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Mesothelioma Doesn’t Have To Be a Death Sentence

I am long overdue for an update, but that will have to wait (just a little longer). I am posting today because I think this message needs to be heard. I tend to focus on my niche in lung cancer, but the truth is, its a big wide open field. For a very long time (think since the 80’s) the survival rate has remained pretty stagnant with few exceptions. So when one hears the word Mesothelioma, you can understand the fear it strikes on one’s heart. It was March 1998 when my family got the news my father was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and given months to live. To his credit, he survived 16 months. Since that time, and for a long time, treatments didn’t change and neither did the prognosis. Until now.  Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 8.53.39 PM

On August 1st, it was Lung Cancer Awareness Day, I was supposed to post this then, but I held on to it deliberatly to make a point. Every day is Lung Cancer Awareness Day for me and my family, and for all those who have been touched by this terrible disease. So I post this today, because August 6th is Lung Cancer Awareness Day as is the 7th and 8th and so on.

The second reason I post this is because many people out there who have been diagnosed or have a family member who has been diagnosed may not realise that asbestos exposure at the work place is a work place hazard, and that often, there are class action Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 8.56.14 PMsuits or government programs (although they don’t advertise!) to help support both the patients and their families. In Canada where I live, asbestos and its products are not
manufactured or in use, however, oftentimes exposure can come from old materials such as drywall, pipe fittings, or coatings. So if you are planning on a renovation, or work in construction, it is wise to be aware of potential exposure. Asbestos is stable until it is disturbed, so it is advised that you contact an inspector or a remidiation company prior to any demolition or work. I will post some links to information and contacts at the end of the post. Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I welcome you to read the following article: Mesothelioma doesn’t have to be a death sentance, by guest author Gregory A. Cade of the Environmental Litigation Group, P.C.

I have worked as an attorney who specializes in mesothelioma, asbestos and environmental law for over twenty years, and in this time my firm, Environmental Litigation Group, has helped more than two hundred thousand clients. I have spoken to many people and I have learned about their lives, experiences, fears, I became close to my clients and I have learned what most people think when they hear that they have mesothelioma.

First of all, it is important to define what mesothelioma actually is, as some readers might not have heard about it until now. Mesothelioma is a rare, very aggressive type of cancer that develops after asbestos fibers enter into a person’s body. This disease is extremely volatile, in the sense that it can metastasize extremely fast and it can take either a few months to a few decades for the cancer to develop, after being exposed to asbestos. There are 3 main organs where mesothelioma can develop: the lungs (pleural), the abdomen, liver, spleen and intestines (peritoneal) and the heart (pericardial). There are rare cases in which mesothelioma develops in other parts of the body, such as the testicles.Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 8.57.49 PM

Throughout my career as an attorney, I have met many people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, the most common and aggressive form of this type of cancer. It is always heartbreaking to speak to them because you always feel and see the fear and hopelessness in their eyes. Many people would see a cancer diagnosis as equal to a death sentence. On top of that, because of its aggressiveness, since they are diagnosed mesothelioma, patients are usually expected to live between 6 and 18 months. This is why, most clients come broken and defeated, having already given up on the fight with the disease.

I believe that this is an incredibly wrong and dangerous mentality! To every person sick with this illness that comes through my door, I tell them to keep fighting, to never surrender. I personally know people who have lived over 10 years with mesothelioma. They do sports, go outside, eat at restaurants and they look great! Nobody would even think that they have cancer. As cliché as it may sound, I believe that cancer can be beaten and that nobody should ever give up hope.

In the last years, more and more treatments are becoming available to help cure cancer patients, or at least extend their lives. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy, although they yield results, are not the only options anymore. There are precise surgeries which remove damaged tissue, medical trials that can help people, there are blood transfusions to strengthen the immune system, there are pills which help fight the disease and keep it from spreading. All of these methods are worth trying as they can be the difference between life and death.

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 8.54.11 PMOf course, because mesothelioma, and cancer in general, are such aggressive diseases, patients adopt a fatalistic approach towards life. I want to urge people who may find themselves in this unfortunate situation to keep pushing forward! There are so many wonderful things to explore and if you are given a chance to do them, why not take it? Indeed, there are odds that the cancer will still progress, but even so, remain hopeful! Some clients who combined exercising with healthy eating and regular treatment have survived for more than 5 years, some even more that 10! They have watched their children grow, have remained with their loved ones, have explored the country and they have grown as a person. So I must emphasize once more, keep on fighting, hoping and taking care of yourself because cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence.

Asbestos Information:Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 8.55.41 PM

In Canada:

USA:

International:

Spanish

A very special thanks to Gregory A. Cade of the Environmental Litigation Group, P.C.    2160 Highland Avenue Birmingham, Alabama 35205  (760) 696-7959

Be well,

AM

Shameless Self Promotion!

Let me begin by saying, the title says it all. I am about to promote a sale. If this is something you are not interested in, please ignore this post!! If you are interested in what I have to sell, scroll down and keep reading.

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Some of you know I have started a new endeavour. I have started my own small business as an independent Jamberry Consultant. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share their current promotion!! Jamberry is having a FLASH SALE!! 15% off site wide on all regularly priced items. If you are interested or have ever wanted to try their product, now is your chance! Until tomorrow, Monday May7th 12:59pm, enter the code springforward15 and you’ll automatically get the discount. You can follow the link and check it out. Spring has Sprung!

As always be well,

AM

Nine Years, Nine Lives

Today is a pretty remarkable day in my life. The day my life was changed, utterly and completely – nine years ago. When I think about that, I am brought to tears. After all I wasn’t supposed to be here. If it weren’t for luck and scientific breakthrough, I wouldn’t be. There are times I wonder why I am, still here that is. If it were any other kind of anniversary, I would be celebrating with a party or a cake. Because it’s my cancerversary, my day is spent reflecting on my blessings and thinking of all the dear friends I have lost along the way.

In years past, I have been so busy that the day has almost gone by without notice, can you imagine? A day not thinking about cancer, a normal day. I don’t have many of those. 2015-08-26 21.49.543,285 not normal days, just off, abnormal like the cancer. Some days I feel every second. On other days, time flies.

I  live a condensed life, condensed experience, condensed joy.

Joy.

 

This year is kind of a monumental year. I turn 40 in just more than a DSC05142month. 40! Middle aged (when did that happen :o)! Believe me, I didn’t think I’d ever see my 35th, let alone my 40th. When I was diagnosed nine years ago, I didn’t think I’d get to do a lot of things!

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to buy a car or a house. I didn’t think I’d get to travel. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to fall in love. I didn’t think I’d ever advocate for change. What did I know!? I had no idea what potential my life had. I had no idea of what I could achieve. I had no idea what life truly held. I had no idea what it meant to live. I mean really live.

IMG_2159It shouldn’t take critical or terminal illness to teach us that lesson. 2016-07-07 18.54.45-1Why can’t we all live genuinely, authentically, passionately, no time for B.S. kind of lives.

Time.

When you realize that time is really the precious commodity that everyone is after, you begin to value it over everything else. Things are just thing and are transient. Money can be made, of course it can buy comfort, but it’s just a thing. Time on the other hand provides us with opportunity. Opportunity to spend it on doing what we love. Opportunity to spend it wisely. I say that, because for us, it’s limited.

Our clocks start ticking they day we are born. So we can chase money and fancy things, and spend all that time working and running in circles. Or. We can open our eyes and see how beautiful the sunrise is, especially when you are with someone you love. How magnificent it is to experience the cultures of the world. How wonderful it is to be loved.

Love.

I wouldn’t be here without Love. The love (and kindness) of my medical team. Love from my family and friends. The love of my dogs. The love of my life. Thank you all! I couldn’t do it alone. I know together, we move forward.

To another nine years,

AM

 

Put a little jam on it

Happy Easter Fool’s Day. I hope all my readers and friends had a lovely day with loved ones, and to all those who celebrated Passover, Chag Pesach Sameach.

With spring comes change, so I have decided to take a chance and do something unexpected. I am starting a new business.

It’s no joke! I am now a Jamberry Consultant. Don’t know what Jamberry is, I’ll tell you what it is. It’s genius!

No really!!

If I were to actually tell you all the supremely cool things about Jamberry I’d literally be here all day. I will say they have revolutionized the beauty industry and turned it on its head!! Manicures that can be on-trend or customized to your personality and can be changed as often as you like or up to two weeks later and don’t break the bank. I mean it!! Their nail wraps are easy to use, and cost a fraction of a salon manicure!! But they aren’t just nails, they have hair care, beauty, and, see. I have started rambling!!

As it is, I’ve been trying to think about how to announce this. Considering what time it is now, You can see I wasn’t very successful. So I won’t beat around the bush, if you know what Jamberry does or if you don’t and are curious, I will be having an online party starting on April 13th, so stay tuned for that. I will also be hosting a small gathering on April 15th, but if you just can’t wait, you can always check out the amazing spring wraps and new goodies launching today and Put a little jam on it and check out my site, you’d be a fool not to 😉 (no more April Fools jokes I promise).

Be well,

AM

Happy Valentine’s Day

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 6.00.08 PMIts Valentine’s Day (and Ash Wednesday – irony?!), I had planned to write about some of
the struggles of dating and cancer, but I am sick with the flu and my fever addled brain isn’t functioning as diligently as I’d like. So to avoid me writing nonsense, I will repost what I wrote last year and save that topic for my next post. If there are any specific questions you might have regarding dating and cancer, please send them to me and I will do my best to address them in the post. Until then, whether you are spending the day with your valentine or going solo, know that you are loved.

Be well xo

AM

On this St. Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share with you the story of how my husband and I met.

Now before I get to the meat and potatoes of the story, I must give you a little backgrounder. Before I got diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t date. Especially online dating. Like many, I had my reasons, but mainly, it was because I was so fracking busy I had no time to socialize with my friends, never mind strangers. So at that time, I figured, if something came around, it came around. My focus was my career. Of course, when I got sick, the main focus was on that, and getting better. So again, dating, not high on the priority list.

When I got sick again, I thought I was a goner. I figured it was time to get out there. I mean if I was going to die, I may as well have a little fun before kicking it. I decided to put my profile up on a few dating sites. I relegated myself to knowing I’d likely meet a few wackadoodles, because such is life. If that happened, I’d just politely thank and excuse myself and quickly extricate myself from the situation, pick up the tab and be gone, thank you very much. After all I have terminal lung cancer, I don’t have time to waste!

So here comes the good stuff.

I winked at Patrick and he winked back at me, at least that was how it was done on that particular site. I know cheesy!

Shortly after the wink, he sent me a message kindly asking if I would like his number. I of course said yes. I anticipated a call from him, but a week went by, then two, so I figured he had lost interest and didn’t think on it too much. Ok fail numero uno. No problem.

Then out of the blue, about a month later, I get a phone call and its Patrick. I almost didn’t answer because I was waiting to go into an appointment when he called, but he was so apologetic, I couldn’t resist. He said he had been thinking about calling all month, but he had been so swamped at work that he could never find the right time. He called because he had a few days off for Thanksgiving and his birthday and wanted to meet me. I offered to take him for coffee for his birthday. It was arranged that we’d meet at the Dark Horse Espresso Bar at 4 on his birthday.

 

 

As left my house to meet him, I   remember thinking “wouldn’t it be funny if we ended up on the same streetcar?!” It would since I was coming from the west end of the city and he was coming from the east. So when I approached the streetcars at Spadina Station, I texted him to let him know I was on my way. He replied, so am I. There was such a crowd waiting to get on streetcars that day, I decided to wait for the crowd to die down and I got on the next one. I got on and went to stand where I usually stand at the back of the car in front of the back doors.

Even though I had waited, it was still jam-packed. After the streetcar passed College, a bunch of people got off and there was some space. So I texted him again saying, “I just passed College, I’ll see you at Dark Horse.” He replied with “me too.” When I looked up from my phone I spotted a guy that met the description Patrick had given me. I chuckled to myself because he was literally 5 feet in front of me.

Upon my realization, I texted “Are you wearing a grey hat?”

“Yes?”

“I think you are on my streetcar.”

At which time he had moved directly in front of me, but had his back turned. I watched as he looked about the streetcar trying to find me. Just before our stop, I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned, looked at me and said “You’re short.” (Oh God…here we go) “I’m sorry, I just mean usually girls I’ve met are taller than me. You’re awesome!” (Ok, you get one…and you recovered well).

At Dark Horse the conversation came fast and easy. He made me laugh, I felt like we knew each other already. We talked so much, we shut down the shop. At this point, I didn’t want the date to end, so I said “hey, are you hungry, I am, we should grab a bite.”

“Yeah! Absolutely.” So we walked a short distance on Queen St. and stopped in at little bistro. Again, the conversation came easy and we ate and talked and ate and talked until it was time for them to close.

We had met at 4 that afternoon and now it was 11:30, but time flew by so fast! He walked me to the subway, but before we said our good byes he says, “My room mate is throwing me a birthday party. Do you want to come?” As much I really didn’t want to say good night, but I was going to Ottawa the next day for a conference and really did need to get home. The funny thing was, he should have been at that party way earlier on that evening. I guess he didn’t want the date to end either. We parted ways and I was of to Ottawa.

The next day sent me a text me to say what a good time he had and we chatted away the screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-12-34-23-pmwhole weekend and agreed to see each other again. When I got off the train three days later, he met me with snacks, because he knew I had been on a train for 5 hours and I might be hungry (Swoon). He then said he had dinner awaiting me.

As I wandered his apartment, I noticed the pictures he had of family, it was really nice. I knew that I liked him, I also knew I had a huge monkey on my back! I had been tormented all weekend and all though our date. I felt so deceptive by keeping my cancerous life from him. Did I wait to tell him, or do I break the news now so he’s not invested. From all I have seen, I need to do it sooner than later. He is too nice to get hurt.

After dinner, as we sat on the couch, I knew it was my opportunity (well it was nice meeting you), I took a deep breath and said, “I have something to tell you.”

“Oh, is everything alright?”

“Yes. But. Ok, how do I….It’s nothing that has to do with you, it actually me. I’m…I’m not an alien, but I am a mutant.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I’m a mutant, I have ALK rearranged stage 4 lung cancer. So I’d understand if you don’t want to see me again.” He took my hand and looked at me and said “My friend’s wife has cancer too, I think you guys would make great friends. I really like you, I’m not going anywhere.”

That’s how he stole my heart.screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-12-37-30-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-11-at-12-31-55-pm

Let’s Talk Again Bell

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 2.19.03 AMWhen I started this Blog, it was really intended to be an outlet to express my life and with it was like living with a terminal illness, lumps and all. It is still that, but it has turned into so much more. Little did I know that a year ago on Bell Let’s Talk Day, a post I wrote the previous year talking about what it was like coming off of antidepressants would resonate so deeply. Deeply enough that it was picked up by WordPress’ Discovery team (a very awesome experience). I don’t know if this year’s post will be as profound or powerful, but I hope it touches someone out there and let’s them know they aren’t alone, and it’s ok to ask for help.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 2.21.13 AMThis year has been hands down the hardest year for me mental health wise. I have felt things that don’t seem like me. I have always been cheerful and tenacious, but since changing cancer medications, I have felt anything but. I wish I could just switch meds, but they ARE the thing that keeps me NED and cancer free(ish), so I can’t just stop, or change, I have to deal.

But it has been scary!

This year I have gone to some very dark places, had thoughts I never thought I’d have. I have to remind myself, that I am not these thoughts, and that tomorrow is a new day. Initially, these thoughts would casually pass through my consciousness very briefly, to float away. Then they would happen as I looked at my life saving medication and wondered why I take them? I mean what’s the point? I’m so tired of all this. Gulp. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 2.21.39 AMSwallow, down the meds go. The thoughts soon float away. I then found myself on occasions, especially when I was feeling particularly down or feeling sorry for myself questioning whether or not everyone would be better off without me? On very rare occasions I actually uttered these horrible thoughts, “I wish I were dead.” There it is. Dark. I am not my thoughts!

It took me a few times experiencing this downward spiral to realize that something was really wrong. I was in a crisis that I hid from everyone, even myself. Upon this revelation, I immediately called my psychiatrist. Even with counseling and antidepressants, the depression and darkness seeped through. It wasn’t until I read another blog responding to Chris Cornell’s suicide that I really even realized this wasn’t me and that my brain as the author put it, was sick. It took an increased dose of my antidepressants and more Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 2.26.02 AMfrequent counseling visits to vastly diminish the dark. I still feel down, but now I try to remember that tomorrow is a fresh start, I allow myself to feel whatever it is I need to feel, and then try to move on. I never give it a postal code. I won’t live there. I have too much to live for. Too much work to do. I love life too much, and I certainly didn’t go through all this to just throw-in the towel or bury my head in the sand.

For those who live in Canada, we have a wonderful initiative, sponsored by Bell Canada. It happens every year around this time and it raises both funds and awareness for mental health in Canada. Mental illness effects 1 in 3 Canadians, and yet it is still largely stigmatized. Bell Let’s Talk Day removes the stigma by allowing everyday Canadians to reach out and stand up, and is working to breakdown barriers faced by those who suffer from a mental illness. Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 2.29.59 AMYou can help raise awareness and funds by simply sharing #BellLet’sTalk. By doing so, Bell will donate 5 cents every time it is Tweeted, texted, mentioned online, or when you use the bell network, so call, Tweet, text your hearts out for mental health.

Be Well XO

If you or anyone you know is in crisis, please call 911 or

Distress Lines

Operated by various agencies.  When in need of someone to talk to. Open 24 hours a day (unless otherwise indicated).

Toronto Distress Centres (416) 408-4357 or 408-HELP

Gerstein Centre 416-929-5200

Telecare (Mandarin & Cantonese), 416-920-0497

Contact Centre Telecare Peel 905-459-7777, Languages: English, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese

Assaulted Women’s Helpline 416-863-0511, Toll-free: 1-866-863-0511

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 2.19.34 AM

Warm Line, Progress Place 416-960-9276 or 416-960-WARM, every day from 8pm to 12 midnight

Kids Help Phone at 1 800 668-6868

Distress Centre Peel 905-278-7208

Durham Crisis Line 905-666-0483

Oakville Distress Centre – 905-849-4541

Click here for a comprehensive list of International resources

 

8 Year Chemoversary

On this day 8 years ago, I had my last chemo infusion. Sure I’ve had lots of treatment since then, but no more chemo infusions. So as I sit here at the kitchen table, surrounded by those I love, snow blanketing everything, I silently give thanks for all that has happened since that day, and a lot had happened! So much so that if I wrote it all down, I’d be missing out on the laughter surrounding me. Suffice it to say, I am blessed immensely and have been, in good and bad.

So I’d like to take just a moment more and wish you all a Happy Holiday, whether you celebrated Hanukkah, or will celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, or Festivus. Be safe, be happy, be well.

AM