Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Testing Waiting Game

Written July 13, 2014

I am not happy. I feel it in my bones, my skin, my breath. I am rattled, unsettled and anxious. My mind races uncontrollably like a toddler taking its first steps. I want to be content and filled with all the joys and wonders of life. I have survived cancer after all and I am alive, yet I am struggling. ‘Cancer free’ does not translate to fist pumps and cheering in my mind – it does however create deep pangs of emotion.  I can’t seem to shake the shadow of cancer. Chemotherapy and surgery attacked the mutated cells, but what attacks the negative thoughts, the worry, the aches and pains?

I try hard to be appreciative and experience life as it is happening but it feels a bit tainted lately. I feel like I am on borrowed time. I want these thoughts and doubts crushed like a bug.

I am playing the ‘ testing waiting game’ again. I had a bone scan of my body and images of my left hip and upper spine on July 5. The aches in my body seem to be getting worse and after sharing this update with my oncology nurse she ordered the tests. It has been a long two weeks. The first week was waiting for the test to occur and thoughts would bubble up and weigh on my mind throughout the week, and I would push them out of my mind. Then the day of the testing arrived, my mind was racing. What if they find something? How could I deal with this again? The thought of having to be strong and fight again seemed daunting. The testing consisted of having isotopes injected into my body and then imaging conducted a few hours after the injection. Jon came with me, I could feel his worry, it was palpable. I couldn’t face his worry it was too much, I had to stay isolated in my own mind to cope.

I called Juravinski prior to the one-week turn around period I was given to receive the bone scan results. I was told my oncologist nurse was on vacation, and I would likely receive a call Monday with my results. Another 4 days of waiting required. I wanted to cry. Get it together, I thought. The results will be clear and I can exhale knowing my entire body is cancer free.

I received a call Tuesday morning July 15. The first thing I heard the nurse say was “You are Clear”. I could breathe again. She explained that the aches and pains were likely arthritic in nature, and mentioned that the aromatase inhibitors can create these side effects, but then she realized I was on Tamoxifen not an aromatase inhibitor. It could be the side effects of menopause or effects of chemotherapy. Although thrilled that my body showed no signs of cancer, I realized that this achiness is my new reality. I will now begin discussions with my physician with respect to arthritis and the physical and emotional impact of menopause. I thankfully am Cancer Free but I am not worry free. I still search for my Shavastna, my quiet mind.

Genetic Testing

Written May 21, 2014

I have an appointment today to receive my genetic testing results. It has been 3 months since I provided the necessary blood work for the testing. The Genetic Counselor at Juravinski had informed me that results would likely take about four months. We discussed my family medical history and she explained that there were two genetic strains they could currently test for and they were BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. Both genes come with a higher propensity to get other forms of cancer and can be genetically passed to children. I have been preoccupied with this appointment since I received the call for booking. Does it mean something that the results are in early?

I desperately want the results to be negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2. I would hate to have to call family today and provide them with the bad news. Then the worry would begin for both themselves and their children. I feel sick thinking about this. I am tired of surgeries and blood work, yet I have already decided if I am indeed BRCA1 or BRCA2 positive I will have my ovaries removed. I want to avoid cancer in any form ever coming back in my body.

I immediately tear up as I check in at the clinic reception. I am trying to gain my composure. I am being silly, I think to myself, everything will be fine. The odds of me being positive are very slim. I sit waiting now in the room where I will receive my results. On the way into the room I lock eyes with a women who is probably 10 years older than me, admittedly it is hard to determine a bald woman’s age. She is wearing a hospital gown and in a wheelchair, I have to look away. It is too raw, too close for me. It fills me with sadness. Her two beautiful daughters sit on each side of her. They all seem happy and lost in chitchat. A happy family anchored around a sick mother.

I have not told my daughters that I am here today. I didn’t want them to worry. They have enough on their plate and have seen enough this last year. They see their mother with hair and regaining her strength and see her body slowly reshaping itself. I do not want to derail this vision in their heads.

My husband had to travel today and is waiting by the phone for me to call. My parents, both sets are waiting for me to call and my sister-in-law is waiting for me to text. Although I sit here alone, I know I am not alone. I can feel the love and good energy and prayers.

When the resident and doctor come in there is an awkwardness between the three of us. I am trying to read their body language. Why did they seem apprehensive? The resident introduces herself and the doctor I have already met during the original consult. The resident had a file and clipboard in her hand. She began to walk me through the results and proceeded to explain I was negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. I began to sob.

I apologized to them both. “Thank you” I said between tears. “I was clearly more worried about this than I realized”. They both sat calmly while I cried and tried to compose myself. It took me a few minutes.

The resident continued to explain the generic results, she ended with, “Basically there is no genetic reason why you got cancer. Your family, your sisters and your daughters do not need to be tested. Please update us if anything changes with your family health or if science changes we can test later based on further advancements.”

I then signed a release form so that other family members could have access to my health records at any time in the future. The entire time tears kept rolling down my face. I was trying to listen intently but it took all my energy to keep it together.

I thanked them and left. I grabbed a few tissues at the reception area and as I walked down the hall and out the doors I phoned Jon. As soon as I heard his voice I started crying. ” Hi”, then I managed to say ” I am crying because it is good news, it’s negative”. There was silence for 10 seconds and then Jon said “Oh thank God” and then he was trying to compose himself on the other end of the line. He proceeded to share how worried he had truly been. I walked towards the parking garage tears still rolling down my face.

I then called my sister in Calgary and informed her that the results were negative. She cried with me as her sense of relief overwhelmed her. My sister just had her second child May 3, so Austin is not even a month old as I write this. If I had been positive she would have had to wait 6 months after she stopped breast-feeding him to be tested herself. That would have been a year and half from now. Waiting and worrying the entire time would have been pure torture for both of us. Anyways we don’t need to go down that road thankfully. The phone calls continued, as did my tears. I am so relieved that the results are negative and now I can share the great news with my daughters and family.

Fundraising as a Survivor

Written April 24, 2014

I am thrilled to announce that Team Wonder Women, made of friends and colleagues will be walking with me at The Shoppers Drugmart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Center that will be held in Toronto September 6-7, 2014.

In August 2013 I reached out to the women in my life, and told them all that I wanted to give back and raise needed monies for local cancer research. I then proceeded to build the Wonder Women team website and my own personal donations page. I was thrilled when I surpassed my individual fundraising goal of $2000 within a few weeks. I was thrilled and genuinely moved by the people who sponsored me for this event. THANK YOU.

Team Wonder Women now has 10 walkers all who at a minimum will raise $2000 for this event so we will collectively raise at least $20 000. There are a few more friends that may join as walkers, which in turn will increase our team donations. Another friend has worked for the event and has dropped off brochure kits at local businesses to raise awareness. She is using the monies she is paid for this work to donate to our team.

The irony is not lost on me that I participated in this walk back in 2003. I walked with my sister and a friend. At the time I walked in memory of my grandmother and my Nana, who had already had her upper lobe of her lung taken out due to lung cancer and was then in remission. Sadly, Nana eventually died of lung cancer in 2006. When I participated in that weekend I experienced such a wide array of emotions. I felt pride for supporting cancer research, I was happy to spend time with my sister and friend as a mom to a 3 and 1 year old at the time represented freedom. At the opening ceremonies I listened to the stories of survivors and the women who had lost their lives to cancer and it touched me deeply. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. The survivors wore a different colour shirt that I could see they wore with pride. I wanted to hug everyone of them and tell them they were so brave and that I deeply admired them. I am overwhelmed with emotion when I think about participating in the walk this September, 10 years later now as a breast cancer survivor. My eyes well up every time I think about it. These are tears filled with my own pride, my own fear, and amazement that I have battled cancer and I have lived. I am now proud to support cancer research, after all if there is no funding there is no research and without R&D there is no innovation. Science cannot improve without resources, money and commitment to discovery. Princess Margaret cancer research is a world class cancer treatment center and it’s in our own backyard. As a Canadian I am very proud and fortunate to have benefited from cancer research, and the funds generously donated in the years prior to my diagnosis. It is my turn now to give back.

I will be sponsoring and helping my team-mates get to their individual donation goals over the coming months ahead. Team Wonder Women will be super heroes for two days in September when we will walk 60km over two days to try and eliminate Women’s Cancer. I can’t wait!

Please support and spread the word and be a part of change.

http://www.endcancer.ca/site/TR?pg=team&fr_id=1481&team_id=121427

Reconstruction: Not for the Faint of Heart

Written April 3, 2014

It was 13 days ago that I underwent surgery again, a left prophylactic mastectomy and the beginning of bi-lateral reconstruction surgery. It has been a very long two weeks filled with pain, discomfort, and a lot of focused breathing and stillness.

The day before my surgery I felt like the old me, running around getting last minute errands done. Trying to organize the house and my work in a way that would ensure order without my involvement over the coming weeks. You know – doing those jobs you never want to do, filing the mail, cleaning out the crisper, organizing the house clutter – thankless jobs.

On top of the Cinderella chores I had an appointment at Juravinski with my oncologist. This appointment was my three-month check in on my response to Tamoxifen. When my Dad and I walked into Juravinski that morning I didn’t feel like a patient anymore. I felt different.  What I did feel though was dread deep in the pit of my belly. I knew the following day I was going back into patient mode. My strength and health that I had fought so hard to get back was well on the way, and now I was taking a major detour with major construction ahead.  I would be going back on hold again, life slowing to a crawl, to a hour-by-hour approach. A schedule dictated by needed pain pills every four hours, coupled with lack of mobility and needing help to go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, to get out of bed and to sip water from a cup. Ground Zero, again.

When I saw the plastic surgeon on the day he needed to mark me up with a black sharpie prior to surgery. As he was drawing on my chest he asked me how I had slept. I responded, “forget how I slept it is more important that you had a great nights sleep”. He smiled and said he had indeed. I met both surgeons that morning briefly, one to do the mastectomy the other to do the reconstruction. There was a flurry of activity in the operating room as everyone prepared for their first surgery of the day, which happened to be me. Three nurses two surgeons the anesthetist and a patient trying to be brave and not fall apart as the anesthetist poked around looking for a vein, this due to the fact that the nurse had already failed in the pre-op area. I knew if I even for a nanosecond gave into my fear I would fall apart and start sobbing. I fought back the tears and focused on breathing.

Pain is the first memory I have when I began the slow crawl back to consciousness. The nurse got the morphine kicking in and I began to zone in and out on what my body felt like. I felt pressure on my chest and some sort of wrapping around my chest and back. I didn’t want to move. I pictured my body when I was a girl before I had developed when I was literally flat-chested. This is how I now felt but with pressure layered on top.

It was only a few hours later I was discharged and on my way home. I could sense the apprehension of my husband, my designated caregiver for the weekend, as he looked at his drugged up wife back in full helpless mode. Groggy and sore I tried to brace myself for every bump we encountered on the short drive home. This trip home felt 100% different than the first mastectomy in June. Then I was euphoric and literally thankful and happy that the cancerous tumor has been removed from my body. My life saved. Ignorance was bliss. This time I just felt pain and dread at the journey still ahead.

How to Be

Written February 2, 2014

Now a month into 2014 and the hair on my head is slowly coming back, my eyebrows are reappearing, and I can even see some eyelashes growing. It will probably be another month until I can ditch the wig, hat and scarves. My energy is quite good during the day, in fact at times I feel like the old me, the me before cancer. Yet the evening comes and I am smothered in fatigue again.

I look around my house and I see the differences, they are likely subtle to others, but to me they are profound. The one room that has completely been ignored is my office, as it hadn’t been addressed since the spring. Mail has piled up and needs filing, calendars still read May 2013 and the Juravinski patient handouts were frontline and center on my desk. The room looks like time stopped when I was diagnosed June 6th. I slowly organize the clutter and discard the one-inch thick “welcome to chemotherapy booklet “ that lists all the side effect information that I needed during my August to December therapy. It feels odd throwing it out, yet a part of me feels like I should keep it for some odd reason. I ignored that crazy thought and pitched it.

In my bedroom I still have my wigs sitting on their stands; I have my container filled with my padding inserts; and my prosthetic breast is on my dresser. In my jewelry box I now have a few new pieces, all symbolizing my fight against breast cancer. In the corner of my room I have ‘my cancer box” that is filled with cards, small gifts, hand made knit hats, and natural health products that all came from friends and family over the last 7 months. In fact the box was also a gift that housed my beautiful quilt that was made of hand -crafted squares, each offering well wishes and messages from by friends and family and then sewn together by my friend Nathalie. That blanket was used every chemo infusion and it has sat at the foot of my bed since I received it in July. It still overwhelms me when I look at it and read the messages from everyone. It symbolizes love and can bring me to tears immediately.

My pantry in the kitchen has always been a disaster, however, now the food within has different labels that read organic, or non-GMO or other healthy mantras. This is new in the last four weeks and is the new normal going forward.

The bathroom remains the room of truth. The mirrors clearly show the new me.  As I disrobe for a shower my scar is impossible to ignore. I am working very hard on breaking up the scar tissue and getting full rotation with my arm. My face is no longer red and swollen like a tomato, and the layers of extra fat that had packed on during chemotherapy are slowly starting to diminish (although still too much for my liking!). I again have begun to use shampoo (yes organic) and no longer use the sensitive scalp treatment that I bought with my wigs and had used since my hair fell out in August. My eyebrow liner sits on the top of my makeup kit as it has been my magic wand needed to create a somewhat normal looking face for many months. I have my box of cosmetics by the bathtub, which I received from my Look Good Feel Good Workshop at Wellsprings in December.  I love the phrase printed on the box “Find Support, Gain Confidence, Lift Spirits, Take Control”.

And then I withdraw back into my mind. The place that is definitely the most changed and the busiest place where I live. I had a few very sad days this past week, Thursday and Friday in particular where I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. I realized I over did it in January. Speeding back to work, running the house and kids and cooking and trying to be healthy and be like the old me. I hit a wall on Thursday and I was frustrated.  My brain isn’t what it used to be, it is still very foggy and I am so fearful I will forget something important, so I do things immediately when they are fresh in my mind. I have always prided myself on my memory, it better come back.

I guess what I am struggling to articulate is that daily I am still trying to figure out how to be me.

Blueprint for a Cancer Free Life?

Written January 4, 2014

I have spent the last few days with my nose in a book. This is not unlike me as I have always been a bit of a bulimic reader. I can lose myself in a good book and ignore the world around me and then when I am done I need some time before I can commit to losing myself in another. The binge/purge cycle ensues. I enjoy marinating in what I have just read, especially when it involves an intriguing character or new world, or country. I felt ready to read about cancer, or better put, books on how to keep cancer at bay. What is different about reading these books is that they have not provided me with that feeling of satisfaction or sense of escape, in fact they have left me unsettled.

Clearly there is not a simple blueprint for remaining cancer free and there seems to be a plethora of experts on living a cancer free life. (I am also learning that even people in my life have advice on warding off cancer.) What I truly know though is that being healthy, truly healthy that is, will be a life changing endeavor and something that will take daily effort. I am a type A personality, I am a driver, I like to accomplish things, learn, experience life and being still and reflective and quiet is something I have not yet mastered. The book Anti-Cancer by David Servan-Schreiber was where I began, it was loaned to me by a breast cancer survivor. I found the book a great starting point for my personal journey towards living my life in a healthier way.

I am very aware that I do not do “moderation” well. I have always been an, “all or nothing person”. Thankfully this has allowed me success professionally and personally but I am discovering that this is not the blueprint I need for the future. I need to learn moderation and how to be content with not having or doing it all. I can manage the physical work out, in fact I am better when I am routinely working out, I feel strong and this physicality is a must going forward. Granted my body still aches after every work out, but I will not let that discourage me. I just need to rest when my body needs it, which I am being diligent about.

Where things get more daunting for me is with diet and stress management. I have always loved food and it is the quantity of food I consume that I thought was the issue, but I have now learned it is the quality of the food that should be my true concern. I think back to the copious amount of aspartame diet pop that I ingested from my teen years until I quit drinking pop in 2009. The years of smoking and social binge drinking and my zealous appetite for meat (any kind), cheese, bread, chips…and the list goes on! It appears that I need to focus on decreasing consumption of refined sugars, white flour and omega-6’s and animal fats due to their contamination from our environment and farming methods. In reviewing recipes and researching this will not come naturally to me, I will have to work at this daily, but I am up for the challenge.

I do not want to become preachy or extreme but I want to take steps towards treating my body like a temple versus a dumping ground. As for the stress part, yoga, deep breathing, walking, kissing my husband (and kids when they let me) and saying “No” a lot more will need to be my approach for 2014.

Happy New Years! Wishing you good health and happiness in 2014.

Big Red Bow

Written @ 7:30 am  December 24, 2013

I lie here quietly trying not to disrupt my husband as he sleeps beside me. It is Christmas Eve day and the house remains quiet. The day will be filled with anticipation, excitement and preparation for Christmas tomorrow.

It doesn’t feel truly like Christmas to me yet however. Hoping the day will bring that magical feeling of contentment and joy that I equate with holiday spirit.

My energy is coming back as is my hair. I have fuzz growing all over my bald head. I am starting to feel a little like the old me. In fact I slip back into my old ways of wanting to conquer the world in a day and then fatigue snaps me back into place. I then succumb to being still and slowing down.

My brain is still quite foggy, I have to really concentrate and focus. The kids are all too familiar with my forgetfulness and my youngest says, ‘oh mommy it’s that chemo brain again isn’t it?’  Amazing how we have all just got used to my bald presence, my ever-changing moods, from weepy to impatience to very raw and messy moments.

I thank my family for loving me and supporting me. My 13 year old tells me I am cute when I look my worst. I love her for that.

I met with my oncologist this week and I have started Tamoxafin, which I will be on until I am 48. I will see her in 3 months and then 6 months after that. I am to assume I am cancer free. I am to carry on living healing, eating, and exercising and to reach out to her if anything is out of the ordinary or persists beyond the norm. No more needles.

It would be great to slap a big red bow around everything for Christmas and forget the last 6 months but that would be impossible. I think cancer will always be with me it has changed me. I never ever want it back in my body. I want to enjoy decades of Christmas mornings with my family and all of them cancer free. I hope Santa brings me peace of mind, as that is the last part of healing process,  and I suspect it may take some time.

Hibernation

Written @ 5:30 am  December 5, 2013

I am on day 15 of 21, this being my last chemo cycle and it feels like time has slowed to a crawl. Life is in slow motion. I yearn for the day that presents itself with no side effects. I feel as if my body is preparing for hibernation.

My fingers and toe nails feel as if they could peel off at any given moment. You can see the discolouration and pooling of what I imagine is or was chemo in my nail beds. My lips still feel swollen and my mouth is driving me crazy. As a foodie, I live to eat and it is disheartening when everything I eat tastes off. I find myself eating things just to try and get a different taste in my mouth. I yearn for even a short reprieve from the mucous metallic taste that overrides my taste buds.

My eyes have begun to weep non stop and the result is swollen red and dry eyes that hurt to the touch. I secretly believe this side effect is almost cathartic as I am overwhelmed by emotions daily and can cry at the drop of a hat. On a few occasions this week I have been crying but blamed it on my weeping eyes.

Since June 6 I have felt like I put on protective armour that allowed focus on one thing and that was becoming cancer free. I believe I have now met this goal yet I now have nothing left in me. I am raw. I am depleted. I am exhausted. I sit here going over what has happened and what still remains ahead and it is incredibly hard to wrap my head around the whole thing. The auto pilot mode I have been living in is still in full throttle.

Replacing the armour now is the fatigue that blankets over my body, lulling me and keeping me sedentary. This blanket sometimes calms my brain into a state of hibernation. Thoughts get muddled, short term memory is often skewed and simple and straight forward tasks feel daunting. I want to shut down and just sleep.

Then as sleep envelops my body, the hot flashes begin. I wake up with the covers kicked off, I am damp and beads of sweat form on my head. My body feels like an inferno. It is restless and is fighting the chemo induced hibernation. My body is at war with itself and I am a prisoner that can not escape the battle.

Chemically Induced Shavasana & My Last Round of Chemo

Written @ 4:45 am November 21, 2013

It is November 21 at 4:45 am. I am lying in bed staring at the ceiling.  I have already been up twice tonight with hot flashes and visits to the washroom. My mind is racing. It is my last chemo treatment today at Juravinski.

I thought this day would bring joy and excitement, yet the emotion I feel is complex, a mixture of relief but also sadness.  I have been through a lot since June and I have put on a brave face and created a inner calm and have locked onto a positive energy to keep moving forward during each step — the surgery and round after round of chemo.

Yesterday I drove to Juravinski to get blood work done to allow my oncologist to give me the green light for chemo today. I chose to go alone, as the whole process seemed so routine and almost mechanical. No problem! I arrived at the blood clinic and was handed the number 06 which I immediately misinterpreted for 90. Chemo brain very intense this week. The number board was calling 68. The room was packed again with many seniors, family members but also some patients in their 40’s still with healthy looking faces. I sat and chatted with the woman beside me as we attempted to make sense of the sequential ordering, and listened to a mother and daughter fretting and angry about the wait. I took a deep breath and dove into my book to disappear.

My number was finally called, and as I walked to the room, I hoped for a senior nurse, as the newer ones, while upbeat and bubbly, are not always as efficient at finding a usable vein quickly. My veins are challenging, and have been since I was a kid. My annual blood tests due to low iron levels always resulted in the nurse trying first, failing, then going in other arm, failing and then revisiting first arm again…leaving me white and light-headed and dreading my return visit. Not fond memories. This day was no different. I always warn the nurse that she will need a fine needle and patience. At this point both my arms are sore from previous chemo injections. My veins are fighting back. I guess they, like me, are tired of the process. My vein failed on the first attempt; she then moved to my hand where it frankly hurt. I felt the tears begin. It was like floodgates opened up. I couldn’t control my composure anymore. I said to her through my tears, ” this is my last round and I am emotional”. She congratulated me and went and got another nurse leaving that needle still in. The second nurse took her turn at getting my blood, yet every time she got the needle (still in my hand) close to the vein it would jump. So now, back to the other arm. I took a deep breath and prayed she would get blood. It worked. Apparently 3rd time is the charm as far as extracting blood from me!

As I walked from the clinic down to my oncologist clinic I took deep breaths to try to regain my composure.  I was taken aback by my emotion; the tears kept coming. It doesn’t help that this last round of chemo has resulted in my eyes watering non-stop, to the point where I thought I might have thrush in them. I went to the optometrist who confirmed they were fine albeit very dry from the chemo. I was instructed to wear my glasses instead of contacts for the rest of treatment and was given eye drops to keep my eyes moist. I managed to gain my composure. Then I was called for the obligatory weigh in. I hate hate the weigh in. I have watched every round my body pack on more weight, and I already know I have gained weight as I feel it, and I see it. I don’t want the reminder of the number attached. It read 159lbs. Again I wanted to cry. I haven’t been this heavy since being pregnant!

My appointment with the nurse confirmed that my white blood cells, platelets and other readings were all in normal ranges and I was good to go for chemo. I apologized to her when I cried yet again — the onset of Chemo induced menopause has my mood fluctuating up and down, moving between weepy and reflective. (Although I do have to admit that having no periods lately is something to smile about!) I was told that I will meet with my oncologist in 4 weeks to discuss next steps in my cancer treatment which will be taking Tamoxifen daily for at minimum, the next 5 years. This will help control the estrogen in my body as my original tumours were Er+ and Pr+, meaning that the cancer was fuelled in part by estrogen and progesterone. I will need to watch how much estrogen-based plant foods I take into my body moving forward like flax and soya. I confirmed again with my nurse that after this round there wasn’t a simple test or scan that would provide me with a medically endorsed “cancer free” prognosis.   She informed me that typically with breast cancer if it returns it presents as breast, lung, bone or brain cancer. I don’t like anything about that list. She then informed me that they have moved away from ordering full body scans after chemotherapy treatments as research has showed that this intervention does not lead to better health outcomes.  I also didn’t like this information.  I am confident that cancer is out of my body but it is always nice to be told that emphatically.

Up to now I haven’t been ready to start reading the cancer books friends and other breast cancer survivors have lent me. I needed to stay in my bubble during this process and only take in the information I was ready for at each stage.   This has always been my approach in both my work and personal life. I have to marinate in and digest something, before I can take more information in.  I am now ready to start learning about living as a cancer survivor. That for some odd reason seems daunting as I write this, but educating myself will help. I also want to get back into shape and mentally I need yoga back in my life. Hoping by January I can start baby steps towards finding the physical me again.

It is now 5:30 and the house is quiet and dark. I have grown to love this bewitching hour. It is a time to reflect and be still. No kid demands, no schedules, no work, no agenda. It’s like a chemically induced shavasana but with my mind very alert.

My sister will go with me this afternoon for my last chemo so I will be in good company.  I am getting ready to be poked again today and likely a minimum of two times, although the chemo nurses are like Jedi nights with finding veins. So may the force be with my nurse today!

I know I should be excited, I know my family and friends are for me. This is the day we have all been waiting for, yet I am dreading this round and the coming 3 weeks of recovery. I will attempt today to channel this dread into my recovery plan.

Round 6 here I come!

Frustration

Written @ 1:30pm November 12, 2013

Frustration: It is very hard to remain positive at this point in my cancer treatment. I am midway through round 5 of 6 chemotherapy sessions, and I am frustrated.  I am tired of experiencing the numerous side effects of the chemo drugs and am done living in a constant merry go round of my 21-day chemo cycles. I am weary and fatigued and finding it hard to remember the endless energy I once had. Feeling normal, seems so far away, and yes, I am aware I am in the homestretch with only one more infusion to go, but this journey is far from over. I have been consumed with cancer since June, it has become a part of me, it has changed me both physically, and mentally. Ironically, I wanted the process to start, I welcomed the infusions as it meant it was killing any potential cancer I may have in my body. What I didn’t realize was how this process slowly strips you down, it makes you raw, weak, pale, sore, tender, emotional, helpless and simply frustrated.

I have to remember I chose willingly to undergo chemotherapy after my oncologist informed me of the statistics of cancer re-occurring when only taking Tamoxifen versus chemotherapy plus Tamoxifen. I have only once during this entire treatment process worried that I still had cancer in my body, and that was shortly after my mastectomy surgery. I admitted to my husband that I thought cancer had spread to my back due to the intense back pain I was experiencing. He reassured me it was simply muscle tightness from the surgery and from lack of mobility.

I now fundamentally believe that I do not have cancer in my body yet to the outside world (and to myself) I look so sick. I have no hair left on my body; my eyes are red, puffy and sore from dryness; my lips are red and  chapped from a mouth infection; my bones ache;  I have low energy, swollen hands, tender nails and am pale as a ghost. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not cancer I feel or see…this is the chemotherapy drugs, which are my insurance that I never have to go through this process again.