Register Thursday | September 20 | 2018

Cynthia Brouse's Polyanna Moments

Cynthia Brouse, a Canadian copy-editor, teacher, magazine writer, and winner of the 2009 National Magazine Awards' Outstanding Achievement Award, died of cancer on Saturday, June 19th. She was a breast cancer "survivor" for five years before being diagnosed again in 2009, and had since documented her health on her blog, The Clothesline Saga. The blog chronicles the story of doctor's consultations, googling symptoms, never-ending visits to the hospital, and the steady progression of cancer from her left armpit to her spine. Brouse was not afraid to write about her debilitating pain, and some of the humiliating side effects of having cancer. She wrote with humour, compassion, and strength, and described the "polyanna moments" that keep her going. The following is a collection of ten best moments of her blog.

"Surgery tomorrow"

January 28, 2009
The day before the surgery to remove the cancerous lump in her armpit Brouse is referred New York Times editor Dana Jennings' blog that contains a list of "music to have cancer by". Brouse thinks about making her own list, and concludes that it would be a bit too embarrassing.

"Whining and gratitude"
February 7, 2009
"What do you say to someone who has cancer?" asks Brouse. She doesn't exactly know, but she does give some helpful tips about what not to say.

"Look good feel a little better"
April 9, 2009
She describes a "Look Good Feel Better" workshop, which involves make-up, wigs, cosmetics freebies, and the oohs and aahs of fellow cancer survivors when she tries on berets, scarves, and wigs.

"Make 'em laugh"
May 16, 2009
After "noodling around" on an online anagram generator Brouse finds a few that she thinks are quite pertinent: "cute hairy snob", "cosy urine bath", and "boyish centaur" are some of the gems.

"Polyanna and the city"
June 7, 2009
Brouse postpones her fifth chemotheropy treatment so she can receive her National Magazine Award in Calgary. The next post includes her acceptance speech.


"Walking for Terry, June, and me"

September 14, 2009
Brouse raises $1,700 at the Terry Fox walk/run, which she completes with her mother, brothers, sister-in-law, nephews, neighbour and friends.

"Pain Trek"
October 24, 2009
At her "Healing Journey" workshop for surviving cancer patients, Brouse participates in visualization exercises, and the only "inner healer" she can imagine is Commander Data from Star Trek. "If nothing else," she says, "it makes me laugh."

"Shit just happens part II"
March 20, 2010
Brouse distinguishes "how people live and how people die", relates some comments from Dane Jenning's blog criticizing the phrase "cancer survivor", and describes some heartwarming polyanna moments.

"Gluttony and hot tubs"
May 2, 2010
Brouse recounts her trip to British Columbia, which was complete with hot tubs, good food, and New Age spiritism.

"The pessimist's version"
May 13, 2010
After a harrowing year, Brouse sends an email to friends and family, and posts it on her blog. She concludes it with a made-up adage, "Keep at least a few meters away from Cynthia after she's eaten cupcakes."

Related on maisonneuve.org:

—The Angel of Disease
—The Shrinking Woman
—The Stinger

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