November 28, 2012

This has been a tough few years for us at Mothers With Cancer. I think every death hits us harder and we can’t get out of the slump. At least I can’t. I find myself driving my kids around and just shedding tears, trying to hide them from my children because Lord knows they’ve seen their mom cry way too much. Even if they were small enough to not remember going through treatment, they know all too well the emotional pain it’s taken on me. It’s another thing to worry about.
I’m still coming to grips with Nicole’s passing. I’m not really sure how we found each other but I’m pretty sure it was through Susan’s blog. Nicole had been diagnosed just before me and we started commenting on each others blog. Supporting, kind words, encouraging words. Then we blogged together on MWC. Then we were Facebook and twitter friends, although we both lacked the incentive to tweet much. She was my first twitter friend. Then we were featured in an article together here
In May we had a discussion about how hard it is to watch our friends die of cancer. How when we started MWC it didn’t really occur to us the toll it would take on us to watch our friends die of this horrible disease. To know these precious moms would have to say goodbye to their children.
I can’t believe I’m here 6 months later and Nicole is gone. Her sweet children lost their mom way to early. And we at MWC are grieving the loss yet again of one of our own. Nicole was a special person and a support to so many of us. She introduced me to boob humor often laughing at her lopsidedness and nicknames for them. I’m forgetting now some of the terms she used but maybe my MWC friends could help me out. I just remember having a good laugh at her descriptions and silly stories of the pain of prosthetics.
I will deeply miss you Nicole, even though we never met in person. There will be a huge void in my life from losing you, Sarah and Susan. When your faces pop up on my Facebook or when I’m driving somewhere or something reminds me of you…like the knitters at Panera. And the most I can do is pray for the family you left behind and that Jesus will hold them close.

finding hope beyond the pink ribbons (by Laurie)

July 20, 2012

My friend Sean Moore, Orit’s husband, posted the following note on FB. I reprint it here with his permission:

An enormous number of people have asked about donations in Orit’s name over the past 2 weeks. As many of you know, Orit was very academically minded and spent considerable time reading the medical literature and evaluating charities. We found that most cancer research charities had very high administration fees and poor impact factors. We came across some specific research, which has very good promise in helping find a cure. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation has set up a fund, which will be used 100% to go directly to this work. The discovery is very novel and was published in the world’s most prestigious scientific journal in June of this year. I will include a link to their latest publication and an easy to understand explanation:

Here is a link to an easy to understand summary of the research:

Donations in Orit’s name can be made online by using the following link:

The first page will capture the information regarding the person making the donation. Under “Donation Information”, please choose “Other” in the drop down menu and specify “As requested by family” in the space provided. Once the donation portion is completed, you’ll be directed to a page to indicate that the donation is being made in memory of Orit and to indicate if an acknowledgement should be sent. Tax receipts are immediately available after donation is done.

Donations can be sent by mail (indicate in memory of Orit Fruchtman) to
The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, 737 Parkdale Ave, 1st Floor, Ottawa, ON K1Y1J8.

Donations can also be taken by phone by calling (613) 761-4295.

1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. Research is the only path to finding better treatments and a cure to this disease, which has devastated our family and so many others across the world.

Love, Sean

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  Nelson Henderson

This message had a very strong impact on me. Orit was a very smart woman. Sean is a doctor. I trust their judgement. And I agree with their priorities. 

Let’s do something great to honour a wonderful woman. Let’s help fund research that will effect real change. I donated. Will you?

Godspeed, Susan by Stella

February 11, 2012

I’ve been staring at this blank screen for days… ever since I got the news about Susan Niebur.  The words to pass the news, well, they just haven’t come…  I wish they didn’t need to.  

WhyMommy gave up her five year fight against Inflammatory Breast Cancer on Monday, February 6, 2012.  Her husband posted a touching final post on her personal blog, Toddler Planet.

It just doesn’t seem that mere words are sufficient to pay tribute to one such as Susan.  Well, maybe I feel that MY words aren’t sufficient.  After all, I only knew WhyMommy, the blogger, the cancer patient, the advocate.  The part of herself that she shared with the world at large.  I only met her once in 2007.  I am very sad to say I didn’t know her personally.  And yet, she changed my life.  

The words to memorialize her for the world just won’t come.  Others have been far more eloquent on that score than I could ever be.  The only words I have are those for Susan herself; words I couldn’t share with her while she was still here because mourning was not what I wanted between us at the end.


My very dearest, Susan – 

This is the second letter I’ve written to you.  It is no less heartfelt than the first.  Just over four years ago I was troubled to read that you thought you were dying.  I thought you might be giving up.  Heh.  How very, very wrong I was.  

You stood up from that low moment in time, brushed yourself off, and stepped out on faith.  You chose to live with cancer instead of die from it.  You defined cancer instead of letting it define you.  I read along with the rest of the blogosphere as you pushed at boundaries in the cancer world.  I marveled at your mad advocacy skillz.  I envied your bravery, your passion, your tireless drive.  I grabbed your coattails and held on… as Mothers With Cancer was born.  

I have been privileged to share in even that small portion of the changes you orchestrated in the breast cancer world, the eyes you opened, the women you educated, the lives you most likely saved.  You have been a mentor in all things:  advocacy, motherhood, loving, living.    In short, I am and have always been, awed by you.  

I will miss your voice, Susan.  I mourn the loss of your gentle guidance and insight.  I will never forget the lessons you taught me.  My world, the whole world, is better because of you.

Godspeed, my friend.


Here are a few pins from Susan.  They are pretty self explanatory.



Heart Like A Balloon

December 14, 2011
Crossposted at Jenster’s Musings on December 9, 2011

Last night as I sat down to see what was new with my Facebook friends I whooped it up when I saw my friend, Shelley, hit her five year no cancer goal. I’ve known Shelley for what feels like forever. She’s the little sister of my junior high, high school, matron of honor, etc. partner in crime friend, Cathy. Two memories of Shelley from back in the day: 1. She could recite pretty much all of 16 Candles; and 2. She could do the entire “Thriller” dance.

I know exactly how she felt yesterday. You get breast cancer, you have surgery and go through treatment, you slowly get better and each time you have an oncology appointment you come away happy to know you’re not showing any evidence of disease. And then you hit that five year mark and your chances of recurrence or metastasis dramatically drop. You can see many more wedding anniversaries and children’s milestones far into your future. And, even though you hadn’t really been worried about it, you’re relieved and excited and happy and feel like celebrating.  I’m pretty sure champagne was involved on the West Coast last night.

My heart soared.

As I continued to peruse the statuses I came upon one from a Mothers with Cancer associate. That’s when I found out another one of our writers, Judy, had been admitted to hospice. Judy was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in December of 2007 and determined in remission the following year. Nearly two years later, November of 2010, she was found to have a recurrence and she fought it with everything in her. And there was a lot in her! A lot of faith, a lot of courage, a lot of strength and she wrote about her experience with so much raw vulnerability and authenticity that you couldn’t help but know, admire and love her. She also wrote about the fear and the pain and the sadness and her desire to be a mom to her young son and a wife to her loving husband.

My soaring heart plummeted.

This morning I found out that she passed away last night. I never met this woman in person and yet I feel such a strong connection to the women of Mothers with Cancer. Every time we lose one it’s like losing a part of myself and I daresay it’s the same with the other contributors. She leaves behind a devoted husband and a 10-year-old son – probably the biggest fear of a Mother with Cancer.

My heart now feels deflated.

Until we meet again…

December 10, 2011

A few personal words about our Judy’s passing…

To say I was shocked by Judy’s passing would be a gross understatement.  Yet, I guess, I knew it was coming.  I just thought she had a few more months.  Judy was special to me.  She was my first…  the first person with Inflammatory Breast Cancer I’d ever encountered.

I remember well how it felt to find posts from IBC survivors that were years old with no updates available.  I thought to myself how wonderful it was that they’d survived X number of years… but where were they now?  Alive?  Dead?  It turned the potentially hopeful, inspiring stories into landmines of doubt and fear.  At that time, I vowed to be an active, living voice of an IBC survivor on the internet.  Enter Judy.

I found Judy’s blog after I’d returned to work from my own cancer treatment.  She had just been diagnosed.  She was already metastatic.  I made a concerted effort to comment on her blog.  Hoisting myself as a flag of hope at the finish line of treatment:  cancer-freedom.  Of course, that was naive of me.  I had little understanding of metastatic disease back then.   But still, I made sure I was that living, breathing voice of survival from such a deadly disease.  Through Just Enjoy Him I found other Inflammatory Breast Cancer patients, notably, Susan (WhyMommy).   Seems we all had the same supportive idea.

Judy was the beginning of my advocacy.  She was my window into the dark side of breast cancer.  She was my first reality check…  the first time I realized that attitude and strength of will were not the impenetrable armor against cancer that the media would have me believe.

Following Judy has not always been pretty.  She struggled with anger and fear that I never truly experienced.  But inevitably, her faith in God lifted her up again.  She lived a roller coaster ride of plunging health and spirits followed by glorious soaring heights.  That is life.  That was Judy.  That is metastatic cancer.

I will miss her voice.   I will miss here spirit.  I will miss her face smiling back at me from my monitor.  I will miss her planking.  Heh.  I will miss Judy.  But I’ll see her again someday.  What a glorious day that will be.


please be aware (by Laurie)

October 13, 2011

Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
Six years ago, I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary but I didn’t know the meaning of “metastatic” until I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, only 15 per cent of women with mets will still be alive 5 years after their diagnosis. I’m one of the lucky ones ( stats are bogus anyway).
I think one of the reasons I get so angry at campaigns aimed at “saving [insert infantile name for ‘breasts’ here]” is that, for those of us with metastatic breast cancer, the breast was only the beginning. Our cancer has spread to our bones, brains, liver, lungs or skin. We are “the bad girls of breast cancer.”
And we want you to know about us.
We are:
Dirty Pink Underbelly
And we remember:


love and death and samosas (by Judy)

July 25, 2011

Yesterday I went to my friend N’s mother’s calling hours. Her mom, Mrs. A., had died on Friday morning while in hospice care, having had ovarian cancer for five years or so.

I loved Mrs. A., just like I loved Mr. A. who passed before her. I wrote about his death, but I’m not sure where it is and so I won’t link to it. It’s the end of an era in a way, with both of N’s parents being gone which is incredibly sad in itself. Unless I go before my mom, her death will be the end of an era, with my brother, sisters, and me going from being someone’s child to being nobody’s child. I can’t imagine. It must be such a strange feeling, your strongest links to the past being gone like that.

I’ve known Mrs. A. for as long as I’ve known N., since I was nine years old. I can still remember sitting in their kitchen, Mrs. A. giving me wonderful East Indian foods to eat, samosas being one of my favorites and those sticky sweet twisted desserts that I can never remember the name of being another favorite.

Selfishly, I suppose, I loved seeing N and her wonderful husband, J, yesterday, but of course I wish it had been under happier circumstances. Being the thoughtful people they are, they both asked me how I’M doing, even in the midst of their grief.


I mentioned in yesterday’s post how well I’m doing on these new chemo drugs, and I am to a certain extent, but I do tend to downplay the fatigue which is a huge part of it. I’m tired most of the time, and work wears me out even though it probably wouldn’t be that taxing to a healthy individual. Almost like clockwork, around 3:00, I really start to crash which makes homelife difficult. I often end up just going home and crawling into bed for the rest of the evening. I hate not being there fully for my son and husband. It’s hard.


Anyways, yesterday’s calling hours also selfishly made me wonder about my own mother and me. Will I die before she does (she’s 83 now; 84 at the end of Aug.)? Or will the treatment(s) work and help me live to raise my own son which is my biggest wish, my largest prayer. Just give me enough time with Energy Boy, God . . . please.

It’s the unspoken selfish thing that goes through my mind, and perhaps the minds of others with cancer when someone with cancer dies. It goes through my mind especially when it’s someone with breast cancer: that could have been me, that could be me. It’s been — so far — the unspoken part that I think right after I’m struck by how sad that person’s death is, what a loss to the world that they’ve died. Then I go to the unspoken place, the place that maybe others think about but don’t talk about, the place that makes me sound selfish to myself, the “that could have been/could be me” place.

I hate that place. I hate it not just because it just makes me sound so very selfish, but I hate it because . . . I also don’t want to go there. But I do. I can’t help but go there with my illness.


I’m sorry, Mrs. A. — and all those others who have gone before me. I’m sorry for being so selfish when I should be thinking about and grieving your death. And I DO think about and grieve your death, but there’s a tiny part of me that does the “what if?” Then I typically feel guilty about thinking that, and go back to grieving whoever was lost to us.


Love and death. It’s so hard to lose people that sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to love less, but the answer to that is always “No,” for the people I’ve lost have enriched my life so very much that I’m glad I knew them. I’m glad I knew them, loved them, and even grieve them, for it’s in grieving that we know that we are capable of such love. The heart has the capacity for more love than we can even imagine and I’d hate to miss out on any of it just out of fear. I feel that way about even the closest people that I’ve lost; probably feel that way even more about those closest to me that I’ve lost. No matter how long their time here, I am glad for having known them, for having loved and been loved by them, for having them enrich my life.

I just hope that when my time does come (and I hope that’s a long time from now) that I can leave such a legacy as well. A legacy of love, given and received. I can think of no better legacy.


Good-bye, Mrs. A. I trust and hope you are truly resting in peace right now. You enriched my life, and I’m glad I knew you. Thanks for the samosas.


Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.