Ultra Sounds Monday, April 30, 2012

I hope your week is starting off well. To give it a shake I offer you a poem by . Nigel is a “writer and artist with a strong interest in the relationships between media, culture, society and politics.”

Nigel says:

 I was driven to write it as my family have been affected by cancer on a number of occasions and I feel that there is little more tragic than cancer in the young.

This poem will stay with you. Do check out Nigel’s .




(She’s) Dancing With The Idiots (Tonight)

by Nigel Paul


She’s just nineteen and she’s got cancer and she’s the only one that knows,

She doesn’t want to tell anyone until she knows that the cancer grows,

And although the secret eats her, like the cancer eats her,

She’s dancing with the idiots tonight.

They say that ignorance is bliss, knowledge is a dangerous thing,

But when you’re forced to count and can only hope,

You see things for what they are,

So the show goes on, the boys flock round, stop and stare, pretend to care,

It means nothing to her now,

She sees things for what they are,

It’s not a game of  ’let’s pretend’, it’s clear thinking and self preservation,

It’s the sensible thing to do,

Carry on, put on the show and dance with the idiots tonight,

They say the truth will out, the story will be told,

And she will look into their eyes, searching for the genuine sympathy, the genuine empathy,

And the truth will out,

But until she is ready, until it’s time,

She’s dancing with the idiots tonight,

And we cry, a sadness by proxy, our personal release, our personal relief,

And we will cry,

So let us dance like only an idiot can dance,

Let’s dance as only idiots dance,

Let’s dance like idiots tonight.

A new treasure


Have a look at the website of poet . His poetry about his experience with lymphoma resonates for me and is worth checking out. He has an upcoming book being published called  and you can read excerpts on his site.


Also, I’ve stumbled across a new cancer art show in Oklahoma that is accepting registration until June 1.

Here is the link:  


May you have a poetic day.



Tuesdays from the chemo unit, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

There’s a reason I didn’t post yesterday from the chemo unit. After my article last week I decided to try an experiment. I decided that I would try to do nothing while I waited. Or, rather, I decided I would try to actively wait instead of just filling time until my appointment. It was a double trial because I had a clinic appointment before my chemo.

So I bet you are all wondering how I did. I bet you’re wondering if I could last without reading, writing or playing computer scrabble. Well, to you naysayers, I tell you that the first appointment went just fine. I started off by sitting and watching the world go by. I used the time to do some planning in my head for my writing. Planning is my default state when I’m not occupied elsewhere. After a bit, however, I tried to let even that go.

After about 15 minutes, I started to drift and then fell asleep. Sleeping was an excellent way to make the time pass quickly, but it felt like cheat. Besides, it’s not comfortable to sleep in the waiting room chairs. After my sleep I began to get antsy and was tempted to just quickly check my email or check the weather. But I resisted and actually found that I became quite relaxed. So relaxed that when my blood pressure was taken in my appointment, it was nice and low.

Hmmm. So by not doing anything or by actively deciding to make waiting my occupation, I became more relaxed.

I did give in when I went up to the chemo waiting room. “I’m sure I’ve got important emails to answer!” I thought to myself. “I’ll just check them and then begin my “wait” again. This time, however, I was taken in so quickly that there was no time. Next week I shall set myself the challenge to make it through the entire visit without a distraction. How long can you wait?

Cheers until next time.


Ultra Sounds Monday, April 23, 2012

I hope you are having a wonderful Monday.

Today I present you with our first ever painting here on Ultra Sounds.  I am so pleased that it comes from Cid Palacio, the founder of ART for Cancer Foundation in Toronto. Cid was the one to invite me to the art workshop where I created my oeuvre (or is that hors d’oeuvre).

I find this painting extraordinary and haunting. It resonates with me both as the daughter of a cancer patient and as a patient myself. I will let Cid describe it to you in her own words.




I created this piece around my experience as a caregiver to my parents and their cancer journey.

They climbed a steep mountain and in my mother’s case a series of steep mountains.

While they were climbing, they did not always see the summit, but knew they had to keep on climbing and have hope and faith that reaching the summit would free them from pain.

While they were climbing, they knew that they were not alone, there were many others on that same journey, and yet they also knew that this was a journey where each step only they could take, as their loved ones and friends supported them from the side lines.

Cid Palacio

Founder of the 

…where Heart connects with Art for Creativity and Hope


The gold mine within

I belong to several online writing groups. Today I came across a treasure. The contributor, John Ngugi, wrote the following:

“…each person is like a gold mine that needs to be exploited. Since it is not possible for anybody else to come inside our mental faculties to mine the treasures, writing then becomes a vent through which the outside world can have a glimpse of what lies within each one of us.”

I just love this. To me it is a beautiful way of describing why we write and read.  When we can see a glimpse of the treasures in the mind of another, we can better develop our empathy and understanding of the different kinds of people around us.  Thus reading expands our world in many more ways than just giving us facts.

I believe the same could be said about art or any creative outlet, which is why I think the creative submissions to Ultra Sounds are important. They give us insights into other people’s ‘gold mines’ and help us understand the worlds of people  struggling with deep illness.

Enjoy your weekend!


Tuesdays from the chemo unit, April 17, 2012

Today is my long day at the chemo unit. Once a month I get an iron infusion which takes a few hours (watch out Popeye). Because I know it is my LONG day, my girl scout personality kicks in. I come prepared. As I walked over here, I did an inventory of everything I brought with me:

To do:

- my computer – with three running projects

- my book

- my iphone with email, scrabble, audiobooks and music

- my journal (but forgot the pen, dang)



To eat:

- some leftover pizza from last night

- a sandwich

- some leftover salad

- carrot sticks

- berries

- a pear

- some cookies

- some toasted almonds

- water and tea

(my appointment is at 9:30. At about 9:35 I’m wondering how soon I can break out the food)


Additional sundries:

- band aids

- hand cream

- lip balm

- spare bobby pins

- just about anything you might need (except a pen)


As I pop another almond in my mouth, I reflect on the other people in the unit.  Many of them walk in with nothing more than a wallet.  I’m in awe. Maybe it’s a zen kind of thing to be able to travel light, have few needs, and be able to sit for four hours with nothing to do. Maybe these folks are meditating. Maybe I am addicted to stimulation. Or maybe they just didn’t follow the motto “be prepared”.




Ultra Sounds Monday, April 16, 2012

Today I bring you another submission from my son Zev (age 12). This metaphor came to him and he had to get it down right away. He also wanted me to tell you all that he has pet rats which is why he used mice rather than rats as his metaphor.


The Mouse of Sickness

by Zev Shoag



Sickness is like a mouse

it can fit through the smallest spaces

infest you when you least expect it.

Even if you can’t see it

it is there.

Cancer and the art of storytelling

It seems to me that we are always reinventing ourselves through the process of storytelling. This process is even more heightened when dealing with crises like critical illness. Once we are past the state of shock, we assume an “attitude” about our illness whether we know it or not.

My husband met a woman the other day who has terminal cancer. Apparently when my husband expressed some sympathy, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Hey, I don’t have to worry about retirement savings. I’ve been travelling like crazy and having a good time”. She had decided that her story was not that of a victim, but of one who was going to enjoy every damn minute.

Some of the therapeutic writing programs for cancer patients use storytelling techniques. Storytelling gives people a chance to express how they feel and to choose how they tell their story. By choosing, they get to be an active agent in how others see them and how they see themselves.

I stumbled upon this video which includes interviews several young cancer survivors. They are on a sailing excursion run by a couple who specialize in a kind of storytelling therapy.

I believe the formal term for this kind of storytelling is Narrative Therapy. There is a whole body of study on this subject which looks in-depth and interesting.

The exciting part of this process for me is the power to choose the story – we don’t have to let it choose us. I believe that the therapeutic aspect of storytelling is the realization of the level of control we have over how we see and present our lives. There is no getting away from real pain, suffering and fear. And I don’t judge anyone’s “choices” – we all do the best we can.  But perhaps by writing our own stories, we don’t have to be passive victims. For me, I can decide to choose hope over despair; Humour over bitterness. I can choose to still “get down” like Viola Moriarty was portrayed in her daughter Anna’s cartoon a couple of weeks ago. It is a liberating feeling.

So here’s my storytelling story. Now I have not told this to very many people (so SHHHH).  Shortly after my diagnosis I was scheduled to have a stem cell transplant, a fairly serious procedure. My lovely in-laws had provided me with a stack of good books to take with me into the hospital and they included the first two Harry Potter books (this was 12 years ago). As I read about the boy wizard I decided that I could look at myself as if I was Harry Potter. I was targeted for some quest, by evil lord Amyloidosis. While the quest challenged me, I could be brave like Harry.

When I saw my illness in the light of a quest, somehow it made things easier.  There were moments where I felt like ripping out my IV and throwing on my superhero cape – at least until the nausea set in.  I actually tried to write a children’s story about a lazy pig who was called to a quest (he didn’t ask for the quest, the quest asked for him -ooooooo, deep). So there you have my deep dark secret that I only had told two people about.

Now it’s your turn. C’mon, pony up. What’s your story?


Publication, Publicity, Art and Riding for a cure

Hi all,

I have so much to share today to catch you up. Be sure to read all the way through!

I will start by shamelessly promoting my own work. If you visit the current issue of  you will find an article I wrote about Marianne Moroney, hot dog lady extraordinaire. Marianne submitted a beautiful piece to Ultra Sounds a few months ago about what it was like to serve up food to cancer patients in Toronto.


A while back I  wrote a posting about , a journalist from Washington, D.C. who does very funny cancer cartoons. Recently Amy was featured on a TV interview in Washington promoting her book “Cancer is SO FUNNY”. You can watch her .


If you were inspired by the artistic masterpiece that I shared with you a few months ago and you live in the Toronto area, there is an upcoming workshop with the on April 23.

ART for Cancer Foundation workshop


There are some competition deadlines approaching:

- The in Australia are open to everyone and there are prizes in a variety of mediums. These submissions are due April 27.

- The t submissions are due April 30.

- Registration for the is due by April 30 (although submissions are not due until June 29).


Last, but not least, I have a good friend who is participating in a fundraiser for Princess Margaret Hospital – my home away from home. Here is his letter. If you would like to sponsor him, know that you are supporting a tremendous hospital that plays a central role in the lives of thousands of Canadians.

Paul writes:

Hi Everybody,

Again this year I am doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer. To catch you up, this is a 200K bike ride over a 2 day period from Toronto to Niagara Falls in support of treatment and research at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  Last year 4700 riders participated and raised a new record high for a single event of 17 million dollars. I personally raised $6500.
I am now approaching my fifth year since diagnosis and fourth year since the stem cell transplant. I believe that many factors have contributed to my recovery but the biggest factor was the treatment I had at PMH. Ten years ago I may not have been so lucky. While I also believe that not nearly enough is being done to address the causes of cancer, places like PMH are finding miraculous ways to extend peoples lives and help them live with cancer with a reasonable quality of life.
The ride gives me motivation to train and stay fit which is a highly recommended way to stave off any reoccurrence. It also makes me feel like I’m giving something back to the place that has essentially saved my life. If this is a cause that resonates with you please help out with any amount you can by clicking the link below and going to my donation page. Thank-you so much in advance!
Paul Shilton