Cancer, party of one

Where do I even begin? (I just finished this blog and apparently I had a lot to say. So grab a coffee and a comfortable chair)

My whole plan when I took a break from blogging back in the Fall was to pick it back up after my scan in March. I had this idea that I could share with all of you my amazeball results of my first, second clear scan and then I could FINALLY share what I discovered my passion to be! Of course that fantasy is just that, a fantasy, and the reality is life never seems to be that easy.

I’ll share my passion another time…

For now, I’m just going to share what has been going on in these last few weeks.

My scan was on March 15th and it was a typical scan day. Drank the crap, joked around with my CT tech, got the IV, scan scan scan, then drank litres upon litres of water for the rest of the day to flush out my kidneys. Normal shit. The only change to the whole routine came with the delivery of the results. Back in the Fall I asked my surgeon if he could save me a trip to Toronto and just call me with my results. He agreed. So later that afternoon he called and said the following;

Liver and lungs – clear

Right ovary – unsure, needs more testing

I’m sorry what? Did you just say now I have to worry about my god damn ovaries?

He proceeded to ask about when my last colonoscopy was, how have my bowel movements been, when was my last period, etc etc. Then he let me know he was off to Whistler but I would be getting an ultrasound appointment in the next two weeks. Perfect.

Then my brain entered into rapid fire mode. It was dissecting every word and pronunciation he said and trying to figure out what the underlying message was.

This is what my brain told myself in less than a minute:

When they were first diagnosing me they told me they thought I had cervical cancer that had spread to my liver. So that means that scan showed the shadow in my colon but then thought it was in my cervix. So this one must be showing the same thing and that’s why he’s asking about my last colonoscopy. That also makes sense because it’s probably just stage 1 or 2 and that can be easily cut out but he doesn’t want to worry me because he’s in Whistler for 2 weeks. This also makes sense because my colon is the only place that when they removed the tumours they did not get clean margins. Yep, cancer in the colon is the logical answer. Or it’s in my ovaries. Or both. Start panicking.

So that was a fun night. The next day (Friday) I received my ultrasound appointment, for the Monday. This further spun my idea tighter around my finger because whhhyyyyy would they book me in so fast!? Yep, shit’s going south.

So that weekend was fun.

Monday comes and my ultrasound tech isn’t aloud to say anything about my exam but does say, “Don’t lose sleep over this.” So that calms me down slightly for the next week and a half while I wait for my next phone call.

The results? Oh inconclusive yet AGAIN. Somethings going on and they can’t figure it out and they can’t brush it off either. My surgeon is frustrated with the radiologist who wants to now send me for an MRI. So he asks if it is ok that he takes me case to the next tumour board meeting.

What is that you ask? A bunch of doctors and radiologists will review cases and give their professional opinion on what they think is going on. It’s actually pretty cool. So of course I agree because why wouldn’t I want more eyes reading my file and trying to figure out the mystery of the ovary.

So that’s where I still stand now. The meeting is on Monday and then I will find out what they said on Tuesday and go from there. Almost a full month after my scan and the results are still slightly unknown.

As you were reading this if you thought, “Well at least it’s just an ovary, you can remove those.” You are not alone. My husband, mother, best friend, and mother-in-law all said the EXACT same thing. And yes, you would be correct, I can lose an ovary. My problem with that is that I am not Swiss cheese. It is very easy now for people just to jump to the surgery idea for me without even blinking an eye. That’s how NORMAL surgery has become for me. This summer will be my first summer since 2014 where I haven’t had any surgery. That is just so crazy even to write.

What you need to step back and think for a second is say this wasn’t a story about a girl who has been under the knife more than she can count. What if this was just a regular ole person? Would your first response from an abnormal scan be, “Oh, well you can just lose an ovary!” Probably not. You would probably be worried or upset and have a tad more compassion.

I am not mad at all at the four closest people in my life jumping to that conclusion so fast. I get it. They are just happy that if it is something, it can be removed – aka non life threatening. But to me, I’m not a cadaver. You can’t just keep slicing and dicing me.

Well I mean you can if it saves my life, but that’s not the point.

The point is, as I have said in previous posts – Every piece they cut away is a piece of me. Literally and figuratively. I don’t want another surgery because I don’t want anything to be fucking wrong with me anymore.

If you are actually in my life and are shocked reading this and are thinking to yourself, “Wow, I had no idea all that was going on.” Surprise! That’s what happens when you go on with your own honky dory life and because I removed the cancer sticker plastered on my forehead, why would you ever think I even deal with matters like this anymore right? WRONG.

Here’s the take away for people reading this who are fighting cancer themselves right now- Cancer is an EXTREMELY lonely disease. The people who rally behind you at first drop off one by one every day longer that you still fight to survive. So YOU have to be the strong one. No one else is there anymore to fight your battles and pick you up when you are down. YOU have to wake up every day and choose not to live in the comfortable dark hole and step into the light. YOU have to remain positive and keep telling yourself that you are just fine. YOU have to put a smile on your face in public and act like nothings wrong. If you solely rely on others to raise you up and motivate you, now’s the time to start finding that voice for yourself. I’m telling you the crowd dwindles fast and when you are left alone, take a minute to be sad, and then pick yourself back up, dust off and continue on fighting.

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Young, Female…… Cancer


It’s been a hard few weeks. I lost a friend, a confidant, a fellow war hero. I met Damian early on in one of the cancer peer groups, and we instantly connected. He also had stage 4 colon cancer, but we were experiencing the disease much differently. As I struggled with the ups and downs from surgeries and being on and off chemo, he was more stagnant – only on chemo, every two weeks with no breaks. I admired him. We developed a relationship outside of the cancer groups, and it was beautiful. He would confide in me with his struggles and then laugh at my stories of telling people off. He was quiet, and it was hard for him to really talk about the way he felt about cancer. He was a self-employed electrician who loved his family and wanted to make sure they were taken care of. He had chemo consistently every two weeks for over three years – and he worked throughout it. Not only that, he would play hockey as well. He said it helped keep him strong and fight through the exhaustion that comes with those lovely chemicals. Did he ever complain? Not that I can recall. I did though. I loved a good bitch fest and would share with him my fears and anxieties over life, and he would listen and smile. Afterwards usually came a message from me apologizing for being so insensitive. “Here I am complaining about recovering from surgery, and you haven’t been given that option.” It made me feel like shit. We in the industry (of cancer, that is) call this “survivors guilt”. One of our last conversations he had told me that his liver was failing and that he was starting to turn yellow (jaundice). I tried to cheer him up letting him know that everyone loves The Simpsons, and that he just needed to keep his head up. It wasn’t long after that conversation that I was told he had passed away. I knew it was coming. The things he was telling me about his symptoms and condition changing were all the standard “you don’t have long” descriptions. I tried to hold on to a little bit of hope, but inside I knew it was the beginning of the end. The loss of a friend is hard, but this was much greater. We were fighting the same war, in combat together side-by-side. There is no rhyme or reason why he was shot first. Now, the survivors guilt grows stronger, but I am trying not to let it take over my life. Instead, I’m hoping it changes it.

At his viewing I spoke with his wife and she said something that surprised me, “Damian had a hard battle with chemo but you have had to have chemo and surgery and everything else that comes with that”. I never knew they thought of it that way. I always thought that there was a small part of Damian and his family that were, not resentful, but maybe annoyed at the fact I was given so many chances for surgery. Kind of like, “What does she have to complain about? At least she is getting surgery”. To my astonishment it was the complete opposite. They felt like he had it not easier, but that we both had it just as hard.

So I started to do some self reflecting. Maybe I’m not “lucky to be alive”. Maybe I’ve worked fucking hard at it.

Before I continue I would just like to say that I am not saying that Damian, or anyone else for that matter did not fight their asses off. This disease is not predictable and it is constantly changing and evolving. Everyone who has it is a hard ass fighter. 

I always put myself in the “lucky” category. I considered myself lucky that it was found when it was, that I had the surgeons that I had, and that I was winning the battle. But maybe that is not the case. I think the only thing that luck had to do with, is the hospital I was referred to. St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto does not get enough credit. From my surgeons, to my oncology team, to my nurses, and the administrative workers – everyone there has played a vital role in my survival.

But so have I.

I have changed my entire eating habits. I have researched my disease and helped to dictate my chemotherapy schedule and dosage. I have said if I would like to move forward with a surgery, and sometimes have even got to choose if I would like it sooner or later. I pushed myself and worked hard during my recoveries in order to heal faster. I have sought out group therapy, couples therapy and personal therapy so I am not lost in my own mind. I have listened to others along the way and have learned from their experiences. I am still learning and evolving. Cancer has changed me physically, mentally and socially. It will be forever a part of the description of myself.

Now however, it is time to take a breath. The past three and a half years I have been driving this speeding car trying to avoid every obstacle, and it is exhausting. It is time for me to stop breathing in the stale hospital air and start enjoying the outside world. I need cancer to become a lower descriptive word than the third. So I am taking a step back from blogging and social media. I am still here if anyone comes across my page and has questions about anything – I am always here to help. It is time for me to find my passion in life and do something that brings me joy.

My name is Jamie. I am young and a female with a loving husband, two beautiful fur babies, a good friend, smart and intelligent individual who is driven and opinionated, who also has cancer.

Bye for now.

Xx

Ativan 

So here is part two of my addiction story….

During my many chemo sessions, it became apparent to not only myself, but to all of the nurses working in oncology, that I was developing MAJOR anxiety before even stepping foot into the clinic. My oncologist wrote me a prescription for a drug called Ativan (also known as Lorazepam) and told me to put two under my tongue an hour before each appointment. Well I did, and they did nothing. I kept the bottle in my cupboard at home and thought nothing of them. 

Before each and every surgery the same thing would happen – I would have a major anxiety attack. After the first major blow out I was also prescribed Ativan to be taken 30 minutes before being called into the operating room. Just like with the chemo anxiety, they did nothing. 

All I ever knew about this drug was that is was to help with my anxiety. From my experiences I thought it just didn’t work for me. 

While packing in March to head on my Thailand and Australian adventure, I was taking out the Advil bottle and noticed the bottle of Ativan. “Perfect find!”, I thought to myself. Just in case I have an anxiety attack while away, I will have something to help calm me down. I made an appointment with my family doctor before leaving, and told him that I had a bottle of Ativan and it never worked for me before. He then prescribed me a bottle of Clonazepam, and said they might work better for me. 

Both Lorazepam and Clonazepam belong to the drug class known as benzodiazepines. They act on the brain and nerves and produce a calming effect. 

While on the 17 hour flight to Hong Kong, my panic set in. So I popped a Clonazepam and low and behold, I felt nothing. 

Great. My anxiety levels are too high for these drugs apparently. 

A few days later, finally in Thailand, I was having some anxiety before bed and thought I would try just one of the Ativans. 

The following day I woke up and could not believe it – I actually had a full nights rest! 

I have not slept through the night since I don’t even remember. With my multiple keloids on the body, and the anxiety and pressure from this cancer world, I toss and turn throughout the night. But now, I feel rested and AMAZING. Well, this is a miracle. 

I decided right then and there, I would take one each night to help me sleep. They did not make me groggy or even put me to sleep. But what they did do is KEEP me asleep. Which was the best thing I had experienced in a long while. 

In May I went for my consultation with my surgeron for my upcoming surgery, and I told him about how Ativan has helped me, and if he could right me another prescription. He did, but only for 3 months because he said he wasn’t allowed to write one for longer than that. Well that’s annoying, but I thought nothing of it. 

I dropped off my scrip and when I went to pick it up the next day, the pharmacist let me know that I was NOT allowed to get my next 30 day refill till the actual day it was due. Ok, sure lady. Again, I thought nothing of it. 

Now in August, I made an appoint with my family doctor again to have my pre-op for my colonoscopy. During our talk he saw I wrote down that I was taking Ativan. That reminded me, my three month prescription was almost up. So I asked him to write me a new one. 

“Are you addicted?” He quickly asked. 

“Um no. You know me I hate taking drugs. This I just use to help keep me asleep. No big deal.”

“Ok. You are a special case. With everything you’ve been through I can understand if these help you.”

I was so confused. Why was he being so weird? 

“Are these super addictive or something?”

“YES. Very much so. But you are different than most people and I know you wouldn’t be taking something unless you truly needed it.”

He wrote the prescription and told me to just have the pharmacy fax him every three months for a new one. 

I went home and spoke to Chris about my conversation with my doctor. He and I agreed that if it was helping me right now, then it’s ok. 

Later that night I got into bed, took my pill, and then began googling “How bad is Ativan?” – oh the things that came up. So many blog posts about people who were given it in the hospital, and it took them months and sometimes YEARS to get over the withdrawal. It explained how it is the most additive drug and that you should start with a low dose of 0.25mg. 

Holy crap I was taking 1mg! 

The next day I woke up and said, “Nope, I’m never taking that again.” 

The following day I woke up, and was instantly in withdrawal. My skin was crawling, my heart was beating out of my chest, I felt super anxious and couldn’t stop crying. Just a complete mess. I didn’t know what to do. If I took a pill to stop it, I would still have to take one at night – so then I would be taking two pills in one day. That wasn’t the answer. I called my doctor but he wasn’t in that day, and I was told he would call me on Monday – this was Friday. 

I cried and cried to Chris – I was so mad at myself for getting into this predicament. I started reading online how hard it was to come off of this drug, and that got me even more scared. Chris was amazing and calmed me down. He let me know that I am not a drug addict, that my case is different. If I needed this to help me get to sleep then so be it. 

I, on the other hand, did not agree. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was taking a drug that was highly addictive. I think it would cause me more stress. From all of my readings it seemed like the best way to get off of it was to slowly drop your dose down. So Friday night I took a pill, and then I decided Saturday I would not. When it came time for Sunday I though, hell I will roll the dice and just not take one tonight either. On the Monday I felt the withdrawal, but it wasn’t overwhelming as it was on Friday. When my doctor finally called I told him my predicament and he said very firmly, “Do not go off of this drug cold turkey. You have to gradually take it out of your system.” 

Well as we all know by now, I rarely listen to doctors. 

So I decided to push myself, and if it got too bad at any point I would give myself permission to take a pill. 

It took about two weeks, but I finally began to feel back to normal. Now, here is the craziest part. My depression also has seemed to have left. I no longer feel as though I am living in this dark hole. I truly believe that has to do with being off of the drug. I still have my days obviously, but they are not a constant anymore. 

My sleeping is back to being scattered, but now I am looking for more natural remedies to help with this. 

Addiction 

I avoid drugs. I know how easy it is to become addicted to pain killers, so I was always scared to take them. Since I have always been vocal about this to all of my doctors, they are never worried about me and always tell me, “Don’t be a hero and just take the drugs if you need to”. (Well ok they do not use the term “hero”, that’s my ad lib 😉) 

After my second surgery in 2014, I saw first hand how easy it was for my body to become addicted to drugs. Even though my mind wanted nothing to do with it, my body began going through extreme withdrawal when I tried to stop taking the Oxycodones. My skin felt like it was crawling, I was sweaty but shivering, and my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. I was forced to continue to take them and gradually reduce the dose. Since then I have refused to take anything other than just regular ole Advil – well until recently. 

I was in a lot of pain and discomfort after my recent lung surgery, and when I went in for my post-op, my surgeon told me to just take even a single pill if I think it might help. After discussing it with Chris, we both decided that I will have to try it as the Advil did not seem to be doing the job this time. So I cut the oxycodone in half and took it at 6:00pm. At 9:30pm I still felt no relief so I took the other half. By 10:00pm my whole body was numb and I felt drunk. No joke. I had to put myself to bed. 

The following day I had plans in the morning so I woke up and felt groggy, but I figured that was only because it was 8:00am. It wasn’t until I was half way to my destination that I realized, “holy crap I am SO high right now and should NOT be driving”. I pulled into a parking lot and had my friend pick me up. This feeling lasted till the mid afternoon! 

When I got home I looked at the bottle, my original prescription was 1-2 every four hours!! WHO COULD SURVIVE THAT?! 

Never again – I went back to just suffering through the pain. 

So, this story is not even the main reason for this post…. I will have to write an “addiction part two” tomorrow. 

But to finish off our discussion about oxycodone – or just any pain reducing drug for that matter. BE CAREFUL. The doctor will prescribe you what is the standard dose, but LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Do not just read the label and pop away, see what works for you. I am not advocating to never take a pain pill. Tolerances for pain are different for each individual, and if you are in too much pain then that will actually harm your healing process. All I want to make known is just to be aware of the problems that can come from taking pain killers. It may help with your pain but it may be hurting you in some other way. These drugs are strong so please use with caution. 

Depression 

Hello world! 

For those of you who were worried – no I didn’t die during surgery. I know I usually post twice a month, but after I came out of the hospital I started dealing with some major mental issues.

I always seem to go into a sort of depressed state during my surgery recoveries, so at first I did not think this one was any different. Now I realize I was wrong. It’s been 6 weeks since my surgery and I still have not come out of my “funk”. I was waiting till I felt a little happier in order to post something uplifting, but the truth is I haven’t felt that way yet. So sorry everyone, but the “bright and happy” posts are not hitting this blog any time soon. 

When you are medically free from cancer, they shake your hand and send you on your way with your next scan appointment. Unfortunately our system is missing the step that should come after that, dealing with your mental state. In the hospital system they are so worried about you physically, that they pay no attention to you mentally. So I’ve been cleared of cancer this time, now what? Just go on with my daily life while I heal from my surgery? Smile and be happy that I yet again am on the road to a clear scan? I wish it was that easy. Maybe for some it is. In my case, since I’ve been told I’m “cancer free” twice in the past already, I now have major hesitations hearing that phrase again. I can put on a show and smile, but it’s not real. Inside I feel as broken as my scars make me look. 

So what do I do? Avoid people. 

Why? Well when people have asked me how I am doing, and I am honest and say something like, “It’s been tough. I’m definitely depressed. I cry a lot, and sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if the cancer had just won.” Their face goes from smiling to just lost for words. Usually an, “oh sorry” comes out after. Then I feel even more like shit because I’ve gone and done it again. All they wanted was a “I’m doing well thanks” type of answer, and now I’ve dragged them into this hole I’m in. No one wants to be around a person like that – who is just on edge and could cry at any moment. So I avoid. 

Is it the healthiest thing to do? Probably not – but for now it is working for me. I have a small cluster of people that I will see when I am feeling up to it, but even those hangouts I try to keep short. Stay around me too long and you will be hearing some really depressing shit that will make you regret ever asking me to hang out in the first place. 

Yes, I plan on going back to my therapist – eventually. Even her right now I just don’t feel like talking to. No one seems to truly understand why I am as messed up as I say I am. The roller coaster ride for me has had many ups and downs, and I’m still stuck on it. 

Chris through all this has been amazing. I’ve cried to him many times telling him that he should just leave me, and he’s laughed it off. It makes my life a lot easier knowing I can be completely open and honest with him, and that he won’t also be sucked into my black hole. He seems to be able to stay off to the side of it and pull me out every time. 

So for those of you expecting some inspirational post talking about how amazing I am that I’ve beaten cancer yet again, and if I can do it so can you! – My bad, you aren’t going to be reading that here just yet. 

Have I beat stage 4 colon cancer? Maybe. (I actually highly doubt it) 

Actually let’s rephrase that – Have I physically beat cancer? Maybe. Have I mentally beat it? Nope. 
My reader friends! Make sure to follow my site so you will always be the first to read a new post! Also, if you feel one of my posts will help others, feel free to share it within your own social community!

I share a lot of my life through Instagram – I welcome you to join it with me! Find me @jamie_phelps ✌️

Who Doesn’t Aspire To Have Seven Surgeries? 

I just realized while sitting here during my pre-op, that I haven’t updated the crew! 

Tomorrow I will be going in for my seventh surgery – this one on my right lung. It’s a laparoscopic procedure, and he is also taking out my port at the same time. Might as well get rid of that damn thing since I’m not planning on using it any time soon (and hopefully never again). 

So this summer will be more of a relaxed season. No long walks with the dog, no swimming in the pools, just lots of lemonaide with my feet up. I guess it doesn’t sound so bad when you put it like that? 

The humidity will make it hard to breathe for a while – I’ll be crying over a chest tube again –  I’ll coughing up blood clots that night – I’ll be showering with only my left arm – I’ll be unable to drive – BUT I’ll be cancer free again. That is worth it. All the pain and suffering I will be going through in the next three months is ALWAYS worth the chance to be cancer free. There is a risk to every surgery, but I always feel like the risk is worth the reward. 

Will 2018 finally be the year that I will be ACTUALLY cancer free for an entire date!? That’s the game plan – first step starts tomorrow. 
My reader friends! Make sure to follow my site so you will always be the first to read a new post! Also, if you feel one of my posts will help others, feel free to share it within your own social community!

I share a lot of my life through Instagram – I welcome you to join it with me! Find me @jamie_phelps ✌️

Acceptance 

Even though it may seem sometimes I am a Debbie Downer, it’s actually not the case. 


This was taken in Thailand just 30 minutes after I told Chris that I wish that cancer would just kill me so this crapshoot life can be all over with. Can’t you see it in my eyes? I had a LARGE SCALE breakdown. But with a few hugs and some laughter, I was able to pick myself up off the floor and head out for dinner. I thought to myself – I don’t want to feel this was anymore – but then how do I change it? 

I’m not over here though praying to be “cancer free”. I honestly don’t know if that will ever truly happen. What I am trying to do is shift into the world of acceptance.

That is a big world to use. Accepting the fact that I have, and may always have cancer, and that’s ok. This year could be my fourth summer where I have to enjoy it from inside the hospital walls. Learning to walk again in the humid weather. Watching everyone cool off in the swimming pool while I sit on the sidelines. Struggling to find the strength to move from the couch to the kitchen. Maybe that’s ok? If I just learn to accept my disability then it will no longer have power over me. 

So today, that is what I am choosing to do. Remind myself that it is what it is, and I am who I am. And maybe there is nothing wrong with that. 

My reader friends! Make sure to follow my site so you will always be the first to read a new post! Also, if you feel one of my posts will help others, feel free to share it within your own social community!

I share a lot of my life through Instagram – I welcome you to join it with me! Find me @jamie_phelps  ✌️