Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Still here

I have been living with metastatic breast cancer for almost a year and a half. Since December 24, 2014, I have sat in the chemo chair 35 times. I have a regular spot in the chemo room. I know all my nurses and they know me. They ask after my family. They remind me if I forget something or if I deviate from my regular routine. I am grateful for the care my doctors and nurses give me. I feel valued and loved.

However, there is life outside of the chemo chair!! I am working, travelling and doing everyday stuff. Luckily I feel quite well so I try to do as much as I can and make the most of my days. Susan Anthony, a woman I know who is also living with metastatic breast cancer said, “I kind of feel like I’m living in dog years. I have to pack more life into every day and not waste a day. You understand that life is precious so I try and make the best of it.” That is how I feel. There is not a minute to waste. 

I have many supports in my life, especially my husband, my children, my mom, my sisters, my cousin and my friends. My book club and I went away for the weekend to a spa resort where we spent time together drinking wine, talking, laughing and hanging in our pajamas. We had read a book some time ago called Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish. The storyline is that a group of friends goes on a road trip to celebrate the life of a woman they love, but they go on this trip after the woman had passed. We all thought that the trip would have been better if they had gone on the trip before the friend died. When I got sick, the idea was hatched that our book club would go on our own trip while I'm still well. Celebrate the moment; that's what we did. Love every day.  

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Into the ring again

By now, most of you know that my cancer has returned; it has spread to some lymph nodes in my chest wall and collarbone, and into my lungs. All this news came in bits and pieces, and was a complete shock to me.

I had that dreaded, "It's cancer" conversation with my surgeon on December 2, 2014, while I was at work. I had seen Dr Carr the week before to follow up on a suspicious lymph node above my left collar bone. The node was first discovered in June at an oncologist appointment. This was supposed to be a routine appointment, and so it was, until he found an enlarged lymph node. He wondered about it, but then quickly wrote it off as nothing to be concerned about. I pressed him for further testing, which he did. I was referred back to my family doctor, who sent me for an ultrasound. At every step, I was told that everything checked out fine. I had nothing to worry about. To follow up, I was to see my GP in 3 months, and she would send me to the surgeon for assessment if the lymph node was still enlarged. It was a bit bigger than it had been in the summer, so off I went to see Dr. Carr on November 26. He did a needle biopsy and called me with the results the day before I left for my trip to Montreal with Lucas.

That was a hard bit of news to swallow! I was orienting at at new unit that day, so I didn't know anyone very well. Someone asked me how I was doing and I passed off my glazed look as being tired. I went for a lunch break and then I called Norm. I told him my news, but decided I wouldn't say anything to anyone else until I got back from my Montreal trip. I wanted to have a fun time away without every conversation being about cancer. I especially didn't want Lucas to worry about me when he was supposed to concentrate on competing. 

The trip was great. Peggy met us there and we toured around Montreal. We even made it to Qu├ębec city. Lucas and Sarah had a good experience at the Skate Canada Challenge and will compete again in Kingston at the Nationals! I'm so glad I kept quiet about my problems. 

I arrived home on Tuesday, December 9 and had my biopsy on the 10th. At this point, I was hoping for a lymphoma diagnosis, not a breast cancer recurrence. Apparently, that would have been easier to treat. I also had a CT scan on Friday the 10th. That was to see if the cancer was anywhere else. Of course, I was hoping that it was just in the one lymph node. No. I found out that there were multiple nodes affected, as well as a 3.5 cm tumour on my chest wall, and at least 14 spots on my lungs. Oh, and it wasn't lymphoma. It was definitely recurrent breast cancer with metastases in the lung. Crap. Very big pile of crap. 

I saw my oncologist, who happened to be my old oncologist from my first time with cancer. She's a very proper older lady who wears skirts and Oxford shoes. She retired sometime after I saw her in 2009, and now is back for a locum. She looks just the same but now she's wearing Skechers. She set me up for chemotherapy to start promptly on Christmas Eve. Surgery won't be of use now because of the extent of the tumours. The plan is for chemo to work its magic, and then have a CT scan in a few months to assess the progress.

Chemo is going pretty well. I've had three sessions so far with minimal side effects. The only bothersome symptom is a bit of tummy trouble. The first three sessions were in Victoria, a two hour drive from home. Now that they have room for me in Nanaimo, I'll have my sessions at the hospital there, starting this Thursday. 

I will end this post on a positive note:

1. My bone scan came back clear,
2. I kept my hair for 3 and a half weeks after my first treatment. I noticed a few strands of hair on my shirt this morning, 
3. I'm still working, and I am so thankful for that. I love my job and I especially love my coworkers, 
4. Norm is coming home more often, and will be home this Friday,
5. I have fantastic, caring children. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

RAK Day 3

Although I said yesterday that I need to work on being more spontaneous, it's actually quite exciting to think of a surprise someone else will appreciate. Yesterday, I thought of someone I really appreciate and decided that Evelynne's soccer team manager deserves a thank-you. Christine is a very organized person; she emails game and practice reminders, organizes car pools and tournaments, helps on the bench, and takes care of all the details that keep the team running smoothly. While she was driving the girls to practice, I bought a little plant, wrote a  card, and dropped it at her door. I imagined her smile when she saw it, and thought that she would never guess who left it for her. Well, Facebook helped her figure it out in under 30 minutes, but that's OK. I had fun planning that little surprise! That small gesture is still giving me joy.

Other kindnesses happening in Nanaimo, Regina, Vancouver, Ancaster, Victoria, Little Rock, Dallas, Kelowna, Duncan and Langley:

  • Yesterday I gave a $10 tip to the man at the car wash. Today I bought my co-worker a sandwich.
  • Yesterday I offered a friend a ride when her car didn't start.
  • Yesterday and today were all about my family - I brought them cookies in their rooms and today I made them brownies.
  • I brought my co-workers some Hello Dollies! They were thrilled!
  • Yesterday I drove my Grandson to Daycare, and let my son sleep in. Today I reached out to a friend I thought would be mourning the death of a student.
  • We took decorated cupcakes (my daughter made them) to two of our neighbors and surprised them greatly!  Day 2, I called a dear, older lady friend to tell her just how special she is to me... I could tell she also appreciated it.
  • I wiped up the water someone had left on the washroom counters at work.
  • In our biting cold weather, there were many opportunities to show kindness from opening and holding doors for people, letting pedestrians cross to get outta the cold faster to being a courteous driver.
  • Gave a drink to a caregiver. 
  • I picked up garbage outside my work place

Happy Wednesday my friends.