Tag Archives: colon cancer young female

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. 

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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. 

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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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Unknown

Since I have been home from the hospital, I have gone through my usual routine of being a hermit – or so I thought. Usually after any of my surgeries, I spend a lot of my time recovering quietly. Sure, I will go out the odd time, but always try not to make those times too social. I am never interested in talking to anyone – I just enjoy the peace and quiet. So this time I have been the same way, except I should be starting to turn the corner by now. I have been in a “funk” emotionally for the past few weeks and could not figure out what was wrong. At first I thought it was the recovery process, and then I thought maybe it is the stress of the wedding. Both of those do play a part in the way I am feeling, but they still were not enough. Yesterday I finally broke down and figured it out. I’m entering into a world of unknown. I have been here before, last summer to be exact. I had a successful surgery and entered into the “monitor” stage, only to find out after my first scan that everything was back. So this time I do not have the same delusions in my head that maybe, just maybe, I have finally beat this cancer shit. After my post op this week I just am left to sit around until October when I will have my next scan. It weighs so heavy on my mind.

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Dear Oprah

 

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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

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Temptation

Over the weekend I gave into the temptation – I ate red meat. This decision was not made hastily. During my chemo on Wednesday I spoke to my nutritionist about it and she let me know that it was completely my choice if I decided to continue to cut out the cow. She cautioned me if I did however choose to try it again, to start with ground beef rather than a big steak. Perfect, cheeseburgers are my go to meal anyways! My surgeon also said, “If you want a cheeseburger, have one.” So I kind of felt like they were all on the “Yay Red Meat” train right???

So Saturday night I had one side cut rib. Super small and barely anything to write about. The whole time I was still nauseous and having stomach pains so I chalked it up to just regular old life for me. Then Monday came.

Still nauseous but out and about I thought that after my hard week I deserved it. I have been off red meat since August and I should be able to treat myself. So I went for it. Single patty cheese from good old McDonalds. As I took off the wrapper I could tell – this shit was perfect. It is like they knew my addiction and they made it just for me. Every bite had the perfect ratio of cheese, onion, ketchup and mustard. No dry or greasy piece in site. I raved on about this perfect burger for the next hour. And truthfully if I was not with someone else, I would have stopped at a drive-thru for a second. Sure enough though, no more than two hours later, the stomach cramps began. My intestinal gas pains, acid reflex and debilitating cramps lasted until last night. A full day and a half of pain. Never again. And I mean it this time. The amount of discomfort I experienced is not worth the pleasure my taste buds enjoyed so much.

I do not consider myself a failure for trying red meat again. I never declared 100% that I would be off the stuff forever. (If I did say that in my old post, please ignore then….). I am human – we are not perfect and have set backs. I am just hoping that writing down my experience will help me to remember that it is not worth the agony afterwards. That, and I also need you people to slap me if I ever am tempted again.

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Hair Be Gone

It is becoming harder and harder to stay in a happy place daily. Who would have thought I would miss drinking this much? I was never a big drinker, maybe had one or two beers/cocktails every week. However when the girls get together with some wine, and I am drinking and ice tea, it makes me sad. Even at the cottage, sitting outside without a beer is kind of depressing. My hair is another thing dragging me down. Although my last chemo treatment was June 11th, it continues to fall out. My hair is now so thinned out that it looks dirty the same day I washed it. I am beginning to think that shaving it may make me happier. That way I would not have to worry about the hair all over the ground. It would also be much easier when I am in the hospital, not having to worry about my hair. Having people come to visit the last thing I should be thinking is if they can see how patchy the top of my head is now. I have less than two weeks now to decide.

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Take This Shit Seriously

I’m going to keep this short and sweet because who really wants to sit and read a post about poop. But seriously, how many times have you watched Oprah or Dr.Oz and they have gone on and on about the importance of your bowel movements. It is very true. Nothing speaks more to what is going on in your body then what is coming out of it. Although it is very apparent I am not doctor, so please do not take this as legit medical advice. I am just going by what I have experienced.

Firstly, if you have sharp pains when you are having a “looser” movement, this is probably not normal. Seeing those commercials on tv where people are holding their stomach on vacation, I thought that was the same pain. Unfortunately what I later discovered is they were just imitating a “gurgling” feeling, where mine feels like a knife coated in acid slowly moving through my intestines. Silly me not to think that it was just the greasy McDonalds and actually the feeling was most likely the stomach acid passing by four bleeding tumours. The scary part is how long I have had these intense pains for. When the doctors told me I have probably had cancer for 5+ years it was hard to believe. Then when I started thinking logically about things like this, the reality hit that they were right.

There are many other signs I could discuss but did not experience first hand. At the end of the day all I am trying to say is have a look before flushing and pay attention to discomfort. As small as it may seem, it could save your life.

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Magic

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iPads look even cuter when they have a little keyboard attached to them. (Is that really going to be my first sentence?)

I find it a tad ironic I am sitting here having a hard time finding a way to start this blog because I am having the worst acid reflex attack. My acid reflex attacks are what started this crazy life I lead today. Returning from beautiful Punta Cana in January of this year, I began having 4 straight days of uncontrollable acid reflex. Being the paranoid person that I am, I immediately thought I must have a parasite. After a visit to the walk-in, he gave me an abdominal exam where he felt underneath my right rib cage. It was tender. “Must be gallstones”, he said as he ordered me an abdominal ultrasound. By end of week I was in for that ultrasound. Laying on the table the tech began her examination. The first words out of her mouth were, “When was the last time you had a blood test?”. “Um, no idea”, and she carried on. Two hours later at home I received a phone call from the walk-in letting me know my ultrasound results were in and the doctor would like to speak to me. Obviously, I was nervous. I have never once received results back in such a timely manner. Heading into the office, all I could think of was that I must be pregnant. That would be the only logical reason why she asked me about a blood test….. which I actually have no idea if that even makes sense, but it did to me.

Hemangioma – a birthmark that most commonly appears as a rubbery, bright red nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin (www.mayoclinic.org)

“That is what I believe you have. Nothing to worry about, but I would like to send you for a CT scan just to be sure.”

 

I should probably write the entire first part of my story in one piece. I mean, it would make sense to explain everything that happened leading up to my diagnosis in one blog post, but I am not a writer and this is my blog so I make the rules. I have told my story to my friends over and over so many times I truthfully thought this would be a walk in the park. Surprise, I am wrong. I just found my self staring at “April 3rd, 2014 – CT Scan” for the past 15 minutes. Reliving the day in my head with a vivid memory of everything I felt. No thanks, it’s Friday morning and I need to eat something more than banana bread.

 

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