Sunday, May 16, 2010

- Health Tip! Very Important!

Okay, so tonight I was thinking that I should really spread the news whenever I think of a health tip or whatever, because knowledge is power and knowledge can save lives, right?

So for the fourth time this past week, I heard yet another story about someone who eventually found out she had cancer long after she'd actually had her test. Why did it take so long for her to find out?

The answer is quite simple: oversight. Yep, medical error. We know it happens.

Here's what happened with two of the four people I've heard about over the past few years:

A man we know worked at a company & had his medical exam every year through them. The company doctor received results of all his tests & was responsible for relaying those results to our friend. 

What nobody realized, though, was that the doctor had begun to develop Alzheimers and was not thinking clearly; therefore, every year the doctor took the results of our friend's prostate exam and stuck them in his filing cabinet.

FIVE YEARS LATER, the company realized their doctor was not well & replaced him with another doctor. When the new doctor saw our friend's latest prostate results, he flipped! 

Summoning him to the office, he asked him why he had never been treated for his prostate cancer, which was by now at STAGE FOUR!! (the worst & often final stage of cancer). 

Can you believe it? The company acted quickly & sent our friend to one of the best facilities for cancer treatment in New York City. Amazingly, he completely recovered. I'm not kidding about this story - it really happened. It's bizarre, but true. 

And if our friend had insisted on receiving copies of all his test results, it would have never happened.


Another friend of ours, a man we'll call Bill, went for a routine colonoscopy and was told, as is often the case, that he would be contacted if anything was abnormal. He never heard back from his doctor & assumed all was well. 

Three years later, he went again for an appointment with another doctor who happened to have copies of all his files. Once again, this doctor inquired why there was no record of our friend's treatment for his colon cancer! "What colon cancer??" our puzzled friend asked. 

Further tests showed Bill had a growth that was by now the size of a grapefruit in his colon! Sheesh! He'd amazingly had no symptoms to warn him, and when he went back to ask his doctor of three years previous, she insisted she'd never received the results of that initial test. 

Another happy ending, fortunately, as the tumor was removed soon afterwards and had not spread. Today, our friend is healthy & much wiser as to how to deal with the medical system.


And the moral of these stories is  to never assume that because the doctor's office doesn't call you, it means all is well. Always call to ask specifically about your exam results. 

To be doubly sure, ask the secretary to make you a copy of the test results, and then go pick them up so you can see for yourself! If they tell you over the phone that all is well, how do you know it's your test results they're reading to you? Mistakes happen!

Ah, in a perfect world, doctors, nurses and lab techs would be rested, alert, and have plenty of time to liason with patients every step of the way. But in the real world . . . !!! 


Well, in other news, I'll be seeing my Oncologist, the one & only Dr. Victor Cohen, tomorrow. He's the one who told me he gets a headache whenever he thinks about me. I'm sure he's not the only one. Ha! 

Anyways, my Taxol / Herceptin chemo is finished as of last Monday, and now we just have to decide if we're going to do those two rounds of AC chemo that I never finished back in January due to the vasculitis I developed - remember, those big red splotches on my legs that came out exactly 3 weeks after each AC chemo? 

Well, Dr. Cohen is nervous about not having me do them, so I'll probably go for it. Then, after those two rounds are finished, I'll get a month off, and then I'll start 28 sessions of daily radiation (every weekday). Sounds like a lot, eh? But actually, just about everybody I've spoken to who gets radiation has around 28 sessions - so it's a pretty standard treatment. 

I've heard varying reports on whether or not radiation makes you tired - some say yes, it did; others say they felt fine. Whatever! It's gonna be during the summer, so if I'm tired, I'll lie in the sun. Or the shade.

And that's about all from me! I'm not quite as perky these past few weeks - the fatigue & isolation from being home so much have really done a number on me, so I'm glad I'm about to be leaving chemo-land.

Blessings to you, and have a great week! Don't forget about my Concert Of Hope, coming up Saturday evening, June 5th, 2010 in Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada. It's gonna be funnnnn!!!  

Plus I'll have a band with me! The producer of my CD "You Say", Stephen Mullin, will be playing along on keyboards & guitar, Gerry Morin of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra will be playing cello, Rob Adams is doing percussion, and Sally Richmond will be on flute & recorder. 

And the best part is . . . this concert is helping raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society's West Island Relay For Life! So it's for a great cause!

To get details for the Concert Of Hope and order your tickets in advance online, click here:

See yaaaa!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

- On Being Bald (and Other Things)

Well, here I am again - did you think I had disappeared forever? Nope, just tired and doing a lot of couch time, so I haven't been blogging as much. But...this is your lucky day! I'm awake enough to say something! Not something profound, necessarily, but something.

Oops! Wait a minute . . . it's 8 pm! Time for House MD! I've seen every episode and I don't want to miss this one. Back in an hour!

(One hour later) Okay, I'm back. That was a good episode! House is such a troubled dude. He was in therapy for the whole episode tonight & ended up getting mad & walking out on his therapist.

And next week is the season finale. What's up with that??? It's only May!! Now there'll be repeats until September??? Phhttt!!!

Well, what else is exciting in my dreary, couch potato, chocolate-guzzling, smoothie-drinking life? Oh, I know!!! I got a new wiggie!! My friend Suzanne has great connections - she goes to this way-cool $1 store in Toronto when she's there and buys me these fun wiggies for $2. 

Which means that the $1 store isn't really a $1 store in the strictest sense. But anyways, here I am:


It's kinda like a Doodlebop wig, don't you think? The Doodlebops is a Canadian television show for children that's topping the charts. They tour and everything! Their wigs are very fun, just like my new wiggie, which, if you hadn't noticed, is nice and PINK, just like the color of the breast cancer ribbon! So it's very appropro for me.

Of course, my bald look is equally lovely & I've received so many compliments from so many of you - thank you! It's very encouraging to know that you think I look cool & hip as a baldie - I kinda like it, too!

Since chemo brings on menopause, I'm getting a lot of - how shall we say - temperature fluctuations?!? So these days, with winter out of the way (almost - it snowed here Sunday!), I'm more prone to go bald simply because of my frequent hot flushes! Who wants to wear a wig on a sweaty head?!?? Not me!!!

I get a variety of reactions to being bald. Many seem uncomfortable with it. I went to a shopping mall on Friday night & found the reaction from other shoppers is that they feel badly & awkward. But many of the salespeople were totally fine with it & I didn't sense any discomfort. So I guess it depends.

Funny, though - I find that when *I* see someone bald, my immediate reaction is a type of sympathy. But many of them who are bald don't look well, and don't have much makeup on, so they look rather ill, and I feel badly for their suffering. 

Most of the women I see at the hospital wear wigs, hats or turbans. A couple of them told me they never let anyone see them bald. I'm fortunate that I have a nicely shaped head so baldness seems to suit me . . . and who knew? How would you ever know you'd look bald unless you shaved your head? And why would you shave your head unless you were in a situation like I am (or fundraising for someone like me!) 

But I have to say that the few women I have seen so far didn't seem to have much makeup on or be kinda "working" their baldness. I feel usually very joyful when I'm out in public because I love being with people, and I usually have on a full face of makeup - foundation, blush, and lipstick - so I look healthy. 

Because I don't look ill, I think that helps "sell" the baldness more as a fashion statement than an occurrence that has made me a victim. I don't call myself a victim because with all the inconvenience cancer can bring, I don't want to look at myself at being "picked on" by cancer because that's such a negative way of looking at things.

That said, I still feel a general discomfort from many. Let's face it - a bald woman in public is unusual. Most female cancer patients don't seem to ever go out in public without some sort of head covering, so the public simply isn't used to it. If they saw it all the time, it would be different, I'm sure. People always need to feel acclimatized to something before they can  begin to feel relaxed about it.

I also strongly feel that by putting on makeup & looking joyful (I enjoy doing both), I am being a role model. SO many people are fearful of receiving a cancer diagnosis & can't imagine how they would remain sane if their doctor broke that news to them. They are terrified that life will end & a death sentence will take over anything & everything in their lives.

I am here to say that it doesn't have to be horrible. Yes, I know, being diagnosed with any type of serious illness is not always a walk in the park, but it doesn't mean we have to yield to it & suddenly stop living, or being joyful & telling jokes, or smelling the wonderful fragrances of outdoors in spring, or appreciating all the good & noble things in our world.

By putting color on my face & making an effort not to appear sickly when I'm out in public, I feel I am giving hope to others. Even if I feel like going outdoors looking like I just woke up, I feel responsible for doing the opposite: putting in the effort to look great. Wearing bright colors . . . today I wore a yellow top, a lime green jacket, and two strings of beads with every color in the rainbow, plus a new reddish lipstick, eyeshadow, and nice blush! And I got several compliments, I might add! :)

I'm not trying to blow my own horn here, but I want to point out that I have a desire to bring hope to others by showing them that I have a vibrant life & I can look vibrant, even under less-than-perfect circumstances. I want them to see that having cancer does NOT have to be the end of the world & it doesn't have to dictate or become my entire identity . . .

I also MUST add that in no way do I want to judge others who may be feeling sick & weak & tired from their ordeal. It's very easy for me to talk about trying to look great but I have to remind myself that I am VERY fortunate that I'm not feeling too sick from the chemo or cancer.

The worst symptom I have is fatigue, which is pretty easy to deal with. Some don't have it that easy & are desperately ill. It's a completely different ballgame when there's nausea, vomiting and weight loss, not to mention family breakups (some husbands leave their wives where there is extensive breast surgery), financial challenges, children acting out, and so on. I can totally understand in those cases that the last thing a woman might have energy for is sprucing herself up.

I'm just saying that because I am so blessed to have many things in my favor, I feel I have a responsibility to look good & be an encouragement to others. That's my role in this whole thing, I think. I'm happy to do it. Plus of course, you know me - I like to have fun!!


Well, here's a wonderful tune I came across last week by Leann Albrecht, a very successful artist based in Nashville, Tennessee & a woman of deep faith. 

I draw strength continually from my relationship with the Lord . . . He is the reason I can sing and be joyful in the midst of all of this. 

I relate to this song because He gives me hope & courage, and He is the reason I can look to the future without fear. 

Have a blessed week, and seek to be a blessing to others!

Monday, May 3, 2010

- My Life With Mom, by Timmy

Ya, so Mom lets me eat all the same stuff she does - she says it makes her feel less guilty if I'm eating it, too. Here I am helping her eat ice cream.

The lid has some really good leftovers . . .

And here we are, sharing a Smoothie. 
Strawberry with vanilla yogourt! Mmmm!!

Here I am, checking to see how I look. 
Mom says I'm cute. I agree.

Helping Mom write songs. She can't do it without me. Okay, what rhymes with "Timmy"?

Okay, everybody guess what's under here?

Surprise!!! Bet you didn't guess it was ME! Ha ha
Now go away and let me SLEEP!

They think it's easy for me to be around food when I'm not allowed to jump on the kitchen table. (I do it anyways when they're not looking, like at night when they're asleep. . .)

Yup, very funny. Tempting me like this is very funny. . .

Okay, one more - here I am with Mom outside, enjoying the sun. She's sound asleep and I'm pretending I'm a guard dog . . . GRRRRR!!! If you touch my mom, I'll . . . I'll . . . I'll do something REALLY SCARY!!! Like hiss at you!!! So there.

Anyways, that's my life with Mom. I guess it's not so bad. She's pretty cool . . . when she's awake. High Five, Mom!

Love, Timmy


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Blessings to you!

Timmy's Mom  xoxo