Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Flow

I went for lymphatic massage today, and the physiotherapy coordinator finally called me to confirm my spot in the post-op support group next week. Despite the way things seem to be looking up, I find myself in a funk. I suppose it's understandable to become philosophically morose (or morosely philosophical, whichever makes more sense to you) during times like these, to be down about being numb--emotionally and physically. When I was having the massage done today, I felt particularly numb when the therapist worked on my breasts, and other than feeling light pressure, there was no sensation whatsoever. She could have put a flame to my flesh, and I wouldn't have known the difference. I've been reassured by nurses and doctors that this is only temporary, that I will regain some feeling back in my body. But they can't guarantee that.

It makes me think that the body is so needy for touch (think of babies, for whom touch is the only true form of affection), and at the same time, the body itself really doesn't matter at all. I have almost forgotten what my old body looked like--the size of my nipples, the way my breasts drooped, the way they felt. I don't have phantom limb syndrome that people sometimes get when they lose a part of themselves. I'm glad--I think it would hurt to the core to ache like that.

During my second follow-up appointment today, I asked the nurse when I would have nipple reconstruction. She laughed and said I'm too eager. Well, who wouldn't be? I don't exactly enjoy looking like a FrankenBarbie doll. But yeah, I have to wait until the new boobs "settle" first, which is hard for me to imagine right now. I just feel like they're two stiff mounds that are hardly a part of me.

I'm grateful for all the comments about how strong I've been through this ordeal, but my typical reaction is that anyone would do it if they had to--to go through all this to live. Well, most people would, I assume. But tonight, I had a moment, reflecting on what I and my loved ones have been through since July 2007, and I'm like, "Fucking hell yeah, I've been through it all. My body's been through the ringer, and it's sucked ass." But I'm healing. And waiting to be felt again.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Advocacy

I'm trying to reclaim my bionic body. It's hard. And it's surprising and frustrating that there's not all that much support out there. It's been difficult trying to register for this post-op mastectomy physiotherapy group that this city claims to have at various health clinics. Yesterday, I went to one that not only claimed was held on the 4th Monday of every month, but also specifically listed "April 28th" as the date--to be told that I was completely wrong, and the woman who runs the group even called me this morning to apologize, but still made me feel like I was in the wrong. Then I tried to register for another group that's being held at another clinic next Wednesday morning, only to be shunted off to someone's voicemail--twice--with no return call confirming my registration.

I'm currently reading Living in the Postmastectomy Body, which has been helpful in learning some exercises to help me deal with the lymphedema. In the book, the author says that even though all the oncologists and surgeons always tell breast cancer surgery patients that they might experience lymphedema, that pretty much all breast cancer patients who've had any lymph nodes removed will experience this condition. This makes me feel that doctors should spend more time talking with their patients about this so that they can expect it and know beforehand what to do when it happens. It's really true that if one hasn't had this surgery, one really doesn't know what kind of discomfort and pain is on the way. It's almost as if medical professionals are there to just do their job--which is to treat the cancer--and then leave the patient to herself afterwards to deal with what might happen.

I also found some information for post-op exercises at the Patient Guide to Breast Care. So I was able to print these out and follow them. Two more resources that I found are Alicethenics, which is a very gentle exercise program (with very low production quality--but anyway, whatever), and Pilates Therapeutics Breast Cancer Survivor's Guide to Physical Restoration, which I haven't received yet but ordered yesterday. I'm excited to get this DVD because my focus now is to just get movement back. I list these resources because there might be some of you out there who are in search of this information, which I know now from experience is so hard to come by.

I also had my first acupuncture appointment today since surgery. It made me feel relaxed, and I even fell asleep for a moment, only to wake myself up with some weird gurgling I was making. I'm sure the other two women in the room who were receiving acupuncture were amused.

One last thing--I was at a friend's son's birthday party the other day, and she works at the cancer agency. One of her co-workers was telling me that she received a call from some man in Abbottsford who was expressing anger that the cancer agency's literature is available in Punjabi and Chinese (in fact, Dude was instrumental in having the literature available in these languages when he volunteered with the cancer agency 20 years ago!)--basically, this man in Abbottsford was saying that it should only be available in English, and that if you have cancer and don't know English, then you should learn it! What kind of racist, small-minded people are out there? And I was telling her that in fact, I think more should be done to help cancer patients who aren't fluent in English because in my experience in going for chemo, I've seen more people struggling with their treatments because they weren't able to communicate their reactions to the nurses. The cancer agency needs more people who speak different languages to be able to help anyone who needs help, period.

So I guess what I'm saying is that even in a place like Vancouver where we have top-notch facilitates for cancer patients, there's room for improvement--which is also saying that overall, more needs to be look at in terms of a patient-centered model for treatment, rather than just merely attacking the illness. Because even in the best-case scenario where the cancer is defeated, there's still a human being left to pick up the pieces.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Robot Refrigerator

Mylo's been going around saying "Ro-bot Re-frig-er-a-tor" for a while now, in this mechanical monotone. It makes me laugh. I really feel like a robot refrigerator right now (whatever that is). It's like there's a cutting board in my torso, and my right arm and side are swollen. It's like I have a padded bra on, but I don't. It's just me.

I went to the physio group this morning, only to be told that the information that they gave me is incorrect, and the physio group was last Tuesday, and the next one is at the end of May. I was pretty pissed and annoyed. I wanted to learn some exercises to help me with my discomfort and get the range of motion back in my right arm. But it's not to be. I ordered a DVD that will hopefully help me, so I just have to wait for that.

I also was supposed to get my stitches out tomorrow, but when I called my surgeon's nurse to report this swelling in my arm, I was told that my appointment for tomorrow had been cancelled, there had been some mix-up, and that I'd see the nurse on Wednesday morning instead. If I hadn't called them, I would've wasted my time going there tomorrow.

These things always happen to me like this. Like, one bad thing doesn't happen--it's usually two or three things. I guess it's not so bad, just pretty annoying. Hopefully, my week will end up better than it started. I should be hearing from the breast cancer surgeon soon regarding the pathology report, so we can know if the cancer is gone or what. Until then, I'm not moving much.

Friday, April 25, 2008

This is why America rules: motorized carts

These past few days have been different kinds of weirdness. A couple days ago, I noticed that my whole torso was numb; it was a very odd sensation to be able touch my stomach with my hands, but there was no sensation whatever that registered on my stomach. In other words, under normal circumstances, your hand feels what it is touching, and whatever is being touched can sense being touched by the hand. Now, when I touch my stomach, my hand senses my stomach while my stomach senses nothing at all. It's as if I'm touching someone other than myself--a one-way touch. My stomach--nothing. In fact, if I closed my eyes and lay there naked and someone came over and touched me on my stomach, I would never be able to tell.

Additionally, I seemed to have developed lymphedema, which is a common condition that develops after a woman's lymph nodes are removed along the with breasts. I'm doing the best I can with the exercises they've told me to do, and I'm also going to a physio group on Monday for mastectomy patients. Hopefully, I can get this taken care of and that it doesn't remain a permanent condition.

But good news--I've been feeling slightly more mobile. Except for the trauma my body's experienced in the past 9 months, I'm feeling pretty good. So tomorrow, DH, the kids, and I are off to Victoria for the book launch over there for Eating Stories. In case you don't remember, that's the book that was my last editing project before I started my cancer treatment. The weather calls for gorgeous sunshine and skies, and the kids love going on the ferry. So it should be a nice, relatively low-key break for me to get out of the house.

Dude and I always go to Wal-Mart to pick up stuff. I know, I know! Some of you think Wal-Mart's this evil gigantor monster that's out to suck the souls of humanity, but let's save that conversation for another time. I like Wal-Mart, and I wanted to go to Wal-Mart. But more important, I wanted something that I've dreamed of ever since Wal-Mart existed in my world: to ride their motorized carts, the ones for customers who "need a lift," as the little sign on the cart's basket says. Yes, I am finally one of those people! I rode a Wal-Mart cart--and IT WAS FUCKING AWESOME.

As soon as I hobbled into the store, I walked over to a group of ladies standing around doing nothing. This was the moment that DH and I were talking about for the past hour--of whether or not I should get one of those motorized carts. I thought, "Yeah, I know. I mean, I really don't need a cart..." Dude: "Yes you do! If they give you any shit, just raise your shirt." Me: "Yeah, I suppose you're right. Sure, I'll give it a try." So I got all worked up on the way to Wal-Mart--getting pumped up to the moment when I could show my bodily disfigurement as proof that I needed a cart. Instead, when I asked for the cart, one of them immediately spoke up, "No problem. See you gals, I gotta get a cart for this young lady." The way she said it, it sounded like she was doing the most important job that she's qualified to do. She said as I did my hobbly-hunch, "Don't mind if I walked faster, do you? Get a head start?" "Go ahead," I said, and she sped-walk to the carts. Even though I caught up to her in about two seconds, she still hopped on the cart, drove 6 inches, and stopped it at my feet and said, "There you are! Ooh, the seat's still warm. I assume you know how to work this thing?" I said, "Uh, I never had one of these before." She said, "It's easy--just put your thumb on that button there and steer and go!" And I was off!

I have to say--this weird life goal of mine--to someday ride in Wal-Mart's motorized carts--falls in the category of "exceeds expectations." I totally want to pretend for the rest of my life that I'm somehow physically challenged and never have my shoes touch the ground beneath at Wal-Mart ever again.




video
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And here is me with my old lady shuffle:
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And the Boobee goes to...

me. Of course!

My husband, bless his heart, went out and bought me a trophy. Okay, I asked him to go out and buy me a trophy, but I didn't know he'd actually do it!




The award ceremony was thus: Chloe and Mylo running through the door, shouting, "Mama! Mama! You got a trophy!" I accepted the trophy as I was sitting in the recliner watching Dancing with the Stars. I felt like a champ.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me--those who played Scrabulous and Scramble on Facebook with me, those who have brought flowers, food and trashy magazines, those who have laughed and cried with me, those who appreciate that I'm still raunchy (though I'd like to call it "spunky"), especially most of all and forever, my husband, kids, parents, in-laws, and pillows.

THANK YOU!!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Update: A Report of Epic (and approximately size B) proportions


{this is me before I had the dressings and drains taken out today.}


This whole breast cancer thing is more of a trip, less of a journey. Like, a trippy trip, if you know what I mean. And that's not just the meds talking.

Today, I went to the surgeon's office to have the final drains and dressings removed. This was the first time that Dude and I saw my new body. I was both scared out of my mind and relieved to get these damn things off because it's pretty uncomfortable being wrapped up like this. Apparently, I was sporting the famous "Van Laeken pressure wrap" (Van Laeken is my surgeon's name). All the nurses were impressed that I had it, and therefore, no one wanted to touch it.

But before I go on and on about today, let me do a recap of this past week.

So on Tuesday morning, DH, my parents and I made the short walk to the hospital. I was the first patient to check in that morning. I was incredibly nervous, and it didn't help that the nurse checking me in scolded me for taking two sips of water at 4 a.m. because I had a coughing fit. I was told at the pre-admission clinic and even on the surgery-prepping sheet that I could take "sips" of water before surgery, and I almost argued with her that a "sip" is hardly an exact amount, but I was just trying to not cry at that point. So I made it through the registration and was taken to the OR (operating room) triage, where the surgeons would mark up my body and prep me for surgery.

I was so nervous when I got into the triage that I started singing--quietly but audibly--"Living on a Prayer" and "Sweet Child O' Mine." I could hear the guy next to me--patients were only separated by curtains--tell his nurse that he's been smoking 45 cigarettes a day for 40 years, and they were discussing his Nicoderm patch schedule post-surgery. I was definitely the youngest person in there, as I could hear other patients give their ages to nurses, all of them over the age of 80. Finally, both surgeons--I had two: my breast cancer surgeon and my plastic surgeon--came in and did their thing. And then the anaesthesiologist came in and said, "I heard about you." I said, "Oh, you read my blog?" He looked at me funny and said, "No, I read your chart." I had to laugh.

Then before I knew it, they were wheeling me into the operating room, where there were these huge lights and so many machines and people hovering around me, trying to calm me down. I started breathing in a mask, and before I knew it...

I woke up and looked at the clock. 11:30. It felt like I just went to sleep, so the first thing I said was, "Can you put me back to sleep? I'm still awake." Someone said, "No, dear. We're done. It's over." I said, "Really? No way." Then came the uncontrollable sobbing.

Waves and waves of emotion overtook me. I was done. My breasts were gone. Something major just happened. Indescribable. The only thing I could do was cry. Except for the fact it really fucking hurt. Pain wracked my body.

They transferred me to the recovery room, where I continued my sobbing. I kept apologizing, and the nurse rubbed my arm and told me to go ahead and cry. Then Dude came in. I was so overjoyed to see him. I'd never been happier to see my loving husband than at that very moment. Apparently, as DH told me yesterday, the nurse who had earlier yelled at me for taking sips of water, became nice and told him that he could go into the recovery room, even though loved ones weren't allowed into the recovery room.

A few minutes later, DH went home while they were still monitoring me in the recovery room. After about an hour, they wheeled me into my room, which was a private room. The plastic surgeon came in and said, "You have a nice flat tummy." I said, "Just in time for swimsuit season." She smiled.

Dude came back soon enough and helped me get comfortable in my room. Eventually, my parents, my in-laws and the kids came to visit. Chloe and Mylo drew me pictures so I could hang them up and look at them. And we brought a picture from home--one of us in Victoria last summer that Chloe and Mylo used as a decoration in preschool.




The rest of the hospital story is kinda uneventful. I was on a morphine drip for a couple days. Then my IV started to leak, so they had to take the IV out, I was given two options: leave the IV out and start taking pain pills, or put the IV back in, which would not be pleasant. I chose the pills.

It was hot and stuffy in my room because it was a reverse pressure room, which was intended for patients who required isolation. There was a vent that sucked the air out, and you couldn't open the window. This made it even more uncomfortable for me because I was sweating profusely, which made the bandages incredibly itchy underneath. I took Benedryl along with the morphine to relieve the itch.

I didn't sleep much while in the hospital. My major milestones were getting out of bed, taking a piss, and farting. I found it funny that while my son is in the midst of potty training, I was regressing back into childhood, being applauded for these basic human functions.

Here I am standing next to the beautiful flowers folks sent to the hospital (that would be Larry, Victoria, Neala, DH's parents, and...hm, if I forgot you, I'm sorry):



The day that I left, I was to have one of the three drains taken out. It just so happened that it was student nurse day at the hospital, and I was going to be the big lesson for the day. So one of the students was the lucky one to learn how to take out a drain. Just so you know, a drain is placed inside the wound area to suction out the fluids built up during healing. It's a long tube, and it's not entirely pleasant to have this thing yanked out of you. Here are some pictures from the process. The room was crammed full of nursing students who were witness to this event. I don't actually look as bad as I felt. Dude's camera phone didn't capture me still gripping the sides of the bed minutes after having the drain removed.








So, yeah. Anyway, to our delight, I was sent home early because everyone was saying how well I was doing with moving around and such. So we came home on Friday. As I was leaving the hospital, I had such a hunched-over walk that even the old people were staring at me. I thought, "Fuck you, old people." It was so bad that when I went to the door, I was too short to make the automatic door slide open and had to wait for the hubster to come get me. When we pulled up to our house and I walked to the door, I had the urge to point my finger and shout, "You rascally young people, get out of my yard!"

Unfortunately, a lot of our friends didn't get the message that I was home and therefore went to the hospital looking for me, some of them even walked straight into the room where we had been staying! I could imagine the woman in there thinking, "Who is this Brandy bitch, and why are all her friends in here bugging me?" One of the first people to walk into the room and end up back at my house was my friend Jamie, who drove from Seattle with his friend Sharon to surprise me. I was pretty happy to see him, and it was then that I realized that laughing really hurt! Laughing and coughing--two things I don't want to do now. Actually, I don't mind the laughing so much, because, well, I'm laughing. But the coughing really sucks ass. I feel like I'm ripping apart at the seams, literally.

Friday was freakin' weird. First, it was sunny. Then it rained, then it hailed (Mylo wanted to get out his bucket and shovel up the ice, he said), then it snowed! Like, a lot of snow! The world was ending, and I was doped up in my bed. Not a bad way to go.

We had other visitors and flowers and cookies and cakes and trashy celebrity magazines come our way. It's been very nice to see folks and have them bring their well wishes.

So I guess this brings me to today. The build-up to having the dressings and drains removed (especially after having the first drain removed) has been a bit torturous. Add painkillers to the mix, and you got some pretty wacky dreams I've been having. I've felt like Frankenstein for a few days now. But it really wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be once everything came off. My skin is irritated somewhat from the adhesive on the dressings, and the drain to my abdomen was pretty painful coming out, and the hole left by the drain there stings quite a bit still when I move. But I don't look as horrific as I thought I would.

I know some people are rightfully curious and concerned, so I'm going to post a link here to a picture of what I look like now.

Click here to see the results of my surgery. Be forewarned that I'm naked, and it's not pretty--yet.


You know, I feel like I've been blessed so many times during this whole process. Even today, something wonderfully unusual happened. As Dude and I were walking (or shuffling, in my case) into the medical building this afternoon, a man stopped me and asked me how my surgery went. I realized that he was a member of Friends for Life, one of the places I go to to get wellness treatments. It's a house for people with cancer and AIDS. He said he heard my interview on the radio, and that I have been in his prayers ever since. I couldn't believe it. Vancouver is a big city, and out of all the places to run into somebody--it was just amazing. And it was meant to be, and even though I'm not a religious person, I believe in angels, and he was my angel just then. It was a sign to me to go into that building and not have any fear. I was in good hands, and everything's going to be okay.

I'm home!

Crazy, but I'm home!   I'm so glad to be out of that small, stuffy hospital room, as nice as all the nurses were.    So I'm planted firmly in my bed, in my robe, kinda all weird from the drugs and being in a small space for such a long time, with all these tight dressings on me.  I don't know if my bod is hot or not, but it sure hurts.

I will write more later, when I'm done being settled back into my own space.  Thanks to everyone who's emailed, called, sent flowers, and visited--including those who spontaneously threw a party in my room last evening!  Who knew so many people could fit in such a small space, with me in the center, butt naked and woozy?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

feeling better

Brandy had a long night pushing the morphine self-dosing button (1.7 milligrams per click...), but was feeling well enough to get out of bed on her own and take a walk up and down the hallway. She's at Room 420 in the West Wing of Mt. St. Joseph Hospital, and can take visitors from noon until 8pm. She has her cel phone with her, and so you can also give her a call and see how she's doing...
Chloe and Mylo visited before their bedtime. Mylo brought his Kitty Kat to make Mommy feel better (he now says "Kitty Kat" rather than the more endearing "Titty Tat" that he used to say...sigh...).


Chloe is still practicing how to ask Brandy how she is doing. Right now she says "Momma, how do you feel good?" Not quite there, but endearing...
The plastic surgeon came in this morning and said that Brandy now has a "flat tummy," but everything is still wrapped tight in dressing so its hard to tell, but there wasn't much bleeding and so far no complications, so far so good.
This last one is for Lou-Anne. You might not be able to tell from this picture, but the hat has lights. How cool is that...?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Out of surgery

Update on Brandy's surgery today. Brandy went into surgery around 8am this morning with a brave face (well, making faces at the least...).
She came out of surgery at 11:30am a little loopy from anesthesia and morphine, but otherwise the surgery went well. She is now asleep in the recovery room, and will be transferred up to the 4th Floor of the West Wing at Mt. St. Joseph's Hospital at 2pm, where she will be for the next four days. During the 2 minutes that she was allowed to have visitors after she first got into the recovery room, she told me to put a message up on her blog that all went well (as far as she could tell--but maybe that's the morphine talking...). The nurses said the surgery went well (probably more reliable opinion...).

Thanks for all the good wishes and prayers. Hopefully her recovery will be rapid!

To Be Continued....(Cue the anticipation music)

It is four hours before we have to make the short walk to the hospital, and I am naked. Kind of. I have a robe on. Naked enough.

Everyone is sleeping. I had so much I wanted to write about here, now, but I'm too tired really.

Right before midnight--the cut-off time for eating/drinking/smoking anything--I finished my coffee/vodka cocktail I concocted. It was good. Then I played Scrabulous and Scramble on Facebook. Then I removed the nailpolish on my toenails (no polish allowed. I asked my hubby why, and luckily he's watched enough episodes of House to tell me the reason is because doctors and such look at nails to see if patients are deprived of oxygen). Then I took a bath. Then I played some more online nerd games, updated my poetry blog, checked on the kids, watched Dude go to sleep after he watched Rome (dude, History is soooo hardcore), and now I'm in the dark, mostly naked, pretty tired yet pretty wired.

So here's the deets on my surgery:

I'm gonna be at Mount Saint Joseph's hospital for approximately 5 days. If you're in Vancouver and would like to visit, come on by. If you feel sheepish, feel free to call Dude's cell. If you're not in Vancouver, feel free to call Dude's cell. I can't promise you that he'll answer cuz I'm pretty sure the hospital policy is no cells, but he's a rebel, so who knows?

This will be my last entry til I get home. But DH will update tomorrow evening (Pacific time zone, for you Easterners out there). Don't worry! Actually, what you can do is be jealous! Cuz I'm going to have a super-hot bod soon...and it only took cancer to get it! :D

Cheers,
Brandy

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some People Fucking Suck

It's been quite strange to get negative comments about my boob party, all this judgement about my character for trying to bring empowerment to a shitty situation and to raise money. This one particular "woman" (this person identifies as such, but you never know for sure on the internet) seems to really have it out for me. After a few of her scathing comments on the CBC article, DH wrote:

"Do any of you who have made dismissive or insulting comments about this brave woman have any idea what it is like to go through 6 months of debilitating chemotherapy, where you spend most of your days poisoned to the extent that you can barely move and your veins and arteries and much of your body will never the same, another 5 weeks of radiation therapy where you are literally being burned from the inside and you wonder what the side effects of being irradiated will be if you survive the initial cancer being treated, and then ponder the prospects of major surgery that will require months of recovery and the possibility that you may not survive?

Are you so pathetic and lonely or, worse yet, so lacking in human empathy that you cannot imagine what it might be to be this woman or someone who cares for her, who has seen her courage and sense of humour in the face of such pain and fear, and who might cherish her generousity in throwing a party so that those who care about her can laugh along with her and support her in her hour of need?

If you use words such as "pathetic" or "self-indulgent" to describe her, I am afraid they mirror your own flaws and not hers, and that you truly lack a fundamental humanity that allows you to see the grace and courage another shows in spite of their suffering. This has nothing to do with the sexuality of breasts, or your views about your own breasts or your sexuality. This is about the loss of a part of her body that has held great meaning, and how the fears about how that might change her life reflect the fears about how cancer may alter or end her life in the most profound way. To face one's mortality with a sense of humour, and among friends, is such a contrast to the superficial attempts at humour and insult displayed by some of the commentators that I truly marvel at the emotional poverty of their lives.

I pity you and hope that you will not have to discover what it means to go through cancer yourself, or to see a loved one suffer through it and feel powerless to take their pain away. May you remain blissfully mean-spirited, so that you will not have to learn in the most difficult way what it means to be fully human and humane."

And my friend Vicki wrote:

"I've known Brandy since she was a young girl. She is a wonderful, intelligent woman who faces everything in life with a positive attitude and a zany sense of humor.

How wonderful, that in a crisis that could be a death sentence to many people's spirits, she chooses to lift her spirits by reaching out to other cancer patients with a fund raiser that is also a way of making a transition to her new, post-mastectomy body.

Brandy is also a loving mother to her 2 young children. Even though they are very young, she has not left them "out of the loop" about what's going on, but let them be a part of the whole life experience so that they will not be so afraid of the changes that are about to happen to their mommy. If you look in the archives of Brandy's blogs, you will see pictures of her children helping to cut their mommy's hair when it was beginning to fall out. She and her husband made a family "game" out of it, so that her kids would know that it was natural and not scary. Her daughter helped her mommy make the booby casts for this "bye bye boobies" farewell party as a way of being a part of the whole experience.

I say SHAME on you cowards who hide behind your anonymity and write mean-spirited comments towards someone whom you don't even know. And this IS newsworthy! In a world where so much of the news is gloom and doom, how uplifting to read a story about someone who is going through this with sense of humor intact. She is ready to embrace her new body and I say KUDOS to Brandy and her loving family for sharing their private pain and turning it into public celebration!"


To which this woman replied:

"To BCborn and Vicki58085 - This article has everything to do with sexuality, self- indulgence and breasts. I'm sure that Brandy Lien Worrall is a wonderful woman. And, yes, cancer is scary. Not one of my friends who has survived or left this world because of cancer has chosen to debase themselves in such a self-indulgent, pathetic, idiotic manner - they were ( or are ) too busy concerning themselves with their children, grandchildren and ensuring their needs are looked after.

Brandy Lien Worrall's private life really needs to remain there - PRIVATE- and that includes her " boobie bash ", which really is just a pathetic, self-indulgent, attention-seeking media spin so that she feels better - just in case she doesn't make it . . . which is quite a probability. I already truly do feel sorry for her children.

And, YES, I do have a sense of humour . . . the only thing that has kept me going ! ! !"


Okay, lady, so what the fuck is up? This woman is clearly insane. Here's my reply to her lovely rant:

"To Pivoine and others who feel like this person--I feel sorry for you. Because even though I might be the one who has cancer, you people are truly sick. Or perhaps, to give you the benefit of the doubt, you are only getting one side of the story. Though I have a suspicion that even given the full story, you would still judge me for who you think I am and what I've done. In any case, it's true--I have no shame--but why would I?

No doubt are sexuality and self-image a part of this act, but also is nurturing, empowerment, support. Many people came out to this event because they wanted information and to meet other people going through what they are in terms of their cancer treatments. They wanted to be in a safe environment in which they could not feel lonely with their cancer for perhaps this one night. And having this event was a beautiful success on so many levels--not just for myself but for all the other people who were there, including my children and other children, who were celebrating breasts with artwork. To them, breasts aren't sexual but were what nourished them in their first few years of life.

I have not debased myself; I am honouring myself--my body, mind, and spirit, all three of which have been changed by this whole process of trying to survive. Luckily, I have had the support of my entire family, including my parents, my in-laws, my children, my husband, and all my friends--all who were involved with this event and were touched by it.

So please, Pivoine, I hope you don't spend any more of your energy calling me names for something beautiful that I've done for myself and others; and especially, please don't feel sorry for my children. I have cancer, but I and those around me are all blessed with open minds and spirits, and instead of wallowing in my pain and suffering (which I have had done, believe me), every once in a while, I try to do good for a community of people who need support. And so if you really feel that I'm idiotic for doing so, then yes, I think you are the one who is sick."


What really pisses me off is that if there is a breast cancer patient reading this article, hoping to get inspiration or empowerment or not feel alone and misunderstood, if she reads these attacks on me, she could feel like she shouldn't say anything about her cancer...and that's poisonous. Cancer patients need to talk about their cancer, need to get help and support. They don't need to keep their cancer "private" or hidden from others. That is not healthy at all, period.

So all of you who read my blog, who are here to get information, support, peace, understanding--talk about your experiences. Be loud about it. If you want to spend your days in bed, do so. If you want to shout from the top of your lungs, do so. But whatever you do, don't let anyone ever tell you that you need to be private about your pain, that you need to do anything--just do what you feel you have to do to recover from this awful disease!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is why...

I do the things I do.

There's a nice article out there, "Cancer patient readies for surgery with boobies bash". On the righthand side of the article, you can also click on the link to hear the radio interview I did yesterday morning.

Unfortunately, some of the comments about the article are not so nice. In fact, they are downright mean-spirited. When I first scrolled down and read the comments, I was really upset. I mean, I just couldn't understand why someone could call me "pathetic and gross," that I have "the wrong attitude," that I have "no shame and no brains," and so on. I couldn't understand all the insults--it just felt completely demeaning in a time when I'm trying to not get down on myself and be depressed.

And then I think, this is why women are silenced about having cancer, whether it be breast, ovarian, or cervical cancer. They think that no one understands, and like I said on the 11 o'clock news story, cancer is a lonely place. It truly is. And what cancer patients DON'T need is more loneliness or judgment.

But what I remember from last evening are the two women who were the first to arrive at the event. They weren't my family or friends, but they came because they were going through chemotherapy and wanted to find out information and meet other people who were going through the hell they were experiencing. I remember others whom I didn't know that well but who came out for support or to offer support. I remember the kids painting the casts, having fun, being in a loving environment. I remember my friends and family who came, and those who weren't able to but who have emailed me loving thoughts. Creating a safe space, a nurturing space, a space where people can come together and support one another--not just supporting myself--this is why I do the things I do, including being very public and vocal about my cancer experience.

I am not ashamed, and I believe I have the right attitude. So you assholes out there that think I'm pathetic and gross--FUCK YOU! I'm glad I got that off my chest, especially at a time when I have to have my cancer off my chest too!

Now, for some positive thinking and images...The final fund raising tally from last night: $580 for the Canadian Cancer Society and $600 for Friends for Life. Awesome.






































Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Boobs! Boobs! Boobs!

Tonight's event was incredible for a number of reasons. First, it was amazing that such an inspirational event could come together in less than a week--and that had a lot to do with Lisa and Vinetta who own Rhizome Cafe. I appreciate much how they believe in what I do. Second, it was extraordinary how friends, family, and strangers alike came out to find out what was going on--whether they came to support me, to gather information, or to give to the cause. Finally, I was completely blown away by the beauty and the artistry of the boob casts. Everyone seemed to have a blast painting and marking the boobs (not to mention Chloe, who claimed about 8 of the boob casts as her own). It was truly a memorable evening. All told, I believe there were over 50 people in attendance, with about $1000 raised for various cancer organizations.

To top it all off, we made the news this evening. Here's the clip:


video

What Other People are Saying...

I just woke up at the buttcrack of dawn to go on CBC Radio's Early Edition to talk about tonight's shindig. The interview should be posted on their website later today, so I will give an update when that happens (in case you weren't awake at 6:50 am listening to CBC).

Also, the Georgia Straight wrote a nice blog about tonight's event . Check it out.

I'm pretty tired at the moment, but it's going to a blast tonight! The kids are super-psyched for the party. We might have boobie balloons, we will see. Don't forget your $$$ or checkbooks for donations. Tonight will be a night of celebrating, coming together, sharing, laughter, and yes, maybe some drunken tears. Oh yeah, and boob petting.

If you'd like to decorate boob casts (I'm bringing paints, markers, pastels, glitter, etc.), I suggest wearing clothes that you don't mind getting mussed up. Most of the stuff washes out, but I can't guarantee that it will come out of your fine silk scarf or fancy cashmere cardigan.

And if anyone would like to read poetry about boobies, or cancer, or anything else appropriate to the event's theme, feel free to bring your words along.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Boob Casts: A Family Affair

We put the finishing touches on the boob casts tonight, making sure they were dry and carefully packing them in a box layered with bubble wrap. They are imperfect and fragile; some of them are deformed. But that's okay. Some people make cupcakes; I make boob casts.

Here's Chloe helping me out with blow-drying the casts. She looks simply thrilled.

Boob Mausoleum

I have to tell you--this whole boob farewell party thing was completely impulsive. I really only thought of it last Wednesday! This is how it happened:

Brandy to Dude: Hey, don't you think it would be cool if I asked people to grab my tits for the next two weeks? You know, cuz they're gonna be gone anyway.

Dude: [quizzical glance]

Brandy: Seriously, like, what does it matter?

Dude: You're disembodying your boobs from yourself already?

Brandy: Um, yeah, I guess so.

Brandy and Dude go to bed.

Brandy wakes up. Still can't shake the thought. The idea has grown, has legs, and she calls her friends Vinetta and Lisa at Rhizome. What a cool fundraiser/awareness opportunity, they both think. And now we got ourselves an event.


So that's kinda the condensed version, but you get the idea.

What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed making the boob casts, all thirtysomething of them. It became ritualistic, symbolic, therapeutic. It was an act of preserving that which will be taken away from me in one week. It was mimicking how my wound sites will be dressed and undressed by others, taken care of and checked on. It was me taking care of my breasts, honouring them in my own private way.

I'd stand completely naked in front of the bathroom mirror, newspapers all over the floor, a tub of water on the toilet, with the plaster strips on the table. I'd play my iPod and sing along, as strip after strip was placed. I'd slather on the Vaseline ever so often so that my skin wouldn't be irritated by the plaster and also so the cast would slip off when dried enough. After making them, I did a quick rinse in the tub, picking off the dried plaster splotches, scraping it off my fingernails.

When I finished, Chloe said, "Mama, you have a lot of boobies! So many boobies!" My whole family wonders what must be going on in that crazy head of mine, but they all accept it and let it go.







[Here's my mom eating her dinner. She managed to find a space not populated by boob casts.]

Friday, April 4, 2008

For Lou-Anne: "Hats with lights"

I just came from a neighbour's party. He was having a bash because his girlfriend came back from one of those fucking hardcore mega-races where people can die in the desert and canyons and shit. So at this party were our dear friends Jim and Lou-Anne, who are one of the couples going on this sissy gourmet kayaking weekend "adventure" (if you can call it that) in August, which I am totally looking forward to. So tonight, we're at this party to celebrate this hardcore chick's return from the Baja wilderness, and while we're looking at the amazing slideshow, Lou-Anne turns to me all wide-eyed and says, "Brandy! I have an in to hats with lights!" And seriously, it was the best fucking thing I heard all year.

See--that's the thing. My friends and loved ones know and appreciate how "quirky" and "eccentric" I am--in other words, weird. And I in turn appreciate their appreciation. And to me, that's what life is all about: hats with lights.

I know Lou-Anne was referring to the kind of hats that you imagine excavators or miners using--the kind with the bulb in the middle of the hard hat--but when I Googled "hats with lights," I came with this, which is also fucking awesome.

As you know, I've got this random way of saying things...which brings me to the point: Yes, I do, at this moment, have a positive attitude about things, despite how shitty the situation might seem. When I think of hats with lights, I actually think of the third eye chakra, which is in the middle of one's forehead, and which I think is the path to the meaning of life. So really, hats with lights is always a good idea.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Invitation: Brandy's Boobs--The Last Hurrah


My current boobs will be history as of April 15th. So I'm paying tribute to them at Rhizome Cafe (317 East Broadway) on Wednesday, April 9th, from 5-7 PM. There will be boob casts for kids of all ages to decorate, and the theme is "Cop a Feel; Pay what you feel." 100% of monetary donations will go to various cancer organizations; 100% of love will be shared. While this all may sound incredibly self-indulgent (and it is...), it's also in the spirit of raising awareness about breast cancer in women under the age of 40, so please pass this invitation along and bring all your friends.

And yes, if you want, you can feel my boobs.

BOOBS!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Devilment

There's a line of sweat running down my back to my ass. It's kinda hot today.

You know what--you shouldn't pay attention to me right now. I'm completely annoying with my whining one moment and rejoicing the next. I annoy myself.

The other day, I was talking on the phone with my grandma, whom I call Mammy. Mammy is 80 years old, and she's not well. She's got Parkinson's disease, and a lot of aches and pains and such. Mammy and I often commiserate. We compare notes. So as Mammy was telling me about what ails her, I said, "Mam, you know what you need? You need to smoke some weed." There was a long pause. Then she said slowly in her lilting voice, "Why, Brandy, don't you go puttin' the devilment in my mind!" And she chuckled. And I thought, jeez, how much would that rock if I could get Mammy stoned? Alas, I believe that's one goal that will never be attained.

But "devilment"--what an awesome word! Thanks, Mam!