Life, etc.

Hello loyal readers! (Or, people who Google searched “cupcake recipe” and accidentally ended up here.)

I haven’t been updating the blog too frequently, but this is not because I have nothing going on, but rather the opposite. I often sit down to write and then quickly get side-tracked doing something else and lose my focus. I could blame it on lingering chemo brain, which I do believe I occasionally suffer from, but it mostly comes down to just being busy. Which is a good thing. Here are the things that have been occupying my time and my mindspace (which apparently isn’t a real word, but it should be).

TELEVISION! I realize watching TV might not be seen as the most fruitful of activities, but there is so much good stuff on right now that I am giddy about. I can talk about TV for hours, so if anyone ever wants to do that with me, feel free. My newest obsession is How To Get Away With Murder which is the most entertaining thing I’ve seen on television in awhile. I also recently watched both seasons of Rectify, which is on Netflix, and deserves way more attention than it’s been getting for its unbelievable performances and gorgeous cinematography. And of course there are all my old standbys: Mindy Project, Parenthood, Scandal, etc. And there is still so much I want to check out (The Affair, The Leftovers, Transparent) but haven’t had time to yet. I LOVE TV SO MUCH AND I CAN’T STOP.

ELLE! If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve started writing my monthly column for Elle Canada magazine called #LIFEREBOOT about discovering life after cancer. So I’ve been busy exploring and writing and doing many fun things, like going on mindfulness retreats and leaning off very tall towers. Every month that I see the new issue in my mailbox, I still get giddy when I turn to my page and see my name and photos and words. It’s been a fun challenge, and I am learning a lot. For February’s issue, I’ll be writing about something that’s been keeping me busy for the past couple months and that I’ve enjoyed immensely but I don’t want to spoil it, so you’ll have to wait and buy the magazine.

ANXIETY! This is nothing new but is simply now a common theme in my life that likely will never completely go away, and that I must learn to live with. I don’t mention this stuff for pity, or for advice, but merely to help non-cancer people understand that us cancer-people live a very complicated existence, often filled with various bouts of fear and anxiety. Sometimes I think I’m in the clear and over “that phase” and then all of a sudden, something new pops up — a new pain, a new ache, a new symptom — and I question my health and my future. I worry about not being alive in 5 years, I worry about my body betraying me in an awful and grotesque way, I think about what my funeral might be like, and who might show up. Again, this is NOT a cry for help. For 90% of my days, I’m living and loving my life and having a ball. But the other 10% is still kind of crappy and that’s just the hand I’ve been dealt, as have many others. And we’ll get through it, because that’s all we can do.

MEXICO! A perfect cure for all life’s problems… vacation! We just got back from celebrating our third wedding anniversary in Mexico on the most beautiful beach, where we ate fabulous food, swam in the ocean and read books by the pool. It was divine. I’ve said this before, but since having cancer I am incredibly grateful for any chance I get to just relax and be spoiled. Life is short, and I want to spend as much of it as I can sitting by the ocean and feeling the sun on my face. There is nothing better, in my opinion. Here are some photos if you like that kind of thing.

NEW JOB! Some of you may have heard of an awesome charity called Rethink Breast Cancer and if you haven’t, well now you’re gonna. They support a cause very near and dear to my heart: helping young women with breast cancer and those affected by breast cancer. They provide cutting edge resources, such as their new digital content, including a video by yours truly.


For this video, I came up with my own idea/script/tips. Nothing was spoon-fed to me. This is because the people at Rethink are cool and smart and believe in allowing young women with breast cancer to share their unique voices. My involvement with Rethink will now be turning into my day job, as I begin a new contract position with them entailing the coordination of various online initiatives. My advocacy and concern for issues affecting young adults with cancer has become a huge part of my life, and I’m excited to work somewhere that will foster that passion.

So, there you have it. Lots going on. Lots of changes. Lots of new beginnings. Lots of good stuff. Lots of hoping and crossing fingers for more good stuff. Let the good times roll.

My fear of mice… and blogs

A mouse just ran across my kitchen floor while I was putting groceries away. I screamed “OHMYGAWWWWD NOOOOO!!!!” and ran down the hall shrieking and hyperventilating. There is almost nothing that gives me the heebie-jeebies more than mice. In fact, I’ve even had recurring dreams where I am being attacked by vicious mice. True story.

As I hid in my living room, with the door closed, I tried my usual mantra of calming myself down: You’ve had cancer. This isn’t so bad. It’s not cancer. It’s just a mouse. Nothing can scare you anymore.

As the kids these days say – EPIC FAIL.

As much as I try to employ this type of logic all the time now, it rarely ever works. As I have said before, I am still fundamentally the same person. Sure, I had cancer. But does this now mean I am not completely, irrationally petrified of a tiny little mouse? Have I been cured of all my pre-cancer phobias? Hellz no.

I just got a notification from WordPress congratulating me on blogging for one year. Happy anniversary, blog! What a pal you’ve been.

After I was diagnosed, I had thought of starting a blog where I could document what I was going through. But I put it off for a couple months. Not because I was afraid of exposing myself or revealing I had cancer. Not because I had nothing to write about. But because I was worried writing a blog would kill me.

I had been searching online for blogs written by young people with cancer, to find something I could relate to. But the more I searched and the more I read, the more it started to feel like everyone who wrote a blog about having cancer ended up dying. I can’t tell you how many blogs I found, particularly of young women with breast cancer, whose most recent entry was either about their cancer metasticizing, or an entry written by a loved one informing the readers that the writer of the blog had passed away. It seemed like for every one blog I could find where the person was alive and well, there were ten more where the opposite was true.

So I convinced myself that if I were to start a blog, I would be writing my own death sentence. That my blog would join the many other young adult cancer blogs, with a sudden, abrupt ending, letting down all those who stumbled upon it, looking for inspiration and hope, as I had with so many others. I felt like writing a blog, and having people read it, would somehow curse me, and set my fate in stone.

I’m not sure what changed, but eventually I realized this was a crazy way of thinking, and blogs do not have the power to kill you. At least I really, really hope they don’t.

Writing this blog has truly been a gift to me, connecting me with so many awesome and lovely people all over the world. It has given me a healthy dose of confidence, allowing me to feel both brave and vulnerable, and uninhibited in my self-expression. It has made me feel less alone and isolated during a very lonely time, being the dependable friend I so badly needed. It has forced me to confront some very deep and dark feelings. It has also turned me into some sort of writing machine, where I feel as though I can’t stop, and I won’t stop (to quote the very inspirational Miley Cyrus).

So, happy birthday dear blog, and thanks for all you have done. I will continue to update you and visit you as often as I can, as long as I have something to say. And you can return the favour by not killing me. And if it turns out you do possess some sort of mystical power to decide who lives and who dies, please choose the mouse. Thank you.

Sorry buddy, it's either me or you
Sorry buddy… it’s either me or you.

 

Adventures in book writing

I am writing from my favourite library in the city, staring out the large window at the grey and rainy day outside. I have been leaving the comfort of my home every day, exploring different spaces to write, and it seems the most obvious of them all, the library, really does beat any other option. No pressure to buy a beverage or overpriced pastry, several empty electrical outlets, and a general understanding that silence is golden. Not to mention, being surrounded by books, which makes for a pleasant atmosphere when attempting to write a book. Three cheers for libraries.

Although I have been writing every day, I have written very little, considering how quickly words tend to flow out of me. I’m finding it difficult to really tell “my story” as a proper story. To know where to start, what to include, what’s interesting and what’s a complete bore.

I also get a bit discouraged when I realize how many cancer memoirs are out there. It seems it’s extremely common for people with cancer, specifically women with breast cancer, to write a book about their experience. But what keeps me motivated are a few things:

A lot of these books aren’t written well. There, I said it. Sorry, but just because you had cancer does not mean you are now a writer.

A lot of these books are written like survival or “how-to” guides. How to get through chemo, how to tell your kids, etc. etc. And while that’s all great, I don’t see myself writing any such guide, or telling anyone how to deal with his/her cancer. All I want to do is simply tell a story. My story.

A lot of these books are written by older men and women. Even some of the ones I found by younger authors were still written by people older than I am.

A lot of these books seriously lack humour, and conversely, some are so lighthearted that to me, they don’t really show the full picture of what it is to live with cancer. There are lots of female-centered cancer memoirs that try to emulate a Sex and the City vibe. Cancer can be sexy! I kept my feisty, feminine spirit the whole time! Cancer has nothing on me! If you’ve been reading along, you will know that I am not that person… at all. Cancer is shit, especially when you’re a young adult, and I have no intention of shielding anyone from its realities. I think there’s a way to be dark, and truthful, and humourous. And I don’t believe there are too many people who have managed to do this.

And lastly, what I keep telling myself is this: My story is uniquely mine and no one else’s. It doesn’t matter if a million people have chronicled their disease. No one is me, inside my head. As much as there are many commonalities, we all experience life and its struggles very differently. What if JK Rowling had said to herself, “There have been too many books about wizards and magic, it’s all been done before.” You guys, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter. And a world without Harry Potter is just not a world I want to live in.

So, that’s my pep talk for the day. Maybe it will inspire you to do something you’re not sure you’ll be any good at. Or maybe it will just inspire you to buy my book, some day, a long time from now, when it is complete. And I’d be okay with that; if there’s anything you can infer from the fact that I am in a library, it’s that I’d welcome a little financial boost in my life. And then maybe instead of the one bagel I purchased, I would go wild and purchase two bagels. TWO BAGELS.

Dream big, friends.

The bumpy road to recovery

Want some updates? Here they are:

I am taking a hiatus from work… again. The reasons are complicated so I will not go into the finer details. But essentially, I wasn’t feeling great, and it looks like my return to work may have been a bit premature. I felt very conflicted about this at first. I felt like a failure, like I had let myself down. And then I decided that I might be being a bit hard on myself and that my health is numero uno in terms of my priorities right now. So I am taking a bit of extra time to recover, continue my treatments, and figure my life out. All that fun stuff.

I had a late-night MRI a couple nights ago to follow up on some pain I’ve been experiencing. Obviously, we hope for nothing out of the ordinary. Because something out of the ordinary would be very unfortunate in this case. Sometimes it feels as though my whole life is just waiting for results. Waiting for life, or waiting for death. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. I really want to move past this phase, as it is getting exhausting.

Speaking of exhausting, my nightly hot flashes/sweats are back with a vengeance. I got all cocky when they went away, thinking, this hormone stuff is no big deal, I can do this, no problem. But for whatever reason, my body is having a very strong reaction to the tiny little pill I am swallowing every night, causing my face to feel as though it is melting off my body. Unfortunately, it tends to be worse at night, which means I am not sleeping very much. There is also construction going on outside my house that starts early every morning, right as I am trying to get some extra hours of zzz’s in. I fantasize about going over to the construction site in my pajamas, with my hair a big frazzled mess, and yelling at the workers, “HELLO I HAVE CANCER AND I’VE HAD A REALLY CRAP YEAR AND I NEED TO SLEEP SO CAN YOU ALL PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP OR I WILL PUNCH YOU ALL IN YOUR UGLY FACES.” But I just really don’t want to be that person. Not yet.

Last week, I spoke at the University of Toronto to the second year medical students. They were studying oncology that week, and yet there wasn’t any plan to actually speak to a patient living with cancer. Enter your favourite, friendly cancer gal to save the day. I prepared a quick little powerpoint entitled “My Cancer Story” where I attempted to go from the beginning to the current stage of my cancer experience. When creating the powerpoint, I realized how long and complicated my story really is. I only had time to really touch upon the basics. At first I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to say. But as it turns out… I have a lot to say. A lot.

I loved speaking to this room full of students. I loved how engaged they were, and how much they wanted to learn, and how I actually had something to teach them, even though I have absolutely no medical background. All I have is my life experience, which, apparently, people seem to find a lot of value in. The students had the chance to ask me questions, and during that time they also revealed to me me that many of them have been reading the blog. They told me about how it has impacted them, in both their learning and their personal lives. I was really touched by how appreciative they were and it made me better understand the power of sharing my story. Some positives really are coming out of the negative (but note: this does NOT mean I am thankful for my cancer. I still hate cancer and think it’s terrible and do not recommend it as a method of creating social change. I repeat: CANCER IS BAD.).

The class presented me with THE BEST mini cupcakes and they all signed a card. There were so many notes that they wrote all over the back and had to add sticky notes on top of the other notes. I was blown away by how thoughtful they were.
The class presented me with THE BEST mini cupcakes and they all signed a card. There were so many notes that they wrote all over the back and had to add sticky notes on top of the other notes. I was blown away by how thoughtful they were.

And my last update for now: I have started to write. A book. There, I said it. So now I have to do it. It might take several years. I might never finish it. It might be a huge bore. It might never get published.

But, whatever. None of that is as bad as cancer. And if I’m doing the glass half full thing, then I should also entertain the other possibility: That I’ll write a book, someone will publish it, it will become a bestseller, a famous director will want to turn it into a movie and hire me to adapt it into a screenplay (um hi, I’m not letting some dummy screenwriter write my life story, thank you very much), I will be portrayed by some awesome young starlet and we will become great friends, and the movie will win all sorts of Oscars and I’ll be the next big thing in Hollywood and eventually everyone will forget I ever even had cancer.

Why not.

Scattered thoughts

Some thoughts from my very tired mind:

  • Today I saw multiple incidents where strangers were yelling at each other and saying nasty things in the street. A streetcar rider mad at an automobile driver. A biker mad at a pedestrian. Everyone just mad at the world, at everyone, and everything. And you know what? These days, mad people are what make me… well, mad. Sometimes I wish I could just touch someone and they’d get a quick glimpse into the hell that has been much of the past year for me and my husband. And then maybe they would think, oh geez, this really isn’t worth getting that angry over. If you have your health, and you have at least one person in your life who wants to be around you at least some of the time, then as far as I’m concerned, you have it pretty good. Can we all just stop hating each other and hating the world for one second? Seriously. Stop. Life is good.

  • Yesterday I participated in a video that will be shown during the first night of the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers walk. After we were finished, I was asked if I would be the speaker at the closing ceremonies of the Walk at the Rogers Centre, and represent all the survivors. I was really honoured and said yes, and asked if instead of reading from a script, I could write it myself. I don’t really think reading someone else’s words will sound anything like me, or necessarily be what I would want to say. So now I’ll have to think of what I want to say. I am not worried about writing it. I love writing speeches. The thing I was most excited for about having a wedding was getting to write a speech (besides the whole getting married thing, I liked that too). So I should be okay in that area. I am mostly worried about being a huge sweaty mess and having my eyebrows melt off my face. Or going completely blank and just saying, “Breast cancer sucks!!!” and having everyone throw tomatoes at my head.
  • I’m thinking of writing a book. Just thinking about it. I have a lot of people really pushing me to do it. So I guess I’m in the early planning stages. In other words, I have written nothing. Well, besides this entire blog, which I guess is something. But there is so much more to say, and such a longer story to tell. I just don’t think I have the emotional stamina to deal with it right now, since I’m trying hard to NOT think about cancer as much as I can. So I might leave it alone for a bit, and tackle it when I’m ready. I’ve already imagined it being turned into a screenplay, and I’ve thought about what I would say in my Oscar acceptance speech. I realize this is jumping ahead a bit and I should probably attempt to write a sentence or two before buying a fancy gown. But go big or go home, right? Right.
  • I went back to work this week on a part-time schedule. It was a bit overwhelming as I had to try to absorb a lot of new information in a short amount of time. But I think I’ll get the hang of it again after a bit more time. I refuse to allow myself to get stressed, or to let anyone else’s stress rub off on me. I can’t really afford to be stressed. And I kind of have this new life perspective now, where it isn’t too difficult for me to separate what is truly worth getting in a panic over vs. what is not. Pretty much almost everything falls into the latter category.
  • I’ve been buying some clothes lately, because it felt necessary after wearing pretty much nothing but pajamas and sweatpants for a year. I remember after I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t bring myself to shop and didn’t want to buy any clothing. It felt pointless, like maybe I wouldn’t live long enough to wear the clothes or maybe I’d never have a need for regular clothes again, or never like the way I looked in anything. I didn’t want to be dead, with a bunch of new clothes, and have to leave my family to deal with getting rid of all them. Clearly, my mind was in a pretty dark state. But it ain’t there anymore. I love clothes. I want more. MORE MORE MORE.
  • Today I went to a check-up at the hospital, where three different people looked at and squished my boobs. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I saw so many scared women, clearly only at the beginning of their “journey”. You can usually tell by who has long hair. I remember being that scared girl those first few months, sitting in the waiting room, wanting to cry in the corner and be pretty much anywhere else. And I’d look at other ladies with short hair, who clearly had just finished their treatment, and I was in awe of them, wondering if I’d ever make it to that point. And as I sat there today, with my almost-pixie hair, feeling confident and healthy, I realized I was at that point. I am now the girl that others are staring at, wondering if they’ll make it over to the other side. Wondering how I survived. Truthfully, I don’t know how I did. But somehow I made it. I am part of the short-hair club. I am someone others look to for hope and inspiration. If they only knew that I laugh when people fall down, or when someone farts, then maybe they wouldn’t feel so inspired. But that can be our secret.

Hold on for one more day

This past Friday, I was once again a patron of the chemo ward. As you may or may not recall from previous posts, although I am technically done the chemotherapy part of my treatment, I still need to receive infusions every three weeks for one year. This is because I have an aggressive form of breast cancer, and there is an antibody that was created specifically to target this type of cancer. It has been referred to as “the most important advance in breast cancer therapy in 30 years.” Although it’s a bummer to have over a year of infusions, it’s a small price to pay to help increase the odds that I will be alive and kicking a few years from now. I am very grateful to be receiving this therapy, and to be part of a clinical trial involving another targeted drug. In conclusion, science is awesome.

My treatment this round went fairly smoothly. The only time I started to cry was when I was watching another young woman cry who was having trouble getting her IV started. I hate watching other people in pain. And despite the amazing nurses and staff at the hospital, the chemo ward can still be a fairly unsettling place to spend your time. Sometimes I see people who look as though they are about two steps from death’s door. I often feel like I don’t belong. Did someone make a mistake? Do I really have cancer? It still hits me like a punch in the gut sometimes. I don’t know if I will ever get used to being part of this world. I don’t think I want to get used to it.

I have been having some pretty severe muscle pains and stomach issues. But compared to how I usually feel right now during my chemo cycles, my energy is definitely about a million times better, as is my state of mind, so I’m very hopeful that the next year will not be as rough as the past several months have been. I am really praying that the worst is behind me.

Last week, my blog and I were featured on the website She Does The City. I am always very flattered every time someone contacts me asking if they can publish one of my posts or have me write something for them. When I first started this blog, I had no idea that it would spread the way it has or that it would actually create any type of impact. I have had many people write to me, telling me that I have helped them feel less alone while they are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, and these types of messages help give some sort of meaning to this absurd journey I have been on. Considering how isolated I have been, I have made so many connections with all sorts of people. Writing and having people urging me to write has truly been one of the only upshots of this experience. Something providing me with a purpose. So I suppose I should thank the internet, and modern day communication. And thank everyone who reads and reaches out to me and tells me I am doing something helpful during a very scary and very challenging time in my life.

Today I declared that I felt strong enough for some “cancer dancing” and danced around to  various cheesy songs until I felt that my limbs were about to fall off. I was bouncing around for about fifteen minutes, which is fifteen minutes longer than I could stand a few weeks ago. And I didn’t fall down, despite the pain in my legs. An insignificant event for most. A major accomplishment for little ol’ me.


That’s my sister with me in the video. What’s the point in embarrassing yourself if you can’t take someone else down with you? Also, the scarf on my head was forgotten by a friend at my house one night, accidentally. Moral of the story: if you leave something in my home, it will most likely end up on my head.

Chemo daze

I often refrain from writing anything during chemo weeks because I am miserable and have poison running through my veins and I am worried about what I might say that I then might regret later. But I am also feeling so antsy and bored and restless in my own skin and worried that if I don’t write, my brain will just turn to complete mush from spending my days lying flat in the bathtub while watching Real Housewives.

A lot of cancer patients experience a sort of brain fog throughout their treatment, and sometimes long after. This is a very real fear of mine. My brain is pretty important to me. I’ve worked hard on making it a useful one and it has served me quite well. I don’t like the idea of becoming distracted, forgetful, unfocused. Unable to complete a task as quickly as I once could have before. I want to keep my brain sharp. I don’t want to let it down. Unfortunately, I don’t have much choice over the matter. I am exhausted and my thoughts are cloudy, at best. The idea of reading a book or even watching an intelligent movie just seems impossible at this time. Even writing a coherent email is getting to be a bit difficult, as I’m sure a couple friends can attest to who received one over the past few days. Is it the steroids? The chemo? The sleep deprivation? The fact that I sit alone most of the day with nothing to entertain me except my weird, usually morbid thoughts? I guess it’s all enough to make anyone go a little crazy. I just really hope none of this is permanent.

The feeling of wasted time has really started to weigh heavily on me. I wish that I could be using this time to do something productive, something great and meaningful. But that’s not how this works. Cancer treatment isn’t a fun vacation. At least mine isn’t. Lately I’ve started torturing myself by looking at vacation destinations online. Warm places with beaches where people are happy and not bald and not pale and not peeling and not bleeding. Last night, after a terrible few hours of being sick and weak and crying so hard I started hyperventilating and nearly fainted on my toilet, I even resorted to watching youtube videos of rides at Disney World, trying to remember the feeling of being a happy kid who just wanted to meet Mickey Mouse and didn’t even know about the word cancer. The Dumbo ride was my favourite ride when I was a wee one. All it does is go round and round and that’s about it. Do you know how badly I want to be sitting in one of those stupid elephants, flying through the air right now? You have no idea.


A couple days ago, I was looking through all the comments from this blog. A lot of times, people add comments long after I’ve made a post, so I imagine most people who just read my current posts never see these comments. But I see them all. And reading through them made me quite happy, especially all the people who don’t know me but seem to be my biggest fans, or the people who tell me I am helping them through their own illness. So I guess I have been doing something sort of productive, even though it is hard to feel that way sometimes. So thank you for giving me that and for reading and supporting.

I got some great packages in the mail yesterday including beautiful handmade cards from a bunch of kind strangers, pins, magnets, a blanket, a book. Last week I got a lovely robe from a friend of a friend that she sewed just for me and I have worn it every day since. I love these things so much. I know I keep expressing it over and over, but I want people to know that it is all so appreciated, even when I am just a big sad sack of moodiness and gloom like I am right now. Although I managed to muster up the energy to go to my mail box today and all that was there was junk mail and disability-related papers, so that was a bit of a letdown. Hopefully this means I will get double presents tomorrow. I have become super greedy with my expectations of receiving tokens in the mail. I have no shame admitting it. I have no shame admitting anything right now. Like the fact that moments ago, I attempted to sneak a candy bar from the top shelf of my cupboard by almost climbing on a chair, and then realized I would likely stumble off the chair and smash my head on the table, and the idea of dying that way after everything I have been through just seemed a bit ridiculous, so I abandoned the plan altogether.

Hey, look at that, my brain still works.

UPDATE: My mom just sent me an actual video of me on the Dumbo ride from many moons ago. I am very impressed that my parents figured out how to make a movie file from our old Beta footage. Thanks guys!

FAQs

As part of this whole cancer thing, I get asked a lot of questions. It can be tiring repeating the same thing over and over, so I’ve decided to make a list of some FAQs with answers.

How did you find the lump in your boob?

I was sitting on my couch, alone, and touched my boob. I was not doing any sort of self-exam. I just touched it, and felt it, and knew. Moral of the story: start getting gropey with your breasts.

You’re so young to have cancer! Do you know how young you are? How do you have cancer?! You’re so young! Are you aware that you’re young?

I have never, in my life, been more aware that I am not an old person. Young people get cancer. Sadly, I am not the only one. It’s a very crappy fact about life, but nonetheless, there it is.

But at least since you’re young, you’ll definitely be fine.

I really like this idea. But unfortunately, that is not how it works. In fact, cancers tend to be more aggressive in younger people, which is the case with me. But don’t worry. I’m pretty aggressive myself.

How did you get your cancer?

I don’t know. No one knows. That’s not really how cancer works. It is caused by cells dividing abnormally. I didn’t tell my cells to do that, they just did.

But surely you must have done something? Eaten something? Stepped in something?

Some people want to believe that cancer patients caused their cancer in some way, so that they feel it will never happen to them. Did you know that there are vegan, all-star athletes out there with cancer? And that there are people who smoke a pack a day and eat burgers all day and do not have cancer? Although there are certain risk factors for certain cancers, it is often random and unfair. Two risk factors for breast cancer are being overweight and drinking alcohol. I am a pretty far cry from obese, and do not drink. Ever. How do ya like them apples? In fact, the largest risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. Didn’t have much choice with that one.

Did you know that if you drink this special tea, or go to this website, or jump up and down 3 times, you can cure your cancer?

I didn’t know that! What a dum dum I must be. I will definitely consider stopping my treatment and ignoring the opinions of my doctors and decades of medical research and evidence, in favour of the advice from some website full of grammar mistakes and sex ads. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Did you know that sugar will cause your cancer to spread and kill you? Stop eating cupcakes, fatty!

There are several myths about cancer that circle the internet, which are completely unfounded, and only serve to stress the shit out of poor souls like myself. What each person chooses to believe, is his or her right. It is also my right to eat or do whatever I want, without having to justify it to anybody. Please know that I am extremely well-informed and not actively doing anything to harm myself. You can trust that no one wants me to stay alive as much as I do. For those who are truly concerned, I can promise you I am not shoving my face full of cupcakes all day. Although I could sure use one right now.

Did you get my message/voicemail/email/text/comment/card?

Yes, I did! I get a lot of messages every day, which I love. It makes everything a bit more bearable. I don’t always write back. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I have nothing new to say. But I read everything and often share your nice words with my husband, and we’re both very grateful for so much support. As someone who loves getting snail mail, it is so fun to open all the cards I get. When a crisis happens in your life, you learn who your true friends are. Who will really be there for you. You also learn that you have a bunch of family you’ve never met who are really awesome. And that there are strangers all over the world who are caring and kind. People are, generally, pretty great. I can attest to this, wholeheartedly.

Are you a writer for a living?

Nope. I was published in the Toronto Star when I was 10 years old, and figured I hit my peak. But I have always written, for fun, and been encouraged by others to do so. Because of this blog, I now have many people encouraging me to write a book. So maybe I’ll do that. Stay tuned.

What does chemo feel like?

I’m not sure if anyone has actually asked this, but I know people wonder. And I don’t know how to explain it. Just thinking about describing it makes me feel nauseous. It’s not pleasant, to say the least. One thing that is difficult to describe is the fatigue. Everyone knows that chemo causes fatigue, which often lingers after treatment is completed. I remember thinking, being tired isn’t so bad, I’ll just sleep, I like sleeping. But it is impossible to compare the feeling to being “tired”. It is more an overwhelming sensation of weakness, spread across my entire body. Simple things, like boiling a pot of water, become really difficult. And often, sleep doesn’t make it better. As someone who really likes words, I can’t think of a better one right now than “yucky”. Chemo is really yucky. That’s about the best way to describe it.

When will you be done with chemo? And then is that it? You are cured?

A lot of people think that cancer treatment is simple. You pump yourself full of some drugs, and then you’re cured, and you move on with your life. For some people, this may be the case, but for most, it simply isn’t so. Each type of cancer is different and requires different types of treatments to keep it under control. Once the treatments are finished, you pray and hope that they worked and that the cancer will not return. In my case, I will hopefully be finishing chemo in two months. But because of my subtype of breast cancer, I will still need to get drug infusions every three weeks at the hospital, for a year. During this time, I will also be part of a medical trial. Then I will be on a different kind of drug, with its own fun side effects, for many years after that, to try to keep the cancer at bay. Somewhere in between, I will have at least one more major surgery. I will also spend the next however many years fearing the recurrence of my cancer, as much as I will try to block it out. It is most likely to recur in the next two years and the anxiety over that, at least for me, is a very real and difficult part of the struggle. So in summary: it is very hard for me to answer when people ask when I’ll be “done”. There will be milestones, most definitely, and I will try my very best to enjoy and celebrate each one. I’ve already conquered a few. But the road is a long one for me. Hopefully one paved with many cupcakes, now that you have learned that they will not cause my demise.