Vacation

A vacation getaway is such a different experience when you are not going just to have a break from work. Yes, you are in a different country surrounded by gorgeous weather, but you are mainly doing the same activities you would be at home. Relaxing. I have however had such a different and amazing experience this time around. No longer am I a rotating hotdog on a lounge chair, I am actually walking and observing and taking everything in. You hear a lot when on these tropical vacations about “wasting my day”. 

“Get dressed we are wasting our precious tanning time! The sun is out and I need to take advantage!”

God forbid you come back from one of these trips not looking like an ad for skin cancer. When you do however, people always comment – “Doesn’t even look like you went away.” 

This time however, my vacation is not being wasted by tossing and turning day in and day out in a uncomfortable plastic lounger. It is not about trying to get as drunk as possible because “I am on vacation”. No, this time it is all about enjoying and appreciating every second of the day. Being grateful that I am able to sit on the veranda of my hotel room and write this as the warm sun kisses my feet while the sound of the wind in the palm trees relaxes my mind. It reminds me that I vacation to get away from the cold, but I can still appreciate all these small things at home. I am alive. That is something to be thankful for. Although I know my time in this world may be shorter than the person next to me – I am thankful I have that knowledge. I am now able to live my life in a grateful and happy state. I do not care about the way others feel I should be living my life – or how in their eyes I might have “wasted my vacation”. I am doing things that make me happy and enjoying every second of it. 

Hair Come Back

I never thought the day would come where I would be looking at my legs everyday, and praying I start to see hair again. It has been six weeks since my last chemo treatment, and yet the drugs are still having an affect on my body. I have decided that my leg hair coming back will be my first sign. Once that begins to grow, then I will know the drugs are coming out of my system. What I did not anticipate (although thinking about it, it makes sense), is the breakout I am having on my face. As those harsh chemicals begin to flush out of my system, my pores are screaming out. My face no longer resembles a moon, now it is more like a tomato. Again, just another fun thing I have to put aside in the “at least I am alive” pile. I am beginning to hate that saying. Well, maybe hate is a strong word. Either way it is getting annoying – as I feel it is becoming everyone else’s excuse, however it is not mine. I am not one to make excuses for anything. 

“I hate that my pants do not fit” – Well at least you are alive.

“My stupid face is all broken out” – Well at least you are alive.

“Beach ready in my extra large, full piece, bathing suit” – Well at least you are alive.

“Do these heels match my tracksuit?” – Well at least you are alive.

Obviously I am thankful and grateful to be alive. That is not the point. I should still be aloud to speak like a regular young female who went from a size 4 to a size 14. It is an uncomfortable feeling. I look at old pictures of myself, and do not recognize that girl. Yet when I look in the mirror, the person staring back at me is also a stranger. So who am I really and who do I want to become? For now, I want to be the girl with hairy legs – that will be a great accomplishment. 

I’m Done

Last chemo

After weighing all of the pros and cons of stopping my chemo treatments early, I decided to quit after 9 treatments. Well, maybe the word “quit” is not quite appropriate. I did not “give up” on my treatment, but instead I listened to my body instead of the general public’s opinion. This decision to not complete all 12 treatments was not taken lightly, and I would not have stopped without my oncologist’s full blessing. Lucky for me, he agreed with everything I had to say.

During my seventh treatment, my oncologist let me know that my liver was becoming inflamed because of all of the drugs we were pumping through it. This got me thinking – I started this process with a shitty, tumour riddled liver. Then I met this incredible surgeon who found a way to operate on that sucker. My body then worked its magic and created something out of nothing – it grew me a healthy new liver. Now, here I am, poisoning the shit out of it. The whole reason we were going so hard and fast with the chemotherapy was to try to shrink the lung growth. Now that we discovered that it was not shrinking, why continue on with the poison? Was there heavy medical research showing that you must have all 12 treatments in order to see the full results? Not that I could find. These questions I brought to my oncologist. He agreed with me fully. If my cancer did come back, it would not be because we stopped the treatments at 9. He let me know that if it wasn’t dead already, then 3 more treatments are not going to kill it. And so, I was done. After 19 weeks and 9 chemo cocktails, it is finally time to allow my body to heal.

Halfway Point

 

image image image image image image image

I am finally on the other side of my chemo treatments! Seven down only five more to go… for now? Had a good chat with my oncologist and he let me know I will get a break (thankfully) – but for how long is still to be determined. Now on to planning my travel life for this summer! My nurses in oncology as well as everyone else I seem to meet have all told me to get out there and start travelling. It sounds perfect to me. All I want is to get away from it all and have some good laughs and see some amazing sights. So the planning has begun! So far on my “to-do” list for 2015 is Las Vegas, New York, Vancouver, Florida, California, and maybe a beach resort getaway. Time to stop worrying about everything I cannot control and focus on what I can. Making valueable use of every moment of every day is my new “full-time job”.

 

Pig In A Blanket

A cold + shaved head + digestive struggles = a blanket wrapped couch potato.

That pretty much sums up my week so far. I’m pretty sure it is the cold that is the main cause of dragging me down – but the head shave this time around has kind of gotten to me. Yesterday I was wearing a hat around the house because I still have a hard time looking in the mirror. What does not help is the chemo feels like it is rotting away my insides. My stomach is constantly distended and I have to do laps around my house to help work any sort of gas through. Ya thats right I said it – gas. Everyone does it so stop being so grossed out. When you add chemo into the mix it makes every single thing you put in your stomach into a gas pile that wants to just live inside and fester forever. I have been forced to sleep on an incline because lying flat kills my stomach. Again gentlemen – my man loves me and I’m taken. Winning!

I am hopeful by weeks end I will exit this pig in a blanket look. It would probably help to start with a pair of pants that are not oversized.

Lung Tumour

It is hard sometimes to sleep when your brain will not shut off. Since I am such a planner with life, it has been hard to sit back and let things just play out. Two days after my last operation I had a chest CT to check on the progress of my liver regeneration. During this CT they discovered a small tumour on the upper side of my left lung. My doctors then went back in my scans and discovered there was a small glimpse of it on my original scans from April. At first I was annoyed of course. How was this missed? Then I came to terms with the fact that they were so overwhelmed by what my liver was showing, they were not looking any place else. They did however give me another CT in May for the sole purpose to check if I had cancer any where else. I already had two treatments of chemo under my belt at this point, and my surgeon let me know I was clear. Conclusion? My lung tumour shrunk enough after two treatments that it disappeared from the scan. Sounds amazing right? Well to me, not so much. From when they decided I was going to have my first surgery, to when I was able to go back on chemo after my second surgery, three months had passed. Three whole months without chemo. That little tumour was persistent and came right on back after the poison was out of my system. This is what worried me. What happens if after six scans the tumour is shrunk enough that they do not feel the need to operate? At this point I feel like I am a pro when it comes to surgery. I would rather have them get in there and remove the sucker with good margins, then leave it and hope that it just never comes back. With my mind racing around this topic I knew I needed to have a phone call with my surgeon. I explained my thoughts towards everything and here is what he had to say:

“I know this must be tough for you. You have been through so much and I understand why you would want the piece of mind. However, the tumour on your lung is very small and does not worry me. What does worry me is all the other cancer cells I think are in your body. Those microscope cells are what we need to focus on. If we have surgery now, you will be off chemo for 6 weeks, then we would operate, then you have to recover for another 6 weeks. That is too long to be off treatment again. I have asked you to trust me many times, and so far your trust in me has paid off. So I ask for you to continue with that trust. In January we will have another scan and reassess your lung tumour. Until then stay strong and fight through the chemo. With your liver being much weaker than before, I am not surprised this is taking a bigger tole on you. Do not worry and keep going.”

That is obviously not word for word, but pretty much bang on to what he had to say. A quick 5 minute phone call instantly calmed me down. Yes, the cancer that we cannot see in my body scares me. Yes, every chemo treatment so far has sucked, and I am sure will continue to suck. But the fight must continue. I have to trust in my doctors that they know what is best for me. I’ve gone from inoperable to operable in less than 6 months, so I am becoming more and more positive that I can truly beat this.

Dear Oprah

 

image

I know you are a busy lady so I will try not to take up too much of your time. As the days go by I am being pushed further and further outside of what I like to call the “societal box”. When I refer to this I am speaking to the confined space in which I feel society deems the way everyone should live their lives. The pressure of this, I believe, really begins as soon as high school is completed. Below is a brief run down of what I am talking about:

What university/college are you planning on attending? Oh you chose that one? Well this one has better program…

Ok you have graduated that now, in a reasonable amount of time hopefully. So now go on – Choose your career and get a big person job. I know you make a lot waitressing but that isn’t a job which requires education….

Good, now pick a partner and get engaged…. No, no not him you haven’t been dating for that long….

Ok time to get married….. Have you been engaged for the recommended amount of time…

Perfect, you looked beautiful… the food was ok… Now time to start the house hunt…

Ooo I remember that area growing up… bad place… cheaper housing though….hmmm you only bought a two bedroom? Well its just your starter home right….

I’m sure married life has been great this past year, but everyone is still asking daily when you are going to start having kids…. So get to it already you are not getting any younger….

Just popped that one out.. Congrats… Are you planning on having more?? How soon.. Don’t leave it too long you want them to grow up together right?

From here it continues but now with your children – type of food you feed them, their education, clothes they wear, activities/sports they are signed up for…

So my question for you Oprah is – How did you continue to socialize with all your friends when these points are the leading topics for most conversations? I am choosing not to live my life by what society deems appropriate. I do not feel the need to buy a house just yet, because I do not want to live in the same town for 5+ years. I am choosing not to have children. The thought of a wedding with a full day of all the attention on me gives me anxiety. So I do not want that either. However these three major milestones in people’s lives are all anyone seems to want to discuss these days. I am happy for them. Those are their choices and they are proud and want to share. So share for a bit… but then isn’t there so much more to talk about in this world? You my friend (Is it ok if I call you that now?), are the perfect example of someone who has gone against the grain and is very happy. No one would ever look down on you and think they are better because they have the marriage, house, kids… To this person they think they have it “all”… and whoever does not they almost feel sorry for.

Well I feel sorry for them. Their entire life is being lived in this cookie cutter world and they have no idea what life can be like if you just step outside the societal box for a time. And really who are they kidding… Everyone knows their perfect life on Facebook is a sham.

So maybe this letter isn’t a call for help/advice but more of a thank you. Thank you for living your life outside the box and becoming my perfect example for it to be ok. No one in their right minds would think they have a better life than yours, so therefore they can’t about mine either.

Xx