Picture day in Toronto

Okay, I’m here at my cafe and ready to write. The weather outside is bizarrely fine considering it’s still March, and I’m dressed in an outfit that my husband would 100% hate (I look like a neon pink hippie). So, the time has come to relive yesterday in the written form, and it involves owl eyes, bright yellow dresses, and throwing flowers in the air.

Doesn’t that sounds quite idyllic. Actually it was a photo shoot in Toronto (not exactly idyllic, but still good fun) for the Look Good Feel Better 20th anniversary magazine, Lives Affected by Cancer. As mentioned, I’ve written an article for the issue that dips into the impact of cancer and treatment on a couple’s love life, which is huge, freaking huge, and ripples out into everything, then ripples back in upon itself . . . like some freaking never ending cycle of crabbiness and – !!!! A man in the cafe just unleashed a hurricane from his mouth – Where was I? Oh, it’s a difficult situation that hardly ever gets discussed. So we’re discussing it.

And it’s a tricky concept to photograph as well. But wisely the art director choose to work with the idea of flowers and lightness – and hey, how brilliant? While sex is SEX (Wohoo!), it’s also sweetness, gentleness and romance. Flowers are very appropriate.

So yesterday morning I go up way too early and joined the art director (I so want to say his name, but lately I’m not really sure if I’m able. Am I able?) as we took a cab across Toronto and arrived at the studio. We initially arrived at the wrong studio, a few buildings down and only realized this upon knocking on the wrong apartment door, which sheds some light on how tired we felt.

But eventually we made it.

Unlike the first photo shoot for Glow, this place had a completely different vibe. Firstly, it was empty except for the photographer and her assistant. Secondly, it was a huge space. Big windows and 30 foot ceilings, white painted everything and pillars so large I couldn’t wrap my arms around them. Why, why, why don’t they make these buildings anymore? It was magnificent.

People began to trickle in. And in. And in. Seems to me these photo shoots are highly complex – not to mention the editing and planning of a magazine. The magazine designer was explaining how much work went into the project, and it sounds nearly endless. No wonder every little job needs to be considered, and it’s incredible to watch them integrate their roles like clockwork.

So we stared with makeup and a lovely man helped me look natural, fresh and beautiful. He took the curlers to my lashes and gave them a good pinching (during which I was frozen – mannequin like), then added mascara and a tiny bit of shadow at the edges of my eyes. Sexy! Yet sweet. Way more make emphasis than I’d ever dare to use, but the result was striking.

And then came the dress. Think of something from the 1960s that a woman would wear to lunch out with the girls . . . think lemon drops and traces of white flowers . . . think about Jackie Onassis and Audrey Hepburn. That was my dress.  (It was too large so they clipped it at the back, and I wore my hiking socks since they weren’t photographing my full body. Ridiculous yet comfortable.) The makeup artist (and he was certainly an artist) touched up my lips with a bit of pink that popped against the yellow.

And then the shooting began. Goodness me. I am NOT a model – it makes me wonder, why is it easy to look interesting and friendly in front of the mirror at home, but when people are watching and the camera pops, and someone says “Happy! Be happy” . . . why is it suddenly so darn awkward?

But I did my best. The previous Glow shoot photographer had me saying, “Ha ha ha!” so I tried it here : “Ha ha ha!” And then other people started saying “Ha ha ha!” along with me . . . we were all standing there saying, “Ha ha ha!” and it was quite surreal.


Surreal, but fun. The makeup artist came over and fixed my hair constantly, thank goodness for that because often times he’d give me little tips on how to move or what to do with my legs which was really helpful.

Along the theme of flowers, I threw petals into the air, picked at a bouquet, and smelled the chrysanthemums. It was all very light and fun. Really fun, despite my nerves.

And then there was the video. Talk about uncomfortable! You see, during the shoot not everyone came round to watch – just the photographer, the prop stylist, the clothing stylist, the assistant, the makeup artist and the designer. There were a ton of other people hanging around too. But with the video EVERYONE had to watch.

Basically this video is going to be shown around the web and at events. It’s about Look Good Feel Better and Facing Cancer Together – my particular bit was mostly about blogging and the online community. (Hello community!)

Therefore, the light switches were flipped off and spot lights were turned onto my face (“Good lighting” assured the makeup artist, which somehow made me feel comforted – not that lighting worries had ever entered my mind . . . but nevertheless, I felt better.) and everyone had to be quiet. No mobiles. No moving. No talking. No light (except for the spotlight.)

So basically it was impossible to not watch the filming. However, while the idea intimidated me, the actual execution was alright. When bright lights get shot into your eyes, the watching crowd disappears.  Hopefully I was coherent – sometimes I’d use the wrong word and catch myself about ten seconds later, way after the sentence had passed by and couldn’t be corrected. But whatever. It was the real, second-guessing, me, and I reckon that translates okay onto film. (Or at least, I hope!)

The truly remarkable thing about this photo shoot was how smoothly it ran. With so many people criss-crossing one another, and so many aspects of the production collected in one room – it’s a miracle of good planning and professionalism that the project ran so smoothly. I’m truly impressed with each person in that room and the role they played.

Despite being nervous – totally nervous – about getting my photo taken . . . it was great to be in such a capable crowd, and supported 100% by their kindness and vision for this magazine. The upcoming issue of Lives Affected by Cancer will be hitting stands (as an insert in fashion magazines – how exciting) come next August. Judging by the way things went yesterday, it’s going to be an outstanding issue.

Sometimes you get lucky, eh, and get to be part of something great. Yesterday was something great, and I know Look Good Feel Better and Facing Cancer Together are programs that certainly deserve greatness.

So keep an eye on those newsstands. But don’t let this weather trick you, it’s not August yet.

P.S. I met Michael Carrera – blogger at Facing Cancer Together and personal trainer extraordinaire. But you know what, I’ll write more about that later, because I feel quite strongly about the usefulness of getting a physical trainer post chemotherapy, and it deserves a separate post.

Mirror Ball 2011

Last Sunday morning about 8.00 am, I woke up totally buzzing with Mirror Ball, and I was like, “Catherine, you’ve got to write about this, now.” But then another part of me couldn’t even see straight since I’d stayed up till 2.00 am the night before, and Zsolt was beside me in bed still 100% asleep. I’ve tried before to type my thoughts out while he sleeps . . . but it causes him to wake up grumpy.  This is a shame since there’s no better time to write than when inspiration hits, but the thought of click-clacking too early and his reaction was enough to make me say, “Catherine, wait a little bit.”

Therefore I am today, Wednesday afternoon, at Starbucks. Not the local library, not the basement of my parent’s house, not Tim Hortons (for sure not  – that place is crazy)  . . . but Starbucks, with my green tea and laptop out. I feel very productive and stimulated (thanks to the jazzy Christmas music in the background) and ready to recount the weekend.

Okay, for anyone who doesn’t know – because if you don’t work in the Canadian Cosmetics, Fashion, Media industries, or live in Toronto, (or read any of Sherry Abbott’s or @cancer2gether’s tweets), why would you know? I never knew until told . . . Anyhow, for those of you who don’t know, the Mirror Ball was originally named the Look Good Feel Better Ball, but was recently rebranded to incorporate Facing Cancer Together. 🙂  This is a gala that raises funds for women with cancer. And wow, they raise funds in a big, big way.

So the party started around 5.30pm, though I didn’t roll in till 6.00pm (and Zsolt about 6.30pm, I left him upstairs in the hotel while Chantal took us around and showed us (i.e. Katie, Terri and me), where we’d be standing during our testimonials).  The event was held at the Royal York in Toronto, which has a fascinating history tied into the Fairmont chain and being connected to the wonderful Canadian Pacific Railway. When I see a Fairmount in Canada, I think about the history and roots of our country – the formation of not just colonies but a country, you know? People had a big vision when they began to unite Canada – and I admire big ideas (with positive results).  Anyhow, our history isn’t all puppies, kittens and choo-choo trains, but nevertheless visiting a Fairmount fills me with the fuzzies. So that was cool. Though I still wish they had free wifi.

After the technical bits of seeing where we’d talk, Zsolt and I grabbed our silent auction machines (handheld devices for bidding and donation making) and began to walk around the hall. Amongst the donated products (decanters, hammocks, paintings, Canada Goose outfits, wines, holiday packages, laptop chargers) a vaudeville theme was happening. Flappers seemed to be everywhere, and then there were the mimes (Scary? A little), contortionists, and so on. Mixed in with waiters serving drinks and savoury treats, Zsolt and I had quite a good time walking around seeing how much people bid on various items.

Oh yeah – quick aside, Zsolt wore his beautiful charcoal suit originally purchased for our wedding, and I wore this strapless black dress originally purchased for a PWC Christmas party (like 6 years ago). Going strapless with a prosthesis is slightly tricky and involved several safety pins strategically placed, but I think I pulled it off. And I wore heels, but barely . . . with the help of Zsolt’s arm and a decision to ‘walk very slowly, all the time, no matter what’ I wore heels. My mom knit my shall, and it received several compliments.

And alongside this lovely silent auction and party was the Twitterball. Did you catch that, by any chance? I was assaulted with a Ipad to give a ‘hi & hello’ to the Twitterball participants, so hopefully pulled that off okay. You know I would have loved to have gotten in on the tweeting, but have no means of social media’ing’ when away from the laptop. That will soon be corrected, but I need to wait till Christmas.  My parents were at home following along and trying to stream the event. It’s just amazing what technology is doing nowadays. My brother’s graduation had the same thing: round the world live-streaming.  So everyone can join the party. 🙂

This post is so long. But the night didn’t end here! I’ve got to keep writing! And you are invited to continue reading.

After the auction and milling and meetings (I finally meet the lovely and charming Both Sides, aka Dr Alexandra Ginty. She is so full of life & verve. AND I met Chantal, the community coordinator for Facing Cancer Together and my regular e-mail correspondent – she is as lovely in person as she is in the forums. It’s so wonderful to actually meet the women behind the writing, you know?), it was time to eat dinner in the dining room . . .

Oh boy. So we walk into the dining room and it’s all dim, and black velvet and sparkly. The walls around this giant room have equally giant screens showing the progress of the silent auction, the stage is by the far wall, and the tables are set with more wine glasses, plates and cutlery than I’ve ever seen on a table. We had the honour of sitting with fellow blogger Terri from a Fresh Chapter, Terri’s friend – who I loved talking with across the night, Chantal, some young women who had been involved in the LGFB program (and looked stunning!) and several photographers for the event.  It was so fascinating to speak with Korby and Jodi about photography. Korby Banner has this whole philosophy on how to bring out beauty with his makeup application and photography. I always find it inspiring to speak with someone who clearly adores their work – but even more so, throws themselves into it with the idea of becoming the best. That’s a good way to do things, no?

Anyhow, we were having a great time at our table. And then the soup arrived.

That’s when my heart basically exploded.

You see, Katie, Terri and I were giving one minute talk/testimonials that evening, which meant getting up in front of that giant crowd of professionals and baring a few scars. (Though not literally, because I’d worked really hard to get that strapless dress to stay in place.) To me, this felt rather different than my presentation in Orillia. In Orillia, they were nurses and who doesn’t feel comfortable around a kind-hearted, albeit overworked, nurse? Last Saturday night had ‘industry people’  . . . hmm, I didn’t know what to make of that.

My heart pounded.

So after the soup we were led from the table and snuck around backstage. Sherry Abbott (who looked stunning in her gown) took to the front of the stage and presented the Tamara Wig, then introduced us as we came up. And then, one by one, we gave our stories.

It was incredibly touching, my fellow bloggers are inspiring women – high five to Katie and Terri! After the testimonials Sherry called for donations and in about 5 minutes we raised just over 30,000 dollars.  My goodness.

And for the rest of the night these successful industry people who had so intimidated me came up and shared their story. They had been involved in the Look Good Feel Better program for over 20 years. They had posed for the first cover of the LGFB magazine after fighting cancer. They had lost a wife to cancer. They appreciated our honesty and bravery.

And for me, with all the wonderful glitz and glam, those moments were what made the night. Cancer doesn’t just impact people in a certain area of the world, a certain age group, a certain social or economic sphere . . . cancer simply impacts. And the explosion hits you, no matter what your situation. Every person in that room had their connections, their stories, their experiences. We had more in common than I had realized.

(So the next time you feel intimidated, just remember what you’ve endured, and how this disease has hit so many. I guess we’re all survivors, in a way, whatever the story or situation.)

The rest of the evening involved fantastic food, a decadent dessert, magic, comedy, more contortion, and late night dancing (first time in forever I’ve danced late into the night and not felt like a zombie. Amazing! And in heels, too!).

I feel honoured to have participated in this Mirror Ball, and glad to have helped raise more funds. For sure, Look Good Feel Better helps women reclaim their identity, and for sure, Facing Cancer Together forms a bridge for relationships and connections.

The Mirror Ball was a great night for a great cause. And it certainly deserves this extra long post.

Facing Cancer Together

One more nice thing happened to me this week. I started blogging for a website called Facing Cancer Together. It’s presented by the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA) Foundation, and sponsored by Shoppers Drug Mart. This is a Canadian based website that offers a supportive online community to anyone effected by cancer.

This is part of my ‘become a writer’ plan. It’s one thing to want to write, it’s another to get out there and promote yourself. But promotion is essential to becoming an active writer, and becoming an active writer is essential to my recovery.

I mean, okay – cancer is random and horrible and unexpected. Right? Yes. So when asking myself ‘why the hey did I get cancer?’, all I can do is shake my head, and stomp my feet, and forget the question because no grand voice from above has ever shouted down an answer.

But – but but but – even before I was officially diagnosed, probably the day Bumpyboobs was established, I thought to myself, ‘the least I can do is write. If I have cancer, I will write. If I don’t have cancer, I will write. No matter what, I’ve got to write about this experience.’

There I was, totally freaking out, and writing was at the forefront of my mind.

So maybe that’s why I got cancer? Really, it’s a mystery. Like mentioned, no booming presence has ever shouted down from above: HEY CATHERINE, YOU GOT CANCER BECAUSE __________. OKAY? NOW STOP ASKING ME.

And because of that, I’ll have to assign my own meaning to this past year. Whatever the reason, the outcome is my wanting to be a writer even more than before.

So when there was a tweet on my Twitter timeline asking for bloggers to contact facingcancer.ca, I jumped at the opportunity. This is a great chance to grow my network, reach people who ‘have been there’ (and those who are actually going through it), and WRITE.

Following my instincts has never lead me astray. It took me across the world, took me to my husband, and now it’s taken me to writing.

So feel free to check it out and browse the webpage. I’ll always be Bumpyboobs, but will post maybe once a week on Facing Cancer Together (sometimes a repeat post from this page). This is a good step, and good thing. There are many good things happening. And that in itself is good.