Finding Beauty in the Ordinary
Let me Be Brave by artist, teacher, writer & photographer, Barbara Burns
PictureBarbara Burns and her pre-chemo haircut
I don’t have cancer. The surgeon was able to remove the cancer and my lymph nodes showed that the cancer did not travel to the rest of my body. Needless to say, “Phew” and “Thank you” were cried.

Two days after surgery, on June 11th, I had internal bleeding. Recovery was then beyond slow and hard. The internal bleeding, and subsequent continual build up of fluid at the site, put me in survival mode (i.e. not healing, swelling, pain, immobility, unable to rest et al). The site was drained three times.

In addition to all of this, there were constant medical appointments (in the city and in town), and emergency room visits.  Emotionally, mentally and physically I was tapped out. It was a very rough month.

Because of my ‘high grade’ tumour (it likes to spread and grow fast), its invasive qualities (it loves to spread), it is a ‘triple positive’ tumour (it likes to feed off of estrogen, progesterone and HER2 protein), and the issue of the growth on my spine (i.e. nerve problems from the hips and down), the oncologist (Dr. Joy!!!!....I love his name!!!!) has created a treatment plan for my body. The focus of the treatment is to make sure the cancer is completely removed from my entire body and that the tumour doesn’t grow back again (and it won’t!!!).

Most of you are in the summer vacation mode, for me it is the season of treatment. Chemotherapy starts this Friday (12:25 pm MST, July 24th), and my hair is cut to prepare myself for the physical and mental loss of it. (Side note: Thank you Kendra for coming with me, and thank you Jenny, at Raw Beauty, for your kindness and scissor support.)  The chemo will be through intravenous and is a special cocktail to work with the growth on my back (i.e. not to cause more problems with it). I will have chemo, 4 times, every three weeks at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. After this, I will have radiation on the site where the tumour was removed. Radiation will be everyday for three weeks. At the same time, I will start another drug that will be given to me intravenously every three weeks for a year. The reason for this extra drug is because of the HER2 Protein I have in my body. Only 15% of breast cancer patients have the HER2 protein and they find that this intravenous drug, for a year, works well at keeping it at bay. And finally, I will begin a drug (pill form!!!!) that I will be on for 5 years to keep the cancer at bay.

Today my dad is travelling, from Medicine Hat, to visit.  His visits are always short and sweet (2-3 days at the most!) as I think he likes his own surroundings and bed. I am grateful for this act of love to come and see me before my therapy begins. As I prepared for his visit, I also prepared high protein meals for the following weeks after chemo, as well as my chemo treatment bag (i.e. fluffy magazines to read, headphones for my iPhone, snacks and to follow some throw up bags and etc.). This visit, I will put him to work! We will create some yummy soups for me to eat/sip this weekend and next week. And, we may even pick some of the raspberries that are calling from the backyard, as they are red, ripe and ready. We’ll also go grocery shopping for post-chemo food (i.e. jello, popsicles, ginger ale, pudding, prune juice, skim milk powder (to add more protein) and etc.).

I usually like my guests to come and relax at my home. But my body has taught me recently, that I cannot get everything done. I have learned that I need to ask for help and to let things slide. The house is not as clean as I would like it to be and meals will be simpler. However, this is the first trip dad has taken since mom’s passing. So, in honour of my mom, I did make a coconut pudding and strawberry shortcake icing for the cupcakes. By doing this, it will seem like mom is with dad on this trip.

I’m ready to start. I’m ready to take the next steps towards health and healing. So ready that God(dess)/the Universe/Great Spirit, via Lisa at Alberta Teachers’ Benefits, interrupted this blog sharing, through a phone call, to initiate my long-term disability file. I find myself tentative as I don’t know what to expect (despite all that I’ve read and asked), but I know the army behind me (!!!) has buoyed me and helped me find my feet again (via texts, food, emails, gifts, trips to appointments, letters and more).

So with that said, please keep this nervous girl in your thought/prayers and candles lit, this Friday as I begin my new journey of ensuring cancer is a thing in my past. I have witnessed and felt the power of your love; I am so grateful and blessed.



07/23/2015 4:48pm

Barbara, you are beautiful with your new 'do (and you were already beautiful before)! I am so glad that you have people around you who love you and offer a hand. You are wise to accept help (as one who has a hard time asking for it, I wonder why it's so hard to do, even when in it hearts we know it's a gift to others to let them do for us when we're in need). I have been thinking of you, fondly, and sending healing thoughts your way.

Colleen Bown
07/23/2015 5:14pm

Barb,you are a strong and beautiful lady. I have been thinking about you lately and I will continue to pray and send good wishes your way. Take care and rest when you can,house cleaning can wait :)

07/23/2015 5:24pm

My dear friend,

You are such an incredible woman. Who would have thought that a visit to a spa would connect us? I am so grateful that I was working there at that time and we connected.

I pray for you everyday. You've got this and know that you have a whole support system behind you. No matter where we are, we're with you. Oh and you are rockin' the new haircut! Gorgeous. :)

Blessings xo

Sherry Richardson
07/23/2015 5:36pm

Barb - you are awesome! You're taking charge of this thing and you are asking people to help - so positive! You look fantastic in your short cut - you definitely rock the short hair! Dr. Joy was my oncologist - he is such a good doctor!! Please call me if you need help shopping, want some company, anything! I'm here to help where I can!

Kelly Kaminski
07/23/2015 6:03pm

Dear sweet Barbara,
Not only are you in my thoughts and prayers, but as well as so many others. May God be by your side as you go through this rough patch and for angels to hold your hands as you heal. I will pray for you to bounce back quickly from this and know that you are so very loved.

Ps. Your new do looks great and I know you will look even better and totally bad ass sporting the bald;) because it's not your hair that makes you as beautiful as you are. It's your beautiful, loving and caring soul that shines through those big, sparkly bright eyes! I'm rooting for you! Hang in there "ms. Burns " :)

Ida Edwards
07/23/2015 6:03pm

Hi Barb,
Thank you for sharing the details and letting it go. It is so important to be open about what you are going through as it offer clarity and gives specifics. My experience is not the label of a disease but the day to day to day experiences.

Susan Creller
07/23/2015 6:17pm

I believe that you are strong and beautiful person. I will send the poem I wrote of what mother means to me. But you are a special. Being a teacher, you help children develop their minds. I pray for you and your family.

07/23/2015 10:32pm

Barb: your courage, optimism, and strength are truly, truly inspiring.
I have and will continue to send up sky telegrams for you and for your dad.

in Christ,

07/24/2015 7:34am

Here's to your continued courage and strength, dear one. And health. Always, health.

07/24/2015 8:38am

Barb, you truly are an amazingly brave woman! !! I am moved hearing about your journey, the up, down, and sideways it has traveled, yet you work/walk thru the fire, emerging with a smile, pressing forward and sharing generously with those around you!! Keep on, Sister! The Heavenly Father IS with you! We all are asking and He is answering! Love you, Colleen

Sharon Martinelli
07/24/2015 10:18am

Sitting with you as you journey on.

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04/18/2016 9:07am

You must start the pills only after consulting a healthcare professional.

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12/08/2016 2:04am


There are many reasons to visit a Chiropractor, as they treat and manage a wide range of conditions, ages and health condition. Even if you do not currently suffer with back pain, visiting a chiropractor can provide a number of benefits including, preventing any future back pain.


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