Susie is Going to Win

A blog to share with family and friends

Volare- Lets Fly

It is with great sadness that I am to post this final post on my aunt Susie Frank’s blog. Below is her obituary which was featured in the Pique Magazine in Whistler along with the Vancouver Sun.

We had a beautiful celebration of life for her April 23rd in Whistler, which can be viewed by clicking Susie Frank’s Celebration of Life .

Thank you to all who have supported Susie through this difficult time in her life, and may anyone going through a similar journey find strength in her words and inspiration in the way she chose to live her life.

The photo below was taken on July 24th 2015 at her 60th Birthday Celebration. Despite all that was going on she still had moments of pure happiness and joy, its just who she was.
We all love and miss you dearly Susie!❤


Setbacks – Platinum Refractory

With Linda, Bobbi and Jasper - January 25, 2016Linda, Bobbi, Jasper and I after chemo Jan 25






The expression, ‘no news is good news’ certainly applies to my situation.  Although I was feeling pretty well and confident after my 3rd chemo treatment on November 30.  CA125 was down from 1500 to 50.  The next chemo would have been December 21st, so Sasha asked me if I would like a short ‘chemo holiday’.  I asked him what he thought and he said it would be nice for me to have a break over Christmas and enjoy all the Christmas traditions – food and wine!  When you are metastatic, doctors try and give you best quality of life at the same time you are having treatment to stay alive.

My 5th and second last chemo was Jan 5 and my number had gone up 6 to 56.  It didn’t seem significant but I now understand it should have gone down.  Last chemo of this protocol was on January 25 by which time the CA125 had gone to 110.  Could it have been the nasty head/chest cold I had after New Year’s?  Possibly.  So I had the 6th chemo and then another blood test 1 week later.  It was up to 170.  This means I am now Platinum Refractory when it happens while on chemo.  We had already talked about trying a different chemo – Caelyx (Doxil in the U.S.)  The scary thing is that once the ‘first line’ chemos aren’t working, the options are limited.

The good news is that this is only the second setback I have had since being diagnosed.  The first was when it recurred in March 2014.  This is quite amazing in the cancer world.  Most people I know have had many more setbacks and complications.  Of course, they are all dead now. ( Just the truth)

On a positive note, the needle biopsy I had done last June for DNA testing showed that I am PDL1 positive which means I should respond to one of the newest treatments:  Immunotherapy.  Specifically a drug called Keytruda (Pembrolizumab). Guess what? It is only approved in Canada for melanoma and small cell lung cancer. There is a Phase 1 Trial at Princess Margaret in Toronto but I can’t see flying there and back every 3 weeks with a compromised immune system. The good news is that a very dear friend has connections in the cancer medical world in Los Angeles. My oncologist suggested I may be able to go there and then I told my friend who offered to connect me. So, between the two, I may be able to go there. Otherwise, the drug costs $8,000 per infusion, every 3 weeks. I would need at least 6 months to see if it works and then stay on it for more than a year.  It is not approved by Health Canada for the treatment of Ovarian Cancer which is why it is not covered.

This could be the difference between surviving and dying once the old chemotherapy drugs run out.

At the moment, I am waiting to hear whether I will qualify for the L.A. trial. Otherwise, I believe I’ll have the Caelyx to get my tumour marker down and then the Keytruda here in Vancouver and pay the cost.  I have to try it.  I have a CT Scan tomorrow and will find out the results of that early next week. The waiting and uncertainty are stressful. Had a back molar pulled yesterday – I thought that was the most stressful thing that could possibly happen – but of course, this is worse.

Susie, Lynne & Jill - Nicklaus North, January 2016

Jill, Lynne and I at Nick North, January 2016

Meanwhile, with some pain, I am able to walk our sweet new puppy, Jasper every day – rain or shine. He brings me a great deal of joy. Some friends dragged my ass out cross country skiing recently at the Nicklaus North Golf Course and it was really wonderful. I can do the flats but get really puffed out on any hills.

Roland & I with Jasper - Rainbow Park, Feb 2016

February, 2016 at Rainbow Park

Here is an article by Paul Kalanithi whose book When Breath becomes Air was posthumously published recently.  I have ordered it from our local book store.  It is helpful to me to know we are all struggling with this.

Love and Kisses,


Whistler, February 10, 2016



I have struggled with sharing the ups and downs of this second round of chemo with you.  Truthfully, I have little desire to give you the blow by blow of the treatments.  And, I can’t find any humour to lighten things up.

After the first chemo my CA125 had gone down to 685 (from 1500) which I think was more a result of taking the cancer cells out of my lung.  After the 2nd – it was 140!  A huge relief to know the drugs are working.  Round 3 was November 9 with no complications.  My 4th will be November 30 (every 3 weeks) as long as my blood work is acceptable.

I have had a harder time after the chemo – 5 days of feeling terrible – bone, muscle, tendon pain with no ability to get comfortable.  I am blessed to only have some nausea as long as I take the drugs for the first 3 days.  I am also seeing Dr. Adam McLeod who is a Naturopathic doctor in Vancouver and also an energy healer.  He started me on Mistletoe injections – yes mistletoe!  It’s supposed to help your immune system.  They have been using it in conjunction with chemo in Germany since the 1920’s.  It actually gives you a bit of poison to kick start your immune system to fight.  He says it will boost my neutrophils too.  I take a bone marrow booster 24 hours after chemo for that too.

He also recommended hyperthermia treatments right after chemo.  He has a machine (also from Germany) with a big round disc that is placed on the area where the cancer is – my whole middle body – it heats up the organs to help the chemo be more effective.  It’s a one hour treatment and all you mainly feel is cold but the power gets up to 110 volts.  Which reminds me of my Dad, who always said, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had a power shock”!  It is hard to know if it is helping, but difficult to stop, in case it is helping.

This is true of all of the rituals I have added to my daily routine.  It’s hard to think of giving any of them up!  I’ll post a separate one just in case anyone is interested in what I am doing.  You have to go with what resonates with you.  There is a shitload of advice and information out there and it is overwhelming.

Blue blue with Nicole at Axis

Of course, I’ve lost my hair again.  Pre-chemo, I had my friend and hairdresser, Nicole from Axis Hair Design colour my hair blue.  It was fun and a distraction.  When it started falling out in clumps just before the 2nd chemo, another hairdresser friend, Marjie came to our house and shaved it.  Again it was harder.  I guess when you know what’s coming, it’s more difficult to accept.  Being bald is a symbol of cancer and you are reminded every time you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of your reflection in a dark window.  I am using more scarves this time.  The wig is still perfect and great for going out to dinner when you want to feel normal.  Since it’s winter, toques are the best.

The very best medicine for me arrived on Saturday!  His name is Jasper and he will be a medium sized Labradoodle.  I told Sophie when I said goodbye that I needed another dog to help me get through the chemo and back in remission. Jasper with pink elephant It doesn’t mean I didn’t LOVE Sophie to the ends of the earth!  But Jasper has certainly taken my mind off myself!  I am looking forward to at least sleeping through the night soon.  He is really smart, shy, and playful and he has a shoe fetish.  All that and only 8 1/2 weeks old!

Susie w Jasper


In summary, I have 1 bad week and 2 good weeks.  I’ll take it.  Yes, I’m tired but otherwise coping and enjoying the good days.  Surviving treatments.  Thank you to everyone for your encouragement, checking in on me and to my sisters, Linda and Bobbi, niece Melanie and Roland for getting me to chemo and staying with me for the 5 hours!  Then driving me to Adam’s for the hyperthermic treatment.  A long day.

With gratitude and love,


What happened after April??

Sophie w ball April 2015       Last ocean swim    Sophie Lost Lake dock

From one day to the next, Sophie became really sick on May 22 and we had to rush her to the emergency pet hospital in Vancouver.  She was diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia.  After consulting with the specialist vet (oncologist!), we decided to try some chemo to see if we could have the summer with her.  My thinking was that if chemo was good enough for me, I had to offer it to Sophie.  It was thought she would handle the chemo well (better than humans) and she did but it was very stressful with tons of pills to give every few hours.  She had 5 weeks and then we said that was enough and we would see how she was.  We enjoyed some great summer days together – swimming was especially good for her and she wagged her tail with joy.  Roland grilled steaks, chicken thighs, pork, sausages etc. for Sophie.

Roland and Susie - 60th      Meanwhile, my numbers were on the rise, albeit still smouldering.  Since I was turning 60 this summer, I wanted to celebrate!  Roland planned a great party here at our house – over 60 people came, live music, great food and wine and wonderful friends to share it with.  I noticed I couldn’t dance and jump around like I usually do.  I was out of breath.  Next up was a 5 day Wanderlust Yoga Festival here in Whistler with 3 of my sisters and 2 of my nieces.  Our good friend generously lent us her apartment right in the heart of the Village.  We had a great time doing 3 classes a day for 4 days – including a free form movement class in a park.  There were concerts, great food and perfect weather!  We did 2 classes at the top of the mountain.  Very inspirational!

Towards the end of August Sophie was declining and so was I.  My CA125 tripled to 910 which was scary and I knew it was time to start chemo again.  I had to wait to have an appointment to install a port in my chest because my arm veins never did recover.   When Sophie refused food and water we knew it was time to say goodbye.  We had one last walk and swim in English Bay – centre photo above.  I miss her so much and know how much she helped me on the last round.  Sophie was pure joy!

I had the port put in on Sept. 25 and started chemo on the 28th.  By then the numbers were up to 1500 and I was afraid.  I couldn’t breath, especially at night.  They extracted about 550 ml. of fluid from my right lung just before the chemo.  That was a lot for a short period of time and I must say, the port hurt like hell.  It’s better now and will make having chemo, scans etc. much easier.  My oncologist, Sasha ordered another CT scan as a baseline and in just a few weeks my cancer had metastasized into my pleural lung tissue and some other areas.

So – I really should change the name of my blog from winning to surviving.  But it’s too complicated, so I’ll leave it as it is – with all those positive (though naïve) intentions.

It appears I pressed ‘publish’ too soon.  Some of you may see an earlier version of this post.  I will end now and will post again much sooner after the next chemo, scheduled for October 19.

Love Susie

Slow dancing

To borrow from Stevie Wonder,

 “For once in my life, I’m moving slow,

Something that I’ve never done before!

For once, I can say I’m not speedy

Because that will keep the chemo away”

 It appears that I must learn patience and trust longer than I ever thought I could last.  After the results of my last CT scan mid-January which showed some ‘disease progression’, a few more nodes and a small area in my left abdominal wall; I was ready to start chemo.  Again.  It was time!  I’ve said this before.  I was done with the waiting, the ticking time bomb inside of me, and the passivity of it all……not fighting.

I saw a GYN Oncologist, Dr. Tinker who works at the main BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver.  She specializes in ovarian cancer.  I saw her in late October, to see if I qualified for a new drug trial.  I was excited about that – PARP Inhibitors using DNA to target the cancer caused by certain genes.  I didn’t qualify because my tumours were too small!  A blessing to be sure.  I asked if I could see her again to see what her thoughts were about starting treatment.  She concurred with Sasha that until my side effects (more pain, enlarged tumours) are worse and a scan shows more cancer there is no point in rushing the next round of chemo.  This is difficult to comprehend, but studies have shown that “early treatment doesn’t affect the outcome” or in other words…….; well, actually I don’t really understand it.  No one knows how long I will remain in the slow lane – I just have to keep myself from going crazy with worry and accept the “here and now”.  This is a favourite phrase that Jon Kabit-Zinn uses in his mindfulness meditations.

I see Dr. Tinker again on May 14.  I have a new list of questions.  My latest CA125 is 200.  Up 20 over 5 weeks.  Still slow.  My supraclavicular nodes are noticeably bigger and cause some pain, especially at night.  Since I started writing this 2 weeks or so ago, they’ve gone down a bit.  Inflammation?

Tragically, my friend Val Forward passed away on January 31.  Val was diagnosed about a year before me, same cancer, same stage.  She had a terrible time with most chemo drugs and didn’t get a single break after 1 year of remission.  She was so kind and helpful to me when I was diagnosed.  Val guided me through those first scary months.  We even had the same surgeon which simply delighted Val!  I don’t know why I have had better luck.  I asked Dr. Tinker why.  She knew Val and she doesn’t know why.  Cancer is still such a mystery and such a scary, scary disease.

Spring time in Vancouver – we had a lovely, mild winter.   Spring in Vancouver March 2015

I visited my friend, Adele Engel in Panorama, BC recently to get re-charged, spend some time under her John of God crystals and learn how to brew Chaga and Reishi mushroom tea.  I like it.  It tastes a little woodsy but quite pleasant.  Lemon or ginger is also good with it.  2 cups a day brewed in a slow cooker.  I am so grateful for Adele – her knowledge, passion and intuition have been a huge reason I am still relatively well.

People also wonder what the hell I do with my days since I’m not working!  I am just looking after myself – drinking Adele’s Essential Nutrition first thing in the morning with coconut oil, reishi and turkey tail powder, cinnamon, Nutracleanse, frozen strawberries, unsweetened almond milk and coconut water.  It’s delicious.  I still enjoy 1 cup of really good coffee with a small amount of organic frothed milk.  Then I will take Sophie for a good walk in the woods here in Whistler or by English Bay in Vancouver.  Lunch – thank you Roland, yoga class in the afternoon 3 or 4 times a week.  I have to drink my 2 cups of Chaga/Reishi tea during the day and then at least one large, cold green tea and chlorophyll with organic lime juice.  Also delicious!  That’s a lot of drinking during the day and I have to do all of that in time for the evening wine service, which I have not given up!  Dinner – thank you Roland!

I know a lot of you have been checking my blog for an update.   Thank you everyone for all of your support and concern.

Love Susie


This is the beginning of a post I started ages ago – I couldn’t get past it, so didn’t finish it.    Some dear friends.

Pascal Tiphine – November 23, 2013 – undiagnosed

Judy Kirkpatrick – December 1, 2013 – brain

Donna Taillon – December 5, 2013 – ovarian

Dianne Dunn – March 10, 2014 – brain

Bonny Makarewicz – March 27, 2014 – melanoma

Although we had never met in person, my friend Donna Taillon passed away December 5.  We were a mini-support group comparing symptoms and treatments via Skype and email.  Donna just didn’t get a single break from this disease; suffering with allergic reactions to most chemo treatments she had.  During this time, our friend Pascal Tiphine was hospitalized with inoperable cancer and never got a chance to fight.  He died November 23.  My friend, Judy Kirkpatrick passed away too quickly as well of brain cancer a month later.  Finally, our friend Bonny Makarewicz ‘transitioned’ (a term used by people who believe in Spiritism– John of God trip) on March 27 from melanoma.  She and I were diagnosed at the same time and we were a kind of support team, especially when we needed to talk and be understood about cancer.  All so sad – Pascal and Bonny’s memorials were as good as it gets for funerals.  I still have trouble calling it a celebration of life.

Living with cancer

The new term is “living with cancer” instead of fighting cancer.  So that’s what I’ve been doing for these last 9 months since my re-diagnosis.  It hasn’t been easy……it’s easier to go back into treatment, which means you’re doing something.

A friend of mine, Sue Ferguson told me one day about her cousin who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and was understandably miserable.  One day he changed and instead of ‘dying of cancer’ he was ‘living with cancer’.  His sense of humour came back.  He still died.  “Living with cancer” made sense to me for the first time.

Challenging times for me and by extension for Roland, family and friends.  Thank you for being patient with me! The hormone blockers (to slow down the cancer) had unbearable side effects for me.  The first one, Letrozole (Femara) made me either manic or depressed – not sleeping, drenching hot flashes day and night, short tempered, aggressive…(Oh … and I nearly ran Roland over one day ….!!   L)  The second one Anastrozole (Arimidex) left me just low.  The third one, I started the end of June was called Aromasin and it seemed to be best for me, but looking back I don’t think it was much better than the other 2.  I stopped taking it on Nov 2.  My CA125 had been steadily rising since September and the bone/muscle pain along with the other side effects made it difficult to sleep.

Dr. Augusta and Medium Joao, Abadiania    In between, I flew to Brazil to see John of God in May for 2 weeks looking for a miracle.  I can’t even begin to explain the unexplainable.  It was so outside of my box and hard to believe.  I had some beautiful experiences and felt hopeful.  I will write about it in more detail another day.

The PET scan in June showed ‘disease progression’.  So many people have asked why I haven’t started the next round of chemo yet.  My oncologist, Sasha Smiljanic felt that since the cancer was metastasizing slowly, it was better to wait.  The longer between chemo sessions, the better my body will be able to handle it, the less chance I will develop resistance or an allergic reaction to it.

I went back on medical leave at the end of July.  I wasn’t coping well with the usual day to day stress of being a realtor.  Once I made the decision public I was so relieved!  My company has been very supportive.

So it will be almost 3 years since the last chemo when I will start – we talked about starting in November, but decided to wait till February.  CA125 was 223 in December.  I can say I am ready for it now – I have pain in my neck where nodes were detected in June – and down the left side of my chest.  Worse at night as is usual.  Last PET showed a bit more, nodes a bit bigger.  I will have to have a ‘port’ put in for the chemo this time which requires minor surgery.

Ovarian Cancer Walk Sept 2014

In between all of this, I have had lots of great times – Brazil, Wanderlust Yoga Festival with my sisters here in Whistler, lots of visitors, great dog walks with friends, a spectacular hot and dry summer, some golfing, a weekend at our friend’s beach house.  My sisters and friends supported me at the September Ovarian Cancer fundraiser, then Thanksgiving with my family on Vancouver Island.  Most recently we spent Christmas with friends at their home in Palm Springs – perfect!

Roland and Sophie

Now it’s time for more yoga and meditation, walking with Sophie and getting out on the cross country trails.    Jill, Lynne & Susie - Callaghan Valley, March 21

BTW – people say I look great.  I’ll take it! 🙂

Breathe in!  Breathe out!

Love Susie


TRACKING MY CA125: June – 12, October – 20, January – 30, February – 40, mid-March – 48

FUCK CANCER – it’s back – but not the raging debut from October 2011…… “Just a little” …… one lymph node in fact.  Nothing to get all worked up about, right?  Wrong!  The CA125 is my warning signal and it has been a slow but steady rise.  PET scan results – I am no longer “in remission”.

The second time is much harder to face and I have been having a really tough time telling my friends and colleagues even though I know they will give me as much support as the first time.  I don’t want chemo again.  I don’t want……I don’t want…….Why me?……the list goes on and on.

Will I stop fighting for my life?  Of course not!  I want to live!  I just haven’t found my battle gear, nor have I been able to summon my fighting spirit.  Where is it?!  What’s going on in my head?  I somehow feel like it’s my fault.  I can’t help it.  However irrational that seems!


Here are some of the reactions and responses when I have told someone ………”Susie, you just have to remain positive!”  “You did so well the last time”  “It’s not serious”  “Are you still meditating?”  “Doing yoga?”  “Get back to eating all those good green foods”!!  “It will be fine”  “You are strong”  “You’re a fighter”

Here are some helpful suggestions on what to say when someone has a recurrence of cancer (in my opinion):

“I’m so sorry to hear that”

“That’s terrible news”

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Please let me know how you are doing”

That’s really all anybody can say!  If I want advice, I will ask for it.  I just want people to listen.  Please do not judge, coach or try and pump me up!

It’s my journey and I am doing the best I can.

There – that feels better!  Well ….. it’s a start.

On the other hand, by re-connecting with you via my blog, I am asking for your support because you have supported me before.  It was really helpful and powerful to know I had everyone rooting for me.  It was also great not to blog for this time in between ……I enjoyed just living, working, laughing and sharing with my family and friends.

With gratitude,



p.s.  I might have to go to the Re-Use Centre in Function Junction and find some appropriate ‘battle gear’.


Kiholo Bay, Hawaii 9/12

Kiholo Bay, Hawaii 9/12

Since my last post in August 2012, I’ve been enjoying life – one day at a time.  Holding my breath, just a little bit before each 3 month check-up.  I just had my 1 year after chemo check-up on March 13 and I am still a 12!  (CA125 = 12)  A big sigh of relief banishing my worries for another 3 months.  I am back at work and while the first weeks were really tough – I just wasn’t ‘into it’ as they say – it has gotten easier.  It’s nice to concentrate on normal day to day life again.  My new motto for 2013 is:

I’m in remission and I need a commission!  Humour is healing!

Briefly, I went back to Ontario in September with my sisters to put my Dad’s ashes in a closet – actually called a niche.  Some tears and lots of laughter too.  We watched all of our childhood slides that Dad took over the years especially when we were young.  What great memories!  What terrible hair and clothing!  Yikes!  Then Roland and I spent a week at our friends’ beautiful townhome on the Big Island of Hawaii.  It was so generous of them to offer it to us – thanks John and Penny!  We invited my friend Jill and her husband, Greg to join us – it was my way of saying thank you to Jill for looking after my business for all of those months.  We had a great time and visited Kiholo Bay where Denise and Grant wrote a my blog name with white lava rocks.  We couldn’t find the message but we wrote a new one.  The turtles were present.  Magic.  Then I wanted to take a ‘bucket list’ trip.  Somewhere really special that would be meaningful and exciting.  We chose to go to Ecuador – Quito, the Galapagos Islands and the Ecuadorian Amazon.  It was THE MOST AMAZING TRIP EVER!

Blue footed Booby

Blue footed Booby

Baby Sea Lion - Galapagos

Baby Sea Lion – Galapagos

Marinie Iguana Love

Marinie Iguana Love

Human blue footed booby

Human blue footed booby

Watching Albatross flying off the cliff - Espanola, Galapagos

Watching Albatross flying off the cliff – Espanola, Galapagos

I am really loving every minute of our Spring.  It’s a warm and sunny one and I relish every new bird chirping, the crocuses are finally poking through the dull, brown earth and last year’s leaves.  We’re going to go for a spring ski up the mountain tomorrow with friends.  Life is Good!

Love Susie

Encouraging words

Roland and I have been enjoying summer in Whistler – it’s so nice to wear shorts and sandals!  We’ve enjoyed some lunches and dinners on our deck – our flowers and herbs have thrived.  Sophie swims every day in one of our lakes.

I had my second check-up with Sasha on August 9th.  All is well!  CA125 = 11   Chest x-ray clear.  Phew!  I am grateful.  Next check-up November 8th.

    A friend of mine, Diane, who is also a cancer survivor told me about a woman she met at Lion’s Gate during chemotherapy called Bev.  She survived 21 years with Ovarian Cancer, 18 of those years were spent having chemo on and off.  Diane asked Bev if she would speak to me as she knew I was in need of a positive story.   It was so encouraging to hear of her successful fight.  I had to call several times – each time she was resting and her husband asked me to call back.  When we finally spoke, Bev was so kind and answered all of my questions.  She wasn’t feeling well as Sasha and his team had run out of chemo options for her.  She told me that all of her doctors were amazed at her stamina and they were still searching for a new drug for her.  She was grateful for the time she’d had and assured me that many of those years were good quality with travel and good times.  I felt guilty to be bothering her and I realized she was not getting better this time.  Her voice was weak but so gracious.  Sadly, Bev passed away on August 15 – she was 75.  I am humbled by her kindness and courage.  I wish for 21 years too – wouldn’t that be something?

Next is a note from a friend that I haven’t seen for a few years but is on Facebook.  She sent me this note via Facebook.

Hi Susie

How are you doing? I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy the nice weather finally!!

You came to mind on the weekend in such a strong way I knew I just had to contact you, so I apologise for the delay. I hope it doesn’t sound too weird … but sometimes I have been given things to tell people. Some call it words of prophecy or words from God. I just know it’s not from me and there is usually a huge weight and seriousness with sharing such a message.

I feel that I was given this message from God: “Susie’s got this beat” over and over. it’s always a bit stressful to share such things … what if I’m imagining things, what if it’s wrong? However, this has happened before … a barren woman gave birth, a confused boy was given the answer he needed, a lonely woman met the specific man I described. So I’ve learned not to trust in me, I just trust in God.

Ok, before I sound like a complete wacko … better go! I hope this is encouragement for the battles ahead. You already know you’ll win!!

Lots of love
Louise Bowyer-Smyth

Susie Frank

  • Thank you so much Louise for sharing and being brave enough to send me this note! I’m doing well…..anxiously waiting for my 5 1/2 month check-up on August 9th. This really means a lot to me and I am happy to have you in my cheering section!
    Love Susie

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