Skip to main content

Generous Hearts Make Works of Art

When it came time to select the topic of this blog post it really was a no-brainer.  It came to me from so many different directions, and yesterday was the icing on the cake that inspired the post's title. 

...but first,

Taxotere Round 7 Update - Coles Notes Version

Version 1a) Zzzzz...if you are bored with my endless drone about side effects, skip to the next sub-heading. 
Version 1b) Eagerly awaiting the next segment of 50 shades of Taxotere?  Read on!

Ellen + instructions to self-inject Neulasta=recipe for disaster.
Funny story here.  I was given three coaching sessions from my homecare nurse in order to teach me to self-administer my Neulasta injection the day following Taxotere infusion.  This is the super expensive drug that boosts my white blood cells and must be done within 48 hours of chemo.  I never intended to do it myself - who was I kidding?  I have no problem getting needles but look away as they go in.  So I had enlisted the help of a great friend and RN to do the deed.  Unfortunately, she fell ill that morning so I decided to bite the bullet and give myself the shot - after a pep talk from the homecare nurse via phone and watching a YouTube video I was all psyched.  Ok, so this is how it really went down.

4pm: Ellen uncaps the syringe and cringes at the sheer enormity of the needle.  Am I supposed to stick that whole thing in my leg (in actuality, it measured half an inch, but my eyes were lying).
5pm: Three failed attempts (as in, I couldn't stab my leg) and one pep talk from my friend, the RN, who sent me a great YouTube instructional video.  All set to go.  Or maybe not.
5-7pm: Dinnertime madness, kids bedtime madness, Ellen not getting anywhere with the injection and, instructed not to recap the syringe, starts to wonder if she is contaminating the $3000 needle.  Places another call to homecare nurse to inquire.
7:30pm.  Advised to open an antiseptic swab, remove the swab and insert the needle until I'm ready to give it a go.  Another couple of failed attempts, mainly due to heightened stress of shoeing away kids with one foot while balancing opened syringe in other hand.  Places third, frantic, call to homecare nurse.

Ellen (sobbing): "Hello, me again.  It's not working.  It's been three and a half hours and I just can't do it.  Can you come here?  I will pay!"
Nurse: "Sure, no problem.  I'll be there in an hour or so after my next client.  Can you wait until then?"
Ellen: "Absolutely."  Hangs up phone and paints a capital "L" across my forehead.  What the??  Lesson learned.  Just ask for help next time (incidentally, great friend C will be administering my shot tomorrow)

Decadron-induced Insomnia strikes again.
I was still blogging at 1:30 a.m. last night. The culprit?  Pre-chemo steroids.  I think the novelty of taking steroids has finally worn off and I will be happy not to be taking them ever again after Friday.  But they served their purpose - no allergic reaction to Taxotere - so I happily obliged!

Nails are hanging in there.
Actually, they are really doing well.  Just a little bumpiness which only started after this past round.  I highly recommend insidious amounts of Sally Hansen nail strengthener (as a base and top coat) and painting them electric blue like I did.  As I told my oncologist and my chemo nurse, "hey, if they're going to turn blue anyway, let's get a head start and pick the shade, shall we?"

As defined by the Ottawa Cancer Centre's self-assessment form, "the feeling of low energy".  Well, I can report that this is now my most prevalent side effect.  I gave it a 4 out of 10 this week but sense that number may creep a bit over the coming days/weeks as Taxotere's effects are known to be worst after the last round.  It's strange how I thought I would feel generally low energy throughout treatment, but for me it has been quite the opposite.  Full of energy at times, then suddenly, without warning, total loss of energy.

Funny story, I discovered this unfortunate reality when running up my basement stairs with a load of laundry.  I made it half way up then sighed a slow and deliberate "oh no" then collapsed on the stairs in a puddle of bibs and receiving blankets.  Legs just gave out from under me and I looked up to a very confused husband and baby.  My mind and the rest of my body were fully awake, it was just my legs.  This happens all the time now, even if I'm going slowly and not carrying anything.  Most irksome consequence of this side effect?  I can't carry my 17lb infant in her bucket car seat anymore.  No worries, I wanted to do more baby-wearing anyway, and baby wraps are much lighter than car seats!

Nothing else of significance to report so I will leave it at that.  Signing off on the medical update, now on to the good stuff!

Generous hearts make works of art

Hospital Gown fit for a Queen - or Fashion Diva

Yesterday I had lunch with the most amazing group of colleagues whom I am so proud to call my friends.  At the end of our gathering they surprised me with an incredibly thoughtful, beautiful, custom-made hospital gown!  In an earlier post I expressed my challenge in fitting in to the standard "one size fits all - unless you're Ellen" hospital gown.  With my approaching surgery in mind, these friends of mine fabricated this idea and saw fit to personally select the fabric and enlist the skillful hand of a tailor friend to pull this together.  The result?  Nothing short of fabulous and just my style!  Heartfelt thank yous to the talented and generous tailor Yvonne, and my RRSC fan club who rescued me from the dreaded "hospital draft"!

Knitted Knockers!  (Knitted prosthetic breasts for mastectomy patients)

I stumbled across this amazing program whilst Googling prosthetic options:
Knitted Knockers at Tempe Yarn & Fiber.  Can you believe such a program exists?  Remarkable!
Knitted Knockers abound!
Photo courtesy of Tempe Yarn & Fiber
Top 5 Reasons I think Knitted Knockers Rock:
(5 not 10, because I am no David Letterman)

5. This project is managed by the wonderful, dedicated folks at Tempe Yarn & Fiber in Arizona, USA.
4. Knockers are knitted/crocheted by a generous and skillful team of global volunteers and are mailed to recipients free of charge.
3. The Knitted Knockers pattern is accessible to all who wish to donate their time and get involved in this excellent cause.  Pattern is posted at:  Knitted Knocker Pattern
2. Although some women decide to use traditional silicone breasts, they often have to wait up to 6 weeks for production.  Knitted Knockers can literally fill the niche directly post-surgery and are a comfy, breathable alternative to traditional prostheses.  I'm definitely "hooked" and I haven't even tried them out yet!
1. They can be made with or without nipple.  Good-bye expensive sweater bras!

These next two works of art were mentioned in a previous post but they are so wonderful that I feel they deserve extra recognition!

Victoria's Quilts Canada

A few months ago I opened my front door to a sweet, elderly delivery man bearing a hand-made patchwork quilt.  It was a gift for me, requested by my lovely friend Aura.  She had heard about this beautiful organisation that makes and donates quilts to cancer survivors.  I tote my quilt in its matching carry bag to my chemo sessions.  It has kept me toasty warm while wearing my ice bootie/mitt combination! 

If, like me, you'd like to learn about the wonderfully inspiring story behind this cause, I welcome you to visit Victoria's Quilts Canada.

Ironically, the Canadian chapter is based here in my home town of Ottawa!

Rosemary's Night Cap - You don't need a big endeavour to make a huge impact

I think I like this story the best.  A good friend of mine, Steph, told a woman she met, Rosemary, about my bio.  Rosemary has never met me but set off to knit me a cap to keep my bald head warm.  It was still summer and quite a bit warm out for a hat, but the very night I received it the temperature dipped and I felt such a chill that I couldn't fall asleep.  As I searched around in the dark for a comfy bandana that didn't exist I remembered Rosemary's cap!  Its soft and stretchy yarn made the perfect, snuggly Night Cap!  And guess what, Rosemary?  I've worn it every night since! (and anytime I venture down to the basement to blog/use the I guess you could actually coin it my thinking cap too!).

Ellen's Tresses
The day I shaved off the last of my hair I mentioned I would post a pic of my husband's painting when it was ready.  It's been hanging in our home for several months and I only now realized I had not posted the pic.  Here it is.  This was his interpretation of how the event unfolded (although I remember no tears and lots of laughter, but who can argue with an artist?  Certainly not me.  And yes, that is my hair all over the painting.

"The Face of Cancer" by Moika, 2012.  Acrylic and Ellen's hair on canvas.

Blessings Report:
- My darling Imogen turned 6 months, and is a strong, happy baby who still sleeps through the night (and has a strong, happy mommy who sleeps in til 6:30 a.m.!)
- Reaching my 6 month cancer-versary!
- Anticipating my last chemo cocktail later today (September 27, 2012)! Happy hour starts at 1:30pm.  And, I get to ring a bell.
- Surpassing my $1000 fundraising goal (by $200!) in support of this Sunday's Run for the Cure!  In total, Team Ellen has raised more than $5800!  I am flabbergasted! Failing any major chemo calamity, I plan to walk the 1km pushing (well, leaning on) my daughter's stroller and look forward to seeing my Ottawa teammates so I can high five them for their incredible fundraising efforts.
- Celebrating a dear friend's 40th birthday with a girls slumber party, complete with (good) 80s music, old photo albums, high school notes (the non-academic kind) and far too many treats.
- Reveling in the fact that my kindergartner skated to the front of his first lesson of the year, but more importantly, that he saw fit to interrupt the instructor to insist they stop and dance when the Chicken Dance song came on.  Kid's got his priorities straight!

And the crème de la crème...

Learning that my blog is helping others!  I was so touched to receive many emails and updates this month from and on behalf of fellow cancer survivors who are reading my blog and being inspired.  You inspire ME!  Keep reading, stay positive and your health will follow your lead, I promise!

Thank you, and much strength to you all. 


  1. i really really like you mom,and i hope you get better ,Salvador !.
    beijinhos da familia,hugs and kisses from,husband,Salvador,Soraia and Imogin,
    we proud of you !.

  2. I really really like YOU Salvador! Tudo meu amor ao minha familia linda. And hun, you spelled Imogen incorrectly - just saying is all!


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…