Feathers and Capes

Several weeks ago I met a woman named Janet, a friend of a friend who, like me, is a young mother with metastatic breast cancer. There are about a million other things that would likely have led us to friendship anyway, but unwanted intimate knowlege of the particular agonies, fears and triumphs of life with metastatic breast cancer is a pretty powerful common ground to share. 

Janet has been at this cancer thing for a few years longer than I have, and she really knows her way around.  I thought I was informed and self-advocating?  Next to Janet I look like a bit of a slacker. But the great thing is she’s a natural mentor, with an indomitable nurturing streak and a determination to empower other people.  She simply can’t stand the idea of cancer bullying anyone, and she does what she can to stop it from happening.

To me it seemed as though she appeared right out of the clear blue sky just when I most needed her, and so I started calling her my guardian angel.  It’s true: I write “Flap Flap” in the subject line of my e-mails to her, and I swear when she sits down at my kitchen counter for a chat I sometimes see tiny downy feathers floating through the beams of sunlight in my kitchen.  Probably not auras.

Anyway, back before we went to Detroit, Janet was at my side making sure I knew that there were lots of ways for me to keep actively fighting this cancer, even if I wasn’t yet enlisted in a clinical trial.  At a time when I felt abandoned by the hospital and health system, Janet offered practical, tangible things I could do, people I could contact, steps I could take so that I wouldn’t feel helpless; like a sitting duck in cancer’s crosshairs.

And one of the greatest gifts Janet gave me was to introduce me to Constantine.  He’s been one of Janet’s secret weapons in her own uphill journey with this beast, and if she’s a guardian angel, he’s a superhero.  She found him on the peer-to-peer cancer support site No Surrender where (under the web name “Edge”) he acts as resident medical researcher.   What that means is that Constantine responds to cancer patients’ questions about treatment options and myriad other confusing matters with clear summaries of relevant cancer research compiled from innumerable credible sources around the globe.  Constantine himself is not actually producing the research in question – which means he remains an impartial and unbiased third-party.  What he does is gather, evaluate and present findings to people who would otherwise be unable to find and make sense of the facts they need to make informed choices about their survival.  And Constantine does all this for free

So, while I haven’t actually seen the cape, I think it’s fair to say that there’s some pretty superhuman generosity of spirit at work here.  The sheer volume of information that he compiles is in itself overwhelming to contemplate, but that he then examines case-by-case requests for specific information is giving to a degree I can barely fathom.  And not just because I suck at research and statistics and would rather have my toenails pulled out than have to do it myself. Anyway, I’m deeply grateful to Constantine for his continued guidance, and always to Janet for taking me under her gigantic wings.

I’m telling you, angels and superheroes… they walk among us.



Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

64 responses to “Feathers and Capes

  1. natalie

    hello blog readers!!!
    as you know, there is a fundraiser being held on May 10th at the Carlu to help Leanne and her family to cover the costs of her upcoming treatment.
    I am looking for items for a silent auction that will take place that night…
    if you have anything to donate (service, item, gift certificate) please get in touch with me and I will gladly make arrangements to collect!!
    many thanks in advance.

  2. Dimithri

    Wow Leanne! Constantine should be nominated to CNN’s Heroes!

  3. Jen T

    Leanne – it’s wonderful that you have these people in your life because even superheroes need superheroes.
    I just started reading Coraline to my kids and the author begins with this quote:
    “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten”.
    Perhaps you should add “Dragon Slayer” to your resume (right beside “Superhero”). Jen

  4. Lisa

    Hi Leanne
    I’ve been following your blog since my breast cancer diagnosis in Jan.09. Mine has recently metastasized to my brain. Thank you,thank you for the info about Constantine. I am going to check it out now that my kids are at school. I think of us as princess warriors that can handle anything that is thrown at us. Bring it on!
    Keep strong you are amazing and fabulous!

  5. Gwen

    It’s great that you have found Janet and Constantine who both sound amazing, generous people, giving so freely of their knowledge and time. If they haven’t been formally acknowledged, they should be. And as for you, Ms. Dragon Slayer, I hope you can direct your fiery breath on all that bureaucratic red tape and incinerate it, so that the way to Detroit is finally free and clear.

  6. Marlene


    I understand the importance of having support from friends and family while overcoming breast cancer. My husband, little girl, and family and friends were a huge support system for me. As a breast cancer survivor I am currently producing a new show called “Marlene’s Meal Makeovers” that I thought you might be interested in. Check it out and let me know what you think!


    Best Health,

  7. Laura

    Thank god for superheroes–capes and wings alike. 🙂

  8. Doona

    Hi Leanne,

    I am glad that your angel showed. I told ya. Have a good day. I hope all is well with you.

  9. Bryony

    Hi Leanne

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and chatting to your Dad but I just wanted to say “Pants on the outside” to you and your superheros! Cape wearers are wonderful people and to have them in your life is a true blessing. You deserve all your lycra clad mask wearers and they deserve you, together you will win. Leanne I would come to Carlu and love, laugh, eat, drink and dance with all of you if I were in Canada, but it will be a huge success, you are a sucess, and you will succeed.

    Love from all of us to all of you.

  10. Lejla

    Your friends Janet and Constantine are very selfless and generous people! You found them when you needed them most, as you mentioned….this just confirms how life works really beautiful ways.

    Thanks for introducing them to us!

    We’re thinking of you and keep going my dear friend:))))))


    Lejla & Co.

  11. Doona

    Hi Leanne,

    Thinking of you today and hoping for good things for you.

  12. Katie Osler

    Leanne, I know there is an army of us out here, hoping that your week of silence is because you are enjoying the weather but desperately afraid that it means it has been a rough week. Like the wind, blowing on the little seed, whispering “grow, grow”, we are out here, whispering our wishes and hopes and best thoughts for you; in the air as the wind flutters in the window, as you feel the breeze from your daughter playing – we are with you.

  13. Anita

    Thinking of you, worrying a little due to the silence, but also hoping you’ve been enjoying the sunshine and champagne!

  14. Gwen

    Thank you, Katie and Anita, for putting my thoughts into words. Leanne, I am sending many positive vibes to you and your family, as well as a virtual bouquet of spring flowers from my garden.

  15. Sue

    Leanne, we are missing you. I’m hoping you are feeling good and enjoying time with your family this week and all the sunshine out there!

  16. Squiggysmom

    continuing to keep you in my thoughts – and hoping that your silence is for good reasons!

  17. Deb Alleyne

    Hang in there, Leanne…enjoy the sunshine and champagne, baby!

  18. Sarah Milke

    Hello Dear Leanne,
    Thinking about you all day and hoping you are ok. We miss you. I’ll be checking later and tomorrow to see how you are. Love and Shalom, Sarah

  19. Campbell's crew

    You are the angel in our lives. That will never change. You always have bean, and will continue to be insprirational to so many of us, forever. Love love love

  20. Carol W.

    Leanne, I hope you can feel all of the warm, loving energy that your virtual tribe is sending to you. You’ve brought a group of strangers together – made us feel part of your life and brought us with you on your journey. None of us knows what it’s truly like to be in your shoes but we are all proud of you and would give whatever we could to change things for you. Be well.

    Love, Carol

  21. Andrea

    Hi Leanne,
    I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you and hope you are doing well. After a year of horrible cancer treatments, I decided to form a team and walk in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers in Vancouver with four of my best girlfriends. I named our team “Cancer is Crap!”, a little homage to you and when people comment on our team name I tell them about you and your brave fight. Keep fighting, you can do this!

    Andrea- one of your many invisible friends 🙂

  22. Jen T

    Leanne, I hope you reach the top of this most recent hill soon and soar down the other side…we miss you. Hang tough, dig deep. Jen

  23. Doona

    Hi Leanne,

    Thinking of you and your family. Hope things are well. All of you take care.

  24. momof3

    Hi Leanne,

    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Look forward to hearing that you and Big Daddy are getting along well and preparing for your trip to Detroit.

  25. Nicole

    Angels and superheroes… they do walk among us. Love Nicole

  26. Shane

    Angels, yes, you are proof of that.

  27. Jack Kerouac

    Leanne, i’ll never forget you. I’ll see you on the other side..

    The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done
    By: Symphonia Sirenum, Kolin
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

    The strife is o’er, the battle done.
    Now is the victor’s triumph won;
    Now be the son of praise begun.

    The powers of death have done their worst,
    But Christ their legions has dispersed.
    Let shouts of holy joy outburst.

    The three sad days have quickly sped,
    He rises glorious from the dead.
    All glory to our risen head!

    He broke the age bound chains of hell;
    The bars from heaven’s high portals fell.
    Let hymns of praise his triumph tell.

  28. Jen

    Expressing sympathy is never easy, all we can say is how sorry we are. May you find comfort in knowing that Leanne touched the lives of so many others.

  29. Jen T

    I will be looking for the brightest star tonight, because that will be you, Leanne. Shine on.

  30. Anita

    I’m shocked and saddened to hear the news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Leanne’s family. She was so special, and helped so many people by sharing her story. We’ll light a candle tonight in her honour.

  31. Sue

    OMG. What? What happened?

  32. Erin

    My thoughts and sympathies to all of Leanne’s friends and family. Although I didn’t know Leanne personally, she helped me in so many ways.

  33. Julie

    I am so so sorry to hear this news. I did not know Leanne but was touched by her story. My heartfelt sympathies to her family.

  34. Jenn T

    I am posting this note for all of Leanne’s blog followers and fellow supporters. It is information that has been passed on to me.

    “For those of you who have not heard, Leanne was having some difficulty breathing on Sunday, so she decided to go to the hospital to get checked out and possibly check in for a while to get some 24-hour professional care.

    Leanne passed away yesterday. It was very quick and very peaceful with family and friends by her side. She was so utterly appreciative of all the love and support everyone gave to her and her family. ”

    We will all miss you deeply Leanne.

  35. Marny

    Thank you Leanne, from here to that other shore. My heartfelt condolences to your family, my heart aches for your loss.

  36. michelle + greg

    Thank you Leanne for your courage, strength, bravery and fearlessness. You were an inspiration to us all.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family and friends.

    God bless.

  37. Sarah Milke

    My heart is broken. Leanne has been a bright light in the lives of her virtual tribe out here. She, without a doubt is the bravest woman I’ve ever known. I had never actually met her in person but I feel that I’ve known her well. I believe the reason for that is her writing. A great writer has a story to tell and chooses the best and most exact words to describe that story. She got across to us how she was and I could almost feel it myself.
    It’s been an honor to have known her. Love you Leanne.

    My most heartfelt condolences to her beautiful family …. Sarah Milke

  38. Gwen

    I am so very sorry to hear that Leanne has left us. Though I never met her, I really felt that I knew her from following her blog over the last months. She struck me as a truly remarkable person. Her writings were also remarkable for honesty, poignancy and humour. Her love of family shone through every word. Leanne fought so hard to overcome her illness. My sincere condolences to her husband, to Georgia and to the rest of her family.

  39. Susan Seads

    So devastated to hear this news. Leanne, you are surely an angel of the utmost strength. You gave so much of yourself to all of us. Words cannot express my sadness and grief. Our loss is Heaven’s gain.
    Rest in perfect peace Angel.
    Miss you, love you Leanne.

  40. janet belray

    I am saddened and heartbroken beyond words…

    I can only think of how special the moon looked last night, like it was ready to shed it’s watery tears, but brighter than I have ever seen it.

    I was so lucky to have known Leanne, ever so briefly…time trumped by LOVE, and the beauty of her soul.

    My deepest most sincere sympathies to her precious family, friends and followers. I will be forever inspired.

    Shine on sweet Leanne.


  41. Eva

    My deepest sympathy to the family, and lots of love to Georgia!You had a very brave mother, you will always be proud of her!
    I will miss you Leanne!
    Rest in peace, Dear! Eva

  42. Jodi Lastman

    Leanne. You are forever the brightest most beautiful thing I’ve ever known. I can’t begin to make sense of the injustice of your passing. My deepest condolences to everyone–those who loved her, those who knew her, and those who were touched by her. I love you Leanne.

  43. Alyssa

    I have no words except I love you Leanne and always will. Thank you for being my friend. With all my heart, alyssa

  44. Lisa B.

    Leanne – thank you for sharing your journey with us. My heart is heavy today, but I wouldn’t trade the past few months of being buckled in on this ride with you for the world. Your courage and strength will remain an inspiration, and my thoughts and prayers are with your family.

  45. Debra

    Thank you, Leanne, for sharing your story with us. Your grace and courage is an inspiration to all.

    My thoughts are with Leanne’s family and friends. I’m heartbroken for your loss.

  46. Christine & Djenne

    Last night, my 4 year old daughter, Djenne said, “Mommy, I love Georgia and she loves her mommy… I love them both”. I asked her what she remembers about Leanne. She replied: “she is that beautiful lady at Georgia’s birthday party with the cupcakes, she is so nice…”.
    Dear Leanne, you will be missed by even those who were never fortunate to spend much time with you. Djenne said that she will always take care of Georgia and my family and I pledge the same to yours…

  47. Sheila

    To Leanne’s family – I’m so very sad for your loss. Thank you for sharing her with all of us. Leanne has brought changes and impacted so many lives, and inspired so many of us that she never even knew. She’s a beautiful angel now and I believe she’ll continue to fight the good fight, unhindered by a broken body. What incredible spirit! What an incredible life! My prayers will continue every day for Georgia, the handsome Frenchman, and all of Leanne’s family.

  48. Tess

    I will always remember you Leanne. Your strength, your courage and your wit brought tears of joy and sometimes tears of sadness. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. You will be terribly missed. Your spirit will always be with us Leanne and whenever there is a full beautiful moon I will always be reminded of you. I hope that you are in a beautiful place now and hope that our paths cross again. My very deepest sympathy to your precious family and all who you have touched in your life.

    Much Love,

  49. Andrea

    I am shocked and devastated to hear of Leanne’s passing. She was so brave in her fight against cancer. My heart goes out to her beautiful daughter, Georgia, and the rest of her family. One day when Georgia is older she can read Leanne’s blog and know what an amazing and courageous person her mother was. I will be walking in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers in Vancouver with my team “Cancer is Crap!” in honour of you Leanne. You will be missed.

    Love Andrea

  50. Aunty Carol

    Dear Georgia
    Your mother was a truly wonderful and inspiring person as you can tell by all of the love flowing from her readers. I can’t begin to tell you how saddened I am by her passing. Knowing your Mom was a true blessing and I am so grateful that she shared her life with us. I am so glad that in the years to come you will be able to read her blog and her readers’ comments to know what a truly special lady you have for a Mom.
    With love and thanks for sharing her with us. AC

  51. tami087@aol.com

    Was so afraid that this would be the news. It is surreal how quickly the end came. Like so many, I was also touched by Leanne’s story and her authentic depiction of the ups and downs, hopes, joy and sadness she experienced on her journey. I was proud to be part of her virtual crew and am glad that she knew so much love and friendship in her too short life. It was a life well lived – rest in peace sweet Leanne.

  52. Sue

    I am so heartbroken. In reading Leanne’s blog over the past year, I have grown to feel so close to her and so privleged that she would share her journey with us. She has been so very brave and she has taught us so much about life, very much like a lovely mentor and mother that I no longer have. Thank you Leanne for your exceptional grace, your determination and showing us your love of your family. You have changed my life, as I now live differently. You have most definitely made a difference in this world of ours. My thoughts are with your beautiful family. You are missed.

  53. diane

    For Axel, Georgia, the Coppens and Leanne’s innumerable friends:

    “I don’t focus on the pain and all the bad stuff, because…well there’s just so much, and it would distract me from all the good and beautiful things in my life.”

    Leanne’s own words, 21 April 2010

    I love you, Leanne.

    With all my broken heart,

  54. Gail Tondino

    To the beautiful, loving Coppen family – how I cherish having known your very special daughter! What a joy – my heart still laughs because of her antics. And now my heart cries that you and we have lost this very special jewel. Leanne will surely be in the hearts of all the Tondinos for ever and ever and ever. Blessings to all of you. Gail

  55. Jean

    So absolutely devastated, u were the perfect cousin Leanne-beautiful, vibrant,intelligent, a super talented writer, the world is a poorer place without you, love you and miss you, you are an inspiration and your memory will always endure!
    Lots of love always

  56. BH in Jackson Hole

    My salute to Leanne’s remarkable life….she lived with enormous amounts of hope, love, humour, and joy and she shared her heart and mind, without reservation, with all of us – creating an army of invisible friends in the process…. Missing you, Leanne. B

  57. Lejla, Johann, Patricia, Halilovic and Rajapakse families

    Our hearts are broken, dear Leanne….our love and support go to Georgia, your wonderful husband, the best mom and all of your family.

    We hope your soul can see us and we hope you have many friends there as you have here. It is a priviledge to know you, your unique spirit and the depths of your soul.

    Your legacy extends to many fronts; from personal enlightment guru all the way to someone who inspires the evolution in healthcare.

    We are here for your family now and always. May your beautiful soul go on in the dimensions we are not yet aware of.

    We love you.

  58. Ewa

    Leanne was such a bright light in spite of her pain and suffering. I wish her family all the strength as they come to grips with the unfair turn of events. Leanne’s smile will forever be in my memory.
    Ewa K.

  59. Lynda Lubin

    Leanne’s legacy will always live on in her beautiful daughter Georgia. Her blog was an inspiration to so many. Be proud and celebrate her life. My condolences to her family and friends.
    Sleep well Leanne.

  60. Hindy

    I wish that you could read all of these loving comments Leeane. Many of your friends and friends’ moms, myself included, couldn’t bring ourselves to read your blogs while you were still so vital and so alive. That’s how we say you and didn’t want to see you otherwise. We’ll all read them now. I didn’t see you often – but please know that I loved you whenever I saw you. You were gentle and funny and wise and feminine and oh so beautiful inside and out, yet you were a true fighter and absolutely no one’s pushover in your spirit – where where it truly counts – and in the best way possible. I feel so much for all of the loved ones you left behind. Because if I am missing you as much as I do, I can imagine how your family and best friends feel. My heart and comfort and condolences go out to everyone who knew and loved you. Your smile, kindness, sense of humour and loveliness will always be with me.


  61. Mark O'Connell

    Goodbye dear friend, your bright spirit brought so much joy

  62. Kate Dickson

    Back in the early 1990s, Leanne was a student at SOLA and I had, along with Ewa, Dave. Mike, Diane, the privilege to teach her. She was bright, funny, beautiful – we always knew she was destined for great things. She leaves us remembering that lovely girl who set the bar high for intelligence. We have been and are lucky to have in her in our lives and may she rest on the wings of the Eagle as she flies to the land of the ancestors. Kate D.

  63. Kate Dickson

    Back in the early 1990s, Leanne was a student at SOLA and I had, along with Ewa, Diane, Dave, Mike, the privilege to teach her. She was bright, funny, beautiful – we always knew she was destined for great things. She leaves us remembering that lovely girl who set the bar high for intelligence. We have been and are lucky to have her in our lives – may she rest on the wings of the Eagle as she flies to the land of the ancestors.

  64. Sonia & Matt

    We we’re so saddened by the news. Our most heartfelt condolences to Leanne’s family and friends.
    Leanne made such an impression on everyone she met and even those she didn’t meet.
    Leanne, you will never be forgotten.
    Our love and support to Axel, Georgia, family and to all her friends.
    Sonia and Matt

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