Ugh

Well it’s been almost three weeks since I found out that chemotherapy will be coming back into my life, and almost four since I found out cancer was even back. I thought it was going to be a whirlwind again of port surgery, and then chemo straight after, but surprisingly it hasn’t worked out that way. I am having my port surgery tomorrow, which I then assume I will be starting chemotherapy the following week. I have had some time to digest the news, and I am starting to not cry multiple times a day. So I’ll take that as a win!

In the mean time, I’ve cleaned up my diet again and started back on mistletoe injections. If you do not know what I am talking about, search “mistletoe” in the bar on the right and read all about it. Cleaning up my diet has consisted of cutting out alcohol, and trying to stay away from foods with processed sugars. I allowed chicken back into my diet a few months ago, so now I am only eating it once a week if I can help it. Raw juice is also back (though it never technically left), but now I am making sure to drink it at least 5 times a week.

What type of chemotherapy will I be on this time? Well that question I still do not have an answer for. I left a message for my oncologist letting him know that I would like a meeting with him first before I start. I have 5000 questions running through my mind and I require answers before they can start injecting me with poison again. A few of them are as follows:

  • Are we looking to kill the cancer or just sustain my life?
  • Can I start on a lower dose?
  • Is FolFiri the best option or is there any others?
  • Are there drugs that cost money that I can be offered?
  • Will I be here every two weeks?
  • How often will I be scanned?
  • In the future can I come every three weeks, or maybe have every third month off?
  • What can we do to lower my anxiety attacks in here?
  • I don’t want to compromise my liver function, so what marker will you be looking at?
  • How much growth of the tumours can my liver take?

I feel it is extremely important to create my own treatment schedule. I know my body, I know what it can take and I know what my limits are. If we are planning on sustaining my life, then I don’t want to have the rest of that involve a bucket for five days every two weeks. My strongest defense against this disease is the fact that I have always been my own advocate. I consistently ask questions and stand up for myself. I do not let any doctor tell me what to do. They have a strong say, but I view it more as a consultation rather than an order. Every conversation with every doctor has been just that – a conversation. Never be afraid to do this for yourself. If you think they will be annoyed by you – then first off, get a new fucking doctor. Every single one has told me that I need to keep being an advocate for myself because I obviously know what I am doing. Look how far it has taken me! My main surgeon thought I would be dead years ago. Maybe I would have been if I didn’t listen to my body and take my life into my own hands. I’ve taken risks and for the most part they have paid off.

My next advocate moment is a second opinion. I trust my surgeon with my life, but if he says that surgery would be too difficult, then let’s find someone who may think differently. Thankfully again, he is on board. I called his office today and gave him a name of a doctor, so I’m just waiting to hear back. His receptionist let me know that he knows him well and will probably call him on his cell – which is perfect.

Side note – If you are wondering where the tricky tumour is – liver or lymph node – well I still do not have an answer. 

So now I am just looking forward to a big anxiety attack tomorrow followed by a lot of crying, which I am sure will last the rest of the week. Having the port-a-cath put back in will be a big reminder that this ride for me is still not over.

By the way – I know everyone means well, but if you have my cell phone number please do not send me a “thinking of you” message tomorrow. I can’t explain why that bothers me so much but it does. I guess when you have been getting them consistently for 4.5 years they start to lose meaning. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ll reach out when I want to reach out. No one is above this. So if you think “Oh she doesn’t mean me though” – you’re wrong. Sorry if you do not understand – and be thankful if you don’t. That means you have not had a consistently shitty life for an extended period of time.

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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.

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!

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”.