IT’S 1 AM. Let’s talk about high school debate clubs!

Well, I guess Zsolt was right. He said I’d be awake all night if I had a treatment so late, and here I am 1 AM not yet to sleep a wink. Oh well!

There is a motion sensor in this particular room where I am writing, and it controls the light in here. We are in my parents basement, and have decided to switch mattresses. So the old mattress, still being a valuable item, is tucked behind the sofa, which in turn blocks the light switch with the motion sensor. Every time the lights begin to dim I need to reach back and shake the mattress.

Just sipping on watery milk and shaking mattresses at 1 AM.

Before this I was in bed thinking to myself. Enjoying thinking to myself, actually. It was all enjoyable memory stuff – but then I looked at the clock and saw it was past 1 am. Normally I’m on my first middle-of-the-night wake up by now . . . and this evening yet I haven’t even fallen asleep yet! THEREFORE, I decided to get up and write.

It’s working already, I can feel my third eye getting tired. Literally. The space between my eyebrows feel heavier than the rest of my face.

Oh yeah. This is going to be a gooood blog post. I can tell already. Things are really shaking up Catherine in this one. There is such a clear train of thought, I could sell tickets to this one.

(Apparently 1 AM me is a bit sarcastic. Once upon a time, a favourite high school teacher said: Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, and I’m sure he was quoting someone but I haven’t a clue who and don’t care to google search at this time of the night. In any case, his words stuck with me.)

So there I am in bed thinking of stuff. And one thought leads to another – such as how in grade 6 elementary school I really thought James’ public speaking speech was much better than Angelina’s and he should have been sent to the board finals rather than her. SEE? HOW CAN I SLEEP WITH THIS STUFF IN MY HEAD? Which led to how I came to enjoy public speaking and debating in grade nine with Mr Dickinson as my teacher, which led to how I came to love being part of the debate club in high school.

The debate club is where the coolest kids are – and I’m not being sarcastic. It’s where people go when they want to talk about interesting things. That is great kind of thing. It’s almost better than still being awake at 1:20 AM.

I loved my debate club. It was scary and fun and like a secret club that few knew existed, but where we got to talk about fascinating things and travel in the trains to old universities (for debating tournaments) and go out to bars that didn’t ID and have motel room pillow fights and learn how to present an argument and laugh like crazy because everyone around you is witty as anything. It was the only thing I did in high school that had me interacting with students across various grades. Smart people who today are off in the world doing smart things.

Mrs Podgorski ran the debate club, and thank goodness for her. She was this lovely women who was gentle and kind, and had the most blindingly brilliant children who were older than me in our high school. Part of me wonders if she started the club so that they’d have an outlet for their genius. Quite likely. But she treated us all like family in that class room where we met in week after week.

Be it resolved that thinking about these kinds of things makes me happy.

BE it resolved that I AM still a little buzzed, and therefore must be careful of blogging like an idiot.

BE IT RESOLVED that that resolution has come and gone.

Oh well.

Debating was so nerve wracking. We’d go to these tournaments only occasionally knowing what the resolutions would be. The organizers hardly ever threw us soft balls (E.G. BIRT women are smarter than men = soft ball = easy and stupid and fun to debate), but rather had us start from some big abstract idea related to politics or the world or culture, and then we had to define it down and begin to argue (E.G. BIRT Canada should adopt a safe third party policy). SO going in you’d often only hear the resolution 30 minutes in advance of the debate. That means, you had 30 minutes to plan an argument AND if you were the defending team rather than the presenting team, you didn’t even get that because you had no clue how the presenting team would interpret the resolution. (keep in mind, we didn’t google back then – one time, this team actually came to the debate with a MASSIVE dictionary. I thought it was overkill. Why not just bring your whole encyclopedia collection along?!)

Half the time we’d walk in those rooms blind, hear a short introductory speech, and be expected to give a seven minute speech in return. AUGH!

Occasionally I shined, often I bombed. Once at McGil university I bombed in front of about 200 people, but thank goodness my partner was a semi-genius at public speaking and picked up the ball after I threw it way, way, way off the court. It was because of him, and a score tallying error, that we were in the finals. (Although I had done very well prior to that final debate, don’t get me wrong. But he definitely carried the team)

ANYHOW. (1:36 AM.) There were highs and lows like that. It might sound intimidating, but not every moment was so intense. We’d have goofy and fun debates during the actual club meetings, and sometimes not even that – I’d just get to see the older kids be cool, and enjoy sitting there in their smart as anything company.

Did I ever mention how much I dig smart guys? So this club was paradise. There was this one guy at the rich-person private school in Ottawa who I saw debate in a bilingual tournament, and while I didn’t understand a single word he said in French, he was beautiful while saying it.

I can accredit much to that debate club, including a great friendship. I can’t remember if we joined together or separately, because he was also my first boyfriend for 5 months of high school (life is supersaturated intense when you are a teenager, so that is a relationship for sure), but in debate club we debated. I remember we won or came second during an inter-school debate tournament when working as a team (yay!), and in our final year of high school when deciding upon who would be debate club president, he insisted I be co-president of the debate club (because we’d been there the same amount of time) even though he was clearly the strongest debater on the team. Classy stuff.

So all of this was running through my head this evening, and it was nice to consider for a little while. Nowadays my debate partner would have to be my father – poor man. And really, I’m not inclined to debate anyone these days. Truth is, I would rather understand how and why your perspective is your perspective than simply argue back and forth as to who is correct. (except for my dad, of course, because he gets me every time, and perhaps Zsolt too, and maybe my brother too…) But straight debate doesn’t take anyone anywhere. Though I also like to present my perspective in a way that is logical, and in a sense can answer to the other person’s experience. This, I believe, comes from living life and studying psychology. Though certain people can really get me rolling in the good ‘old debate style mode.


And now you know how long it takes me to write a blog post. That was the real plan all along. Ha ha ha. I got you. You thought you were gonna read another reflective and insightful post about life. NO WAY. I just wanted to illustrate how long it takes to write these things.

And, that I’m still buzzed as heck from the treatment.

Zsolt was right. The man was right.

He’s gonna love that.

Special Things

Today is a special day.

It’s the day I went into the office for a small gathering of friends to celebrate my time having worked together at Amnesty International. It’s also the day I get to finally start my new treatment approach.

And it’s very bright outside today, which makes it all the better.


Let me start with Amnesty. I do not write about work on this blog too often. I feel it’s something beyond the personal – and would be unprofessional to write about it in this space. But I can write about how lovely it is to belong somewhere, and I have really felt like I belonged in my role this past 1.5 years, and with this amazing organization. Truly it has changed who I am, how I see the world, and my knowledge in what kind of change people working together- grassroots upwards – can make.

But today was about the cheese and tea. Having finished work last week (I made the decision to leave my role as book club coordinator after Dr Canada gave Zsolt that ‘expect the worst’ talk, and things wrapped up last week.)… having finished work last week, some friends at the organization threw me a little tea party this week. I just had to show up and enjoy! There was tea (we tried some plum, some cinnamon, and a hibiscus) and variety of cheeses, as well as crackers and gluten free baked goods from the market, plus most importantly: Good Company.

Sitting around chatting reminds me that it’s just essential to connect. Social media and such is fine and well, but a nice table with some china and chatter – it’s the essential stuff. It’s where the calm and laughter really live. It’s where you realize how much you have in common, and how much you have to learn. I hope as time moves forward, I can continue to seek out meaningful moments like the ladies gave me today.

Today is also a special day because of the new treatment. Oh, stage four and treatments – one comes after the other until the doctor says ‘that’s it!’ and it’s a very hard situation. But sometimes moments of hope appear, and whatever kind of opportunity they offer – another month, another year, another study, another approach – they are meaningful.

With the cancer all over my lungs, liver, bones and in my brain, the picture is not pretty. But at least today I’ve been able to start a new treatment course. The radiation has zapped the spots in my brain, and maybe this medication will help kill any bits remaining in there. If so, maybe then I can get onto a clinical trial and attempt a different approach for battling back the disease. Fingers crossed for a virus study.

But we’ve had to wait about 3 months before I could get this medicine. It’s called Tykerb, and it’s a HER2 drug that apparently can cross the blood brain barrier, whereas other approaches cannot. It’s also about 5000$/month if you are not covered by the province or insurance. Guess who isn’t covered?

However, through a series of fortunate events, persistence and compassion it has become accessible to me. I won’t give details because it’s not my place to do so. But we get to try it, and that is so very good. Like I say, who knows whether it will work, and even if it does, who knows how long it will last – with me, things seem to move on quickly from working to not working, but it’s nevertheless a gift of hope. I get to try.

I get to try. And that matters very much.

I’m also back on chemo. This time it is a pill. This is fine, it’s part of the treatment. Though it’s also a bit hard to swallow in that …I already weigh nothing. My energy is so depleted.  My appetite was never great. Ahhhh.

But who knows? Maybe it will help push back the cancer in my lungs, so I can breath better. And maybe it will reduce the discomfort of the bones. And maybe I’ll be able to rebuild some muscle mass? All these things would be lovely.

In the meanwhile, I had a fun conversation today with the ladies at work about movies that impacted our lives. Some that came up: Garden State (my movie choice), Amelie, Reality Bites, Bridget Jones, Dirty Dancing and more. And in that vein, here is one more: Beauty and the Beast. One of the first characters that I really, really wanted to identify with. Headstrong, smart, beautiful, adventurous, and a reader! Disney is redoing the film with Emma Watson. Here is the trailer.  Tingles!

P.S. I am writing a lot lately. It’s a coping mechanism. I hope I am not overwhelming your news feed or email. Feel most welcome to ignore me. 🙂

P.P.S. Did anyone catch that emergency debate on the USA’s decision regarding refugee travel and how Canada should respond? Very insightful, I thought….very interesting how each MP approached the issue. Much of it disappointing (self-congratulations of a country, avoidance of issue through excessive storytelling, platform pushing), but some of it quite good (acknowledging Canada has failed to support refugees in the past, pushing for some form of commitment on how we can help now, direct language and direct responses, etc.)

P.P.P.S I’ve got nothing to add here – just didn’t want to end on politics.


MALL walking!

It’s eleven PM and I’m starting this blog post. Too late for spelling or grammar concerns. Too later, really, to be blogging. But what the heck? Let’s go for it.

Lately I’ve taken up an interesting sport. It is called “mall walking” and it’s quite the event. You see in Canada winter is cold. In Ottawa, where I live, it’s also snowy and icy and creates chaos for a person who lives downtown, doesn’t own a car, and needs to walk on the icy, uneven, potholed sidewalks of the city.

But the weather is beautiful on a crisp winter day, and the mall isn’t too far from my downtown location. So while downtown and not at my parents place, it’s a bit tempting to risk the short outdoor walk (even though my oncologist scared the heck outta me around breakages in bones, etc.) and go to the mall for a little bit of movement.

Yeah, I’m basically behaving like an elderly citizen. But I get it more, you know? Things like chemo and the change in body really make you get it. Mall walking – it just makes sense.

So the other day my brother took me walking in the mall.

First, it was absolutely adorable. He and I walked the precarious sidewalk towards the Rideau Center Mall arm in arm. I mean, come on – when do you walk arm in arm with your brother? NEVER, in my experience. But we did! I was quite excited about the whole trolling the mall thing, and he was happy to humour me.

So we take a walk outside. But by the time we actually reach the mall I’m wheezing like a … well… a person who cannot catch their breath. Unfortunately, my lungs have been giving me trouble. But that’s why it’s good to get outside and push them a little. Push, as my bro says, so that the body knows where to aim and grow towards.

Right, I’m wheezing on the street corner, catching my breath. But we made it – because the entrance is JUST RIGHT THERE. Screw the wheeze! Let’s keep going! I proclaim to him and a few random people passing by.

We continue up an incline. Screw the wheeze, screw the wheeze, screw the wheeze I say as we chug along. Because goodness knows I can’t just shut up and conserve my breath. No, I cope through chatter.

And finally we reach the entrance to the mall food court. Basically, we’re hitting up the most exciting part of the tour first, because there is plenty to see and do in a food court.

Including getting a massage!

We go in, take a seat on some comfy stools and my traditional-Chinese-medicine trained brother gives me an awesome chest and shoulder massage.

So we go from holding arms, to massaging.

Not weird at all.


But screw it, I was in 7-heaven. Every walk should pause mid-way for a massage. Plus, it really helped to reinvigorate me for the remainder of the mall walk.

Then we take off (but not before deciding that as a reward for this very productive walking excursion, we’d buy some BUCHIPOP, sold in the food court and made by my brother’s girlfriend – it’s her drink company – on the way out!)

And off we walked into the mall.

I guess the key to a good mall walk is not to actually go into many shops. It’s more walk-by browsing. Otherwise things become rather stagnant. However, of course, if something catches the eye than by all means stop. Of course, I’m doing it wrong, technically. WAYYYYY back when I was 20 and worked for Old Navy,  I’d see proper mall walkers in the morning before anyone actually began shopping in the mall. They were a serious bunch. They didn’t stop to shop because the stores were not even open yet! They would just charge around the mall over and over – really proper and serious mall walkers.

I’m more like… a contemplative walker. I enjoy the sights and sounds. I enjoy the conversation.

JP, my brother, carried my coat. Very gentlemen like. So first there was arm-in-arm strolls, a massage, and then gentlemanly behaviour. WEIRD! But to tell you the truth, his carrying my coat is a great relief, and I can use that energy for explore and gab for a longer period of time.

Eventually the walking felt complete. I bought my rewards BUCHIPOP and we headed back to the apartment.

While I do spend most of my time at my parents, it has been very nice to be downtown too. If for no other reason than the chance to spend more time with my brothers – they both live downtown – and of course, for the occasional visit to the mall.

Arm in arm we walked home together. And it was it such a good time. I’ve decided that I will take the memory of that mall wall with me into my radiation appointment this week.

Targeted radiation – cyber knife. For all the spots in my brain. I have three days worth of sessions. First day 1 hour with the face mask on,locking me to the table. Second two sessions – 1.5 hours and 1 hour back-to-back with the face mask on, locked down. Third session, on the Monday – 1.5 hours and 1 hour back to back with the face mask on, locked down. (VERY good, but psychologically challenging)

The only way I figure I’ll cope with this, is to take in all the stories and moments I’ve been enjoying – from you – to think about as my brain receives laser radioactive surgery.

I will think about the mall walk with my brother. Think about going to the tea house with my oldest friend and the hot chocolate we used to order. Think about Pink Floyd and Christmas lights. Think about dancing with my husband. Think about PWC and eating a gooey pizza with my also-wants-to-be-a-writer-and-we-also-love-to-gossip co-worker. Think about shelving books at Chapters and escaping to the back room. Think about going out west with my Dad. Think about Pride and Prejudice with my mom. Think about car rides with my cousins. Think about kicking some ass in the gym class self-defense module and earning a reputation for being crazy. Think about BOLO. Think about riding bikes in Balaton. Think about brunch with friends. Think about my writing, how you react to it, and what I want to do with it going forward.

Think think think.

Thank you so much for all of your messages. I was nervous to put that post out. SO nervous. But it was good, and I’m glad to have done it.

I’ll take all of you in with me to those radiation sessions. And we’ll get these spots under control.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS NO SPELL CHECK TONIGHT> Maybe tomorrow. Maybe. I’m always embarrassed by the errors. But better out then never published. And things can be reviewed later.  Gooood night!