Foot In Mouth

Something new happened to me in one of my groups the other day. I was new to this group at the cancer centre I go to, so I had to introduce myself, and then in turn they all did the same. I am so used to telling people that I haven’t met my story, that I can sum it up in under two minutes. I remember before it would take me so long to tell it, going through every detail. Then I realized that all the details were not needed and I could just skip to the main event. 

I have stage 4 colon cancer, I have had 3 surgeries and 12 rounds of chemo, I am now waiting on a scan coming up to tell me if I am cancer free or not. Actually, that is probably under two minutes. 

The social worker leading the group asked me to explain a little more about my surgeries and chemo. I let everyone know that the first two surgeries were extremely hard, and I am still recovering from them. My abdonimal section will probably never work the same again. I am in discomfort daily. I then explained how I had 4 rounds of chemo, then surgery, then another 9 and had to stop. The chemo was horrible and was hurting me more than it was helping so I chose to stop. 

After my complaining was over, the man next to me introduced himself. He was 33, stage 4 colon cancer as well. Then he went on to say he was diagnosed a year ago, still had not had a single surgery, and as had 26 chemo treatments so far. 

“Shit.” I said out loud. “I should not have been complaining.” He won the poker hand.

You may be wondering how he can have 26 rounds and still be out and about. Well when they give you chemotheraphy in order to help your cancer stay at bay, and know you will be on it for a long time, your dose is not as strong. It is still horrible, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the heavy dose that would happen if they knew the number of rounds you would be having. 

When I asked him who is surgeon was he let me know he didn’t really have one. He met a man when he was first diagnosed who told him he was inoperable, and that was it. He took that response and just moved on. He never got a second opinion……

I quickly grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled down the name and number of my surgeon.

“I’m not saying he will be able to do anything, but he worked miracles on me. The worst he can say is no, and then you are no better off than you are now.”

Last I saw him he had just had a CT scan, and him and his oncologist were speaking about sending it to my surgeon. 

Halfway Point

 

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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.

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.