To Touch A Dolphin

triple scoop ice cream cone in mexico

riu palace cabo san lucas mexico

I can’t remember where my fear of LARGE MARINE MAMMALS originated from but certainly reading an excerpt from the book JAWS found on a family friend’s bookshelf as a young child did not help. The cover of the book alone was enough to terrify – a lone woman swimming at the surface in grey green water, a gargantuan great white shark wildly blasting up through the water, teeth gleaming, ready to rip through flesh – ugh. I didn’t even see the movie until I was an adult, but throughout childhood a fear of sharks in swimming pools, pristine lakes, sandy beach shores, even a bathtub. From this fear, another fear emerged – that of an orca whale silently, massively, gliding like a silent predator underneath a boat. A weirdly specific fear.

arches of cabo san lucas

luxury sailing cabo adventures

We just came back from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – a wonderful trip to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. I’d only ever been to Cabo once before, as a 14 year old – my memories of this consisted of being bewildered by all the drunken, screaming adults in Corona bikinis, the overt stench of loose morals and the searing dry heat and going on my first and only horseback ride in jean shorts – my butt still remembers the continually galloping bouncy ass-pain. This time around we stayed at Riu Palace, a palatial all-inclusive resort that was essentially a dry-docked cruiseship – a very large and well kept resort right next to a beautiful beach, with two huge pools, a swim-up bar and an entertainment crew that worked from dawn til dawn.

riu palace cabo san lucas mexico

glass bottomed boat cabo san lucas

In Cabo, tourism rules – and they have a very well oiled machine that trots along, pulling up shuttles full of mostly white people with brutal sun burns to enjoy the many splendours of Cabo in the form of excursions – swimming with whale sharks, sunset sailboat cruising, glass bottomed boats, and swimming with dolphins. There was no way in hell I was going to swim with a whale shark, as I would’ve had a panic attack, shit myself then drowned, most likely. I did however, meet a dolphin. My new thing post-breast-cancer is to rise to new challenges. Even if that challenge is getting eaten alive by a captive, mentally insane dolphin. Her name was Belle. She was smiling, although I think her face just looks like that. I felt kind of terrible about supporting her captivity by paying to meet her. We were led out into the hot sun to a docked area, where each dolphin had their own giant ocean water pen. Into the water we went – led like life-jacketed prisoners about to be murdered by dolphins, down a set of stairs onto a slippery with sea-slime ledge, which we shimmied along, stomach-deep in water. We were told to keep our backs against the wall. A man in a wetsuit and wraparound sunglasses holding a plastic cooler tightly to his chest was the dolphin trainer, and with each command performed, Belle the dolphin would be rewarded by an icy fish down the gullet.

crazy kid in mexican wrestling mask

mexican coke bottle

Now it was time to touch the dolphin. We were told to place our hands flat against the surface of the water and Belle would glide along, allowing us to touch her belly, her back and fin. Her skin felt like a wet rubber boot – very durable, like I could wear dolphin skin boots and splash around in rain puddles. Then, we were given the option of touching her tongue. Her mouth gaped wide open, the trainer held his hands against her shining teeth – it was a panting pink muscle and felt like… a rubber boot. Sidenote: I just googled “do people eat dolphins.” I wasn’t sure. But yes, people eat dolphins. Dolphins vs pigs – both incredibly smart, incredibly cute – dolphin bacon?

riu palace cabo san lucas mexico

riu palace cabo san lucas mexico

Finally, it was time to shake the dolphin’s fin and get a kiss from the dolphin, or kiss the dolphin on its mouth. Belle came gliding up to me. I put my hand out and she stood balancing out of the water (her core must be INSANE) while I lightly touched her fin. Two friends holding hands for a moment in time. Then, with a hand gesture by me, Belle popped out of the water, facing me, ready for a kiss on the mouth. I stared at her, frozen in fear – for a split second imagining her mauling my face with her Joker-like smile. She didn’t maul my face. I didn’t kiss her on the mouth. She kissed my cheek and she was thrown a fish. Another side note: anchovies were aplenty at the all-inclusive resort buffets! I had deconstructed Caesar salad with almost every meal, romaine lettuce, layers of salty oily anchovy, parmesan, crunchy square croutons and dressing with a squeeze of lime. Admittedly, I wondered what Belle’s whole fish snacks tasted like. Cold cold sashimi to fill her blubbery rubber belly.

riu palace cabo san lucas mexico

We truly had a marvellous time in Mexico! And I touched a dolphin and I liked it. Happy birthday Cool Gamma T! Thank you for the fantastic trip! xo Lyndsay 

San Francisco Treat

Miette old fashioned cupcake

Last week my sisters, mom and I went on a GALS ONLY trip to SAN FRANCISCO to celebrate my mom’s birthday! Our family has such a fondness for the city – we grew up visiting there at least once a year, and we had a shared family apartment close to Chinatown. We power-ate and power-walked our way through the city, meeting up with friends along the way. Man it felt great to be alive. Breezy warm San Francisco sun, a trip loaded with such cute shops and snacks. (pictured above - Miette‘s old fashioned cupcake! I finally got to sink my teeth into one of these cartoon beauties! Soft tender chocolate cake with a marshmallow-y blobette of icing and little red candy peanut!)

humphry slocombe trio of ice cream

Man we went wild for the Ferry Building. So much goodness crammed into that beautiful space. SO much good food. At least one or all of us ate at Out The Door pretty much every day. I had the roast pork bahn mi which I scarfed down like a porky pig eating its own brethren. The salad rolls and house made peanut sauce… oh I want it again now! ^__^ Plus, this triple threat of super cute CONES from Humphry Slocombe! Blue bottle coffee, matcha with black and white cookies and “secret breakfast” – bourbon and cornflakes! All so good.

chantal guillon macarons - hayes valley SF

Cutie macarons from Chantal Guillon in Hayes Valley.

Bi Rite Creamery salted caramel cone

Our awesome friend Andrea drove us all around SF so we could stuff our faces! I honestly didn’t think I could ingest another thing but then this salted caramel kid’s cone from Bi-Rite Creamery appeared out of nowhere (ie, I ordered it like the ice cream pig I am) and it was so good. Such a deep, almost burnt caramel flavour!

Mr.Holmes Bakehouse cruffin

Why isn’t this bakeshop called Mister Cruff n Stuff? NAME CHANGE ALERT! Mr.Holmes Bakeshop‘s cruffins were wild and crazy and most importantly DELICIOUS. My excellent food-crazy sis Gyoza Girl Eats dragged my mom here and lined up for these babies at 7:45am – she brought home a box crammed with goodies! Eeks. So good. Honestly there’s something so smurfy cute about the above cruffin – white chocolate rapsberry, filled to the muffiny brim with raspberry cream and topped with that jaunty little marshmallow hat.

pistachio eclair - B Patisserie

We pretty much sprinted into B Patisserie on our last morning in San Francisco while Andrea waited in the car – kouign amann to go, and this heavenly pistachio eclair!

Liho Liho Yacht Club San Francisco

Y’all know how much I love Hawaii. We had such a fun meal at Liho Liho Yacht Club – pictured, tuna poke on nori cracker and beef tongue in poppyseed steam bun! Service was excellent (so friendly) and ambience was chill and energetic! (um, we lined up at 430pm to get in – so maybe that’s the early bird diner experience!)

Liho Liho Yacht Club San Francisco

This Baked Hawaii was the cutest little dessert ever – caramelized pineapple ice cream with torched meringue, reminded me of my mom’s “pineapple dessert” from the 1980s in the best way possible.

Family pic at Petit Crenn

We had the loveliest lunch at Petit Crenn! A minimalist room but brimming with warmth and style – I loved the mismatched silverware and the navy and white striped aprons of the kitchen staff. I’ve been crushing on Dominique Crenn ever since I heard her interviewed on Radio Cherry Bombe – so talented, articulate, calm, funny, meditative – and she loves kids – CUTE! She is also in the current issue of Cherry Bombe!

Smoked trout tartine at Petit Crenn

A perfectly tender omelette, briny from fish stock, and smoked trout tartine – we also had the mushroom tartine, the mussels, little gem salad and the softest pillows of gnocchi. Serious compliments to the kitchen.

Chef Edward Lee at Petit Crenn

FOOD NERD ALERT! Chef Edward Lee was sitting at the counter, enjoying a meal by himself until SOME PUMPKIN FACED EXCITED CHINESE LADY WITH SHORT HAIR interrupted him … Hehe. No, he was very friendly and maybe surprised to be recognized… he is very unassuming and nice.

blogger friends!

Blog pal meet-up! Finally got to meet cool online buddies Michelle and Nanette in real life, as well as reconnect with the wonderful Jenn who was visiting SF as well! We hit up Craftsman and Wolves. I am even more into this place now that I know they are into metal.

craftsman and wolves whipped coffee and yuzu, coconut puffy dessert

My favourite was this whipped coffee, yuzu and crunchy coconut crust PARTY PUFF from Craftsman and Wolves! I honestly can’t resist a puffy looking dessert.

mommy in SF

My wonderful mom, in the lobby of the Palace Hotel, a truly palatial experience indeed! Thank you LS for this wonderful trip!

Teddy and Easter egg

Of course I missed my little munchkin Chinese Gloworm! Here he is all dressed up for Easter. I know, I know. Dressed up for Teddy is a collared shirt and clean Vans. Dude’s a t-shirt guy!!

easter family pic

batter bakery bunny cookie - san francisco

I brought back home these cutie Easter cookies from Batter Bakery for RT and Teddy! Hours later when he was almost asleep in bed for the night, Teddy called for me in tears, told me that he was sad that he had eaten his bunny cookie… I asked if it was yummy and between tears he said “yes”… I explained it’s better to eat it when it’s fresh, and that it was a special treat to enjoy, but I could understand that he was sad that it was gone… Hehe. PARENTHOOD!

easter family pic

Home with my sweet guys, and feeling happy, with energy, and excited for fun projects, sunny picnics and good things in which the future holds. Spring weather, sunshine and flowery trees can do that to a person… Hope you are well, too, my friends! xo Lyndsay 

Pink + Blue Macarons + Je T’aime

pink and blue buttercream macarons - Coco Cake Land

whistle and flute tshirts - Coco Cake Land

My journey of macaron making started at pretty much the EXACT same time as my breast cancer journey. So weird. I only just realized this. Macarons kept me from going down a horrible, mental insanity-inducing mind spiral from hell – it was the day after I was told I had breast cancer. I was baking for my mom’s 70th birthday high tea party. I decided to try my DARNDEST to make macarons, and succeed. It took me four attempts, adjusting things each time, focusing, not giving up, and finally I made some pretty macs.

how to make french macarons - tips from coco cake land

pink and blue buttercream macarons - Coco Cake Land

Macarons, in my kitchen, are the most finicky bastards in town. I’ve followed my own advice since first having macaron success and I’ve bombed horribly. I’ve found that MACARONS WANT YOU TO BE SCARED OF THEM and then they will rise up in jubilance with their ruffly goddamn feet and go “fine, here you go. You worked hard, you were terrified. Here are my ruffly feet.”

whistle and flute tshirts - Coco Cake Land

Can I tell you about this magical picture above where Teddy and I are looking EXTREMELY HAPPY? Hehe. My sweet pal Miranda of the amazing Whistle + Flute asked me if I wouldn’t mind being interviewed for her blog – super exciting! Yes! She sent me a macaron cutie tee for Teddy and a Je T’aime tee for myself. The plan was to take a cute pic of Teddy and I to accompany the interview. Yes, I could do this! So on a sunny weekend day in February, I told Teddy we were going to get ICE CREAM at the giant pink ice cream factory here in Vancouver. (PS is there an unsaid rule for graffiti taggers that they don’t tag pink walls? There are two sets of pink walls in our neighbourhood and neither are tagged, although everywhere else is.) We jumped into the car and headed down to the ice cream factory – the sun was out – but it was DARN COLD being February … and it didn’t occur to me that Teddy might huff puff about not having a jacket on! Even the LURE AND BRIBE OF A GUMMY BEAR VANILLA ICE CREAM CONE could not put a smile on his little face … so I was getting irritated/grumpy and Teddy wouldn’t smile and… SNAP!! My husband took our pics quickly and I hoped for the best, hehe! In the end we got one for the Whistle + Flute interview … and the macaron tee is one of Teddy’s faves.

stack of pink vanilla macarons - Coco Cake Land

Thanks again Miranda, Ryan, Aki and Archer for the tees, and for your support of me during my treatments! For those macaron makers out there – here’s my original post with the tips I’ve found online for making macarons. I’m also loving my IG friend Indulge with Mimi’s macarons and tips and videos. SO HELPFUL AND SWEET to share all your knowledge, I think. Macarons seem to have a special place in my heart, and a part of my recent history – I’ll continue to wrangle them! xo Lyndsay 

Donuts Macarons + Drugs

raspberry donut - coco cake land

Best post title EVER, amiright? Donuts macarons and drugs. (These pretty and perfect macarons are from Soirette.) No, I’m not much of a drug user of that kind – well unless you count the “medical marijuana hazelnut chocolate coin” I took a bite out of during a particularly awful and nauseous post-chemotheraphy day. To say that I was blazing through the milky way was an understatement, and it took the nausea away, too. I have a doctor friend who was also going through breast cancer treatment, a friend I made at the cancer agency, and even she gave me a set of sticky weed lollipops. We live in Vancouver, after all.

donuts + macarons party - coco cake land

Anyway, the drugs I am talking about at the moment are the new drugs I started taking about a week ago, Tamoxifen. The name itself evokes a Mongolian-mist style creepy vapour fog that seeps into your pores and surrounds you, engulfing you in its side effects. The first night I had to take it, I just stared at the chalky looking round white pill for a good few minutes, glass of water on hand. I finally just threw it back into my throat and swallowed it with a glug of water. “Here’s to hot flashes, dry vagina and mood swings from hell!” I thought to myself.

flower donut - coco cake land

That night I had a restless sleep fuelled by chills, sudden blasts of hot sweatiness and general discomfort – I woke up feeling like my whole body had been beaten with a pain stick, and I had an awful headache. I was feeling very depressed about this, worried about the amount of time my body might take to adjust to the medication. Or would this be my new normal?? Still, I forced myself to go to the gym, laced up my hot pink sneakers, pulled my hoodie up over my head, Chinese Rocky with cancer style, and trodded out in the rain to the gym. I cried a little at the gym, arms pumping the elliptical trainer to the beat of Chaka Khan and Jay-Z. And of course I laughed at myself, which I often do.

flower donut - coco cake land

Now, about a week later, I’m feeling more adjusted, although my mood and emotions are like a roller coaster from hell. I really hate that a drug can mess with a person like this but I read another cancer patient’s quote online today and it said “quality of life vs life.” I’ll do my best to power through all the weirdness as usual. Half of the time I’m feeling strong and like I’ve “beaten” this. The other half of the time I’m imagining the doctor’s appointment where I’m told the cancer has come back and spread throughout my body.

donuts macarons - coco cake land

pretty macarons - coco cake land

But, I will continue to focus on the good things, and all that I have in my life. Especially my son Teddy, who held up a french fry the other day and said “Mom, it looks like a penis!” We speak freely of genitals at our house, giving organs their proper names – although “penis” has now made its way into Teddy’s knock knock non-sensical joke repertoire, much to the dismay of my mother, and yes, I explain to Teddy that it’s not a nice-guy-thing to really talk about too much in public, nor is it very polite – all while smirking through his penile-focused jokes. Ah, the fine balance of parenthood. Life goes on. xo Lyndsay

Donuts, Cupcakes and Cherry Bombe Magazine

donuts, cupcakes + feminism - Coco Cake Land

donuts, cupcakes + feminism - Coco Cake Land

Hands up if you dislike the word “blogger.” When you say you’re a blogger as your profession, there’s inside-eye-rolls and thoughts of “that’s not a real job.” Even I can’t take it seriously in my mind and I’ve been blogging since 2008. Of course I used to have a cake business attached to it, but now it’s just me, my camera and my computer, typing away til my eyes are bleary. It’s certainly not a 9-5 job – and I suppose it falls in line with the long list of random jobs I’ve had in my life, starting from my first job making DECORATIVE FRUIT BASKETS in the moldy freezing-cold basement of a long-gone family grocery store in Vancouver. I’d “shop” for the fruit first, rolling a grocery cart through the fresh produce aisles, piling the cart high with goods. Then, the fruit gets piled in a Jenga-like fashion to create a mound, all nestled in made-in-China brightly coloured weaved baskets, wrapped in plastic wrap and topped with a sticker-peel, cheap shiny bow. At least as a fruit-basket-maker you could count on a bi-weekly paycheque – not so much with blogging!

donuts, cupcakes + Cherry Bombe magazine - Coco Cake Land

donuts, cupcakes + feminism - Coco Cake Land

However… I got this nice email recently: “Your cake blog has been one of my absolute favorites since I found it a few years back; you are such an inspiration to me aesthetically as well as with how you live your life and how super real you are in a sea of plastic blogs.” Sometimes you just sit in your dark little room editing your photos in your pyjamas with a side plate of snacks and a milky hot tea and you really have no idea if people are reading, or caring whatsoever at what you’re putting out there. I mean, yes there’s google analytics. But without those emails, without comments from readers – it could all just be flash-in-the-pan “I found you on Pinterest and I’m gonna rip on your cake idea and I have no idea who you are and I don’t carrrreeeeee” visits. So when you get a genuine response from what you put out in the world, it truly means a lot.

donuts, cupcakes + Cherry Bombe magazine - Coco Cake Land  

You can imagine my stokage level when Kerry of Cherry Bombe sent me an email in the fall asking me if she could interview me for their upcoming issue. Stokage level: HIGH. (I’ve been a fan of Cherry Bombe magazine since before I even read an issue – just the CONCEPT of the mag – it brings together all of my favourite things: food, beautiful photography and design, and inspiring women.) Back in October when I posted my Breast Cancer Cakes, I really didn’t have any idea how people might respond. To me, it combined the heartache of last year’s cancer diagnosis and treatment with a blast of cakey inspiration; my blog had become about cancer and cakes, so why not literally create a cancer and cakes project? The post ended up reaching a lot of people, a lot of women. Cancer patients, friends, family, fans. Even my own oncologist! And it opened a door to an interview with Cherry Bombe!

Cherry Bombe magazine - Coco Cake Land interview

Chinese Fugazi Mom! Cool as a pickle!

Cherry Bombe magazine - Coco Cake Land interview

Reality Bites – there could be no better article title. Because I saw this movie many many times in my late teens (and no, sadly it doesn’t hold up – dialogue, OUCH!) and I know the soundtrack by heart and maybe even christened my place the Maxi Pad. Plus, I call my current growing-in-post-chemo-pixie-cut-by-accident the “Chinese Winona Ryder.” The universe is pulling some magic.

donuts, cupcakes + feminism - Coco Cake Land

The Cherry Bombe vibe is one that feels based in community, building women up, being inspired by fellow women. It’s mature, innately feminist – it feels non-milennial – no race to the top, no image-card-based website that endlessly updates in a fervour of faster, now, immediate, click-bait, drowned in hashtags – Cherry Bombe doesn’t even share content on their website – readers must wait patiently for the next issue to come out, to savour those pretty, nicely-weighted pages, to pore over the issue like I would pore over the latest Sassy magazine as a teen.

donuts, cupcakes + feminism - Coco Cake Land

I think I’m beginning to finally feel comfortable with writing whatever I like on my blog. If I want to review Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I guess I will. If I want to talk about infertility, I will. If I simply want to post a super cute cake, that is what I shall do.

donuts, cupcakes + feminism - Coco Cake Land

And now, I’m going to leave you with this: The Runaways performing Cherry Bomb live in Japan. Because this is the song that runs through my head every time I see the magazine. I’m seriously thrilled to be a part of the Cherry Bombe community. xo Lyndsay The Blogger

Cheers To Life: Maui + 1 Year Since Cancer Diagnosis

shave ice maui

One year ago I was standing in the kitchen, probably dinking around on my Instagram, maybe power-snacking on some leftover Christmas chocolate, when I got the phone call from my family doctor.

The same wonderful doctor who delivered Teddy – I can still hear her counting down from 10 when it was time to push the head out during labour – like a seasoned coach – confident, strong, guiding. Those countdowns from 10 – I could do that! I could push for ten seconds! Then all of a sudden, a release – my son’s head came through in a rush of fluids, adrenaline pouring through my system, time stood still and all of the pain and contractions screeched to a halt. My baby was plonked onto my chest, in a sea of jubilation. “His name is Teddy!” I said. 

cloudy tropical day - maui

On the phone this time, her voice was quiet, hushed, but firm. “Lyndsay, we got your biopsy results back.” She couldn’t quite say it. “It’s C.”

Cancer. She went on to say she had already made various appointments for me to get everything rolling, and fast. An appointment with a surgeon in a few days and other scans and tests were organized and ordered. My sisters and I were deep into planning mode for my mom’s 70th birthday. I remember hosting 60+ women at my house for high tea, everyone so happy and celebratory, and me trying to stay afloat with this bizarre, horrible new information. Just gotta get through. A few times I had to hide in the bathroom and cry.

tropical flowers in maui

It’s been the weirdest year. In January I was diagnosed, in a blur of shock and fear. I started IVF treatment to try and preserve embryos before chemo and it failed, and I was devastated. In February, we went to Disneyland, breast cancer diagnosis and all, as the trip had been planned for half a year. When I got home, I had surgery for partial removal of my right breast. In March, my beloved grandmother passed away. The same month, we found out my husband had gotten into his first choice residency program here in Vancouver. We decided to try one more round of IVF to see if we could get any embryos to freeze, and we ended up with three. In April I started chemo. In May, my husband graduated from medical school. June and July was more chemo, then in August a break from treatment – camping, and my son Teddy’s 3rd birthday. My hair started to duck-fuzz back to life. In September I did 20 rounds of radiation. In October I wrote this breast cancer post about my treatment. Then I finished out the year continuing my Herceptin treatments – 6 more to go!

And finally in December: a FUCKING TRIP TO MAUI! YES. We celebrated. We celebrated being alive, hard. In the most mellow way possible. Meaning, we lazed around in the tropical golden sun and soaked it up. Warm waves, so many turtle sightings it was like visiting old friends, delicious food and splashing in the pool.

giant bougainvillea flowers, maui

Hair today, hair tomorrow! The little hairdo that could. I feel like the Chinese 1990s Winona Ryder and I am so so so happy to have a hairdo. “WILL BRAKE FOR GIANT BOUGAINVILLEA BUSH”

hawaiian sun pass-o-guava nectar juice

Ice cold calorie-laden sugar-loaded pass-o-guava-nectar but I don’t caaaaaaare (GLUG GLUG GLUG)

cloudy hot day in maui

Hazy cloudy pool day.

wailea, maui

Party dog on the beach! Nap? Fuggedabout it. Run run run instead.

kinaole food truck maui

We ate from this Kinaole Grill Food Truck four times. Garlic shrimp, mahi mahi, guava pulled pork, coconut shrimp all on beds of soft seafood fragrant rice, with wild greens topped with feta and macadamia nuts. It’s parked one block from the beach, so we’d go at 5pm and eat it on a beach blanket for Maui sunset.

wailea, maui sunset swim

Sunset swim.

maui-5

Sweetness.

sunny beach in wailea, maui

Beach exploring in Wailea.

giant bougainvillea flowers, maui

More photos in front of giant bush!

swimming pool splash

Crazy 3 year old splash.

sweet maui style

Maui style – U Can’t Touch This

maui sunset, wailea

My not so little baby.

sunglasses in maui

Me feeling the deep Maui vibes. (with hair! Almost 6 months of hair growth post-chemo.)

Time will pass. It keeps rolling. Slippin’ into the future, and there’s nothing we can do. Through good times, and bad. Sickness and health! For as long as we all shall live. I started the year on fear. I ended it with a snowy hug, at our mountain cabin, crunching through forest in the dark on snowshoes with my husband, peace and quiet abound, overwhelmed with all that has transpired this past year but feeling happy, content, strong, full of love. Ready for good things. Here’s hoping 2016 is a sweet one.

Aloha, life! xo Lyndsay 

Breast Cancer Cakes

breast cancer cakes - coco cake land

When the calendar flips from September to October, the first thing on my mind is Halloween candy. Or the hilarious costume I’m going to try and get my son to wear (last year he was a hot dog). Or whether I’m going to carve a Garfield pumpkin and how am I going to sneak-eat mini peanut butter cups all month. Not this year. This year I’ve got breasts on my mind – it’s breast cancer awareness month. So I thought I would share my story of how I found my breast cancer, and what the stages of treatment were like for me, in a straight up manner. Not “look at this clear blue liquid poured on a maxi pad commercial” style, but truthfully. I had just turned 38 when I was diagnosed. I wrote this for the scared and freaked out ladies, freshly diagnosed, who might be deep-googling breast cancer treatment or staying up late reading every entry of breast cancer blogs, just as I did after I found out. I wanted to know what I was in for. I wanted information. I wanted anything, something to help, soothe, encourage, or to know that there were other women out there like me.

breast cancer awareness month cakes - coco cake land

I’ve always been somewhat-aware of changes in my breasts, mostly because my maternal grandmother had breast cancer in the 1990s. For some horribly goth and macabre reason I always imagined I would get breast cancer too. What I felt was not a lump, but a thickening of flesh, right where my right breast met my rib. Was it just my rib or something weird? I kept feeling the area, wanting it to go away. I went to my family doctor and she sent me for an ultrasound and mammogram, to put my mind at ease. The mammogram showed nothing, but because I had felt something, we did the ultrasound and I still remember light-joking with the technician and asking if she saw anything. Eventually she zoomed in to the screen to show two suspicious looking ball-like shapes. I had a biopsy, then was sent home to wait a few weeks for the results. My family doctor called me and her voice was serious, she could barely whisper that it was “C.” Invasive ductal carcinoma. The shock felt palpable. I hung up the phone and hot tears burst from my eyes and my mouth hung open. I wanted to freak the eff out right there but my 2 year old was in the other room and I could hear him calling me to come and play. My mind raced and fear overcame me. Teddy’s little voice and me thinking I was going to die, to have to leave my son and my husband and my family. My husband (then a fourth year medical student) came home and set to work organizing appointments in conjunction with my family doctor. We needed to find out if it had spread to any other parts of my body. Skeletal survey, bone scan, CT scan, blood work. It was a week of unknowns as I went through all the tests. In my mind I was planning my funeral, mind-spiralling imagining Teddy asking for me and being confused, wondering if he would remember me and me feeling so sad that he might not. Had I done enough with my life? Did I do everything I wanted to? I hamster-wheeled myself into major stress.

breast cancer awareness month cakes

As the test results rolled in, they all came out negative – nothing seemed to have spread anywhere but it would only be after surgery “they” would know for sure. My happy, pretty-pictures, cake-filled life screeched to a weird halt. I felt thrown into a snake pit of unknowns, with an overwhelming laundry list of treatments laid out for me. When I first met with my surgeon, she felt the area of my breast, examining me. I’ll never forget what she said. “I can’t believe you found this. If you had waited until this was something more prominent, this would be a completely different story.” Those words chilled me. I had felt something off, then decided to investigate it, even though I wanted to plunge my head in the ground and fuggedaboutit. My family doctor also put me in touch with a fertility doctor ASAP. Not only was I given the news I had frigging cancer, I was also being told that having another child would be unlikely – the treatments would destroy my fertility. This news crushed me harder than the cancer. We ended up doing IVF to preserve embryos for implanting once all of my treatment was finished – however, we only got 3 embryos which isn’t a lot…but I’m still hopeful. For my surgery, I opted for a lumpectomy – I was given the choice of a mastectomy (removing the entire breast) or lumpectomy (cutting out a portion of the affected breast and keeping the nipple). You get the words “survival rate” thrown around when you are making these choices. I went with partial removal. I found the idea of surgery to be pretty frightening. But the surgery was successful and the surgeon got all the margins, and three lymph nodes were removed and tested – negative. The cancer had not spread.

breast cancer awareness month cakes

Chemo may be the worst thing that has ever happened to me, physically. I had a pretty rough time with it. You feel like you ate a poison apple. Your insides feel like they’re covered in thick syrup with a brutal headache on top. Your stomach is, as I described once, “debauched buttsanity.” Your appetite is bizarre, if you can eat at all due to raging diarrhea and nausea (although they make very strong drugs to try and counter the nausea.) Water tastes sickeningly sweet. I craved super salty potato chips. You basically feel like a pale grey dog turd. And then you don’t. I started to feel better after day 10, but my mind became very stupid and I couldn’t remember anything or concentrate at all. My hair started falling out just before my second round of chemo, so my husband shaved it. (Being bald when you don’t want to be sucks donkey balls and my self esteem plummeted. It’s hard to believe it will ever grow back when you’re bald – but it really does. I’m at 13 weeks post chemo now and my hair is extremely short but it’s there, and it’s growing in pretty thick. I’d say it’s note quite an inch long yet.) After my second round, I had a horrible allergic reaction – I broke out in huge red welts all over my body, even my crotch, all over my head, my eyelids – my hands ballooned up into the world’s itchiest puffy Mickey Mouse gloves. I got a kidney infection which landed me in Emergency – I remember feeling embarrassed and feeling so ugly and unrecognizable, I wanted to show the doctors and nurses a picture of the old “me” – this is me, see? I had to get my wedding ring sawed off too because my finger was turning purple from the puffy hands. I had a “I’m going to exercise every day of my chemo” attitude initially but then felt like such shite that it turned into “I am going to lie in bed and blind my eyes with silly TV shows and feel-good rom-coms” attitude. I will say that during chemo (I had four rounds in total, spread apart by 3 weeks) I got pretty depressed.

breast cancer awareness month cakes

Zapppppp! I had 20 rounds of radiation on my breast. They tattoo you with tiny dots to help line up the laser beams (not the technical term, ha). You lie down and a giant grey machine that looks straight out of a 1960s science fiction movie hovers over top of you and blasts the area with radiation. The actual treatment only lasts a minute or two. My skin was ok for the first three weeks, and then it started to brown, and get darker – finally my nipple was practically black and cracking open raw, and the skin around it was so dark and tender and dry. Painfully tender but I moisturized daily with Glaxal Base and used Lanolin cream for the nipple – I found it in my breastfeeding storage box, it helps with dry and cracked skin during nursing and it really helped. Currently the skin is peeling off in a very disturbing, horror-movie-ish way – my breast is all sorts of skin tones. I gotta say it’s not looking so good (charred sagging old eggplant anyone?) and I wonder if, aesthetically, a mastectomy would’ve been better – but my radiation oncologist says in 6 months it will have all peeled away and will look more normal again. Just before radiation I started running again, and hitting the gym hard. I must say that this made a big difference for me – I didn’t feel too fatigued from the radiation, but most of all, it helped boost my mood and got me out of feeling depressed – the cancer blues. I managed to work out every single day of my radiation treatment. It gave me a little sense of purpose and accomplishment. I kind of liked having somewhere to go every day, too (not that going to the cancer agency every day is fun) – I had a little routine again after so many months off of just “treatment.”

breast cancer awareness month cakes

I’ve been getting another IV drug infusion every three weeks called Herceptin, because my tumour was Her2 positive. It’s a targeted treatment which I’ll be doing 16 rounds of. At first I was depressed that I had to do all of these treatments – chemo, radiation, herceptin, tamoxifen. But now I am feeling lucky that there are targeted treatments for particular types of cancers like mine. Just stepping on to the chemo floor at the cancer agency gives me anxiety and a feeling of fear – but I am getting better at going. I go for my herceptin treatments on my own. I read gossip websites or look at pictures of my kid and listen to music or I watch an episode of the Mindy Project. Distraction, and then it’s over.

breast cancer cakes

I haven’t started Tamoxifen treatment yet but it will be an oral drug I will take for 5-10 years. Again, another targeted treatment to help prevent the recurrence of my breast cancer type. It has some yucky side effects that I’m not ready for yet in my life. It basically puts you into menopause, complete with hot flashes, slowed metabolism, dryness in the lady parts, low sex drive, fatigue. And you can’t have a baby. I’m not ready to feel like a lady in menopause yet. But I’ll do it anyway. I’ve been in talks with my oncologist about waiting to start Tamoxifen until after we try implanting a frozen embryo. I told her that if I could have a baby first, I will take Tamoxifen for the rest of my life even.

breast cancer cakes - coco cake land

So that’s where I’m at now. An eight month blur of mind fuckery, body changes, depression, anxiety and happy days, too. I’ve slogged through a lot this year so far. But I’m still here. If you are reading this and you are newly diagnosed, things I would suggest: lean on your friends and family for support. It’s one of those times in life you really need their help. Seek professional support if it’s available to you (counselling, therapy). Treat your mind, body and spirit right if you can – going out for a walk, trying alternative healing treatments, going for a massage or even a pedicure – treat yo self if you can. I guess there have been a few amazing parts of my having cancer: Life. I get to celebrate another birthday and not be sad and annoying about getting older and looking old – but I get to be stoked on living. Live and let live, love harder. Feeling cared for, feeling loved by family, friends. Beautiful gestures of letters in the mail or home cooked meals and sweet cards. Words of love and caring, silly sweet gifts, thoughtful presents. Those small things would make an entire day of crap (literally and figuratively) feel better instantly. Appreciate life more. Who gives a flying dog shit about the small stuff – don’t sweat the small stuff as much. Finding exercise again to help with my mind, body and spirit. Loving on my sweet sweet little boy and snuggling and laughing with him so deeply, daily, whenever (while still being driven crazy by him sometimes – toddler alert). The love and deep pride I feel for my husband, lifting me up through my continued treatment, deciphering medical talk, bringing me flowers, loving me through my darkest and ugliest moments and most morbid jokes. My family – my parents and my sisters, especially – life is nothing without family and friends. I will leave you with this image, because it seems to have worked for me thusfar, fingers crossed. xo Lyndsay 

cop a feel save your life cakes

Cotton Candy Ice Cream Cone In The House

cotton candy ice cream cone - coco cake land

Cotton candy ice cream cone. County fairs are made for children. There’s magic and mania in their eyes as their little brains gobble everything up. Then you come back year after year through your whole life to the fair and yearn for the nostalgia that was imprinted on your brains as a child, to feel young again, to feel free and innocent and safe, untouched by a carney’s leering stare or a sexist comment or the harshness of life. The flavours – everything extra salty and extra sweet, the smell of fried foods, the hot bubbly oil turning out floating hot donuts sprinkled in cinnamon and sugar, the marquee twinkling lights, the creaky old colourful rides, the grunge and the grime. What is the flavour of cotton candy? It’s been replicated so much in other products – cotton candy toothpaste and children’s Tylenol. Sugar meets faux berry flavour? Soft melting clouds on the tongue, gone in an instant, whirled high like an air filled beehive on a paper stick.

marge simpson hair gone wild - cotton candy photo by coco cake land

pink cotton candy and sprinkles - coco cake land

cotton candy ice cream cone - coco cake land

Our favourite stops at the PNE include the tiny soft serve shack painted in red and white stripes, a white haired woman with deep creases on her face runs it, happily dispenses blobs of cool soft serve into sundae cups and cones.

cotton candy ice cream - coco cake land

Those little donuts are the deep fried gems of yesteryear. Their design remains untouched, as does the grease filled mini machines that endlessly pump out rings of batter into piping hot fat, flipped over once to brown and along the river of oil it goes til it’s all cooked, sliding down into hot lights to get scooped out into paper bags and shaken with cinnamon and sugar.

sweet estelle's rainbow sprinkles

cotton candy ice cream cone - coco cake land

Puffy bags of cotton candy tucked into our stroller – I gave Teddy a big swab of it and he happily gobbled it down and asked for more. He munched on mini donuts, letting them sit on his knee to cool down. He got his mini “baby cone” from the soft serve ice cream stand, a blobette and a swirl piped into a tiny cone. Food memories imprinted on his little three year old mind, a place to revisit year after year. xo Lyndsay