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:

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.

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

 

Happy Monday!

Since I began working on this project, I have had the opportunity to connect with many wonderful people who are working in the world of creativity and cancer. One of these people is , an author and facilitator of expressive writing workshops for people living with cancer. Sharon’s name comes up often in the context of cancer and creative writing. Her workshops sound powerful and significant for those who participate. She also moderates a blog called , where she offers weekly writing prompts for people living with cancer.

I have been enjoying corresponding with Sharon. Though busy, she has spared time to offer me much advice and encouragement for Ultra Sounds.

Below is an article that Sharon wrote for the September, 2011 issue of . She has kindly offered to let me repost this article in the blog.

Sam

WRITING IT OUT

 

by Sharon Bray

Nearly twelve years ago, I sat in a surgeon’s office, feet twitching with impatience. I checked my watch. I’d waited twenty minutes. If he didn’t appear soon, I was going to be late for the meeting I’d scheduled nearby. I reached for a magazine. National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, an old issue of People. Nothing of interest. I sighed and check my watch again.

“Hello, Sharon.” The doctor came into the room, a file in his hand. I smiled.
“Hi, Dr. C.” My eyes darted to the file and back to his face. I felt a flicker of 
     unease. “So? What’s the verdict?”

It had been exactly one week since the procedure, a biopsy of my left breast, ordered the same afternoon the radiologist pointed to the constellation of calcifications visible on a mammogram and sent me across the courtyard to the surgeon’s office. My mammography was routine. The biopsy seemed, at the time, little more than precautionary, just to be sure. It was nothing to worry about.

Dr. C. sat down in a chair across from me, opened my file and studied the paper that lay on top.
“It’s cancerous,” he said. “Malignant.”
“Cancerous?” How could it be cancerous? I forced myself to pay attention, to make sense of the jumble of 
     words coming from his lips.
“Early stage. Non-invasive, but…”
“But?”
“We need to take care of it right away,” he said. “Left alone, it’s a bad act.”

I nodded my head as if I understood what he was saying. A bad act. “So, what’s next?” Cut to the chase, I thought. I have a meeting to go to. I don’t want to be late.

A lumpectomy was scheduled for the following week. “Fine,” I said, sliding off the exam table. At the door, I extended my hand to shake his. “Thank you, Dr. C.,” I said in my best professional voice, but the doctor didn’t let go of my hand.
“Sharon,” he frowned at me. “Are you all right?”

Of course I was all right. I had a meeting. If I hurried, I could get there on time.

It would be weeks after the lumpectomy, after the endless days of radiation and multiple appointments with a team of specialists, before the reality of cancer began to sink in. I existed in a fog, disbelieving and numb. I donned a blue hospital gown in the radiology department every afternoon and swallowed a Tamoxifen pill every morning. Still, I felt like a phony. How could I have cancer? I didn’t look any different.

I began to experience some unexpected side effects to treatment. My digestive tract suddenly malfunctioned. I lost weight. I cried a lot for no apparent reason. My husband and close friends expressed concern, but other than the conversations between my doctors and me, I avoided discussions of cancer. I carried guilt around like a sodden backpack. Other people had real cancers, the kind that were life threatening. I’d gotten off easy. Finally, at the urging of a friend, I signed up for a summer creative writing workshop.

Writing has always been the refuge I turn to in any difficult period of life. I’d filled dozens of notebooks with emotional outpourings after my first husband’s sudden death, but this was different. I’d be writing every single day for a week with a group of strangers. I balked at the idea, and considered withdrawing several times, but something kept pulling me toward it. I showed up on the first day of class, nervous, but determined to stick it out. I quickly discovered a gentle and encouraging instructor, and under her guidance, a safe and supportive writing environment. Nevertheless, I wore my protective veneer like a suit of armor, choosing to write stories that revealed nothing about what I was going through at the time.

On the very last day of the workshop, the instructor passed around a straw basket filled with slips of paper, a single line from a poem written on each. I closed my eyes, reached into the basket and drew a slip. I opened my eyes and read, “The hospital corridor was dimly lit.” My heart lurched. I stared at the words for a moment, took a deep breath and opened my notebook to a blank page. Words poured onto the paper. I described the radiology waiting room, blue hospital gowns, my silent companions, my feelings of guilt, my fear when the technician called, “Ms. Bray?” At the end of twenty minutes, I had written several pages.

When the instructor asked who would like to read aloud, I timidly raised my hand. “I will,” I said.

I finished reading and nervously waited for the group to respond. One by one, they began, describing how my words had touched them. Clearly, this was the most powerful piece I’d written all week. I felt something inside me open up. I had begun my journey of healing. Writing gave me the key to unlock the door, write into my experience, make sense of and discover meaning from it.

Cancer—or any other serious illness—changes us. Perhaps, as poet Jane Hirshfield said, “Illness remodels us for some new fate.” A year after my diagnosis, I began leading expressive writing groups for men and women living with cancer, providing the same supportive environment for them to write and share their stories of cancer just as I had experienced the summer before. I’ve been leading those writing groups for eleven years now, and thanks to the cancer survivors who write and share their stories with me, my life is richer than ever.


Bio: Sharon Bray is the author of two books on the healing power of writing during cancer: A Healing Journey: Writing Together through Breast Cancer (2004) and When Words Heal: Writing Through Cancer (2006). She leads ongoing writing groups at Scripps Green and Stanford Cancer Centers as well as a writing workshop for faculty and students of Stanford Medical School. She also is the author of the blog, , which features weekly writing prompts for men and women with cancer. For more about Sharon, see.

Today’s submission comes from a talented photographer, Dorit Fuhg, from the UK. She is  a member of the , a global group of artists committed to donating a portion of their sales to cancer charities.

I love the way these photos make me feel (and have hinted broadly to my husband that I wouldn’t mind these pictures as a birthday present).  I first had the chance to enjoy these photos at the Art For Cancer Foundation Show in Toronto.  You can see more of Dorit’s wonderful work .

Here’s her story in her own words:

I have been taking photographs for the past 11 years and my passion for it grows from day to day. My main goal is to capture the overall mood of a scene as well as the essence of a thing, always trying to bring out the subject’s personality and uniqueness. 

When my dad passed away after a long and painful battle with colon cancer, the only way I could cope with the loss was to immerse myself in photography. The photographs I take are, to a certain extend, an homage to my dad and his love of and care for nature, which he passed onto me; and I’m very grateful for that.

DONATION:

All proceeds from the sale of this artwork go to the Art for Cancer Foundation

 

Enjoy!

Sam

 

Wild Thing 1

 

Wild Thing 2

 

 

Wild Thing 3

I love today’s submission. Think back a few weeks to the wonderful video done by Olivia Everett, a Stage I Ovarian Cancer Patient, about losing her hair and having her head shaved.

At the time when Olivia was diagnosed, she was sixteen weeks pregnant. Her husband, Eric Ford,  is a photographer and took some gorgeous pictures of her later in the pregnancy – bald and beautiful. Here is one of those pictures. You can see more pictures by Eric  and .

 

 

Sam

Today’s entry takes a comic turn. For those of you who rely on the trustworthy advice of Trip Advisor, here is a Trip Advisor “Review” of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. This is written by a friend of mine, Jim Barnes, a multiple myeloma patient. We share the same wonderful hematologist and receive the same medical treatment at the chemo unit (although he’s a Thursday guy and I’m a Tuesday gal). For those of you who are are not from this area, Princess Margaret is a remarkable research and treatment hospital for cancer.

Enjoy!

Sam

 

A great place for cancer care, if you are not too demanding 

by Jim Barnes

 

If you are considering getting care for your cancer, Princess Margaret might be a good choice. They have world-renowned specialists, excellent nurses, and a generally efficient and caring staff. Some of the facilities have been upgraded, but others are showing their age.

 

Accommodation at the clinics, chemo unit, and blood labs is sometimes a little crowded. Advance reservations are definitely recommended. Palapas are hard to find. Waiting room chairs vary a bit in their comfort level. One positive is that there are seldom problems with people using towels to reserve their chairs. The chairs are not too bad if you’re feeling fairly well, but they are not recommended for those in pain–a good idea to take your pain killers and bring extras.

 

In my experience, the physicians are dedicated and give guests as much time as they require, and this can lead to some long waits. The nurses do what they can given the constraints they are under. After getting my chemo fairly quickly on my last visit, the nurse explained how lucky I was because for the previous two days staff shortages had kept one chemo unit closed and this caused 3 hour waits. Tipping is discouraged, though the occasional kind or grateful comment will go a long way with the staff.

 

The clientele varies in age from the very young to the elderly, with a preponderance of older guests. Dress is usually casual. Bathing suits are discouraged in the restaurants and clinics. This does not seem to be a party crowd.

 

Food choices are somewhat limited, though we’ve only used the “a la carte” and I can’t comment on the “all-inclusive” option. There’s a Tim Horton’s with a limited menu and a Druxy’s. The lines for the Tim’s are often fairly long, though the staff is efficient. The Druxy’s offers their usual fare and it’s not bad, though definitely not gourmet. If you’re willing to go off-site, Baldwin Street, one block east, has a good selection of restaurants. Parking in the area is expensive, though until Toronto goes through with the proposed changes to handicapped parking, you can park on the street without charge with a handicapped permit, even in the restricted spaces opposite the school.

 

Within the hospital, the bartenders are volunteers and usually quite pleasant, though the drink choices are somewhat limited: no wines, beer. or pina coladas. They will offer a cookie to go with your drink. Entertainment is usually limited to solo performances by wiling volunteers. Show times are a little haphazard, usually over the noon hour on the main floor. We haven’t stayed for any of the late night extravaganzas or attended the discos and so I can’t comment on them. A few large screen televisions are scattered around, but these are usually tuned to CP24.

 

In the three years we’ve been traveling to PMH, management has made some improvements, perhaps as a result of some earlier negative postings. Waiting times for the blood labs are definitely shorter, and the new chemo unit is much more comfortable with water, tea, complimentary newspapers, and available television.

 

Check-in is somewhat impersonal. The hospital seems to have a policy of wanting to keep check-in staff away from guests. Guests are required to leave their  cards in plastic boxes rather than to seek personal service.  As well, even when the staff know that the waits will be long, they are discouraged from informing guests of this. This means that guests sometimes sit for long periods when they could be elsewhere: visiting friends, shopping, or going out for a meal. The pagers in the chemo unit at least allow for some flexibility about where you spend your time. Checkout is quick and there are no lineups of staff looking for tips at the end of your stay.

 

Overall, PMH is a great place to visit and receive care. It’s only 2 or 3 stars for accommodation, but 4 stars for care.  It is definitely not for those who aren’t patient with waiting or who are too demanding.

For those of you who may be new to the blog, Monday is a very special day here at Ultra Sounds. Every Monday we publish a creative work by someone who has a connection to cancer.  It’s not just patients that submit, but friends, family, service providers and health care providers. Anyone who feels they have a connection is welcome to share their experience.

You don’t have to be a professional to submit something,  in fact we hope that this site will be a platform for experimentation – a chance to test the waters of sharing your creative works.  See the column on the left for submission guidelines and to see the archive of previous submissions.

Today’s submission is the third part in the Barbara Crooker/Irene Miller series. Barbara has given me permission to post a series of four of her poems that she wrote while a friend was dealing with cancer.

To read more poetry by Barbara Crooker, click . To see more photography by Irene Miller, click .

Until next time

Sam

 

 

SHE TELLS THE DEALER, THREE MORE CARDS

by Barbara Crooker

A thin sickle moon hangs in the western sky

over the house where my friend used to live.

Her blood count decreases, as cancer deals

her another bad hand.  Her backbone is turning

to ivory dust; her platelet counts diminish

in spite of transfusions.  The sky is a vault

of black ice; the starry dust of the Milky Way

flung over our heads, Wisconsin to Pennsylvania.

She is buying new clothes for spring, a ring

of blue topaz to wear at night.  She has backed

dark horses before, long shots going out at 100:1,

and won.  She plays blackjack, shoots craps, gets comped

at Reno.  Even though these odds are stacked

for the dealer, the house, she keeps on playing,

rolls the dice, rattles them bones.

 

 

Starry dust by Irene Miller

Today is the second in a four-part series pairing poetry and photography.

The poem is  by the amazing Barbara Crooker. The quartet being presented on Ultra Sounds over these four weeks is part of a larger body of work, written during the time a close friend was struggling with cancer. You can find more about Barbara  .

The photo was taken by Irene Miller, an exceptional photographer from Stratford, Ontario. For this series she has captured images  to accompany each of the four poems.  See more of Irene’s work 

Sam

 

 

 

FOR A FRIEND LYING IN INTENSIVE CARE WAITING FOR HER WHITE BLOOD CELLS TO REJUVENATE AFTER A BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT

by Barbara Crooker

The jonquils.  They come back.  They split the earth with

their green swords, bearing cups of light.

The forsythia comes back, spraying its thin whips with

blossom, one loud yellow shout.

The robins.  They come back.  They pull the sun on the

silver thread of their song.

The iris come back.  They dance in the soft air in silken

gowns of midnight blue.

The lilacs come back.  They trail their perfume like a scarf

of violet chiffon.

And the leaves come back, on every tree and bush, millions

and millions of small green hands applauding your return

 

 

 

Applauding Your Return” by Irene Miller

Today’s submission is the first of an exciting four-part series. The poetry comes from a women named Barbara Crooker, a talented and  accomplished poet from the U.S.  I have fallen in love with  many of Barbara’s poems.   ()  The four featured poems are taken from a collection that Barbara wrote about a close friend who was diagnosed with cancer .

Irene Miller, a talented and accomplished photographer from Stratford, Ontario has created a picture to accompany each poem. ( )

Enjoy part I of this powerful duet.

Sam

 

 

FAITH

By Barbara Crooker

When my friend calls, long distance, early one Saturday morning,

I listen, knowing there’s something wrong, think it’s her

eighty year old mother, surely not her, she’s younger than I am,

only forty.  When she says, “I have breast cancer,” there’s a quiet

on the line, as I search for something to say.  And then she

tells me it’s spread to her spine, and there are no words for this.

 

And because there is nothing I can do, I go out to the garden,

dig the hard March ground, turn over ice crystals in the cold dark

soil, and plant peas, little grey pebbles, tuck them in with a slap

and a chink that might be a substitute for prayer.

 

For in spite of everything, June will come again, and those little

pairs of leaves will make their run for it, ladder up the air.

And these peas will fill their pods with sweet green praise.

 

 

Sweet Green Praise by Irene Miller