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

 

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.

 

Sam

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

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.

Sam

 

 

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

 

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

 

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 a few months ago about what it was like to serve up food to cancer patients in Toronto.

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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 .

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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

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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).

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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

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

One of the perks of having a serious illness is that I often receive comments such as:

“Wow, you’re really looking good”

“You really are looking great!”

I might be in sweat pants, have greasy hair and have bad breath and I still get this feedback.

These comments are often made with a tone of surprise, as if I really should not be looking this good.The surprise may be due to expectations about how a sick person “should” look. Or perhaps I looked so bad for a period of time, that the contrast now is unmistakable. Either way I enjoy the comments as they come.

Of course, I’m not usually quite sure how to respond. If I say “Oh, you’re really looking good too” am I implying there is a reason that they should not be looking good? Or am I implying that they didn’t look good before?  Or should I just say thank you and bask in looking good?

And should I start worrying if people stop telling me how good I look? If they look at me with furrowed brows and a concerned air should I rush off to the doctor and get my blood tests done? Or should I just assume that I’ve been looking good for so long that people now take it for granted?

Or perhaps I don’t really look good, but it’s just something that people say to sick people to make them feel good. Or there is a missing qualifier. “You look really good  [for a sick person that is].

Hmm. Maybe I’ll try putting on some make-up that makes me look gray and pasty and see what happens.

Sam