This Cancer Could Have Been Mine

It Could Easily Have Been Me

This Cancer Could Have Been Mine

Breast cancer awareness month

This is a personal story about the luck of the draw. Or the shitty dumb-luck of the draw if you happen to pull the cancer straw.

Obviously some cancers are worse than others, but there’s no such thing as a silly, light-hearted, "cute" cancer. If you pull the straw that results in the words, “Your biopsy came back positive,” you and the people who love you are in for shit show. 

All cancers by nature are belligerent assholes, but I have a personal beef with breast cancer. It took somebody very special from my family. Losing her so young and healthy and kind and funny as hell, makes no sense. It has left a hole in our family. And in its wake, it has left me afraid. Carcinophobia is "the fear of cancer." It's real and it can be debilitating if you let it. 

Last spring after my annual mammogram I got that phone call—the “we spotted something on your scan” call. More often than not this is a false alarm. I’m one those dense breasts and cysty types so this wasn’t my first time at the callback rodeo.

But false alarm or not, I was sufficiently alarmed. You know how it goes. You start thinking and over-thinking and second guessing and worrying and next level catastrophizing.

Sitting in the chilly hospital waiting room in my gown I felt sweaty despite my goose bumps. I’m not good at waiting. It makes me feel out of control and vulnerable.

As I listened for my name to be called an exam room door opened and I locked eyes with my child's coach. We said a quick hello but nothing more. She was in a rush to leave and it was my turn to go in. 

The tech confirmed I had a new cyst. A benign sack of fluid. And I exhaled. I left the hospital feeling relieved and lucky, like yet again I had dodged a bullet. 

I saw our coach that night at practice. I searched her face for traces of worry but there were none. She was busy coaching and everything seemed as it should be. I exhaled once again. 

Several months went by as I enjoyed the summer with my family. Life went on as normal. 

This fall we returned to the gym, and I looked for our coach. I didn't see her at first. But then I spotted her across the lobby and I froze. She walked toward me wearing a head scarf. I felt my pulse quicken. After a few deep breaths I followed her into her office. 

"Fuck. I'm so sorry." I said. 

"Fuck is right." she replied matter-of-factly. 

We hugged and I tried not to cry. Because I had no business crying. I had no business being sad if she wasn't. She was positive and strong and self-deprecating and determined and beautiful, inside and out. 

I am in awe of her and the other women in my life who have pulled the cancer straw. What they are facing is the scariest thing of all. And yet they haven't crumbled. Just the opposite. I wonder if they are amazed by themselves, in their strength? They certainly should be.

I'm sure my child's coach, my friend, has had her moments. How could you not rage against this disease? How could you not cry and scream and pound your fists? But she comes to work. She shows up. She holds her head high. Her beautiful, bald perfectly shaped head.  

I know you don't want to be called "inspirational." You're simply doing what has to be done. But you are inspirational. You're inspiring me and the kids at the gym who see you as strong and determined. You're up front, willing to talk about it, to tell it how it is.

We see you smiling and laughing and living strong. 

As I write these words, it occurs to me that this story will be published in October. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I didn't write this for that purpose. I am well aware of Breast Cancer. Only a few short years ago I could count on one hand the people I know who have been affected by it. Now I use two hands. 

To the fierce and fantastic woman I know who pulled the cancer straw, I'm sorry. It could've just as easily been me. 

And at the end of your treatment, when you ring the 'Bravery Bell,' it's going to be the sweetest sound. 

Donna McCullagh was one of the nurses who helped come up with the idea of the Bravery Bell for chemotherapy patients at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 

"The 'bravery bell' was inspired by the bells that sound the end of a round in boxing. Affixed to a wall on the chemo ward, the bell is rung by patients who have finished their last session of the treatment. It is a victory celebration of sorts, met with applause and tears from staff and patients alike. In August 2015, after her second round of chemo, she got to ring the bravery bell herself."

"Going into chemo is a battle you have to go into on your own, but (the bell) gave other people hope that there was an end to this,” McCullagh told the Star last year.

Sadly Donna lost her battle this fall, but she leaves behind an incredible legacy of courage and hope.

Source: Toronto Star

 RELATED: I Was 30 Weeks Pregnant When Doctors Told Me I Had Breast Cancer


How to Choose a Non-Ridiculous Name for Your Baby So They Won't Hate You

And The Secret I Kept From My Husband For Nine Months

How to Choose a Non-Ridiculous Name for Your Baby So They Won't Hate You

Choosing a name for your baby

I'm always interested in hearing how people choose their baby's names. Did you choose that name because you’ve always loved it? Or maybe you heard it in a song once? Is it a family name, or perhaps it just has a nice ring to it?

I have some questions for you. Always with the questions. Enquiring minds…

Did you do the initial test? Did you write out your child’s potential full name to make sure their initials don’t spell “POO” or “ASS?” If you name your child Sarah Olivia Brown, she’ll be known as an SOB her whole life and that’s on you.

How did you reveal your baby’s name? Did you call her by her given name from the time you found out the sex (if you did) and let everyone know via Facebook update that “Baby Bethany just kicked!” or “Baby Bethany is breach!

Or did you kept your unborn child’s name under wraps until he was born?

My husband and I fell somewhere in between those scenarios. We had a baby name reveal party — just for a few close family members including the grandparents and godparents. It was mostly just an excuse for a party. Pregnant women will go to great lengths to have food made for them. We held this party later into the pregnancy when we were confident that this one was “for real.” (Those who have miscarried know what I’m talking about.)

Somewhere around dessert we shared the boy and girl name options for our soon to be born kiddo. We kept it a surprise for everyone else. I’d do the same again. It felt special to share this very personal choice with the people closest to us.

The downside of sharing your baby’s name ahead of time is that everyone will have an opinion about it, positive or negative. Like, “Oh, Sebastian. Really? That seems like a very big name for a little baby.” Well, turns out he was a very large baby so it all worked out.

Did you practice saying your child’s name aloud to make sure it sounds right when put all together? You really should.

We liked the named Quinn for a girl. And we already knew the middle name we’d use. Elisabeth (a combo of Lisa from me, and Elizabeth from my mom). But if you say it out loud, it’s problematic. Go ahead, try it out. 

For our second child we made a list of favourite boy and girl names (even though I secretly already knew the baby’s gender. My husband did not).

Avery Elisabeth was our girl pick left over from last time. I'd heard Avery used as a boy's name, but loved the sound of it for a girl. Also, it should be noted that I have a thing for syllables. I like the first and last names to match. It's a rhythmn thing. 

My husband fretted over a boy name. I pretended to care, but since I knew Avery was on her way, I wasn’t as invested in choosing the perfect male name.

I suggested Grady or Griffin. My two top choices. Not that I cared, because like I said, GIRL CHILD ON THE WAY!!!! Fist pump

We both liked Kingsley, but when we performed the mandatory “Say your kid’s name aloud test” we agreed that Kingsley Thornbury was best suited to a child a child of regal decent. Could you imagine the flack we’d get for Quinn Elisabeth and Kingsley Thornbury? We’d have to roll out a red carpet and toot a little horn every time they stepped onto the playground.

So when my husband told me he had his heart set on Grayson (Gray is a family name and the boy would be our son so, Gray-Son. My husband is big on symbolism obviously.) I graciously let him have it. heh heh 

When our daughter Avery was born, my husband said through tears, “I’m shocked.”

“That we have a girl?” I asked.

No, that you could actually keep a secret for once.” he replied.

And then I called him a name. I won’t tell you which one. ;) 

What are your kids’ names and how did you pick them?

 RELATED: This Is The List of New Zealand's Banned Baby Names


Short On Halloween Costume Ideas? Then Do the Costume Monster Mash-Up

And Win Halloween!

Short On Halloween Costume Ideas? Then Do the Costume Monster Mash-Up

Zombee Halloween Costume

If the idea of pulling together a creative costume makes your skin crawl, have no fear. Creating a unique costume is like a dance and I'll show you the steps. Your hilarious Monster Mash-Up costume will be the talk of the town!

It's funny, back in the day, my Halloween costumes were intentionally puny. As in tight and tiny, showing my full midriff whenever possible...because I could. Now, my costumes are full coverage. Nobody wants to see my muffin top, not even if it's pumpkin spiced. So instead of puny, my costumes are now punny. It's just better that way. 

So let's Monster Mash! Though, I can't guarantee I won't step on your toes with my hairy monster feet or get caught up in my zombie clown balloon pants...

Why mash-up costumes?

I think the better question is why not? 

Plus, puns. Life is better with puns. I stand by that even though you may persecute me like a witch in 1800s Salem. Please don't pun-ish me for my love of word play. 

Costume Mash-Ups are funny and easier than stealing candy from a baby. Not that we'd EVER steal candies from our babies. Except, it's not healthy for them to eat all those mini chocolate bars so in actuality, we're doing our due diligence as parents by taking their candy. You're welcome, kids!

Three simple steps for creating your Monster Mash-Up costume:

 Step One: Shuffle step over to your local Value Village. Value Village is crawling with exclusive costumes and accessories that aren't available anywhere else! We've been getting our costumes (for Halloween and any themed parties) from Value Village for years. It's inexpensive and you can create frighteningly great costumes using their packaged costumes, new and second hand!

​ Step Two: Choose two costume themes. Anything that speaks to you will work. (Possessed costumes may actually speak to you, so brace yourself!) There are lots of ready-made costumes to choose from or you can create your own. Did you just groan? Putting together a costume is dead simple. Just pick out the main pieces and then add some pre-loved clothing items or toys to accessorize. Value Village has trained, knowledgeable costume consultants on hand to help you mix-and-match their thousands of new accessories with pre-loved items to create a costume that no-one else will be wearing.

​ Step Three: Mix the two costumes and accessories together. For example: a red one-piece skin suit (that covers your head/face), a black eye mask over top + swim trunks, water wings, carrying an inflatable pool toy = Deadpool

Look how easy this costume is! A police hat with "Grammar" painted on the brim + a plastic Billy Club. I wrote 'Yummy Mummy' on mine to transform it into a "Yummy Mummy Club." Get it? *runs from mob of torch carrying pun persecutors*

* You could use these Punctuation Police or Syntax SWAT Team bats instead. If you hear somebody say, "Hey yous guys!" or "I seen it," be sure to give them a good whack. 

Here are a few more examples (FYI—my daughter LOVED doing this. My son agreed to participate with the understanding that he could choose a pile of books after we were done. He did—four used books for under $10!)










As we took these pictures in the store, shoppers actually gathered around and laughed out loud. See? Puns bring people together! Don't shun the pun. 

So, what am I dressing up as this year, you ask? I considered simply going as my sleep-deprived self with bedhead, dark circles under my eyes (no spooky make-up required), in my PJs, calling myself a "Mombie." Or if Halloween should happen to fall during that frightening time called PMS hell, I could go as a Menstrosity or your basic scary Momster. I don't want to frighten the kiddies (and my husband), so I decided to go with something less spooky and more punny. Of course. 

And we can't forget dad! There are lots of costumes for teens and men too! I nearly bought my husband a giant pickle costume...

Since my Halloweenie husband wasn't able to come pick out costumes with us this year...we chose something for him. I'm sure he'll be thrilled. :) 

Some of the hottest Halloween themes this year include: 

Fairy Princesses, Superheroes, Pirates, Animals, Day of the Dead, Clowns, Time Warp (1920s, 50s, 70s, 80s), Post Apocalypse, and Vampire/Goth. And of course, funny punny Monster Mash-Up costumes! 

What are YOU dressing up as this year? 

Happy Halloween!