Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
When I first met Marie-Andrée on the dragon boat team, one of the things that was obvious is her love of family. Her son is now 12 and we’d often see him and his dad at dragon boat events. The Busting Out dragon boat team has been a huge source of support and pride – so much so that Marie-Andrée wore her team shirt to all of her chemo treatments!
When a chemo patient finishes their last treatment, they get to ring a bell in the chemo room.
"How do I look at life today? Some days with fear but most days with hope and a very deliberate attempt at making every moment count big time. Watching our son grow and play and become a fine young man is what I want to keep on doing for a very long time.
A few tips from Marie-Andrée for others with a recurrence (in no particular order):
· Accept the kindness of others with grace - the people around you want to help so much - take all that you need. You deserve it.
· Be your own advocate with the medical system and with those who surround you. Only you can speak for you.
· Trust kids. They can teach us so much and they deserve honesty.
· Go for a walk everyday - if you can with a supportive neighbour.
· Read good books or, if you can't concentrate, watch funny movies.
· Keep on living as much as you can...enjoy the small moments of everyday life."
You can read Marie-Andree’s story in her own words at "Marie-Andrée".
If you would like to read about other women living with cancer, click on "Cancer Heroes" below.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
These are the 'dark days' that I don't usually write about. The days when my stomache feels like raw hamburger and the taste of the inside of my own mouth makes me want to gag. The days when when my hips, shoulders, and just about every other joint aches at some point. The days when my internal organs feel like I've been hit by a bus. The days when I might not brush my teeth until noon and I don't always have the energy to make it into the shower.
The 'dark days' can be pretty boring. I sleep on and off and watch too much TV. Lying on the sofa for so long doesn't help my joints, and contributes to the pain in my lower back. Sometimes I get down on the floor and try to stretch it out. Sometimes I force myself to go for a walk, moving one foot methodically in front of the other.
But mostly I just give in to it and ride it out. There's something satisfying about wallowing in my own self-pity, knowing that the chemo cycle will eventually complete itself and I'll be able to appreciate the 'light days' again. Until then, I'm going to curl up into the fetal position, eat bad food, and rest my tired body.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
This morning our W.R.A.P. (walking, running & poling) group met at the new cancer survivor park on Riverside & Industrial. We got pretty wet but managed to dry off and warm up at the Local Heroes afterwards. Time for another few hours on the sofa with my quilt and a good book...
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The first week is usually a time of 'anything goes'. Nausea, fatique, and various intestinal problems (I won't get into that... just use your imagination) are all common side effects. You can generally feel like you have a bad flu. I haven't had much nausea and I still have energy, probably because I'm still on the steroids. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the steroids is increased appetite - I've been eating anything not nailed down over the past 3 days. Weight gain is common.
From day 7 to 14 is when you are at most risk for infection. Your white blood cell count can drop and your immune system is compromised. I have to watch carefully for a fever because if that happens you have to be admitted to hospital because you probably have an infection somewhere and your body has nothing to fight it. I've had bone pain, muscle pain, mouth sores and fatique during this time. You can also have numbness in the hands and feet. They put oven mitts packed with ice on me during chemo to try and prevent this (and to prevent the nails from turning black and sometimes falling off). Numbness in the limbs is not a good thing, because the damage can sometimes be permanent.
Towards the end of the 2nd week, the effects typically start to ease up and week three is my 'play week'. I've felt well enough in the 3rd week to hike, bike and do some other activities. I'm usually rushing around that week to get things done before the cycle starts all over again.
Another side effect of chemo is that it can age your body up to 20 years. With this being my 2nd round, that puts me at 20 years older than my mother, which may explain why she can run circles around me at 70!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I am supposed to take 2 steroid pills (Decadron) in the morning and 2 at night for 3 days - the day before, the day of, and the day after each treatment. Unfortunately, one of the side affects of Decadron is insomnia.
I watched an infomercial on The Magic Bullet and wondered why mine doesn't crush ice like the one on TV does.
I watched a expose on Gary Bussey on Access Hollywood. (Did you know that he's been drug free for 13 years and that his rather bizarre behavior is caused by brain damage from a motorcycle accident?)
OK, tomorrow night I'm bringing out the big gun sleeping pills.
You can read about her many accomplishments as a basketball star on the Laurentian website. Congratulations Carolyn!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Every October since then my relative presents me with more bulbs. I really don't think she is aware of all the implications of her gifts. She would probably be surprised to know that they have become magical symbols to me - symbols of hope, of endurance, of love and kinship - of all the things that really matter.
Please find a place for these bulbs in your garden (even in a pot). Try to beat the snow. Watch for them in spring and be thankful. Next fall we can all start planting again!
Friday, October 17, 2008
The Blonde Bombshell. This is what my real hair would look like if it didn't have a mind of it's own.
Shirley Partridge. This is my backup wig in case I take bread out of the oven wearing the Blonde Bombshell wig. Don't laugh, I did it 10 years ago and melted the bangs into a solid clump.
Broom Hilda. A friend passed this one on for me to use as my 'hat wig'. Wearing a scarf or hat on top of my good wig can damage it (they are very fragile!) so this one will do in a pinch. Even the hairstylist who trimmed it for me said it was rather 'broomy'.
Pretty in Pink. A picture is worth a thousand words.
(see also Run for the Cure)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
What we have in common is that we both have metastatic breast cancer. What we don't have in common is that, while I'm in my 50s and my son is grown, Carolyn is only 38 years old and has 2 small boys (4 and 3).
Carolyn was first diagnosed in 2006 when she finished breast feeding and soon discovered that it was in her bones. She was on chemo (Taxotere) for a whole year but still managed to do the 60 km weekend walk to end breast cancer the past two years. I admire her determination and commitment to spending quality time with her family.Carolyn writes:
Cancer changed my way of thinking about life. I have two young boys and if I hadn’t gotten diagnosed I would have continued to work and rush home to feed the kids so I can get them to bed, etc. Now I am taking the time to smell the roses with them. Mentally, it has made me draw on my sports mental skills of filing away mistakes you make, now I try to file away the anxiety that I feel at times. Physically, I eat better now than I did before, mostly organic, I read labels and I have very little processed food. Emotionally, I still cry and get overwhelmed with emotion wondering whether I will be around to see my kids graduate…or worse yet, get to kindergarten.
I draw my strength from my children. I see life for what it is and I try not to let the little stuff bother me anymore. You can’t let the cancer beat you, so you have to file it away. You have to carry on, do things so that your mind doesn’t wander into the negative realms that cancer brings. Be inspiring to the next one diagnosed and love with all your heart.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
On October 5th I joined 10,000 other participants in the Ottawa/Gatineau Run for the Cure. Together we raised $1,600,000. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported me that day, financially and/or emotionally. Luckily, I felt well that day and, while it was the first time in 12 years that I walked rather than ran, I was happy to reach the finish line without running out of steam.
For so many years that I’ve lost count (8?) I’ve been fortunate to be part of the Just Doing It team, an amazing group of survivor/thrivers. Each year since the team was formed we have won the award for most money raised by a women’s community team. This year we raised over $33,000. Way to go, Just Doing It!!A wonderful group of my co-workers from Carleton University formed a team called Chris’ Jocks and showed up in full force to complete the 5k route. They organized various fundraisers at work in the month leading up to the event and I was touched by their enthusiasm and support. Chris’ Jocks rock!!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
A week after I started treatments, Mary started back in chemo as well, so we're sporting the same hairdo these days. I hate that Mary is back in treatment, but it does mean that I'm in great company.
The picture above of Mary's newly bald head was taken the day of the Run for the Cure. The pink spots surrounding her pink ribbon are lipstick kisses made by friends.
Mary continues to be a great source of support and inspiration to me. She is staying active and one of the ways she keeps her creative juices flowing is by taking a writing course. Because I enjoy Mary's humourous writing style, she sometimes sends me what she writes for her class. I thought Talking Turkey was timely and worth sharing (with her permission). Enjoy!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The port is the bubble looking piece in the picture that sits just under the skin and the long tube or catheter connects the port to a vein. When drugs need to be injected or blood samples drawn, the piece on the right is inserted into the silicone tube of the port.
A small incision was made in my skin to insert the port-o-cathe. They used sedation and told me that I would probably be aware of what was going on but not much care. I must have been pretty tired because the next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room.
My next appointment was in the afternoon for chemo at the General. The chemo went well and I’m feeling pretty good so far. Margaret, my daughter-in-law Tara's mom, is in town from Calgary for one night on business and she stopped by on her way from the airport. I was really glad that I felt well enough to enjoy her visit.
A huge thanks to my drivers Louise, Nancy and Greg for getting me to today’s appointments and safely home again!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
You might not think of Randy’s story as a ‘good news story’ (which was what I said I wanted the posts on this blog to be about). He died far too young and left behind a wife and 3 small children.
But Randy Pausch is still my hero. He lived more in the last 2 years of his life than most people who make it into their 90’s do. He shared his story, his humanness, his courage, his fears, his humor and his wisdom, and he inspired millions. I’m reading his book ‘The Last Lecture’ and it’s just about as far from depressing as anything could possibly be that was written by a dying man.
Randy’s book isn’t about dying; it’s about living. He was a shining example of how the value of a life can’t be measured by the number of days we breathe, but rather what we do with them. Some people live the same day over and over again, while Randy lived 47 years, each new day at a time.
The postings on Randy Pausch’s blog are chronological, so it of course starts off with a notice that Randy has died. But the postings leading up to that last sad one, represent a life well lived.