Stick it to sarcomas!

I'm kicking cancer, yo!

I’m kicking cancer, yo!

Today I am writing to raise awareness for something near and dear to my heart – that rare family of cancers known as sarcoma.

July is deemed Sarcoma Awareness Month. So, let’s raise some awareness for sarcomas.

For starters, sarcoma sucks!

I often consider myself the ‘sarcoma queen.’ I’ve had cancer five times and four out of those five cancers were sarcomas.

What exactly are sarcomas, you might wonder? Well, even if you aren’t wondering, I am going to tell you anyway. Sorry folks, its part and parcel to the whole awareness thing I am going for.

Sarcomas are rare cancers affecting bones and soft tissues. These types of tumors arise from connective tissue — including fat, muscle, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, nerves, bone and cartilage.

Sarcomas affect children, adolescents, and adults; although some types of sarcoma are more common in specific age groups. Despite that sarcomas account for roughly 1% of all cancers diagnosed, in the pediatric world and young adult population, sarcomas account for roughly 15% of cancer diagnoses.

Pretty much every Canadian (unless you have been living under a rock) as well as millions of other individuals around the globe have heard of the very courageous and inspiring Canadian hero, Terry Fox, who became famous for his “Marathon of Hope” run across Canada with one leg in order to raise money for cancer research. Yes, one leg people! However, what most people don’t know about Terry Fox is that the disease that claimed his leg and his life was osteosarcoma. He died from metastatic osteosarcoma.

What an awesome guy!

What an awesome guy!

Now you are probably thinking, hey wait a minute, don’t I (as in yours truly) have osteosarcoma. Yes, I do.

However, for me Oscar the Osteosarcoma originated in the soft tissue of my neck. Therefore, my diagnosis is metastatic extraskeletal osteosarcoma. Essentially, that’s just a fancy way of saying the cancer is in the soft tissue and not the bones. Whatever you want to name it, it sucks.

Due to its rarity, funding for sarcoma research is limited.

To further complicate matters, there are approximately 50 subtypes of sarcoma, making it even much more difficult to hone in on a cure that would be effective for each and every type of sarcoma out there.

Although we have made advancements with respect to sarcomas, we have a ways to go, my friends.

There have been several advancements made in Canada and around the world since the untimely death of Terry Fox, advancements such as limb sparing surgeries as opposed to amputations. However, unfortunately there still remains a lot of work to be done to help those suffering with these types of cancer live long fulfilling lives.

To make matters worse, in many cases sarcomas tend to be quite aggressive buggers and therefore have very high recurrence rates. Many times when the sarcomas recur they are often more aggressive and lethal. In many cases sarcomas metastasize to distant parts of the body, namely the lungs.

Typically primary (localized) sarcomas are treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy (which was my case exactly for the rhabdomyosarcoma when I was three years old). Basically, the only way to cure sarcoma is with surgery (and clear margins). Cut the nasty thing out! Surgery seems to be the gold standard for these types of cancer.

However the situation becomes troubling when the sarcoma recurs or metastasizes. In these cases the sarcomas become desensitized to standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy, meaning the tumors generally don’t respond well to these treatments. And surgery in these cases is often futile or not even an option. This is why when the sarcoma metastasizes oncologists tend to predict a poor prognosis or chance of survival for their patients.

Ultimately nearly all metastatic sarcoma patients are given a dismal 20% five year survival rate.

Sadly sarcoma has claimed and continues to claim the lives of thousands of individuals, young and old alike.

We must raise awareness towards these rare and poorly researched cancers.

We need to stick it to sarcoma once and for all.

Come on, go out and tell your friends and get the word out. You know you want to.

Love, health, and keeping our connective tissues intact!

The “cancer club” and finding purpose

Hello loyal followers!

I would like to start off by giving a big THANK YOU to each and every one of you for taking the time to read my posts, follow my blog, and join me on this crazy cancer journey. It is truly an honour and I am very appreciative of your support 🙂


I always get super excited to see new followers or visitors from across the globe stop by. Perhaps they landed on the wrong site, but either way, it’s very cool. I had someone visit from Estonia! Wow, right?

Like most individuals with cancer, initially I started this blog as a means to update my friends and family on my crazy adventures living while trying to defeat metastatic cancer. Due to the positive feedback that I am receiving, I decided that I would like to further the mission of this blog. Ultimately, I would love for this blog to serve as an instrument to spread awareness, advocate for change, and inspire others on their own cancer journeys and in life.

Given that I think of myself as a “cancer veteran,” I not only unfortunately have too much information to share on the subject, but I also feel strongly about supporting, encouraging, and inspiring others as they struggle to find meaning, purpose, and strength in their lives.

It’s been a while since I’ve written and that’s not for lack of words, as I still have so much to say. It’s also not because I don’t want to, as this blog keeps me focused and gives me a strong sense of purpose. And I miss you guys.

So why you might ask have I been MIA (missing in action)?

Well, because there has been quite a bit going on.

With regards to my health, there is not much to update at the moment. I had a neck MRI done on Friday, so am awaiting those results. You guys recall that nasty little bugger, Oscar the Osteosarcoma, well this MRI is to ensure that he has not made a comeback on my neck. My next CT scan of my lungs is in September. So we will see what the results are then regarding Mildred the Metastasis.

I’m doing my best at living scan by scan, which is not fun nor is it any way to fully live. I can attest to this. But it’s the best I can do for now, so I’m finding ways to cope.

One method of coping has been writing. I find blogging and writing extremely therapeutic. Given so many changes in my life at the moment, I feel as though this blog has given me a sense of purpose. The focus I need to keep going. Recently, I have also been asked to do some writing for Princess Margaret Hospital as well as various cancer sites, where I will be able to tell my story. I do not have all of the details just yet, but will keep my loyal followers posted.

And if I should somehow become some sort of “cancerlebrity,” I won’t forget all of you, my biggest fans. Okay, so maybe I’m jumping the gun here a bit. But just in case I happen to stumble upon stardom, hopefully Natalie Portman can play me in the big screen version of my life. So if any movie producers out there are currently reading my blog, Natalie is my top choice.

And the Oscar goes to Natalie Portman for her remarkable portrayal of Sabrina.

And the Oscar goes to Natalie Portman for her remarkable portrayal of Sabrina.

Another method of coping has been my meditation classes and my enrollment in a program entitled the “Healing Journey.” I have become very involved with these classes and the “homework” that accompanies them. These classes are taken at Wellspring, which I can’t speak highly enough of. It’s such a wonderful concept with an atmosphere of serenity and peace.

Essentially, Wellspring Centres offer various classes and programs (free of charge) to cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their caregivers/family members. These programs range from meditation, mindfulness based stress reduction, healthy cooking classes, Yoga, drumming, writing workshops, exercise classes, Qi Gong, support groups, and discussion series.

I have been a member at Wellspring since February. I have met so many wonderful people here and have made meaningful connections. Each week I look forward to my classes and to seeing these strong, supportive, and engaging individuals. I feel emotionally connected to people, who in essence were complete strangers a few months ago.

There is something to be said about the “cancer club.” It’s a club that no one wants to be a part of, but once you are in, you are in for life.

I was always a person that didn’t like these group environments where people went around the room and took turns discussing their problems. I believed them to be depressing and almost defeatist in nature. I always felt as though I had everything under control. I could handle cancer, heck I’ve been handling it for 31 years! But realistically speaking, as strong as I may be in the wake of cancer, or as supportive as my friends and family have been, there was always something missing.

Generally when people ask you how you are doing, most people don’t really want to hear EXACTLY how you are doing. This might be too much information for them or too depressing to bear. Instead, what they prefer to hear is: “everything is good,” “things are going well,” “I’m doing fine,” or “I’m getting better.” And if you do make the mistake of divulging some of your deepest concerns or fears, people quickly shy away, change the subject, or awkwardly respond with “well, at least things are getting better” or “you look really good.”

I don’t blame people for behaving this way. It’s human nature, I guess. I might have reacted the same way if I didn’t have cancer a gazillion times. I know people’s intentions are good, so I try not to take it personally.

When someone asks how you are feeling they don’t expect you to rant about your bodily functions or bowel movements on this cancer diet you’ve embarked on. Reality check: no one wants to know about how regular or irregular you are. And people don’t want to hear you say something like, “I feel a pain in my chest and am concerned that the tumours in my lungs are growing,” or “I hate the fact that I have an incurable illness that will slowly and perhaps even painfully kill me,” or they do not want to hear a cancer patient get into the gruesome and descriptive details of their illness and chemo sessions. These are not easy conversations to have, and for fear of being depressing or burdening others with the trials and tribulations of a cancer diagnosis, many individuals (myself included) feel it is easier to shut people out or edit the information presented.

When I speak at these classes or with fellow “cancer club” members, I don’t have to explain myself at length. You see many heads in the room nodding in agreement. They just get it. They understand what each stage of the process is like. And it is here that I can discuss my darkest moments, fears, or feelings. They truly support one another and they feed off of one another’s energy. It’s a fabulous community.

The “cancer club” is a club that you do not ask or choose to be a member of, but can be of great value in the healing process to those affected by this crappy disease. Now, I am by no means suggesting that you go out and get yourself some cancer just so you can be part of this club, but if you do happen to have the unfortunate luck of having cancer, then the “cancer club” has got your back.

kickin cancer

So I strongly urge cancer patients and their caregivers to find a Wellspring near them and to try a class or program. Alternatively, if you happen to be situated outside of Canada or in a place that does not have a local Wellspring Centre, then I would advise you to speak to your oncologist or cancer hospital to inquire about various free services offered to those living with cancer. It can be quite beneficial and highly empowering. And who doesn’t like free stuff, right?

Another great coping method is enjoying oneself. Given that summer is finally here, I am looking forward to basking in the sun (while protecting myself and my scars that haven’t fully healed yet…as the last thing I want is a little skin cancer….I think I’ll pass on that). I also cannot wait to head to the cottage and enjoy short vacations here and there where I can clear my head and enjoy the fact that I am alive.


No, our cottage is not in Tuscany, I just couldn’t find a good cottage picture.

I’m also anticipating some barbecues, patios, and meditating outside with fresh and moderately clean air (I live in a big city, afterall). Practically the entire summer is already booked up, which is okay because these are all positive and enjoyable distractions. Well, provided that I don’t get eaten alive by huge ass mosquitoes all summer. Cottage mosquitoes are insanely big. Notice to all mosquitoes out there: I have metastatic cancer, so bite me at your own risk! It doesn’t really work that way, I know, I know.

In the meantime, I am going to continue to stay focused and find purpose in this crazy (but awesome) life of mine. Hope you’ll continue along on the ride with me.

audrey quote

Love, health, and a purpose-driven life!