I am the voter

As a tweetaholic I have seen the buzz surrounding #momthevote. I can appreciate the need to get moms to the polls. We need to vote for what is best for our families. It was not the same for our parents. Many households now have both parents working just to survive. Costs have sky rocketed. At least 30% of the families I polled have a RESPs but not RRSPs.

The government absolves the pay raises they give themselves by throwing drabs of money to families in under the cover of The Child Care Credit. $100 per child per month does not help even cover daycare. It stops when they are of school age (six years old.) So the message they send us that kids are cheaper and easier when they start school? Really? Right.

One issue that is propelling my vote is not one that is mom related at all but as a registered Canadian voter. This year I had the misfortune to watch my sister go through multiple surgeries to fight cancer; I saw the burden of her income falling to 55% of her salary. After only 16 weeks of fighting to get healthy her benefits ran out. She will be going back to work before getting a clean bill of health. An average Stage1 or 2 of cancer takes at least 10-12 months to heal. . It breaks my heart to see her go back to soon and it should a politician’s. If a candidate is making a promise to help the failing health care system in BC and in Canada, I would pay attention. There should be an allowance for doctors to extend patients leave if needed without forcing them to go back to work too soon.

For everyone running in this election please take away this: walk your neighborhood to find out what is important to voters. If you make a promise-keep it!!!

I really wish there was a performance review for candidates who get elected. If you fail you get a warning or fired by the public. If you are elected it should be in a written contract with repercussions should you fail.

I have taken my young girls to vote. My oldest knows why it is vital for her future that I vote. She makes a ballot at home and practices when she can at the age of majority.

The Waiting Is Not a Game

As a kid you wait for the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. As a teenager you wait for the school bell and to grow up. As an adult you wait for the promotion and Fridays. A soon-to-be parent waits for the stick to turn blue and to teach their child to tie their shoe. As a parent you wait for the sleeping nights and for your kids to be safe.

As a big sister, I wait day after day for my sister’s results to come back. We wait for her to be healthy again. We wait for the cancer to go away for good this time. She waits for what was normal once before. This is the blemished reality of more tests, more waiting and more surgeries.

Whoever said the expression ‘waiting game’ must have been kidding. The agonizing waiting eats away at our daily lives. The unknown plagues our hearts. To be in limbo stalls the ability to move forward, lighter and better.

Well let’s just face it, waiting sucks!

My Sister’s Other Cancer Attacker

Medical Details of my Sister’s Attacker. For What Its Worth

Intraductal carcinoma is a condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct. The abnormal cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, intraductal carcinoma may become invasive cancer and spread to other tissues, although it is not known at this time how to predict which lesions will become invasive. Also called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Causes

The specific causes of intraductal carcinoma are still unknown. The risk factors for developing this condition are similar to those for invasive breast cancer.

Some women are however more prone than others to developing intraductal carcinoma. Women considered at higher risks are those who have a family history of breast cancer, those who have had their periods at an early age or who have had a late menopause. Also, women who have never had children or had them late in life are also more likely to get this condition.

Genetic mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes), atypical hyperplasia, as well as radiation exposure or exposure to certain chemicals may also contribute in the development of the condition. Nonetheless, the risk of developing noninvasive cancer increases with age and it is higher in women older than 45 years.

Treatment

The main treatment for intraductal carcinoma used to be mastectomy. This treatment therapy consists in the removal of the affected breast and until recently it was the only way in which this condition was treated. The rationale for mastectomy includes a 30% incidence of multicentric disease, a 40% prevalence of residual tumor at mastectomy following wide excision alone, and a 25% to 50% incidence of breast recurrence following limited surgery for palpable tumor, with 50% of those recurrences being invasive carcinoma.

Another treatment option consists of breast-conserving surgery along with radiation therapy. This type of treatment is usually considered in patients with non-palpable lesions and microcalcifications that may be seen on a mammography Breast-conserving surgery, also referred to as lumpectomy, is considered nowadays a reasonable approach in the treatment of intraductal carcinoma. A lumpectomy consists in the removal of the tumor and a part of the surrounding tissues of the breast. Sometimes, lumpectomies are also referred to as partial mastectomies because they mainly consist in the removal of a part of the breast tissue. My sister has already had 5 lumps removed.

According to the results of the trials carried out by EORTC (EORTC-10853), radiation therapy has a consistent efficiency in treating intraductal carcinoma. This clinical trial showed that the recurrence rate of breast carcinoma may be reduced with 10%, from which invasive cancer recurrence was reduced with 5% and noninvasive cancer recurrence with 7%. This study also concluded that the risks of recurrence are greatly dependent on the age of the patient, the type of carcinoma (intermediate or poorly differentiated), the indeterminate margins of the tumor and the growth pattern.

Mastectomies however remain the main treatment option in patients with persistent microscopic involvement of margins after local excision or with a diagnosis of intraductal carcinoma and evidence of suspicious, diffuse micro calcifications.

A clinical study carried out by NSABP revealed that Taximofen may reduce the incidence of contralateral breast neoplasms (invasive and noninvasive) from 0.8% per year to 0.4% per year and the ipsilateral invasive breast cancer with 2% at 5 years.

Chemotherapy is thought to be inefficient in treating this type of noninvasive breast cancer and the role of hormonal therapy in this matter is currently being researched.

My Sister’s Genetic Attacker

What is germ cell cancer?

Germ cells are the cells in the body that develop into sperm and eggs. They are mainly found in the ovary or testicle. But they can sometimes be left behind in other parts of the body from when you developed in the womb.

Germ cell tumours can develop from these cells. They most often develop in the ovary or testicle, as that is where most germ cells are. But they can develop anywhere there are germ cells. The most common germ cell tumors are teratomas or seminomas of the testicle in men.

Women can develop ovarian germ cell tumors. Many of these are non-cancerous (benign). But some are cancerous. Only about 1 or 2% of cancers of the ovary are this type. Most ovarian germ cell tumors occur in teenagers or young women, although they also occur in women in their 60’s.

Cancers that develop from germ cells in other parts of the body are rare. They may grow in a part of the chest called the mediastinum. The mediastinum is the area between the lungs, which contains the heart. Germ cell cancers may also start in the brain, or at the back of the abdomen. This is called retroperitoneal cancer (which just means behind the abdomen).  

Doctors usually remove germ cell cancers with surgery and this may be all the treatment you need if the cancer is small and easy to remove. If there is a chance of the cancer coming back, you may have chemotherapy after surgery. Germ cell tumors generally respond very well to chemotherapy and most people are cured. Even cancers that have spread are still very treatable.

Are we fighting a losing battle or winning soon?

My Sister’s Attacker

As soon as I hit end call on my iPhone my tears poured   down my face like it was in a race. My nose began to drip. My heart feels ripped in half. My grief rushes through my whole body like salt in an open wound. Here we go again.

It is the night before my 34 year old younger sister will go through a full mastectomy. Due to cells in her lymph nodes, our family history and her prior battles with cancer, this surgery is necessary. There are no other options to kick cancer.

The reason why she has no other choice is two germ cell tumors removed from her. One from 14 years ago and one 2 ½ months ago. And once again like a broken record the powerful dejavu clouds my soul.

Sitting by my sister’s hospital bedside year after year gives my empathy to what my aunts felt holding vigil by our mom’s hospital bed. Our mom lost her second battle with cancer at the age of 38.

I poured through the internet looking for answers on the type of cancer.

This post is to be continued.

Why I haven’t blogged this week

 As many of you know, my sister has been going through the unthinkable again. She had a major surgery the week before Christmas. She has spent the last couple of months recuperating.

One week ago, she went for a full-body scan to see where the cancer cells might still reside. For the past week we were antsy and dreamed of the magic call that all is clear. I tweeted it and facebooked it. There were a lot of prayers and positive thoughts sent our way.

Then the call came. She is not all clear. There are more tests and more waiting for results.

I tried for days to get back to regular writing. Every time the cursor flashed at me I couldn’t fill its time with warm and fantastic writing for you to read. 

Truth is I am scared. All my life since our mom died at the age of 38, I was scared to turn that age. This is the year I turn 38. All this time, I was scared to have the same fate as my mom. And it is my sister going through hell because of genetics.

Germ cells are not acquired due to lifestyles but genetics. She was born with them to no fault of her own.

This big sister feels helpless all over again. I can’t fix this by researching and getting her the treatment to cure her forever. No money in the world will fix this. She is in great medical care possible.

My dear readers, I thank you for your patience and support. I started this blog to try to write about being a motherless mother.  It hits too close to home that my only family outside my house is having to go through this all over again.

Déjà vu.

I ask for you to do one thing: hug your loved ones tight. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  You never know the last time you said ‘I love you’ is truly the last time.

I am sorry for any rough grammar errors. Thank you for understanding.

What is Grief?

Grief sneaks up at your door when you do not look.

It appears in the least unexpected times in one life.

Grief is not neatly written in a book.

It is ugly and dark.

Grief does not stop at one loved one.

It takes its greedy hands on everyone in sight.

Grief took over my world.

Taking over in the dark of night.

Grief may be part of life.

Inhaling and exhaling with my every breath.

Grief cuts my heart with a knife.

It can kiss my ass!

For Kai, Paul, Judy, Grandma R, Grandma G, Grandpa R, Grandpa G, Bob, Harley, Baba, Debbie, My Mom and countless others who have been taken too soon in this lifetime.

My Goals and Wishes for 2011

I resolve to not make resolutions. It always sets me up for failure. The only one I kept for 2010 was writing and writing. I have been published several times in amazing sites and publications. This year will be the same great things. However, I wish to make a wish list for fun.

So here it goes:

  1. Cure cancer or help someone do it. Enough hurting good people.
  2. Have Bryan Adams follow me on Twitter. If Ellen can get on an Oprah cover, maybe I can realize this dream.
  3. Develop my dream book and get a publisher.
  4. Not cry when my oldest marches off to full-day kindergarten in September.
  5. To doubly, not cry when my youngest begins 3 year old pre-school in September.
  6. Actually enjoy my 38th birthday instead of wanting to skip the age my mom died.
  7. Make a Me time a priority every day even if it’s going to the bathroom alone.

So, we shall see how many come true. It will be fun trying.

What are your wishes for this year?

November in a nutshell

The month was of celebrations, heartache and the true online spirit.

My husband and I celebrated 18 years of marriage. The past we used to go out-of-town or a special dinner followed by a cozy evening at home. Then we became parents. Parents without a strong babysitter support. The day was filled with family time, lunch at a local joint and a lot of love threaded through the day. We did end the day with a bottle of champagne. Of course after the kids were in bed. No one thought we would make it this far. We did too. Being married to your best friend is a bonus.

Then our world was rocked with the diagnosis of my younger sister having to make hard decisions about her next fight on cancer. We are devastated. Having said that, we helped her beat cancer once and we will do it again.

 All the while, I took to Twitter. We received accolades on out marriage and an overwhelming wave of support regarding my sister. I would love to name all my Twitter friends but would be terrified if I forgot someone. Just know that you are appreciated. During my many long nights with my teething toddler, Twitter entertained me, embraced me as an equal and allowed me to be me through the good and bad. As we put up the Christmas decorations I am happy and edgy. Next Christmas I turn 38. That is the year my mom only made it too. All this time, I feared that I would not see 39. For a flicker this month I feared my sister wouldn’t. We do not know when our time is up. We just need to let go, embrace the cries and enjoy this second.

 Hope you all are planning wonderful Christmas holidays with your loved ones. Can’t wait to hear them.