Sunday, December 30, 2007


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


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.


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 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:

And here's her improv:

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


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


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


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


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?