Ultra Sounds Mondays, May 7, 2012

Welcome back after a quiet week.

Over the last few months I have had the pleasure of getting to “know” the wonderful Viola Moriarty online. I am delighted, thus, today to present some of her work for today’s submission. This will be our first mixed-media submission and is part of Viola’s “Barbie gets cancer” series. You will never look at Barbie the same way again. Click   to read more about this series. Click to visit Viola’s website.

Sam

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Here’s what Viola has to say about herself:

I  painted my first painting almost 10 years ago, and knew as I felt brush and paint on canvas that I would change everything to paint.  And I did. 

 In 2007 I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, had partial mastectomy and 18 lymph nodes removed, targeted radiation and 6 rounds of kick ass chemo, followed by tamoxifen.

Last August I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer with metastesis around all my organs, the CNS, and many large and small brain tumors.  Had full brain radiation for three weeks followed by a lot of vomiting (lost 50 pounds in two months–good thing I had the extra to lose!), then femara and now fasolodex shots.  The treatments have been working and right now I’m doing great.  
 
My greatest love—even more than painting–is my family.  I have two amazing daughters:  Anna Moriarty Lev () and Phoebe Moriarty Lev ().  And I’m married to their father and the love of my life, Jon Lev.  Henry and Dulcinea are our two cats.  We live in Vermont, though I am from Denver, Colorado
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And here is what Viola had to say about the “Barbie” series:
The barbies  are from the Barbie Gets Cancer section of the ExVoto Suscepto Exhibit which traveled to several venues in 2009, including a presentation at Stowe Weekend of Hope in Vermont, Southern Vermont College, and the Southwestern Vermont Cancer Center.  They were part of my response to my first diagnosis in 2007.  I’m now working on Full Brain radiation Barbie, Fasolodex Barbie, Brain Met Barbie ….along with a series of paintings called “live your life, my onclogist says”.  

 
No matter what I envisioned when I played with those dolls (just as I’m sure Ruth Handler had no idea about her future when she invented them) I never once saw myself as growing up to get cancer.  
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Tamoxifen Barbie, 2008:
Radiation Barbie, mixed media on board, 2008:
Dexamethasone Barbie, mixed media, 2008:

Day-after-Tuesdays-at-the-chemo-unit: The Art of Waiting

 

 

 

 

Well, I think it’s time for me to discontinue Tuesdays at the chemo unit. I have had an epiphany! No longer will I spend my time at the chemo unit hunched over a keyboard, squinting at my phone or buried in a book. I have discovered the art of waiting!

Yesterday I decided that I would bring nothing with me – that is no book, no computer, no work, I even erased Scrabble off my  phone. All I allowed myself was a pen and notebook, so I could record any writing ideas I had. I found a quiet corner to nest in and I actively waited. I didn’t fall asleep this time, I simply waited. I looked around me, I relaxed, I listened in on conversations, I thought about my writing, sometimes I didn’t think about anything.  I just waited. And I discovered that in my very busy day, it was a treat to have a time carved out when I didn’t have to do anything, be anywhere or answer to anybody. I could just have a  private and quiet time. The bonus, by the way, was, again, an extremely good blood pressure reading.

I was actually a little sad when the buzzer surprised me out of my meditative mood to tell my it was my turn. Rather than be happy that I was called,  I felt reluctant to enter the world again and shoulder my responsibilities. I wanted to stay in that mellow space

I feel like I’ve discovered a big secret. Why did it take me 12 years to learn this?!! I want to tell everyone – their path to happiness in the waiting room is to…well… wait. I have seen the light!  We could all become waiting junkies. Eager to stay in waiting rooms the longest, courteous about letting others go before us. We might never want to go home or go back to work. “Please doctor, take your time with the patient before me – I would just like a little more waiting time”. Just imagine what a nice place the waiting room would be.

So next time you are stuck in the slowest line at the grocery store, look at it as an opportunity to wait and just see how good you feel.

 

Sam

 

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 .

Sam

 

 

(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.

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.

Sam

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”.

 

Sam

 

Tuesdays at the chemo unit, April 10, 2012

Overnight it seems as if the drivers and cyclists of Toronto were transformed into rude and agressive warriors. It was bizarre this morning on my drive to have close call after close call with drivers who were just in too much of a hurry to wait for a space in traffic. I’m not usually curmudgeonly about traffic, but this morning I felt like there was something in the air. It started me off in a sour mood.

Once on foot, I took a different route to the hospital. Instead of weaving my way through the back streets of Chinatown, I walked along Dundas street and passed by the sweeping facade of the new Art Gallery of Ontario. Looking down at me from the pillars were posters advertising a Picasso exhibit and a Frido Kahlo/Diego Rivera exhibit. As I passed under the luscious images of these extraordinary painters, I felt nourished and hopeful again. Sometimes I forget how much art feeds us and it takes a giant poster of great art to remind me of that truism.

Because of this revelation, when I arrived at Princess Margaret I truly noticed the care that was taken to include art in the hospital. There are beautiful paintings on the walls. If you look down from the glass elevators to the basement floor clinic, there is a wood and stone arrangement that looks like a small stream. The new chemo unit uses artistic design features to make it feel less institutional. Today, more than ever, I noticed these little bits of “food” left in the hospital to feed us patients and was extra appreciative.

Coincidentally, I also received in my inbox the first submission to Ultra Sounds of a painting – oh and what a great painting it is (This is just the teaser, however. You’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before getting any more details). It seemed that art was speaking to me from everywhere.

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday and may you enjoy many works of art in your life today.

Sam