Sunday, October 18, 2009


I had my last radiation treatment this week and am enjoying not having to make the trip to the hospital everyday. It has been about a year since I found the lump and now all the major treatment is over, it almost doesn't seem real. I see the doctor in November to start on the maintenance drug, but other than that it is recovery time!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

almost there

I had my last full radiation treatment yesterday and start the final "boost" treatments today so am in the home stretch. I am definitely feeling the effects now with fatigue and my skin is really burnt in spots. In a couple weeks the skin should heal so it shouldn't be bad for too long. I have to "air it out" as much as possible so I suggest no unannounced visits!

I made it to the Run for the Cure on Sunday to cheer on my friends that participated. I hadn't been to one before and was shocked at the number of people there. Kimberly and I were at the finish line to greet our friends when they crossed and it was very touching to see my name on their shirts. I am such a lucky gal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

a good day

I had my radiation simulation appointment today for the five "boost" radiation treatments happening at the end and I didn't need any additional tattoos. I am feeling pretty battle scarred so am happy about that. Plus, on another positive note, I officially have bed head in the morning!! Ok, it is more like a slight flatness on one side, but it is growing like crazy so will be much messier soon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

day 9

Radiation started last week and it has quickly become part of the daily routine. It is hard to believe I am having my ninth treatment already. My skin is just starting to get a little burnt but the fatigue hasn't gotten any worse than what's leftover from chemotherapy. They say it will start to hit next week. I feel like I am having my own little Big Brother experience everyday because the technicians leave the room after getting me all lined up and watch me on a monitor and talk to me through a mic while I get zapped. I don't get to vote anybody off though.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

so honoured

My cousin Sean LeMoine lives a wonderfully adventurous life and for his next big journey is biking from Vancouver to Austin, Texas as part of the Give-to-Live ride to raise money to fight against cancer. He leaves on October 12th and called my mother to share that he is dedicating his ride to my Father, our younger cousin Jeffrey who went before us, and myself. What an amazing thing.

The following is a link to his fundraising site if you would like to support him with a donation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

with heavy heart

My Father lost his battle with cancer last week, he was 64. He was a wonderful man and I feel blessed that he was my Dad. He was diagnosed 14 years ago with a rare form of Lymphoma (Waldenström Macroglobulinemia) and treatment really ramped up in the last two years having received 7 different ones over that short time. I am so very proud of him and he has been a role model to me in how he faced his cancer - with strength, vigor and grace. I will miss him terribly and will hold his memory in my heart forever.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

it is 5 o'clock somewhere

Wow is the summer ever passing by quickly, and I feel like it just started. I went on Friday for my "simulation" appointment for radiation where they determine the position I will be in to receive the treatment. To make sure they get me in the same place every time they "marked" me with four tattoo dots to line me up with. What a nice memento. Overall the appointment wasn't too bad. Though I wonder why they need to keep a room where the girls are going to be on display for a half hour so cold...if you know what I mean. Also the technician kept giving me the tattoos without warning! I wasn't allowed to move my head so I couldn't see what she was doing. I think it is common courtesy to let someone know when you are about to poke them with a needle. I was feeling a bit cranky by the end of it so when she showed surprise that I was bleeding when I got off the table I was quick to remind her that she had just finished STABBING ME!! Hello!!! Anyway, I was glad that was over. But they had a nice parting bit of information for me. They are going to zap me in two positions, the first 25 in one and the last 5 in another, so I have to go back to be marked a second time at some point during treatment. Nice.

Tomorrow is a milestone day. I go for surgery to have the port that the chemotherapy was injected into removed! Dr. Porter, the surgeon who removed my tumour, is doing it and I am looking forward to seeing him again. I don't think the surgery will be too bad. Can't be worse than it going in I figure.

The big news of today though is that my hair has started to grow back! It's kind of like a 5 o'clock shadow on top of my head. I am staring at it daily to try to see what colour it is going to be and to me it looks darkish, but we'll see. Very exciting!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was standing on the corner of Spring Garden and Dresden Row waiting for the light to change and was feeling a little awkward because I had just caught the lady standing next to me staring (I still forget that apparently I am something to gawk and think people are just being friendly until they look away embarrassed) when I hear a voice from my left saying "I bet under that hat our heads look the same". There was Neville, local florist and fellow chrome dome. I laughed and told him he was right but he says at least mine will grow back. So true. It actually has started to grow back in already!! Just a little bit of stubble, but a positive sign. Dr. Rayson says I will have a hair style for Christmas.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

done and done

I had my last round of chemo on Tuesday and am so thrilled that phase of treatment is OVER!!! High five!! I will be back on my feet in another week or so then am looking forward to a nice break before radiation starts at the end of August.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

one to go

Sorry for the break since my last post! Round #4 was particularly rough on the nausea front and once I got back on my feet I was spending time with Dad as he was hospitalized the day before my fourth treatment and remains in hospital. We are hoping he will be coming home soon under the watch of palliative care. I had my fifth treatment on Tuesday this week and it is going much better than the last two. I am actually on Bonamine for sea sickness and it seems to be working! It was an idea that my doctor had and so I am being a bit of a guinea pig. I can't believe I only have one more chemo treatment to go. I remember the nurse saying it would go by fast and it certainly has. My last treatment is on July 14th and then they are giving me a break to recover a bit before radiation begins on August 31st. It will be nice for the whole family and hopefully we will have some good weather!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

change in plans

I had my pre chemo appointment with Dr. Rayson today and he has recommended that I keep going with the drug treatment I am currently on instead of changing to a newer treatment for doses 4, 5 and 6 like he originally planned. The steroids I take with the chemo have been giving me heart palpitations and with the new drug I would have to take six times the dose I am on now and he is concerned about what will happen to my heart. I am disappointed as the new drug can reduce the risk of the cancer coming back by an additional 4%, and I'll take every percent I can get, but I plan on living a long time and need my heart, so it is what it is.

Anywho, I turned 37 last weekend and Dave took me to Hamachi Steakhouse for dinner, the one where they cook the food in front of you. It was so much fun and the food was delicious. I had to watch out for Dolly though because she melts in high heat so when the flames were flaring I was leaning back to keep her safe. Gotta protect Dolly!

Friday, May 22, 2009

doing some math

The doctor said that I am allowed to have one drink from time to time. My drink of choice is a vodka tonic which is 35% alcohol. Does that mean if I just have Corona that I can have 7.6 of them? May be worth the experiment...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

1/2 - an even bigger fraction

I had round three of chemo this week and to be frank, it sucked. It was the worse yet and the extra nausea drug they added didn't seem to help. But, it is turning around now so brighter days ahead! Plus I am at the halfway mark…50% complete...over the hump…all downhill from here…hitting the home stretch...seeing the light (not the bright one) at the end of the tunnel. Now THAT feels good.

Friday, May 8, 2009

for kicks

Paula called the other day to check in and told me she used the lint roller on her head too! This was just too good...the makers of this product really should know how great it is, beyond what they make it for. I certainly always appreciated receiving positive messages from the public on something I worked on, so I figured why wouldn't they? So I emailed 3M the other day and checked off "no reply required" but to my surprise I received a message back today thanking me for sharing my experience and indicating that they would share my story with the marketers and technical engineers of the lint roller product. Hopefully they get a smile out of the story...and if you see the lint rollers repackaged as a hair removal kit, you'll know who gave them the idea!

Monday, May 4, 2009

introducing Dolly

When the wig is sitting on the stand it seems alive really she needs a name. Thus in homage to Dolly Parton who has been a pioneer in mainstream wig wearing, I have named her Dolly. I donned Dolly the other night for dinner with friends, so here I am in all my glory with Dolly and Suzanne.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

achieved freak status

My hair is almost gone, just patches of wispies left here and there, so I have taken to wearing hats everywhere and have a favourite - adidas cadet hat. It is comfortable and I was thinking that I looked fairly normal...apparently not so much. I was at the school yesterday for student led conferences and was waiting outside Jonathan's classroom when a young girl walked by and she was looking at me so I smiled and she smiled. When she got past me a little ways, she turned and walked by again...looking...then again...looking...and yes again...looking. Staring and straining her eyes into her periphery to absorb as much as possible. It wasn't until the third pass that I actually realised what she was doing. Surprisingly it didn't really bother me, but clearly I'm not fooling the people like I thought!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

a third is a big fraction

I had my second treatment this week (which Sue Bulmer pointed out is a third of the way through my chemos) and it went much better than the first, with less nausea and heart palpitations. I have battled an ongoing queasy feeling so just chilled for the week, but overall a big improvement - it is still chemo after all. Another patient of my doctor coined the phrase "quesea" which I think is a very accurate description!! So with another full week almost behind me I am looking forward to some good days ahead. My girlfriend Trina, who lives in Ohio, is coming to town this week and she's all mine! I can't wait to see her!!

Last night was actually a big night for me...I went to a party at Suzanne's for her birthday. I slept three hours in the afternoon so I could give it my all and it was my first big night with the wig. It was a big hit! In fact, a couple friends actually said that they like the wig hair better than my actual hair!?! I was kind of attached to my hair so I would rather just have it back, but I’ll take the compliments :-).

Monday, April 20, 2009

alternative uses

So you know how you sometimes use things for other purposes than they were originally intended? Well I have a good one for anyone losing their hair! Unfortunately the hair doesn't just fall off your head all at once. It lets go and then waits for something to dislodge it, prolonging the process. So I have found a new use for my rolling lint brush. Rolling it over my head takes off the hair that is ready to go. It makes cleaning the shower much easier! I am off to round two of chemo tomorrow and am hoping for a slightly better experience this time. They are adjusting the nausea medication and steroids to hopefully better control the side effects. Fingers crossed!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


So I think I said that I had a reality check last week, but really it came yesterday. I've had a sore throat for a few days and it was getting worse instead of better so I went to the family doctor yesterday and because I was spiking a fever, he sent to me emergency. I am supposed to go whenever I get a fever over 38F. When I started chemo, they gave me a yellow card to show the paramedics in emergency, which gets you higher on the list and into isolation instead of the waiting room, so I followed Suzanne's advice and waved it like I was dancing at Pure nightclub in Vegas :-). I went right into a room and got the process started. They ran blood tests and my baby white cell count is super low. They were talking about admitting me, but I totally lucked out because when they consulted with the on call oncologist, it was my Dr. Rayson! He prescribed mega antibiotics and is following me from home. He is the best and I am so grateful. I am sure that I will be back on my feet soon, but I think I am going to have to be more careful about where I go that second week after chemo when my counts are dipping to try to avoid another visit to the hospital.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

hair today, gone tomorrow

The week after treatment ended up being a bit of a rollercoaster, but I turned the corner on the weekend and felt pretty good this week. I’ve learned it is easy to overdo it though, so I have to pace myself. The big thing for this week is that my hair has started to fall out so last night I went for the big buzz. I could have waited a few more days, but Tammy, the lady who did the deed, is away next week and it would be too late by the time she got back. I am working hard on gaining perspective as it is just hair right? Yeah, it’s just hair! Believe me? Ok, I am still working on it. To help me get in the right frame of mind before I went last night I started writing down all the good things I could think of about not having hair. I took it with me and Suzanne, Tammy and I had some laughs (mostly Suzanne and I as I am convinced Tammy thinks we are crazy) while she buzzed. We also took pictures (this is when Tammy said that we “aren’t her typical customers”) as the cape was just too magnificent not to capture...the 80's are definately back. For the record, the smile is the best fake one I could muster. Pretty impressive I think. Anyway, the list turned out to be therapeutic and when I shared it with Sue Bulmer last night, she and her girls really got into it so I thought I would share.

Top 10 fabulous things about not having hair. #2 is all Tessa!

10. I can be showered, dressed and ready to go in 15 minutes.
9. Wind and rain won’t make me flat or frizzy.
8. I will save a ton of $$ at the hairdresser.
7. I can spend newly saved $$ on cool earrings and funky hats.
6. No more “bed head” from that stolen afternoon nap.
5. If there is a GI Jane sequel, I can stand in for Demi Moore.
4. My new hair can travel in a plastic bag – very convenient.
3. My hair won’t get wind blown when riding in a convertible (here I come Louis)
2. No hair getting stuck in my lip gloss.
1. If I find hair in my food I know for sure that it isn’t mine.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

one down...

I had my first round of chemo yesterday and I think overall it went pretty good. I was surprised by the quantity of drugs they put in me, just seemed like a lot. Anyway, I was feeling pretty good when I got home and had a bite of supper then things went downhill a bit. I was light headed and then the waves of nausea came and came and came. It was a rough night, but by this morning it had mostly passed and I've spent the day just chilling and being looked after by Dave. I think without him here keeping the drinks and crackers going I would be in worse shape.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

great vacation

We had a great week skiing. We hadn't been to Saddleback before, and will certainly go back. The conditions and weather were the best we've had and the hill was a lot of fun. This past week had been quite busy with tests, chemo training and the port-a-cath was implanted. Tomorrow chemo starts!! They are giving me three types, plus a steroid (there goes the Olympics) and something for nausea. I have my new hair, so I think I'm ready :-) Time to get the party started.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

good appointment

I went to see Dr. Rayson, the chemo doctor, yesterday and it went really well. The best news was the cancer hasn't shown up anywhere else in my body - big relief! He explained everything really well and I feel a lot better with the approach they are recommending. He was so positive and told me to forget everything I know with my Dad's experience and said that "I will write my own story and we are going to make it a great one". Love him!! I don't have the exact start dates for treatment, but it will be the week of the 23rd. I am going tomorrow to meet with the wig people then on to the hairdresser to have my hair cut short to help prepare myself for it to go. I'll be honest that I am feeling a bit low today which I know logically is crazy because the news was so good yesterday, but I think almost being able to count on just my fingers the number of days until treatment starts is freaking me out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

aren't tests fun

I have been having some tests before meeting with Dr. Rayson (chemo man) tomorrow and in the process am learning so much. Like when going for a CT Scan you are left to sit in a waiting room (which isn't a room at all but a set of chairs in the high traffic hallway outside the scan rooms) in your johnny shirt, so high heel boots and knee highs are not the best fashion choice. So today I went for a bone scan where they inject you with radiation then a few hours later strap you down to a table while a camera moves slowly over you, for 22 minutes to be exact. Building on my learning from the CT Scan, I went in flats and lovely socks but of course for this one I got to keep my clothes on. I asked them if there were sure as I came prepared, but no, just the watch and belt had to go. Really that was cool because their "waiting room" was very similar to the CT one. But I did learn something new for today as luckily I saw a little posting in the waiting area indicating travel may be an issue after testing and to ask. Turns out the stuff they injected me with can be picked up by bomb detectors at the US border and coincidentally I am crossing into Maine on Friday to go on a ski trip with Dave and the kids and friends for a last bit of family fun before treatment begins. Good thing I asked as I now have an official letter stating why I met set off the bells. Won't that be fun!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

something to look forward to...

Ok, so I am being sarcastic. We met with the Radiation Oncologist today which seemed weird because I don't get radiation treatment until after chemotherapy and haven't met with the Medical Oncologist yet. Basically her wait times are less so I got an appointment. It was good though because she and the chemo doctor are working as a team and she is arranging for a CT and Bone Scan before I see him on March 10th. The Radiation Oncologist seems very nice and was my friend Paula's favourite doctor when she went through treatment so don't take this the wrong way, but from here on out she is going to be RN - Radiation Nazi. The RN is planning to give me the most aggressive treatment. Most people get between 16-20 blasts but in my case "30 for you". Between rare cancer, young age, the close proximity of the cancer to the chest wall and big boobs, I get the full meal deal. I am not going to get fussed about it though because it is going to be months from now and I am sure that after whatever they have planned for chemo, this will seem like a walk in the park. The greatest tragedy of the day though was the nurse thought the MK on my beloved Michael Kors purse stood for Mary Kay! Yeah, my pink caddie is parked just outside :-).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

a little amendment...

I heard back from the nurse with the outcome of the "tumour board" and I still don't require any additional surgery, but it looks like I don't have the very popular type of breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma) that they originally thought, and instead have rarer type, glycogen-rich clear cell carcinoma. She indicated that it will likely mean a more aggressive chemotherapy treatment than what would have been given. I see the Medical Oncologist the second week of March so will know more then, but really if you have to have chemo you might as well go big.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

here we go

The doctor called with the pathology results and he started with "I have good news and bad news". After talking to the nurse and reviewing the report, I am going to modify it to "super good news, so what news and more news to come." The super good news is that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes and the margins look good (no cancer at the edge of the tissue they took from around the tumour). This means no more surgery. Pause for whoop whoop here!! The news that I have decided to say "so what" to is the tumour ended up being larger than they thought and my cancer is stage 2. Regardless of how big it ended up being, it is gone and they were going to treat me like I was stage 2 anyway (i.e. give me chemo) because of my age, so it really doesn't change anything there. The more news to come is for something unique they found. You all knew I was a little different...well now science has proved it. They found some other cancer cells in addition to the breast cancer cells in the tumour. This is apparently unusual and the doctors will be discussing it today as my case is being presented at "Tumour Boards" (can you believe there is a meeting called that?? when I get back to work, I am going to come up with catchier names for my meetings) to figure out what that all means. So that is a stay tuned, but I am expecting to soon file it into the "so what" category.

Friday, February 6, 2009

no news yet

I had my appointment with the surgeon this morning, but unfortunately the pathology report isn't in yet so we have to wait a little longer. He is going to give me a call at home when it arrives, so hopefully just a few more days. On the positive side though, he was admiring his work and is pleased with how things are looking ;-). I just have to mention that he is quite the close talker... Suzanne and I had a laugh about it after when she took me for some retail therapy at Mic Mac Mall. I am going to have to figure out how to three way call her in when he calls!

Monday, February 2, 2009

laughter therapy

Sue Bulmer took me to run a couple errands yesterday and going to Walmart was never so fun. We ended up taking up space at Starbucks for a couple hours just yacking as we love to do. I loved hearing about her "Sue moments" in Oman. She had me laughing so hard I had to hold onto the boob. So worth it!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

it's all off

I finally got the courage to take off the steri strips and it went pretty well. The incisions are larger that I thought, but what's another inch I guess. The nerves are starting to wake up so the pain is more from the inside than the incisions now. Boob pain is just weird. I have my appointment this Friday, Feb 6th with the surgeon to get the results of the pathology. We will find out if the margins and lymph nodes are good, hopefully bypassing more surgery, and what the stage and grade of the cancer is. Big day for sure.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I can't tell you how good it feels to have the tuma (pronounced with Arnold accent) out! I went into surgery feeling really positive and strong. It was funny because I walked into the OR with my surgeon, which seemed a bit weird (especially because I was having a Jack Nicholson moment from "Somethings Gotta Give" with the Johnny shirt) but we were chit chatting and it was all very upbeat. Next thing I knew I was in recovery. The anesthesia really knocks you out for a few days, but I am coming around. We took the dressing off on Friday but I was too scared to look until last night and it's not as bad as I imagined. Not the science fair project gone wrong that I feared. Dr. Porter ROX!! I am managing the pain well and am looking forward to getting a bit better everyday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

feeling lucky?

When we told our children that I have cancer, we tried to keep it simple. Jonathan looked me right in the eye and asked me if I was going to be ok. I said "yes, I will be ok" and that is all he needed to know. Kimberly though needed some things answered. She asked a few things and then asked me what kind of cancer I have and when I said "breast cancer" she replied with some relief in her voice "oh, that's the good kind". Good kind?? I went with it and said that she was right, that I am lucky. Maybe if I keep saying it, luck will come my way :-)

Monday, January 12, 2009

To cut or not to cut?

Today we met with Margaret, Dr. Porter's Coordinator, to get the full run through on the surgery. I am scheduled in the OR for 12:45 on Jan 20th. The surgery will take a couple hours and then I will spend time in recovery. If it all goes smoothly, I should be home for around 5:30. Everything is getting more and more real... Margaret gave me a contact name for a wig maker and apparently the trick is to go in before you lose the hair so they can match it. I wasn't going to bother getting my hair done anymore just to have it all fall out, but maybe I will need to rethink that so they can give me a wig to match my hair at it's best. Maybe a little blonder too :-) I am not sure that I really want a wig but who knows what this head will look like bald!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Getting started

With my recent diagnosis of breast cancer, it has been absolutely amazing the number of wonderful messages I have received from friends and family giving me words of encouragement and wishing me well. I really appreciate them all. Many of you have requested to be kept updated on my progress. To do this as effectively as possible, I think a blog is the answer! My friend Martin will be proud :-). Hopefully this allows you to keep in touch on your terms and will be easier for me to manage.

The countdown is on to my surgery date, Jan 20th. Between now and then I am working hard getting organized. My amazing girlfriends have filled my freezer with meals from What's for Supper so I am all set to feed the family.

Suzanne and I are going to meet with the doctor's nurse tomorrow to get the full rundown on what to expect with the surgery and then to have a couple tests done.

That's all I've got for now.

Be back soon