We’re Baaaaaack!

Hiya Blog!

Did you miss me?

We had a lovely long weekend in Boston. What a pretty city!

Boston is noted as a city of “firsts.” It is the birthplace of the American Revolution, Harvard University, Benjamin Franklin, John F. Kennedy, Paul Revere, the Boston Tea Party, and let’s not forget, the New Kids on the Block. I know, right!

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Yes, I used to be a huge NKOTB fan back in the day….Joey McIntyre was soooo dreamy to 8 year old Sabrina.

Anywho, I had always imagined that I would one day travel to Boston, as I longed to see Harvard law school for quite some time. Perhaps this was due to my legal education, or Harvard’s longstanding history, or its prestigious nature and beautiful architecture, or maybe because it is where Legally Blonde took place; either way, it was something I’ve always dreamed of visiting.

What I did not imagine is that I would be traveling to Boston for the primary purpose of getting a second opinion at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute regarding my metastatic osteosarcoma. How’s that for a first?

As promised, here is my post-Boston trip wrap up.

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The car ride, although tiring, was pleasant. I did manage to sleep in the car, which became rather useful due to the sleep I relinquished each night in Boston. If you didn’t read my last post, well, you really should. In that post I mentioned that essentially all of the hotels were booked up this past weekend in Boston, and as such, my dad, mom, as well as Garrett and I were forced to all stay in the same hotel room together. This meant lots of snoring and no sleeping for Sabrina. The one thing I desperately needed to bring with me was earplugs, so naturally, the one thing that I forgot to bring with me was earplugs. After about five hours of my parents (mainly my dad) snoring loudly and proudly, Garrett and I took matters into our own hands and we made ourselves earplugs out of toilet paper. Necessity is the mother of invention.

The next day we made sure that we bought some proper earplugs. This kept the snoring symphony to a mere background noise as opposed to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Oh, and since the suspense must be killing all of you, Garrett opted for a more formal bedtime attire. He chose pyjamas.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let me breakdown the rest of our little adventure.

As you all know, the main reason for our trip was not to visit the hometown of the New Kids on the Block, but rather to receive a second opinion from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

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I can assure you that the building was very nice and welcoming, and it didn’t smell like urine or have that unpleasant hospital odour. Everyone that I dealt with was very friendly, especially the oncologist that I visited with. However, I did not receive any information that was particularly enlightening or life-altering. In a nutshell, I basically was told everything that I had already heard back home in Toronto. There was no miracle cure or drug. Additionally, there was no immunotherapy drug trial for sarcoma taking place at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute anytime soon. So, that was a bit of a letdown.

I was given the name of a drug, which my oncologist in Toronto had previously mentioned to me as something we might consider in the future (although this drug is not covered by OHIP…..surprise, surprise). I also volunteered to become part of a research study to gather more information on sarcomas, as I believe there is definitely a lack of research and information with regards to these types of cancer.

Something that I found a little troubling was some of the exclusions associated with clinical trials. Virtually all clinical trials have many exclusions as part of the eligibility requirements. For many trials in the United States, one of these exclusions tends to be that you will be excluded from participating in the trial if you have had another cancer within the last five years. I remotely understand the reasoning behind this, but essentially it seems to me that these individuals are being unfairly punished for having had the bad luck of receiving more than one cancer diagnosis in a short period of time. Highly frustrating.

Even though the information communicated to me at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute was not really what I was hoping for or expecting, the Boston trip was well worth it nonetheless.

Just the fact that I finally was able to stroll around Harvard Law School (as well as seeing Harvard main campus, and the Medical School) was extremely memorable for me, as I have been enamored with this institution for a long time. What a gorgeous school that Harvard is.

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And guess what, I am now able to say that I peed in Harvard Law School. I don’t think my name will be adorning their walls on a plaque for that, but still.

How cool am I?

How cool am I?

Although it was a very busy weekend, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for us to navigate the city on foot. It didn’t feel congested or crowded at all. It was wonderful. Even in very touristy spots such as Harvard Square or Quincy Market, I didn’t feel stressed strolling around. Driving in the city, on the other hand, was a bit challenging for my dad as there was quite a bit of traffic on the streets. We even took part in a Boston Duck Tour which came highly recommended to us, and it was a riot, as our “con-duck-tor” was hilarious. We were able to get a glimpse of the “Cheers” sign while on board the Duck Tour (although the pic below is not the one we took).

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And of course, my favourite part of traveling to foreign places is to eat! Well, I think that’s my favourite thing in general. Total foodie. I have to say one of my favourite restaurants in Boston was Legal Sea Foods. I had an absolutely delicious crab cake with a side of quinoa salad. I was so taken aback by the party in my mouth that I completely forgot to take a picture of my meal. I always take pictures of my meals when I am on vacation. That’s my thing! So the best I can do is a picture of me outside of the restaurant…sorry folks.

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As you might imagine, the seafood in Boston is very yummy. And Garrett can attest to the fact that the beer in Boston is also very yummy.

Here is Garret with his beer sampler.

Here is Garrett with his beer sampler.


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As for other memorable dishes, here is my wonderful seafood risotto.
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My delicious Chilean sea bass
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Garrett’s superstar pasta with clams
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And we cannot forget Garrett’s mouthwatering New England Clam Chouda….this Clam Chowder was actually award-winning!

He looks like a kid in a candy store in this pic.

He looks like a kid in a candy store in this pic.

I also must confess that I was able to find a very delicious organic healthy restaurant in Boston which was absolutely rammed. I think me and every other New Age hippie or vegan on the planet was thinking the same thing that day. I had a “Green Goddess” bowl. Now to all of you carnivores out there (which used to be me in the good old days), it might look too green and too scary, but I can assure you that it was really tasty. The dish also consisted of sprouted beans, and I was in “Beantown” afterall.

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And for my dad, no trip is complete unless he is able to have a meal at an Italian restaurant. So we headed to Boston’s Little Italy, which I have to say we were all quite impressed with. The espresso and cannoli were really good. We ate at a busy little restaurant named Limoncello. You’ll have to take my dad’s word on the cannoli as I just stuck to espresso that night.

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A very good espresso.

A very good espresso.

Here’s my mom’s tiramisu..apparently it tasted just as good as it looked.
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I am also a huge fan of cupcakes. I love making them (and I used to enjoy eating them too). So, I was told to visit Georgetown Cupcakes, which is a gourmet cupcake shop started up by two sisters from Toronto! Since I am staying away from refined sugar and dairy these days, I decided to order their vegan apple-cinnamon cupcake; however, I just took one bite from it (but I didn’t try the frosting). If you are wondering who ate the rest of the cupcake, that should be rather easy to guess, it was Garrett.

My pretty vegan apple cinnamon cupcake.

My pretty vegan apple cinnamon cupcake.

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For all of you baseball fans, we did stop by Fenway park. The Boston Red Sox were not playing though.
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All in all, we had a fantastic little road trip. Boston is definitely a city worth visiting, and I would welcome the opportunity to head back there someday. Although we accomplished quite a bit in the short time that we were there (especially given the circumstances surrounding our visit), there are still things I would like to see and do. I could always do a bit more sightseeing, a little more shopping, and a lot more eating.

Till next time, Boston! We love you 🙂

The view of the city at night.

The view of the city at night.

Love, health, and Beantown!
xo

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Road Trip!

I love me a good road trip.

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Great scenery, good conversation, fun music, and snacking the entire time (unless I happen to fall asleep).

Sorry, there’s not enough room for all of you to tag along, but I will update you when I am back (and in essence, you will all be with me in spirit). Where will we be going, you might be wondering……Boston!

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My oncologist in Canada believes it might not be a bad idea to receive a second opinion from the sarcoma clinic at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Essentially, there may be novel treatments, procedures, or clinical trials used in the United States that are not currently available to me in Canada.

The Dana Farber Cancer Institute is one of the leading cancer research centres in the world, so I am pretty hyped about hearing what they have to say. Additionally, being the nerd that I am, I have always wanted to see Harvard Law School.

Having some clam chowder might not be a bad idea either. I have always heard that Boston is a beautiful city, definitely one worth visiting. Obviously, I wish the whole ‘cancer thing’ wasn’t the reason for this road trip, but at the same time, I am very grateful that I am healthy enough to travel and enjoy the sights.

Apparently we will be traveling to Boston during one of the busiest weekends of the year. Correct me if I am wrong, but massive crowds and huge lineups don’t really work wonders for reducing stress levels. I will make sure to meditate my way around the city. I honestly thought we would be sleeping out of my dad’s car during the time we were there because it was insanely difficult to find a hotel. My cousin, who is awesome at finding hotels and getting deals, was on the phone for five hours trying to desperately find us somewhere to sleep. We must have called every hotel within the Boston area. Luckily, we scored a hotel. There will be four of us traveling, however, we could not get two separate rooms, that’s just crazy talk, so we had to settle on one room with everyone all nestled up together. How romantic, right? There goes Garrett’s plan of sleeping naked. Probably not such a good idea with his father-in-law in the same room. Could be a little awkward. They get along fabulously, don’t get me wrong, but that might be a little too close for comfort. I, on the other hand, will have the pleasure of being serenaded by the symphony orchestra of snorers. It’s 3 against 1. I don’t stand a chance. But I will have plenty of earplugs with me.

I am not sure what to expect from this consultation. I am hoping that the information communicated to me will be positive. Hopefully, there is something that can be done or tried that may work on my type of cancer. My fingers, toes, and anything else I can think of are all crossed! As I have probably mentioned before, the thing with metastatic cancer is that there are very few options.

My cancer is incurable. So realistically speaking, what we are hoping for is something that will keep the disease stabilized. The idea behind stable disease is that it “buys you more time” to enjoy and live your life, as well as providing you with the hope that during that extra time you just bought yourself, a cure will be discovered. Or perhaps your disease will just miraculously go away. “Poof! Just like that!” Seems pretty far-fetched, I know. But without hope, we have nothing.

I have my handy little journal that I like to take with me to my appointments. I strongly suggest that you all take a journal, notepad, or scrap piece of paper with you when you visit your doctors. Not just for doodling while you are waiting five hours for an appointment, but also to trigger your memory with respect to all of those wonderful questions that you have been researching for months and were planning to ask your oncologist or treatment team. It’s unbelievable how quickly distracted we can become during medical appointments. As soon as you enter your second or third waiting room, you magically forget everything you had been meaning to ask for months. For instance, when I was first told the cancer came back or that it had metastasized, all I heard was this…“cancer,” “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” “cancer, cancer, cancer.” So, to avoid this same situation reoccurring, my diary will be traveling with me to Boston.

One of the main topics for discussion is whether I might potentially be a candidate for immunotherapy. For those of you unfamiliar with this fancy cancer treatment, basically immunotherapy is a treatment that uses your body’s own immune system to help combat cancer. Using targeted therapies that activate the immune system seems to be the future in cancer treatment. Spoiler alert: The immune system has always played a role in fighting cancer. At some point I will be dedicating an entire blogpost to immunotherapy, so not to worry, I got your back! Another question I have is related to whether there are any clinical trials available at the moment that successfully target and treat osteosarcoma (in general) as well as metastatic osteosarcoma in the lungs, more specifically.

In the meantime, I am going to be looking into fabulous restaurants to try out while we are there. And let’s not forget the shopping! If any of you have any suggestions as to good eats and good buys, I am all ears. Please, feel free to share. I will desperately aim to not let this whole ‘cancer thing’ dictate the mood for our entire trip. Although I guess I picked the wrong time to revamp my entire diet and lifestyle, but oh well. No Boston Cream Pie or hot dogs from Fenway for me… you feel my pain, right? I am sure there are equally delicious healthy options out there that I can enjoy. So there!

I will be sure to update all of you, my wonderful followers, upon my return. I will let you know what the medical opinion was down there, tell you about any memorable meals we ate or places we visited or things I bought, and of course, whether or not Garrett went the pyjama route while bonding with the in-laws.

Ahhh, I’ve always loved myself a good old fashioned road trip. Just think of us as the Griswolds…..”National Lampoon’s Cancer Vacation.” Watch out Boston, here we come!

Love, health, and Harvard!
xo

Happy Mommy’s Day!

To all of the wonderful mothers out there, especially you, MOM – this one is for you.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Love you Mommy!

Love you Mommy!

This post is super sappy, so don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such strong, amazing women. My mom, my grandmothers, my aunts, and now even my mother-in-law. You always hear those stories of nasty “mothers-in-law” from hell. I can’t even fathom this situation as my mother-in-law is absolutely wonderful. I couldn’t have picked a better one even if I tried. I truly hit the “motherload” with all of the amazing mothers in my life, and I love them all dearly.

Okay, so I may be a bit biased when I say that I am truly blessed with having the absolute GREATEST mommy in the world. But she so is! And yes, I call her “Mommy”. She is the strongest and most courageous person that I know. I have always been told how brave that I am, well, my bravery doesn’t stand a chance when compared to that of my mother.

She has been the rock for me and my family for 33 years. When I think about Mother’s Day I begin to think about the pain and hardship that my mother was forced to endure over the course of my life, but yet how she handled every difficult situation with courage, wisdom, and an abundance of love.

No mother wants to witness their child sick; however, my mother had no choice. She’s been watching me through sickness for 30 years.

At the tender age of 3, she watched me lie in a hospital bed while undergoing surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments over the course of two years. And sadly she hasn’t stopped watching her daughter face illness ever since.

Me and Mom (before treatment)

My mom was the brave soul that had to force feed me food as a child when I didn’t want to eat because my throat was so badly burned from the radiation treatments.

She was the one to hold my head up while I vomited from the chemotherapy.

She was the one to hold my hand while watching me get poked and prodded with needles on a daily basis.

She was the one that learned how to clean and disinfect my port for chemo.

She was the one that watched me as my body slowly deteriorated from the toxic treatments administered.

She was the one that nursed me back to health when I was too sick and weak to even stand upright.

She was the one to constantly remind me of how beautiful I was with or without hair, unscarred or scarred. (She still reminds me of this.)

She was the one that allowed me to cry when I needed to cry and to laugh when I needed to laugh.

She was the one to tell me that everything was going to be okay.

No one teaches parents how to parent. There is no training involved. Under the best of circumstances, it is an extremely difficult job, now imagine your child has been diagnosed with cancer.

The oncologists tasked my parents with the increasingly difficult undertaking of caring for a child with cancer while at the same time ensuring not to treat me differently. They did this so that I would one day grow up to become a strong woman. So, naturally my mom had to travel between being the “good cop” and the “bad cop” so that I wouldn’t grow up to be a big wimp.

Having given up her full-time job so that she could stay at home to take care of her sick child, my mom managed to find the perfect balance between the good and the bad cop. She provided me with a wealth of love, support, and affection while also making sure that she was tough, stern, and strict with me. The cancer card does not seem to work so well on my mom. She did not want me to feel like I was different than all of the other boys and girls out there just because I had cancer.

For years my mother has had to witness the toll that this illness has taken on me. Though she always managed to be my pillar of strength no matter how it must have killed her inside to watch my body, mind, and spirit ache.

Now my mother is forced to watch this same destructive illness slowly try to take her daughter away from her for good. No mother wants their child to die before they do, but for my mother, this may be an unfortunate reality. No one knows. Like always though, my mom is fulfilling her motherly role like a true champ. She seriously needs a ‘Mother of the year’ award, or perhaps 33 of them!

There aren’t really any Mother’s Day cards that say “Mom, thanks so much for taking care of me and helping me deal with this stupid cancer” or “Mom, cancer sucks, but you rock!” or “Mom, I hope I can be a terrific mother like you someday, but I won’t have the chance cuz cancer happened.” Perhaps these cards exist, but I couldn’t find them at Hallmark.

So Mommy, the best I can do is tell you how much I love you and appreciate all you have done for me over the years. You have shaped me into the young woman that I am today. I wouldn’t be here without you (no, seriously I wouldn’t be because you gave birth to me, remember?) You are the greatest role model, and I strive each and every day to not only make you proud, but also to walk in your footsteps. And let me tell you, these are very big shoes to fill. No matter what the future holds, I know I can get through anything with you by my side. I love you MOMMY! xoxo

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Love, health, and awesome MOMMIES!
xo

Happy Birthday Audrey!

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Beautiful, elegant, stylish, graceful, compassionate, kind, loving, and a humanitarian – these are just some of the traits that are often attributed to the legendary Audrey Hepburn.

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely adore Audrey Hepburn. Given that today, May 4th, is her birthday, I thought I would dedicate this post to her.

Audrey Hepburn was a screen legend (ranked by the American Film Institute as the third greatest female screen legend in the history of American cinema,). She was also one of the world’s most prominent fashion icons (was placed in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame). Not to mention that she was (and is still) considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world.

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Despite her awards and accolades, one of Audrey Hepburn’s most notable achievements is that she embodied compassion and humanitarianism. She was just as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.

A truly exquisite woman, one who deserves to be looked up as an inspirational figure.

Unfortunately, in 1993, Audrey Hepburn succumbed to cancer. This dreadful disease ended the life of yet another amazing individual. Despite her illness, Audrey Hepburn continued to advocate for the less fortunate, and she gave a voice to those who were voiceless. She made an impact on the lives of others and created a legacy that remains alive today.

She has inspired me, not only with regards to beauty and fashion, but in all aspects of life. She has taught me to love and inspire those around you, to advocate for causes that are dear to your heart, and to have compassion for those that need it. I’m doing my best, Audrey.

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There are countless days when I feel upset, frustrated, or hopeless, but then I recall the wise words of my all-time favourite icon, and I try my best to carry on.

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I believe in miracles too.

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Love, health, and living life the Audrey way!
xo

New Pain ……Has the Cancer Spread?

One of the biggest fears that all cancer patients encounter is the fear that the cancer has come back or spread. Every new bump, change, or irregularity is automatically questioned and suspected. You know that feeling everyone gets when they touch or see something out of the ordinary? Well, for cancer patients, it’s that feeling, times a million. I feel like the cancer monster is always out to get me. fear I wish I didn’t question every oddity or change in my body ALL THE TIME, but I do (and will continue to do so as long as I live). For cancer survivors, sometimes this feeling lessens over time. I am not sure it ever goes away, but it can ameliorate. However, for those with “chronic” or incurable cancer, this feeling is always there. Sometimes it makes me so neurotic that I have even suspected that a pimple could be something far worse. Turns out it was just a pimple. It was a blackhead, people! Ever since I have been juicing and overdosing on vegetables, my skin has been AMAZING. So naturally, being the freak that I am, when I saw this foreign little reddened bump invade my clear skin, I was like “oh my goodness, what is this, is this a mini tumor?” A mini tumor, seriously? What was I thinking? I was thinking that I have metastatic cancer and now everything is fair game. Even a pimple. Most recently, I have been experiencing back pain. The pain is on-and-off, but it is there pretty much every day now. I have mentioned it to my oncologist so she has scheduled me for an MRI of my spine to ensure that the cancer has not spread to my spine. Although I am trying to keep positive about the situation, I really am, I also can’t help but fear the worse. Has the cancer metastasized to my spine? Or perhaps it is bone metastasis. If this is true, how long do I have? Will I be terminal? All of these worst-case scenarios flood my thoughts. I swear that these horrible thoughts are a cancer of their own. Once these thoughts begin, it’s hard to control how far they will go. Is this going to be the end? I’m not ready to die. I haven’t even seen the new season of Game of Thrones. I can’t die now, the new Beauty and the Beast movie hasn’t come out yet – I need to see that! These are the types of things that overwhelm my mind. Yesterday the pain was pretty bad, but I dealt with it the best I could. Except for my sudden outburst. While we were all watching a movie from Rogers on Demand, ” A Most Violent Year,” (sounds like the title of the movie about when I was told my cancer spread) I burst out into tears. The movie wasn’t that bad nor was it a tearjerker, it was just my emotions catching up with me. I guess I had withheld my feelings, trying to be strong for those around me, and then nature took its course. As I choked back my tears, Garrett asked if I was okay and whether we should continue with the movie. “Yes, I said, it’s a good distraction.” Although I am sure from Garrett and my parents’ point of view, the movie didn’t seem to distract me at all from what I was really thinking. It wasn’t the movie, it was me. And this would have happened no matter what I was doing or watching. It was just a matter of time. I can’t tell you how many times Garrett has had to endure me wiping my tears on his sweaters. His poor clean sweaters all mucked up with my salty tears. Or all of the times that he has had to hold me or hug me while talking me through my insanity. He finds talking about these things very difficult and would prefer not to engage these thoughts of mine, but I always seem to make him go there. And for me, he does. I am so thankful for having him in my life and I don’t know what I would do without him. IMG_3937 I am trying to be brave for him as well as for my family. I am trying not to complain or constantly talk about my illness. But sometimes it’s really difficult. I’ve learned that it’s okay to have these feelings, these outbursts, or these neurotic and negative thoughts. The trick is to have them, accept that they are there, and then to let them go. The ‘letting go’ part is hard to master. Like with anything, practice helps. Whether I worry about what the cause of this back pain is or not, it will not change the results. Unfortunately, as with all things cancer-related, I have no control over my DNA, my cells, or my body, but I can try to control my thoughts. So, I will continue to work my way towards this goal of letting negative emotions go. In the meantime though, I am going to go for a walk and stretch out my back. Love, health, and being pain-free! xo