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


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


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!


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.


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:

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!).


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.