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.

 

Worrywart

Every little ache or pain I have, my mind begins to wonder – Is this THAT bad? Should I go see a doctor? I’m always nervous to go to a walk-in or the hospital because when new doctors find out about me, they run every test known to man. Here is a breakdown of my train of thought:

So a little bit of pain in my back is probably just a pulled muscle right? Hold on let me google it…. Ok the organ located in that area is the right kidney…. So is the pain from a muscle or is it my kidneys? Well I’m having no problems in the bathroom so it must just be my muscle….. But it is so close to my liver – maybe it’s just my body healing from the surgery….. Or it is the cancer that jumped from my liver to my kidney….. Ok I will just wait one more day and see if it gets worse. 

Here’s another one that also happened this week:

Hmm, my seatbelt is rubbing on my incision site – that’s not comfortable…. Ok where it is has been rubbing for the past few days seems to be irritated – I’ll just hold the belt away from it…. So it’s been a week and the irritation has become larger and now even if my shirt floats by it, I feel like someone is sticking their finger in an open wound – I’ll leave it a few more days…. Hmm my shirt feels wet, oh that’s because it wasn’t swollen it was infected and filled with puss that has seemed to have popped open in the night…. Guess I’ll call the doctor – maybe I should have gone earlier?

I can’t run off to the doctor everytime I have an ache in my body – I would live at the hospital (even though I already feel like I do). However if I leave things and they are something serious, then I am just hurting myself and making things worse. I’m sure I am not the only crazy person out there. 

Scan Day

I’m usually not nervous for my scans, probably because I have never had a clear one for a significant amount of time yet. Today’s scan is a little worrisome. If there are any additional growths – they will be calling off my surgeries. I know I won’t be any worse off than I thought I was in the Fall, but now I have started “hoping” again. What am I dreaming about when I lay in bed at night? Going back to work. I know, I sound like a crazy person, but I can’t tell you how much I miss working. I think it is because I am such a goal oriented person. I had so many things I wanted to accomplish in the workforce. I set goals for myself of where I would be at this point in my life – and it is really hard to give those things up. If I am able to go back in the Fall, it will be like starting at square one. I am hoping that I will be able to pick things back up at a rapid rate, but who really knows? I have no idea the greater effects all of the drugs and stress has had on my brain. If you look up the term “chemo brain” it is real. It is something that gets referred to and joked about all the time amongst the cancer community. I am not sure we can fully blame chemo for all of our issues, I feel like the stress from everything that has gone on plays a major role in our depleting brain functions. Unfortunatly at this point it is kind of out of my control. I just have to hope for the best – as I do with everything – and continue on with my day. Listen to me – I am stressing about the effects stress has on myself. Kind of a contradiction. 

Food Poisoning

Well this was a first that I do not welcome into my life ever again. And here I was thinking that throwing up on chemo was bad. Oh no – food poisoning is like no other. I am pretty positive that is what was wrong with me- although the doctors have no way of proving it. It started at 3:30am and was every half an hour until 4:00pm. Right around 1:00pm I realized I couldn’t take it anymore and was becoming weaker by the minute since I couldn’t even keep water down. Now that I know the hospital system so well, I knew emerg would be my best course of action. I needed an IV of fluids stat. Off we went – on Chris’s birthday too – poor guy. 

I always have to be upfront with the nurses and doctors at the hospital right from the start. Let them know I do have stage 4 cancer and I just came off of chemotherapy. I know the drill. My immune system is compromised and no one can risk leaving me out with all of the sick patients for too long. We waited approximately an hour or so and then were shown into our own room. 

From here I thought it was going to be easy, hook me up with some saline and then ship me off. Wrong. I always forget how much weight my disease carries. Food poisoning was their best case scenario, and they were starting at the worst – that this whole thing was cancer related. It didn’t even dawn on me once that that is what could be the issue. The doctor wanted to run multiple blood tests and a urine test to rule out any sort of infection. Even my temperature being only two degrees higher than normal had them concerned and they began monitoring that – which was super annoying because I was freezing and was only allowed a thin sheet. 

After being at the hospital for 7 hours now, the tests results came back fine – and yet they were still concerned. If I wasn’t scheduled by my regular doctors for a CT scan the following week, they would have ordered one for me that night. It is fantastic that our health system cares so much for patients like myself – I guess I better start taking my disease as serious as they do. I know it is horrible, but I never think that every single time I feel sick it may be cancer related. I mean I guess I should? But who really wants to live like that. The ER doctor gave me the option to stay over night so I could be monitored. By this point I was able to keep fluids down for the past two hours. I opted to go home but promised if I was sick one more time either that night or the next day, I would come right back. Too bad they don’t have a test to prove it was food poisoning, would have been a much shorter trip. 

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. 

Speeding Ticket

I joke about my cancer all the time. If I am speaking with one of my friends and I want them to do something, I have been known to say, “But it is my dying wish.” I obviously do not actually mean it. It is just my sick sense of humour. One of the things I regularly joke about is if a stranger ever told me off, I would make them feel like shit. This scenerio could happen in a parking lot, or maybe I accidentaly cut someone off in my car – and said stranger decided to let me have it. I always joke about how I would pull of my hat, lift up my shirt and show them my battle wounds to let them know right then and there that they are an asshole for yelling at a dying girl. The same can be said about a run in with law enforcement. Now I never would go to lift my shirt up – I’m not that crazy – but I did always say I would some how tell them I have cancer to get out of a ticket. Well today that moment finally came. Driving down a hill my car accelerated because of GRAVITY and there was a speed trap at the bottom. I was flagged over. Well, here it was, my moment to shine – except something else happened. I realized that all jokng aside, I do not like to talk about myself with strangers. I felt awkward and weird to just work into a conversation that I had cancer. Did I cry? Yes of course. He even asked me if I was ok and why I was so upset, that was my moment! Yet still, I said, “Oh I won’t bore you with my life story. I’m sure you get that a lot.” I just took the ticket. After composing myself and driving away I began to wonder, why didn’t I just try and use my “get out of jail free” card? I am sure he would have felt sorry for me and let me be on my way. But that is exactly it. I do not want him to feel sorry for me. I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. I can kid around with my friends but at the end of it all, I am not someone who wants others to sit around and feel bad for my life. My shit is my shit, and I have to live with that. That being said, if someone out there would like to pay for my ticket I wouldn’t say no…

Healthy Weight Loss

As I have written about many times – I have body issues. My scars funny enough do not bother me in the slightest – it is more of the gained weight over the past year and nine months. By the way – how crazy is it that it is has been that long? Unbelievable. Although it feels like it has been my life forever truthfully. 

I went from 155 in April ’14 to 135 in September ’14 (back to back surgeries will do that) to 180 in January ’15 – and have been that weight ever since. The swelling from the steriods went down, but I still did not feel like myself. It wasn’t until I began to eat clean and healthy that I began seeing amazing results. I was never doing it for weight loss. That is the truth. It was just a happy side effect to eating as clean as I have been. It has been 5 weeks since my healthy lifestyle started and I have lost a total of 15 pounds. Before you begin to judge – no I am not weighing myself. Before each chemo I have to weigh in so they can make sure the dose is appropriate for my weight. I don’t even care about the scale. It is the way I feel in my clothes now. The way my face looks in the mirror. Slimmer and healthy. When you start eating clean you stop watching how much you are eating. Just the other day I finished an entire container of fresh hummus and veggies in just two sittings. No regrets because it is not a bag of chips. I eat as much as I want, whenever I want. It is a glorious thing. My stomach will never be flat again due to my scar tissue build up, and I may never return to my original 155 pounds – but that’s ok. I am happy and healthy. 

Here is a progress picture. Ignore that itsy bitsy bathing suit – it was a pre-cancer purchase. I’m not dumb I obviously know it no longer fits. 

April ’15 – July ’15 – December ’15 

   

Living With Disease

That is the new category I fall into now. During my first visit with my naturopath she said something to me that changed my whole perspective on my life moving forward. I was trying to hold it together while going over with her my history in the past year and a half. While my guard was down, through my tears I asked the question we are told to never ask, “How long do you think I have?” This was her answer:

“You are living with disease. A disease we call cancer. Unfortunately in our society the word “cancer” always has people instantly thinking of death. That does not have to be the case. There are many people out there who are also living with disease. People with alzheimers, diabetes, multiple sclerosis. You can live with your disease as long as you are getting the correct support in order to help you MANAGE that disease.”

YES. Just because I have stage 4 cancer should not mean my life is over. I just have to work harder than most people in order to sustain my life. But that does not mean there isn’t a strong possibility that my life can be sustained for years on end. I have built around me an amazing support team including family, friends and doctors – and my team is still being built. Adding the new addition of a naturopath is only going to make my team stronger. Positive energy and positive thinking can bring great things. 

Labels

The past few weeks my eating habits have been consistantly healthy. Why? Well there are many reasons, but I think the main one is that I am not labelling myself. I do not consider myself a vegan, gluten-free, juicer,  anything. If I label, then I have an opportunity for failure. So I am taking failure out of the equation. Let me explain: my everyday eating habits are now mainly vegan and gluten free – however – there have been 1 or 2 meals that are not. For example: I was recently at an auction that went on much longer than I originally anticipated. I was not prepared and did not bring enough healthy snacks. It was lunch time and I was STARVING. The only relatively healthy option they had past the donuts, chips, chocolate and burgers were egg salad on brown bread. So that is what I had, and I did not feel bad about it. It is still a healthy choice. If I labelled myself I would have been a “cheater” which would make me feel horrible. The mind games would have started where I thought, “well if I cheated today, then tomorrow it’s ok if I eat a small turkey sub.” That is how sick my brain is when it comes to food. Without the label I allow myself to be flexible to a degree. Technically, I am a vegetarian. I will not eat meat no matter how hungry I am. I will also not drink a glass of milk or add cheese to my salad. Now I am not saying that I now add eggs to my salads, but I choose to eat over starving my body. With the amount of drugs pumping through my system the fatigue level for me is very high. I do not want my body to feel weak at any moment in the day. So I was desperate and ate the egg. 

I am now on day 16 of healthy eating. Although 16 days may not seem like a long time – it sure feels like it. I compare it to quitting smoking. To others, 16 days is nothing – but to the person who is quitting, 16 days feels like 16 months. I have tried eating healthy in the past and the pattern always turned out to be the same. I would be great the first few days, and then some one would have something that I shouldn’t eat – and I would just have a bite. No harm in a small bite of something bad right? Well then the next time I was out, a friend would say “Oh go on and get dessert – we’ll split it.” Well ok. Splitting a piece of cake is not that bad. I’m still eating healthy and ok. But then that split dessert would turn into my own next time, and that bag of chips at the grocery store is now ok because it’s Friday. Slowly but surely I am right back into my old eating habits. So I changed the way I look at things. Having that bite of chocolate is like an ex-smoker having a drag of a cigarette. Are they smoking again? Can they still count their quit date or do they have to start over? Works the same in my case now. If day 16 feels like it has taken forever to get to, I do not want to start back at day 1 because I said ok to cheesecake. 

Fuel Your Body

Monday, November 2nd – I woke up with a purpose – To start giving my body clean and healthy fuel to help it heal itself on the inside. I watched a lot of videos and read numerous blogs in order to figure out what my new meal plan would look like. I decided to stop making excuses and being afraid to try new recipes. If I can sit in a hospital and allow poison to run through my veins for hours on end – then I can spare 15 minutes of my day to juice. What is crazy is how easy it turns out to be. I have not had a bump in the road yet – not to say that one may come – but right now it just feels SO good to eat so clean! Here is a breakdown of a typical day from beginning to end:

  • 1 teaspoon of greens+ powder mixed with a 500ml of water
  • Organic oats made with coconut milk – topped with berries, hemp hearts, chia seeds, ground flax seed, and pumpkin seeds
  • Green juice (I juice every other day making enough for 2 glasses)
  • Spinach salad with cucumber, dried cranberries, green pepper, red onion and sprouts – dressed with olive oil mixed with balsamic dressing
  • Vitamin D and Turmeric supplements
  • 1 handful of sweet potato chips
  • A banana
  • Sweet potato vegetable stirfry made with quinoa
  • Handful of pumpkin seeds
  • A bowl of red grapes

Eating like this has already changed my body. I have had consistant and constant pain on my right side where my liver is for over a year – and for the past week it has diminished. Crazy right!? I’m not saying I am a vegan, vegetarian, or a gluten free fanatic – all I am doing is listening to my body – and right now it is telling me to stay on course.