Sunday, December 30, 2007

PS...

Omg (that means "oh my god" in cyberspeak), Dad, I just found out that there's also no Auntie Anne's in Canada! Remember when I told you that there was one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when DH and I went last May? But none in Canada! What is wrong with Canadians?

So, um, don't know if it's possible for you to bring back pretzel dough or something....hm....

love,
b

Dear Dad,

I just realized that I don't think they got Slim Jims in Canada! Not only that, but did I ever tell you that they don't have mashed potatoes in the KFC's in Canada? They have crinkly fries with gravy, but it's definitely not the same. I love American KFC's mashed pototoes. Thank god they have biscuits at KFC though--they're my favorite.

So when you and Mom come here, the list so far is:
Hartley's BBQ chips (don't get more than one or two bags, because they take up a lot of room in your suitcase. And when Vicki and Lisa came here, some of the bags burst open from the air pressure)
Slim Jims (not the super long ones, but the short kind that come in the red box, if they still make those....I haven't had those in years)
Cowtails (do they still make those too? I used to get them at the Little Store)

I think that's it for now for Brandy. You know what I hate? When people refer to themselves in the third person. It's almost as bad as writing a blog entry in epistolary form, but sometimes, you gotta do weird things.

Love,
b

Saturday, December 29, 2007

God Box

I have a new hobby now. Buying crappy looking boxes at shifty thrifty stores (I won't pay over $5) and taking them home, cleaning them up, and doing crafty things to them. On Boxing Day, DH and I went to the Salvation Army down the street. He picked up an abandoned hockey trophy (looked like pewter), and I got a bread box that's cracked on the side. Our total price=$3.75. I can't wait to get started on the bread box.

Boxes are great. They have a purpose (you can put stuff in them for all sorts of reasons), and they've got four sides, well, actually, 8 if you count both the inside and outside. So if you see a cool, cheap box, even if it's lying on the street, save it for me!

There's something very meditative about crafting. I'm far from being the expert craftsters that I read about online and in books (two books I'm currently loving are Bazaar Bizarre and Supercrafty), but it's fun to think about crafts and check out what other people are doing. It's about creating and celebrating things that are thrown away and thought of as trash and bringing new life to them. Kinda like what this whole cancer crap is all about. Taking crap and creating afterlives.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Positive Vibes (and a monster bag of chips) for the New Year

2008 just has to be kick-ass. Because, as you know, 2007 sucked big-time (I didn't even really get to eat the turkey and duck we deep-fried because of my stupid mouth sores). The number 8 is also a good luck number in Chinese, so can't go wrong with that.

We have some exciting plans for 2008, particularly for what's going to happen post-surgery. We're looking forward to a gourmet kayaking weekend trip in August with friends and family. I'm pretty stoked for that.

And here's another good sign...as you may recall, I previously posted about a favorite food of mine from home: Hartley's bbq chips. Today, my friend Vicki sent me this article about how a new tradition is starting at home: dropping a huge bag of Hartley's on New Year's eve, like the big apple in Times Square. This is quite possibly the most freakin' awesomest thing I heard in a long time. No longer will Central Pennsylvanians have to flock to Harrisburg to witness a huge strawberry dropping at the stroke of midnight (in Strawberry Square). Now we have our very own big something falling on the countdown to the new year! Another tradition in my hometown on New Year's is to shoot rifles--one shot to take the old year out, another to bring in the new year. So picture this: a big-ass bag of chips dropping to the sound of gunshots. Beautiful.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Chloe's Caroling

Dude and I decided to give Chloe and Mylo one of their presents early--a Vtech Kidizoom digital camera. The quality is pretty crappy, but it has a bunch of fun features the kids love. I wanted to check it out too, so I turned the camera on Chloe and taped her singing some holiday tunes. Here's her medley:

video


And here's her improv:

video


I'm missing my family very much this Christmas season. I saw everyone yesterday over the webcam. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, niece and nephew, sister, and my parents all said hello. One by one they sat down at the computer and said they missed and loved me. Chloe charmed them with some songs and counting from 1-10 in Mandarin and Vietnamese. Mylo didn't really want to talk, as he's still recovering from pneumonia and understandably moody. But I was happy to see everyone, even though it made me feel a bit sad.

Later in the evening, we had dinner with my in-laws. I feel really lucky to have them, and Dude's sister and her family, around. At a time when I'm missing home, I also feel so blessed to have such wonderful in-laws. Being in Vancouver is not like being in Mifflintown during Christmas, but it's my home as well.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mylo's Home

Mylo's back at home, finding comfort in rubbing my elbow. He's so giddy to be able to snuggle with me in bed, watching tv and looking at his Thomas catalogue. Soon, Chloe will be home, as she was with her grandmother all day. I think they will be so happy to see each other.

Settling into bed with Mylo, I realized how tired I was. My bones ached as I went under the covers. I guess I didn't realize how much stress really sinks into the body. But now we'll all be together very very shortly. And we can rest easy tonight.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Little Mylo

Half of our household is now at Children's Hospital, as Mylo is being monitored because he has pneumonia. Chloe is pretty sad and misses her brother a lot. We all visited him briefly tonight, but he was sleeping because he was awake much of last night due to constant monitoring by nurses and doctors and having a mask put on him to keep his oxygen saturation levels stable. It's pretty tough having your kid in the hospital (Chloe was in the hospital last year for pneumonia as well), but even tougher when you can't be by his side. Because I had chemo yesterday, I shouldn't be staying in a hospital too long because my immune system is compromised.

He looked really sad too, when he opened his eyes very briefly and took my arm so he could fondle my elbow (his favorite thing to do--elbows are like blankies to him). My heart about broke in two when I left his room.

He'll likely be home tomorrow, so we can all be together again. In the meantime, Chloe and I will keep each other company, reading books and watching movies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Penultimate

Today, I had the next to the last chemo. Yay! I'm tired. Boo! But I can see the good end is near. Hopefully.

Last night, I was updating My Poetry Blog, and I started crying when I read some of the poems I had written over the past couple of weeks. I try not to be so gloomy, but it really comes out of my poetry. I read Dude one of the poems, entitled "Time-Lapse," and I couldn't stop sobbing. It's a pretty cheesy ass poem, but I guess it comes from the depths of my soul. So be it.

Anyhoo, here are some pictorial reflections of what's been going on during the last week and a bit:


{Comfort food for when I feel like crap...}




{...a true Asian Canadian remedy: Chinese chicken buns from a Chinese-Filipino bakery and donuts from Tim Hortons!}




{me and my Paul Schaeffer (from Late Night w/David Letterman} look.}

Friday, December 14, 2007

Luck

Dear Diary,

Today is okay. It is raining--again--of course. There is a preschool holiday potluck party that we have to go to today. DH said we should just skip it, but the kids like the cheesy magician, and they've been practicing "Feliz Navidad" nonstop, so I said we should let them get it out of their system (it takes patience to hear them butcher the song over and over again).

I still have some pain in my back and joints, and the skin on my hands looks like that of the living dead, but at least my pounding headache is gone for now. And I'm not eating like a toothless 90-year-old anymore (prunes and congee).

I keep telling myself that I should feel lucky to be able to get treatment--and without the hassle of dealing with insurance companies--but it's hard to feel lucky when you feel like crap. Like it's hard to smile and say, "Goddamn, I am sooo freakin' lucky that I feel like one big giant boiling mutant," but I suppose it is true that I am lucky.

Anyhoo, I'm also lucky that I have a husband who cares for me, kids who sing "Jingle Bells" (and butcher that too) to make me happy, parents who are willing to come to help out, in-laws who help out in more ways than they believe, and friends who make me laugh over the phone, email, and Facebook. For all that, I truly do feel lucky.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This Really Fucking Sucks

In retrospect, the first four chemos, which were the FEC combo, were a walk in the park. I totally kicked that chemo's ass. Now, this chemo, the Taxol-Capecitibine combo, is kicking my ass. The capecitibine is the chemo that comes in pill form. My nurse told me to stop taking it altogether for the rest of this cycle because of the mouth sores and all that. So my dosage will be lowered next cycle, which is on Wednesday.

Basically, I feel terrible. I have okay days where I'm able to do some stuff, but I assess my energy level to be 50% of what it used to be. Thankfully, after Wednesday, I only have one more chemo to endure. I do hope that this is all worth it in the end.

With all that's happening to my body, I've been having super-strong urges to do some body modification, like in the good old days. But of course, needles are out of the question, so no tattoos or piercings. Yesterday, I just suddenly became obssessed with earlobe stretching. So on the way back from massage therapy, I popped into the Puncture Haus and inquired about it. It's a long process, involving increasing sizes of rings and such. So I bought my first set of 14 gauge hoops and am on my way to stretching my earlobes. In a way, it's like taking some control over my body because I've lost so much control over it.

Anyway, it's snowing now. A really wet snow. Good weather for hibernating.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Trips

I've been told to stop taking my chemo pills for the next few days. My mouth broke out in painful sores, and my hands are swollen, red, and cracking. And my nose is all bloody and scabby inside. I feel like a mutant. Can't imagine what my liver looks like. Don't want to know.

I went with Chloe and Mylo on a preschool field trip to Burnaby Village Museum yesterday. I'm sure they had a blast, but I thought it was really lame, and cold. My feet were burning. I could feel my soles cracking.

DH is away in Washington, DC. Am I happy about this? No. Am I understanding about this? No. Am I forgiving? Maybe someday. When I was reading Her Baldness, the author would talk about how she felt when her partner had to go on business trips, and all the mixed emotions she felt, and it really mirrored my feelings. Part of me does want to feel independent and be okay with him going on a trip, and be rational and understanding. The litle girl inside who's sick is screaming, "Hey, you're supposed to be taking care of me, and instead you go some place more important?" And I know he feels bad for going. Plus he's not well himself, as he's had a really bad cold the past week. Anyway, I'm sure we'll work it out. I think perhaps a trip by myself would be fair, don't you? I've been thinking of going on one of those meditation retreats.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Adventures

The blog has become somewhat visually boring, so I thought I'd post some pictures of November highlights. November begins not only the holiday season, but birthday season as well. My mom's birthday is at the beginning of November, then little Mylo, then me, then my mother-in-law, then my father-in-law, then my niece, my sister, my nephew...So here's just some of the happy occasions:


{Trains and cake--a dream come true for the birthday boy!}



{Happy Birthday to you, dear Mylo..."}



{a visit from Auntie Vicki and Auntie Lisa--on Spanish Banks}



{Harley, Maia, the kids and DH help me celebrate my 32nd.}



{Karin brought over a delicious Bon Ton Diplomat cake which was a first for me, although I heard about it several times during the writing workshop I taught. It was heavenly rich!}



{Here we are blowing out the candles, but what I really like about this picture is how DH looks like a fucking freak--and I say that with nothing but love.}



{a fancy schmancy birthday brunch at the Pan Pacific with DH, the kids, and my in-laws.}



{celebrating my birthday at the book launch for Eating Stories }



{Random pic of Chloe and Mylo standing at attention in Richmond}



{Random cute pic of Chloe grinning}



{My mother-in-law on her birthday--with her two innocent, sweet, cute granddaughters.}


Okay, so those are the end of the November-December happy birthday highlights. Now back to some serious business. My eyebrows are gone as of yesterday. They kinda just came off when I washed my face with a washcloth. There were a few scraggly stubborn hairs that looked just pathetic and lame, so I plucked them out. The odd thing is that the hair on my head is sprouting. But I guess there's little logic to chemo. So I kinda look freaky now:



{furrowing my no-brow}




{raising my no-brow}


I don't want to draw in eyebrows because then I think I look like a clown. Luckily, I have a scar above where my brow used to be from a bicycle accident I had almost twenty years ago. I almost got hit by a pick-up truck. My near-death experience then has given me some semblance of brow where it is absent from my chemo experience now. Thank god for scars.

So beginning with my the loss of my eyebrows, yesterday was weird, amazing, magical, and like a big old adventure.

After acupuncture, I thought I was just going to go home on foot. I started walking on Broadway. There was a nightclub that had closed down, and a temporary thrift store set up shop there. I walked by this place several times but never gave it a thought to go in. But yesterday, I was drawn upstairs to the store. I almost turned back upon entry--it was dark, sticky, smelled weird, and I couldn't see anyone in there. There were handwritten signs encouraging me to probe further: "Come on in!" "Great deals!" So I reluctantly moved further inside.

I walked around a little bit and saw a cute, clean-looking stuffed reindeer, and I decided that I would buy it since the sign outside said that proceeds go toward the SPCA. I like animals, so why not. A nice older lady came to chat with me about it. She told me it was five bucks, but all I had was U.S. cash (don't ask), which she gladly accepted. Anyway, I walked around some more, and found an awesome box for $1. I love boxes. This one had a mirror (that was falling off but could be glued back on) and a little drawer. Then I saw two pieces of cloth that would be great for reading tarot cards. So I held onto my treasures and trudged back to the front of the store. I started talking with the lady, who told me I had a nice smile and a really good heart. She blessed me and hugged me, and just made me feel all warm inside. She would ask me what stuff was when she couldn't figure out what the items were for (some of it was really weird shit), and we would think of what stuff could be used for. Then she said, "What's this?" I said, "A dirty diaper." She said, "Good heavens! Why would someone leave a diaper here like that?" She was really disturbed and went to the back to bleach her hands after disposing the diaper. But she was happy that I told her what it was. She said, "I almost opened the thing to see."

So then I left and went to Toys R Us and walked around dizzily for an hour. I didn't buy much, but just sort of observed the Christmas spirit. Everyone seemed in a daze.

With bags in hand, I decided to take the #9 home. I got on the bus, and a dude and his two daughters sat next to me. He was chewing them out for not getting good enough grades and all that. I felt bad for the girls, who were about 6 and 8 years old. Suddenly, the sun peeked through and there was this gorgeous, huge rainbow spreading across the city. I wiped the condensation off the window and told the guy, "hey, there's a rainbow." He and his kids stopped fighting and were admiring the rainbow, with the rest of the bus.

Instead of going all the way to the stop near my house, I decided to get off at Main St. I hadn't seen my friend Burcu in ages, and I felt compelled to show her the rainbow. When I reached her store (Burcu's Angels), she was standing out front, and we both admired the rainbow. Then she realized who I was (after not being able to recognize me sans hair). She invited me to come in and chat.

I sat on her couch in the living room in the back of her store, and burst out in tears! It was the weirdest thing! I just started crying, and she hugged me and introduced me to all the people who were in the store. In no time, we were laughing, and they were giving me compliments on my baldness. One girl said she thought I looked cool and hardcore and that she had a male friend who was into beautiful bald chicks (she told me it's a good thing I'm beautiful, which made me blush). Then we got to joking about how there's no Buddhist monk fetish porn out there, and that I should pioneer the field. Burcu's Angels is a magical place where the freaks feel at home--and I felt sooooo at home. So then I wandered around the store and picked up a lovely blouse. Burcu insisted that I try it on, and when I came out with it on, she gave it to me! She also gave me a huge bag of dried lavender--and lavender is something that makes me feel so calm and happy.

So I left Burcu's and started walking home again. Then, for some reason, I stopped in at Temple of the Modern Girl Boutique, another vintage store. I've seen this store many times but never stepped foot in it. There, a lovely girl named Sarah helped me try on things. She also helped me furiously try to take off something. I tried on this red and black lace number, which went on okay, but when I went to take it off, it wouldn't budge. So I yelled "Help!" We thought we might have had to cut off the dress! Perhaps in the past, I would have been totally horrified that this was happening, but because my body has been poked, prodded, fondled, grabbed, and contorted, I really thought this was hilarious! I knelt down on the fitting room floor, held my arms up straight, and Sarah got a good grip of the lace and started yanking it off me like tug-of-war. My boobs were like flashing everywhere, and just then, another customer came in and asked what we were doing. Anyway--thanks to Sarah for putting up with me! I'm sure that wasn't in her job description. So much for vintage!

Anyway, that was my weird day. And here are the goodies:









I leave you with Chloe's latest artwork: her depiction of Santa Claus. Seasons freakin' greetings.

Monday, December 3, 2007

How I See Me

When I picture myself in my head, I still have hair. I'm 23 going on 24, and I'm in Madison, Wisconsin. The most pressing thing in my life at the moment is outlining my thesis and producing a lit review for my advisor. I'm thinking about how the Vietnamese language studies I'm doing that summer will make my thesis more poignant. I also have sincere wishes to be able to communicate better with my mother. I even feel like the intense Midwest humidity will make me be able to understand my mother better, because white people who've been to Vietnam tell me that it's just like this--the humidity always on the brink.

I go to BW3 every Tuesday with Julie for their wing special. We never touch the Blazin', but usually go for the spicy garlic and honey bbq. We have some beers and plan our camping trip for the weekend. I'm pretty psyched that I brought my tent from LA. It's been great driving the country roads and discover the oddities of Wisconsin. It was cool, for example, to meet old man Burlingame after me and Julie stoped by the side of the road to buy a stool he had at the end of his driveway to sell. I convinced Julie she really needed to buy that stool.

I struggle with this picture in my head--I can't remember if I actually had pigtails that summer or not. I went through a lotta long hair/short hair battles. Maybe I was in transition.

It's true, though, that frequently the picture in my head is me, smiling with pigtails, no glasses, rainbow tank top and light denim skirt, and it's me leaning over to Julie asking, "One more? another spicy garlic..." And Julie, licking her fingers, taking a gulp of beer, just grins.

Odds and Ends

When I feel a little lost, I read some of the blogs that you find on the right side of this blog. Last week, I checked up on "Too Sexy for My Hair," a wonderful blog by a gal named Lori, and I was really saddened to see that she passed away last month--one month exactly before her 32nd birthday. I felt a certain kinship with Lori--even though I never met her in my life or even exchanged comments with her-- because she was two days younger than I. She had been battling cancer for five years. Eventually, as her husband reported, her liver couldn't take anymore because of the chemo and gave out. Her husband Cary updates her blog every day with loving memories of Lori, so I encourage you to check out his beautiful words and tribute to her.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about death and the possibility of my passing (well, we all die, but you know what I mean). I know that the chances that I will come through with flying colors are pretty good, but I can't help but think of the what-if's, especially since I have two little kids. I've been thinking a lot about the surgery too, which isn't until March or April, but it's just freaking me out a little. Okay, more than a little. The idea of being rearranged like that. Unsettling.

So now some of my personal projects and goals include establishing a little archive for my kids, in the event that the worst-case scenario happens. I'm thinking of making a video, writing down more things for them, and all that. In the best case scenario, I will be able to look back at all these things five, ten years from now and reflect on them. Life is a project, no?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Date with Lucifer, Part 6

Chemo today. Had my oncologist check-up yesterday, and she gave me some more drugs for the excruciating joint pain that I get with this chemo. I told her I'd been eating some magic brownies, and she was fine with that. She said that we live in BC, after all. Hey, whatever works. Last time I had chemo, I had an immediate allergic reaction to the Docetaxel drip--I got really hot right away and had chest pains. So they stopped the drip and pumped me full of steroids and Benedryl via IV. Then they started the drip again. So this time, I'll get premedicated with the stuff to prevent the same reaction.

I gather from my nurse and doc that what I experienced with the last chemo is only going to get worse, as the effects are cumulative. But the good news is that after this chemo, I only have 2 more! I should be finished with chemo in the second week of January.

Then comes the radiation. We met with the radiation oncologist on Monday, and it was explained to us that the benefits of radiation are good and proven, that the chances of secondary cancer is less than 1%. So starting at the end of January, I will go in every day for five and a half weeks to get my radiation. I was told that it's like going out in the sun, that I will tan on the radiated area. Folks, I don't tan--I burn, like within ten minutes of being in the sun--with 50 SPF sunscreen. But if I get bad skin irritations, they will, of course, give me yet another prescription.

This morning, before I go in for my chemo this afternoon, I'm going to do the whole home spa thing. Long hot bath, good reading (I'm reading Inventing Victor, which is a collection of short stories by my friend Lisa's friend, Jennifer--and it's great!), sitting in my new massage cushion (DH bought me a new wonderful massage cushion yesterday at Costco, which has a rolling function, a shiatsu function, and a heat option!). I'm hoping that after chemo, I won't be too wiped out to go to the end of the term Creative Writing party on campus. I haven't seen a lot of my creative writing cohort in a while.

I want to write about all the fun stuff that's been happening in the past two weeks and try to forget all the crappiness (since that will be soon revisited anyway). Lisa and Vicki's visit was a godsend, if only a little too short for my taste! It was so wonderful to hang out with my best friend from home and her mom, and take them to all my favorite restaurants and places in Vancouver. Luckily, the weather wasn't shitty the entire time, as we were blessed with some wonderful sun. I think they really enjoyed it, and I hope they come back soon. When I'm not a lazy ass, I will download some of the pictures and post them.

Then we had two wonderful events for the book I edited that came out of the workshop that I taught back in February and March. The book is called Eating Stories: A Chinese and Aboriginal Potluck. I went on CBC on Friday morning to talk about it, then three of the authors went on CBC on Sunday morning for an interview, and other authors and folks are going to appear on radio, tv, and in print about it. People seem really excited about it! So I celebrated my birthday at our launch on Sunday, with song and cake and flowers (thanks, everyone!). And then we had dinner with DH's folks and sister and her family (before the launch we went out to brunch with DH's parents at Cafe Pacifica in the Pan Pacific Hotel). Then DH and I went to see Beowulf on 3D Imax (which would have totally blown chunks if not for the impressive 3D effects). It was a great day!

Last night, our pals Michael, Anne, Debora, and Lynda brought over a fantastic dinner (sushi from Hiroshi's, noodles that Michael made, and salted cod that Debora made), and frozen soups. We had great conversations, enjoyed the food, and it was just so great to see my pals.

But the best thing that happened in the last few weeks was when we were at our family doctor last week, getting our flu shots. While we were waiting for her to come into the exam room, Chloe grabbed my head and pulled it to her ear and said, "Mama, I can hear the ocean. I can hear whales." Granted, it's like she's saying I'm empty-headed, but it was wonderfully poetic to me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Freakin' Birthday to Me

I'm 32 today. I'd like to thank and congratulate my mother for giving birth to me 32 years ago. No one ever remembers their mothers on their birthday, but yeah, folks, your momma's the one who went through the pain of bringing you into this world. I was a c-section baby, so for the longest time, I thought all babies were cut out of their mother's stomachs. The doctor even cut my face on my way out, so I have a battle scar from birth.

Who knew that on my 32nd birthday, I'd feel so old and creaky and be bald? But I've got the cutest, sweetest kiddins on the planet, a caring, loving hubby, awesome friends, and a colorful family. The best presents ever.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On the Bus

I was on the bus yesterday, going home after massage therapy. I take the bus a lot now, to go to and from all my appointments along Broadway, which is one of the main drags in Vancouver. There are two buses that I could take: the 9 or the 99. The 9 is like the everyday people bus--folks look a little more sullen and don't smell as good. The 99 is the express bus that goes to UBC, so it's full of university students. Most of the time, I take the 9 because I can't stand the chatter of students, even though the 9 takes longer than the 99. But yesterday, I caught the 99 because it was the first bus that pulled up.

The bus was packed, but I was able to take a seat when a bunch of people got off at Granville. There were two women sitting across from me, bitching about their professors. I gathered that they were grad students from the way they were talking about theory and such. One of the girls was complaining about some criticism her professor made of her performance in class, and she began her sentence with "I appreciate what he's saying, but...." Which got me thinking about euphemisms in academia. Basically, when someone says they appreciate what you're saying, what they mean is that they think you're full of shit, which is also what they're saying when they state, "That's interesting." When they say, "That's interesting," they really think what you're saying is completely idiotic. Now when someone says, "I find that fascinating," what that means is that they're not sure if you are full of shit or not, but they think what they're saying might be full of shit too, so they will investigate the comment to decide on the exact content of BS later.

What the fuck does this have to do with my cancer? I don't know. I just wanted to sound pretentious.

But really, I wouldn't have been thinking about this if I didn't have cancer, because if I didn't have cancer, I wouldn't have been on that bus going home from massage therapy, which helps get rid of some of the pains of cancer.

The other meandering thought that I had while on the bus: there was a woman standing in front of me as I was sitting down. She was about 20 years older than me, or so she appeared. My first thought was, "I should let her sit down because that's the polite thing to do for older people." Then I thought, "Screw that. I have cancer, and she's only about 55 or whatever anyway." Just as I was about to whip off my hat to demonstrate the level of my sickness, I noticed that she was wearing a wig. I can spot fake hair a mile away now. Then I thought, "Shit, she probably has cancer too." But I sat there anyway.

It got me thinking about the hierarchy of illness, especially when it comes to cancer. The day before, I was at the acupuncturist, and there were two other women in the room with me. My acupuncturist said, "This is Blahblah...She's got a rare form of cancer. So rare that only three people in Canada have been diagnosed with it--and I'm treating two of them!" He beamed. The woman just sighed. The first words out of my mouth were, "Wow." But then I thought, What a dumb thing to say. Wow, like impressive? Or wow, like unbelievable? Either way, my gut reaction was that I felt icky for saying "Wow." But yeah, I've noticed how people like to one-up everyone else with cancer stories. Makes me feel weird.

Like when people say to me, "My sister had cancer, and it was awful for her, but she didn't complain at all." Like, wow, good for her, she's such a fucking hero. What's with the heroics of not saying anything when you feel like you're going to die? It's like when women, or their husbands, brag that they didn't have an epidural or scream when they were pushing a melon-head out of their vaginas. Cuz you know--it makes me feel better to bitch and moan and cry and wail when my body feels like it's being ripped open or aching with every little breath. Being silent is only an option for when I'm really dead.

I guess that's the stigma of cancer. Not supposed to talk about pain and death and dying. But really, that's what's going on inside the head sometimes. I myself find that really interesting. Fascinating.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Greetings from Kirkland, WA!

I'm feeling much better, thanks very much for asking. DH and I picked up Vicki and Lisa at SeaTac airport last night. Other than my mouth feeling like a desert, I'm feeling fine! I almost have my tastebuds back! So we're gearing up for a feeding frenzy this weekend. We are going to wine and dine Vicki and Lisa like never before. I'm so excited they're here and that I don't feel like a camel's soiled ass.

I know people have a thing against Wal-Mart for them exploiting workers so they can bring the consumer low low prices. But I got some cozy soft hats at Wal-Mart last night, and I love them. And they were $4.92. U.S. dollars. WEAK U.S. dollars.

Thanksgiving in the U.S. is coming up, and I feel like I'm missing out. I always liked Thanksgiving, especially since it's always been close to my birthday. Maybe we'll have a small Thanksgiving dinner for U.S. ex-pats in Canada.

Anyway, no worries today. Yesterday was good, and today will be even better!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Smiley Faces

This sucks. I told DH that I'm feeling so much pain that I feel like I'm paying for all my sins. My throat is swollen inside so I can hardly swallow, every joint in my body hurts (Tylenol doesn't do shit for me), and well, the weather sucks. Can't blame chemo for the weather though.

Chloe is drawing in the "Time for Me" activity book for kids with parents with cancer. She drew a smiley face and arms and legs on the cartoon of the tumor and asked me if that made me happy, if it made me felt better. Yes, Chloe, it does. So now she's filling every single page with smiley faces with arms and legs. Some of them have hair too.

Speaking of hair, Chloe asked me when I'm going to fix mine. Kids are awesome. I love their perspective on things.

The other night, when the kids came home from being at their grandparents' house, they burst in the door and shouted, "Mama! Mama!" Mylo ran by all his birthday toys, ran up the stairs, and hopped into bed with me and started snuggling. Then Chloe followed. That made me feel both happy and sad.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

How It's Looking

I had round 5 of chemo yesterday--a new chemo cocktail. Docetaxel (aka Taxotere) and Capecitabine. Docetaxel is administered through an IV, and Capecitabine is a pill dosage I have to take twice a day. Here's picture of my bruise from my IV yesterday. I didn't put enough pressure on the vein when the nurse took out the IV, so I got a nasty swollen bruise:





So far, I've been feeling okay, though there was a woman in the chemo room with me who was getting her own dose of Docetaxel, which she started a few cycles ago. She was telling me about all the problems she's had since starting it, which wasn't that reassuring. But the nurse said that everyone's different, so we'll see. The new fun side effects I can expect are peripheral neuropathy, which is numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, and body aches and pains. The nausea should be less or even non-existent, which is good. But my taste buds are already back to flat and metallic, which sucks.

DH and I are very concerned and have our doubts and fears about radiation. We're supposed to meet the radiation oncologist soon. We have lots of questions, mainly which point to how necessary this is, especially given that if I were to get radiation, I would be doing it before surgery, so how do we even know that it's necessary assuming that the surgery would take care of getting rid of the cancer. Anyway, we're eagerly waiting the appointment. It's an odd thing because the nurse and the oncologist were reassuring us that with the radiation, we were getting the "deluxe package," as if this were some sort of resort vacation deal.

The nurse also mentioned that I'm "lucky" to be getting in on the reconstruction list, because there's such a wait list for those wanting reconstruction. But my group--I guess that would be women who have the hardcore yet operable breast cancer--is the only one that's being accepted onto the list without waiting. I told the nurse that I felt so special. She laughed.

And here's the news from the ultrasound I had last week: "There has been a moderate decrease in the size of the multifocal carcinoma in the superior right breast. Significant residual disease persists." So mostly good news, some sucky news. Specifically: "One lesion measures 1.1 x 0.4 cm. . .this was measured 1.3 x 1 cm in August. A second lesion measures 0.9 x 0.5 cm. This was previously measured at 1.3 x 1.4 cm. A third lesion measures 0.7 x 0.6 cm, and this has not changed."

I don't know if this means anything...but I just gave Chloe a book that my therapist said I should give to her called "Time for Me: An activity book for kids when someone in the family has cancer." She went right to the page called "What is radiation" and colored green all over it. Green, in aura therapy, means healing I think.

Anyway, I fallen into not caring about what I'm eating (I'm a Weight Watchers lifetime member, which is probably put into jeopardy since I stopped going after my diagnosis in July. I've become accustomed to what I was putting in my mouth in terms of calories, fat and all that). But now, I'm trying to get all belly fatalicious so I'll have bigger jugs when reconstruction time happens--but nothing is changing. My doctor beamed and said, "Weight is maintaining. Good job." I'm like--just fucking great. Now that I want massive girth, it's not happening. How cruel can this world possibly be, man???

As far as my appearance go, I've totally stopped putting on makeup or giving a crap. I pretty much go out bald; it comes in handy sometimes. Like when I'm on a crowded bus and want to sit down. I whip off my hat, and people get out of my way. The perks of looking seriously ill.

So that's the latest in Brandy's cancerland. Life goes on.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Angel and a devil

Here's my little angel:





And here's my devil...the tumors are the black blobs that you see on the images...these are from my latest biopsy, which was last Thursday:





Tools for the biopsy...On the right, the thing that looks like a very long drill bit--that's the biopsy needle:

Lucky Ladybug

It's been a dizzying week, trying to keep up with the kids without my parents around to help. But it's also been good in terms of reclaiming my space, my house, and my family. I'll see how it goes when I have chemo this Wednesday. It's my first round of the second type of chemo cocktail I'm getting. This one is suppose to be stronger with new side effects. I have to take double my dosage of puke pills, which isn't cool because the puke pills have some nasty side effects of their own.

It was a good thing that I took a copy of my chart with me to the oncology surgeon's office because she was missing information that she needed. It's also a good thing that I have a distinctive ladybug tattoo around my arm. I got a call last week from the plastic surgeon's office. Her secretary told me that the surgeon forgot to number and identify the pictures she took of my boobs. So they needed to identify my headless torso. She asked me, "Would you by any chance have a ladybug tattoo?" I said yes. What would have happened if I didn't have that tattoo? Would I have been asked to go into the office and identify my boobs in a line-up? How odd.

My best friend from high school and her mom are coming to see me in a week and a half. I'm super psyched because no one from PA, except for my parents, ever comes to see me. Plus, they're bringing me my favorite food from central PA--Hartley's bbq potato chips. Salty, spicy goodness. I wish they could bring OIP pizza too. The best pizza in the world comes from Amish country.

I need to eat all the Hartley's that I can. Hartley's=tummy flab=new, bigger boobs. An encouraging equation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cool Contest--Enter to Win!

Okay, I had another harebrained idea, but I'm going to go with it. So here's how the story goes...

One of the things that I cannot do because of my compromised immune system is get a tattoo. I've been wanting to get a tattoo for a few years now. Every few years, I get a tattoo craving, but this one idea has been persisting for a while. I even had a story published about it in a book called "Chick Ink" (go to your library, check it out, read it. My story is the second one in the collection).

Basically, when I was pregnant with Chloe way back in 2003, and we were trying to figure out names, we were thinking of what would be a good Chinese-Vietnamese middle name. "Dao" is the name for the generation that Chloe and Mylo (and their cousins) belong to in the paternal lineage, and it means "the way." And we thought that "Phuong," which means phoenix, is a pretty name, plus DH personally felt like Chloe's birth was symbolic of rising from the ashes of the loss of his beloved grandmother, Popo. So we decided that Chloe's Chinese-Vietnamese name would be "Dao-Phuong." We also thought it would make an awesome tattoo. DH is a tattoo virgin; I, of course, am not. But we agreed that we'd commemorate her birth with a phoenix tattoo, with her name in Chinese and Vietnamese written with it.

When we were blessed soon after with Mylo's conception, we didn't hesitate to call him "Dao-Long," which means "the way of the dragon." In Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, the phoenix and dragon go together to represent good luck, prosperity, intelligence, courage, and just goodness all around.

We've been looking at artwork and sculptures and statues for the perfect phoenix and dragon images, but haven't come up with any so far. We are looking for something less ornate than the traditional depictions of the phoenix and dragon; more minimalist and simple, with clean lines.

Then I got it in my head this weekend that it would be so cool to get our tattoos on the TLC show, "LA Ink." We feel that the tattoos have come to represent more than just the birth of our children. With the death of DH's brother and my cancer diagnosis, the tattoos also symbolize overcoming struggles and challenges, and doing it together as a family. The tattoos also symbolize unity and strength.

So here's where the contest part comes in...Do you think you could draw a kick-ass phoenix and/or dragon image for our tats? If so, contact me to submit an image. The contest will go on indefinitely until we come up with a good image. The winner will receive a lifetime subscription to my quarterly poetry collection "podBrandy." And your art will hopefully be on LA Ink! And on our shoulders, as that's where the tats will go, when I'm done with all this cancer bullshit!

Thanks for reading, and let's make some art!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Natural Highs, Liquid Lows

I walked miles and miles last week. One day, I walked from the cancer agency, across Cambie Bridge, along the seawall where all the Concord Pacific condos are, all the way to English Bay. I sat there for a while, waiting for DH to come join me. About two hours as a matter of fact, but he got caught up in the office. It wasn't exactly warm outside, but there were moments of sunshine here and there, and I watched people fly kites and do tricks. I watched people walk their dogs. I watched leaves flying around. Here's the view I had:






And here's the bench I sat on. There's something magical about memorial benches.





I want to do more physical activity, but I find myself getting tired more quickly, especially on one of my long walks. I feel the need to nap more. And yeah, I shouldn't be drinking alcohol like I'm accustomed to. I did that on Saturday night with DH, his sister and her husband at Parkside restaurant, and I was paying for it all night long. You know how these prescriptions say not to drink alcohol while taking the drugs: I forgot to pay attention to that. I had a really awful, painful pukefest all night. I hate not being normal.

Today, we're meeting with the oncology surgeon again. Hopefully, this time around, she has our info and will have a more informative meeting with us. I actually got a copy of my chart on Friday just so there are no excuses. I remembered that DH's brother had to get his chart to make sure about the situation because when you have to deal with so many doctors and specialists and their staff, something is always bound to get lost in the cracks. So it was a good idea to get the chart.

This week I also have an ECG, an ultrasound and a core biopsy. Next week I start the new chemo. Fun.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Home

My parents just began their trek back to their home in Pennsylvania. They were staying with us these past two months to help out and be with the kids. Instead of crawling back into bed, I'm finding myself wide awake, feeling a simultaneous emptiness and relief by them going home.

I haven't really talked about them being here all that much on this blog; they kinda melted into everyday life. But I think that what kind of support, as I mentioned before, one has during cancer treatments plays a big role in the quality of life. As an example, last night I was snug as a bug in a rug when Dude sat beside me in bed, reading up on some of my breast cancer books. I felt warm that he was becoming informed about what we're going through, and even though I had a splitting headache, I managed to fall asleep as he rubbed my back while reading.

My parents, especially my mom, are understandably big worriers. My mom sometimes takes it to a whole new level all her own, where she talks herself into a chaotic frenzy; it's no surprise she has high blood pressure. So while she was cleaning and keeping care of the kids, she filled the air with, let's say, musicality and colour.

It's nice to have my house back to myself. That's honestly what I was looking forward to for some time. Of course, that means having the cleaning all to myself; the changing poop diapers all to myself; etc. But I miss having control over how my house is maintained, even though my mom always does an impeccable job. After all, she did raise me, and I got a lot of my anality for cleanliness from her. So my internal fight for the vacuum was an issue.

They want to come back right away. I want them to stay away for a little while. I want to reclaim my space and see how I'm able to live my life without my parents taking care of me. I want to be a grown-up for a bit again.

Having three generations under one roof is both wonderfully supportive and sometimes suffocating. At the moment, this very moment, I'm not sure which way to breathe.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Frankenboob

It's almost Halloween, which I find fitting for talking about my possible reconstruction surgery. Dude and I met with the plastic surgeon this morning bright and early at 7:00. I'm not sure if there's a difference in the terms "plastic surgeon" vs. "cosmetic surgeon" but I always preferred the latter because I like to think of the whole thing as getting pretty rather than being handled like Tupperware. But it seems that the term "plastic surgeon" is used more often. Anyway, I'm leaning toward having a bilateral mastectomy (meaning, both boobs will be whacked) with a tram flap reconstruction. Why bilateral? Well, I have to talk more with the oncology surgeon before I make a final decision, but from what I've read, the recurrence of cancer for someone like me (without getting into what "someone like me" means) is not completely unlikely. That's not to say that if I get a bilateral mastectomy that I can't get breast cancer again either. Breast cancer can come back in scar tissue as well. But as with stuff like this, we're always speaking a language of chances.

A tram flap reconstruction is where they take the tissue and muscles from the abdomen and reconstruct the breast. So rather than using implants, I'm using my own tissue--and I get a tummy tuck in the process. The big downside is that it's way more complicated to do it this way, the recovery time is longer, and I won't be able to do sit-ups ever again. Darn.

It's kinda freaky to think that my stomach could become my boobies. I should have asked the surgeon if that means I should be pigging out like hard fucking core, but I didn't. She said I have enough tissue and fat to make two breasts the same size I am now, which kinda sucks. I wanted monster jugs. And apparently, in the process, the black widow tattoo on my stomach will migrate down to my pubic area. That's kinda cool. The things they can do...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Little Needles

Acupuncture--yeah, it rules! I had chemo yesterday, and compared to the dose before that, I'm feeling sooo much better. Last month's dose dealt me a world of agony, but I've been feeling alright the past two days. I went in for acupuncture this morning, and you know what? I can still taste food. I can sit and not feel like keeling over. I almost felt like working out this morning but couldn't bear to go out in the crappy weather. And, are you ready for this--the oncologist said that my tumour shrunk so much, she could hardly feel it! Which made me ask, hopefully, "Does this mean I don't have to get surgery?" To which she replied, "Nice try--but no, it doesn't mean that." Oh well.

Today, acupuncture. Tomorrow--a cruise! To exotic Victoria and Nanaimo!!!

Weather forecast promises a buttload of suckage during our cruise, but I'll be in the bowels of a boat, so eff that!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Can I Get a Hell-Yeah?!

I totally kicked cancer's ass today. SUCK MY BALLS, CANCER!

Karma

I'm just an eager little blogger today, ain't I? Must be the nice weather, which I am enjoying from inside Waves Coffeeshop, along with my artichoke and goat cheese panini and medium dark roast. So today, I stopped and picked up and threw away a pile of dog poo on my way to the acupuncturist; allowed a biotch in a BMW SUV to nearly run me over at a stop sign without getting too pissed; and talked to a slightly nutty guy who smelled really bad about how the weather is so nice and bade him a good day. Just now, a ladybug flew on my shoulder. I think, yeah, somedays, having a good spirit is just as good as, if not better than, chemo.

Whoa--you're saying--that's not what was going on earlier. Yeah, that's right. I should retitle this blog "Brandy's Bipolar Cancer Bash." But that's how it rolls, this crazy cancer ride.

AND--one more week til the cruise! Yay! I just hope I enjoy it, seeing how the cruise is only two days after my next dose of chemo. I asked the acupuncturist what to do about the flat, metallic taste in my mouth, and he said to hold a spoonful of plain yogurt in my mouth for a few seconds, then spit it out. He said that replenishes the natural bacteria in the mouth. I'll give it a shot! He also taught me something that Dude can do to help out, which is to massage the acupunture point on my wrist with a little oil. So we'll give it a go.

Hope the weather is nice where you are.

Luv,
B

Cut me open, slice me up

Yesterday, at Inspire Health, I ran into someone I met at the 2-day seminar DH and I attended last month. She's about my age, went through the same exact trial, had surgery, radiation--the whole bit. We chatted a bit about surgeons, which was a good thing because I discovered that we also both had gone to the same surgeon initially--and both of us had the same reaction: her people skills sucked to an appalling degree.

I thought it was just me; and I also thought it was to be expected, the coldness of surgeons. But through chatting with this woman, I discovered that there are actually surgeons out there who are caring and good! To think...

I would love a support group where we could talk about these things without being afraid. For me, it's hard to question doctors and such, because I've been taught that my life is in their hands. I'm learning that my life is in my hands.

In Need of Support...?

Even with all the people supporting me and sending me good vibes, cancer can be lonely sometimes. But in order to get out of the lowest low, cancer also needs to be liberating.

I'm trying to understand the whole concept of "support person." You don't have a support person in your life, until you get cancer. But shouldn't a partner, parent, friend, etc. always be a support person, no matter if you're sick or not? What needs to change about a person to elevate them to the status of support person, or to place that extra weight on them?

My husband has been defined as my support person, as one would naturally think he should be. My parents and in-laws also provide a huge amount of support by taking care of the kids. But really, I'm not sure how this scenario is different than it was six months ago, before I was diagnosed with cancer.

I think I've gotten used to the idea of Dude being the support person in the definition of him being here more, that he's with me and the kids more, spending time with us. But he's a busy person: breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings, press conferences, 8 PM coffee meetings, academic conferences, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, office hours. And when he's home, there are urgent emails and phone calls that he must attend to. This week he's in Philly for a conference. In December, he's in DC. I have to admit--it doesn't sit well with me. My immediate reaction is anger, bitterness, and feelings of abandonment. He gets to live his life, as usual. I have to stay home with my cancer.

I have to have my moment: I cry, think of all the ways he's betraying me by living his life, going about his business, paying more attention to the community and the university than to me. I think of the counselling sessions at the cancer agency, and for someone as brilliant as my husband is--why doesn't he get it?

But what's there to get? In the bathtub, I have my pity party. When I'm done, I see all the strands of snot flotting among flakes of skin and eye lashes. I allowed myself to shed the negative energy.

The day DH left for Philly, I had a really great day. I made myself get out of the house, exercise and do a lot of walking, write some poetry, and enjoy the sunshine. Yesterday was pretty good too. The weather has taken pity on me. It's not so bad to stay behind. It's actually pretty good.

But I still don't know what I'm supposed to think about this "support person" title. I'm not sure I like it. Dude is my husband, and when he really needs to be there, like when I'm getting chemo, he is. When he's not there in an everyday scenario, I do feel a little bad, like at night, when I'm sitting in bed and it's half empty. Or when I'm eating by myself at dinner. Or when I'm putting the kids to bed by myself, first Mylo, then Chloe, who asks where Daddy is. In addition to the word "meeting," they know the word for "conference" now.

I'm back to why this is different from life before cancer. It's not. Should it be any different? What needs to change? That's what I'm struggling with.

DH and I are similar--that's why we're together, is it not? We both find it hard to say "no" because we believe in the greater good. So when I'm not feeling so pathetically lonely and abandoned, I'm really proud of all that he does, that he's so committed and passionate. But yeah, sometimes, cancer is a party of one--and the challenge then is to see the greater good, in anything. The upside is the feeling that comes from re-learning how to be independent in the hardest of times.

Hm, how do I end on an uplifting note? I'm taking applications for substitute support people to come read bedtime stories to my kids, sit in bed and rub my back until I fall asleep, and cook me dinner in your underwear. Any takers?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Being Thankful

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in Canada. I told my dad that this year, he gets to celebrate two Thanksgivings. He said that for sure, the next one, in Pennsylvania in November, won't be like the one we had here, which was mostly prepared by Hon's restaurant--a good Chinese restaurant--here in Vancouver. Even the gravy was kinda Chinesey, but I thought it was all delicious.

We've had a pretty good past few days here in Vancouver, and here in our household in general. Here are some picture highlights:




Dude, the kids, and I took a shopping trip to Bellingham last week, and there was this beautiful rainbow for a good stretch of the highway.





On Friday, I spent the day doing awesome things, like seeing my art therapist and acupuncturist. Then I went to Fitness World for a good cardio workout. Afterwards, I walked across Cambie Bridge to meet DH and a friend for some coffee! I got lots of activity that day...and was really exhausted--in a good way--at the end of the day.





Saturday's weather was a piece of shit again. So we spent the day inside, except for when Dude and I went to a friend's meditation+soup birthday party in the afternoon. When we came home, Chloe wanted to try on my wig and glam it up.







Chloe wanted to take a picture of me and her dad, so she did. It would have been an awesome picture, except that it was really out of focus. So I Photoshopped some cheesiness into it.





Sunday's weather was also a big piece of shit, but luckily, yesterday wasn't! So I ran a fucking 10K--that's right! I signed up for the Turkey Trot 10K, which was a fundraiser for the Vancouver Food Bank, a while before I got the cancer diagnosis and also before I busted my leg and got a stress fracture. My leg isn't entirely healed, but I wanted to run anyway. Okay, I wasn't really running but jogging. I managed to finish the race in about 1:20, which is pretty shitty, but hey--whatever, I did it! So I'm pretty proud of myself, even though my legs are in protest today.








So yeah, the cycles come and go. Other than the self-inflicted pain in my legs, I'm feeling pretty good these days--and then of course, it's back to Crapsville next week when I get the chemo. Two days after the chemo, we're going on our little Pacific Northwest cruise, so I'm hoping that my acupuncturist can help get rid of some of the immediate side effects of the chemo so I can enjoy the cruise.

After this next dose, I have to have another core biopsy and ultrasound to see how things are sizing up. I'm trying to send positive vibes to my boobies, and I'll hope you do the same! :D

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Too Much Fire in the Belly

I HEART YOU! Life is good.

Yesterday, I went to see the acunpuncturist at Inspire. It was my first appointment, and it was very interesting. He told me that I have too much yang, too much fire--so the Korean ginseng I was taking is not right for me. He told me to save it for when I get too cold. I always knew I was full of fire.

The weather is crap again, but I feel okay.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Today is Another Day

The day before yesterday, the low point was letting Martha Stewart blab about breast cancer from my tv. The high point was making a cheesy movie. Yesterday, I had all intentions to get out of the house before dark but did not. Still, the afternoon wasn't entirely unenjoyable as I iChatted with my niece and one of my bff's. Then I went to Rhizome with Dude and worked on some poetry while he had a meeting (and I had a Caesar). So all what not bad. And guess what? It's still raining. If you don't love the rain in Vancouver, you better be in love with something else about the city.

Today, I AM LEAVING THE HOUSE! Yay! I'm going to an Inspire seminar this morning, then to the gym to work out (I keep forgetting and then realizing with horror that months ago, I signed up for the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 10K--and Thanksgiving is on Monday here!), then back home. The proof copies for the food book are coming today, and I can't wait to see what the book looks like!

I've noticed a small decrease in side effects, and I think it might be because I've taken one less pill of the Dexamethasone, which is the hard-core anti-nausea pill I'm suppose to take right after chemo. It has a bunch of nasty side effects, including depression and mood swings. So I'm on an anti-depressant to deal with the side effects of the anti-nausea. Crazy.

Speaking of crazy, I finished watching that documentary Crazy, Sexy, Cancer. For me, watching it was like getting chemo: had to be in doses. As I feared, the last half was the same as the first. I guess I just totally didn't relate to this woman, despite her being about the same age as I, for a number of reasons: 1) She didn't seek traditional cancer treatments, and instead, went to a bunch of alternative, and sometime wacky, treatment centers that must have cost a fortune, which said to me that she had lots of time and lots of money on her hands. And it seemed to me that she did it because she thought it would make a good film, not just because she wanted to find a cure. 2) While rare, her cancer is so slow-growing and nonthreatening that at one point, her doctor told her it was kind of like having a wart. But I think I must relate to the movie on some level for its spirit. And I enjoyed it when she focused on other women who were going through treatment or had cancer for a while, as they spoke with wisdom and experience that was helpful for me to hear--warriors who've been through the battle and are still surviving, though they are tired and about fed up. But I don't want to get get all down on the filmmaker--it's her film after all. And she does get kudos for me for making it, and making the experience her own and sharing it. But for me as an audience who has cancer, overall, it wasn't my cup of tea.


Okay, now time for some tea--Yogi Tea.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Video Diary: Room

What happens when you put technology, such as a digital camera, iMovie and Garage Band, in the hands of a fool such as myself? This happens:

video


I don't know why--okay, I do know why: boredom and lack of energy for physical movement and the overwhelming sense of going stir-crazy--but I made this short film giving you a glimpse into my pathetic life. You might not believe me (haha), but I have no formal training in video and music editing! :D BUT I will admit that I, myself, am playing the shakuhachi in the music track, albeit the track was edited and "enhanced" with Garage Band. The poem can be found on Brandy's Poem of the Day.

I had let the shakuhachi rest for a while, but I picked it up a few days ago to see how I was doing with the breathing. I got lightheaded after playing it for a couple minutes, which according to Roshi, is not necessarily a bad thing. But it does take an incredible amount of energy to maintain breath on the thing. I certainly don't have the patience to keep at it for very long during any given period of time (meaning, for more than three minutes). My parents and kids came home while I was playing it today, and when Chloe heard me, she said, "Where's that music coming from?" So I was a little bit proud that my child at least recognized my noise as "music."

By the way, I (re-)discovered another remedy for my muddy cottonmouth (I've been called "potty mouth" before, and am finding it to be so damning and true at the moment): salted dried prunes, which was a childhood favourite of mine. Thanks, Mom!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month...

...and I hate Martha Stewart. Yet I'm watching Martha Stewart. Because today, her whole show is about buying things supporting breast cancer research and awareness. I'm feeling a little sick. Not because I don't support the cause, but because still--I'm watching Martha Stewart. It just happened to be on after Days of Our Lives, which I was watching while falling asleep. Then I heard Martha Stewart come on and was about to shut it off, but....cannot. I'm stuck.

It's kind of weird to suddenly be immersed and so directly involved in a cause--an awareness month. It's not like Asian American heritage month in May, during which Canada and the U.S. encourage me to be an angry and proud Asian American/Canadian, celebrating my heritage and saying a big F-You to racist bastards, like racist (and imperialist) bastards give a crap about Asian American heritage month. It's just...different. A different type of validation, encouragement, and propaganda. [Omg, the woman on Martha is talking about how to fashion a natural looking nipple and areola after surgery.--Martha is clearly uncomfortable and changes the subject. Funny.]

Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with this. I just feel like I don't know what to do with myself. I feel crappy enough to stay in bed, yet I feel like if I don't get out of bed and out of the house, I'll never feel better. The sun is semi-out, it's raining on and off, I haven't given myself my bone marrow injection yet and have an irrational fear of doing so (even though I've already given myself the injection two times). No one is in the house except for me. Lame.

But here's a picture. It's another one from the Run for the Cure yesterday. It's from my pal Judy, who's been leaving comments promising me pitchers of Caesars. So thanks to Judy for her picture, and for her Caesar recipe experimentation (J--you can try out batches right here in my kitchen!).

Taste

Imagine sandpaper, cardboard, cotton, wood, and rust as replacing your taste buds, tongue, and throat, and you would know what my mouth feels like right now. Ever since the last chemo shot, I haven't been able to enjoy much of anything I eat, and when I'm not eating, my mouth feels like someone planted a muddy shoe inside it. I wake up thinking how awful my breath must be if the smell is an extension of the taste. A couple days ago, DH and I went with Jenn to Rhizome, where I had a Caesar's (Clamato and vodka), and I smiled because it was the first taste I was able to enjoy in days. Alas, I'm not going to sit here and down Caesars all day. It's a nice thought, though.

Other remedies include: lifesavers (thanks, Sandra!), water with lemon, and...that's all I can think of now.

Oh, to eat and savour--big juicy marbled steaks, California rolls with real crab, turkey and provolone panini--anything with delicate, subtle tastes to deliciously pungent ones like some of my favourite cheeses. To drink sparkling water without it tasting like day-old flat soda.

Imagine.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Brandy's Babes Take Vancouver by (& in a) Storm!




My hands are still thawing out as I type this. We couldn't have asked for shittier weather today--torrential downpour, windy & cold. But Brandy's Babes were still troopers and warriors, who braved the elements in support of breast cancer research. Not all of Brandy's Babes are pictured here. Among those missing (due to the weather and the crowd, we didn't quite stay together as planned all that well) are: Shirley and Steve (who walked with me for a good deal of the 5k); Heidy, Greg, Quintin and Gryphen (poor little Quintin got all wet and so they had to bow out); my sister-in-law, her husband and daughter; my parents-in-law; and Dude, who took the picture. Those who were MIA--which means they either were there and I didn't get to see them, or they were home sick or afraid of the rain--were Mary and Janice; Grace; Shirley Raibmon; Lawrence; my mom; and May. All told, 30 people were on the team, and together we raised around $3,500! Amazing.

So I'd like to thank everyone who participated in whatever way they could--and I hope everyone gets all cozy, snug, and dry today!

If anyone would still like to donate to the cause, visit CIBC Run for the Cure where in the middle of the page, you can make a donation.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Princess and the Queen



{Chloe came upstairs in one of her princess dresses, saying, "Mama likes my dress." I think she dressed up to cheer me up!}

Sick

Chloe's sick. So I should stay away from her. This is impossible--and not something I want to do anyway. At six this morning, I heard a little whimper downstairs, and it went straight to my gut. Even in the deepest sleep, I can feel my kids needing something, no matter how quiet they are. Of course, no one else heard little Chloe crying, so I went downstairs to see what was the matter. She had to go pee but was afraid in the dark. So I helped her, and she coughed all over me, and I didn't think to turn away. Then I put her back in bed and gave her a kiss.

Step 1: Remember that I have virtually no immune system.
Step 2: Stay away from crowds and sick people, including my own kids.

I think I'm fucked. I can't remember the first step, and I can't be bothered with the second one. This is too hard.

Last night, I had a bad moment. Actually, last night was good. People were dropping by to pick up their race shirts, and my friend Emilie came to hang out. But when everyone left, and I was in bed, I felt like crap. Not because of all the company, but just because of the chemo--and because of the horrific realization that I'm only on cycle 3 out of 8. Then I panicked: how the hell am I going to make it through EIGHT of these cycles? EIGHT???? I know people have done it, but it seems like a long-ass road ahead.

Sometimes, I really hate realizations.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Brandy Interview Slideshow

[i did this quickie slideshow...a bit self-indulgent, but what about this blog isn't, after all? enjoy...or not!]

video

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mysticism

Sometimes, I wonder if every little annoyance in my body indicates cancer elsewhere, or a side effect of the treatment, or a side effect of a drug that gets rid of side effects. Like now--itchy heels. Why do I have itchy heels? Or that stretching feeling in my abdomen? Or the unending tension in my temples. If I'm paranoid, I'm a hypochondriac. If I ignore the symptoms, I could end up sorry and regretful.

I keep saying the word "mysticism" when I think to myself about cancer because it seems that's what it comes down to. What do I believe in, hope for, am willing to do?

Caught

My body is becoming soft from nonactivity, while the veins in my left arm are hard from the chemo. When Chloe squeezes my arm as her sign of affection, it feels like a hose with the water on, but knotted up in the middle, the pressure building. Likewise, my mother doesn't understand that her tastebuds are not mine. What she buys for me at the Vietnamese market are delicacies to her, and on an average day, are to me as well; but now, they make my stomach roil, causing a retching reaction. She leaves the food on the table with the hopes of a miraculous recovery of appetite.

It's a bit difficult to make anyone understand what the immediate reactions of a chemo dose are. The first week is the worst; and it gets worse by the dose. It's a tug-of-war of feeling okay one second, and not feeling quite right the next. So much limbo and not knowing what to do with your own body.

Eventually, the strangeness wears away, and some semblance of normalcy reappears. But between now and then, all I want to do is hide from those who want to understand the most but cannot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Round 3

I fucking hate chemo. I'm trying to take it all in stride and be grateful for the treatment, but I've sort of developed a fear of chemo day and what happens later at night. The nausea, the full-head headaches, the uncontrollable sobbing, "dead arms" (that seem to perplex everyone), pain in my veins, insomnia. The day of chemo, I have a voice in the back of my head going, "Oh, god, why me?" I'm sick of popping pills, being poked, and now I gotta poke myself every other day! The whole length of the chemo treatment is not even half over. I've got 5 more cycles after this one. And holy christ, that shit ain't cheap--those self-injections to boost my WBC's, which by the way, will cause additional achiness in my body. Just for one cycle of chemo, I gotta pick up my $1700 prescription. Thank god Dude's got awesome extended medical healthcare and that Pharmacare kicks in a chunk too, so that in the end, we only end up having to pay $50 each time (without any of the hassle of trying to get approval for the drug that we probably would have had to go through in the U.S.)! So yeah, sitting next to our leftovers, soy milk, and almond butter are my little vials of joy.

It was kinda funny yesterday though. While I was getting my chemo, a nurse walked in and stared at me and DH a little. Then she said, "You're Brandy, right? I heard you on the radio yesterday! I recognize you from your blog except you're wearing glasses!" So I guess she read this little blog here after listening to the CBC interview and saw that I was getting chemo, and came into the room to say hi! That was neat! (She also said that my kids were cute too--just in case you didn't know that for yourself.) The other nurse who was giving me my chemo said, "What's the website?" There were two other older people in there, so the nurse said, "Oh, I'll email it to you." And then she said to me that she agreed with the URL. So to the nurse who reads the blog--HELLO and thanks for reading!

Anyway, don't get me wrong. The whole cycle doesn't suck for much of the time--just about the first week. After that, I try to build myself back up by doing things and getting outside and everything. But I just felt like whining a little bit just now. The blog is the Good, the Bad, and the Stupid (stupid in a good way sometimes, stupid in a bad way). Many things are worse than this, but right now, I'm wallowing in the suck.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bright Light, Dim WBC's

I went on CBC this morning and gave an alright interview: CBC Brandy Interview . . . It's hard to think of what to say that early in the morning. Oh yeah, and you need Real Player to be able to listen to the interview.

Anyway, then I had my usual lab work done this morning to check how my white blood cell (WBC) count is going. After I got poked, I noticed that my band-aid was slipping off because I was bleeding profusely from the tiny prick. So I went back to the nurse, who cleaned me up and gave me another band-aid.

Later, I had my appointment with the oncologist. They told me that my WBC count was low enough to be concerned, and that from now on, I'd have to inject myself with a drug that would help boost my WBC count. So starting with the cycle tomorrow, I have to give myself an injection every other day, and this will last through the remaining chemo treatments. Sounds like it sucks, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. It was kind of a bummer though, because I was hoping that with my good energy levels and me exercising and taking good supplements, that I'd be strong and all that. But it seems that my body has other plans in mind.

Good news is that the chemo seems to be working. The oncologist said that the lump feels smaller, so that's a positive sign for sure! So the experiment that is my life continues.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Seasons

Today was a gorgeous day here in Vancouver. And my in-laws wanted to treat the whole family to brunch at Seasons restaurant in Queen Elizabeth Park. On the drive there, my mom said to me, "Don't you get any summer here?" My parents came here in the middle of August, and we've had nice days here and there, but never a substantial stretch of warm, sunny weather. I told her that this summer was particularly sucky, but she just wondered how come we've gone straight into fall.

Here are some pictures from our outing today:




Lily and Chloe--don't be fooled by their cute, innocent smiles.





Mylo in his favourite train sweater-vest!





Me and the kids--obviously, they're so into getting this picture taken.





Me and the man, coordinated.



Afterwards, we had a nice walk in the park.

Then we took the kids to the miniature train park in Burnaby, where we got to ride these cute little trains.

Then we came home, dropped Mylo off for his nap, then Dude, Chloe and I walked to Rhizome for Baby Disco. Chloe and I totally got our groove on (whatever that means anymore, I don't know. I'm getting old).

I'm so glad that I've got all this energy now, cuz I know that this week is going to suck ass cuz I'm getting chemo on Tuesday. But you know--you gotta be happy for the days that are good, and grateful that you make it through the days that bite the big one. That's fucking life, my friend.

Oh yeah, by the way, I have a blog central station: Planet Brandy The description on the new blog will explain why I created it.

Enjoy the rest of Sunday!