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


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?”


“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

Mother’s Day and Coming Full Circle

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.58.24 PMIt’s Mother’s Day today and I have to admit that it can be a bit of a challenging day for me. As progressive as I am and know that one is not defined solely on one aspect of their life, not being a mother is well a mother. After all it’s a day explicitly for celebrating our mother’s, but what is a mother?Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.04.55 PM

Babies are popping up everywhere, and kids are extra cute at least it seems so especially today. There is nothing like other people’s joy serving as painful reminder of the things you cannot have. Please don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed for their happiness and the blessing of that new life, but it’s just that it’s an in your face reminder that I will never be a “mother” and some days it just feels like cancer just robs you of everything.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.02.09 PMFor a while I thought that this sense of loss was more about feeling what it is like to be pregnant than actually being a mother, but I now know that it is the whole cycle of life that I am missing out on.

Early on in my diagnosis, I had the wherewithal to ask about fertility preservation. I was referred to an onco-fertility specialist literally days before my first treatment. I remember vividly sitting in the Dr.’s office, thinking I had everything under control until “harvesting, embryos, and sperm donors” were mentioned. I actually started having a panic attack. My head swam with questions, “What if I meet someone and they don’t want my sperm donor embryos,” “What kind of qualities do I look for in a donor”, “What do I do with my embryos if I don’t use them?” “I can’t donate them, pieces of me will be out there, but I don’t know if I can destroy them,” the thoughts were consuming.

Breathe, just breathe I thought.

My saving grace was my oncologist deciding that there just wasn’t time to delay three weeks to harvest my eggs. So they shut my reproductive system down while I did chemo. It seems strange to have such a monumental decision made for me, but it was a relief that I didn’t have to decide, I realize now, I wasn’t ready and as much as I wanted to consider the options, the truth was, there wasn’t time and I didn’t have anyone to turn to for unbiased advice.

After treatment was finished, I saw the fertility specialist again to revisit whether I wanted to harvest and preserve my eggs. At that time, I decided that I would harvest eggs, but I didn’t have the finances to proceed and although I would be getting the cancer discount of 50% off the regular price, I waited.

Once again, the decision was made for me, my cancer was back, this time it had spread and I realized that I might not get out of this alive. Parenthood would have to be something that was sacrificed in order to save my own life. Even though it’s now eight years later and I am stable and married, my choices are still limited to acceptance of my infertility, except now I am actively trying to prevent pregnancy.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.18.26 PMIt is amazing how things can come full circle. Having the option of being a mother taken away from me made me want it so much more, but having been through treatment and knowing I will live the rest of my life with cancer and the possibility of recurrence or progression at anytime I am steadfast in deciding not to have a child. I mean, how can I possibly put a child through losing their mother, or risk passing on my faulty genes or risk my own life just trying? Had I never encountered cancer, I wouldn’t have a problem trying to get pregnant at 39, but that is not the case.

Even if I could get pregnant, my ovaries have been exposed to so much radiation from scans and treatment my eggs would be fried, they have been exposed to systemic chemotherapy, and they are 39 years old, the odds of having a healthy pregnancy is not be in my favour.  As it stands, the treatment I’m on counter-indicates pregnancy. The drug inhibits a protein (ironically ALK) that is used during fetal development and the effects on a growing fetus are unknown but likely detrimental. I could stop treatment, but that would mean I’d have to stop my meds for as long as it takes to clear out of my Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.58.18 PMsystem, plus the time it would take to get pregnant and finally another nine months until delivery. I might be lucky enough have the cancer not grow or grow slowly enough to make it to delivery and restart treatment, but then there are no guarantees that I’d respond to treatment again. It would be playing Russian roulette.

 Maybe it is a selfish decision, maybe it is for the best, but there is nothing like holding and smelling a new baby to make you doubt your decisions. I don’t know what it is about the new baby smell that triggers every cell in my biology to want a baby, but it does and it’s hard to resist that siren’s call. For a long time, I couldn’t bring myself to attend baby showers or even hold a newborn because it was so upsetting, but I have gotten better. Knowing something in your brain doesn’t make it any easier to knowing it in your heart. I don’t regret any of my decisions and it has taken a long time to get to a place of acceptance. I still have my bad days, today is one of them.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 10.07.25 PMI am very lucky though, I am healthy and happy and have a wonderful little family (Me, my Patrick and all the fur babies, Lacey, Finn, Mischa and Borat), and have been blessed with a most incredible mother who raised and cared for me (still does) in good times and in bad and taught me how to be a strong woman. I have a wonderful mother-in-law who is kind and thoughtful and who so openly embraced me as a daughter and know through her son what an amazing mom she is. I have so many women in my life who inspire me to be great and to do great thing because of their example of sacrifice and grace. So I don’t have my own biological children and never will, but I have known the kind of Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.56.55 PMlove it takes to be a mother.

To all the would be moms and mothers who have lost children, adoptive moms, and surrogate moms you deserve to be celebrated today too. So to all the mother’s out there in whatever way you are defined, Happy Mother’s day to you.



Surrogacy and the blues

Maybe it because my mood is like the weather today…fog clouds my mind and clouds fog my heart, while tears are on the verge of falling at any minute.

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Maybe it’s because I’m depressed…I’m switching my meds and on a clean out.

Maybe it just because I hate hearing people be flippant about something that is tragic and a privilege and someone like me and many others out there just can’t do.

I happened to be napping, and e-talk came on (usually I flip the channel) but I was half asleep until I heard the “news that Kim Kardashian is encountering fertility problems.” First, let me say I don’t know Kim or her health issues, and I normally would never judge anyone’s choices in whether or not they are or are not pursuing any or all health care options, but this bothered me. If her problems are real and not just fodder for a TV show, then I really feel badly for her, because I know what its like to have fertility issues and what its like to be told that you can’t or shouldn’t have a child.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.31.40 PMIt feels like a part of you had been ripped from you. It feels like you have to bury the most natural instinct you have. It makes you question your identity. It brings you to tears at the sight of children. You tell your brain that its better to not have any, and suppress the wonder of what it might have been like to parent. It feels even worse, but I honestly don’t have the right words to describe the feeling. So if it’s real, I get it.

The problem I have is the “I’ll just get a surrogate” solution. Because it’s so easy.Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.21.04 PM

Maybe for her it is. Well good for you!

For many of us, it’s not an option, at least a viable one. For one, it is incredibly difficult to find someone to do that for you. Think of the sacrifice! I mean they are going to carry a child for nine months and then just give it a way. It would take a very special human to do that for you.

Maybe you get really lucky and you can find a family member or even a complete stranger, the legalities of such a transaction are not so simple. So when someone just throws surrogacy out there as a solution or alternative to pregnancy for whatever reason, they either come from great privilege or great ignorance.

I know people who have had children through a surrogate, when it happens, it is a true gift and miracle in and of itself. These people have traversed the ups and downs and craziness of pregnancy to help families these families who otherwise could not have a child. They weren’t a quick fix that could be fixed with some money thrown at it. They were friends who knew how hard and how much these couples wanted a child. They knew these women couldn’t bear a child naturally because of previous cancer treatments, or those that were ongoing. They did it out of love. They were willing to sacrifice themselves, their own health, time and bond they had with that baby. Like I said, it takes a special person. Not everyone finds their angel.

Anyway I don’t want to ramble, but if you are like me, or if you are looking for help with fertility, I’ll post a few good links and call it a night.


My Oncofertility.org – A patient education resource provided by the Oncofertility Consortium

Fertile Future – Fertile Future is a Canadian national non-profit organization that provides fertility preservation information and support services to cancer patients and oncology professionals.

LIVESTRONG – LIVESTRONG Fertility is dedicated to providing reproductive information, resources and financial support to survivors whose cancer and its treatment present risks to their fertility.


Words escape me and I can’t quite express what I’m feeling in the way I want to. Week 5 of our MBSR should be up, but I can’t bring myself to write the post yet. You see, I just found out today that a friend and fierce cancer warrior passed away last night. So if you can bare with me, that post will go up in a few days time.

Losing friends hurts.

I met Amanda about six years ago at a Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) conference. It was shortly after I had found out that I was terminal/incurable. I had come to conference for strength in facing what would likely be my last year. I had no idea what would transpire at conference. Previous meetings were fun and offered helpful tips dealing with some of the issues faced by young adults (YA’s) like fertility, loss of identity, isolation, relationships, disintrajectorization*, and so many more. Most importantly, they offered a chance to be with others that just got it.

Most at conference at that time were dealing with their first diagnosis, or were recently out of treatment, there weren’t too many of us that were lifers, so I was surprised to hear about an informal meeting for metastatic participants. I jumped at the chance to attend! That’s where I met Amanda. She like me was one of the 10 who attended that meeting. It was a cathartic experience. It was raw and painful, we cried, swore and shared our most intimate fears, it was beautiful.

It always amazes me how open we can be with others, baring secrets that we don’t share with our most trusted friends and loved ones. One may wonder why that is? Honestly in my experience at that time, I didn’t want my loved ones to know how scared shitless I really was. I didn’t want to admit that I might die. I wanted to shelter and protect my family and loved ones from suffering, both mine and theirs. It was sense felt by many in that room, including Amanda.

In the months following that meeting, we lost three friends. Amanda was not one of them despite being riddled with cancer. It was everywhere, her bones, liver, lungs, and other major organs. She was a walking miracle.

Again we lost friends, but she endured.

We would go on to attend more conferences together. She attended some in a wheelchair and others rocking stilettos, but her spirit was always indomitable. She loved her daughter with ferocity and her whole heart, everyone knew that because she told us with pride. Her personality was big and bold, you always knew where you stood because she didn’t mince words and didn’t hold back. She lived her life with every fiber of her soul. She unknowlingly was my against all odds beacon of hope. screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-4-43-48-pm

Today my shores are a little dimmer.


*Disintrajectorization was a word coined by Travis Gobeil in 2005 and is a term that describes what happens to your life when you get cancer as a YA. Your life is disintrajectorized off its current path and onto another totally different path.





How to Love Your Body…When its Trying to Kill You?!

To say I have issues with my body is an understatement. It did, after all, try to kill me. Three times now, and possibly again in the near future.

So how does one come to terms with their body after something like cancer?

Work in progress comes to mind.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-9-54-55-pmOnce upon a time, I took my body for granted. It was strong and flexible and I tipped the scales at about 95 lbs. soaking wet. Fast forward a few years and a tussle with lung cancer and my once slim frame is much more Rubenesque.

It has taken a while to realize how ludicrous it is to worry about something so trivial and superficial as putting on a few pounds, especially when I stop and think about what my body has actually been through in the last seven years. I mean, what are a few pounds when your body has been poisoned and radiated to the “nth” degree, not to mention cut open then poisoned some more.

My vain self wishes for my old body back, but my rational self realizes that this is where my body is and needs to be to be healthy and the two factions battle. Most days my rational self wins, but there are days when I go to my closet and nothing fits and I want to pull out my hair!screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-9-52-09-pm

The bigger issue for me is reclaiming my body and getting used to its new limitations. I hate to admit I have limits, but I do. On a good day, I feel like I’m a vibrant young woman, but most days, I feel old. I am constantly tired, my joints are stiff, and my legs and feet are swollen. Despite this, I still try to be as screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-03-21-pmnormal as possible. This “normal” is new for me because I once had boundless energy and pushed through fatigue; now its all I can do to get to a couch before I pass out. I have often tried to explain what my fatigue is like, but words fail me. The best way I can describe what is happening is a complete and total shut down that sneaks up on me like a shadow then totally consumes me and I can’t stop it. The problem is even if I sleep, I still wake up exhausted. This makes working and socializing rather challenging.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-9-58-27-pmHaving lung cancer really messes up your lung capacity. Even though pulmonary function tests say I am in the normal range, I know I’m not. I can’t run to save my life. Climbing up hills is out of the question, even just a slight incline has me huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, and stairs, lets not even talk about them.

An added bonus to all this wonderfulness is the edema or swelling, acute neuropathy and arthritis I experience. None of these side effects are predictable or effectively treatable. The neuropathy, which for a long time was a mystery, turns out to be a side effect of the chemo I received. When it happens, it makes anything that touches my skin incredibly painful. Pair that up with the swelling and arthritis and I am one sexy beast.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-29-28-pmI used to have great legs, now it seems that I have two stumps attached at the hips. I began to notice that my knees and ankles would get stiff, and then I realized that my legs were sometimes swollen, as time went on, they were always swollen to the point that my range of motion became limited. To help this problem I began taking a prescribed diuretic that worked for a while but became less effective as time ticked on. Topping it off was my bone scans revealing what I long suspected, that I have arthritis in most of the joints in my ankles, feet and legs and in my shoulders, hands and wrists.  Hello creaky old lady bones.

You might think that with all these complaints, I am not thankful or grateful for the treatments I have received, but it really is quite the opposite. These obstacles are just speed bumps. I gladly take these inconveniences over being sick or dying any day.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-36-05-pmSo at the end of January when gyms everywhere are beginning to empty in the annual, New Year’s resolution revolution (Why is it that we are compelled to make resolutions? Does anyone really keep them?) I will be grateful and know that I am good enough.

I am slowly learning not to beat myself up when I get tired, when I can’t do something I used to find easy, or when I’m gasping for air. I’m learning to accept my less lean self and love every inch of it, because it has been though the ringer and remains true. It’s a steep learning curve and there are always setbacks.  So the going is slow, but I will take this body for better or worse and learn to be kind to it.