Author Archives: Becky

Patient health literacy

For my dissertation I’ve been working on the concept of patient health literacy, and what that has meant for me.

Recently I’ve developed a passion for digital storytelling – and the idea of creating short 2-5 minute YouTube videos. When I was first introduced to this idea at Digital Pedagogy Lab, I had thought that it would be a great way to disseminate my various learnings from my dissertation.

In March I attended a workshop on digital storytelling, where I started the first story on Patient Health Literacy. I didn’t have time to finish it then, but in preparation for a course I’m teaching this summer, I knew that I had to finish it. I needed something as an example for my students – but also for my ePortfolio.

I don’t know why I found it so hard to hit publish on the YouTube channel. I usually have no trouble sharing things. It is not like anything that is in the video is new. I shared it all in this blog. However, the change in medium – from text to audio with images – changes the level of intimacy in the story. I feel more vulnerable sharing it.

There is also the fact that I’m teaching now. When I wrote this blog originally, I was not teaching. There was no connection between my professional blog and my illness blog. There I was Rebecca. Here I was Becky. Even Google didn’t put the two together. Then I started researching my illness experience – and my professional world and my illness world collided.

I’ve struggled with sharing my illness stuff with my students. I usually don’t. Sometimes they find it. It doesn’t take much more than a google search and looking through my blog. However, in the past I have not highlighted it. This semester, I’m teaching a course on creating ePortfolios and with it, I’m updating my ePortfolio (http://rjhogue.name). With that, I will need to create a segment of who I am that is someone who is an ePatient and someone who is studying Patient Health Literacy.

All this to say, I hesitated to release the video. It isn’t perfect, but I’m proud of what I put together. And with that, I’ll share  the link here. What do you think? Is this a good method for communicating the different aspects of Patient Health Literacy?

Is moving back to Canada and the improved quality of life worth living a shorter life?

This post crossed my stream today – ‘The face of health-care crisis’: Cancer patient calls out N.S. premier in viral video

This is what scares me most about moving back to Canada … the lack of access to Family Doctors is a huge issue – especially when the system is setup with the Family Doctor as the gatekeeper to access specialists … without a Family Doctor, healthcare becomes inaccessible.

Not that healthcare in the US is any better for most people – I’m just privileged at the moment. I am acutely aware that moving from a privileged position to one in which I am dependant on a broken system is scary.

I ask myself – is moving back to Canada and the improved quality of life worth living a shorter life? Does going back to Canada mean that I will die sooner because I will not have access to the healthcare I need? And yet, living here is no better. I am dependant on my husband’s job for healthcare.

I have huge privilege today, and yet I still feel vulnerable. I know that I can move back to Canada and access healthcare if I lose my healthcare here. I don’t have access to any of the social programs here – we having lived and worked in the US long enough to qualify for Medicaid or any other US social programs.

Moving – especially when changing countries – is not an easy process. There is a lot to learn about how to navigate the system. When I left Canada, I didn’t have cancer or celiac disease. I didn’t need the healthcare that I need now. I have no clue how to navigate the system there. Plus we are looking at moving to a province that we have only visited, but never lived in. But I also have this vision of life in Nova Scotia – one where I am closer to communities that I am culturally more attuned to. And I am left asking myself, is that worth the exchange of living a shorter life? Perhaps that isn’t a fair question. Perhaps it is a false choice. But it is what runs through my mind anytime I see a report like this one.

Back on the bike

On the weekend, I got back on the bike – specially, hubby and I went out for a ride on our mountain bikes. This is the first time I’ve ridden it since I broke my rib riding over Christmas. It wasn’t just about being physically able to ride, it was also being emotionally in a position to give it a try.

I’m happy to report that we had fun – although both of us could be in better shape. We were both struggling on hills, especially towards the end of the ride. I’m happy to report that I successfully negotiated going down a hill that I thought might be too steep – it certainly was too steep for me to ride up! I thought that I was going to walk down the hill, but in the end, I rode the bike down the hill and didn’t fall, despite being out of breath from climbing that same hill.

We likely would have done better had we stuck to the original plan – which was a loop that I’ve hike several times. Our initial riding on flat made us over-confident, so we headed up the steep hill. We turned around before too long and decided to continue along with our original planned track – which had a lot more climbing on it than I remember – I guess those gentle-ish slopes don’t feel much like a climb while hiking, but certainly do when you are pedaling – especially when pedaling after having climbed the other hill.

I’m happy with my new bike – and glad that I was able to ride and wasn’t too negatively traumatized from the broken rib. Now to do some more regular exercise so that I’m in better shape for the next time we go exploring on our bikes.


Scott climbing the hill.


Scott riding down the hill. This was before the steep section. I didn’t get any photos of the steep part.


Me riding across the stream – this is at the bottom of the steep hill.

Waiting for the text/call

I’m in a time of remembering and a time of waiting. Waiting for the text or call that will tell me that another of my friends has passed from this earth. She is a mother of two young children, which makes the sadness that much more intense.

As I wait, expecting the next text to be the one, I remember. I remember our hikes together. I remember her using my phone to take fun pictures while at a retreat.

As I wait, my life goes on. I keep myself busy with work and school. I give myself permission to be pensive, to be quiet, to allow myself to begin the grieving process – even though she is not yet gone, my grieving has begun.

My intimate relationship with my lymph system

I didn’t know what a swollen lymph node felt like. When I went through treatment, I didn’t have any known lymph involvement. I hadn’t really even heard of the lymphatic system before cancer. Now I am always aware of it.

First, it was lymphedema in my left arm – which caused my hand an arm to swell. My lymph system wasn’t draining properly. However, I didn’t have any swollen nodes. Just some clogging in the flow – which took 6 months of wearing compression and swimming 2-3 times per week to resolve. I’m thankful that it did resolve.

When I got back from Ontario last Friday I developed a cold. Ugg. Yet another cold. Most annoying. Add to it that it rained most of the week – which did nothing to help my mood.

Then on Wednesday night, as I was chatting with my students on a synchronous session I noticed a lump in my neck. This is first time I’ve felt a swollen lymph node that wasn’t in my glands. I often have swollen glands – but this was new. This was something I had not felt before. Of course, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Now I am hyper-tuned to my lymph nodes, so I notice when I suddenly develop a lump in my neck.

Luckily, I was already heading up to the cancer centre for a different appointment, and my surgeons physician assistant was able to fit me in. She was not at all concerned. The cold is likely the contributing factor. It will likely resolve itself. She did a thorough breast exam and validated that she felt nothing awry in my axial nodes (under arms – which is the most concerning area for breast cancer – that and the sternum and clavicle). She said they didn’t feel suspicious. If they stick around for a month or so we can follow up with an ultrasound – unless I wanted one now, but she didn’t see the need for it. I agreed to give it two weeks – and now I’m convincing myself that the lump is getting smaller and softer. I’m not sure it that is true, but I’m working on convincing myself it is.

The emotional toll seems to never stop. As much as I try to convince myself – and use my mantra – “in the absence of a diagnosis, I am health” – my mind still gets the better of me at times.

I can now say that I know what a swollen lymph node feels like, and once it goes away, I’ll be able to release any underlying stress associated with it. And next time, hopefully, it will mean just a little less stress. It seems that there is always a next time.

Feature image is a sunny day in my neighbourhood with a beautiful California Lilac in full bloom. It has nothing to do with lymph nodes, but it makes me smile.

I cannot help but ask…

You would think that by now I would remember the answer to the question, and yet, I keep asking. This time I was prompted to ask because a research paper crossed my stream talking about a potential genomic subgroup of ER/PR+ (hormone positive) breast cancer that might be useful in predicting the likelihood of late recurrence (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1007-8.epdf).

So, I asked my oncologist about what the plans might be after I reach 5 years – a time that is approaching. I had a thought that after 5 years I’d just be done with hormone therapy. Now I’ve asked this question before. And every time I ask it, I pretty much get the same answer – based upon the characteristics that are known about my cancer, my oncologist recommends 8-10 years of some form of hormone therapy. I had hoped that after 5 years of lupron, that I am most certainly in menopause by now, that I would no longer need the shot. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. Lupron is providing some level protection even if I’m not on an aromatase inhibitor.

I chatted with my oncologist on the phone today about this – mostly because it was bugging me, but also because I’m thinking about what our life my be like in 2 years, and was hoping that didn’t involve regular cancer therapy. The answer is still 8-10 years of some form of hormone therapy. He commented that some of the recent research is showing a slightly larger incident of cardiac issues for those who do lupron plus AI versus tamoxifen. He mentioned that we could try low dose tamoxifen – and by that he is saying now that 5mg looks like an option. He commented that we can try that at some point but should wait until such time as I’m not trying to do anything particularly mentally taxing like, say, defending a PhD dissertation.

And with that, we will follow up again at my regularly scheduled appointment in about 8 weeks. We can discuss further what we might do. But for now, he advised to take it ‘one day at a time’. Of course, every time I hear the 8-10 years bit I get sad – even though I’m now closer to the eight than I am to zero – so I’m looking at less time with hormone therapy ahead of me than behind me.

I seem to have a cold, and it is raining outside … these also have a great affect on my mood … so it may have nothing to do with the 8-10 years message. OK, not likely … I’m pretty sure the 8-10 years will keep me thinking the same thing – I have a sense that I’ll be on hormone therapy for the rest of my life.

Feature image by PresenterMedia.

Just do it …

I remember during my childhood there was this participACTION campaign about trying to get people off the couch and exercising more. I can hear the sounds of music associated with the commercials, and remember the “breaks” they had.

I’m now coming back from a broken rib followed by a bout of bronchitis. I had that feeling of being out of shape because I have not been active in a while. About a week ago, I pushed a little too hard by hiking 4.5 miles. For the next few days after that I could barely walk due to come horrible compression pain in my spine. Fortunately, a gentle yoga class seems to have resolved that issue.

The weather here hasn’t been conducive to much outdoor exercise. The hills are all wet and muddy, so even when it isn’t raining most of my usual hiking spots of too damp for a tromp in the wood. Instead, I’ve started back at the gym. I’m not going a lot. Often it is just 30 minutes on the stationary bike – with enough intensity that I’m dripping with sweat for last 15-20 minutes of my workout. I leave the gym feeling amazing. Cardio exercise has always given me an adrenaline rush. It is something that I really missed after breaking my rib.

Now, I’m slowly easing back into it. Every day I ask myself, what have I done for my body today? Today it was 30 minutes on the bike at the gym followed by 5 minutes on the crazy stair climbing machine (imagine, a machine that has a conveyor belt of stairs that never stop).

I think about the participACTION commercials – and one of their taglines at one point was “just do it” … and so, when I’m not feeling up for much, I remind myself to “just do it” … Hopefully I’ll be ready for biking again soon (still waiting on my sternum to heal from the broken rib). I hope to be ready for more strenuous exercise when the weather improves and hills allow for regular hiking and mountain biking.

Feature image is a photo I took on my hike last week. Notice that Mount Hamilton has snow on it! 

A heaviness

I have been feeling a heaviness lately that I could not quite place. I had originally put it on my lupron shot – the heaviness associated with ongoing cancer treatments – but that wasn’t it. The visit to the cancer center always reminds me of Lori. I spent a fair amount of time bringing her to appointments there.

And lately, I’ve also been thinking a lot about my parents. There is a heaviness there too. A grieving that is happening around everything else that is going on.

Good things are happening too. I’m teaching three classes now – I was teaching two, but was asked to teach a third mid-semester – which has been a bit of a shuffle, but also reminded me how much I love putting together course materials and building out online courses (as long I can do it well). It is like I’m on a crusade to get rid of bad online learning and make it all amazing. At least I hope my students find the experience to be a good one. I guess I won’t really know until the end of the term. Either way, I’m loving doing that work.

My dissertation is progressing well. I’m afraid to celebrate anything associated with it, as each time I thought I was making progress it turned out I wasn’t. I don’t want to jinx it.

I have been feeling this heaviness, and it occurred to me why. In part it is a nervousness. In two weeks I’m headed up to Ontario mostly to go to conference, but also to deal with some tax stuff for mom’s estate. I am really looking forward to the conference and being with ‘my people’ for a few days. But, I also realized that this is the first time I’m going back when the house isn’t there (well it is there, just owned by someone else). I’m going back to a place where I will definitely feel the loss. I’m nervous about it. It is also bringing forward memories. I am reminded of something my therapist said to me about grief .. it will hit you at unexpected times. You need to be with it and so, part of the reason I’m writing this is that it is my way of being with it.

Feature image by PresenterMedia

Not blogging much – and transitions

I haven’t been blogging that much lately. Mostly my writing energy has been taken up by my dissertation. I finished the first draft of all my analysis chapters yesterday. Now I go back to the beginning and fill in any gaps that I left. It is an exciting feeling knowing that I’m finally making progress again. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I am also writing a lot for the classes I’m teaching. I took on a new class this semester – I’m co-teaching a class on learning theories. I love learning theories, so it is great to have the opportunity to go through the latest research and articles in search of good content for the class. I’m also creating explainer videos like this one: https://youtu.be/_xnG-sjHccs. I didn’t realize how much I missed building things like this. I love creating things using educational technologies.

With progress on my dissertation and having made 4 years in remission, I’m starting to see that a transition is coming in my life. I don’t quite know what it will be. I can see a time when I’m not working on my dissertation and I have more free time to do other things.

Maybe the transition is that I am leaving 2018 behind. I’ve always identified more with Chinese New Year than the calendar new year. I think because it aligns more with my birthday, so I feel the year changing a lot more than I do when the calendar year changes.

I feel like this will be a year of transition for me …

Feature image created using Presenter Media.

90 second GF microwave bread

My hubby came across this recipe the other day at: Low Carb with Jennifer.

I tried it the other day and was pretty impressed. It does taste a little eggy, but that works out OK for what I was looking for. It was especially good when dipped into chicken soup as it absorbed the soup which enhanced the flavour. Because it is made with almond flour and egg, it is high protein and very filling. I can’t wait to try it with grill cheese :-).

Ingredients:

3 tbsp almond flour or 1 1/3 tbsp coconut flour
1 tbsp oil (melted butter, melted coconut oil, avocado oil)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 large egg
tiny pinch of salt

Directions:

Mix everything together in a microwave safe bowl – I have a nice square 4 x 4 bowl which makes the perfect slice of bread. Put in microwave for 90 seconds.

That is it. Simple and yet taste.

Feature image CC0 Via Pixabay