Saturday, May 31, 2014

I said goodbye today….

My friend, Jose…I met her eight years ago this June.  I answered an ad looking for a bookkeeper for her son…scheduling the interview Dan told me his mother was just diagnosed with cancer.

For the next two years I was at her place every Thursday doing Dan’s bookkeeping…watching her go up and down with treatment…eating healthy…because she was eating healthy…and cheering as she beat colon cancer…and was off to Mexico to celebrate.

Over the next year or so, I slowly dropped clients as it was getting too hard for me and…three years ago, it was Dan’s turn.  I remember sitting in the office with Jose while she cried, “I’m never going to see you again”.  I put my arms around her and gave her a big hug telling her, “Of course you will…I am dropping Dan not you!”.  We talked her and Ken into joining our RV club and we started seeing them with us at various campgrounds and rallys.

Jose never seemed to recover from the cancer…part, I still believe to PTSD.  She was so focused for so long on beating cancer that, when it was all done….silence.  She tried volunteering at gardens and other places, different kinds of anti-depressants, different kinds of therapy and was unable to shake the depression or to recover from the side-effects of chemo. 

Turns out it was much worse….we lost her in April to ALS.  There is nothing more infuriating or frustrating than to lose a friend to another disease when she fought so hard and valiantly to beat the first one.   She didn’t lose me…I lost her.

When I was diagnosed with cancer…I thought right away of Jose…she would get me through this…I would be okay with her and Ken’s help…they did it for her…they would do it for me.  She is not at my side…she is not a phone call away…she is not here…today, we said goodbye.

I have felt a steady pressure on my right shoulder since she passed away…I know it is her.  I know she is with me…when I start to leak or get down…I feel the squeeze and I know her….Jose is with me.

Murphy seems to have taken a holiday too…don’t miss him!  Saw my family doctor to update her as I have been dealing with surgeons, oncologists and specialists and not her lately and to just touch base.  I got the results of all the final tests…amen!

Reminder….when I had the PET scan they found a “hot spot” in my pelvic area and recommended further testing….ergo, ultrasound (pardon me…vaginal ultrasound).  Since I was having a CT scan of the chest, abdomen and head my doctor had the oncologist tack on pelvic area.  Got the scan results yesterday…head is clear (no jokes…glad the cancer has not spread to the brain!) and the “hot spot” in the pelvic area shrunk from the PET scan to the CT scan…not cancer…probably just a cyst that my body is taking care of by itself.

Hydration with a anti-nausea booster this morning (one more to go)…said goodbye to Jose and now I am going to go lie down.

Still swimming…tearfully…but, swimming.


Friday, May 30, 2014

8 Down…22 To Go…

Saturday, my brother and sister-in-law surprised me with a “sleepover”.  Had an awesome visit with lots of hugs, breakfast Sunday and they were off. 

The rest of the day found me flat on my back….dizzy and nauseous.  Tooks pills for the nausea and made the dizziness worse…acid reflux and major, major heartburn…followed by acid diarrhea.  Ok…I am not impressed.  I try to sit up to help the heartburn and I get so dizzy I have to lay down…ring around the rosy!

Monday I go in for radiation and I can’t eat anything or drink anything and the world will not stop spinning.  Tuesday I go in for radiation and still not eating or drinking so…I beg my chemo oncologist for help.  I have to go to the Chilliwack hospital for lab tests and by the time we get back home the doctor suggests coming into Abbotsford for hydration.  Too late in the day so Wednesday after radiation I go upstairs to General Daycare and they hook me up to a drip.  Still too much heartburn so I get him to prescribe Nexium…took one right away and again Thursday morning….oh gawd…no more heartburn!  Oh yeah, acid diarrhea stops too!  Poached eggs on toast tasted awesome!

Thursday, still dizzy and nauseous so he prescribes an IV drug to go with my drip…into radiation and upstairs for my second hydration…this time with a booster.  First time since Saturday I have felt human and wanting to eat anything.  Some glitch in the system and my order pills for nausea didn’t make it to the pharmacy.  Oh well, I will see how I feel in the morning.  Oops…spoke too soon…deep rumbling in my ear like my ear is full of water and my taste buds are gone…eat a handful of peanuts…yep…no peanutty taste…no salt…yuk!

Friday…little to no dizziness…no nausea…no heartburn…eureka!.  Into radiation early this morning…off to hydration where it takes forever….my line broke and I have to wait for a nurse to drill another hole and re-hook me up.  In the meantime I am sipping on a Chai Tea Latte and eating a blueberry scone…heaven!  And…I can read…for the first time since Saturday I can look at a computer screen or my KOBO.  Ear is hearing a bit better but taste buds are still shot…oh well, eat the stale tuna fish sandwich…can’t taste it anyway.

Did one lap around the complex when we got home…waiting to go see my GP and touch base with her today…first time I will have seen her since diagnosis…the sun is shining.

Swimming with a smile…come on in…water is warm!


Saturday, May 24, 2014

I made the class……

Wednesday we started chemo and radiation.  I felt pretty good afterwards…high energy…did three loads of laundry…put the bed risers on our four-poster bed…and looking pretty good…ate Chinese food for supper.

1:46 in the morning…massive heartburn and acid reflux.  Feeling pretty crappy so I took a Zantac, ate some Tums until the pills kicked in and took one of my “backup” anti nausea pills.  It took about 1/2 hour before everything kicked in and I could bet to sleep.

Tuesday…another round of chemo in the morning…leisurely lunch in the cafeteria…radiation around 1:00 and still feeling pretty good.  Got to the car and felt like I hadn’t slept in a week…soooooo tired.  Came home and napped most of the day.  Ate leftovers for supper and still feeling tired…so went to bed.  

1:46 in the morning another severe heartburn/acid reflux night.  Same pills…same time to get it calmed so I could sleep.  On top of that…I forgot to take one of my anti-nausea pills before chemo…that didn’t help.

Yesterday, Friday…last day of chemo in this session (thank God).  Super tired from the radiation…went to bed early last night…took Zantac before bed…took “backup” pills and slept most of the night.  

Woken up early with diarrhea all over the bedroom…not me!  Abby!  She had a skin tag on her eyelid and spent the night at the vet getting it removed.  I guess she should not have eaten supper when she came home!  So…at 6:20 in the morning Rick is using the carpet shampooer to clean our bedroom.  Tonight she sleeps in the bathroom!
I felt pretty good when I woke up…took my normal anti-nausea pills plus I got to take the big boy booster I missed on Tuesday…loaded up my stuff and I was off to class. 

Terry Medaris is from Arizona and my local craft store, Be Creative Rubber Stamps talked him into coming up here and teaching us techniques using Prismacolor Art Pencils. 
His use of colors and Southwest influence make his artwork and stamps extremely vibrant and so much fun to color.  Part 1 was techniques with shading etc. and Part 2 was to tranfer that ability to creating jewelry.  I haven’t finished mine yet but, I now have homework to keep me busy.  

I am so glad I made the class…don’t know how I drove home but I arrived…had a bowl of cereal for supper and now I am ready to sleep.

Right now…we continue treatment with radiation Monday to Friday.  We start another round of three chemo treatments on the 11th.  I will probably post again after I have talked to the chemo and radiation oncologists.
Can’t see too straight right now…going to bed!

Swimming again the tide lately…but, still swimming.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Day 1 of 30…29 more to go!

Started the morning getting up early as chemo was at 8:30…didn’t get much sleep…not because of worrying…but, because…after so much fluid yesterday all I wanted to do was to pee!

Got to chemo and met Barb and the rest of the staff (the staff at BC Cancer in Abbotsford are the best).  We did our morning check-in, went over all the pills I have to take and then she hooked me up to the IV drugs (one drips for 1/2 an hour and the other drips 45 minutes).   As soon as the needle went in and the nurse ordered the chemical cocktail from the pharmacist…reality hit.   I started to “leak” and Barb patted my hand and told me it was okay to “leak”…in fact, it was okay to down right bawl my head off (haven’t done that yet).  I told her about Talia and Ellen and Dory and I played Just Keep Swimming for her (I have it on my phone) and I felt better and sucked it up and got pissed off!  Mind you…it really is hard to be pissed off when every 10 minutes you are going  to the bathroom.  I spent more time there than I did in my comfy chair!  I still managed to visualize the cancer shrinking.  In fact…when I told Barb about Dory she said she had a patient who stared at the drips.  When Barb asked her why…she said she is visualizing thousands of Pacmans racing to destroy the cancer…I now have Pacman on my phone!

Chemo over around 11:30 and radiation doesn’t start until 1:15… so we headed over to the cafeteria to have some lunch…I ate healthy…salad bar…they had no black olives or baby corn though!  We both brought our Kobo’s and read for a bit then headed out to the lounge where it was more comfortable until it was time to go down.

Down to radiation and they load me into my personal bed (aren’t I special!) and the techs took an x-ray to ensure placement and the big machine went around and around getting it right…and…then she came and got me….”Hello, are we done?”.  It was over so fast I didn’t have a chance to visualize anything…oh well, next time.  I did feel really awkward on the bed and I asked if I was straight and the tech said…nope.  Off to the chiropractor on Friday for a hip alignment!

So far…no side effects.  I had a bit of dry mouth but sucking on a mint took care of that.  I was developing a headache and my chest area hurt like hell…cancer didn’t like the chemo or the radiation…too f*cking bad!  Feel free to leave if you don’t like it!  Took my temperature twice over an hour…no fever…hello pain pills.  I have to be really careful taking anything while on chemo…so many side effects.   “Excuse me?  What do you mean chemo can bring on menopause again?”.  Hello hot flashes…not really impressed…I was almost finished with those babies.  Rick thinks this is funny…wait until I unpack my fan again or crank the air conditioning.  He thinks the ceiling fan is enough in the bedroom…grab a heating blanket buster!

Basically….today was not nearly as bad as my imagination.  We had Chinese food for supper…went for a walk with friends and did three laps around our complex (2.2 kilometers), and did three loads of laundry. 

I feel pretty damned good…tomorrow in another story!

Just keep swimming.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

And so it begins….

Today started the ball rolling….woke up early, got blood tests, went for chest x-rays, met Mike (baby son, sorry…but you are the baby) for coffee, off to the auto repair to book new windshield and get body damage fixed (stupid semi kicked up some metal on the road and it whirled into our car driver’s door)….phew…then off to the hospital for more CT scans.

Had to mix iodine with 500 ml water…ugh that tasted like crap…nothing to eat after supper and only clear liquid until the test at 2:45, had to drink 750 more ml at 1:45…and then the nurse gave me another glass of water to drink…starting to float away.  At least with this test I got to pee…and pee…and pee!

Ct scan of pelvic area, abdomen, chest and head done…now I can eat.  Our anniversary is tomorrow so we had date night tonight.  Went to Swiss Chalet for ribs and then over to see Godzilla 3D…awesome.  Rick was bored as usual but, what does he know!  Now it’s time for bed.

Tomorrow we begin…chemo first thing in the morning followed by radiation…the same thing for Thursday and Friday.  Really nervous about the side effects.  Also nervous about other things…like…should I be doing something besides the chemo and radiation?  I am being told about integrated treatment with large doses of vitamin C…hypothermia treatments etc .  Are they “snake oil” treatments….no medical documentation of them working?  What happens if I don’t do them…what happens if I do?  Questions…questions…questions.  I guess I will talk things over with my doctors tomorrow and go from there.

No matter what…I am swimming!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Today was a better day…lots of hugs and love.  I am back!

Just keep swimming.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Not my favorite day….

Not in the mood to feel perky…not in the mood to be witty…not in the mood to be cheerful…just not in the mood!  I know family and friends and strangers are reading this blog.  This blog is not just to keep you all updated…I started it as such but, now it has become a release valve. I need to write about this…I need to put into writing my feelings, my fears, my hopes.  Days are going to be tough…I am not always going to be upbeat and laugh and joke.  Today is one of those days.

I had myself all psyched up for chemo and radiation to start on the 26th.  I have a CT scan scheduled for the 20th and I figured everything would be set up to start on the 26th…nope.  I had plans…nope.  There are things I need to do before it starts…nope.

Chemo and radiation are starting on the 21st…a Wednesday.  So…Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I am getting chemo and radiation combined.  One of the side effects is nausea and vomiting etc.  I have been waiting and waiting months to take a course using my art pencils by a fabulous teacher from Arizona…now I may not be able to take the class.  I had it all figured out…I was ready…I was going to get the test…do my class and then start treatments…I was ready…now I am not.

I have been struggling all day trying not to break down and just bawl my head off.  I am not ready to start treatments on the 21st.  This isn’t what I had planned on…it isn’t working out the way I had readied myself for. 

I was so positive and upbeat and psyched up for everything to start on the 26th…I was ready to kick cancer’s butt…I feel cheated.  I feel kicked in the teeth…I feel reality is closing in and I am not ready.  I just want to curl up into a little ball…pull the blankets over my head and hide.

Today I am crying.  Today I am sad.  Today I am upset.  Today I don’t feel like swimming. 

Tomorrow I will.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Guys won’t get this….

Monday…ultrasound…gotta pee at 9:15…then…I gotta drink 32oz. of water and not go pee until the test is over.  Do you know how many speed bumps and potholes between our house and the hospital?

When I had the PET scan done they found a cystic lesion in my right pelvic area and the drug they gave me to show up the cancer “pinged” it.  So, I had an ultrasound to find out what is going on.  She scanned and scanned and finally asked if I would agree to an internal ultrasound.  So, I said “yes” because I got to pee!

Now girls…this is where one gets to take a lubricated wand (half way between a tampon and a dildo) and insert it yourself into your “wahoo”!  Much better imaging…ok.  She scanned the left side, top and bottom and got to the right side and stayed there….picture after picture after picture….and…I got scared.

I called the doctor’s office as soon as I got home and left a message for her to call me.  She called yesterday and it is suggested to have a CT scan of the area.  She told me the cyst was sitting on top of my ‘one and only’ ovary and that it had shrunk since the last scan…that is good news to me….cancer grows not shrinks!

So, she is supposed to contact my chemo oncologist to add the pelvic area to his already scheduled CT scan on the 20th.  Just one more scan to go through and I can relax.  He is scanning my abdomen (now pelvic area too), chest and head.  I will breathe better when I am told there is no other cancer in the pelvic, abdomen and brain areas and…the cancer in my lung and lymph nodes has not grown.  The purpose of the scan was to size the cancer so they can track it shrinking during treatments.  Hubby thinks they will tell me whether I have a brain or not….there are days when widowhood looks good!

Adding a new one to my mantra list…Rascal Flats “I Won’t Let Go”. 

Just keep swimming!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Screwed, blued and tattooed…

OK….just blued and tattooed!  Morning spent at the hospital in radiology getting my mapping CT scan…no die, thank God!  I hate that stuff…makes one feel like one has to pee!

We first check in at the desk and then Rick and I are shuffled off to a room to watch a 15 minute video on the radiation procedure….no popcorn!  Rick has a “reality moment” but he is hanging in there.  Next we meet with a radiation nurse and she goes over the procedure and possible side effects.   I tried to get a ballpark time frame for all of this…I have a craft class I am not missing on the 24th whether I am throwing up or not!  Eureka, I will make the class.  Side effects should take a week or two after treatment starts before they show up.

Off to the room where I lay on the bed on top of a "bean bag” while two techs position me and then the bed inflates and forms to my body.  This now becomes my bed for the length of the treatment plan.  Next, the techs run me back and forth in the CT scan adjusting my position and marking my chest and sides with ink (that’s where the blued comes in).  After it is all done and I am perfectly positioned one of the techs comes back in with a needle….that is where the tattooed comes in!

Now…I did take a picture of the tattoo….strategically placing my camera so it is not a porno shot….but, man the chest is hairy and looks like chicken skin when it is blown up and cropped.  So….no chest shot…sorry guys!

I now have three tattoos, one on my upper chest, one on each side of my chest (there you go Rhiann).  She has been trying for years to get me to get a tattoo…I now have three!

Next appointment is on Monday for an ultrasound of the pelvic area.  The Pet scan showed an area of concern but none of the doctors are worried.  Simply could be old scar tissue, which is why I had such a hard time getting pregnant to begin with and a hysterectomy at an early age.  This is really not my favorite test…I think I would rather have the die, thank you.  I have to drink 32 oz. and NOT go to the bathroom until the test is over.  This test was created by a man to get back at us females!

Just keep swimming!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It’s my birthday…..

So, if it’s my birthday then why am I spending it at a hospital getting blood tests and visiting radiology.  I should be out picking out my present, getting ready to eat my favorite foods, surrounded by friends and family.
Nope….my gift this year begins with “C'”.  Yep folks…cancer.  Ain’t that a kick in the teeth….Stage 3a lung cancer.  I quit smoking 13 years ago to avoid lung cancer and I got it anyway!  Did you know that Murphy is my guardian angel…you know…”what can go wrong will go wrong”?  Yep, that guy!
Get yourself a coffee/tea/glass of wine and I will take you down my journey.  If not, skip the post and I will get you another day with a crafty thing….no offense taken here.

My journey begins at the end of February…actually, it began five years ago when we lost Rick’s brother Pat to cancer.  We visited him in respite care and I ended up with a virulent staff infection.  You know….nothing simple here…nope I pick up one that goes straight to attack the heart.  Well, Murphy sometimes gives me good along with bad…in my case, the staff infection saw a squirrel and went to the kidneys instead.  A couple of rounds of antibiotics and I was right as rain.  A year later and I am sicker than a dog (no offense canines of the world) and back on antibiotics.  Another year and another year and finally a diagnosis – I now have something called Diverticulosis.  Lovely disease…just don’t eat any of my favorite foods like corn on the cob, strawberries, sesame seeds, peas, beans, tomatoes…you get the picture. 

Now take us to October and Rick’s other brother Don calls us with “I have cancer and I have to go to the hospital”.  We don’t know where it originated but, it is in his lungs and his brain.  Eleven days from that phone call….November 5th we lost him.  Rick was not in a good place and I did my best to hold him up, their mom up, the siblings up and Don’s children up.

This takes us to February.  After four years and over fifteen rounds of antibiotics I found a surgeon who was ready and willing to do a bowel resection and cut out the bad part.  Wonderful!  We scheduled the surgery for March 10th.  March 3rd we were heading to Las Vegas and I had all my pre-op tests done before we left.  We got back on the 8th and the nightmare began….message on our answering machine to call my family doctor immediately, message to call my surgeon immediately, message from health department informing me of a CT scan scheduled for me on Thursday, another message marked urgent from my surgeon – this time with her cell phone number.  I call.  I hear the words “your surgery is cancelled as the chest x-ray showed a lesion that is suspected to be cancer”.  This brings us back to Murphy (you know, my guardian angel) and the good along with the bad.  Most surgeons do not do a routine chest x-ray for elective surgeries…this one did.  If she hadn’t and had gone ahead with the surgery I would not be in a good place.  Rick is not in a good place either right now….all he can see is Don….I am going to die like his brother.

And folks…signs of cancer?:  Drastic weight loss – nope (though I wish!), appetite – good, energy level – good…so, no signs…no warning…not even a little hint of anything wrong and wham – one’s life gets changed with a phone call.  Now, those who know me know that my life gets changed a lot:  Divorce and the custody battle, car after car after car accident etc.  Gotta love Murphy!
Ok…CT scan gets done and yes, it is suspected cancer.  Now we have to tell the family.  After losing Pat and then Don it was not welcome news.  I am so terrified I could choke….I do not want to die….I want to see my grandchildren grow up, get married and give me great-grandchildren.  I/we have so many plans for the future.  Here I am, again being the strong one…joking, laughing, down-playing the diagnosis.  Rick’s brother Kevin does the Ride For Cancer every year and we were supposed to go to Airdrie for a fund-raiser.  Not coming now…too many doctor appointments.  Everything is moving too fast and at the same time…slow as molasses.  Kevin sends me a text that he has added my name to his banner….and I lost it.  I sat and cried.  No sobbing my head off…no falling apart at the seams….just a few sobs….suck it back and… I call this “leaking”.  It still does not seem real…this is a nightmare I really, really want to wake up from.

Then comes an appointment with a thoracic surgeon who then schedules a PET scan for April 1st.  And…we wait, and we wait.  Another appointment with the thoracic surgeon who schedules surgery for May 2nd.  By the time we get home there is a message on the answering machine telling me the surgery has been cancelled and a biopsy is arranged for April 16th.  Rick and I show up at the hospital and I am my usual, “it’s all right” trying my best to be strong for Rick.  The biopsy itself was rough and while I was on the table having this long needle stuck through my boob and into my lung, I started to “leak”.  After it was over I was left alone for a minute before the tech came back into the room.  God bless him, he closed the door and stood over me while reality hit…I have cancer…I just had a biopsy.  Suck it back and get on with the day.

Now…people who really, really know me know that I am going to go home and head for the computer to look up everything.  DON’T!!  What a freaking scary world that is.  Man, I mean doom and gloom.  If I followed everything I read on the internet I should be planning my funeral.  But…like Pandora’s box…once open it is really hard to close the lid.  I had a couple of weeks of pretty scary feelings…trying to stay positive…trying to keep a smile on my face.  
Back to the surgeon to get the news….it is definitely lung cancer and it has effected my lymph nodes between my heart and the aorta…no surgery.  She is sending me to the cancer clinic.  Murphy – go pick on someone else for a change!
I am struggling to keep it together.  Rick keeps hugging me like he is never going to see me again and I am still joking and laughing on the outside but screaming on the inside.  I am trying so hard to be positive and strong for him and my family and friends.  I need something to hang onto.  Then I remembered a little girl called Talia (click on her name to go to her story).  She had to have been the strongest person I know.  She was on the Ellen show and Ellen asked her how she could be so strong.  Her answer was, “a little fish told me to just keep swimming”.  Ellen was the voice of Dory in the movie Finding Nemo….”You know what you gotta do when life gets you down? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.  What do we do we swim, swim”.  Talia is my role model…if she can be strong and brave…so can I.  When I get scared or worried I picture her face and start singing “Just keep swimming…”.  This song is on my phone…this song is on my tablet….this song is in my head and in my heart!

May 1st we meet with Doctor Anderson, the radiation doctor.  We go over my results and why they are not doing any surgery.  He says he will not operate if he has to leave cancer behind.  So…with the lymph nodes so near my heart, it is such an awkward place…no surgery.  We are going with radiation….six weeks of the stuff.  He asked me if I wanted to know the odds.  I told him I wanted to know my enemy.  He told me 1 in 5 are cured, if I am not cured I can expect to be around 2 to 3 years.  That is so much better odds than what the internet said.  He told me there was a chance of my hair falling out.  Ok, it is falling out anyway…no great loss.  I could lose weight…hell, that is a bonus!

Feeling much better…becoming more determined….we meet with the chemotherapy doctor on my birthday…the 6th.  We go over everything again.  This time I hear my hair may grow back fuller.  If chemo can kick-start my dead hair follicles and make them grow again…I will take it!  He asked if I knew the odds and when I told him….he figures with my age and health I have better than the 1 in 5….I will take it and run!  Blood tests done, chest x-rays scheduled, more blood tests scheduled, CT scan scheduled and we are back in a holding pattern.

Six weeks of radiation…five days a week.  Chemo for three days at the same time…three weeks off and then another round of chemo.  If I am handling it, I can do another two rounds of chemo.  All joking aside, this is going to be a rough six weeks.  I am not kidding myself…it is going to be really, really rough.  I am going to lie there picturing God’s hand on my chest shrinking the cancer…I have my mantras, I have a goal I want to reach…to go to Quesnel for Billy Barker days at the end of July….to see my grandchildren grow up.

I am going to beat this.  It picked on the wrong body! 
Just keep swimming!