Cancerversary

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Today is my cancerversary. I was diagnosed with breast cancer one year ago today.

 

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Bottle of Shampoo

I thought I would share with you, my faithful readers, another milestone of sorts that I achieved today… Early last October my mom and I set out in search of some chemical-free shampoo. I remember that shopping trip like it was yesterday. I was not yet bald –  though it was not far off at that point – and I desperately wanted to do everything I could to protect my scalp and encourage hair growth after chemo. Given that I was literally being poisoned every three weeks, I bought the most natural shampoo I could find and left the store with this bottle in hand…

Shampoo

I wondered many things on the way home that day. Would I cry when my hair came out? How would it happen? Would my nieces be afraid of the bald version of me? Would my hair ever grow back?

Would I live long enough to finish this bottle?

Today, as I squeezed the last drops of shampoo out of this bottle, I couldn’t help but pause to think about all that my body has been through and how far I have come. I now know all of the answers to the things I wondered that day.

I wish you all many bottles of shampoo.

All Clear

Although I played it pretty cool this morning at my appointment, there was a teeny tiny little piece of me that was preparing for bad news. But, I am happy to report that all of your messages and positive vibes carried me through today’s tests and I was given the ‘all clear’. As a wise friend pointed out to me this morning, today is one of those rare days when I should hope that the words “negative” and “unremarkable” are used to describe me.

As I was leaving, the technician asked me to remind all the 40+ year old females in my life to get their mammograms.

SO PLEASE SCHEDULE YOUR MAMMOGRAMS!

I have been here before

I can’t sleep. Tomorrow I am scheduled for my first post-treatment mammogram and ultra sound. It wasn’t supposed to happen until July but my radiation oncologist wanted to image an area of thickened tissue, and the clinic opted to combine her request with my full post-treatment imaging follow-up. It didn’t occur to me until earlier this afternoon that I am a little worried about this appointment. We all know how the last one ended…

Dr. Google suggests that it would be very, very, very rare for there to be anything wrong this soon after the aggressive treatment I had, so of course everything is going to be ok.

But what if it’s not?

What I do know for sure is that it is going to hurt like hell. After all, they did burn me every day for 6 weeks, and my skin and internal tissue remain quite pissed off. The booking agent told me that I can always refuse the mammogram if it hurts too much. I wanted to tell her that when you have had breast cancer at my age, no, you actually don’t have the luxury of refusing a mammogram because it hurts too much.

I think I might have a little morphine left over from my surgery for the occasion – That ought to do the trick.

Please think of me tomorrow morning.

I am not dead

Ok, ok, the title of this blog is a little much. But I wanted to assure you that I’m alive and well (well?) Radiation is now comfortably behind me and I can happily report that my skin has healed. It is pink, tight and sore as hell, but it’s back to being in one continuous piece.

Of course, it would be too easy if the story ended there. After radiation I learned that my thyroid had stopped working. RIP thyroid. Please say hello to my appendix. Hypothyroidism is an unpleasant condition, causing weight gain, fatigue and depression, but one with an easy fix. It is a matter of finding the right dose of synthetic thyroid hormones, which unfortunately takes time and is a process of trial and error. So while the rest of the world deals with the temptations of opioids, I’m now tempted to abuse my thyroid medication to speed up my metabolism so that I can eat the things I like to eat to my heart’s content. Cue the intervention.

My hair is slowly growing back and it’s curly. To my great disappointment, it is much darker than what it has been my whole life. Did cancer also rob me of my ability to attribute the dumb things I do to “blonde moments”? Damn you, cancer. I’m taking that one back – I hereby reclaim my right to sometimes be a dumb blonde. I suppose I should be thankful that my hair is growing back. I remember how I worried that it wouldn’t.

Unfortunately for my armpit, it didn’t fare as well as my head did – the radiation seems to have stopped hair growth there. Think of all the time I’ll save over the rest of my life by not having to shave that armpit. Thank you radiation.

I found the end of treatment to be very difficult, which has been made all the more difficult by critical thyroid hormone levels. My eyes are still suffering the effects of chemo and my endurance is low. I continue to have a lot of medical appointments and I am still struggling to regain strength and put some distance between me and my diagnosis.

I am not out of the woods yet.

 

 

Fight Like a Girl

I’ve been really looking forward to today for two reasons: The first reason being that today was my last of 29 sessions of radiation therapy!! The second reason was the anticipated delivery of this masterpiece. My dear friend and baker extraordinaire, Renata, delivered a cake to celebrate the end of radiation!

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This carrot cake is every bit as delicious as it looks!!

My skin took a beating over these past 6 weeks. The skin under my armpit is literally split open and I’ve got some blisters bubbling up to the surface, and the affected area is quite red and sore. My skin will be at its worst 7-10 days after radiation, and then start to heal provided I avoid any skin infection. All of this is normal, I’m told.

My hair continues to grow. I’ve got about a quarter of an inch of straight light brown hair – it’s strange to see the reflection of darker hair in the mirror, as I’ve been blonde all of my life.

And so I have reached one more milestone in my recovery. This one, by far the sweetest!!

 

Good Days & Bad Days

I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately – Recent blood work suggests I’m post-menopausal, which is not uncommon following chemotherapy. Only time will tell if it’s permanent or not.  I’m really tired all the time and I have a fair amount of body pain – cancer treatment has introduced me to my 80 year old self, 40+ years early. My skin is quite red and is blistering in some spots from the radiation. And although my hair has started to grow back, someone called me ‘sir’ at Costco the other day 😭😭😭

But today something really great happened that reminded me that I’m loved. Two dear friends of mine conspired to make sure I have a comfy ride to my radiation appointments this week. Thank you!!

I have a week full of appointments. Starting tomorrow, in addition to radiation, I will meet with my medical oncologist to discuss hormonal therapy, which is a medicine that is used to treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. It is recommended for me given that my cancer was positive for estrogen receptors. Typically, the medicine is taken for 5 years, although some studies are now suggesting that 10 years may be more effective.

And so I chug along toward the conclusion of my cancer treatment. But this week, the ride will be a little more pleasant.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention…

I was at the wool store with movo the other day and I came across this pattern for knit prosthetic breasts. You can imagine my reaction.

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It’s a knit tit!

I am half way through radiation and my skin has started to burn. I hate it. I hate going there every day. I hate lying on that uncomfortable slab for my treatment. I hate that I am so sore and so tired all the time. And I can’t wait for this to be over.

Orange you glad it’s not happening to you?

Today was my 10th session of radiation. So far, things aren’t looking all that great…

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An unfortunate looking orange.

Haha! Just kidding – I saw this unfortunate looking orange at the grocery store and it made me laugh. Maybe you’ll laugh too.

So far, radiation isn’t horrible, although I am pretty tired and still being annoyed by some lingering side effects of chemo (swelling, VERY itchy eyes, hot flashes and muscle aches and stiffness). From the radiation I have some mild discomfort and discolouration, but no “burns” yet. I have developed a very persistent and annoying cough that I am quite certain is NOT a cold, which could be something called radiation pneumonitis. I am seeing my radiation oncologist on Wednesday – she has a weekly clinic at which I am expected to attend – so we shall see what she says.

On a happy note, yesterday I received an in-person reminder of one of the many friends and family who have had my  back during this fight. Thank you Abiola!

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I get by with a little help from my friends.

 

The Foreseeable Future

Happy New Year dear friends and family!

What better way to ring in a new year than with a healthy dose of radiation. Today was the start of the next stage of my breast cancer treatment.

I receive radiation therapy at the Cancer Centre at TOH – General Campus. On arrival,  I undress from the waist up, put on a hospital gown and scan my little bar-coded card to check in. When the radiation therapists are ready for me, I am brought in to a room and placed on the table to be positioned to receive the treatment. There are laser beams crisscrossing the room that are used to align with the tattoos I received in December and x-rays are taken, all of which is to ensure that the radiation is delivered only to the affected breast according to the exact treatment plan and specifications developed by my radiation oncologist.

The radiation therapists leave the room and if the measurements check out, radiation is administered. I don’t feel, smell or taste anything during radiation. Like chemotherapy, each person reacts differently, however the most common side effects when receiving radiation for breast cancer are fatigue, breast heaviness and skin burns. Typically side effects don’t appear until a week or two after treatment has started.

Each week I will receive that week’s schedule and I am not guaranteed any particular time slot – This week my treatment times range from 0800 to 1330. I also meet with my radiation oncologist every Wednesday to discuss progress and any side effects. I was told that radiation emergencies may arise which could impact my schedule. Radiation emergency? Really? Apparently that’s a thing.

It took 4 hours from door-to-door, but the actual administration of radiation lasted only 5-ish minutes.

So this is my new normal for the next six weeks.

December 25

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah my dear friends and family! I hope that everyone is enjoying good food and the warmth of the holidays. I’m in Alberta, wondering when my hair will start to grow back. Still no sign of it.

I’m still feeling the effects of chemo and am told by other cancer survivors that I will continue to do so for months, possibly years! I’m very tired, sore, weak and quite puffy. I suppose that shortbread and chocolate may have contributed to some of the puffiness, but surely you’ll indulge me and let me attribute most of it to chemo.

I received a phonecall from my radiaton oncologist the other day to confirm my radiaton treatment plan. I will receive 29 doses, 25 of which will be to the affected breast, and the remaining 4 will be directly to the tumor site. My doctor also confirmed that they were able to minimize the radiation to my heart (my cancer was in my left breast). Honestly, I thought that went without saying, but apparently not… So, I will receive radiation Monday to Friday for 6 weeks starting in the new year. I’m exhausted just thinking about it…

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I couldn’t agree more, Trish!!

 

Treatment Simulation

In keeping with the theme of “lasts”, today I had what will hopefully be my last medical appointment of 2016. I had a treatment simulation appointment with my radiation oncologist where I had a CT scan and other measurements taken to help determine my final treatment plan. I also received five little tattoo dots which will help to properly position me in the treatment machine – These are actual tattoos given with a little needle that will remain on my body forever. Over the next few weeks, my radiation oncologist will work with her team to develop a treatment plan specific to my anatomy.

Radiation will start in the new year. Until then, I am really looking forward to a break from medical appointments and being away from cancer ground zero for a few weeks 🙂

Spoiled Rotten

Imagine my surprise when I opened my door today to two dear friends, Joanne and Eloisa, holding this!! Merci Joanne, Eloisa, Jo-Ann, Richard et Mélanie! Quelle belle journée – J’étais comblée par la générosité de mes tres chers amis. Gros bisous!

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The basket of all baskets!

I had my very last injection of Neupogen today and tomorrow I will take my last steroid medication. I am still very, very tired but I am comforted to know that I really am making progress in my treatment and am moving ever forward toward a return to health.

Sleep well my friends.

Chemo Grad

Thankfully, I felt well enough for a few hours this afternoon to spend time with family  listening to Christmas tunes, sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows and munching on delicious snacks.

 

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This little cutie is courtesy of my friend, Rhonda. Thanks for all of your support!

Last Pair of Socks

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My last pair of chemo socks!!

My last round of chemo is behind me. I was so glad when the IV machine beeped to indicate that my transfusion was complete. In my chemo pod were three other women receiving treatment for breast cancer, and it struck me again just how ubiquitous this disease seems to be.

After your last round of chemo, you are invited to ring a bell to celebrate. I rang the bell and everyone clapped and cheered for me, which was really nice. The whole experience  was really emotional for movo and me, and it brought tears to our eyes.

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Ding dong, chemo’s done!

Hopefully round four doesn’t go out with dramatic flair. I slept through most of my nausea today, and battled chemo-induced hot flashes.

The next steps in my treatment are radiation and hormone therapy, which will all start in the new year. I am thankful that I have Christmas holidays to look forward to without any cancer treatment!

‘Twas the day before chemo…

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Hope is nice, but a bag full of pink jelly belly candies doesn’t hurt. Thanks for the care package Uncle Ray & Auntie Linda! xoxo

I am happy to report that I am not going blind!

But I do have another side effect of chemotherapy. One of the chemicals in my chemo cocktail is known to disrupt the meibomian glands, which line the eye lids and secrete an oily substance that forms part of the tear film and helps keep the eyes comfortable and sufficiently moisturized. Basically, my eyes are bone dry, which I have to say is proving to be the most annoying of all of my side effects. There are products to help, but it looks like I am stuck with this until my eyes return to normal.

Thankfully tomorrow is my LAST CHEMO!!!

Side Effects

Each person reacts differently to chemo. And I, as it turns out, am a delicate little flower. Before each round of chemo, I have to meet with my medical oncologist to talk about my symptoms, which, up until round 3 have been pretty standard. But I am now really starting to feel like a cancer patient. As I listed the strange and peculiar things my body was doing at my last appointment, my oncologist confirmed that these were all being caused by the chemotherapy.

In addition to killing any rogue cancer cells joyriding around my body, it has left me very weak, breathless and easily tired. I went for a short walk yesterday and was dismayed at how difficult it was for me. I have hot flashes that leave me drenched – Fortunately I am bald (sarcasm) so that’s helpful. I have a chemo rash on my chest, back and neck. Oh, and this is new and scary – My eye balls are very sticky, watery and they hurt. Like a lot. The chemo has actually started to impact my vision and sensitivity to light, which I am told will eventually return to normal (it had better).

On the plus side, I haven’t had to shave my legs for months. And my head is quite literally, wash and go! Plus, I get to enjoy guilt-free naps whenever I want. Because of my diagnosis, I have been able to spend lots of quality time with my mom. I have also reconnected with old friends with whom I had lost touch over the years. I have a great cancer team who is working very hard to make sure that I am getting the best possible treatment and that this shit never comes back.

I guess my point is that it is very easy to get lost in the darkness of a cancer diagnosis (the treatment, actually), but as shitty as it is, it is not all bad. It makes me sad that it could be months before my body recovers from chemo, but at least it will eventually recover.

The Holy Grail

All week I have been searching. Searching for something to eat that doesn’t taste dreadful. While this may not sound all that bad, imagine being wholly disappointed by lifetime favorites. Imagine eating, but being totally unable to be satisfied.

My sense of taste has been totally and completely affected by this round of chemo. While I have noticed certain changes in my sense of taste during previous rounds of chemo, never before have these changes been so pronounced as this time around. There is a permanent white coating on my tongue that wont go away no matter how much I brush my teeth and my mouth is as dry as a cotton ball. Sweet has morphed in to salty. I haven’t had a Coke Zero to drink in months! I can literally taste plastic! Everything tastes terrible!

Unfortunately, I have been ravenous this whole time, thanks to an increase in the steroids I am taking. But at long last, I finally had a good meal tonight! The Chicken Souvlaki platter from Greek on Wheels! Delicious!

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All Clear!

I am happy to report that the biopsy results came back fine. The surgeon confirmed that there is no evidence of malignancy in the skin punch biopsies taken, which is a relief but not a surprise. This of course did not stop me from obsessively googling everything I could about the possibilities. The skin punch biopsy was to test for something called inflammatory breast cancer, which is a very rare, aggressive form of breast cancer that presents itself as changes to the breast skin, as opposed to the development of a breast lump.

The surgeon suggested that my symptoms (which you will remember she had not seen before in someone who had not already undergone radiation therapy) could be explained by lymphedema of the breast. These results will be shared with the radiation oncologist to determine whether this will impact my radiation therapy.

So I am now 6 days out from my third chemo. I am very, very tired and weaker and slower than usual but am in good spirits and keeping movo on her toes.

Three’s a charm?!

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Moving right along!

Behold my third pair of chemo socks! These little watermelon beauties brightened my day for round three of chemo! It is hard to believe that I am more than half way through this part of my treatment.

This little chemo angel below was sent to me by Mary Ann and Laura. She must be doing her job because I am feeling much better after this round of chemo. I am up and about, eating normally and generally feeling ok. What a nice change from my last rounds of chemo! Yesterday I opted to take one of the chemo chemicals at a lower drip rate, which may also explain my improvement. Stubborn as I am, I had been insisting on receiving that chemical at the full drip rate so I could get out of the hospital faster! Lesson (maybe) learned.

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My Chemo Angel. Thank you Mary Ann and Laura!

 

Playing the Odds

I was at the women’s breast health centre yesterday for some additional imaging and I couldn’t help but look around the waiting room at all the women in their hospital gowns, wondering how many of them would receive good news and how many of them would receive bad news. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation says that 1 in 9 Canadian women will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime so I guess my being there helped their odds! You’re welcome, strangers in the waiting room.

My imaging was clear, but I haven’t responded to any of the antibiotics that have been prescribed to rule out an infection, so just to be safe, my breast surgeon took another tissue biopsy today. This entailed three needles for freezing and three punch biopsy samples taken. She said there is a 60% chance it is nothing and apologized that these were maybe not the odds I was hoping for. I told her that having already been recently diagnosed with breast cancer tends to take the fear out of breast biopsies. I should receive the results by next Thursday.

Truth be told, I am more worried that she won’t be able to tell me what is causing my physical symptoms (which she says she has never seen before), how to treat them, how long I can expect them to remain, how much worse they might get, and what to do with them going forward than I am about an additional cancer diagnosis. At least with a cancer diagnosis, it is pretty clear how to treat it and I am already in the throes of treatment anyway…

So my busy week of appointments concludes tomorrow with my third round of chemotherapy (assuming all of my blood counts are all ok!)  I am very tired and not looking forward to how I will feel post-chemo.

Thank you to all of you for the beautiful cards and treats, and for checking in on me and movo! I am so thankful for all of the wonderful friends I have in my life.

xxoo

Lazy Sunday

Hope everyone had a nice weekend! Thankfully there is no trace left of Ottawa’s first snowfall.

I pulled a muscle in my back on Thursday. Badly. This is getting very embarrassing. I can’t seem to go one week without some sort of injury! I am too embarrassed to go see my doctor about something that seems so trivial compared to what we have been meeting about these days!

The countdown is on for my next round of chemo. Thinking about my next round actually makes me very anxious as it means entire days that will be lost to sleep and nausea. I will be very happy when this part of my treatment is behind me. I have learned that cancer treatment is so much worse than actually having cancer. Go figure.

Lots of medical appointments this week, starting first thing tomorrow morning.

Sleep tight friends & family xxoo

Hello from the other side of round 2!

It was a rough past few days but I have emerged from my second round of chemo with all of my remaining organs intact (at the time of publication). However, I literally lost three entire days to sleep and nausea, which eventually gave way to muscle/bone pain in my legs from my neupogen injections. The neupogen’s job is to stimulate white blood cell (WBC) production as my own existing WBC stores start to dwindle.

We had a little drama on Monday night when my temperature danced around 38 before going over.Technically, as a cancer patient I am supposed to go to the emergency room when my temperature hits 38; however, I have established my own personal cancer protocol which dictates that I do not go in to the hospital for less than 38.5. Anyway, I went exorcist on movo when she told me she was calling 911. My extensive medical training paid off and my fever subsided on its own without the need to spend 4 days in the hospital.

Today I had my post-op follow up and I am pleased to report that I did not have, nor will I ever have appendix cancer (which is an actual thing, by the way.)

So I spend my days resting and reading, hoping that I am well beyond any organ-rejection timeframe, and that my temperature remains comfortably below 38.5.

Hope everyone is happy and well 🙂

PS. These beauties brightened my rough days following chemo!!

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Thank you Marisa & RJ!

 

2 down, 2 to go

Fortunately my blood levels have bounced back from “corpse” to “normal”, so I was able to have my second round of chemo today. Of course this gave me occasion to wear my second pair of chemo socks! Only two pairs left to go!!!

So far no nausea, but I am very tired and short of breath, and the steroids I am on make sleep elusive.

On a sombre note (for me anyway) I am almost completely bald. I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror. I wonder if I will ever feel normal again?

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Second round of chemo was October 14, 2016

 

Secretly hoping chemo gives me superpowers

Round two of chemo is tomorrow at 0930 at the Queensway Carleton. People often ask me what chemo is like so I thought I would share with you what chemo is like for me. My chemo cocktail consists of two different chemicals that are given to me intravenously: Cyclophosphamide (aka Cytoxan) and Docetaxel (aka Taxotere). The chemo cocktail is personalized to the characteristics of me and my breast cancer.

The day before chemo I start three days of a steroid to minimize the side effects of chemo. I was not thrilled about having to take a steroid because of the horrid side effects, but hopefully the limited duration won’t really do me any harm other than the insomnia it causes. I also have to have blood work done at least one day before to ensure that my blood counts are safe enough for chemo to proceed. 

I am asked to arrive 15 minutes early before every appointment at the cancer centre to complete a “symptom checker” which is an electronic questionnaire asking me to rate my levels of pain, nausea, depression, fatigue, wellness, etc. on a scale of 1 to 10. I have completed four of these and to date not one person has actually read them or asked me about my answers.

When it’s my time to go in, I am weighed (YAY!), my vitals are checked and then an order is placed with the pharmacy to prepare my chemo. The pharmacy takes about 30 minutes to prepare it. I am then given a choice as to whether I want to receive it lying down in a hospital bed or seated in a chair (I choose the bed). We are all spaced out around the perimeter of a module (of which there are several) receiving our chemo and there are curtains that I can pull around for privacy. Movo brings her knitting and sits beside my bed.

We start with the Docetaxel. Although my first round was given to me at a slower rate to ensure that I would not have an allergic reaction, it will normally take 1.5 hours to drip. During this time I have to wear ice gloves and ice slippers to protect my nail beds from the effects of the drug. The theory is that the ice restricts the blood flow to the nail beds, which in turn limits the amount of the drug that reaches these areas. The alternative is nail loss. Unfortunately, this means that I can’t read or do much of anything. The Docetaxel is what has caused my hair loss.

 Once this is complete, I receive the Cyclophosphamide, which only takes 30-45 minutes. It can cause sinus pain and blockage so they tend to want to slow it down, but by that point I just wanted to get out of there so I tell them I want it dripping as fast as possible. By the end my sinuses feel like I have snorted hot pepper, but otherwise I can handle it.

That’s it. From start to finish, I am there for about 4 hours, assuming everything is running on time. After chemo, I have to drink A LOT of water to flush it out. It is actually toxic so there are precautions we are required to take at home such as flushing the toilet twice after I use it and movo wearing protective gear if I get sick. I receive injections of a drug called neupogen for five days post chemo to stimulate white blood cell production. It causes me to have really sore bones. I have medication that I can take for nausea – Hopefully it works for chemo better than it did for appendicitis!

7-12 days post chemo, my immune system is at its weakest. If at any time I develop a fever that is greater than 38 degrees Celsius, I am to go immediately to the emergency room.

I sincerely hope that this round of chemo is much less eventful than the first round. I don’t think I can handle another curve ball. My medical oncologist said that he has never in his career had a chemo patient develop appendicitis!

Please think of me tomorrow.

PS. I got this awesome hand-made dream catcher and card from Hanna in the mail today! Perfect timing! Thanks so much Hanna! I love it and will be keeping it very close by!

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This beautiful dream catcher will come in handy. Thanks sweet Hanna!

Dans ma misery, je suis chanceuse

I won’t placate you with clichés about how thankful I am this Thanksgiving Day. Truth be told, I spent the weekend feeling ugly, eating too much and mourning the loss of my hair.

Who knew that hair could hurt. Well, let me tell you, it really, really can. It started on Thursday. I was in the back seat of an uber and the guy had the windows all the way down and I was sure my hair was going to literally blow off my head. Not everyone experiences the hair pain, but for those who do, it is a sign that hair loss is nigh. By Friday, all I had to do was run my fingers through my hair and a bunch would come out. They say you know when it is time to shave it off, and they were right. I knew. I had mine shaved on Saturday at 2.30. Fortunately my skull is perfectly fine and I am not a cone head as I feared.

I also bought a wig. It cost nearly as much as my rent. Movo put it somewhere so Quincy wouldn’t eat it and now we can’t find it.

Le sigh…

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Image credit: “Cancer made me a shallower person” by Miriam Engleberg

My new blog

The world probably doesn’t need another breast cancer blog. Sorry world.

Not sure if this is going to work, but I thought I would try using this blog to post little updates for my friends, enemies and family as I progress through my cancer treatment. A lot of you have written to tell me how much you enjoy getting my updates so here we go…

I am still in self-imposed quarantine because of my very low neutrophils and white blood cells. Movo is busy knitting me a sweater, Quincy is sulking after having been man-handled by us to give her a pill, and I am busy trying to calculate when to do the great head shave of 2016. While I am shedding more than usual, I don’t think the actual chemo hair loss has started. I did take scissors to my hair the other night because it felt so heavy in my scalp. I didn’t do anything noble with the hair – Held on to it for a few days until it started to feel a bit weird and finally sent it down the garbage chute. What’s left is quite short, and quite curly.

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So long, old friend.

 

I got a sweet care package in the mail today from my friend Gwen with some great cancer care products from Give-A-Care. Thanks Gwen! I love it!

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Cancer Sux!

So I guess this is it. I hope that you enjoy reading my blog.

CIBC Run for the Cure Day

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-Originally sent October 2, 2016 –

Greetings from my couch – One of my top three spots these days.

Today was the CIBC Run for the Cure. In 2004, I walked the Run for my friend Jane, who was battling breast cancer while pursuing a PhD at the University of Waterloo. Although Jane didn’t survive breast cancer, I keep many happy memories from that day. I remember the warmth of the sun contrasted with the chill that had settled in the autumn air. I remember the pride that I felt when attaching my tag proclaiming my support for Team Jane. I remember the excitement as we all anticipated the start of the Run. But what I remember most of all is Jane’s happiness – She was having a blast! We all were! I realize now how important and significant that happiness was, and that I had no idea of the battle she was waging against breast cancer.

I didn’t think about breast cancer much until another friend, Catherine, was diagnosed years later. Even then, it was something that happened to other people, not to me. And although she was very open with her experience, I realize that I still didn’t really understand what she had been going through.

Now I do. And it sucks. It really sucks, but I will beat it. Like Catherine did. And maybe next year, I will run for myself.

So at this time of year when our employers are asking us to consider making charitable donations, perhaps you will consider donating to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. It would be a positive step so that all of the little girls in our lives have one less thing to worry about.

So as to not leave you all on a sombre note, I am attaching a picture of the tag that my friend, Rhonda, wore to the Run this morning. I wonder if maybe she felt a little of the same pride attaching my tag as I felt years ago attaching Jane’s.

Love, Natalie xxoo

Appendicitis or Bust

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First day of chemo was September 23, 2016

-Originally sent September 30, 2016-
Hello my dear friends and family,

So sorry for the delay in updating everyone. I have only had my cell phone with me occasionally so some of you received cryptic messages at odd hours of the night, pecked out with one hand to the light of an IV machine that went crazy every time I bent my arm.

My first round of chemo is now behind me. The administration of the chemo itself was no problem – I had to wear ice slippers and gloves to protect the nail beds while the chemical went in, which meant no reading or typing.  By Saturday I started to feel very nauseous and developed some belly pain which worsened into Sunday. By Monday I had a fever of 38.5, which for cancer patients can spell trouble. So the home care nurse called the ambulance and we were whisked off to the hospital, much to the interest, I’m sure, of my neighbours over at the Method One Clinic, where I had a CT scan and blood work.

At around 9.30 that night, the doc came into my little pod to inform us that he had bad news: My first thought was that they had found cancer in my gut – Given the mass amounts of Coke Zero I drink, I suppose gut cancer isn’t too far fetched…  Fortunately, it was not stomach cancer – the CT scan suggested I had appendicitis. My mom and I burst out laughing – Big, belly laughs! We roared, much to the surprise of the doctor. We both thought a double consult to psychiatry might be in order at that point. Of all the things to happen, at all the times to happen…  So my appendix was removed on Tuesday morning and I was kept in hospital until my release today.

Becuse of the chemo, I have no immune system and I’m developing mystery rashes and my hair is starting to fall out. Given my lack of immune system and my germophobia the hospital is an unpleasant place for me to be!!! Fortunately, I am now home, waiting for dinner to be served.

Thank you to all of you, my wonderful friends and family for all of your support and offers to visit and to help me and movo. Know that we are so very appreciative of all of the amazing people in our lives. Now is not good time for me to have visitors but I will look forward to catching up with everyone when I’m feeling (and looking) better!

Love, Natalie xxoo

PS. The night before my first chemo, my friend Rhonda brought me 4 pairs of chemo socks. I am to wear one pair for each of my 4 rounds of chemo and then never wear them again. I attach a picture of my chemo socks as well as me wearing my first pair.

chemo-socks

A pair of socks for each round of chemo

The 411

-Originally Sent September 1, 2016-

Hello my dear friends and family,

I had my follow up appointment with the oncological surgeon today. I had stage 2A invasive ductal carcinoma. The surgeon confirmed that she completely removed my tumour which measured 2.5 cm. She also confirmed that although the cancer had spread to the lymphatic channels, it had not invaded my lymph nodes as she had originally thought during surgery. This is good news, although I now have no lymph nodes under my left arm (16 nodes were removed).

I am being referred to a medical oncologist. Radiation is a certainty, and given my young age and the very aggressive nature of my cancer, she told me that chemotherapy is “a no-brainer”. I am also a candidate for hormone-therapy. I guess I am still at the beginning of all this.

For those who don’t know, I saw the oncological gynecologist this week and there are no concerns in that regard.

My mom and her BFF are busy knitting and crocheting chemo caps for me, and I am trying to decide if I should have my treatment here or in Alberta where my mom and dad are. Lots to think about.

Happy Long weekend! Natalie xxoo