Monthly Archives: June 2014

Normalcy

Speaking to a person completely removed from your life is a very freeing thing. I always thought it would be, and then yesterday I finally spoke to a therapist. I have been bottling up all of my sadness, anger, depression, really every emotion because I did not want others around me to feel my pain. I took two steps into the room and immediately began crying. It was such a release. I just cannot believe I had waited this long to speak to a therapist. I do not even mean this long with my diagnosis, I mean this long in my life. To be in a comfortable environment where you can say whatever is on your mind, and not be judged, feels amazing. The advice your receive in return seems to also be bang on. Everyone should do it. Even if it is only once. Even if you think you have nothing to say. It is just an open release of your mind and you come out feeling lighter.

My first round with her she explained that she feels I am seeking a sense of normalcy. Yes. That is it exactly. All I want is for everyone to act and treat me as they normally would. It is such a simple request on my end, however I feel as if it may be tough for some. I do not know what it is like on “the other side”. I only know what it is like to have cancer, but to have a close friend with cancer, I am not sure how I would react. Could I treat them as if nothing was different? Maybe. I guess it is just like playing pretend when you were a child. It does not have to be everyday, but some days I would like to pretend as if cancer does not exist in my world.

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Miracle Cure

Before I get started let me make it clear that I love how many people have reached out to me with kind thoughts. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of love and support I have received thus far. After being able to speak with people who also have/had cancer, I have realized my findings for my own experience, are also theirs. The difference between them and myself is I have no filter.

It is astonishing to realize that every single person on this planet most likely knows someone who has had cancer. What you discover if you are unfortunate enough to have cancer, is every single person you come into contact with will share their story of someone who has had cancer. Now, this is obviously FULLY ok if you are close to this person. But what I am referring to is – Every. Single. Person. – I meet tells me their own cancer story. The best part is, it usually ends with a miracle solution.

“My sister’s, best friend’s, wife’s, second cousin’s, husband had cancer and he starting eating bark off of maple trees and he is still alive today.”

Oh. Good for him.

There seem to be a million cures for cancer out there, and everyone is sure that their’s is actually the one that works. With puppy eyes while informing you, everyone also wants you to try their remedy – but that is impossible. Like I said before, I know it all comes from a good place. All people want to do is help, but here is my advice – really think about what you are going to say. If it is something like “Have you heard of organic fruit? Do you know about holistic nutrition?”, chances are you are sounding like a broken record to them. Also, an hour long conversation about how if I lick 1000 wasps (this example is clearly far fetched, but honestly some of the miracle cures I hear are), I will be cured from cancer… and if it was them, they would do it. Well then good for you. You go do that as a preventative measure and let me know how that goes.

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Needles

My two biggest fears are needles and spiders. Leading up to my diagnosis I was stabbed so many times, my arms were bruised like a heroin addict. I used to squirm and cry each time, but I never thought I would become this comfortable. Needles used during my chemo have stopped making me feel faint and crying over (only the first time). I still cannot look when they take my blood or put the needle in my port, but at least there are no tears.

My last visit to the hospital they warned me that my white blood cell count was dropping too fast. To sum it up really quick, chemotherapy kills good and bad cells… my good cells were not reproducing fast enough. I had to be placed on daily injections for 8 days in order to help with this. I did not think anything of it at first, I have become a needle pro. Then they told me the real kicker to this whole thing, I have to administer the needle myself. I instantly said no, not possible. After much persuasion from the nurse, she assured me that it was very easy and 99% of her patients do it themselves. I was booked to come in the following week to the hospital for my first one.

Of course I was nervous, but I was trying to talk myself down from it.

“Diabetic people have to do this everyday… I can do this… ”

As if this adventure could not get any more fun, I had to draw the drugs from the vial myself. They taught me, let me practise and then said “go”. I took the needle off… drew from the vial… tapped out the bubbles… cleaned off the injection site on my stomach… and then sat there. Needle in hand I began to cry. How was I ever going to actually proceed with the motion needed in order to stab my own stomach with this needle? My mind was racing. My mom and friend were there for support, cheering me on. Finally… eyes closed.. one, two, three… I stabbed my stomach. Not the worst. Now I had the task of switching my hands and actually slowly pushing the drug in my stomach. Nope. Anxiety attack full swing… pass out mode engaged… the nurse had to take over.

Day two I had a nurse come to my house to be here in case I needed help. I was nervous but I tried to pump myself up. My pump up worked and I was able to do it from start to finish with no tears. Success!!!

Day three I began to draw from the vial and I noticed my needle was leaking. I started freaking out but the nurse again was here, and stepped in to help. I lost some of the medication so we opened a new vial, and drew the rest from that. My heart rate was up slightly from the set back, I took a deep breath. One, two, three… jab… except the needle just pushed my skin in and did not pierce. Annnnddd the anxiety came right on back. Heart rate up, tears flowing, the nurse took over.

Day four…. starts in 2 minutes. Wish me luck 🙂

By the way, needles is one thing. If you are afraid of them like I was, I am proof you can get over it… kind of. Spiders on the other hand…. If they told me I had to hold a tarantula everyday in order to feel better….. that’s a big cup of “nope”.

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Energy

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The energy you put out in the world is what you will receive back. I am a firm believer of this. Years ago I decided to change my life for the better when it came to positive energy. Any person in my life who was not adding value, or bringing a positive spirit, was more or less dumped. Why would I want to surround myself with anyone who did not make me feel good? Why should any of us? We have all had them though. Those people in our lives who just bring us down. I knew before but I clearly have a better sense now, that time is a precious thing. So why bother wasting your time and positive energy on people not worthy. At the end of the day it pays off two fold, trust me on this one. I am so thankful for all of the people who have shown their support throughout these past few months. Without it I would have been lost for sure.

When people have come into my life and really shown me how good they are inside, I have always done my best to try to maintain that relationship. Now, you can’t do it with everyone… but there are a few that even when I was super busy I found time once every few months for a coffee. That’s all it really takes. When you meet good people you just bond with, all you need is a coffee date every few months. Really not much time on either of your parts, but what you get out of it on the other side of that hour is amazing. You feel rejuvenated.

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Exhausted

Sometimes you just have to let it all out. I have been surprised so far about how calm I have been about this whole “cancer shmancer”. Bottling it all in is beginning to take it’s tole. I feel like I do not have any other choice however. I really only have a meltdown when I am alone at night, and it is quiet, and my mind won’t shut up. Breaking down like that in front of people has no benefit. Every single person I know feels bad for me, and that energy… I can feel it. If I show that I am upset, I can see it just makes them even more upset. That weight however… of hundreds of people’s sadness on my shoulders… it is so exhausting. I can’t cry because whoever I am with starts to cry 10 times harder it seems. I hate that. I hate the feeling that I am causing anyone pain.

The one common descriptive word that I consistently hear is “helpless”. Everyone feels helpless and wants to try and fix that. The truth of the matter is no one really can. Even I feel helpless towards myself. The path in life I was running towards shattered in front of me and now I am stepping on shards of glass. Sounds pretty depressing. Sorry for that, but it’s the truth.

I just wrote and entire uplifting paragraph and then erased it all. Why? Because sometimes everyone needs to sit in shit. You want to know the cold hard truth of what is happening inside my head. This is it today. It’s the fucking worst and it’s only 8am.

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Reality Check

As I have said before, most days I forget what is going on with me. I just live day by day on this extended stay-cation not really paying too much attention to the bigger hurdles in my life. It is days like today however, that shake me out of it. I saw for the first time my CT scans. There they were, up on the doctors screen. As he scrolled down each scan these dark shadows would appear then disappear on my liver, like a light show. Every dark shadow was cancer, and let me tell you this shit was everywhere.

I received many options today on how to proceed with my condition. As the information was flowing in my ear all I could pay attention to were those dark shadows.

“Did he just say on my “good” side of my liver… the 20 percent he would like to try and save… I have 9? 9 tumours on just 20 percent of my liver. Geeze the other 80 must be a large company picnic.”

If my MRI next week shows no significant change to my scans (aka they do not find a cluster of tumours hiding somewhere), then I have opted for the surgical route. I should be excited but again, this is another shake to my system. I have now gotten in the routine of going to chemo, this has become normal life for me. The amazing outcomes of surgery can be great, however the implications of the surgery are also extremely scary. For instance, after the first round of surgery my body will be extremely weak. This is the perfect chance for my little cancer friends to grow and thrive. It was very clear when my doctor was explaining the risks, this is the thing he is most afraid of. Having surgery can save my life, but it could also actual do the reverse and put me in a worst state. But what choice do I have? Prolong my life on chemo for a couple years, or jump in feet first with surgery and hope for the best. He said it today, surgery is the only chance I have to be cured, and I don’t half ass anything.

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Take This Shit Seriously

I’m going to keep this short and sweet because who really wants to sit and read a post about poop. But seriously, how many times have you watched Oprah or Dr.Oz and they have gone on and on about the importance of your bowel movements. It is very true. Nothing speaks more to what is going on in your body then what is coming out of it. Although it is very apparent I am not doctor, so please do not take this as legit medical advice. I am just going by what I have experienced.

Firstly, if you have sharp pains when you are having a “looser” movement, this is probably not normal. Seeing those commercials on tv where people are holding their stomach on vacation, I thought that was the same pain. Unfortunately what I later discovered is they were just imitating a “gurgling” feeling, where mine feels like a knife coated in acid slowly moving through my intestines. Silly me not to think that it was just the greasy McDonalds and actually the feeling was most likely the stomach acid passing by four bleeding tumours. The scary part is how long I have had these intense pains for. When the doctors told me I have probably had cancer for 5+ years it was hard to believe. Then when I started thinking logically about things like this, the reality hit that they were right.

There are many other signs I could discuss but did not experience first hand. At the end of the day all I am trying to say is have a look before flushing and pay attention to discomfort. As small as it may seem, it could save your life.

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Charles

 

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Now I know what most of you will say, “Hey crazy cat lady, are you really going to dedicate a whole post just to your cat?”. Damn right I am.

I am not quite sure when I switched from wanting a puppy to a kitten, but whenever that was it was all I could think about. I knew I wanted a persian cat, because those squished faces are to DIE for. Shopping around on different sites they all fell in the price range from about 600 to 800 dollars.

My boss at work is hands down the biggest animal lover I know. I mean the bitch fosters dogs. I don’t know anyone else who would just take a random helpless dog, invite it into their home, get attached, and then send it on its way once it has a family. She is a person we can all learn from. Anyways, she introduced me to a site called Pet Finder, which lists thousands of animals up for adoption. One afternoon I hoped online and to my surprise there was little Charles (at the time they thought he was a girl so his name was Sophie).

I quickly wrote an email stating my interest, but did not have much hope because the rescue where he/she was based out of was Quebec. Within the hour they wrote back, letting me know I was the first person who had showed interest, and that he/she was being held in… get this…. WHITBY. Just a 5 minute drive away from me. Long story short, as you may guess I adopted him, and he has been a blessing in my life ever since.

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This post really isn’t just about Charles, although I really could type all day about how much I love him. What I want to express is the amazing thing that animals can bring to everyones lives. They have such an innocence about them, and they fully rely on you for love which is an amazing feeling. I have had moments of sadness, where my head is face down crying in a pillow… and out of no where up jumps Charles. He slowly crawls towards me, put his head on my arm and begins the loudest purr of life. No joke. Everything in my life aligned and this kitten was meant to be apart of it. So if you have some extra love to give, a little extra cash, and the time… go out and rescue an animal. It will be one of the best things you could ever do.

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Like Christmas Morning

Throughout the years I have always heard the worst things about chemotherapy. So finding out I was going to be on one of the strongest doses was a tad overwhelming. I mean yes, it was going to attack and hopefully kill the bad cells, but at the same time kill the good ones too. I was put on the schedule of coming biweekly, with one of my drugs being hooked up in a bottle that I would bring home and that would flow into me for another 46 hours.

Treatment One

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During and after leaving I was thinking “What was all the hype about?” Yes I am a little tired but honestly if this is the worst of it, this shit is a breeze.

Treatment Two

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This was the start of my hair loss. Even with that I only had two bad days where I felt drained. I did have one morning feeling nauseous, but as soon as I put something in my stomach it seemed to go away.

Treatment Three

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This day so far was definitely the worst. I was sweating like a fool during and after leaving the hospital. I was also so exhausted I felt like I walked home from Toronto. That night upstairs on the couch all I wanted was cold pineapple. Too exhausted to even get up to pee (honestly in my head I would go back and forth with how long I could hold it.), I used my cell phone to call my house phone to ask someone to bring it up. My parents have been amazing, and my mom came upstairs laughing with the pineapple.

“Your Dad and I were laughing how you are really milking this cancer thing.”

Now before you get all judgy wudgy, I have been the WORST with the jokes. I constantly joke about my cancer. It helps to laugh about it instead of dwell. This night however I was extra vulnerable and they had no idea. I started crying.

“I’m not faking it though. I actually feel so sick.” I said with tears falling faster than Niagara Falls.

“Oh my goodness I am so sorry we were just joking! You know, how you do all the time!?”

“I control the jokes!!”

That was the last time they started a conversation with jokes. My poor parents lol. From that day I had another 2 days feeling like this, but still that was about it.

Treatment Four

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This was just yesterday. There was a lot of information thrown at me that day (which I will get to another time, in another post), but overall it was an easy chemo day. Even today I woke up feeling pretty good. That is how my mornings go now. I sit up and can pretty much instantly assess whether it will be a good or bad day. I did however find out before this treatment that my white blood counts are right at the minimum level. So as a lot of people on chemo have experienced, I am being placed on a self injecting drug for 8 days to help with my counts.

Overall my chemo days have become like Christmas morning to me. I look forward to every session and count the days leading up to it. Is it making me weaker, no question. However it is also attacking the little fucks that have put me in this state. For that, I love chemo :).

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The Challenge

Two days after my diagnosis, I was sent to St. Joseph hospital to meet with my surgeon who would now be looking after my case. My doctor walked in the room and sat down with a picture of a liver. He began to explain the different quadrants of the liver, and how he needs 20% healthy liver tissue in order to operate. As he placed the cartoon depiction of the liver on the table he pulled out his pen, and the circling began.

“You have multiple mets on each section of your liver. At this time we are not able to operate. I will be honest with you, it is very rare in cases like yours I am ever able to operate.”

My mom, my dad and myself all cracked. He let me know he wanted to start me on chemotherapy right away. He set me up with an appointment to meet my Oncologist, as well as my day surgery for my Port-A-Cath. This was all going to happen in the afternoon. I started having a meltdown and asked everyone to leave the room

“So, now I am really going to die.” – This was the first thought that had entered my brain. In that moment I reverted right back to a child like state. I got up from my chair, climbed up on the doctor office bed, and laid down in the fetal position crying. My doctor returned to check in on me and we began having what I like to call “real talk”. It was during that conversation something came over me. This feeling of determination, of not wanting to be a pussy about it. “Suck it up, stop crying, get on with it.”, I told myself.

I sat up, wiped my tears, looked him square in the eye, and gave him my challenge – “I challenge you to a surgery. You will be seeing what my liver looks like within the year. Year and a half tops.”

“Ok Jamie. Challenge accepted.”

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