Forever Growing 

I have been working hard on my nutrition for quite some time. This has been really helping my internal strength. By adding in therapy, energy healing and guided meditation I am slowly developing my mental strength. Just recently I have decided that it is time to research and discover ways that I can work on the next stage, my physical strength. 

Last week I was at my local cancer support centre and picked up their monthly calendar. These are always readily available but usually it is the same classes so I do not pay much attention. Looking it over I saw it – yoga. Years ago I used to practice yoga and was quite good at it. I was sure the classes offered here would not be as tasking, so I thought it would be a great way to start stretching out my weakened body. 

Walking in the room today I looked around and saw all women 65+. My old self would have past judgements in my head such as, “This class is going to be so brutal and boring”. However the new me was laughing on the inside as I was betting most of these women are in better health and shape than myself. 

I sat on the mat waiting for the class to begin, and did not feel judged. Everyone was chatting with each other and I could tell it was a group of kind and loving women. 

The class began with breathing exercises and some guided imagery. I kept my eyes shut so tight as I could feel the tears building up in them. I felt so safe in a room full of strangers. I really listened to the woman leading the group and tried to stay present without having my mind wander too much. There was some light stretching to follow – which was actually extremely difficult for me – and then we layed back down to continue with some more breathing practices. All the while I felt at peace. At the end she asked us to all come together in a circle and hold hands. Again my past self would have felt uncomfortable and probably would have rolled my eyes and prayed it would be over soon. Instead I got right in there and closed my eyes as we all breathed as one. I could feel everyone’s healing energy surrounding me. 

When the class was done I headed for my car because I needed a good cry to let it all out. What a release. 

It is fascinating how we can grow and learn something new about ourselves when we thought we knew it all. I feel so much lighter. I feel like I did receive positive, healing light that I can carry with me until I am able to attend again. What a blessing. 

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Through Sickness and Health

For us it’s more like through sickness and health, and some more sickness, now some health, oh wait don’t forget about the sickness.

When my health is a roller coaster you can’t expect my relationship not to be. Chris and I have to not only deal with our own ever changing emotions, but then also try to tip toe and figure out each other’s. It’s not easy. We decided we needed some navigational help. So we found a couples therapist and have now been seeing her every two weeks for the past three months. What we have discovered is the way we were raised has really impacted the way we communicate and interact as a couple. When I was going through chemotherapy and surgeries it was almost easier for us. Our only focus was my physical health so we had no time to really examine our mental health. Even though I am still physically sick, it is not as noticeable and doesn’t affect our day to day, so now our mental health is disrupting our relationship.

It is a day by day process because our internal issues cannot be resolved overnight. My own mental health changes minute by minute, so if I have a hard time with it how can I expect anything different from him. Going to counselling is not showing weakness in our relationship but it shows strength. The challenges with cancer doesn’t end when you are no longer receiving treatment, in my case it feels like it is just beginning.

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Just Keep Being You 

Last year around this time I had a falling out with a very close friend. It was extremely hard for me – even put me in the hospital from the stress. I internalized it and began to believe that maybe this is how everyone sees me. Maybe people are pretending to be my friends just because they don’t want to be that person to break up with a friend who is suffering from cancer. I started to not trust all those close to me. To this day it saddens me and although I try to push it aside, it still affects my self esteem and self worth. 
Yesterday I came home from dinner and found these beautiful flowers on my kitchen counter. The note from who they were from was surprising and so perfect. No – it is not from that old friend. It is from a mutual one. One who was closer with her than she was with me. One who was there the night everything blew up. One who stood up beside me and said that this wasn’t right. One who still continues to stand beside me. I am forever grateful and this note moved me to tears. When one friendship ends a new one blooms. 

Motivational Calendar

My mom gave me a daily motivational calendar for Christmas, and truthfully I was sort of disappointed. Ever year she gives my sister and I a calendar, and I look forward to it because I always hang it up and keep track of my appointments. This year however she said this one spoke more to her. So I put it up in the bathroom to rip off during my morning routine. The strange thing I have been noticing is that most days it eerily speaks to me. 

For example: On the day of my results appointment I forgot to rip it off in the morning. At night I was brushing my teeth and noticed the wrong date, so off it came. The saying for that day was, “Keep on keeping on”. Couldn’t have spoken to me more and it made me feel a little more at peace before heading to bed. Now I’m not sure if daily I am just finding something to relate it to, like when you read your daily horoscopes in the paper, but I am choosing to believe that this calendar is really speaking to me. So today I was coming out of the shower, feeling bloated and with low self esteem while looking in the mirror, and I ripped off the page. To my surprise (but not really anymore) it spoke to me again. 

“You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you’re in.” – Dr. Seuss

That is me to a T. I’m not in the best shape of my life, but for what I have to deal with, I’d say I’m doing just fine. 

So this called for a progress picture since I have not done one in over a year. Well low and behold I am in the best shape I have been in since I gained all of that weight back in 2015. I still haven’t been able to work out (hopefully signing up with a physiotherapist soon), so I owe it all to my diet. Great way to turn a low self esteem day into a high one ☺️. 

It’s Back

Just when I thought I could start planning my life again, it came back.

My latest scan shows a small spot on my lower right lung. I am trying to look at the positives instead of drowning myself everyday in the negatives.

Positives;

  • It is located on my “good” lung (only one operation)
  • It is not on my liver
  • It is small and easily accessible
  • Surgery is an option

Negatives;

  • I still have cancer

 

But I guess I’ve always known that. It is the message I have been trying to communicate for months now. To all of the hopefuls who exclaimed, “You beat it!” – this is why I was still sad. With stage four cancer, you never really “beat it”. I knew there was a very high chance it would return, and I was hoping it wouldn’t be this fast. So once again I am putting my future life on hold and go back to living one day at a time. Now, it feels like I am just going through the motions. Living in this purgatory state with no direction, just a “see you in April” from my surgeons. If that scan shows minimal growth and no new friends, then operation number seven will take place this summer. There are a million different scenarios that can come into play, but like I said I am taking it day by day. I can and will drive myself crazy if I constantly think of all of the “what ifs”. I have no control over the scan, what I do have control over is my mind and diet. As long as I stick to a clean diet, and try to keep a healthy mind, I am hopeful that I can prevail.

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Let’s Talk

A subject I have never been ashamed to speak about is my mental health. I struggle to try and stay in a positive mood, some days more than others. Instead of reminding you of all the ways I’m fucked up, I will inform you of the ways I am helping to take care of myself.

Eating Right – Keeping a clean diet when I am having a rough day is not easy. Nothing feels better then combining my tears with a tub of ice cream. I find however that afterwards I end up feeling worse. Now not only am I sad about whatever made me cry that day, but also upset at myself for eating all that ice cream. If I stick to healthy alternatives it is one less thing I need to be down on myself for. Also, all of those beautiful nutrients keep your cells happy and healthy which is never a bad thing!

Fresh Air – Seems like an easy fix, but pulling yourself off the couch some days can be tough. Just force yourself to get up and go on a quick walk outside, or go for a drive with the windows down. Removing yourself from your current position and feeling the cool breeze on your face can make a world of a difference.

Therapy, Therapy Therapy – I cannot express enough how much therapy has, and will continue to help me. I have been going to group therapy as well as seeing a therapist one-on-one for a while, but I recently have also begun to see a couples therapist. My relationship with my husband is fantastic, however we do struggle in dealing with the emotional aftermath from everything that has gone in the past couple years. Speaking with someone is helping us communicate better when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious. It is so easy when you are sad or angry to take it out on a loved one. I am guilty for that. She is teaching us the dance of how we fight, and ways that we can change it so that we better understand what the other person is going through. I find people are often embarrassed to admit they are attending therapy with their partner. This is the wrong perspective. There is nothing shameful for wanting the best out of your relationship. These jobs exist for a reason, because it is COMMON that couples have issues when communicating. I am very thankful that my husband was open to attending when I first asked him. He saw the improvements I have been having one-on-one, and understood how it could now help us move in a more positive direction. I have said it before and I will continue to preach it – EVERYONE can benefit from therapy.

Pets – The love of an animal is such a beautiful thing. They do not care about any of the baggage you have, and just show you unconditional love. Now, I’m not suggesting in order to achieve happiness everyone must go out and adopt a dog (although that would be amazing). If your life style does not best suit a dog, that is understandable. It takes a lot of time and effort to have a dog and it is not for everyone. If this is you, then try to go for a walk at a dog park on a weekend. Not only will you love the fresh air, but these are the best days for PUPPIES. I find my local dog parks are full of puppies on the weekends, and I just love it. Puppies are so clumsy and dopey they can put a smile on anyone’s face.

Well there you have it, just a few of the things that help me to stay sane. You are also allowed to just stay in all day and binge watch tv. There is nothing wrong with telling the rest of the world to fuck off and just sit around in your track pants. Just do it one day though, the next day you have to get up.

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CEA Blood Test

With my next scan only four weeks away, my anxiety is growing with each passing day. Thankfully, I can’t remember the last time I cried all day, so that’s a positive. I am trying to stay in the mind set that there is nothing I can really do to have the results I wish. The holidays were hard on my body. More alcohol than I have drank in the past three years combined, and enough sweets and salts to go along with it. But that was to be expected and I do not feel like I over indulged. I have to constantly remind myself that I have to quit the “blame game”. If my scan results are bad, that is not because I had a larger piece of pie for Christmas, or because I had two glasses of wine with dinner – there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I am starting to truly believe that. I am cleaning up my eating again because I was to stay consistently healthy for a longer period of time than just three month periods.

I’ve decided after this next scan to change up my follow up schedule. When most cancer patients enter the NED (no existing disease) stage, they all have roughly the same schedule. Two to three years having a CT scan and blood test every three months, the following two years it drops to every six, and at that beautiful five year mark it goes to once a year. This is because with each passing year, your chances of reoccurence technically lowers. Of course, every body is different, but overall this seems to be the case. I however would like to do things differently, as I always seem to do. With colon cancer a good indicator that something is changing is when your CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) levels in your blood are increasing. This isn’t a perfect way to tell if your cancer is back, but it is usually pretty accurate.

Just in case you have no idea what I am talking about – the CEA test measures the amount of a certain protein that may appear in the blood of some people who have certain kinds of cancers, especially cancer of the large intestine (colon and rectal cancer). A healthy person should have CEA level under 4. A smoker is typically under 6. In the late summer of 2015, after my lung surgery, my CEA level was 4. Fast forward to Spring of 2016, when my cancer was back in my liver and lungs, my CEA level was 44.

At my last check up in October my CEA level was 0.3. Yep – that was a shocker. So this month if my levels have increased a significant amount, then something very well could be going on inside. However if they remain very low, I will feel confident that I am on the right track. So I will switch things up and only get my blood taken in May. If that level is also low then my new CT scan and CEA test will be in July – at the six month mark. If my levels are raised in April then we will scan away. I figure I will save myself the stress, and the radiation, if I push it to the six month mark. I haven’t really been able to unwind and enjoy my life in the NED world because my scan is always looming in the back of my mind. So maybe having it every six months will help with that. I guess we will find out.

Fingers and toes crossed that this scan and blood test is clear!

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Finding The Word

Crying has become a part of my everyday life. It is just something that happens and I am almost getting used to it. During my most recent therapy session, my therapist wanted to know why. She wanted me to seek the reason as to why I cry. It started with me describing the memories that like to pop up in my mind daily. All of the ones of me in the hospital, getting poked and pulled and crying out for help. So then the question was, why are these memories the most prominent? What was the common thread that linked these together? I couldn’t figure it out, so we moved on. She then asked, if you could use one word to describe why you cry, what would that be? I had no idea which made the tears come even harder.

Vulnerable. I cry because I feel so vulnerable now.

No, that’s not it.

Independence. I cry for my loss of independence.

No, that doesn’t work either.

Misunderstood. I cry because no one really understands me.

Nope.

Grief. I cry as I am grieving the life I once had.

Dammit that’s not it either.

Then I thought about the hospital, and the memories that haunted me the most. The ones that like to creep into my thoughts and distract me from all of the positive. What was the common link?

No one was there.

When I was having anxiety attacks on operating room tables. I was crying and begging them to stop because I was scared. They would hold me down as I struggled and I would look up the bright light and wish it would all be over.

When my blood pressure spiked and my heart felt like it was coming out of my chest. I kept fading in and out of consciousness and thought I was dying.

When I was told they had to pull my liver drain out at my bedside and they would not wait for my family to come to hold my hand.

When I was struggling to stand and I had to call the nurse to wipe me after the washroom.

When they stabbed my arms and held me down trying to insert a picc line.

Nurses and doctors were there, sure. For the most part they were so friendly and helpful, but they are not family. I also fully understand it is impossible for family to be in the hospital 24/7, so I don’t blame anybody.

So now that we have figured out the common link, is that the reason I cry so often? What is the word that I feel would best describe my feelings in general?

Alone. That’s the word.

No matter how much I explain, no matter who was there for what, no one has been there for it all. No one is in my head having to live with these thoughts, and the ones described above are just a handful of them.

Alone does not only describe those moments, but so many others. I have met a lot of wonderful people who can better understand my experiences, but no one fully can. No one I have met has had 6 surgeries. No one I have met has been told twice that they are inoperable.

So now that I have named it, I have to work on accepting it. There will never be anyone who will fully understand other than myself. So that is the next step. I am working on it, alone.

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Mind Trip

Last night I walked in the door after being in Vegas for 4 days, and it took me 5 minutes to realize I was in a mood. I felt like I would snap at any minute, and then did on Chris. I was frustrated and annoyed and just put myself to bed. Today I woke up feeling the exact same. Tried to take the dog for a walk, but still couldn’t shake this feeling. After showering Chris asked me to come sit down and talk to him so he could try and figure out what’s wrong. One minute later I was crying, and wasn’t sure why. After a few minutes of tears and trying to assess what was going on in my head I figured it out – In Vegas I was the closest thing to my old self. I haven’t felt that way in almost 3 years.

I laughed and laughed, I got drunk and had a hallway dance party to Mariah Carey – I felt free. People would be looking at me for reasons of their own – maybe I was laughing too loud, or dancing like a fool, or for the first time in a long while, because I actually looked pretty and was walking with confidence. All of these feelings in me I have not felt in the longest time. I blended in as just another girl who is having an amazing time in Vegas. I went to bed at night and only thought about how I can’t believe I didn’t hit on roulette, and what tables I would play in the morning. That was it.

Today all of that is gone and I am back to reality.

I broke. Chris sat there and just watched as I went from tears rolling down my face to a full sobbing mess. He tried to make me feel better and say that everyone feels that way when they get home, that’s why it’s called a vacation. But I hated that response and started yelling through my tears, “It’s not the same, it’s not the same, it’s not the same!” I threw my face in my hands and sat there balling my eyes out and trying to catch my breath. I never realized how much I missed my old self until I saw a glimpse of her again. She was fun, confident, independent, smart, care free and beautiful. This new person I am still trying to wrap my brain around. I am better in many ways but worse in others. I feel like a solider who has gone to war. They have seen so much death and despair. They had to wake up everyday and fight for their life, and may have scars to prove it. Then they come home and just have to try and forget everything that their memory won’t let them. They are forever changed.

My break down was interrupted by Chris’s phone ringing, which was perfect. I told him to take it and went back to blow drying my hair. I’ve become really good at putting the cork back in the bottle and just continuing on with my day.

 

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Clear

I have played out this day over and over in my head before. Many nights I would lay in bed trying to fall asleep and fantasize about my doctors saying to me, “Your scan is clear.” I thought last year it was going to happen, and then was crippled by the news that all of my cancer was back. This year I was hesitant. I felt good and I know that I have changed so many things in my diet that are positive, but there was always the chance. Saying I was nervous would be an understatement. I was an emotional wreck in the days leading up to my results appointment. When the day finally arrived I walked into the office as he said walking behind me, “So your scan looks good.” Get out. I was shocked. Even my CEA blood levels were only 0.3! Chris cried, and I sat there taking it all in. In my fantasy I jumped out of my seat and hugged Dr. Jay. I cried and wanted to film it so I could share the “reveal” video with all of my friends. In reality, I just sat there almost faking happiness.

I am happy. I am beyond happy. I need a clear scan to then have another, and another, and eventually stop worrying every day about this damn disease. I know I will never be “cured”. Stage four cancer patients always live in fear. But I would love to have one day in the future where I wake up and think, “Holy shit I didn’t think of cancer once yesterday.”

For now, I’m going to try and forget that January is just three months away, and this blissful life could come crashing down.

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