Saturday, November 21, 2009

I am heading home to Halifax on November 23rd - Halifax will always be home and I am so anxious to see my friends there and hopefully make new friends as I promote my book. November 26th I will be at the Puffin Gallery in Historic Properities from 5 - 8 pm to launch my new book If I Knew Then What I Know Now. November 27th I will be at Box of Delights in Wolfville at 7 pm and on Saturday November 28th I will be at the Inside Story in the Greenwood Mall at 2 pm. Come if you can - I would love to see you. I am humbled that so many are coming - including friends and family from opposite ends of the province. I appreciate that, especially at this time of the year in Nova Scotia, travel is not always easy.See you on the Halifax harbour boardwalk!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last evening I had the pleasure of speaking at the AGM for Willow - Breast Cancer Support Canada. Willow offers information and support for all Canadians affected by breast cancer. They ensure that no one is alone in this terrible fight we call breast cancer. I concluded my talk by sharing my top ten "What I Know Now" moments and at the request of those who have contacted me this morning asking for a copy I am posting it here...

What I Know Now
Willow Nov 17, 2009

10. Care from your heart - share your soft side.
9. Cancer often opens doorways-watch for them.
8. Don’t judge others. Those who judge don’t matter and those who matter don’t judge.
7. Lighten up – laugh, listen and learn from kids.
6. Always say “yes” to chocolate.
5. When making a tough decision ask, “Will this matter in a day, a month, a year?”
4. Every job is a big job – you are never “just” a volunteer.
3. Tackle your bucket-list - now.
2. Embrace your life’s hope chest - hope changes.
1. Slow Dance – author David L Weatherford. (on my website under "presentations.")

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th and nothing bad has happened so far. In fact something good just happened - I received the following e mail - Brian is a good guy and, thankfully for me, believes in my new book. I find it very difficult to ensure that my book is available in those bookstores where it is being asked for. In too many locations Chapters/Indigo does not carry my book, nor do they plan to - do other authors have the same frustrations? I would love to hear from you. It can be very depressing when it seems that if you are not already a celebrity your book simply is of no interest to some of the key bookstore owners. I am still working on it though and remain positive that I will be able to get my book out there for you...

Hi Carol Ann,

I just had an interesting tid bit I thought you'd like... I'm doing some report analysis, and have found that your book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now, is the #1 best seller in my Health section, far surpassing the #2 spot by almost 50 books! I think thats cool.

Take care and see you soon,

Brian Bradley | Customer Experience Manager
Indigospirit Mount Sinai Hospital # 428
600 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X5

Phone: 416-979-9428

Thursday, November 12, 2009

October was a busy month - and one full of cancer related appearances and presentations for me. Many survivors have commented about If I Knew Then What I Know Now and in particular they want to talk with me about the chapter called Half Past Cancer. A few pages from that Chapter follow ....I would love to hear your comments

Half-Past Cancer – page 156

W hen Lessons Learned Upside the Head was published I received a considerable amount of feedback on my chapter called “When Someone You Love Has Cancer.” This particular chapter had been helpful to readers and I was pleased to hear so many personal stories with examples of just how helpful it had been. A number of readers suggested additions and changes if I ever updated the chapter, and you will see many of your suggestions here.
Since my first diagnosis, and certainly confirmed by my second,
I feel I am living at a time I call half-past cancer. Not quite in that dreaded cancer world, but not out of it either. Survivors can relate to the fear that comes with every lump, every bump, every skin discolouration and every call back for one more test. It is not a case of being negative or a hypochondriac. It is our reality. It is what it is.
These are the lessons I have learned from living it myself and from listening to the experiences of others. I still make mistakes but I learn as I go.

Take time to find the right words when the cancer cloud hangs over someone you love. With my breast cancer recurrence I listened carefully for the words that would come my way and, like the first time, while many made sure their words were positive, others could not wait to give me their advice – and it wasn’t pretty. Almost without exception, this advice came from individuals who had not experienced cancer personally. Comments like, “I bet you are sorry you didn’t get them to remove your breast the first time you had cancer” and “I hope you will make them give you chemotherapy this time. You probably should have had chemo the first time” told me a few things about the individuals delivering these cutting words. First, they did not know what they were talking about; second, they knew even less about my particular diagnosis; and third, they hadn’t read this chapter in my last book or surely to God they would have chosen their words a bit more carefully! These comments came early in my recovery and I didn’t want to spend my time dealing with negative energy so I saved these conversations with these individuals until I felt stronger. The conversations have since taken place and we remain friends. Humour helped me approach how I had been hurt or angry and without exception we all learned a bit from each other during the exchange. We laughed together, and yes, we cried too.
Since my mastectomy a friend has told me more than once that I look “normal.” And there is an element of surprise in her voice when she says it. I suspect she means, “You look normal even though you only have one breast” but I haven’t had the courage to actually sit down and talk with her about this. The first time she said it, she wrapped it up with other words: “You look great. I am so happy to see you looking happy and normal … so normal.” I said something in reply at the time, but I was hurt by her words and didn’t explore it enough to let her know that it was perhaps a poor choice of words.
Cancer is new to her and sometimes she speaks without thinking – not an excuse but a fact.
My friend Al Stiff found the right words – twice. He wrote to me following my first battle and sixteen years later he wrote again. This time he included a letter I had sent to him many years ago in case I had forgotten him. I had not. His letter was longer and he took the time to suggest I “get on with it. Your fight will inspire many many others and perhaps that is why you have been called upon once again.
I want to have another shot at saying I knew she had it in her.” Al ended his letter saying, “Look in the mirror, Carol Ann. There is a winner in there.” His letter arrived as I was arriving home from the hospital and could not have been more timely.
There are no magic words to use. There is no right time to say what you feel or to ask what you need to know. I work on this everyday with all of the people I know who are living under the cancer umbrella. I don’t always say the right thing and I pretty much always know when I have said the wrong thing. I try to make sure I don’t repeat my mistakes. It is a work in progress for everyone. The main thing is to be aware of what you say and admit, to yourself if you can’t admit it out loud, that maybe you could say it better the next time. And remember too that often silence is what is needed rather than any words at all. The quality of quiet is undervalued at times like this.
The need to Listen – be quiet and listen is a skill that applies to life in general, not only to the cancer world. When I faced breast cancer a second time I received calls from many women in the same situation. Most were great listeners and I often moved forward in my healing with their help and guidance. Some, though, were not listening at all – and to this day I cannot understand why anyone would call a cancer patient only days after surgery to ask, “How are you doing?” but then to immediately interrupt and tell their own story, including why their recurrence was far more serious than mine. To be frank, I didn’t care about their history at that time and did a bit of interrupting myself to let them know I was having trouble helping them feel better at the moment. To see if I could shut them up, I would sometimes interject with a bit of humour, “Could we back up and make this about me for a bit longer?” It usually worked.
I have had people suggest that Lose the negative energy should be softened to Lose the negative energy when it is appropriate to do so and I agree. It is not realistic to think we can, or should, be positive all the time. Believe me, for the first few months of 2008 when I went from diagnosis to surgery to recovery I had many a negative thought. I had my own pity parties when I needed them, I felt sorry for myself when I wanted to and I allowed myself to revisit my own negative thoughts, so I could deal with them. Would this recurrence kill me? Why me? Is there a strike three ahead of me? These are all negative thoughts, but confronting them and dealing with them at the time is better than pushing them aside or under the rug, pretending they don’t exist.
I have a different view on buying time now. It took a recurrence for me to see that to Buy time when you have the opportunity to do so is a good rule to follow and in my case it was pretty clear-cut – pun intended. I didn’t have to have a mastectomy but having the mastectomy has, most likely, bought me more time in this world. I will take it – purchased or otherwise.
Understand the initial flurry of visits, phone calls and mail will end. When we hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, or when we hear of any terminal illness, we tend to rush to their side and hopefully make ourselves useful in some way. I sometimes think we do this as much for ourselves as for the patient. We need to give. We need to feel useful. We need to give back. All of this is good. However, equally as important is the timing of our attention to the loved one now living with cancer, or living as a survivor.
Feeling part of the real world, whatever that is, can be difficult when cancer slows you down or stops someone you love in their tracks. As a survivor, when I saw the world going on during the days immediately following my surgery I couldn’t help but feel that everyone was moving on without me. I lost a couple of speaking engagements because the words “she has cancer again” had spread through the company I was to address and because the company did not want to have cancer at the podium, I was replaced. I get that – it happens – it makes me sad but I understand better the second time that it does happen. Corporations move too quickly sometimes and don’t stop to evaluate what they are doing to the individual. I did not have cancer; it was gone. I was, and am, the same person I was when they first hired me to speak at their annual conference.
To give credit, and in case some recognize their company in my words, they did listen to me when I felt strong enough and well enough to talk with them about this. They hired me again and all was forgiven. I think they learned from the exchange and I feel good about that.
Often cancer survivors have to take the establishment on even though it should not be necessary. What helped me in dealing with all of this was that some of my friends did understand that some of the interest in me following my cancer had passed and they made sure they continued to be in my life. One corporate friend offered a listening ear when I wanted to discuss my feelings about how some were, once again, seeing me under the cancer cloud, and he helped me with my plan to revisit a job I had lost. He jokingly said I should split my speaker’s fee with him but I explained that my first paycheque following cancer had been spent on shoes. I think he was joking …

....continued on page 160 of If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What people are saying about If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Ken & I (and our dog, Gooch) took the opportunity to have a few days away at my brother's chalet near Talisman. I had brought your book with us, and just started reading it, out loud to Ken. We continued off and on throughout the weekend, taking turns reading to each other, and we thoroughly enjoyed If I Knew Then What I Know Now - we laughed, we cried, we enjoyed it together. We especially enjoyed the mention of the peanut butter and banana rolls at the Good Neighbours Christmas Lunch - and Ken's competitive nature wants me to issue a bake-off challenge to your friend who bakes the butter tarts.
Thank you for sharing so nicely of yourself. We are proud to know you...B & K

C.A. I got home and proceeded downstairs to read your book. after a few agonizing chapters and a stream of tears and a bevy of emotions I went upstairs to find Karen reading her copy also and she seemed to be equally moved obviously from a women's dear, I spent the better part of the day just reading and although I am almost done I can say I have thoroughly enjoyed the 'read' and look forward to finishing the book today. I believe its possibly your best effort to date (practice makes perfect)-keep up the great work and continue to fight the 'good' fight and be all that your soul challenges you to be- the ever gracious & loving heroine that we all know you to be....there were some things I had either forgotten or newly learned and will share with you over dinner once I clear my plate of my present karma..God bless and much love, courage & strength to always be the best you can be...B

I just wanted to tell you that I just finished reading your book, and enjoyed every minute of it. Thank you, for once again sharing some of your deepest thoughts. You are truly one inspirational lady. Of course, I can't sign off without thanking you for making me cry. I was touched and honoured to see dad in the book and read the nice comments from Mary. It's so hard to believe it’s been two years since we lost him. So thank you for keeping his memory alive in your book and for all of the insights you shared. As always, you have validated what a remarkable woman you are and why, when I was teaching Grade 8 students the Economics of Staying in School, and we got to the chapter about choosing role models, I was quick to share that you had been one of mine...DF

Hi my friend, hope you had a good Thanksgiving.
This is the best book you have done so far. I am reading it on the bus (not a good place to read - people see tears and want to know if I am ok.) I really didn't know how much you had to go through. I am so sorry for all that pain. I am so proud of you and I am very very lucky to have you as a friend. I will always be your “down home” friend. You have raised a son who is just as special as you are - that is your best work - but this book isn't far behind...PP

Carol Ann from the first book I always said to myself that I would never forget the strength that you had and that you would be my role model if / when I go through it. Now more than ever you are my role model. You are an amazing woman! When you wrote and asked about my piece in your book I was so honoured, and as I read about all the boards, committees, and people who had / have been involved in your life I am honoured even more that something I wrote stuck with you. Reading is not a favourite past time of mine however today it was all I did. From one cover to the other, your story is amazing! Your love, strength, courage, accomplishments, and determination are to be admired. And I truly admire each and every quality in you. Thanks for sharing your life with me and all the others out there who will be reading this amazing story. If wealth was measured by the amount of lives one touched in a positive way you would be rich beyond...TM

I would like to thank you again for the kind and generous donation of your new book. Although our lending library has over 300 books and audio cassettes, we are constantly striving to add new material that is up-to-date and relevant to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a privilege to hear your inspirational talk yesterday at the Life after Breast Cancer Conference. I found it to be heart-warming, funny and poignant.
Your ten-step plan is also wonderful, and should be the goal of every woman, not just those who have made a journey with breast cancer. I plan on having it framed and posting it in our centre. I will add your information as the credit for this wonderful piece.
At Breast Cancer Support Services, we strive to Encourage, Enlighten and Empower every woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and provide support and hope to them and their families. Your book will help us to give these women perspective and encouragement, and will be an excellent addition to our lending library. It is only through your contribution, and the contributions of those in our community, that we are able to provide our services and support.
Thank you for thinking of us, and helping us to improve our services. I hope to be able to have another opportunity in the near future of hearing you speak.
Cathie Mills, Volunteer & Program Coordinator, Breast Cancer Support Service, Burlington Ontario

Just a quick word to let you know that between 8 pm last night and 11 am today, Chapters sold every one of your books they had except one! I am frantically reading, jumping around rather than from start to finish as I wanted to read about your own experiences in 2008 and before first. You write as you speak, so easily. The part where James was with you during one procedure where you could not see the screen really touched me. I could sense his mental anguish at not being able to take away your pain. What a wonderful, supportive son you have....Miss W

Hi there Carol Ann I have been so busy today and haven't had the time to e-mail you to congratulate you on what a great interview you did with Geoff, I enjoyed it so much,
I don't imagine they took anything out of the interview as it went from right after the 11 PM news and sports to just about the midnight news. You and Geoff covered everything including the people from different sports supporting the Mom's and wives. I enjoyed you talking about Willow Breast Cancer Group as I was just reading about them. My Paul is reading your book now and he's talking about it to anyone who'll listen, he is enjoying it so much. By the way he read your other two books and not because I told him to, he really is interested in anything to do with the disease. Thanks so much for mentioning my name on the show. I got shivers when I heard my name. I was so thrilled...JBA

Seeing Jalen – wow has he even grown since I saw him at your party on Lower Water street a few years ago. I loved the part where you were crossing the street and he told people to stop and wait for the little man and that his name was not Buddy! Priceless. Now that I am finished my first read of your book, Carl gets his turn...P & C

Your new book has been officially moved to the Health merchandise category for all of our Chapters/Indigo/Coles/Indigospirit stores. The subsection is Breast Health. I am very glad we got this done! You can get the word out…BB

We just got back home last night after closing the cottage up for the winter. While there I was quite enjoying reading your latest book, sitting by the fire in the evenings, when all of a sudden I came to the end of the damn thing. To me, this was a very different book from the other two, quite technical and not as much of a "down east" theme. Must say, I missed that. I have enjoyed your personal and family stories both the happy and sad and, of course, your "Bell" stories. Thanks for listening and thanks for the hours of entertaining reading. I don't read very much but certainly enjoy your books ....RB

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Today I had my H1N1 flu shot - a "benefit" of having had cancer meant that I didn't have to stand in line - simply made an appointment at my doctor's office and it was done.I am interested in the different views of people on this subject. Some are keen to line up and make sure their family is protected. Others, wouldn't have the H1N1 shot if you paid them to do so. And, they also believe their decision protects their family. Two different views to be sure. I talked to my doctor, did some of my own investigating and made my decision.This topic is on everyone's lips - in the elevator, on the subway, on the street and on the phone. I wouldn't want to be any of the Government officials currently trying to explain why there does not seem to be enough serum to go around.