It is with overwhelming sadness, Tina’s family announces her passing on Saturday, August 11th, 2012 at the age of 45 after a 3 ½ year battle with ovarian cancer. She died peacefully, surrounded by her family and friends at her residence. She will be missed by her soul mate and husband of 17 years, Michael and her two loving children, Noah and Tara. She was the cherished daughter of Tom and Rita Thomas of Wallaceburg and daughter-in-law of Johann and Jessie Bratscher of London. She will be sadly missed by her sister and best friend, Angie MacDonald, her husband, Eric, and nephews Aiden, Holden and Ewan, as well as by her sister-in-law, Margaret DeSousa and her husband, Dennis. Tina grew up in Wallaceburg, studied journalism at Carleton University and proudly worked for 9 ½ years at London Life Insurance Company. She believed in and was dedicated to the Run for Ovarian Cancer, supporting ovarian cancer research. Many family and friends supported Tina during her life, and especially during her battle with cancer. This “village” gave her strength, hope, love and support beyond compare. She was grateful to have such amazing people in her life. Friends are invited to visit on Tuesday from 2:00 - 4:00 and 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. at WESTVIEW FUNERAL CHAPEL, 709 Wonderland Road North, London, where Tina’s funeral service will be conducted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. with refreshments and companionship after the service. Cremation will follow and interment at Woodland Cemetery will occur at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Tina asks for donations to the London Health Sciences Foundation – Translational Ovarian Cancer Research Group.
Tina passed away this afternoon surrounded by friends and family. She was an amazing, funny, true to her values, and very talented woman. She touched so many people around the world with her blog. She said she was leaving an imperfect world for a perfect world. Her faith was strong and that showed through in these final weeks. The lessons we have learned from her will forever be written down so that we can all look back and see how short life is and to live life to the fullest. Tara and Noah have so much to read as they grow older looking back at these posts. I have lost my best friend, my T, my true companion.
Thank you everyone for all of your responses to her blogs and emails, they mean so much to our family.
Love you forever Tina
Just because I'm dying doesn't mean I'm dead yet. Not that I've been doing all kinds of exciting things, but they've been enjoyable non-the-less.
I've been doing lots of visiting (don't stop or feel I'm getting too tired to receive visitors). I love seeing everyone, visiting and reminiscing.
Yesterday I went to my sister's again to swim in her pool and lounge around on her deck. Unfortunately, the wind was just a little too nippy and I decided to forego the pool. But I had a lovely visit with my sister, parents and cousins. If I continue to feel well and manage to keep a drainage port out of my belly, trips to my sister's may be in my weekly plans. Hopefully next time the weather will be hot, hot, hot and I'll enjoy dipping in the refreshing waters.
As for a health update, I feel about the same, if not a bit better. I've had more bowel movements and managed to eat more food. So that's all good. I am getting used to the Fentanyl patches slowly releasing their pain meds into my system because I don't seem as dyslexic and slow as before, both in writing and speaking.
Yesterday though I fell down. My legs got weak, gave out from under me and I went down on my sister's pool deck. It was extremely embarassing and made me cry. I've noticed I've been getting weaker over the past few weeks and Michael says I'm unsteady on my feet; but to collapse unexpectedly shocked me. It's a sign to me the disease is taking over in small incremements.
I'm also still sleeping a lot.
I'm also still struggling with how to create memorable moments with my kids. At 14, Noah wants to play on his computer and hang out with his friends. Tara, at almost 11, wants to play with friends. These are not the ages where it's cool to hang out with your parents. I want to do things with them, but struggle with what will be fun, what will they remember and what won't be lame. So we're talking about a couple of events we can do with the kids. Of course, heading to the beach and my sister's, the drive, the listening to stories in the car and the conversations are all little memories.
I guess little memories add up to the big memories that contribute to making a life special. Remember that as you go about your chores and activities today. It's all part of this big, wonderful event called life.
I think this is the longest period of time I've gone without writing a blog. I've been try to sort my scattered thoughts, trying to make sense of the news I've been given and I can't. I feel discombobulated. It all still feels surreal. I can't possible be dying. How can any of this be real?
And I feel like a robot because I'm not crying. Sure, I have these little crying spurts every once in a while, but after a few seconds they're done. I should be wailing against the world and the injustice of it all. But I can't seem to dredge them up from my emotional reservoirs. I feel like a freak.
I've also been sleeping A LOT. I don't think I've slept this much since those hearty party days back in unversity where noon was a common time to rise and shine. Of course, during those days, I'd stumble into bed around 4 a.m., not 8 or 9 p.m. The cancer must be taking a lot out of me. It must be sucking up such incredible energy reserves that I have little for anything else.
Although I have managed to make some memories over the past couple of days. On Friday, I went to my sister's and lounged in her pool for a good hour. It felt awesome to have cool water wash over my skin. I also got to visit with aunts, parents, my sister and brother-in-law and nephews during the very relaxing afternoon.
Yesterday, I made it to Port Franks (aka the spa). We went down to the beach and I managed to immerse myself in the lake that makes me so happy. I'm so glad we went to spend the afternoon at the beach and hang out with Diane and Pete.
Today I've had visitors, which always make me smile. It's wonderful to be loved by some awesome people. I am a very, very fortunate woman.
A few recent observations I thought I'd mention:
I managed two bowel movements over the past two days so I'm trying to eat small amounts of food again to see how I manage. A scrambled egg and a piece of toast comprised my lunch and half an English muffin with some brie cheese made a tasty supper. I am already getting sick of the dessert-like Boost and Ensure supplements so if I can eat real foods every once in a while, that would make me happy.
I feel slightly groggy/foggy/tired much of the time.
When I type on my BlackBerry or computer, I make far more mistakes than I used to. It's almost as if I'm dyslexic sometimes.
I speak, move and think much slower than I used to, as well. I'm also very precise like when you're slightly inebriated but don't want anyone to know it (but everyone does anyway).
Perhaps some of these oddities can be written off on the Fentanyl patch I've been wearing since I've been home. Michael slapped one on me shortly after I walked in the door and I'm been sporting the slow-release pain medication patches since Wednesday.
I've also accomplished a couple of extra preparatory tasks since coming home from the hospital. On Thursday, Michael and I, with the help of our good friend, Jack, picked out a plot and grave stone. That adds one more check mark to our to do-list; something Michael doesn't have to do after I die.
We've also met with a spiritual counsellor to help plan part of my funeral. He'll be the person who will be the master of ceremonies, if you will, on the big day. I don't have a direct affilitation with a church so having this role filled has always been in the back of my mind, but the recent speeding up of timelines had me a little freaked out.
I'm also showing Michael how to do some of the tasks I always did, like paying bills, filing benefits, checking accounts online. Like any marriage, we divided up the tasks and ran with them. Now, sadly, he's going to have to learn to do them all one. That makes me feel very, very sad.
Thinking about all the experiences my kids are doing to have without me also washes me with sadness. I won't be there for Tara's first period or her grade 8 graduation. I won't be present to watch either of my kids go on their first dates, fall in/out of love for the first time, graduate, make career choices, choose life partners/get married and maybe have children. That breaks my heart.
It also breaks my heart that Michael won't have anyone with whom to share these milestones. (In all honesty, he may, but it makes me so jealous to think of him with another woman. But of course, I don't want him to be alone or lonely.)
So I've been slowly contemplating lately what the end will be like. I ask almost every doctor, palliative care worker, nurse, etc. that I encounter. I want to die at home but I don't want it to be ugly and traumatize the kids. I don't want me to be incredibly sick with lots of clean up for my family. The answers I've received is that it shouldn't be anything like that, but a more peaceful process with me slowly getting sleepier and sleepier, and drifting off. I may have some confusion or perhaps a coma-like state at the end but I shouldn't be sick and messy everywhere. And that's what I want. Now if circumstances change and things start to get ugly where I need full-time nursing care, I have no problems going into a Palliative Care Unit at one of the hospitals.
I know my last wishes for a home death is going to require a lot of sacrifice on the part of my family and friends because someone will need to be with me at all times. But I've been assured, if that's what I want, Michael will do everything in his power to make it happen. He's such an amazing caregiver and I know he's going to be there right until the end.
People should not have to spend this much time thinking about the end of their days. But as Michael says, it could be worse. I could have been snatched from him in a car accident and he'd never had the chance to say goodbye or reminisce about all the good times we've had. And there are far worse ways to die. So in some ways, I consider myself lucky. I've lived a good life, surrounded by amazing people. For what more could I ask?
Correction: This is the hardest blog I've ever had to write.
Dr. W came in today and I found out there's nothing more we can do except make me comfortable. I'm not strong enough for the chemo and it wouldn't do anything to improve the quality and quantity of my life. It would make what little time I have left miserable - and that's not worth it.
I'm now experiencing some nausea and pain because of the blockage in my bowel. Food and water do not have anywhere to go so I'm vomiting.
I don't know what to do or say right now. I'm in shock. I'm exhausted physically and mentally. I can't even cry. I'm numb. So if you come visit me, I will not be normal. This is not normal. This is a completely messed up situation and so fucking unfair.
I want to thank everyone for all the emails, comments and Facebook messages, and I was responding to each one individually, but I can't do that any more. I'm sorry. I do appreciate all the compliments, wonderful comments, good wishes and prayers. They mean more than you could possibly know.
So I'm going to take a few days without being hooked up to anything to enjoy the hot tub, swimming and the beach one last time. I'm going to fit what I can in the next few days because I will probably need to be tether to an IV pole and an ascities draining bag very soon.
I don't have long. That breaks my heart because I'll soon be leaving the wonderful life I've built for myself. It may not be the perfection that is heaven, but it's pretty darn good to me.
Do me a favour today, tell someone special you love them, eat something especially good and try to build a lasting memory. Do it for me.
This is the most difficult blog I've had to write because this is the one in which I have to tell you I'm terminal and there may not be anything left to do except wait.
There is a loop in my small bowel, which is increasing in size and a narrowing that sometimes closes up causing an obstruction. That's why I was throwing up. The food had no where to go and it had to come up.
If they can get me to tolerate full fluids (which I am), I can get full nutrition through things like Ensure and Boost and we may be able to consider some chemotherapy. We'd be pulling the one we were saving in our back pocket (and it's time to go to the back pocket) and trying that - Carboplatin. But the problem with that particular chemo is it can compromise my immune system. If that happens, that could hasten death through pneumonia or some other infection.
So the decision whether to try another chemo will be based on whether it will improve the quality and quantity of my life. If it won't, there's no sense in trying it. I know chemo decreases the quality of life, but if it gives me more quality time afterwards, it may be worth it.
But we're taking it day by day and seeing how I tolerate the food I'm being given. Right now I'm on full fluids, which means cream soups, pudding, ice cream, milk, as well as clear fluids. It's going well with no problems. These are the fluids that can give me the nutrition I need to tolerate chemo. And we'll talk about chemotherapy at my doctor's appointment with Dr. W on Tuesday.
So long story short, my friends, I have weeks to months to live. I hope they're wrong and I get a year, but I have to live like I don't have long.
I'm telling you all this to prepare you for that blog where Michael writes I died and to give you a chance to adjust and contact me or see me if you want. Tell me today how you feel because I may not be around tomorrow.
I want to thank you all for being my friends, all your support and love, and for following my journey as it unfolded (and continues to do so). You've been an amazing village and I couldn't have done this without you all. So a big thank you, and lots and lots of love.