The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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An Evening at Look Good Feel Better

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Photo courtesy of GK! Thanks to PY for the special background.

In October, my sister Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This was particularly difficult for my family, as my mother was fighting her own battle with the disease.  In the first few months, while my sister was adjusting to her busy appointment schedule, her chemo side effects and just the need to be available to be with our mother on days that she was feeling up to it, I didn’t want to broach going to a workshop with her.  She was handling everything like a champ, but if you knew how many appointments that she had you would be overwhelmed.

After some time passed, and we were clear on what side effects she would have from her treatment, I brought it up.  I thought it would be nice for us to go together and for my sister to have something to look forward to.  Just to be candid, Michele LOVES makeup.  She’s been wearing it since her teens and has a good idea of what looks good on her and she certainly isn’t afraid of colour.  Weirdly, no matter what she thinks, I’m always shocked at how good she looks, even without makeup.  This was surprising to me – I wasn’t sure what to expect.  She has been unbelievably accepting of losing her hair, and has a GREAT wig.  She still has some of her eyebrows too.  Anyway – she agreed to go to the workshop, so being Type A, I signed her up online and made sure that I could attend.  Each person attending can bring one guest – they won’t receive the goodies, but they are able to be there for moral support.

We went to Princess Margaret Lodge on February 27.  It’s set up in a conference room, and each attendee going through chemo or other cancer related treatment walks out with a bag full of cosmetics and skin care.  It’s laid out for the women since they use the products during the workshop. It was a pretty full class, and the volunteers take you through a presentation about Look Good Feel Better, and some of the challenges that patients have in dealing with the appearance based side effects of the disease.  Some of the patients were happy to be there and get tips on how to “Look Good”.  One person actually wasn’t emotionally ready for the workshop and left.

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After they did the initial presentation, they wanted someone from the group to volunteer to be the makeup model.  No one volunteered so I said, in my loudest voice, “Michele?”  My sister was pretty excited to model, so she happily took her place at the front of the class, and even though I couldn’t be the centre of attention, I got to live vicariously through her.  She was already wearing makeup, so after taking a chisel, oops makeup wipe, she was ready to be made pretty all over again, while the rest of the class followed the step by step instructions from the makeup artist.  To finish things off, my sister tried on a whole bunch of wigs – some of them looked really cute on her, one made her look a little like Morticia Addams, but hey, you don’t get to pick everything.  The women got to shout out which ones they wanted her to try.

I would highly recommend Look Good Feel Better to any woman who is going through cancer treatment.  You may think that you already know a lot about how to apply make up and skincare, but things change when you are going through treatment.  You have to learn tips for complexions that may be drier and more sallow, how to pencil in eyebrows and how to fake the look of having lashes.  It’s a really nice evening or daytime workshop and gives you the chance to think about yourself.  I think my sister was more excited by the free stuff, but then again, she’s always loved a freebie – trust me it’s part of her charm.  Seriously though, cancer takes so much from patients, a little pick me up and a way to feel better about yourself is well worth the time.  The volunteers are knowledgeable, kind and compassionate and the cosmetic companies should be commended for the donations to the program.

One recommendation that I would make to any woman going through a treatment where you will lose your hair – make getting a wig a priority.  Do this before your treatment, that way you are prepared when the time comes and you are feeling well enough to try them on.  You have to make an appointment with a wig shop – you can’t just walk in and try them on.  If you have benefits, many companies cover off between $300-$500 as long as you have a doctor’s note.  We also found out that you shouldn’t shave your head – it can lead to nicks that can get infected – a big nono for someone whose immune system is going to be compromised.  Michele bought her wig in advance, and our cousin Gail went with her.  She sent me a photo and it was perfect!  They both played a joke on me telling me that Michele wasn’t going to buy the wig that day. Hardy-har har.  They were just teasing to see what kind of reaction they would get out of me.  Sigh.  I think that my sister was glad to get the wig, and it is one less thing to worry about when there is so much going on already.

For more information or to register for a workshop go to https://lgfb.ca/en/ 

If you’ve attended the workshop, and have feedback, I’d love to hear about it!

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The Bravery Bell

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“Promise me you’ll remember, you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin.

In many hospitals that have chemotherapy wards, you’ll find a Bravery Bell.  The idea is that any cancer patient that finishes their last chemo session gets to ring it, much like the bells that end a round of boxing.  I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to hear the bell ring, and each time, it brings a smile to my face and wish that I could join the systemic care team in applauding the latest patient that completed their treatment.  The last time that I heard it ring though, it also made me think about so many things.

Many patients with cancer face a different type of battle – their chemo never ends.  Are they any less brave than the ones who get to complete their treatment?  Shouldn’t they get to ring the bell too?  Others are treated with radiation – when their treatments end, they don’t have a bell to ring.  How about the family members that accompany the patients to their treatments, trying not to show any outward signs of fear, even though inside they are terrified of what their loved one will go through.  Trying every day to lift their spirits, trying to feel hope even when there may not be any.  Aren’t they brave too?

How about the wonderful nurses that provide such diligent care to each and every patient in the Chemotherapy Centres.  The nurses that quietly make sure that each and every patient is comfortable and warm and that their families are clear on what will happen.  The nurses who care about patients when they are at their sickest and most vulnerable.  If I could, I’d ring the Bravery Bell for them.  How about the doctors, no matter what the discipline, that contact patients and family members to reassure them and answer each and every one of their questions.  They too should get to ring that bell.

Cancer is the great equalizer.  Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay, male, female or transgender, it doesn’t discriminate – anyone can get it.  It is unique in that the cure or the life prolonger often makes you sicker than the disease.  It makes patients, families, health care providers and care givers braver than they ever thought possible.

To learn more about the Bravery Bell and the nurse who brought it to Princess Margaret Hospital, click here https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/09/19/for-donna-the-bravery-bell-tolls.html


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My Fearless Challenge AKA The Niagara Falls Nightmare

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Image courtesy of niagaraparks.com

Dr. Oz recently did an episode of his show on conquering fears, which, if you were paying attention, I wrote about a few weeks ago.  This year has been all about conquering fears for me. I’ve gotten my driver’s licence, signed up for driving lessons (starting next month), I’ve confronted the past and made my own type of peace with it, and I’ve decided to take the Canadian Cancer Society’s Fearless Challenge.  I’d like to say that my inspiration for doing this is to help prevent cancer for our future generations, but I’ve had to face another fear this year – my mother’s breast cancer, that had been in remission, had spread to her bones.  The very definition of fearless, my mother delivered the news to me casually over the phone several weeks after she found out.  As I started to cry, she reminded me that she had no intentions of going anywhere.  Then she told me that she had an appointment with an oncologist.  The only fear that she showed was when I decided to tag along with because she knew that it was then that I would find out that she slept through her appointment time the week before.   She thought it was hilarious – me – not so much.

My mother’s sense of humour through all of this has been amazing.  She reminds me daily that she doesn’t just have cancer – she has a life too.  She makes the best of her situation which means having friends over more and going out less.  Cancer is a bit of a roller coaster to say the least, and there have been good days, and bad.  Lately it has been Cancer Schmancer.   It’s there, but it’s not the be all and end all that it would like to be.

Watching the bravest person alive (yes Mummy that’s you) go through this battle inspired me to face my own fears.  Doing the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) Fearless Challenge is my most important project.  When my mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, I stayed up nights pouring over websites and getting so much scary information that I didn’t know how to process it all.  I decided to streamline my research to only a couple of sites that I knew to be reputable.  One was the CCS’s cancer.ca.  It had great information and gave me a complete picture of the resources available.  When I went to oncology appointments, I’d pick up CCS booklets.  The more I read, the less scary the disease became and I was finally able to calm myself down enough to sleep at night and to stop pouring over websites.

I did the same thing back in March when I found out that my mother’s cancer had spread.  I read all of the research and resources, but used cancer.ca as my go to.  I picked up more booklets at the hospital and once again, they brought me some semblance of comfort along with my very supportive friends and family.  I’m so grateful to the CCS for having this information available.  They also became a client and that’s when I found out about the Fearless Challenge.  I want to give back by helping raise money for this very worthy charity so here is what I’m committing to.  I’m going to do all of the things that I’ve ever chickened out on in Niagara Falls.  I’m going to (in order of least afraid to most afraid):

  • Go on the Whirlpool Aero Car – I chickened out on this years ago, even though this doesn’t scare me at all now
  • Take a ride on the SkyWheel helping me face my fear of throwing up and getting dizzy.  I have terrible motion sickness – everyone else is afraid of heights, I’m just afraid of barfing at 175 feet above the ground in a closed car
  • Meander through the Butterfly Conservatory – this is the absolute worst thing ever for me!!!!  I hate insects and you can tell me that a Butterfly is beautiful – but it’s just a bug with huge wings that flits everywhere willy nilly.  I’m going to see if Hazmat suit is available for the day.  At the very least, I’m covering myself in black clothing from head to toe and wearing leather gloves even if I have to go on the hottest day of the year.

This is where I do my schlocky sales pitch – please check out and support my Fearless Challenge or sign up for one of your own.  Check out my page and the site for inspiration http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=19672&px=6422179&pg=personal&fb_ref=Default  Help me make cancer a little less scary for others.

Thank you!!!!