN, MScN, before I saw Dr. Brackstone. Margo is a Clinical Nurse Specialist, Breast Care and Plastic Surgery Programs. Margo is awesome! First she gave me a very thorough breast exam, then we talked and talked and talked. She answered all of my questions without me having to even ask. Right from the start, I told her I wasn't interested in surveillance, that I wanted a mastectomy. She just smiled and said good decision, that's what Dr. Brackstone would recommend anyway.

Margo L. Bettger-Hahn, RN, BScN, MScN
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Breast Care and Plastic Surgery Programs

When we were discussing reconstruction techniques, she asked me what type I was interested in. I told her I had been wanting FREE TRAM Flap because I didn't want the loss of abdominal muscle associated with a TRAM Flap. When I said this she asked me if I'd ever heard of a DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforation) Flap...I nearly fell off my chair. That's the reconstruction I really wanted, but thought it wasn't being done much in Canada yet. She said that the plastic surgery team of Dr. Claire Temple and Dr. Douglas Ross (no, NOT George Clooney, although he's pretty damn good looking!) have been doing DIEP for just over a year now. You have no idea how happy this made me! I was hoping to get Dr. Temple; and getting Dr. Temple to do a DIEP is just so amazing to me! :)

The DIEP flap uses skin and fat from the lower abdomen. No muscle is taken with this procedure. An incision (surgical cut) is made in the lower abdomen and you receive a “tummy tuck” in addition to the breast reconstruction.

These pictures aren't accurate, as I will be having circumareolar (skin sparing) mastectomy.

After talking with Margo for over an hour, I then met Dr. Brackstone. She's fabulous too! She also gave me a breast exam. Then we discussed my BRCA2 status, surgery and my previous MRI results from April. The small "indeterminant" spot on my MRI was nothing; she said not to worry about it as it is a normal occurrance in an aging woman's breast (AAGH! aging!!!). We then discussed my BRCA2 status. She told me with my BRCA2 status (a major deletion mutation), my likelihood of developing breast cancer at some point is more like 99% (not the previous 80 - 90% I'd been told), so it may as well be 100%. She said mastectomy is really the only decision to make or else the stress and constant worry, will drive me nuts. I agree, it already is! I don't like the idea of having MRIs every 6 months for the rest of my life and constantly waiting for results. After my surgery and reconstruction, I will have a less than 2% chance of developing breast cancer (that's less than the general population) and will no longer need to have mammograms, ultrasounds or MRIs. There's no point because I will have no breast tissue left. She told me I will need to have the hysterectomy done first, because of the abdominal surgery involved with the DIEP. The only downside to the DEIP is that it will likely be a 10 to 12 hour surgery. DH isn't too thrilled with this idea (nor am I), but it is a complicated surgery because it's microsurgery and it'll be worth it in the end.

Dr. Muriel Brackstone, MD, FRCPC

Margo was going to send in my referral to the plastic surgeons today. Margo is also the nurse practitioner working with them with breast cancer and reconstruction patients. She told me when I have my referral with Drs. Temple and Ross, she will more than likely be there. She said if she's not, to have them page her and she'll be right there. How wonderful! I have a feeling Margo is going to be a big part of this for me and will be a great support.

Dr. Claire Temple, MD FRCSC

Dr. Douglas Ross, MD MEd FRCSC

Now it's not 100% a given that I can have this type of reconstruction, but she figured I was a good candidate for it. Once I receive my referrals to the plastic surgeons, they will discuss it with me, and will schedule me for a CT Scan to map out the arteries in my abdomen.

When I have the surgery, Dr. Brackstone will first remove the breast tissue. This is done by circumareolar (skin sparing) circular incision around the areola and nipple, leaving all the breast skin intact. She then removes all the breast tissue. She said her part's the easy part! Pathology will be done on all my breast tissue to make sure there is no cancer cells. Once she's done her part, then Drs. Temple and Ross will work their magic. I have included a description below of what DIEP is. After the DIEP surgery, there will 2 smaller surgeries later on. One to reconstruct nipples and one to tattoo the areola area. I did ask Margo about nipple sparing and she emphatically said "no way" since you would be leaving breast tissue behind. She said "don't worry, we'll make you some nice new ones!" :)

I feel so much better after today's appointment. Things are starting to move forward and I feel a huge weight has been lifted.

What is a DIEP flap?
DIEP stands for Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator. This is the named vessel for which the tissue to be transferred is based. “Flap” is a plastic surgery term referring to the tissue which is to be transferred. The deep inferior epigastric vessels arise from the external iliac vessels (the external iliac vessels become the femoral vessels in the leg). The deep inferior epigastric vessels course beneath the rectus abdominus (the major abdominal “six pack” muscle) on each side. These vessels send off branches to the muscle as well as through the muscle into the overlying fat. These perforating branches are those which are identified, preserved and transferred with the overlying tummy fat to reconstruct the breast.

Definition DIEP Flap:

Perforator flaps represent the state of the art in breast reconstruction. Replacing the skin and soft tissue removed at mastectomy with soft, warm, living tissue is accomplished by borrowing skin and fatty tissue from the abdomen.

A slim incision along the bikini line is made much like that used for a tummy tuck. The necessary skin, soft tissue, and tiny feeding blood vessels are removed. These tiny blood vessels are matched to supplying vessels at the mastectomy site and reattached under a microscope.

Unlike conventional TRAM flap reconstructions, use of refined perforator flap techniques allow for collection of this tissue without sacrifice of underlying abdominal muscles. This tissue is then surgically transformed into a new breast mound. The abdomen is the most common donor site, since excess fat and skin are usually found in this area. In addition to reconstructing the breast the contour of the abdomen is often improved much like a tummy tuck.

Restoration of the nipple and areola follow. Scars fade substantially with time. For many women the reconstructed breast may be firmer and have a more youthful appearance than their natural breasts."