A week of things

This week was a good week. It’s nice to have them occasionally. I honestly didn’t expect it would be all that wonderful. But it was pretty chill, and productive, and somehow visiting with my radiation doctor made me feel less dismal and more . . . just . . . steady.



Here is what happened. It’s almost so unremarkable that you really needn’t read another word in this post. But I feel like writing it out, so there you go.

This week I saw Margaret Atwood for the second time in my life. I’m editing/recording a mini podcast feature for the Ottawa International Writers Festival and Foment Literary Magazine. It’s a nice thing that gets me out of the house on the rare evening, and lets me talk about events with other literary loving minds. Margaret Atwood wore skeleton gloves for the event, which she picked up at a gas station. Throughout the evening I know everyone in the audience was wondering why she wore those gloves. And I know this because during the Q&A at the end, someone ask her why and everyone clapped. Then when she explained it was a spooky season and she bought them at a gas station, everyone clapped again. Two rounds of applause for the skeleton gloves. And Margaret Atwood. And her new book Hag-Seed, which sounds really entertaining.

Also this week, we have had a bunch of pumpkins populating our home. Tomorrow I’m hosting a small gathering of family and a few friends, and we are carving these pumpkins up. This is really an overly elaborate plan to make other people carve pumpkins so I can enjoy the benefits of roasting pumpkin seeds later. Mmmm, I adore salted roasted pumpkin seeds.

Furthermore, I made a rather excellent cheesecake.

As well! It’s always a satisfying week when I’m able to make progress at work. It seems to me there is always another big project that needs attention. In general, it feels like having this massive piece of ice I’m meant to turn into some lovely sculpture. But the only way to accomplish this gleaming sculpture is to slowly scrape and scrape at the ice till it finally takes forms. The  scraping is emails, phone calls, writing texts, experimenting with ideas, sending newsletters and such. And in the in, you get something wonderful. This week, I could move that sculpture along. But next week, of course, there will always be more to do. This is okay. It helps me. By the by, the Amnesty International Book Club is having a Readers Choice vote – go vote! It closes on the 31st.

Counter that above point: this week I worked mostly from home. I just could not handle it otherwise. Firstly, it’s a post-chemo week. Secondly, I received shitty news about my treatment last week, which got me down down down – and so incubating myself, in a way, helped me cope with all the ice chips I needed to scrape off not only my work sculpture, but my life-in-general sculpture too. And I could cry whenever I wanted. Plus stop to take naps. And watch the end of Star Trek Voyager.

Next: My art class was attended by only two people this past Wednesday. While that sucks for our lovely instructor, it wasn’t at all bad for me. It was useful to have  a little extra input into my impossible-flower-painting-that-is-driving-me-crazy. Oil paint is an interesting medium, but my goodness does it require patience. Patience is not my strongest point. And so, I am reminded to slow down in life.

We cleaned. This is why you invite people over, in additional to harvesting their pumpkin seeds. It forces one to finally clean one’s apartment.

We had sushi. That was fun – it’s this roll-it-yourself sushi that Zsolt and I really enjoy. After finally finding sushi rice at Bulk Barn, we ate our hand-rolled sandwich style sushi. It made us both quite happy.

So you can see, it was an unremarkable week that was nevertheless good.

Last week was terrible. Apparently while other areas in my body are stable’ish’ in regards to the cancer, my liver spots just keep on growing. Fuck buckets. This terrible disease is terrible. However, there are areas in my body that seem mostly stable, and that is good. Dr Canada is working to see what alternative treatments he can find me. I hate cancer. And this is a shitty way to end this happy blog post.

Therefore I will add this! I booked a ticket to go on a trip. I’m excited. Extra excited because I’ll be traveling with my Dad, and we haven’t done anything like this together ever. Not that I can remember, anyhow. It’s gonna be one long plane ride of him saying crazy things, and me taking the bait every time. FUN!

Last thing, it snowed!! Holy moly.

Happy Halloween 🙂



The ‘Me’ in the Mirror

Over the past six months, or so, with the treatments, my weight has dropped considerably. The first chemo had its impact with occasional bouts of nausea. The second chemo has not caused any nausea, but I’m still losing weight. Probably so far, I’ve lost about 18 pounds. I’m the lightest I’ve ever been; so light, I will float away any moment and dissipate in the breeze. Gone.

I’m writing this because yesterday I visited my brother’s gym. He is a personal trainer along with also being a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist here in Ottawa. Very kindly, he will be helping me train. We need to build my body back up. We need to get the muscle regenerating (or whatever the word is). We need to fix the woman who looks like she’s missing 20 pounds.

It was weird looking in the mirror of that gym yesterday. All around me were people training themselves. They were sweating and pounding the bags – they had strong arms and strong strikes. They didn’t seem to worry about shattering a bone when hitting something. I’m scared to even lift a grocery bag, for fear of crushing a vertebrae. And in the mirror I watched myself amongst them, so noticeably different.

Beauty – is it in the eye of the beholder? Even more so, is health in the eye of the beholder? Does it count that I feel well for someone in my situation? Is this frail projection reflecting back at me a reality that my sensibilities won’t accept?

I’m at battle with the me in the mirror, because I’m a bit afraid she’s the me who is dying very slowly.

I guess that is really the truth of it. It scares me a little, you know? To wither away, it’s not cool. So I need to remember: the me in the mirror is doing her best. She is at the gym despite feeling totally awkward about it. She is eating the meat and fat, despite having no real desire for either. And she is trying her best. There is a ‘me’ in there who is healthy, beautiful, and striving to survive.

I just need to remember this. And keep trying. One pound at a time and one treatment at a time, I want to get my body back.

Silent mentorship

This past Wednesday woke me up bright and early to attend a WXN breakfast networking session. WXN is an organization that connects women in “management, executive, professional and board roles.” Basically that means there’s a lot of networking, acknowledgement of success, and mentoring opportunities. As I sat there during the breakfast in Ottawa’s Rideau Club, pushing around a sausage that I suspected contained gluten and listening to the panel of speakers, it made me think of some of the incredible people I’ve met on this journey through to recovery and beyond. Though none of us ask to join the cancer club, we’ve nevertheless been inducted – and I’ve got to say, bright-side-thinking, it’s connected me to some incredible people.

So am I an executive? No, no, no. I’m a writer who was invited by my mother (president of her own consultation and health company) to the breakfast. We planned on visiting the spa later in the day, but before going to the Nordic, she invited me along to this breakfast event. (I sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor – Hungarian, by the way –  living in the lap of luxury and flaunting it! But the spa is really quite a special treat. Those saunas are great for detoxification.) And therefore I found myself meeting and greeting with a sharp group of high-level women in this high-rise, thick curtained, wood panelled room with a view of Ottawa that would drop the jaw.

It was slightly surreal to meet people and say, “Hello, my name is Catherine. I’m a writer.” And hear them replay, “Hello my name is _______. I work in _______.”  It’s not a natural way to behave, I think. But then, networking is a funny business. Feels a bit like speed dating, eh? I’ve never speed dated – but I can imagine that they are quite similar. You meet, exchange information, get a sense of how/if their business fits your business, and then move on to meet others. Like my mother says, “you only need that initial impression. If you like them, ask to go for a cup of tea later!” Which makes good sense.

(Actually, I met some really cool women and it was interesting to learn how communications, writing, and social media fit into their businesses. One lady was head of communications – which makes me think, “wow.” And another woman had just started her own mentoring business and was looking for a blogger . . . so there you go, well worth an early morning.)

Speakers included Rear Admiral Jennifer Bennett, Chief Reserves & Cadets for the Canadian Navy, Judith Shamian, President & CEO of the Victorian Order of Nurses Canada, and Janet Longmore, President & CEO of Digital Opportunity Trust. And as the room drank their coffee, ate their eggs and tweeted on their ipads – these ladies were lead by Tobi Cohen of Postmedia news in a discussion about leadership, chasing opportunities and mentoring.

It was the mentoring that really caught my attention. Rear Admiral Jennifer Bennett  – a women very high up in the Canadian Navy – spoke about the silent mentor. This is someone who sets the example in the way they handle situations, support others, forges opportunities, etc. And it made me think of the men and women I’ve met over these past two years who have inspired me with their confidence and drive.

I think of . . .

. . . My surgeon. He inspired me with his self-confidence as he quietly, but most certainly, let me know he was the best in terms of mastectomies. I’ve never claimed to be the best at anything, so seeing his confidence was such a different perspective. It made me wonder, what am I the best at? His approach was totally outside my normal way of thinking, but it caused me to consider that being very, very good is not necessarily cause to act very, very humble. Okay, so this doctor was quiet and not showing – but humble? Well . . . he wasn’t going to self-depreciating, that’s for sure. And really, why should he? He was the best.

. . . The blogger whose site was about moving beyond cancer. I’ve been following her webpage ever since diagnoses and through it connected to a larger #bcsm community. Back when my life was first being blown to bits with shock, fear and oncoming chemotherapy . . . I found hope in her journey beyond all those troubles. There was another side, and I could reach it too.

. . . my friends at Facing Cancer Together, who are so quick to respond to questions – go off around the world on journey, fight to make things better, give care to a loved one, stay strong for their children, defy the odds and succeed beyond expectation, and simply tell their story. People on this site lead with courage. It gives me strength to be open and honest.

. . . That woman who went into chemo every week cracking jokes and looking, quite frankly, very pretty. She was staring chemo in the face and spitting at it, laughing at it. Clearly this was her her defence, and I know it wouldn’t work for me (because makeup and nice outfits were the last things on my mind), but seeing her determination made me smile. And goodness knows, it’s good to smile.

. . . The bloggers, the tweeters, the facebookers, the friends stopping by with food, the family writing letters and talking on skype, the husband finishing his PhD . . . the people who made life so much more bearable!

You never know where strength can derive, and I guess it’s also easy to not realize the strength you provide. But people are wonderful, people have been wonderful. . . and I’m quite thankful to my silent mentors for all they’ve been able to share. They’ve challenged me to think differently.

And so, as I finished my green tea at the WXN breakfast and passed out a few business cards, I reflected on the community of woman, and how good it was they wanted to grow with one another. And then I reflected on this community, and how lucky I am to have met so many incredible silent mentors.

So thank you, everyone, for giving me those slices of perspective, signs of love and friendship, flashes of hope, and amazing patience . . . because you’ve read to the end of this post – and I appreciate that very, very much.

Now I’m wondering: am I alone in all this inspiration, or do you have your mentors too? Who are your mentors (silent or otherwise) and how have they impacted your life? Do share – cause I’d love to hear your story.

Till next week!