Co-Survivor Award: My Mom and My MAN

Way back when I was first diagnosed and wrote a profile for myself for Bumpyboobs and FacingCancer.ca, I identified myself as a survivor. Forget dictionary definitions, I defined a survivor as someone getting up every day, facing what needed to be done, learning how to thrive through uncertain realities, and living life on their terms.

My life, my definition.

So when FacingCancer.ca recently announced their Co-Survivor Award, it made me really happy to see their definition of survivorship:

We believe survivorship begins at the time of diagnosis.

And it made me even happier to see that they’ve decided to honour those who have supported us, honouring the support they’ve given.

And surrounding every cancer survivor, there are people who care: we call them Co-Survivors. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a medical professional or an online supporter, use the form below to tell us who has made your cancer experience a little better with their selfless support.

There have been many people in my life who have helped. From friends in England, family in Canada, letters & emails from my friends during treatments, support during my crowdfunding, and the awesomeness and insight of those who get it online. But for the Co-Survivor award, if I could nominate someone (and I can’t because I work for FacingCancer.ca), it would be two someones: My husband and my mother.

Zsolt is Zsolt. You know him via this blog. He is softness and love and unconditional support. We’ve been through so much together and still we dance in the middle of the day. There’s so much to say, I really cannot begin to capture it all.

My mom, well, she’s my guide, point of reference and my friend. When I hear one thing regarding healthcare, I’ll take it to her for her opinion. And I’ll never forget how she left Canada and my dad for over a month (to sleep in our small one bedroom apartment on an air mattress in England) to help me recovering from the mastectomy – and then to help Zsolt and I weather that first terrible round of chemotherapy.

So here is the question: Who is your co-survivor, or co-thrivor, or co-awesomnesser?

award

If you live in Canada and can think of someone you’d nominate as co-survivor – then I invite you to pitch in your story over at FacingCancer.ca. Ten from the many will be chosen, and then we’ll agonize over them to land upon the first Co-Survivor recipient (but the ten will also receive goodies, too). Can you think of someone? Nominate here.

If you don’t live in Canada, and I know many don’t, but still want to share who has supported you , that’s what the comments are for ; ) People do read the comments, and they do pull inspiration from them – even folks supporting others, and needing to hear the positive impact their actions may have. Or even better – write about it on your own blog, and then link it back here. ;)

And you know what? Even if you haven’t had cancer (I hope), you may still have a co-survivor in your life, or co-supporter. I love stories about love, and about generosity, so I welcome you to leave your own reflections.

Now, that is all I have to say about that.

Except this P.S.!

P.S. I wasn’t asked or prompted to write this post for the award. I just like the idea. Everyone who does something kind for another person deserves to know their impact. This is just one really great way of saying thanks.

 

 

Asking for Help & Feeling Ashamed

I saw this video after Neil Gaimon tweeted it out to his followers. It’s a TED Talk featuring Amanda Palmer. Okay, maybe like you, I’d never heard of her before. But Neil Gaimon is a very cool author and I trust his suggestions, so I clicked through.

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of her talk, but by the end I was thinking to myself, “I’ve got to share this with the awesome people who read my blog.”  (Skip to bottom of this post if you’re really excited to view it!)

Her message is just SO powerful. The idea that “it’s okay to ask.” Sure, she’s speaking from the point-of-view of an entertainer trying to make a living . . . but going beyond that, to the concept of asking, to the concept of supporting. It’s amazing. It’s powerful.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again right now. It was damn hard to ask for help during chemotherapy – hard to the point of shaming. And yes, when I finally did break down far enough to say I wasn’t okay, people were incredible in giving their support. I think of my family, I think of my friends, I think of my cousins, my aunts, my boss, my colleagues, my husband. They were all incredible.

So why – WHY – so much shame in asking?

There is power in asking for help. Maybe Amanda is right. Maybe this is the future – and not just for music, but for dreams and lives and ambitions. I know of one women in the US who is struggling to pay her medical bills (Okay, I know of several women in the US who are struggling – universal healthcare is a GOOD thing, not a communist thing) and her friends are crowd-sourcing to help her buy a new car (replacing her ancient clunker) to get between treatments. I know of another young woman who has started an amazing charity called A Fresh Chapter, and she’s been raising funds to help twelve other people discover life after cancer.

Whether it’s thinking big or just thinking about the next meal – what is wrong with asking for help?

So here is the video. Don’t get weirded out by the ‘live statue’ intro. It’s worth watching through – this may well be the future of creative work. And asking for help, that’s something we should all be able to do without shame.

How to STAND OUT during chemo and beyond

I don’t know why I’m writing about this today, except that last week I met and chatted with a women who is going through chemotherapy. We met in a coffee shop, and while it’s clear from our chatting that there is much going on with treatment and life, I couldn’t stop thinking how lovely she was looking; she undoubtedly stood out from the coffee shop crowd, and it was largely because she choose to be striking with her clothes and makeup alongside with her bald head.

All of this made me think back in time, as I realised, “Geez, like this beautiful lady (she has a name, I’m just not using it here), I really stood out after chemo with the bald-to-short hair.” Which led to other thoughts like, “Should I cut my hair short again?” (NO!) “Didn’t I promise myself to be fabulous ever moment possible once my body had recovered?” (YES!) “Maybe I should write a post about standing out.” (Which I’m doing right now.)

Here’s the thing about chemotherapy – it knocks you on your ass. And frankly, if you decide to leave your home, which is rather inevitable during treatments, you will attract attention even if you’d rather be invisible to the world.

Let me say it again. You will attract attention.

And after treatment there’s still months upon months of very short hair. Once again, you will attract attention.

But is that a bad thing? If you are going to stand out, then why not do it on your own terms? And hey, why not use the months following chemo as a practise trial for standing out for the rest of your life? Let it be a warm-up for becoming a spectacular presence in your everyday life – a unique energy people can’t help noticing.

Personally, this is a big challenge for me since I grew up being the too-tall-for-the-boys constant wall flower. But the more I try with things like pink glasses, big blue rain boots, funky jackets, pretty clothes, blond highlights to come . . . the easier it becomes. No joke, practice makes this easier, and really satisfying too. Every wall flower wants to be noticed.

Therefore, I present to you, with an invitation to add your own ideas in the comments: Five ideas for standing out during chemo (i.e. whenever you can manage the energy) and beyond!

1. Find some beautiful accessories, e.g. scarves, bracelets, statement necklaces, earrings. Remember, scarves are not exclusively for your head – these can be worn around your neck as well. The lady in the coffee shop wore a beautiful combination of a pale pink scarf wound around a gold thread scarf. The result was so complimentary, I just kept looking at it and thinking how pretty she looked.

2. Smile at people. If they are going to be looking at you, look back at them. Smile, nod, say hello. I’m not saying you need to stop and converse with everyone about cancer or whatever else is on your mind that day, but smiling makes you instantly more relatable. It’s the universal ‘hello’ and everyone is better looking with a smile on their face.

3. Invest in an interesting and impeccably flattering piece of clothing, make it different from the crowd . . . you could snap up something from a local designer, or search a vintage shop for some old-time charm. If you don’t have the energy to shop, no worries – just keep a general eye out, and in the meanwhile look for daring pieces in your closet you’ve never had the guts to wear before this moment in life. (But obviously wanted to, cause how did it end up there otherwise?) Maybe it’s a jacket that’s tailored to your curves, maybe it’s an asymmetrical dress or shirt – I don’t know. All I know is it should be well made and different from anything else you’ve been seeing on the streets.

4. Embrace the short hair . . . at least for a while. I had mixed feelings about my short hair, but while it was there – I tried to style the blond curls (throw-back to my baby hair) sky high like Kramer from Seinfeld. Why not? Having pixie short hair is such a unique experience, and it instantly marks you from the crowd as a daring individual. Instead of hating the hair – love every second of your re-growth, from punk-rocker shaved to Natalie Portman sweet. . . you will stand out with that short hair, so make the most of the experience.  (Speaking of which, I really need to get some highlights put in. I’m aching to go BLOND again!)

5.Embrace colour. Please resist the urge to hide behind black or grey on a daily basis. Okay, I agree that black and muted tones can be very flattering . . . but if you want to be striking, find colour that flatters your skin tones. Couple darker tones (if that’s your comfort zone) with pops of coral, strong blue, light pink, oranges & reds with with blueish tones, green or yellow. Combine those colours with your statement piece, and lady, you’ll be smoking hot – and not because of the menopause!

I have this blue jacket that I wear whenever the weather allows . . . it’s cut quite uniquely, has polka dots and is rather flattering. People say to me often enough, “oh, you’re the girl in the polka dot jacket. I’ve seen you before!” You bet your ass they have. Chances are they’ve seen a lot of people before, but not everyone stands out.

You are fantastic, you are alive, you are YOU. So I reckon take the attention and twist it in your favour. Everyone deserves attention, why not use now to practise how to be present and seen? It’ll get you off to a running start for all those lovely and healthy days to follow treatment.

And that’s my two cents about that!

Catherine