Friday, 15 November 2013

Health Update :)

Hi everyone,

I know many of you are patiently waiting for news on how I am and how my chemotherapy treatments went. I finished my last round, 8/8 at the end of Sept.  I then had a CT scan done a few weeks ago, and went for my follow-up with my doctor yesterday.

And I am happy to report that it's very good news.  I have started my remission, a "good remission" as my doctor calls it, but not a full remission just yet.  The chemotherapy did its job well and most of my lymph nodes were significantly reduced.  There are a few still lingering, but they are small, and the chemo is technically still working away at them.
I now begin the maintenance stage, where I go every 3 months for 2 years to get Rituximab, which is an anti body to help my immune system push me further into remission and keep me there longer. In 6 months we check to see if anything is growing again..and go from there.
Though my cancer is hard to cure, it is manageable. And along with the medicine science has brought, and the health care regime my husband devised for me, I am positive that my health will only get better.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to put me in their thoughts and prayers.   To my close friends and family who helped with the day to day.  I couldn't have done it without you.
And above all, to my husband, who took the time to create a system of whole health for me. Without you, I am certain I would have had a completely different cancer journey, and for this, words will never be able to express my love and gratitude.

Let's move on with life, shall we?  xo

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Update Before Round 2!

As I sit here prepping for Round 2 this morning...and from the indication of my phone alerts and Facebook messages over the last few weeks, I believe that an update on how I'm doing is in order.

Well, it's been 3 weeks since my first round of Chemo (R-CVP), and I have to say that, due to my husband's holistic plan, I'm feeling pretty darn good.

I thought that the days of treatment and the few after would be horrendous.  ALL medical staff really emphasize that you're going to be sick...sicker than you've ever been, so be be sick.  Which in some cases is very true, depending on the course of treatment you're put on.  There are many different kinds of chemo, many different people, and many different kinds of reactions and side effects.  So, my question is, if everyone reacts as an individual, why is there no individualized care?
I of course can only speak for myself.  During treatment I drank insane amounts of water, ate when I felt hungry (mostly sandwiches and Boost) and had the benefit of having acupuncture administered. (During and after treatment) Once back at the hotel, I drank some healthy shakes full of fruits/veggies/protein/immune boosters and zeolite.
My side effects were mild, some nausea (not constant), insomnia (due to all the pre/post-meds they had me on), headaches, mouth soreness/tenderness and light-headness (due to the post-meds).  My appetite comes and goes (starving to no thanks.)  All in all, not what I was told would happen.  I did crash for 2 days after finishing my course of Predinisone, but I quickly bounced back.

I spoke to my nurse during my follow up visit last week in Sudbury and she even asked me what I was doing.  She was happy to hear my plan and even informed me that my doctor was an advocate of chiropractic and acupuncture to complement the treatment plan.  (Although I would have never known it from him, as he's never in the room longer than 2 minutes. )  I told her about the supplements as well, and she told me just to stay away from high-dose Vitamin C, but otherwise to keep on course.  Seems to be working.
I can't tell you how many people over the last 3 weeks were surprised, amazed and inspired to see how good (I prefer the word awesome) I looked and how positive I am. And I'll tell you what I told them...I am not leaving my health and future in the hands of a severely flawed medical system.  My husband and I are empowering ourselves with our own knowledge and taking control.  And this blog is us sharing that knowledge with others going through the same thing.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

My Inconvenient Journey Pt 2

So I was referred to a Hematologist (blood dr) in Sudbury.  I go get an insane amount of blood work done and I patiently wait my turn to see him.  I'm also told on the spot that a bone marrow biopsy will be done during this visit as well.  Extremely painful, don't recommend it.
While there, I'm told that a Watch and Wait approach will be taken as I'm not showing symptoms and chemo will only make me sicker.  They will get bigger and then get smaller depending on what you're doing.  So...we'll see you in 3 months...try not to focus on it.  Yeah right!!!

All I can do now, is focus on it.  Feeling the lymph nodes all day everyday.  Are they getting bigger?  There's another one?  What does that mean?  I feel fine, why is this happening to me?  I'm a good person, what did I do to deserve this?  I feel off today, does that mean I'm getting sick?  Do I have a fever?  I sweated in bed last night that my cancer progressing to the next stage?  Wtf? Why can't I simply focus on life instead of this? Needless to say over the last 5 months I've been driving myself insane and into a moderate depression.   No amount of talking to me could get me to stop focussing on those growing lymph nodes.  Which in turn was probably making them grow. 

Circumstances such as work and weather kept me away from my 3 month follow-up until last week.  When I went in asking to have one of the lymph nodes removed because it's rubbing on my jaw and quite painful at times.  The doctor's solution...Chemo!  I of course had a million questions, why now if you first told me that unless I had "the other" symptoms it would be a watch and wait?  How does it work?  What are the alternatives?  What can I do on top of that to make sure I stay healthy?  Nutrition? Supplements?  Exercise?  The only answer I got was, chemo, chemo chemo.  (I wonder if the doctors get a kickback for signing up cancer patients to chemo?)  Regardless...that doctor had no answers.  And I don't think it was because he didn't want to give them, but because he literally didn't know the answers.
Which boggles my mind.
So as he's standing there, offering no other solutions, with one foot out the door, not bothering to sit down and talk to me.  I shut down.
Let's go.  I told my husband.  I'm done here.  I need time to think about this.

So...I spent the weekend thinking about it.  Really, already knowing that I was going to do it.  The remission rate for my cancer is 80% for a minimum of 5 years.  Who wouldn't want to be cancer free for 5 years and not have to worry?  Duh! 
So next weekend I start my chemo, 8 rounds, once every 3 weeks...and yes, it'll suckballs.  But once I'm done, and my hair grows back, I'll have the knowledge that sharing my story might help someone out there, going through the same thing.  Being able to identify with my inconvenient journey. 

So stay tuned for more posts...cause like it or not, you're ALL coming on this journey with me :)  No pity please!!!  Only real smiles and positivity!!!

My Inconvenient Journey Pt 1

Next week marks the beginning of, to quote a friend who's been through it, an inconvenient journey.

Last October, I was diagnosed with LG SIV FNHL.  (Low Grade, Stage 4 Follicular Non-Hogkin's Lymphoma)  Yes folks, that's cancer.  Now before you start flooding my inbox with questions...keep reading.

For those that see me often... I know I don't look sick and to tell you the truth I'm not.  I feel great.  I'm only showing signs of the disease (swollen lymph nodes) and not symptoms (night sweats, weight loss, fever...).  Which is great.  I've actually had signs for years, just didn't know it.  This lymphoma, to be clear, is very lazy, non-aggressive and takes years to develop and grow.

Back in Oct '11, before I moved to Brampton and met my husband and got married and... (read Solid Ground part 1 & 2), I had a lymph node check out at the ER.  Was told, you're fine...just fighting off a cold or a bug, eat lots of veggies and drink lots of water.  It'll be fine.  So I move on with life.  But, I have to say, I wasn't entirely convinced.  You know how sometimes you go through life and your just know.  Well, this was one of those times.  I knew that after years of always being sick, chronic stress and poor eating habits...that ER visit wouldn't be the last one.

But I tried to ignore my little voice (why do we do that?).  Until last summer when my husband took ill and I had to take over the household duties and the business duties and everything else in between.  Stress!!!  So my lymph nodes started multiplying and growing.  Early April...head off to get them check. Oh don't worry about it.  You're blood work is ok.  You've been under a lot of stress, they'll go down eventually.  Again, I was turned away.
Not until Sept when I was having terrible pain in my jaw and my throat felt like it's closing in on me, did my husband (all better now), take me to the ER and demanded we have x-rays and a CAT Scan done.  Meanwhile, all my blood work is still good.
Weeks later, the results we're devastating.  I had swollen lymph nodes (fairly large ones too) next to my abdomen and lungs.

Time for a biopsy to be sure.  Alas...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Solid Ground Part Two

  On Nov 26th my life changed forever. (Keep in mind I moved down on Nov 15th)  Over the last couple years I'd been chatting on and off with this guy on Facebook and through email.  We grew up the in same town, went to the same schools and had the same circle of friends, but had never met (which we both find very strange). He was a year ahead of me in school yet, we do not remember each other at all.  When I relocated to Brampton, he informs me that he's heading to Toronto for a seminar and that we need to meet up.  Well, me being me, I fought it.  I was stressed, tired and very much not into spending my off time socialising, when I could be catching up on sleep.  But he insisted. 
  So he arrives at my place, hung over from a killer party the night before, and I meet him in the parking lot.   He calls out my name in the dark, and we lock eyes.  I knew right then...I was done.  I gave him a big hug and invited him up. We chatted for a bit when he informs me that he needs a shower. While in the shower, I call my mother.  "Mom, I met him." "Who? What?"  "My soul mate. I'm done."
  He gets out of the shower and we proceed to have the longest talk of our lives. (until 5 am)  We chatted about how he was convinced he was supposed to be with a girl back home, how he'd recently had a psychic reading and that all the signs pointed to her.  I listened patiently and waited...for him to clue in.  Our talk was spiritual, something that I'd never had before with anyone other than my mother, and as the night went on, I could see him shift.  The more we talked the more we clicked.  His process was apparent, starting with, "we'll be BFFs," then a few hours later, "we'll be each others back up plan," then by the end of it all...he finally said, "You're the one!"  (And the psychic reading was referring to case you're wondering.)
  The realisation was certain, unwavering, raw and overwhelming.  And of course, I felt the same.  Love!  True love, deep love...not lust or infatuation.  The connection was undeniable.  He asked me to marry him that night, and I said ..."let me think about it." Was I playing hard to get?  Not really.  I just needed a moment or two to feel the truth.  But my morning, I was all in.
  We talked about our future, our dreams and ambitions.  All the same. There was nothing left to do but to be together. 
  So we left it as it was.  A promise to be together forever, but not right away. 
  With work I had an insane guilt eating at me regarding the fact that I had promised them something too.  I'd moved down to do a job, they paid for my move and I felt bad that I was breaking that promise.  So we decided that I would stay awhile (a few months), clean up the store and get my finances together before moving back with him.
  He left.  I cried.  It was hard to see the man I loved leave and not know when I would see him again.
  So we talked on the phone every night, sometimes for 5 minutes, and sometimes for 3 hours.  And the more we talked, the more I missed him.  Days were longer and harder.  We needed to be together.  The more we talked the more we dwindled down my escape date.  And then finally the day came where we said, let's get married now and move on with our lives together.
  I swallowed my pride and gave my 2 weeks notice at work and began planning our wedding.  Something small, just the 2 of us, cause after all, it'll always be, just the two of us.
  But once my notice was given, all the unanswered questions, were answered.  Windfalls on his end and mine started sprouting and everything fell into place.  There was no room for doubt. 
  On Dec 31st I became Mrs. Marc Bronson, on Jan 1st I moved home and everything continues to fall into place.  Blessed.
  I was reminded by someone that everything happens for a reason.  Something I've always believed, but often forget.  As hard as that time was, if I wouldn't have moved to Brampton, I would have never realised that I no longer enjoyed my work, I would have never met Marc, and I wouldn't have the amazing gifts, the amazing life and the amazing future that I have now. 

  When I quit my job, they asked for the moving expenses back.  I was hurt, not surprised...but the realisation that I was just a number, that business was indeed business, even after my 12 years there, cut me deep.  They made me sign a paper stating that the amount would be taking off my last pay cheque. And just to prove that sometimes humanity does intercede... I got my last pay this week.  The full amount was there.  The moving cost, never deducted.

Just goes to show, never underestimate the human spirit...and what love can you on solid ground.

Solid Ground Part One

  Some of you may be wondering what I've been up to over the last few months, as I've been MIA.  Well, here's a catch up post.
  At the end of last summer I was approached by my Head Office to transfer with my job.  After being in my current location I jumped at the chance for a new adventure.  Mid November rolled around and I moved to Brampton ON, ready for a new lifestyle and new experiences.  I convinced myself that this was the breath of fresh air that would turn my life from something routine and nearly stagnant, to something exciting and positive.  Well, you know that old saying; be careful what you wish for...
  On Nov 15th I relocated and was suddenly bombarded by one thing after another.  What could go wrong, did.  On my moving date, there was a hidden "stair fee" and I had to dish out $500 cash before the movers would even load the truck.  Once we got there, my Head Office hadn't paid the movers yet, and we had to wait around in the cold (a few hours) until the assistant taking care of my case was back at her desk.
  Once I was finally moved in, I thought, "awesome, a great new place and a new life begins."  After all, what move ever goes without a hitch.
  As I settled in for a relaxing evening of reading in bed I noticed a bug on the wall.  I scooped it up and went back into bed.  Then...I noticed another, and another...and another.  I sprayed them with bleach and had a good look at them.  Yes, you guessed it.  BED BUGS!  Not impressed I spent the night spraying, collecting and freezing them as evidence for the management office.  Needless to say I did not get very much sleep that night.  Which was made all the more horrendous, by the fact that the next day I was starting my new job.
  The management office did as much as they could and put me up in a furnished suite until everything could get sorted out, and another apartment opened up.  They informed me that they had just taken over the building and were unaware of the problem.
  Now everyone and there mother seemed to have advice for me concerning this issue, and the general consensus was...sue.  I did contact a lawyer and she informed me I had a case, to recoup losses (I had to buy a new bed, sheets and so forth, rewash and repack all my belongings...etc.)  But, if you know me at all,  you know I don't believe that negative actions produce positive results.  So I dropped it.  They put me up, and did the best they could with a shitty situation and I was pleased in the end with the results. A few weeks later I managed to snap up a great 1 bedroom (which was slightly cheaper) on the 25th floor, with a sick city view.
  Now on top of all this, I was working full time during the holiday season, in retail, with a low performing store, with a brand new staff and huge fires to put out, pressure from above and realising that after 12 years in this field...I no longer liked my job.  In fact I kinda hated it.  I was no longer getting the satisfaction I once got from changing over a store.  My heart had left the building. 
  So now what?  I'm in a city, alone, where I hate my job, everything is twice the price from where I came, and I've incurred a nice little debt with all the moving and bug expenses.

Well, I definitely could have let the stress get to me, or I could let it go and leave it to faith/fate.  Which is exactly what I did.  And something amazing, mind blowing, life changing happened...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Interview with thriller writer Sean Sweeney

My interview with writer Sean Sweeney.  His book Model Agent is the first of a series, with Rogue Agent also out
on Amazon.  He's currently working on book 3.  Enjoy!

1. The entire time I was reading Model Agent I was flashing back to all the Bond movies I've seen over the years. How did you come up with the character of Jaclyn Johnson, and how did you manage to develop such cool and original crime fighting gadgets?

Jaclyn came to me in a dream that I had about two years ago. I had just finished writing the first draft to the short novel Zombie Showdown. I was in bed and it was about 3:30 in the morning, which is, for some strange reason, the time I always dream about characters, or potential characters. Seriously, it's like clockwork. You can set your watch by it; Model Agent’s concept came to me at 3:30 in the morning in August 2010, the concept of Jaclyn came to me at 3:30 in the morning in November 2009. You can wake up at 3:30 in the morning, look at the clock and say to yourself, ‘Sweeney’s dreaming about characters right now.’ But seriously… the dream I had was of a leggy blonde walking down the street, and she proceeded to blow up a building before she drove off to a modeling job; as I remember the dream, she whipped off her jacket as soon as she walked in the door and said, "Alright, let's get this show on the road." How she did it all is a story I'll have to tell in the future. Jaclyn was originally conceived/designed as an antagonist and was unnamed until I had a conversation with a woman I went to high school with; she's now a police officer in Walpole, MA. We were talking and I told her about this potential character, and I said, "Tell me about what type of character you would want to play in one of my books." As it turned out, Jaclyn was the right fit; I made her a protagonist. I think that was a smart move on my part. The character evolved from there, and she continues to evolve, just like normal every day human beings evolve.

As for the gadgets... that's my imagination run amok. And you're right, there's a little bit of Bond in there, as well as some Mitch Rapp, Mara Jade, Sydney Bristow, and Max Guevara (Jessica Alba's character in Dark Angel). But there's also some Batman in there, as well. It's a mix and match hodgepodge of fiction where I put Jaclyn into insanity and try to get her out unscathed. I created the gadgets and the souped up cars -- Bond had them, why not an American secret agent that Bond would try to take to bed? -- as an extension of Jaclyn. They are always close by, kind of like a security blanket for her. The grappling crossbow, that's a mix of Batman and the Jedi of Star Wars (they use the grappling hooks), but the electrical charge is something I added to it so as not to leave a sign of her presence. The smaller gadgets, like the darkness bombs and the ether balls, those were things that my imagination came up with; these were things Jaclyn created, proving she is a smart cookie.

2. Why/how did you decide to give your lead character a handicap? Do you find that this makes her an original kick-ass agent or someone that the audience will have sympathy for?

The handicap came into play during email sessions with British author Steven Savile. Steve and I met about five years ago, back when MySpace was the hip social media platform. I had just released my first book under my old pseudonym, and Steve had just released the first book in his Vampire Wars trilogy for Black Library, I believe. We've been practically joined at the hip ever since. We email back and forth constantly, whether it be about football (the world version of football, not the American throwball version) or about writing or about anything that tickles the fancy. Steve is probably my best friend in the publishing biz. But anyway, enough ass kissing. Steve was the driving force behind me getting Jaclyn onto the page. He was in the process of releasing Silver, and I told him about Jaclyn. He encouraged me to write about her from the start; this was in January 2010, and we hemmed and hawed over a potential storyline for her. I decided to go with the 2012 Summer Olympics, which is the basis for book two in the series, Rogue Agent (yes, I wrote the second book first; I just blogged about this earlier this week). He said, "Give her something she needs to overcome." He meant it in an Indiana Jones way; what's Indy's biggest fear? Snakes. "Why does it have to be snakes?" Everyone has a fear. You have a fear, I have a fear. We have to overcome our fears. In order to flesh the character out, I looked at a phobia list ( and decided to pick out glaring lights (Photoaugliaphobia, for anyone who's interested). A memory triggered from 20 years ago: I was 14 and working as a dishwasher in a local breakfast place, and a customer wore sunglasses inside. He had an eye condition that made him susceptible to light. I decided that Jaclyn would have something like this; without getting too technical, I had to do a little bit of research into eye diseases so I could get it right.

As for sympathy, Jaclyn wants no one to give her sympathy just because she's not 100 percent "whole" like you, me or your next door neighbor. No one with a handicap wants sympathy in reality. They only want acceptance from what has turned into an unforgiving society. And this isn't for awareness of eye disorders, either. The handicap is a literary tool which I used to tell an interesting story. She uses it as a tool against her enemies, as well: There are people who would see a blind person as no threat whatsoever. Instead, she's their worst nightmare come true, a scorching blonde in black Lycra.

3. "They" say that every character in fiction really reflects some part of the writer. Would you say that's true of your writing? If so, what part of Jaclyn reflects you?

Oh without a doubt that's true. I think there's a little bit of little ol' me in every character I come up with; yes, even the antagonists. Everyone has a devil inside of them. I think that's true with many authors, especially with the whole "Write what you know" mantra. What, or who, do you know better than yourself? With Jaclyn, the hero -- in her case, heroine -- angle comes into play. I've done this with a few of my male characters in previous works; they're the characters that save the day and fight the bad guy without giving up, even though the odds are stacked slightly against them. When I was younger, I was never the popular kid, never the star football player. I didn't have the best luck with the girls. So to be honest, writing fiction is a way for me to live the life I would have loved to have growing up, and even today, too. I channel the energies built up inside of me and put them on the page to create what I hope is an endearing character to the reader.

4. As writers we are so close to the worlds and characters we create. How do you not hold on so tight to a piece of writing that isn't working and let go in order to discover what will work?

That's a fight that you don't want to lose, and I certainly don't want to lose it, either! Sometimes it's about taking a break from that particular piece and going back to it later with fresh eyes and less distractions, i.e. turning the TV off, telling the cat/dog to go lay down, turning Facebook off, etc. For me and my earlier works, I didn't worry about whether or not it worked right away. That's what readings and revisions were for. During the first draft, I was more interested in getting the story out on the screen first. The more mature writer in me is concerned about that right away. Sometimes it takes some thought, or another writer's insight. I have a few people that I bounce sections of prose off of to see if I'm getting it right. I agonize over it sometimes. I will always do my best to make it work.

5. Jaclyn is a great character. Where did you go and what experiences did you use to achieve writing a woman so well? Does Jaclyn mirror someone in your life?

Tough question. Being a male author, I would say that you can't write about a female character that just happens to be your protagonist without thinking about it first. The reason being you don't want to be patronizing, and you don't want to get her wrong. I’ve written about women that are weak, fawning secondary characters, I’ve written about a woman who was a main character who left halfway through the book. Jaclyn was going to stay the entire time. I didn’t want her to be weak. I needed her to be strong, but I needed her to be soft – and that does not mean weak – when the scene called for it. For example, there is a scene in Rogue Agent where Jaclyn’s heart breaks for the man who is in the car with her. She reaches out to console him. A few pages later, she’s back to being the kick ass, take no prisoners, shoot first and ask questions later Jaclyn. I had to make her as realistic as possible without going over the line. Of course, she’s the stereotypical blonde hair, blue eyes (technically) hottie. I give her a personality that some girls would giggle about – such as wanting the pink assault rifle – and then she has the mouth of a sailor. I have, so far, not brought up feminine health issues, so I’m good there. I don’t know if I will, either, because I don’t know if I would do them justice, or portray it accurately.

Were there any experiences that brought Jaclyn to life more than others? No. At least I don’t think so. I’ll get back to you on that.

6. What was your initial success?

Model Agent has been rather well received by those who have read it so far. There are some people who don’t care for the book, and that’s to be expected; I know I’m not going to please everyone.

7. Have you written any other books that are available?

I’ve written nearly 14 novels, and 11 of them are available right now. I’ve touched several genres, so there’s a little something for everyone. I have five fantasy novels, a sci-fi epic, a historical fiction, as well as a few thrillers. My latest release, Zombie Showdown, is set in the Old West with a 2011 feel.

8. Do you have plans for any different books outside the "Agent" series?

My project list is a mile long. I’m currently writing the third Agent novel, with at least one more in the works before I use Jaclyn and her friends in a new series, the Angel series. I still have two books in my Obloeron fantasy prequel series to release. The next book I’m going to write is set in 1950s/1960s Boston, which should be interesting, and I have a few others that I’m itching to write. It may be awhile, but rest assured, I’m not going away any time soon.

9. Which authors influence you the most, and why?

We’ve already mentioned Steve. R.A. Salvatore, one of the great authors in this business. Bob and I live a city apart here in the NoWoCo, and he’s been a fantastic resource. We met about a decade ago when I worked in the mall at WaldenBooks. Of course, Professor Tolkien is an influence to anyone who has written fantasy. I don’t think I need to explain that one.

10. If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be, and why?
Interesting question. My initial answer would be Mitch Rapp. He’s an absolute bad ass. I’d also say Harry Potter, because he gets the red head in the end…

11. Your author profile is on the front page of the local paper. What would the headline say?
Well, since I write sports for them… “Local author keeps on selling digital books”

12. Do you have any advice for struggling writers out there, other than "keep at it?"

Without a doubt, read every day. Learn the craft and put words on the page. I don’t think there is any advice I can give other than plant your ass in the chair and get the words on the page. Talk to other authors – they’re all on Facebook or Twitter. You just need to find them.

Or you can email Steve and broker a 50/50 deal with him.