Monday, September 24, 2012

Thanks, Henry Champ

I remember interviewing Henry Champ when I was only a year or so out of journalism school.

It must have been shortly before his retirement from his gig as CBC Newsworld's Washington D.C. correspondent. The Lewinsky-Clinton scandal was making headlines around the world, and we spoke about why Canada seemed to lack salacious news when compared to our neighbours to the south.

What I remember more clearly is Champ's affable nature, his willingness to chat with a green reporter he had never spoken with before. He didn't rush me off the phone, and was the type of person I'd love chatting with over a coffee given the chance.

Working in Ottawa on Parliament Hill, there were certainly seasoned reporters I saw every day who didn't seem to know me from a hole in the ground. So Champ made a real impression on me.

I know I thanked him for his time. But I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Henry Champ again. Rest in peace, Champ.

Putting on my 'brows

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror the other day sans makeup and nearly screamed.

When I first realized I might lose my eyebrows months ago, I thought I might try a Carol-Burnett-does-Nora-Desmond look.

I mean, if one is going to lose one's 'brows, why not have fun with it?

With eyebrows on my mind, I thought I would share some 'brow-related humour with you today.

Uncle Leo

One day at the office, I was talking about the whole eyebrow situation. My colleague Dragos warned me to be careful, or I could end up looking like Uncle Leo from Seinfeld.


Milhouse from The Simpsons has eyebrows that constantly get him into trouble.

Real-life crazy 'brows

Of course, a post about eyebrows couldn't omit this fabulous shot of Carrot Top, found on Sodahead. The page even opens with the photo's code underneath the image. Clearly, this is an image for sharing.

carrot top+eyebrows pics on Sodahead

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A letter to my fingernails

Worst fingernail is the
middle one. Coincidence?
© kittelberg writes

Dear fingernails, eyelashes, eyebrows,

Evidently, you didn't get the memo. I've completed chemo, four weeks ago in fact. My hair did get it and somehow I thought you were included, or at least cc'd with my medical update.

This means you, fingernails, can stop turning yellow and threatening to fall off.

I've been diligently clipping you short and wearing fancy rubber gloves while washing dishes. I get that you haven't felt up to par, particularly on the right side where my chemo IV went in.

But last night, one of you on the left side decided to try to sneak off while I was unplugging the bathtub. Really? What more do you want from me?

Sans makeup.
© kittelberg writes
With makeup.
© kittelberg writes

While we're at it, lashes and brows, feel free to start growing back any time. I get that you've gotten used to falling out over the past couple of months. But frankly, you're cramping my style. You're making me look like a cancer patient as I near the end of treatment with just 16 radiation sessions to go.

Luckily, my dear friend and Juggernauts teammate Chrissy bought me Quo's Must Have Brows kit before brows began evacuating the premises.

With the help of the fantastic Look Good Feel Better volunteers, I learned how to fill in my brows and not look like a drag queen. (No disrespect to drag queens, just not the look I go for in the daytime!)

The head takes the lead.
© kittelberg writes

The Look Good Feel Better makeup artists also taught me how to apply eyeliner to avoid unneeded tugging on delicate lashes, and to fill in the empty spaces to give the illusion of having a full set of lashes.

So, fingernails, brows and lashes, it's not me, it's you. Stop being stubborn, and follow the lead of your associate on the top of my head who is making a comeback as evidenced by the peach fuzz on my pate.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Kicking kancer's ass one step at a time

From left: Ceci and Roxy, Melissa, Sharon,
me, and Claire with the Harry Jerome statue on
the Terry Fox Run route. © kittelberg writes

Four weeks ago, I took a major step in kicking kancer's ass and some personal demons. I started running.

Barring one summer in my early 20s when I was training to get to and from work in case Ottawa bus drivers went on strike, running hasn't been my thing

As a kid, I was a chunk and never liked running. Running hurt. I assumed it was because I heavy. When I was diagnosed with asthma at 19, the pain made sense.

As an adult, being fit certainly helped with running, but by then, I was more into aerobics and weight training.

Run for your life

I decided recently to participate in Bust a Move, a fundraiser for the BC Cancer Foundation. My teammates and I will be doing six fitness classes on April 13, 2013.

I've gone back and forth with my fitness regime, working out like a mad woman for months, even years at a time, then being a lazy slug for a while. I now know I need to commit myself to moving my body for the rest of my life.

I mentioned to colleagues that I wanted to do the Run for the Cure as a way to kick myself in the ass to get moving. Sharon used to lead Running Room learn-to-run classes, and offered her expertise. And Melissa wanted to confront her fear of running. We started a running group. I mentioned it on Twitter, and Ceci joined us.

Terry Fox Run

So after three weeks of training, we decided to make last week's Sunday run the Terry Fox Run. Melissa's friend Claire joined us. I also got to meet my Bust a Move teammates Kirstin in person for the first time at the registration tent. She did the run with her mom, and may be joining me, Sharon, Melissa and Ceci for training now and then.

Ceci brought her daughter Alex who biked, and their dog Roxy who ran with us.

Running becomes fun

We debated whether to do the 3k or 10k run, and opted for the 10k route, rationalizing that we could turn around at any time. We followed our 2:1 (running for two minutes, then walking for one minute) training. When we hit the 5k mark feeling good, our decision was made for us: finish it.

Kudos to Roxy, who provided us with the funniest moment of the day by pooping as we ran, resulting in what was coined the "shit relay".

I want to thank these ladies for an incredible morning, and plenty of laughs on our training runs. The laughs will be needed this week when we begin hill training!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day of tests

The black dot on the right?
One of my new bad-ass tattoos.
© kittelberg writes

Today started bright and early at the cancer agency. Turns out I was scheduled for a CT scan, not a CAT scan.

The CT scan, as I told my friend Brandee today, ensures the radiation is aimed precisely, all the better to kill off stubborn cancer cells that may or may not be there, and save my organs from being inadvertently fried.

You may have also heard women talk about getting their tattoos, which help with setting up the radiation therapy machine properly.

These new tattoos may not look like much, but with all due respect to the artists who gave me my other tattoos, I think they're way more bad-ass than any other ink on my body.

Now I wait - up to 10 business days - for my radiation oncologist and her posse to refine my treatment, then start. No fuss, no muss.

Mammo me

After a quick visit with my colleagues, I head to Mount Saint Joseph for my mammogram. This is the stressful part. After all, it's about the unknown.

The technician has me wait while she has a doctor look at my results before either sending me off, or having me stay for more tests. I'm sitting outside the ultrasound room, and notice the happy baby poster which had me bursting into tears last time I saw it. Nothing like a reminder that treatment could leave me barren!

This time? No tears. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that George and I are "one and done" when it comes to children.

A lifetime ago

Then I see the couple. They look younger than me, late 20s or early 30s. She's on a gurney, he's following. I wonder if she's here for a fine-wire placement, which will show her surgeon exactly where her tumour is. Does she have breast cancer, or some other type of cancer? Is this her first surgery?

Less than six months ago, I was in her hospital-issue fuzzy socks, scared out of my mind. My husband was the guy waiting in the hallway, trying hard not to lose his shit.

My ultrasound tech comes over and tells me I can get changed and go home. No more tests today. This must be a good sign. After all, the last time I had a mammogram, I stayed for an ultrasound, then was told I had to come back again for a biopsy. We all know what the result of that was.

I get changed and am ready to cartwheel out the door.

Then I walk past the young man, still waiting. He looks up at me and gives me a nervous smile. I smile back.

I get outside and wish I had said something to him. But what? I hope his loved one is okay. I hope I'm okay. Maybe I'll meet his Mrs. at my next mammogram, and we'll cartwheel out the door together. One can hope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Waiting is hard work

I'm waiting for radiation to start. Most people would welcome a break in treatment. And I do. Kind of.

But at the same time, I just want to get it all over with and move on far, far away from this chapter in my life.

I'm an impatient person by nature. I was even born three weeks early. I'm often early for events because I can't stand the idea of being late. I nag at my son, the dawdlingest dawdler who ever dawdled, to hurry up 99% of the time we walk anywhere because this waiting business makes me edgy.

Then I think to myself that I should be taking advantage of this time and just slow down. I try to put on my yoga hat, breathe and stop rushing, rushing, rushing.

But it's hard when it's not in my nature to do so.

On edge

The other thing that makes me edgy is being left on my own after being at the beck and call of appointments all summer. Even if it's for a few weeks, the quiet is unnerving.

I'm sick of doctor's offices, but miss the convenience of having appointments scheduled for me every other week.

When I woke up with a swollen left hand and couldn't remove my rings, I waiting a few days. I followed online recommendations of putting my hand in cold water (painful!), then elevating it, then icing it to no avail. I finally call my GP's office.

Doctor instructs me to elevate my hand for two hours, then try again to get my rings off. If it doesn't work, I'll have to go to the hospital the next day and have them cut off. Awesome.

The two-hour elevation does the trick, rings come off. But I still don't have an answer on why this happened. Could it be lymphedema related? Did I sleep on my hand funny?

Do not leave me hanging

I realize this is ridiculous, so I start calling the cancer agency and leaving messages. When is radiation starting? And no one calls back. How annoying is that? Don't leave the cancer patient hanging, people!

Then I remember, I have a six-month mammogram coming up on the "good" (read: hopefully non-cancerous) side because of something that looked like a cyst, but they couldn't get more than one angle on so couldn't biopsy it. And I also remember my nurse who works out of Mount Saint Joseph's, where I'll be getting the mammo, said to call if I needed anything.

So I call. Imelda tells me when I have my mammo results, she'll also take a look at my arm and hand and figure out what's happening. I mention the unreturned messages about my radiation. She says she'll make a call. And 40 minutes later, I have an appointment for my CAT scan, which is needed before radiation starts (I didn't know this).

This is my life and it's in my hands to a large extent. So if I don't feel like waiting, I know who to call. Like I said on Twitter yesterday, I wish every cancer patient had an Imelda.