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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I’m just so annoyed

It’s happening again. I’m not a full on cancer snob, but I seem to be eye rolling quite a bit. If I hear or read another “courageous” story about so-and-so who had cancer once, twice, three times it came back – I might throw up. I know, it’s horrible to say that but I can’t help it. Oh she had cancer and then they cut it out, and some chemo occurred, then it came back and she had to do it all over again – what a miracle woman!

Just shoot me.

It is unfair to play the “who’s life is worse” game, because everyone has their own experiences. So I silently eye roll and feel this tightness in my chest from frustration. I just want to yell out, “Oh you think that is hard? PLEASE SPARE ME.”

I know, it’s not very nice. So sorry if you fall into this category. It sucks. Having cancer sucks. I get it, TRUST ME. I’m like this with everyone though, I don’t just single out my other cancer peeps. Broken limbs, child birth, minor surgeries, you name it I eye roll them. Sorry. I can’t help it that I feel like I just can’t even come CLOSE to relating.

But like honestly what the actual fuck is my life? How the hell have I gone through all this shit in just 4.5 years… and it’s still not over. Just when I think it’s over, and the hope starts to crawl back in, I get a massive slap in the face. So annoying.

What’s funny is when I meet a new healthcare professional who doesn’t know my history and I have to list it. Watching their face while I list out the dates of my surgeries, how much chemo I’ve had, what my status is now – their jaw drops. The surgeries I have had alone in just 4.5 years are RIDICULOUS. I remember going with Chris to see a taping of Cityline a few years back. They had a guest on who had/has cancer (I can’t remember), and she had 7 or 8 surgeries over a number of years. I remember thinking “Woah, that’s crazy.” I am almost positive that I have either surpassed her or have done it in a much shorter time span. My 7 surgeries don’t even include the multiple day surgeries I have had. Stop cutting me open people! I’d like to not have a panic attack on a cold metal table just for one year. Is that really too much to ask? Now in two weeks I’m getting a port-a-cath put back in which is FABULOUS because now I’m GUARANTEED at least one panic attack a month when they have to flush it. Obviously there will be WAY more every time I step foot into that dreaded chemo room and they start poking me with more needles.

Uggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Can’t someone just give me lots of money so I can go on a trip and forget about life. Maybe just never come back? How long can I survive with this shitty ass liver if I park it on a beach?

If you could have 2 amazing years on a beach or 5 shit ass years on chemo – what would you choose?

SEE WHY THIS SHIT IS SO HARD. Longer life is better but quality of life is also better? Is that even a sentence that makes sense? If you can’t have both, how the fuck do you choose?

Ativan 

So here is part two of my addiction story….

During my many chemo sessions, it became apparent to not only myself, but to all of the nurses working in oncology, that I was developing MAJOR anxiety before even stepping foot into the clinic. My oncologist wrote me a prescription for a drug called Ativan (also known as Lorazepam) and told me to put two under my tongue an hour before each appointment. Well I did, and they did nothing. I kept the bottle in my cupboard at home and thought nothing of them. 

Before each and every surgery the same thing would happen – I would have a major anxiety attack. After the first major blow out I was also prescribed Ativan to be taken 30 minutes before being called into the operating room. Just like with the chemo anxiety, they did nothing. 

All I ever knew about this drug was that is was to help with my anxiety. From my experiences I thought it just didn’t work for me. 

While packing in March to head on my Thailand and Australian adventure, I was taking out the Advil bottle and noticed the bottle of Ativan. “Perfect find!”, I thought to myself. Just in case I have an anxiety attack while away, I will have something to help calm me down. I made an appointment with my family doctor before leaving, and told him that I had a bottle of Ativan and it never worked for me before. He then prescribed me a bottle of Clonazepam, and said they might work better for me. 

Both Lorazepam and Clonazepam belong to the drug class known as benzodiazepines. They act on the brain and nerves and produce a calming effect. 

While on the 17 hour flight to Hong Kong, my panic set in. So I popped a Clonazepam and low and behold, I felt nothing. 

Great. My anxiety levels are too high for these drugs apparently. 

A few days later, finally in Thailand, I was having some anxiety before bed and thought I would try just one of the Ativans. 

The following day I woke up and could not believe it – I actually had a full nights rest! 

I have not slept through the night since I don’t even remember. With my multiple keloids on the body, and the anxiety and pressure from this cancer world, I toss and turn throughout the night. But now, I feel rested and AMAZING. Well, this is a miracle. 

I decided right then and there, I would take one each night to help me sleep. They did not make me groggy or even put me to sleep. But what they did do is KEEP me asleep. Which was the best thing I had experienced in a long while. 

In May I went for my consultation with my surgeron for my upcoming surgery, and I told him about how Ativan has helped me, and if he could right me another prescription. He did, but only for 3 months because he said he wasn’t allowed to write one for longer than that. Well that’s annoying, but I thought nothing of it. 

I dropped off my scrip and when I went to pick it up the next day, the pharmacist let me know that I was NOT allowed to get my next 30 day refill till the actual day it was due. Ok, sure lady. Again, I thought nothing of it. 

Now in August, I made an appoint with my family doctor again to have my pre-op for my colonoscopy. During our talk he saw I wrote down that I was taking Ativan. That reminded me, my three month prescription was almost up. So I asked him to write me a new one. 

“Are you addicted?” He quickly asked. 

“Um no. You know me I hate taking drugs. This I just use to help keep me asleep. No big deal.”

“Ok. You are a special case. With everything you’ve been through I can understand if these help you.”

I was so confused. Why was he being so weird? 

“Are these super addictive or something?”

“YES. Very much so. But you are different than most people and I know you wouldn’t be taking something unless you truly needed it.”

He wrote the prescription and told me to just have the pharmacy fax him every three months for a new one. 

I went home and spoke to Chris about my conversation with my doctor. He and I agreed that if it was helping me right now, then it’s ok. 

Later that night I got into bed, took my pill, and then began googling “How bad is Ativan?” – oh the things that came up. So many blog posts about people who were given it in the hospital, and it took them months and sometimes YEARS to get over the withdrawal. It explained how it is the most additive drug and that you should start with a low dose of 0.25mg. 

Holy crap I was taking 1mg! 

The next day I woke up and said, “Nope, I’m never taking that again.” 

The following day I woke up, and was instantly in withdrawal. My skin was crawling, my heart was beating out of my chest, I felt super anxious and couldn’t stop crying. Just a complete mess. I didn’t know what to do. If I took a pill to stop it, I would still have to take one at night – so then I would be taking two pills in one day. That wasn’t the answer. I called my doctor but he wasn’t in that day, and I was told he would call me on Monday – this was Friday. 

I cried and cried to Chris – I was so mad at myself for getting into this predicament. I started reading online how hard it was to come off of this drug, and that got me even more scared. Chris was amazing and calmed me down. He let me know that I am not a drug addict, that my case is different. If I needed this to help me get to sleep then so be it. 

I, on the other hand, did not agree. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was taking a drug that was highly addictive. I think it would cause me more stress. From all of my readings it seemed like the best way to get off of it was to slowly drop your dose down. So Friday night I took a pill, and then I decided Saturday I would not. When it came time for Sunday I though, hell I will roll the dice and just not take one tonight either. On the Monday I felt the withdrawal, but it wasn’t overwhelming as it was on Friday. When my doctor finally called I told him my predicament and he said very firmly, “Do not go off of this drug cold turkey. You have to gradually take it out of your system.” 

Well as we all know by now, I rarely listen to doctors. 

So I decided to push myself, and if it got too bad at any point I would give myself permission to take a pill. 

It took about two weeks, but I finally began to feel back to normal. Now, here is the craziest part. My depression also has seemed to have left. I no longer feel as though I am living in this dark hole. I truly believe that has to do with being off of the drug. I still have my days obviously, but they are not a constant anymore. 

My sleeping is back to being scattered, but now I am looking for more natural remedies to help with this. 

Addiction 

I avoid drugs. I know how easy it is to become addicted to pain killers, so I was always scared to take them. Since I have always been vocal about this to all of my doctors, they are never worried about me and always tell me, “Don’t be a hero and just take the drugs if you need to”. (Well ok they do not use the term “hero”, that’s my ad lib 😉) 

After my second surgery in 2014, I saw first hand how easy it was for my body to become addicted to drugs. Even though my mind wanted nothing to do with it, my body began going through extreme withdrawal when I tried to stop taking the Oxycodones. My skin felt like it was crawling, I was sweaty but shivering, and my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. I was forced to continue to take them and gradually reduce the dose. Since then I have refused to take anything other than just regular ole Advil – well until recently. 

I was in a lot of pain and discomfort after my recent lung surgery, and when I went in for my post-op, my surgeon told me to just take even a single pill if I think it might help. After discussing it with Chris, we both decided that I will have to try it as the Advil did not seem to be doing the job this time. So I cut the oxycodone in half and took it at 6:00pm. At 9:30pm I still felt no relief so I took the other half. By 10:00pm my whole body was numb and I felt drunk. No joke. I had to put myself to bed. 

The following day I had plans in the morning so I woke up and felt groggy, but I figured that was only because it was 8:00am. It wasn’t until I was half way to my destination that I realized, “holy crap I am SO high right now and should NOT be driving”. I pulled into a parking lot and had my friend pick me up. This feeling lasted till the mid afternoon! 

When I got home I looked at the bottle, my original prescription was 1-2 every four hours!! WHO COULD SURVIVE THAT?! 

Never again – I went back to just suffering through the pain. 

So, this story is not even the main reason for this post…. I will have to write an “addiction part two” tomorrow. 

But to finish off our discussion about oxycodone – or just any pain reducing drug for that matter. BE CAREFUL. The doctor will prescribe you what is the standard dose, but LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Do not just read the label and pop away, see what works for you. I am not advocating to never take a pain pill. Tolerances for pain are different for each individual, and if you are in too much pain then that will actually harm your healing process. All I want to make known is just to be aware of the problems that can come from taking pain killers. It may help with your pain but it may be hurting you in some other way. These drugs are strong so please use with caution. 

The New Plan

If you are reading this and wondering how my surgery went, I apologize. I was called by my surgeon 3 weeks ago and told that he had to bump me. There was a patient he had who has a more complicated problem and needed my time slot. So my new surgery date is July 5th. I have been asked a lot, “How do you feel about that?”. Truthfully – I feel fine. I’m confident my surgeon wouldn’t have chosen me to move if he did not think that I would be ok.

The other interesting piece of information I found out recently is that I will no longer have to go back on chemo. During my post operation appointment, Dr. Jay let me know that after my last lung surgery I would be put back on chemo, particularly Oxaliplatin (or Eloxatin). This is the drug that is used in the FolFox treatment. I spoke up faster than he could finish his sentence and let out a big “Hell no”.

If you want to know why I was so fast to react – please refer to my posts in October 2015.

Dr. Jay was quick to respond and let me know that this was the only drug which is proven to work with cancer that has not yet formed a tumour. But my answer was still no. I am one of the rare people whose bodies cannot handle this drug. I told Dr. Jay that my oncologist would back me up but he wasn’t hearing it. I get it – I am known to complain about being on chemo because I hate it. So I assume he just thought this was me being dramatic. Jokes on him.

A few weeks ago I met up again with Dr. Jay and he let me know I was right and he should just listen to me moving forward.

Just kidding.

What he did say however is that he had a meeting with my oncologist and THEY decided that I cannot be on FolFox. It does not react well with my body and it would do more harm than good.

Oh reaaalllyyyyy???

So – no more chemo for me this summer. This news is amazing because I really didn’t want to be sick and bald for my wedding in September. I am slightly worried however. I have been off chemo for this long before and just exploded all over again with tumours. So I am being cautiously optimistic. Not one of my doctors is saying, “After this next surgery you will be cancer free and we will never see you again.” Actually what they have said is, “This most likely won’t be the last operation you have – just so you know.”

Cool.

 

Surgery Round 4, 5, and 6

Yes, you read it right, I have three surgeries coming up. My scan results left me again feeling uneasy. A met on my lung and a met on my liver have showed a slight growth. Not anything that is majorly alarming, however my surgeons are concerned. Since the chemo has only been out my system for three weeks, this is too fast for things to already be growing. So yet again, they are scheduling me for another CT scan. If that scan shows growth again, then all surgeries are off and I get hooked up to the lovely chemo cocktail. If they stay stable, I will be operated on starting May 2nd. This one will be for the four on my upper right lung. Thankfully this surgery can be completed laparoscopically so I will only have three small incisions. Following this surgery on May 4th, they will perform my liver surgery. Unfortunately Dr. Jay has decided not to use the same abdominal incision he has accessed twice before, but will open me up down and across the right side of my upper abdomen/lower chest. From what I have heard, recovery from this incision is much worse – so I am totally looking forward to that. If all goes well I will be in the hospital for a total of 2.5 weeks. Shortly after I will have yet another CT scan and if that again shows no new growths, they will perform the lung wedge resection on my left side in mid-June. This side is a tad trickier, so he is planning for laparoscopic however it may end up having to be a larger incision.

So the week of my 30th birthday, after my scan, I will either find out that my cancer is WAY more aggressive than anyone has imagined and my surgeries will be cancelled – or – my body is about to endure a shit ton of pain with the hope of a successful outcome. 

Again, all of the same worst case scenerios have to be spoken about and signed off. Obviously as with all surgeries there is a chance of complications, infections, liver or lung failure, yadda yadda yadda. The one that always worries me more is the increased chance of reoccurance. Weakening my body will just give the cancer all the ammo it needs to get stronger and maybe multiply again. Even if everything goes as planned and nothing grows, six weeks after my third surgery I will be right back on chemo for “maintenance”. It is a never ending rollercoaster. 

So to sum it up, on my 30th birthday on April 30th I will either be upset at the fact that my cancer is being a little bitch and growing, or be upset at the fact that I am about to endure a fucking awful summer of multiple surgeries. Happy Birthday?

The Plan

I’m not sure if it is so much a plan, but more like a “choose your own adventure”. 

Sitting with my surgeon and my oncologist they both let me know I have options, and here are the main two:

– Have surgery in the Spring/Summer 

Or

– Have surgery in late Fall

Without typing for days and boring you with all of the little details, the way I read those options are:

– Less chemo

Or

-More chemo

As you may know by now, man do I hate chemo – so you can guess which option I am going for.

So what will this entail? Well I will have my lovely mid section sliced open again to access my liver. Totally cool. Oh and I will have both lungs operated on. Double chest tube! I am PRAYING that they say I only have to do two more rounds of chemo and then I will get my pre-operation break for all of March and April. However it is more likely that they will push me to do chemo right up until 6 weeks before my surgery.