Tag Archive | breast cancer humor

Eavesdropping On The Ward…..Again!


For those of you who have read 100 perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving it, you may recall the amusement that I got from eavesdropping on the hospital ward while undergoing cancer treatments in 2012.   Well, as luck would have it, I just had the opportunity to spend 3 more days on a hospital ward, and once again, one of the perks of my hospital stay was eavesdropping on the conversations taking place around me. (More about my hospital stay for breast reconstruction in an upcoming post.)

First of all, to appreciate my story, you have to be able to picture what the ward looks like: a large, sterile room with four hospital beds in close proximity, each enclosed by a thin curtain, falling one foot short of the floor. Just imagine if you will, a jail cell without the security. And like inmates, us patients chat away without ever seeing each other, and swear about the crappy food, and the slow response time of the guards….ummmm, I mean nurses.

The real entertainment begins around 11:00 a.m, visiting hours, when kind hearted family and friends arrive with bags of treats and out-dated magazines, all clamouring for the one chair that is shared by the entire ward. (Eventually, visitors just end up wrestling for space alongside the patient on the narrow hospital bed.) And then, the conversations begin. Here is a verbatim script of a conversation that I overheard from the curtained bed next to me, as I lay staring at the ceiling:

Visitor: How are you feeling today, my dear?

Patient: Not good at all. I have the absolute worst case of stomach cramps.

Visitor: Oh my. That’s terrible. What did you have to eat today?

Patient: Well, you know I can’t tolerate the food at this hospital, so Fred brought me in bacon, eggs and coffee for breakfast, and fried chicken with mashed potatoes for lunch.

Visitor: I know the food is disgusting here, that’s why I brought you in this Big Mac meal, but I guess you won’t be wanting that now.

Patient: Are you kidding me? Hand it over, I am still starving! I would murder for a glass of wine right now. Do you think you could sneak me in a sippy cup full of wine when you come back for evening visiting hours?

Visitor: Sure, that’s what friends are for. I will bring in a red to compliment the philly cheese steak that I am making for your dinner.

Patient: You are going to make me dinner?

Visitor: Of course. I can’t have you eating the garbage they serve in here.

All in all, not an unusual conversation to overhear on a hospital ward, I thought as I lay still staring at the ceiling. But as soon as the visitor left, in came the doctor to talk to the very same patient, and this is when the conversation became really interesting. (I am not making this up!)

Doctor: How are you feeling today?

Patient: Not good. Not good at all, doctor. I have had very bad stomach cramps all day long. I can’t bear the pain!

Doctor: Although we haven’t gotten a positive diagnosis yet, we are pretty sure that we are dealing with bowel disease here. Are you sticking to the diet that we gave you?

Patient: Yes doctor, I eat really healthy foods every day. I haven’t had any kind of meat in months and I’ve really cut back on the fried foods! (I shook my head and thought, “What a blatant lie.”)

Doctor: Do you drink alcohol?

Patient: OH MY GOD! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! I would NEVER drink alcohol!!! (She seriously could have gotten an Oscar nomination for her dramatics in answering that question. I rolled my eyes.)

Doctor: We need to know if there are any bowel obstructions. Have you passed any gas today?

Patient: No, doctor, just a few burps.

Well that is when I really had to restrain myself from jumping to my feet, pulling back the curtain and yelling “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Because if I had had a match, I seriously could have set fire to the sulphuric gas that was coming from the arse of her pants that afternoon.

Just another day on 4 North B.



I can hardly believe it is already day 18 of my 21 day vegan challenge!  So far it has been a piece of cake….ummm, I mean a piece of gluten free, egg free, dairy free cake….let’s just say it’s been a piece of bread (multi-grain bread).   But seriously, I have been enjoying some fabulous foods, with my new favorite being “wheatballs”.  They are so versatile!  I’ve had wheatballs in thai sauce with rice;  barbequed wheatballs ; and my fave, wheatballs and spaghetti!  Since Susan is the recipe lady, I will let her supply you with a healthy recipe for these little delights.   She has tweaked my recipe for wheatballs, and created her own version: chickballs!  (Leave it to the Savvy Sister…..if ever there was a chick with BALLS, it’s her!)

The most difficult thing I have encountered with living a vegan lifestyle is not about choosing new foods, it is about getting OTHER people to accept these choices.  I recently spoke at a Chicken Soup for the Soul Luncheon (while others had chicken soup, I enjoyed tomato soup for the vegan’s soul).


Flo speaking at a Chicken Soup for the Soul fundraiser for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

A big part of my talk was about the difference between a positive attitude and a survivor’s attitude.   A positive attitude is a wonderful thing, and I credit it with being instrumental to my healing and recovery from cancer.  Even more important than a positive attitude however, is the survivor’s attitude which I continue to maintain.  A survivor’s attitude combines positive attitude, with positive ACTION!  As a cancer survivor, I am going to do everything in my power to continue to stay healthy and prevent a cancer reoccurrence.  If that means changing my diet, I WILL change my diet.  If that means exercising more, I WILL exercise more.  If that means giving up wine….well let’s not get carried away here.  Wine is vegan after all.

I would just like for people to accept my food choices and understand that I am not turning down your lasagna or cupcakes to be rude, or because I am picky.  I am doing it because I want to stay alive! If there are any stray cancer cells lurking in this body, I want to STARVE them by eating a plant based diet, not FEED them with animal fats and sugar.  So please don’t hate me because I’m a plant eater.

Susan, do you have any tips for us this week?  And can you please share your chickball recipe with our readers?

Savvy Sister

Way to go Flo!  The mind is a complex thing, isn’t it?  Food is not only sustenance; it’s also a centerpiece for social gatherings and offers emotional comfort.  Humans want to “belong” to a group and have a sense of conformity and sharing food means connecting.

But I wonder, Flo, if you were diabetic, and didn’t have dessert would people try to force  cherry cheesecake on you and shun you if you didn’t partake?  Eating a diet to avoid cancer is really the same thing.

We all make choices about our health and no one should feel “weird” because of them.  That’s why I try not to use the word “vegan” as stated before, and prefer the term “plant-based”.

 alien races

                        See? I told you vegan’s were buff. And look at the size of those feet!

One blogger even made up his own name for plant-based eaters: “Veganauts” , and his own definition  for the word. (That’s what you can do when you make up your own word.)

(Hit this link to learn more:  http://howilost150pounds.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/open-letter-of-invitation-to-ellen-degeneres/)

Here’s how he defines it:

ve-gan-aut /VEE-gun-ot/ (n.) 1. a person who is exploring the rewarding vegan lifestyle without actually meeting all of the vegan tenets all of the time.   2. someone who lives like a vegan but makes occasional allowances for transgressions without giving up the vegan lifestyle afterwards.  3. any omnivore who is experimenting with plant-based eating or vegan living. 4. a person who is sick and damn tired of defending their own personal brand of veganism and prefers to have a label nobody can argue with.  An example sentence: Sarah is a veganaut because even though she is almost always vegan, she wears leather shoes and eats cheese fondue once a month with her Mother-in-law and has some turkey on Thanksgiving.

Here are some tips when talking about your new plant-based diet.

1.  Don’t allow yourself to feel different.  You are the ray of light on a new horizon! You are a teacher of health! YOU are the cool one. …yeah you are! “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

2.  Don’t preach.  As tempting as it is, don’t lecture your dinner companions on the dangers of casein (milk protein), and how it’s linked to high rates of cancer.   And never start a sentence with “Did you know……?”  If people ask, keep it simple.  If they want to know more, they will contact you later.

3.  Don’t condemn. I have eaten with vegans at a table and I’ve wanted to slap the “icky faces” off them as they watch their carnivore friend chow down on a plate full of ribs.  Keep your reactions to yourself.  People have a right to choose what they put in their bodies.  If asked, keep it focused on why YOU are vegan not how THEY should be.

4. Realize that at some restaurants, you may be having a salad…again.  If going out to eat with friends, check the menu online and figure out what you can eat beforehand.  Most restaurants will be happy to add or subtract items or cook in oil vs butter if you ask.  Some restaurants (even steakhouses) that I have been to recently have a separate vegan menu.  Aren’t YOU special! And remember, going out to eat with friends is a social thing. Avoid bringing a baggie of food with you.

5. Try to make concessions.  If your neighbor makes you chicken soup because you’re sick, don’t tell her “Oh, sorry, I’m a vegan and I can’t eat this.”  Take the soup, do with it whatever, and tell the person it was delicious and thank them. If it’s someone’s birthday, have a sliver of cake. Whether you sit there and push it around or you eat it, there’s good energy behind the food, so try not to refuse.

6. Be nice! Not everyone will agree with your decision and some may even tell you that your choices will make you sick. Remember you may be the first vegan this person has encountered and it falls on you to make us all look good.  Just smile a lot and realize that it’s ok because God loves even the idiots.

If anyone has any stories about their encounters with those not accepting of you diet, let us know how you dealt with it.

To heck with wheatballs, I have something much better: Chickballs!  It is the same concept, only I substitute chickpea flour for wholewheat flour…but you can do either.  Enjoy! And Flo..keep up the good work!


Always try to use organic ingredients when possible

1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or avoid the BPA in the can by cooking your own)

1 cup chopped white mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons soy sauce (find a soy sauce without cancer-causing caramel coloring and MSG)

1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for cooking

½ cup dry bread crumbs (or use 4 Wasa rye crisp crackers ground in a blender)

½ cup chickpea flour OR whole wheat flour

¼ cup of nutritional yeast (optional but consider this high protein/non-yeast source that is usually fortified with B12…a vitamin that is essential but is mostly found in animal products,  so vegan should get it when they can I use Bragg’s, but there are lots of brands out there)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt (Season to taste. I found I didn’t need the salt when using the full 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce)

¼ teaspoon black pepper


If cooking the chickpeas, rinse and place in a pot covered with water. Cover and soak overnight (12 hours). Replace water with twice the volume of the chickpeas, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Strain and allow to cool.  Cooked chickpeas can be placed in 16-ounce containers and frozen for 3 months (It’s like having a can in your freezer.  I do this with black beans too.)

If using canned make sure you rinse extremely well.

-in food processor, combine chickpeas, mushrooms, garlic and parsley, and pulse until coarsely ground, but not pureed.  Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.


-with a spatula, scrape the mixture into a large bowl and knead the mixture until well blended, about 2 minutes.

-pinch off  small pieces  of the mixture and roll into one and a half inch balls.


-in a large skillet, cover the bottom with olive oil and fry the balls, turning frequently to brown the on all sides, about 5 minutes.


These chickballs freeze well and can be used in any recipe which calls for meatballs.  They also passed the “I’m not eating anything vegan” husband test. He gobbled them up in a flash.

Makes about 17 balls Nutrition per ball when chick pea flour, rye cracker flour, and nutritional yeast options are used ….Calories: 75, Fat: 2.5, Protein: 4.8, Iron: 4.5% RDA,  Fiber: 3.5 grams  Vitamin B12: 13% RDA

Using the rye cracker crumbs vs the breadcrumbs saves calories and also saves you from the sugars, and preservatives that breadcrumbs contain.  The rye crisps contain rye flour, water and salt.  This post is not big enough to list all the ingredients in processed bread crumbs. Go to Wasa for more info:  www.wasa-usa.com/rye-crisp.aspx

Using chick pea flour instead of wheat flour gives you 5 times the protein, more iron, and 3 times the fiber as wheat flour. These small changes add up and make your healthy diet even healthier!

FYI: Nutritional yeast, while it has yeast in it’s name, is not a live yeast product.  It is the shell of the dead yeast cells that contain an abundance of protein and adds a very unique flavor to anything it touches.  Most nutritional yeast products are fortified with B Vitamins including B12…the one that vegans need to supplement in their diet.

Perk # 80: Cancer Can Trump Pretty Much Anything

As I predicted at perk # 35 (https://perksofcancer.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/perk-35-i-get-to-escape-dish-duty/ ),  I am still getting a break from dish duty, even though my cancer treatments have ended.    On Easter Sunday, for example, there was a large family gathering at Mom’s for turkey and all the fixnin’s.  At the end of the meal, I noticed my sisters’ eyes dart nervously  around the table.  I knew exactly what they were thinking: “Who is going to wash all of these dishes?”  It was touch and go there for a while, as both of these sisters had also experienced health issues over the past year.  However, as we all know, cancer can trump a hysterectomy any old day!   So once again, I was ushered off to the couch while the job of clean up fell to the men.   (Looks good on ‘em.)

I am happy to report that I am still getting mileage from this particular perk.  There are times however, when the trump value of cancer can be a disadvantage.  Many times over the past year, friends and acquaintances have abruptly clammed up, mid a legitimate complaint, because they seemed to feel that my cancer made their problems seem insignificant.   Example:  “My husband just left me/I  am going bankrupt/All of my friends blocked me on Facebook….BUT I  shouldn’t complain after all that you have been through.”   Did anybody ever stop to think that maybe I LIKE hearing about their problems?   That came out wrong….what I mean is, I am a Psychologist.  Lending a listening ear makes me feel useful.   So, in the future, please keep in mind that cancer does trump other issues when it comes to washing dishes, but NOT when it comes to being a supportive friend.

Tip:  It is unethical to use one’s cancer to make other people’s problems seem insignificant.  However it is totally acceptable to use your cancer as an excuse to avoid household chores.  (I feel confident that the entire cancer community will back me up on that.)

Guest Post By The Savvy Sister

Hey, it’s Wednesday, and time once again to introduce one of my favourite bloggers. Susan is a registered nurse,  stage III breast cancer survivor, owner of MOON Organics (healthy & natural stuff to make you beautiful) and the author of “The Savvy Sister” blog.  Her posts are indeed “savvy”, in that they are well researched,  informed and perceptive.  They are entertaining as well, but don’t take my word for it, check her out at www.sisterearthorganics.wordpress.com


10 Reasons Why Bald Chicks Are Cool

I’ve talked to women who feared losing their hair more than losing their breasts. I was a freak I guess, because I couldn’t wait to be bald.

I actually didn’t wait.  I ran straight to my hairdresser the week before my first round of chemo and had some fun. My sister came with me for “moral support”.  Both my sister and the hairdresser were in for a surprise.

“I want a mohawk!”

“What?” the hairdresser asks.

“Can you give me a mohawk before you shave it all off?” I ask very excited almost jumping up and down in my chair.

“I guess so.” he says, not quite sure what to make of me.

But after a few runs with the clippers, he really gets into it.

“Wait”, he says, “Let’s try this gel to make it really stand up!”

When he was done, instead of feeling a loss and being sad, we were all laughing hysterically and taking pictures.

On day 14 of chemo I was officially a “bald chick”. Cue ball bald.  Kojak bald.  Use-my-shiny-head-to-chek-your-make up bald.  Right then and there I decided to own it.

“Not many women can say they were really bald.”  I thought, “This is kinda cool.”

And kinda cool it was, because bald chicks can:


  1. get ready to go out in about 2.5 seconds….shower, towel off, and go!
  2. save approximately $688/6 months in shampoo and hairdresser costs
  3. get to draw a different eyebrow shape every day
  4. save a bundle on bikini waxes
  5. be cool in 101 degree weather
  6. never worry about raising my hand in a sleeveless shirt
  7. say “Thank you” when people tell you that you have a “nice shaped head”.
  8. go in a dark closet with a blacklight and a mirror and verify that you have sundamage everywhere else except on the top of your head
  9. get the guy’s attention next to you at a red light and then watch his face as you whip off your wig
  10.  dress up as the “best Uncle Fester ever” for Halloween


Take that chemo side effects!

Natalie Portman had to shave her head for a movie once and she was quoted as saying she “now knows what women who undergo treatment for cancer feel like.”

Not for nuttin’ Nat (can I call her Nat?) but why don’t you shave your eyebrows and your lady triangle, wait 6 months, and get bac k to me.

So to all you out there feeling sorry for us losing our hair, I say……

You don’t know what you’re missing.





Perk # 62: Handsome Doctors

I was feeling kind of flattered when my two sisters practically broke out in a fight over who was going to take me to my next doctor’s appointment.   How sweet of these real life Florence Nightingale’s to insist on holding my hand through another uncomfortable medical procedure.   Yeah, right!  The real truth reared its ugly head when I caught sister Lessy texting other sister Juana, “This place is crawling with hunks…”  And by “hunk” I am pretty sure she was referring to the surgeon who had just inserted a drainage tube into my incision.

While having to see so many doctors for my  treatments is not a fun part of having cancer, the fact that they are easy on the eyes, does make it a perk.   With doctors nicknamed  the likes of Dr. McDreamy, Dr. McSteamy, and Buns of Steel, (named  by my sisters, I might add) it sometimes feels like I am in a real life episode of Grey’s Anatomy!

Tip:  Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean you can’t LOOK.

P.S.  I received some good news at my last appointment with my surgeon.  The lymph nodes which were removed during my mastectomy in January all tested NEGATIVE for cancer!  (In July, 3 of the 4 removed for testing did have cancer.)  It is a baby step in my recovery, but a step in the right direction.  Thank you God, and thanks to everyone who has prayed for me.

Perk # 60: Early Menopause


Hey, I know what you are thinking, Ladies, “What is so perky about early menopause?”  Those were my thoughts exactly when my Oncologist told me about “chemopause”: a side effect of chemo which causes the womanly cycle to come to an abrupt halt.  Sitting in the pretty young doctor’s office with Shawn by my side,( just three months into our relationship), I couldn’t help but blush as she told us the likely side effects:  mood swings, hot flashes, loss of libido, weight gain, and no more monthly periods (well, that part I was looking forward to).    I would not have been surprised if my new love had suddenly bolted out the door, but I’m glad he decided to stick around.    Sure enough, menopause kicked in soon after chemo, but fortunately my only unpleasant symptom has been hot flashes…..a small price to pay to get rid of the dreaded monthly visitor.

Many moons ago, while I was still married, I whined to my best friend that my hubbie turned into a complete villain once a month,  purposely doing things like slurping his soup in an attempt to drive me bonkers.  In fact, when I thought about it, it seemed that everyone around me got kind of crazy at that time.  “Does this happen at the same time every month?” my wise friend asked.  “Yeah, usually just before my period”, I confided.  Ahhhhh, it suddenly dawned on me;  they weren’t trying to make me crazy,  I had PMS.  But those days are behind me now.  As an added perk of chemopause, I no longer turn into a demon once a month.

Tip:  Early menopause is not all bad, just think of the perks: no more periods and no more PMS.  A few hot flashes is a small price to pay.



Perk # 59: Say Good-Bye To Grey Hairs

Well, here it is two months post-chemo and still no sign of hair. My family and friends keep saying, “Oh, it looks like it is starting to grow in.” Truth is, they are just being nice and I am still as bald as an egg. To add insult to injury, my partner, Shawn, is blessed with a head of thick, dark, wavy hair (he claims it is his Head and Shoulders shampoo). Maybe if he had thinning hair like most self-respecting middle aged men, I wouldn’t feel so much like Mrs. Kojak!  However, having a mane to manage is not all that it is cracked up to be. While Shawn was doing his man-grooming recently, he said, “OMG! Darlin’ is that a grey hair in my sideburn? Pluck it out please before they spread!” I quickly retorted, “Well, plucking my own grey hairs is one less thing I have to worry about.” May as well look on the bright side!

Tip: Believe it or not, being bald has its own perks. Not having to pluck or color your grey hairs is one of them.