Skip to main content

Cancer brings out the best in people

Your eyes are likely scanning up to the post's title right about now.  Go ahead, give it another read.  Yes, that's the best, not the worst.  Many feel that Cancer brings out the worst in people - and I can certainly see why - but I have observed first-hand that it really does bring out the best in people too.

Conversation with my 4-yr old today: 
Me: "My oncologist told me yesterday that the chemo is working really well, and that the tumour is shrinking!  Mom's cancer is going away!"
My 4-yr old: "Yay!  I'm so happy!  Now, what about your tummy?"
Me: <confused> "My tummy hurts sometimes, but that's normal."
My 4-yr old: "No Mom, I mean, what is she doing about your big tummy?  Can she make IT go away?"
Me: <sigh> "Right, I'd forgotten all about my post-baby bulge.  Thanks, sweetie.  I'm afraid Mummy has to get rid of that herself".

Many of you know that I took a huge leap last week and decided to post my story (via my blog) on my facebook page.  Although I originally asked friends to "keep facebook cancer-free", it later occurred to me that social media was just the ticket to spread the word and reach the far corners of the world.  And it worked!  My page view count quadrupled in 24 hrs and I'm proud to say I now have blog readers on 6 continents.  Welcome!  Anyone know anybody in Antarctica?  Anyone?  Bueller?...

I now feel as though my cancer has a real purpose, that it has not merely ventured here to upset my life and that of those around me.  By contrast, I think it has come here to remind me what my life should be about:

Ellen's doctrine (circa 2012):
1. Be a loving mother, wife and friend. 
2. Spread humour.
3. Create community. 
4. Help others who don't know they need help. 
5. Live, instead of worrying about living.

So what is my plan to accomplish all of this?  Simply, to try.  And to keep trying.  And to keep reminding myself to keep trying.  Several years ago, I learned all about writing down my goals.  I decided to record my New Year's resolutions, each one written on its own large, colourful strip of paper.  I blue-tacked the strips to my wall in a haphazard yet aesthetically pleasing fashion, and studied the wall each morning as I was getting ready for work.  All of my resolutions followed the SMART principles (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely), for example, none of this "be a better person" wishy-washiness!  That year, I accomplished 30 of the 33 resolutions I wrote down!  Examples of successes included: "Learn to drive standard", "Complete a beginner's Spanish course" and "Get back in touch and stay in touch with -- " (then I listed 5 long lost friends).  So happy to report that on this last resolution, I did just that, and these 5 friends are (not surprisingly) at the top of my cancer-fighting support contingent!

Taxotere, my new fear
Yes, it's true!  I'm not doing so well on my number 5 raison d'être above (i.e., not worrying).  If I was apprehensive, nervous or anxious about the first AC treatment, I am scared to bits over the Taxotere.  Reading about others' experiences really does have its pros and cons.  I am the type of person who will not be happy unless I know about all possible side effects.  This worked with the AC, and remarkably, I experienced few side effects, and with little intensity.  Taxotere, by contrast, has done a number on me, and I am not even there yet!  The countdown is on...T minus 9 hours to my first treatment...and I am really really dreading it.  I know that I will be sitting here tomorrow night, the fear of the unknown gone and managing with grace whatever I am dealt, but it is the not knowing that is killing me tonight.  Really happy you are here to distract me! 

Potential Side Effects:
Here's what I'm told I can/may expect for the next 4 cycles (12 weeks) of Taxotere:

- Extreme fatigue/low energy for most of each 21-day cycle.  Whereas with AC, I had 3-5 down days, Taxotere commonly causes fatigue for much longer, some say, for 18 days, then a couple of days of normal before the next round.  Eep!
- Less nausea than the AC.  Ding ding!
- Bone pain and muscle pain, possibly quite severe.  Boo!
- Nail discolouration and/breakage/falling off.  Come again?  Guess I will forego the expensive pedicure.
- Abdominal cramping from the Decadron I must take to stave off an allergic reaction to the Taxotere tomorrow.  I'll have to stomach it.  I'm guessing my Reactine ain't gonna cut it!
- More bone pain from the Neulasta injection.  Told to take Tylenol to combat the bone pain from the Neulasta which is combating the low neutrophil count from the Taxotere.  And the hip bone's connected to the, leg bone...

I've decided that the only side effect I am certain to experience is:
- Total insanity from taking too many meds!  I really have to get over the whole, "this is not naturopathic and this is ok" side of chemo.  Next to coming to terms with not breastfeeding, this has been my biggest hurdle.

To finish off this post, I am proud to present to you a handful of the many ways my cancer has brought out the best in people since I started this blog.

Blessings Report:

All of the offers I've received for meals, drives, get-aways and alternative therapies:
The many, touching personal messages I received this week recounting your own brave struggles and experiences in the cancer cadre.
Hearing about YOUR blessings! (taken from comments posted on my blog):

"You have reminded me to look around and to count my blessings"
"You are touching many lives"
"You make me see my world in an entirely different light"
"I think of you when I feel overwhelmed with my 2 kids"
"Watching the Red Devil creep it's way up the IV and waiting for the world to come to an end. And then it doesn't. And life goes on."

I feel the love, people.  I hope you do too!


  1. Dear Ellen

    Thanks so much for another inspiring blog. You are amazing, and we (readers) can only love you !

    Last month I received the yearly invitation from my alma mater to join the yearly conference for alumni of Rotterdam Med School.
    This year the conference topic is Chronobiology.

    I must admit I had never heard of it, but it seems science has specialised in studying the biological clock of living beings.
    One of the applications of chronobiology is to determine your personal time cycle of your body, in order to establish the best timing of medication, such as chemotherapy.

    It seems that the sensitivity of our cells to poison varies throughout the day in cycles. So each person has a point in the day, where poison has less effect. They use this now in trials for chemotherapy to administer it at the best time, so that our healthy cells suffer less and the cancer cells get killed.
    First results are definitely encouraging.
    More about chronobiology?

    Hope this was useful


    1. Dear Arnold,

      Thank you so much for this most informative and fascinating post. I will check out the links you've cited as I'm indeed intrigued by chronobiology. It certainly is encouraging to hear that there may be a way to to reduce the harmful effects of chemo on healthy cells.

      Much love and thanks for this,

  2. Thank you for sharing your journey. My mom's journey began 11 days ago with the terrible news "you have breast cancer". To make it extra exciting it is in your lymph nodes, both lungs (needs oxygen 24/7), and six spots on your liver. It is weird when just 6 weeks ago she was a lady that hasn't been sick in her life, other than the common cold. It hit fast and hard. We are seeing a oncologist August 1 for the first time. We are hoping for the best. It is in Gods hands. God bless you and your family.

    1. Thank you for reading my journey. I am so touched that you took it upon yourself to write to me at this most difficult time in your life and that of your mother's.

      The waiting game between diagnosis and first oncologist appointment was truly the worst time for me. Hang in there, and try not to lose yourself (as I almost did) researching and getting worked up over others' experiences. Each cancer journey is unique, and only time will tell hers.

      My cancer, though in my lymph nodes too, had not metastasized (or at least, hadn't at the time of my MRI), so I cannot imagine how your mom must be feeling right now. My prayers go out to her and to you. Do keep praying and share her story with her loved ones so that God may hear all of our prayers.

      All my strength and love to your family, and feel free to contact me (address at top right) any time.


  3. hi Ellen - what an unbelievable post! you inspire me every day. i hope that things went OK today (said a quiet prayer for you). I laughed out loud at the part of this medicine not being naturopathic - thats' exactly what i would be thinking! - oh and if you ever want to chat about your journey of breastfeeding (let me know) - lots and lots and lots of HUGS, LOVE from our family to yours! we love you and are SO proud of you. ps. your little boy is TOO darn adorable. - thank YOU again for writing - your blog is humorous, informative, HONEST, heartfelt and just overall wonderful. you are an amazing woman. love - Auramarina

  4. Breast aesthetics, there is a lot I do not know about. There are those from Turkey you recommend Dr. Ali mezdeği. Do you have that information?
    Meme estetiği


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


My current cancer treatment, a teeny pill taken daily to stop recurrence, is sucking the life out of my bones. I've been putting off dealing with this inconvenient side effect, frozen by fear and doubt. But it's time to stop putting it on ice. We have a plan to thwart its path of destruction, and tomorrow I am turning up the heat and it is going down. Way down.

Let me back up just a bit and fill you in on what's been going on, and why I am heading back to the Cancer Centre tomorrow.
In March I met with my medical oncologist for my five-year post treatment follow up - FIVE YEARS out of active treatment! How strange to think that I no longer require regular follow up by the Cancer Centre. She explained that care would now be transferred to my family physician, and that I was in charge of following my care plan, a personalized holy grail put together by the Wellness Beyond Cancer program which lays out all of my treatments, surgeries and diagnostics to date, and flags when I sh…

Tongue-tied and tasteless in the tenacious land of Taxotere

Now that 12 days have passed since my first Taxotere infusion, I feel as though I can provide a fulsome report on the drug’s side effects and their affect on my life thus far.Taxotere round one differed drastically from my first AC treatment, in both positive and negative ways.Before I attempt to humour you with a little compare and contrast, I give you the final instalment of my short segment, entitled:

Neulasta, the wonder drug
As it turns out, Neulasta is some serious medicine.I had my first injection the day after my last AC treatment, administered in my thigh, not in my stomach, as I’d been warned would be the case (read: Don’t believe everything you’re told!). For someone who neither enjoys nor fears needles, I can report that it did sting a fair bit going in, but the pain quickly subsided.It took about 12 hours before I had any kind of reaction to the drug.I was warned it could cause bone pain in some individuals, and this time the warnings rang true.It began in my hips the day …


If you've ever cowered beneath the behemoth head of a sunflower, this post is for you. If you like fashion, this post is also for you. If you enjoy watching cat bloopers, this post is definitely not for you, but you're here now so you may as well just read on!

I was invited to be a guest writer on my friend Colleen Kanna's blog, "Keeping Abreast". It was an easy yes as Colleen is an amazing person with whom I feel a special connection. Like me, Colleen faced breast cancer as a young woman and mother. She has channelled her experience, insight and creativity into designing her own line of bamboo-knit adaptive clothing (woot!) which meets the needs of young women touched by cancer – functional (i.e. zippered) while fashionable and feminine. I wish I’d had these during my recovery. 

I encourage everyone to check out all of the beautiful pieces she has created at coKANna Designs, and if you've hung on this far and are still keen on reading my latest piece of writin…