Daria’s Funeral Service

Friday, January 28, 2011

Yesterday was Daria’s funeral service. At the funeral home, the family gathered around in the eating area an hour before the start of her service. We spoke softly to each other and shed a few tears for Daria and for each other. The funeral director then took me to the chapel area to show me Daria’s urn, her large framed picture and flower arrangement.  I silently said oh Daria to her picture and cried and stayed a while. 

I didn’t notice walking in, I thought the place was empty, but there were two young ladies sitting in one of the pews. When I turned to leave, they both got up and tearfully introduced themselves and offered their condolences. I told them that I knew who they were. Daria had given both of them their start in their HR careers. Daria talked about them often, followed their progress and after leaving that job for another, they continued met regularly for dinner.

That was my Daria. Thank you to all those that came to Daria's service and offered their condolences to the family and myself.


Below is the link to the picture montage that was shown at her service. When you get there, click on Daria’s picture to start the series rolling.

or Google, Memories Funeral Home Edmonton AB

Daria’s Eulogy by her brother-in-law Peter

   Daria Maluta passed away January 22, 2011 at the age of forty-nine, two days before her fiftieth birthday. She will be sadly missed, but lovingly remembered by her husband Donald, her mother Jennie, her sisters Maria, Anne, Olga, Diane, and her brother Steve.  Daria had been predeceased by her father Roman Maluta in 2001.

    Daria was born on January 24, 1961, and grew up on the family farm near Glendon Alberta, where she attended school. Upon graduation from high school, Daria moved to Edmonton where she was employed by Canada Safeway for approximately twenty years. It was during this period she became interested in business management and human resource development. In 1995 she studied Front End Management offered by Cornell University, and in 1998 she studied Management Development offered by the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta.  

  During this period, Daria was also a member of Toastmasters International and regularly volunteered at the Youth Emergency Shelter in Edmonton. In 2003 after having been diagnosed with breast cancer, Daria continued her volunteer work and participated in a Cure for Cancer marathon held in Seattle Washington.

  In 2004, she began her studies towards a Human Resources Certificate, offered by the Faculty of Extension, at the University of Alberta. At this time Daria also decided to make a career change, and she was able to obtain employment with Edmonton Northlands with their Human Resources department. In 2007, Daria was hired by the Eveready Income Fund and employed as a Human Resources Generalist, she remained in this position until her illness caused her to retire.  

  However Daria refused to totally give up her studies in Human Resources and was able to obtain a Human Resources Management Diploma from Grant McEwan University in 2010, despite only being able to attend on a part-time basis while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for her illness.

    In 2000, Daria at the age of thirty-nine, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She endured radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery and was cancer free for eight years, at which point the cancer returned. After her chemotherapy treatments to try to force the cancer into remission, Daria volunteered to participate in the phase 1 clinical trials for the new experimental drug Brivanib, which it was hoped could help future cancer patients. 

  She became a spokesman and activist for those also suffering  from metastatic cancer, and traveled to our nation’s capital to speak to members of parliament about the need for greater cancer awareness and treatment. In this capacity, she set up her internet blog, ( Daria-Living with cancer.)  which allowed her to chronicle her treatment, share her feelings and inspire and encourage others around the world, suffering from this disease. 

 Closer to home Daria continued to volunteer and help others, through the Breast Cancer Network she provided counseling to others on a daily basis. Daria not only shared her busy life with her beloved husband Don  and her dog Daisy, she developed a worldwide network of friends through her blog and Facebook entries, who she continued to inspire daily.

Is Breast Cancer Caused by a Virus?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Anton and I saw these short films on YouTube a couple months ago, and they blew us away. To think of the possibility that breast cancer could be caused by a virus (like HPV causes cervical cancer), and that if so, there could be a vaccination and a cure!...And to wonder why the medical field hasn't encouraged research into this--these ideas nag at us. But please watch these videos, spread the word, and think of ways that you could possibly play a role in increasing research into a breast cancer virus.

(If you're having problems viewing the videos here, just click on the YouTube icon on the bottom righthand corner of each frame.)

Daria's funeral service at Memories Funeral Home

Sunday, January 23, 2011

If you are able, please attend Daria's funeral service at Memories Funeral Home 13403 St. Albert Trail, Edmonton AB Canada, Thursday January 27 at 1:00PM. Refreshments will be served afterwards.

If you can’t make it, I will post the eulogy and the picture montage shown during the eulogy so you will have a better sense of Daria’s personality and the things she accomplished in her life.

Thank you,

Daria Maluta has Passed

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Daria Maluta passed away last night at 04:34 on Jan 22, 2011 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital here in Edmonton AB. I was by her side and was able to kiss her goodbye several times during the night and then watched her slip away quietly in her sleep.

I’m a little too emotional to talk about anything else right now. Meeting right away with family at her mother's place and I’ll post more later.


Daria Rests Comfortably

Friday, January 21, 2011

Daria is resting comfortably but is slowly losing touch. We are waiting for an opening at hospice care about a block away from the hospital. The caregivers say that should happen around Wednesday of next week.


Daria is no longer able to post to her blog

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don here. This is the most difficult thing I ever have had to say…. Daria is no longer able to post to her blog.

Yesterday around noon, I brought my love to the hospital by ambulance. After some tests by the ER doctors, Daria asked for medication to control pain. It’s difficult for her to speak right now but she still knows what’s going on. 

This morning and every morning, I’ll print out your comments, take them to Daria’s bedside and read …. I think tearfully … each one out loud. Your words mean a lot to both Daria and I, they will be very comforting to hear.

In the next day or so I’ll know more and post.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A week after we told the kids that they were getting a new sibling, Chloe asked, "Is the baby still alive?" Her innocence and concern tugged at my heart. She's thought of Veo, the brother she and Mylo lost inexplicably. And now she's worried about her baby sister. I told her that yes, the baby is alive. She and Mylo smile, ask questions, make up stories for and about their baby sister. And yes, Chloe, the baby is alive. We are all alive.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's soon going to be the Year of the Rabbit, which happens to be my year. Rabbits are creative, compassionate, and sensitive. And our baby girl will be the same. Yes, we are having a baby!

Soon after Anton and I got engaged in Maui in August, we found out that we were pregnant once again. We faced this new blessing with a lot of fear, as we had been devastated by the loss of Veo in April. But as soon as we saw all my doctors, we were reassured that we would be well taken care of. The genetics department at Women's Hospital took charge of extra screenings and tests, to see if this baby would have the same defects that Veo had. We also had more appointments with my family doctor, obstetrician, and plastic surgeon, all of whom have been keeping a close eye on me.

We kept the pregnancy mum, especially from Chloe and Mylo, because Veo's death was so hard on everyone. We wanted to make sure we would spare the kids those horrible feelings and confusion they experienced with the loss of their baby brother. And with each test that I took, each ultrasound that we waited for, we held our breath. Luckily, everything has turned out okay, and we have now just been able to share the miraculous news with all our friends and family!

Baby Girl (yes, we found out!) is kicking me full force now, and I savour each movement I can feel. But it has been a difficult challenge on my body, and today when I had a check-up with my Ob/Gyn, she said, "Yes, it's going to be a long pregnancy." There is, of course, still the issue with my TRAM-flap. If you look at me, you probably wouldn't recognize that I am over five months pregnant. I just look like I went on a carb binge. The metal mesh is not budging, and I'm not sure how or where baby is growing, but she is. It does make walking and moving and turning in bed a less than comfortable experience. But I just have to take it slow. And it seems, for whatever reason, that the epilepsy I had as a child has returned somewhat, and I've had three seizures since November. I've seen a neurologist and had two EEG's, but there's not much we can do at the moment but be careful. And then there was a kidney infection which left me hospitalized in Los Angeles for five days. Whatever. I can take it!

The doc wants me to come in every two weeks instead of once a month. She and my surgeon are closely watching my growth, to see when it will be the best time to do the surgery to take baby out. It's going to be a complicated C-section, as they will have to cut through my mesh. At the same time, I will likely get a hysterectomy because of my increased risk of getting other reproductive cancers. Am I sure I want to do this? Absolutely. I've got two beautiful children and a baby on the way, and I feel that after all that, my family will be complete. I want to be around for a long time to see them all grow up.

Yesterday, I had my six-month oncology check-up, and I am happy to say that I am still in remission. I am half-way to the five-year mark, when we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief, because at the five-year mark, my changes of recurrence go way down!

I'm finding that almost three years after having had my mastectomy, I'm finally at a point where I can move forward with more confidence, with less fear. I have to remember: I have survived so much, and I am a better person in the end. I have learned so much in the past three years that I can teach my children, and other cancer patients and survivors who feel so alone. In November, Anton and I have the privilege of attending a young adult cancer survivor conference in St. John's, Newfoundland (see my links to the right for info on Young Adult Cancer Canada). To say that the weekend was amazing and inspirational is an understatement. So many of us came together as a family, remembered those who were lost this past year to cancer, and motivated each other to be there for and to reach out to other young adults with cancer. One of the main issues for young people with cancer is the feeling of isolation: you have cancer but you're young--you're not supposed to have cancer. You're supposed to be starting a career, having kids, getting married. Now what? At this conference, we learned how to cope and thrive, and to help others do the same. It gave me and Anton a lot of hope and comfort.

Now we find ourselves in this new year, with new promise for positive energy and happiness. We have survived, we will survive, and we will be here to help others do the same. Cancer is always a curse, but it can be broken. When the curse breaks--when the patient breaks the curse--the only thing left to receive are the blessings.

One day, I was reflecting on all that has gone on over the past three years. It all seems like too much. But when I ask myself if I would do it all over again--if it meant that I had to do it all in order to get to where I am today, with my kids, with Anton, with this new baby that will complete our family--without hesitation, I say, "Absolutely. Yes."

Resting at Home

I’m out of the hospital after my ERCP and resting at home, drinking fluids and going to the bathroom. The doctors placed a few stints to get bile moving from my liver.

My belly is really full of gas and I’m not feeling too good right now.

Thank you for all your comments.

New video and posts at Well,then

Monday, January 17, 2011

I have recently posted some new articles and videos at Well,then http://www.wellthen.org/. The Well, then community is part of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. This site was created to encourage people to talk about what they to to be well. The area I write for is Living with Cancer. There are other topics you can visit in addition to Living with Cancer.

Please share your ways of living with cancer.

ERCP Procedure Today

Today I’m going into the hospital for an ERCP Procedure. I’m hoping the Doctors finds some bile duct obstruction that will help explain some of what is going on. And I'm hoping everything goes well and I will be home safe and sound by this evening. 

If I’m not up to blogging tomorrow, I’ll be asking D to fill in some of the details of how I’m doing.

Feeling Melancholy

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Since Thursday’s appointment with my Onc I’ve really been doing a lot of thinking. It’s made me very melancholy. It makes me wonder how much time l have left on this earth?

When I look in the mirror not only am I gaunt but I’m looking Jaundice too. I don’t feel like I’m recovering … I feel like I’m deteriateing.

I am feeling ever so rushed to get things done knowing at any time I could be rushed to the hospital never to come home again. And then there are times I think I might have months to live.

It’s a confusing weird place to be in.

Hopefully Some Good News Next Week

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday at 8 am I was at the clinic at X-ray … in for an ultrasound of my chest and abdomen. The goal of the technician was to find large pockets of fluid that could be drained. She found one area on my back near the bra line and one was on the left front side near the groin area. They marked some areas on my body, took some pictures and then it was off to see my Onc who was going to do the two procedure … the Thoracentesis and the Paracentesis.

Eventually he took out 750mls of fluid out from around my lung area and another 850mls out from around my abdomen area. I’d have to say it went very smoothly with no pain … maybe a bit of discomfort.

Even after the procedure, my belly is still quite swollen but much of the pressure is relieved. I still cough a bit and my ears feel like I’m under water. I’m hoping it’s just some time for everything to settle in.

While doing the procedures, the Onc repeated … we are not stopping this study till we find out what’s wrong with you. Music to my hears …

The final procedure being done is an ERCP which will be done by a gastrologists. He is looking for some liver duct blockages that can be fixed. Anyways, got a call late Friday to come in on Monday. Wow I am very excited. Hopefully we finally have some solid answers.

Sharing Some Bad News

Friday, January 14, 2011

I guess we’ll just cut to the chase … the Trials nurse walks in and says … oh your face … I said it’s yellow … then she looks at my belly … oh it’s bigger … yes I said, trying to hold back the tears. She proceeded to tell my liver functions numbers were up once again. We looked over the numbers. Ok a tear came down. A little discussion, then I said and how many weeks can I be off Brivanib before I’m kicked off the study? She said four. More tears. Next week is considered my 4th week and there is no possible way those liver function numbers could come down in one week. So I’m off the study, I said … yes, said the nurse.

We spent some time talking as she tried to console me. I asked how long do I have … she said the Onc would come in to talk to me about that. My mind was racing now, how am I’m going to tell D, my family.

Then the Onc came me. First he said the CT scan was really good. The tumors on the liver are smaller and looking great. But the liver function numbers are not great. He said, I’m thinking the reason your liver function numbers are up is because you may have a plugged bile duct in and around your liver. And your coughing is likely because you have a swollen belly which is putting pressure on your lungs which already have fluid around your lungs and are making you cough.

So what is the plan … drain the fluid around the lungs, drain fluid from the abdomen and try and find a plugged bile duct and then unplug it.

In the end, I walked out not having much solid information except that tomorrow morning at 8:00am I have to be at the clinic for one of these procedures.

BC Friends and Meals on Wheels

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yesterday was our breast cancer friends coffee group. I have to say, with the weather being so cold, the roads being so slippery and my energy being so low … I didn’t really feel like going. It just seems to be too much of an effort to do much of anything. Finally when D offered to drive me, I realized I couldn’t say no and I’m so glad I didn’t. Conversation wise I wasn’t very chatty but it sure was nice just to see the ladies. A, had made copies of our Christmas Party and Irm brought pictures of her sweet grandchild. Those pictures alone helped brighten the day.

After about an hour and half I decided that was enough of an outing for me so I called D to come pick me up. On our way home, we stopped at Meals and Wheels for a few different frozen samples. I’ve never tried them before but was desperate for a change in food. I am so done with takeout, packaged food, canned food … white rice, white bread, bananas and so on.

I ended up opening a packaged dinner for last night … it was a bit bland but maybe that is exactly what my stomach needs right now. The food went down real well with no digestive issues, however, I ended up get up numerous times for washroom breaks. I have to keep reminding myself … SMALL PORTIONS ONLY!!

CT Scan Part 2

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ok so I’m the last person to be called in for me CT scan and the only thoughts on my mind were don’t throw up, don’t lose controls of your bowel and don’t cough during the scan itself.

One of the technicians can in and started some small talk and said something like just go lay down on that scanner bed. I wasn’t feeling very strong and balanced so I just sat down waiting for someone to help me lay back. I had visions of landing on the floor.

She helped lay me down and then went over about the 20 or so questions … could you move your head higher, would you move your hips to the left, have you had this test before, did you have any reactions and so on. Fortunately, I was quite familiar with the procedure so I only listened to the odd word here and there.

My only concern was to stay calm and not have any mishaps, and my biggest worry at that moment was my coughing. So I mentioned to her, that I had this coughing problem … oh no you can’t cough during the CT scan … ya I kinda figured that. She gave me some helpful advice  ... when we tell you to breathe in, just take a shallow breath.

So how the CT scan generally goes … someone will say you to you … ok, now take a deep breath and hold it … seven seconds later, they say, ok breathe normally. They do these four times while the big circular tube goes around you. This test is about ten minutes and at mid point they inject you with some sort of contrast media. I took the techs advice and it seemed to be fine.

Finally, I’m done … it’s off to the change room to change into my street clothes. I was half way pulling up my pants when I got this serious urge to go to the washroom. I grabbed my purse and ran for the toilet … sure enough another serious bout of diarrhea. I finished dressing and phoned D to pick me up. I asked him to put and old blanket on the passenger’s seat of the car just in case I had an accidental bm on the way home.

Fortunately, no accidents in the car …. But my diarrhea did continue into the night and then most of the next day.

CT Scan

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yesterday I had my CT scan. I was feeling a bit weak and nervous. My stomach was feeling bloated and I was worried I would not be able to drink the two liters of the contrast cocktail they wanted me to.

Well no sooner did I fill out the paper work, and change into a gown … my name was called. The next order of business was to get an IV. Two nurses and three pokes later, success! Off to the waiting room with my two liters of contrast cocktail. I had 45 minutes to drink it.

The place was pretty full so I got a chance to talk to a couple of fellow cancer patients. A young man and his wife were sitting there and were noticing everyone was getting warm blankets from the heater. It didn’t take long for them to figure that out, so as the wife get’s him a blanket, I said … a person sure does get cold after drinking that cocktail. He said you know I used to always be warm until I had my surgery and now I’m always cold … interesting I thought.

Anyways, as time went on, I continued to drink and drink and drink. The fluid felt like it was just sitting in my belly and not moving through the system. I kept looking at the garbage can beside me thinking that might be where these drinks were going to end up.

I was now an hour and half hour later and I was the last patient waiting for a scan. There was one other patient who needed some medical attention on a leaky surgery site. The nurses took her into another room to help her out.

While this was happening, I thought, well I’d better go to the washroom one more time hoping to empty my bladder and relieve some of the pressure to my abdomen. Well thank goodness I did go to the biffy because I ended up having a serious bout of diarrhea. As I came out of the washroom, I once again ran into the lady that needed the dressing changed.

She comes by, cane and all and says, have a nice day … in a very cheery upbeat voice. I said same to you. She noticed my cough and said is that a cold or cancer related. Cancer related. Oh she said that coughing sure can be sore on the ribs. I said it sure is. After a bit more chit chat … her last words to me were …

All the best to you and keep your head up high.

My Coughing

Monday, January 10, 2011

I wanted to share with you how my coughing has been going. D says I’m coughing nowhere near what I used to.

It may be because I spent the last two days in bed just lounging in my pjs and that may have kept my coughing down. It was a very restful time and I loved every minute of it.

However, I did notice a couple of new coughing triggers this weekend that I’d like to share with you. First the hot moist air in the shower made it hard for me to breathe, so much so it forces me to stick my head out behind the shower curtain to get some cool dry air. I did that a couple, three times during the shower.

I had another situation of where high humid in the air was causing problems for me … D was cooking spaghetti for supper. I came to have a look at it and started coughing uncontrollably. I left the room and went back to the bedroom and laid down to relax and calm myself. That is the first time that humidity from cooking has done that to me.

And finally, I’ve mentioned this before … any shift in position of my body in bed will cause coughing. There must be something in or around my lungs that shifts when I move. So to try and minimize it I sleep on my back for as much of the night as I can with the hope I don’t stir things up.

Fear of BC Recurrence~Video

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Here is a five minute video where Dr Anne Moore, a leading breast oncologist, shares important information to help breast cancer survivors cope with the fear of recurrence.

Dr. Anne Moore, is Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and is Attending Physician at The New York Presbyterian Hospital where she chairs the Breast Cancer Committee.

How to cope with fear of breast cancer recurrence

Heart Test and Bone Scan

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Yesterday was a bit of a long day at the clinic. I got there for an 11 am appointment … my Echo-cardiogram. Basically, the technician spends most of her time doing an ultra sound of my heart, taking pictures and recording this and that. Here and there she would ask me some general questions about my heart history … Have I had any heart problems? Experienced any fluid around my heart? Have I ever been on high bp medication? Experienced any shortness of breath? The appointment was a good 45 minutes.

I thought I’d share this three minute video of an Echo-cardiogram with you.

My next appointment was a bone scan. First order of business was to have the contrast injected into my vein. Two nurses and two attempts later, we found a good vein … success I was starting to light up on the inside. It takes a good hour and 45 for the contrast to circulate through the body so the technician said to come back almost two hours … and oh yes, she said, try and drink lots of coffee or whatever so that you can pee twice before then. Argg I go … I have so much trouble putting down fluids. I said I’d do my best.

Since I only had one tablespoon of oatmeal that morning, I thought I’d go to the cafeteria and picked up a fresh salad with some grilled chicken pieces and a small juice. I could barely finish it before indigestion set in. The best I could do was one pee.

I came back for my bone scan and a half hour later I was all done.

It was 3:30 and I was anxious to call D. I was so ready to go home and put my feet up.

More Waiting Required

Friday, January 7, 2011

Well my appointment with the Trials Nurse and Onc was not as I had hoped. Not only had my liver functions numbers gone up again but they doubled since last week. All the nurse could say is that we’d have to wait and see. So no Brivanib this week.

Still in a bit of shock I asked the nurse what we could do about my cough saying that maybe an inhaler was in order. She said she’d ask the Onc. A short time later, she walked back in with a prescription for an inhaler. Two seconds later, the Onc walks in and checks my breathing, taps my back for fluid levels around my lungs and then said he was going to send me for a chest x-ray immediately. Maybe a chest x-ray would give us some ideas as to what the problem is. Both the nurse and the Onc left.

A couple minutes later, the nurse comes back in with a list of my regularly scheduled scans and tests. Tomorrow I have heart tests plus a bone scan. Monday the 10th I have a CT scan and Thursday the 13th I have blood work and see the Onc to go over the results. The nurse then said I should go have a seat in the waiting room and she’ll get a requisition for a chest x-ray.

A few minutes later, I was on my way to X-ray. I changed into a gown and within five minutes my x-rays were done.

I gave D a call to pick me up … his first question was … well how are things? I gave him the news about the blood work. Darn it, he says. Then he asks if the Onc commented on whether the coughing was due to the fluid around my lungs. I said, no and in fact very little was said about anything. Oh, he goes … my thoughts exactly.

Off To See The Onc

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Today I’m off to the clinic for blood work and to see the Onc. I’m sure hoping my liver function is better so that I can go back on Brivanib. 

Last night I prepared my list of items I wanted to talk to the Trials Nurse and the Onc about.

Firstly I want to talk to them about this awful coughing I’ve had for the past week or so. I have to find a solution. It’s exhausting and I just want to cry when I think about it. The mornings start out pretty good but somewhere around the late afternoon I start coughing and it only worsens into the night. Phone calls can be especially difficult … I become short of breathe and cough like crazy.

Secondly, I wanted to talk to the Onc about my bp medication. Last week his orders were to keep reducing my bp meds until I got a top number of at least 95. I’m not sure that meant stopping the meds completely tho … but I did. My bp this morning was 106/75 and being that my bp monitor is about 5 points higher than the clinics, I figure it’s pretty close.

The third item that’s been bugging me for quite some time now but I haven’t mentioned is … since about spring, every few months or so I gain about an inch on my waist … it seems to be expanding. I've always thought it was swelling from the cancer but since I’ve been on Brivanib and the tumors are shrinking  I was hoping my belly would too … not.

Look Good Feel Better Workshops

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I am often surprised when I run into one or two cancer survivors that are not familiar with the Look Good Feel Better workshop. It’s very uplifting and you always walk away with a bag full of goodies.

So here is a bit of information about the program as per their web site.

At Look Good Feel Better, we believe that an improved self-image can help lift women's spirits and nurture hope, helping them face their illness with greater confidence. We like to call it a 'makeover for the spirit'.

Launched in 1992 by a charitable foundation of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA), Look Good Feel Better is Canada’s only cancer charity dedicated to empowering women to manage the effects that cancer and its treatment have on their appearance, and often on their morale. Over 100,000 women have been helped through our workshop and services.

At the heart of Look Good Feel Better is a free, two-hour hands-on workshop in which women whose appearance has been affected by cancer and cancer treatment learn how to look and feel a little more like themselves again. Guided by experts through our Signature Steps, they master simple cosmetic techniques, explore hair alternatives, and learn about cosmetic hygiene, nail and skin care. Participants take home a complimentary kit of cosmetics and personal care products that are generously donated by the member companies of the CCTFA.

The Look Good Feel Better workshop brings together women with cancer in a safe and supportive environment where they can share stories, insights, laughter and, yes, sometimes tears.

Explore their website to learn more about Look Good Feel Better. If you’d like more information, please call 1 800 914 5665.

For workshop dates in Edmonton ... please click here for the locator.

Feeling the Effects of all the Holiday Celebrations

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I’ve been really coughing a lot over the past week. I’ve used Halls cough drops which have allowed  me to breathe easier and I've used Ativan to calm me down. I've been taking ½ of an Ativan at night and the same amount during the day … for the past four days and nights.

This morning I woke up coughing abruptly unable to catch my breath. I ended up going into a dark quiet room all by myself trying to calm down. Sure enough I eventually caught my breath.

I’m thinking the last few weeks have been more than too busy for me. Between the Christmas Festivities, travel and the changes to treatment and side effects, I’m worn out. Not only am I physically worn out but I’m emotional worn out … I’m feeling anxious, frustrated and weepy.

This morning I called my psychologist at the clinic and booked in an appointment to see her. I’m hoping she can help me with a new plan of action … something that will put me back on track to a more calmer me.

Become a Breast Friend!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Edmonton's breast cancer survivor dragon boat racing team is recruiting new members for the 2011 season. Any woman from Edmonton and area who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer and have completed treatment are eligible to join them. They are from every walk of life, and have varied fitness levels. Their goal is to prove that women can lead full and vigorous lives after surgery and treatment for breast cancer. Their motto is: "Awareness and hope in a dragon boat!"

Training begins in the gym in February. They also practice in pool boats in April. Then they start training on the river by mid-May. Their training is led by head coach and trainer Dot Laing, who has more than 25 years of experience in the fitness field. The dragon boat racing season goes from June to September.

Last year Breast Friends crews entered 7 festivals, including the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival which is held every year in August. They won gold medals in the breast cancer divisions at 6 of those festivals, and their goal is to be just as strong next year!

Breast Friends will hold an information meeting for potential new members on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 7 pm in the Zane Feldman Theatre at the Cross Cancer Institute. 

Please RSVP to info@breastfriendsedmonton.org. The deadline for new memberships is January 15, 2011. For more information, visit their website, www.breastfriendsedmonton.org

Under the Night Sky – Wellspring Shines

Sunday, January 2, 2011

As per their website...

Under the Night Sky – Wellspring Shines is on Saturday, February 5, 2011 at The Enjoy Centre, St Albert, AB. 100% of net proceeds from the event will go to the Wellspring Edmonton Campaign to build and operate our facility, so that we can reach our goal and open our doors by 2012!

Wellspring Edmonton will provide a wide range of cancer support programs to serve the emotional, social, and informational needs of people living with cancer, and those who care for them.

Here is a bit about the evening …

Twilight - the reception (6:30 p.m.)
The setting is inviting – fireplaces glow, the lighting sparkles and the music is lively. As guests mix and mingle they will be treated to elegant hors d’oeuvres and tantalizing drinks . . . just a taste of the indulgences that await them at Nightfall.

Nightfall - the dinner (7:30 p.m.)
Guests enjoy a magnificent meal while celebrating the story of Wellspring Edmonton. Throughout Nightfall, guests will be treated to elegant music and entertainment. It will be a party like no other.

Midnight - the after-hours (9:30 p.m.)
After-dinner drinks, espressos, and the ultimate in desserts will be served in this “after-hours” spot, with a background of intimate jazz.

Throughout the entire evening, selected pieces of high-end art, each with a special connection to Wellspring, are offered by auction. The evening comes to a close and guests leave, feeling enriched, indulged and informed – and looking forward to next year! 

A Few Words From Andrew

The following blog is by Andrew who was featured in Chapter 5 in The Healing Circle. Andrew was treated for an agressive brain tumour over 3 years ago and is doing extremely well.
This is a "Meta-Meditation" he uses everyday as part of his healing practice.

May I be safe from internal and external harm

May I be happy - just as I am

May I be healthy - may my body serve me well

May I be peaceful - and at ease

Like many of life’s events, any healing journey exposes you. It can shatter or build you up depending on your attitude, intention and commitment; e.g., a cancer trek is not for the faint of heart. Character is fostered at all times but in tougher times, whether patient, caregiver or MD, it reveals itself as you are tested of life’s diverse levels simultaneously, that is, physical, intellectual emotional and spiritual.

The journey is made quite complex since it is a marathon not a sprint. For me, meditation became a vital part of a journey (dharma/Path) to health. It reduced stress and offers time to sort things in my mind. I believe it might be helpful for others for, its calming effect reduces blood pressure and helps receive a focus with fortitude that can be coupled with a healthier life-style e.g. balanced diet, exercise and sleep.

One helpful form of meditation I found was Mettā which is one of 10 pāramitās of the Theravāda school of Buddhism*. Buddhists believe that if you are at peace, you become happier in yourself – perhaps a bit like being on an idyllic warm beach in the Caribbean when you know it is winter cold at home in Canada.

While Mettā takes about 20 minutes to do, its effects last longer. Over time, it centers peace into you. It is an antidote to fear since it helps you focus to a return to ‘self’ as it trains your heart. It plants seeds of intention and like flowers, some flower soon but other seeds take a while to bloom.

After preparatory relaxed breathing, meditate on a shortened form (bold) or, a longer form (italics). Longer forms exist but their purpose is the same. They fill your heart’s reservoir with essences of loving kindness, friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship, goodwill, love, kindness, sympathy and interest in others. The object is love without attachment which starts by expressing it toward inward. You must love ‘you’ before you can love others.

With practice, your reservoir of loving kindness fills. When full, you can direct it to others, friends and foes, known and unknown - like waves ripple out when a stone is tossed into calm waters. You can only give it away easily if you harbour no ill-will and have no personal motive; but if not full, e.g. as a caregiver, your energetic battery drains and leads to ‘burn out’.

Wonderful words craft Mettā, but can you reveal meditative concepts with limits like words? Not really. It is better to feel them; but that said, here is an attempt:

1. Safe - Everyone needs to be safe. Harmful things in a world outside can range from a corrupt political system to street hooligans to fierce weather. It can be worse if you hear harmful voices in your mind ranging from bad habits to unresolved conflicts. Whatever it is, Mettā offers a way to train your mind to get to an inner safe place free from perceptions of danger. It gets front-row-seats to see an amazing person – you!

1. Happy - Everyone dreams to be happy. Imagine the exquisite nature of wanting to be happy “… just as I am …”. This is not the happiness of a new car or a hug which are great; rather, it is a deeper, profoundly simple being-ness of “who you are”. While some say happiness is a choice; others say it’s elusive often realized only by a receptive heart giving this great gift away. This is accepting things observer non judgmentally, as an observer i.e., as they are. It is not complacency. You want to make the world better - as Gandhi once said: “… be the change you want the world to be…”.

2. Healthy – Everyone wants to be healthy! Why would you not want your body(s) to be in fine shape so there is no pain? The good news is that we are human but that often comes with foibles of doing many thing(s) that are destructive to the body e.g. smoking, food excesses, etc. It is paradoxical to want good health but not work toward it. Health is aided when you are aligned with your authentic self – it’s less stress; for, it is you. At a different level, consider what is your body? Is it only physical or are there emotional, intellectual or spiritual fields?

3. Peaceful – We all wish for peacefulness, Mettā’s 4th request. Being at one with whom you really ‘are’, i.e. your Authentic Self, is the nucleus of ease. It is the opposite of dis-ease. It starts with you and builds to home, country and world from your mind and heart. Only here can a powerful alignment transform you into being at one with yourself and the cosmos. This oneness with others or numinosity is one element in enlightenment (the 2 others are openness and curiosity). It’s in you to discover - you are the only one who can find your peace and how you are connected to others.

Over time, practicing Mettā improves my capabilities, ability to understand my mental and emotional states and deal more effectively with stressors. (Scientifically this meant changing activity in some areas of my brain i.e. temporal parietal juncture and insula - but let’s get back to Mettā.) Meditation soon became a sanctuary, as it reinforces that I must acknowledge the truth of who I am so I feel good about it. Clearly, sometimes facing my ‘self’ is not easy; but by doing it, I feel healthier at all levels. Consider: if I do not heal at all levels, then some form of dis-ease could be still in me. Hence, if I want aspects of Mettā, part of my quest must be to create peace-fullness in all levels of the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

I can easily remind myself of travelling to a beautiful spot and that I can be there virtually any time in my mind’s eye. How comforting! It is similar (but different) to how I felt just before cancer surgery when I felt a surreal sense that all would be fine. A most remarkable comfort showered me. It was a “peace that passed all understanding” the likes of which I have not felt before or since; a feeling so powerful and unique it will be remembered forever.

I had heard that phrase before many times but that was when I experienced it. While that amazing moment cannot be explained scientifically, it launched me on a road to recovery with a feeling this was the place to be - my ‘dharma’ or Path, so to speak.

As my experiences evolve, I re-discover that my journey is more about finding various forms of peace and truth within me. I find the practice of Mettā meditation is one way to grow, cultivate and train my ‘self’ to find ‘me’.

The awareness triggered is that meditation channels a trust, a type of freedom as I contact my ‘self’. This encourages wholeness, (read: health) as I enjoy profound senses of my ‘self’ and my world while being connected with others. Metta is a channel to connectedness that leads to wholeness and happiness. It is the essence of gentlelovingkindness.

Looking back, why had I not done this meditation before? I guess I hadn’t had to. There was no urgency then; but now there is. So I do it regularly now to feel safe, happy, healthy and peaceful during walks in the forest, just sitting in my chair and being with others. Maybe others will enjoy it too.


Trouble with Coughing

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I’ve been feeling pretty good this past week except for this silly cough I’ve got. It’s been off and on and really started to come on the day before seeing the Onc on Wednesday the 29th. I was ok in the mornings but the afternoons seemed to be so much worse. We, the Onc and I didn’t really discuss it too much because I just thought it would flare up and then disappear however that didn’t seem to be the case.

Anyways, as we were visiting family and my coughing had become annoying and distracting so much so that my brother-in-law came out with some Halls Cough Drops. I sucked through about five of them … what a relief that was. I could sure breathe more clearly and easily.

Last night I took half an Ativan hoping to calm things down and may get some good sleep. In the middle of the night I woke up a bit agitated so I popped a cough drop in … once the cough drop dissolved, I was able to fall asleep quit quickly.

Today is a new day and once again, I feel good and am doing next to no coughing. I’m thinking the Halls from yesterday are still doing their thing.