Monday, March 31, 2014

From cereal to Ottawa.

Once I was on the breast cancer treatment roller coaster, I  found that having breast cancer was stressful.  In 1991, there wasn't enough good news about survival rates and the treatments were pretty tough.  My family had had to ride with me through some wild emotional curves of their own with their fears for my life. I was not the easiest person to live with.  I was scared silly and needed help. I found it with a group of women in the breast cancer support group at the cancer agency (pictured above).

Music therapy, relaxation sessions, group sessions, I took it all in and what a wonderful club of women I met.  I loved that group of women for their honesty.  I whinged, whined and fumed about the lack of public attention breast cancer was getting. I said that that I wanted to 'do something' about it.  Finally they told me to shut up or put up.

The problem was that my mind wasn't clear and hadn't created a defined path or outlet for my energies yet.  Ultimately they supported me 100% in my On All Fronts brief.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Taking care of the girls on Kauai.

Maile and I
You never know where it's coming from, like running into Maile Bloxom at Vicky's fabric store in Kapaa on the lush and beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii. I like to make quilts for my grandson so I couldn't help noticing the gorgeous pink quilt behind the cash register. It got us talking about pink and breast cancer.
We are all connected - right? Right!

Until Maile returned to the island to take over her mom's fabric business, she worked as an accountant at the John Wayne Cancer Institute California where Dr. Donald Lee Morton practiced.

We can all thank Dr. Morton. It was he who created the sentinel node evaluation procedure that we use for breast cancer diagnosis. Dr. Morton died in January of this year at 79. Maile also told me about the local breast screening programs and that she "wouldn't dare miss" her annual squeeze. Her background in working at John Wayne taught her that. And, her fabrics are beautiful.

Pilar and I
Walking along the street I wandered into HULA GIRL to check out the Tom Selleck, aka Thomas Magnum PI shirts with my husband. The owner of HULA GIRL, Pilar Riskus was behind the counter serving customers. She had portable oxygen available and we started to chat about health and she brought up her cancer. I asked her about the breast screening program on Kauai. Like Vicky, she told me that in Hawaii most women are covered at least partially through work (over 30 hrs a week) and if not, they can still be screened at a cost.

Revelation - both women stated that women on Kauai can start screening, unless some symptoms are unusual, at 40 and they are supposed to continue yearly. Vicky and Pilar both made it abundantly clear that once in their system, it is expected that they return yearly - promptly. Each woman said that if tardy, a woman receives a first letter. If there is no response, another letter arrives 2 weeks later. No response means a phone call! It was relentless follow up.

Both women were very proud of their island's system and both wished that more women would take advantage of it. Sound familiar?

These conversations happened on two short blocks in a small, tourist oriented town. I know that screening opportunities and costs vary across states and comparing our country's and provincial/state situations is a bit like apples and oranges.

However, these two women punctuated for me the importance of what is available in Canada. Sometimes I think we don't know how good we have it. Every woman in BC can take care of her breast health. No worries about 30 hours of work to be eligible. No worries about costs. Yes, we need to take care of the girls. And we can.

To the beach!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bursts of Enthusiasm.

My husband says that I am subject to bursts of enthusiasm. And back in 1991 after my breast cancer diagnosis, I bolted off in all directions. First, I enthusiastically wrote a letter thanking Kellogg's for their fundraising efforts and invited anyone, patients or staff, at the Vancouver based British Columbia Cancer Agency, to sign it.

Then, with more enthusiasm than common sense, I mailed dozens of these letters and boxes of cereal to a friend who was undergoing breast cancer treatments in Calgary so she could do the same thing.

I placed boxes of Nutrific on each radiation station counter at the BCCA.

I collected the letters from Vancouver and Calgary, bundled them up and sent them to the President and CEO of Kellogg's Canada, his Board of Directors, and anyone else I could find in their Annual General Report.  Note to self:  mailing cereal boxes is enthusiasm run amuck...they do have supermarkets in Calgary, after all.     

About a year later the President of Kellogg's took me to breakfast to thank me for the letters.  He had my original letter in his pocket.  He also said that I didn't have to eat cereal.  I didn't.

Kellogg's was the first sponsor for our Awareness Day Breakfast.  The menu had to be healthy (no bacon) and Kellogg's insisted we use Bran Flakes.  When the Mayor spoke, he kept refering to the event as being a very `moving` event.  It was.