Tuesday, June 30, 2009
He actually said, "exceptionally good!"
The blessed reality of my situation didn't really sink in until I heard him speak these words. I think I'm going to be okay.
I always had every intention of fighting this cancer with every breath and fibre of my being. But there was still a chance I was fighting a losing battle (not that I would have given up). But it's not a losing battle. I'm a little emotional about it all this morning and feel a bit teary at the slightest provocation. But that's okay, I'm allowed. I'm relieved, thankful and overwhelmed.
So, the lab results revealed that even though the two tumours were on my omentum, the cancer started in my ovaries. Technically speaking, they're grade 2 papillary serous cells. Grade 2 means they're moderately differentiated from normal cells. The better differentiated the cells, the better they respond to chemotherapy. They range from grade 1 (the least malignant with highly differentiated cells) to grade 3 (most malignant with poorly differentiated cells).
Dr. P said he found very little disease. Yay! My liver, bowel, and diaphram (which often gets involved with ovarian cancer) were clear. The masses were small and my lymph nodes weren't enlarged.
In fact, he was so optimistic about my results, he started talking about a clinical trial for maintenance once I'm in remission. His words were, "Now is a good time to mention . . ." For him to discuss a plan for AFTER treatment made my heart soar because he believes I'll make it there.
The treatment plan still consists of four more rounds of chemotherapy to zap those little cancer stragglers. My chemo nurse called yesterday to make sure I was up to the treatment, to which I replied, "bring it on."
I know I'll probably feel the effects more dramatically this round because I'll be recovering from two onslaughts to my body, but let's get on with it.
I now feel like I can make plans for the future. I've been hesitant to do so because I just didn't know. But now I have hope.
It's good to have hope.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Yup, I'm talking about hot flashes.
I particularly notice their effect on my scalp, which during a hot flash feels as though it's dripping sweat. It's a good thing I'm bald because it gives the heat an outlet. But I've also felt hot flashes in my arms, legs and even from the tops of my feet. Sometimes, I'm an internal combusion machine.
My bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of both my ovaries and fallopian tubes) brought on immediate menopause because my body stopped producing estrogen and progesterone. Menopause can bring a series of other unpleasant side effects to many women, including: memory loss, depression, mood swings, insomnia, loss of libido, loss of balance, headaches, osteoporosis, etc. The list is extensive.
Apparently those thrust into surgical menopause, tend experience its side effects more dramatically than women who enter this stage of life naturally.
Luckily, I've only experienced the hot flashes, including night sweats, to date. My sister recommended a calcium and vitamin D supplement weaks ago, which is for my lack of exposure to sunlight, as well as to stave off osteoporosis.
I know there are hormones and supplements women can take to help with menopause symptoms, but I'm not sure if I can take any since I'm undergoing cancer treatment. It's one of the questions I'll have for my doc when I see him on Friday.
Hot flashes are an interesting sensation - one I anticipate will be annoying at inopportune times. But I can handle it. The surgery and all its side effects are certainly better than letting the cancer run rampant in my abdomen.
It's all good.
Your hot friend,
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I know the doctor ripped through my stomach muscles so my arms and legs get a good workout every time I something. But when will I feel comfortable lying in bed again? When will it not be a coordinated series of movements to get into bed? Sitting isn't too bad, as long as it's the right kind of chair. But I reposition my sore butt a lot.
My gut doesn't like me too much right now either. It hasn't felt right since the surgery. Of course, it's been subjected to ingesting pain and anti-nausea medication, as well as stool softeners and laxatives. Then my internal organs suffered the indignity of an open cavity, with doctors touching them.
For such a big organ, the bowel is really a big baby. It acts up at the slightest provocation - spicy food, too much alcohol, too much grease, not enough fibre, etc. Mine's reacted to recent events by swinging from one extreme reaction to the other.
I know it hasn't been long since my surgery and today I feel better than yesterday, but still I wonder how long it will be. I will try to be gentle to my body today and give it good food to help it recover. And I remind myself of my mantra of one day at a time.
Enjoy your sunny Saturday.
Friday, June 26, 2009
It hit me this morning (yes, delayed reaction) that I received blood last week to raise my hemoglobin level and prepare me for my next round of chemotherapy. The transfusion restored my energy level and eliminated a pounding headache.
My hemoglobin level was only 75 and I need at least a 95 to proceed with chemotherapy. While our bodies restore it naturally, mine wouldn't have done so in time. So the blood was necessary so I can get the cancer-killing treatment next Friday.
It's different being on the receiving end of a donation. I'm thankful someone took the time to donate blood. While I can never donate again, I thank all those who make the effort to give the gift of life.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Yes, I know it's only been one week. I understand the doc cut through several layers, removed numerous organs, prodded at those that remain and then closed me back up again. I comprehend it was major surgery from which it takes a long time to recover.
But I'm impatient.
I want to be able to reassemble my house from the painting extravaganza. But I can't lift the boxes. Later today, I'll try to put a few things away, but I'll have to ask Michael's to place the box in the right location or carry one or two items at a time. Not an easy task for an impatient person.
I find it hard to rely on others when I've been perfectly capable of doing a task for so many years. So I don't ask for help (that's the nasty stubborn trait) only to discover I can't do it or it hurts when I do.
To compound the problem, Michael is impatient too. He feels everything should be done NOW! He should be getting the house back in order, cutting the grass, wedding the gardens, planting the vegetable garden, etc.
The blessing is that I've learned to let more go than I could in the past. I gently said yesterday, does it really matter? Yes, it raises both our blood pressure a little bit, but no, it doesn't really matter and we have to let it go a little more. We need to relax and simply spend time together.
Everything will get done - all in good time.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
For some, I could account - the numerous blood draws, the special line placed in my wrist to monitor my pulse during the operation, and the tube secured in my neck with two stiches for heart monitoring and if I needed tube feeding, etc.
The cause of others, I have no idea.
Although, when my home care nurse visited yesterday, I mention my sides and area under my ribs hurt (away from the cut). She nodded knowingly and explained the doctors used instruments to open the incision site up so they could look around. Huh. I don't think I want to think about that too much.
Michael witnessed the use of such exploratory devices - like rib spreaders and let's-look-in-here stretchers - when he stocked the operating rooms at University Hospital. No wonder I hurt so much. Sometimes, that area hurts more than the incision site. It feels like I participated in an special, hour-long Teresa Carriere's workout class designed to torture, ah condition, the abs in shape for bikini season. Yowza!
I'm more sore today than I've been over the past two. I'm having a hard time reducing my activity level and feel the need to help around the house. And yes, I'm stubborn. I'm going to try to rest more today and better follow the recommendations of the doctors and nurses. (Apparently, I can't lift anything over five pounds. The peanut butter jar in my cupboard is more than five pounds!) Sigh.
But I'm recovering well and am in good spirits. Yesterday I reduced the strength of my pain medication from Percocet to Tylenol 3s with no noticable difference. In a day or two, I'll see if extra strength Tylenol will do the job. I'm not one who's comfortable using the super pain killers if they're not necessary. Don't get me wrong, morphine was my new best friend in the hospital immediately after the surgery. But as I heal, lesser medications suffice.
The plan for today is rest, eat more protein to speed up healing and reconnect with my wonderful husband while the kids are at their second-last day of school. That sounds like the prescription to heal up some of those external and internal bruises.
Your battered friend,
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I worked up the nerve on Sunday to look at my incision site. I knew it was big. I knew it had lots of staples in it (my probing fingers shockingly discovered those during one of my showers in the hospital). I figured it had to be pretty darn ugly because every time I asked Michael about it, he changed the subject.
When I finally peeked at my new abdomen, it somehow wasn't as bad as I expected. I don't know why, but I anticipated black stitches sticking out and a jagged incision site - not rational considering surgeons use super-sharp scalpels and I was told in advance they'd close me up with staples because they're stronger.
During preadmission, the nurse optimistically told me, Dr. P would only cut from the belly button down. Ha! Good thing I didn't really expect that rosy outcome to my story because the incision starts approximately two inches above my belly button. In fact, it's now difficult to locate my belly button because I think the cut bisects the poor little divot.
Yes, I really measured the incision this morning, lying on my bed. The six inches doesn't really account for my abdomen's hills and valleys, but it's close. Considering its entire length is only about nine inches, the new landscaping takes up a good deal of the terrain.
Now that I've gotten over the shock of my new body, I'm not embarrassed to show other people. Hospitals are great for eliminating all sense of modesty and negative body image - at least for a while. I'm sure I'll get it back in time.
Noah and Tara both saw it and I think it helped Noah realize I don't ask for help because I want it, but because I need it.
Bending over is painful, laying down in bed requires a series of precisely coordinated movements, and a pillow pressed against my abdomen decreases the pain of coughing, sneezing and laughing.
But I stand upright, I can sit on gingerly sit on my couch and I think I'm going to attempt a small walk around my neighbourhood today. That is, if I can find clothes that don't hurt.
Envision a beautiful summer afternoon and Tina, in all her bald glory, is sitting in the shade of her backyard in just a loose, short nightgown. But I do, what I have to do. I'll see if any of my clothes agree with me today.
I may be cut and covered in staples, and I definitely will be scarred for life, but as I keep saying - it's better than the alternative.
Monday, June 22, 2009
I got home around at 11:30 yesterday morning to discover I have some of the greatest family and friends on the planet. I walked in my house and noticed the faint scent of paint. And I knew some schenanigans had taken place while I was getting my innards removed at the hospital.
To my absolutely stunned surprise, my sister, parents and several dear friends painted several rooms in my house over the course of three days! I am now blogging in my freshly painted living room, wondering how I could have possibly earned this unbelievable love and support (to say nothing about all the meals, gifts and other thoughtful acts of kindness I've received). Again, I say, I am truly blessed.
I did mention having a painting party to my sister about a month ago. I meant in the fall, AFTER I had recovered, when I could partake in the activities. The whole event sounded like it was a whirlwind of activity and kind of fun - in a frenzied sort of way.
My mother, bless her heart, tackled my closet - the dark, crowded space into which I was sometimes afraid to venture. She gutted the whole space, installed a closet organizer and reintroduced most of my items back in. Of course, she's now forcing me to mend my slovenly, shove-it-all-in the-closet-and-shut-the-door ways. But I suppose that's good. And my surgery forces me to tackle is more slowly than I would like. She's promised to return next Monday to help me sort through the clothes and get rid of those I haven't worn in a while and find them a more deserving home.
My mother-in-law, bless her heart, took care of the kids (no easy task sometimes) while my home was undergoing the extreme makeover and I was recovering in the hospital. She also helped my daughter purchase the cutest new valance for her new princess room.
I'm amazed at who decended upon my house and gave up hours of their weekend time. I apologize to those who'd never been to my house that I wasn't there to welcome you to my home. You obviously made yourself at home - mi casa es sou casa.
My dear friend and roommate from my wild university days, Rachna, arrived yesterday afternoon to visit as I recover. I haven't seen her in two years and she came here to help me through this post-surgery ordeal. Another amazing friend.
It's a beautiful day. I hope to get out and enjoy some of it. Because it's great to be alive - and have wonderful people with which to share life's joys and experiences.
I hope you enjoy some of life's great experiences on this glorious Monday too.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I feel much better and Dr. L (who covers for Dr. P on weekends) said I can go home. So armed with my presciption for pain and anti-nausea meds, I head to the comfort and love of my home today.
I think I'm tired. Tired of laying in this bed, tired of being a pin cushion, tired of things going wrong.
I can only type with one hand because they had to put an I.V. in the crook of the one arm yesterday and it keeps beeping at me this morning. So I have to leave it in one position as I type with my right hand.
A nurse just made a comment as I returned from the bathroom with my gown flapping, "you check your dignity in during admitting and we give it back to you when you're discharged." That feels about right.
So, I had a little cry this morning. Maybe it's just the time to feel sad.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
My incision is fine and I'm able to get up, walk and move around. But my hemoglobin level dropped to 75. It has to be at least 100 for me to have chemo. The doctor knew my body wouldn't recover in time for chemo so he ordered me two pints of blood. They've just finished transfusing into my body and now I'm getting calcium due to low levels.
Because of my low hemoglobin level, I've felt tired and nauseous all day. I've also had a terrible headache. And no, I haven't produced a BM.
I never through I'd be praying for poop - and writing about it for the world - but that's part of the journey. I know I'd feel a whole lot better, if my body would start working normally again. I do not like drinking Milk of Magnesia, but I do it. It's amazing what you will do to help yourself recover.
I just finished puking up everything (not much) I've consumed today. I'm angry. I'm angry my body isn't cooperating. I want to cry angry tears right now. But I'm not. Perhaps, I'll just try taking another trip to the bathroom instead.
Let's get this train turned around. I don't like being on this crazy, backward train. I'd rather be on the I-feel-better-and-am-ready-to-go-home train. But I'm not going to rush things either. I'll go home when I'm ready to go home.
Sharing the journey with you,
Yesterday evening, I drank an iced capp and needed a nap - how embarassing.
And despite residing in a hospital room, I slept quite soundly last night. Sure, I woke up a lot to roll over, but went right back to sleep.
In fact, I still feel exhausted (after my 5:30 blood draw), but that could also be due to the lack of pain medication since 10 p.m. Perhaps when the new percocet kick in, I'll be raring to go.
I made huge strides in my recovery yesterday. I now get out of bed (and go to the bathroom) when I want, I'm no longer conected to an IV, my TEDs are gone (yippee) and I had a shower. I feel more like a human being again.
And I look more human too. I was starting to resemble a Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation due to a port the anaesthetist inserted in my neck for monitoring my heart during the operation. It remained in my neck in case I needed blood or food via that port. But it had dried blood under it, lots of tape around it and I think it scared my kids.
When they visited after school yesterday, it and my IV connection were gone, and I could tell they felt a lot more comfortable - to the point where they touched everything, goofed around and drove me crazy. Yes, they acted like normal kids.
Dr. P removed the dressing on my wound, and while its seeped a little, it seems to be healing well. Although, I have to admit, I haven't found the courage to take a look yet. I know it's a big incision from about an inch above my belly button all the way down to my pubic bone.
I've heard talk around the floor that I may be going home tomorrow since I'm doing so well. That news makes me happy, yet nervous. The set up here in the hospital - the bed, the table for eating, etc. - make it easy for me to do things for myself. I'm not sure how it'll be at home. But I'm sure we'll figure it out.
Besides, it'll be nice to be back in my own home and Michael won't have to come visit me all the time. He's been here almost constantly, ensuring I have what I need and keeping me company. What a sweetie.
Of course, I can't go home until I produce a bowel movement. I guess that's the goal for today. Yes, I have ambitious goals these days. ;)
Happy Saturday. I hope you have more exciting goals for your weekend than I do mine.
Friday, June 19, 2009
This morning, I woke to a different pain. This one is from the gas accumulating in my belly. Since I've been eating food and then sitting most of the day, the gas build up is getting intense. But my overnight nurse told me this morning that if I move around more today, the gas should dissipate.
Yes, I did say move around more. Yesterday, I learned how to get up without taxing my abs too much and went for three walks around the ward. I also sat in a chair for small periods of time. But because I have to wear the TEDs to prevent the blood clots, my time away from the inflatable sleeves is limited.
But today, if I walk more, I can get rid of the TEDs.
While I proclaimed they weren't bad yesterday, the TEDs got annoying last night. I am so itchy underneath the inflatable sleeves and the tight, white, nylon-type socks. They drive me crazy.
So apparently, I can shed them today along with some of the other paraphenalia tethering me to my hospital bed. The catheter came out this morning and the IV line will be closed off today (they'll still leave the needle in the back of my hand in case my condition turns and I need fluids via IV again).
Up to this point, they've been pumping my IV full of saline, a strong anti-inflammatory and some other fluids. If I don't need those any more, it means I'm heading down the road to recovery. Yeah, I know, I'm pushing it considering I'm only on my second day post-op.
Luckily, I was able to sleep last night. I probably had two hour stints before I woke up, checked the clock, carefully rolled over and went back to sleep. Not bad for being in a hospital. I never sleep properly in these places, which is why people generally tend to recover better from home once the main nursing care is over.
Dr. P came in to visit me yesterday. He compared to the cancer that was left to the tip of his pen. Apparently, he said they were the size of a grain of sand to Angie. But regardless, they're small. The next steps involve blasting them with chemotherapy to make them go away and hopefully send me into remission. My next chemo session is two weeks from today.
He said my ovaries were only slightly swollen and my uterus looked good. Of course, he took them all out as part of my operation. The best news is my lymph nodes weren't affected. Yay!
I'm very impressed with the staff on D4 at the Victoria Campus. I have experienced exceptional and friendly care since the moment I got on the floor. I know I'm in good hands.
Right now, I'm focusing so much on the physical aspects of the operation and getting better, that I'm not thinking about any of the mental aspects, the prognosis and my scarred body. Of course, I'm thrilled the situation was better than expected and the tumours are gone, but I haven't thought beyond that yet. There will be time for that later.
But for today, my goal is to move around and get rid of the gas. It's a small, yet important, goal.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The surgeon had good news for my family yesterday. I'm sure he told me too, but the day is one big blur since I slipped in and out of consciousness. As Angie posted in my blog's comment section yesterday after the operation, Dr. P cut out the two tumours and all that is left of the cancer is microscopic dust. The chemotherapy should take care of that. Yippee!
So the news I prayed for became a reality. I'm sure all your thoughts and prayers had something to do with that. Thank you.
I went into surgery early - around 11:30. Apparently, Dr. P's first surgery of the day was cancelled and so my time was bumped forward. It gave me less time to lay around worrying, which was good.
The first time I got really, really nervous was while waiting in the hallway outside the operating room. The rest of the time was whirlwind of activity, but in that hall, I was truly alone. I said a few prayers and put myself in God's hands.
"Breathe deeply from the face mask," my anaesthetist said . . . and then I was waking up. I'm sure I missed a bunch of action between those two moments. I felt a lot of pain when I first awoke, but once the morphine took effect, it eased. (Angie told me every time I could take another dose, which I do via a hand control) The key is taking regular hits of the pain-killing drug to stay on top of it.
The nurses give me regular doses of anti-clotting medication. Between that and the TEDs socks, which aren't as annoying as I thought they'd be, I should be able to avoid the life-threatening blood clots.
I slept sporadically last night, waking every few hours to roll over (yes, I slept on my side and rolled over every hour or so) and depress the button for another jolt of morphine.
I've had a sponge bath, brushed my teeth (aaahhhh) and tooled around the halls today during my walk. Okay, I walked about 15 feet and then turned around and went back to my room. But according to my nurse, I'm doing amazingly well. She said, I'll probably go home on Sunday, which is early.
I've eaten some lunch and am now very sleepy. So that's it for now because I need a nap.
Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers. They worked wonders.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I'm getting nervous about the surgery today, and suspect those feelings of anxiety will only increase as my surgery time of 12:30 draws near. But as I read the emails and postings proclaiming your support and love, I feel better. I have my village behind me.
Yesterday, I discovered those who were part of Team Tina are wearing their yellow t-shirts to work today in support of me on surgery day. Those who weren't part of the run, are encouraged to wear yellow. When I found out, I cried. Wow!
Michael, my sister and my mom will wear their t-shirts to the hospital. No chance Dr. Prefontaine will miss them to give them the (good - fingers crossed) news after the operation. Even my kids are sporting Team Tina shirts at school today.
I'd wear mine but the hospital staff want me in a hospital gown instead. Go figure.
Along with this visible demonstration of support, many, many touched base to say good luck, thinking of you and I'm praying for you. With all the prayers God will hear this afternoon with my name in them, surely he'll take notice. ;)
But seriously, this part of my journey is in God's hands, who'll guide the hands of my surgeon during the three-hour operation. I need to have faith all will be okay.
What I can control is my determination to get up and move after surgery to help with recovery, as well as my positive attitude. I'll do my best.
Thank you to all of you for being part of my village, my support group, my friends. I am stronger and more positive because of the love from all of you.
I may be offline for a few days, but I hope to get the Internet in the hospital and touch base. There are no guarantees, but I'm praying I can connect because of the strength I draw from both writing this blog and the various comments to it.
Well, I've got to go kick cancer in the butt. It's time for it to go.
Love you all,
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
This morning, Michael and I are working our way through the list - get groceries, mow the lawn, do laundry, pack for the hospital, pay the bills, etc. Luckily, we're both home and working together as a team, as usual. It also means we can provide emotional support for each other.
On the weekend during our mini vacation (which was awesome), we didn't really think about the surgery. We focused on having fun, not on the difficulties to come. That period of denial is over, and we have to prepare physically and emotionally for the weeks to come.
Michael's stress is manifesting itself in frustration with the kids. Noah can be difficult at the best of times, but his challenging behaviour ignited Michael's fuse much earlier this morning. I explained to Noah that mom and dad are nervous about the surgery, and how I felt he was old enough to understand and adapt his behaviour appropriately. I know that's asking a lot of an 11-year-old boy with bipolar disorder, but if we never test whether he's mature enough to turn his empathy into action, we'll never know. He may pleasantly surprise us.
Personally, I haven't thought about the surgery much - yet. I will review the preadmission information and pack my bag for the hospital today, which is when, I figure, the reality of the situation will hit home. (That and when I can't have any coffee or breakfast tomorrow morning! Nothing to eat or drink past midnight.)
To prepare, I have to remove my nail polish so the nurses can use the nail beds to ensure my extremities are getting enough oxygen. I need to take off and store all my jewelry. I must pack activities for in the hospital to make it easier to take my mind off the pain. Michael is kindly adding a new playlist to my iPod with relaxing, get better music, which is replacing my running music, for now. I think I'll also be able to bring my computer to the hospital and access the Internet, so I may be able to blog from the hopsital.
The unknown of the entire situation is the most disconcerting and stressful for me. How long will I be in the hospital? How will I feel when I wake up? Will I recover quickly? How will the kids respond to seeing me in the hospital? (Is that when the illness will hit home for them?). Will Michael cope okay?
The biggest - and scariest - unknown is what will the surgery reveal? I'm terrified the surgeon will announce the cancer is more widespread than he thought and that the surgery didn't go well.
I'm trying to be positive. I want to envision him saying to my family in the waiting room, "The surgery went well. We got all visible traces of the cancer and the subsequent chemotherapy should take care of the rest." That's what I want to hear.
So please keep me in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow. Envision the positive outcome and pray it comes true.
Your nervous friend,
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The lives of many of the people who work and volunteer at Wellspring have been touched by cancer.
I attended one of their meditation sessions, which gave me some new skills with which to relax. Last week, I went to a therapeutic touch appointment.
I didn't know what to expect, but given the name, I did expect some touching. But the therapist only touched my feet - very briefly. She touched the energy surrounding my body, moving it around and getting rid of the negative energy.
It was very different from what I usually partake in (massage therapy), but I told myself to keep an open mind. At the end of the session, I was given 15 minutes to rest. During that time, I fluctuated between the vivid, dream-like state just before sleep and conscious wakefulness. Given this response, I apparently responded well to therapeutic touch.
Science has proven the body heals faster when individuals use a relaxation method to relieve stress. I'm all for healing faster. If I can employ some of my relaxation methods after my surgery, perhaps I'll get back on my feet faster.
Yesterday, my kids attended an art therapy class at Wellspring. Its goal is to help the kids talk about the cancer and their feelings, while doing art. Yesterday, they made medallions as a gift for me and Michael. They also made medallions for each other to symbolize that they can stick together through this terrible experience. My medallions say, Stay strong from Noah and I love (as a heart) u mom from Tara. I asked if I could bring them to the hospital, to which Noah replied, of course.
The therapist said the kids were very good at verbalizing their emotions, which they learn through modelling. I try to be open and honest with my kids and apparently, it's paying off. Maybe they won't bottle up their negative emotions and then turn them into an inappropriate response during non-related situations.
I used to bury my negative emotions, but this experience has taught me to be more open with them, which has enhanced relationships (instead of damaging them, which is what I expected).
Yesterday, my family and I enhanced our relationship by starting our mini-vacation with some fun activities around London. After our garage sale experience, which yielded few good finds, we went to see the movie UP. It was awesome, although some of the scenes really made me cry. I'm still emotional about it a day later!
Today with head to Toronto to visit some good friends before we head to our hotel (with a pool), where we'll meet up with my sis and her family. Tomorrow we all hit Canada's Wonderland. Yeah! The weather is supposed to be beautiful.
So don't expect a blog tomorrow. But I think I've babbled on enough today anyway.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Once up, I turn on the coffee and retrieve the newspaper from the mailbox. I love the lazy feeling of sitting on my couch, sipping coffee and reading about the latest news.
That's what I did this morning. Now I'm going to partake in another of my favourite summer Saturday pastimes - the garage sale. Our entire family loves to travel from house to house, looking for a bargain. You can't have any expectations when you go to garage sales. Some days, we find bargains galore and other days there's zilch.
This will probably be my last day of garage saling (is that a word?) for a while. But we'll have fun.
This beautiful Saturday stretches before me with unknown promise. Maybe we'll see a movie this afternoon, perhaps we'll grill some pork chops on the BBQ for dinner - if we aren't full from popcorn.
I love days like these - when you can follow your whims of pleasure.
Enjoy your Saturday, may it bring you some unexpected pleasure. If not, create your own. Take joy in the little things life brings your way.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I've always been a list person. I already have too many facts and reminders in my head that when a new one makes its way in, another one seems to fall out (or maybe it's old age). Anyway, I write down tasks and reminders - both at home and especially at work - and take great joy crossing off the finished jobs.
My list now encompasses a couple of weeks, including the last week of school.
Yes, I know Michael is capable of accomplishing some of these jobs, and I will rely on him to make sure they get done. But the list will help ensure we don't miss something. I'm sure he'll have other thoughts and worries on his mind, in addition to working, shuffling the kids around, visiting me in the hospital and tending to me when I get home.
I'll probably spend Father's Day weekend in the hospital, which isn't much fun for Michael. And since the kids aren't good planners yet I'll ensure a gift is ready in advance. (Tara wants to but she isn't capable of doing too much and Noah's reached the ambivalent stage). In fact, we'll probably celebrate Father's Day for Michael a little early.
Of course, the last week of school involves lots of activities including a strawberry social, a field trip to the zoo and parties. Then there's the end-of-school teacher gifts I need to obtain.
Then Tara still has soccer twice a week. Whew!
At least once school ends, the need to check homework, study for tests, write notes to the school, etc. ends. I'm very lucky that my in laws are ready and willing to take the kids whenever I need to rest - and they're willing to be flexible.
Flexibility is the story of my life these days. I can't make plans too far in advance since I don't know how I'll feel or how quickly I'll recover. Luckily, most people understand, don't expect too much from me and call with offers of help - whatever that may entail. Thank you.
Of course, on my list is packing for the fun mini-vacation this weekend to Toronto and Canada's Wonderland. I'm looking forward to spending time with my family and satisfying my thrill-seeking nature.
Writing my blog for Friday - check. That task is off my list today. ;)
Enjoy your Friday. Hopefully you have some fun tasks on your list.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
That's doesn't include bruising from multiple needles (or silly accidents) and the inability to heal as quickly. Internally, chemotherapy can also cause mouth sores, dry eyes and dry nasal passages.
As a result, a woman can feel incredibly ugly - a shadow of her former self - and she may not want to socialize, which alienates her when she needs support.
Those feelings are the reason the Look Good, Feel Better program was created. The program believes a woman can learn to use skin care products, cosmetics and wigs to create a new look and feel better about herself.
Last night, I went to this program with my friend, Diane, who I knew would make me laugh. And I was right - especially when it came to trying on the different wigs. I think she now has blackmail pictures of me!
During the two-hour session, the instructor and some great volunteers taught all the women how to use the skin care products to moisturize our delicate skin, and apply the costmetics to hide the dark circles and brighten our faces.
I think I was the only one who was seriously losing her eyebrows. But I learned how to draw them in to look natural for when the last strands decide to make the escape from my face. No, I did not draw in surprised eyebrows or angry eyebrows. ;)
We all walked away from the session looking great and toting a big box of products that included: facial wash, moisturizer, toner, sun screen, face powder, lip balm, lipsticks, lip gloss, lip liner, eye shadow, eye brow pencil, eye liner, mascara, blush, hand cream and cutlicle cream. These products were all generously donated by top cosmetic companies, including Dove, Lancome, MAC, Lise Watier, Clinique and Mary Kay, to name a few.
While I have the cosmetic tips, I probably won't use them as often as some of the women who attended the session. I often don't wear make up when I'm not at work or going to a special event. I rarely used foundation, even when I was well. But having the skin care tips and the knowledge of how to use cosmetics to enhance my appearance is valuable.
After the make up application, we got to try on a variety of different wigs, hair pieces and hats. A couple looked good on me, but several looked absolutely terrible, and Diane and I found it terribly funny. I had to laugh at how ridiculous I looked. One hair piece was only bangs to be worn with a head scarf. To be a good sport, I put it on (despite belly chuckling laughter) and Diane snapped a photo. Oh no!
Overall it was a fun night, I walked away with some great trips to use to disguise the effects of chemotherapy and I gleefully accepted my big box of skin care products and cosmetics. I felt like a kid at Christmas.
This program is incredibly valuable and wouldn't be possible without the generous donations by the cosmetic companies and the volunteers who give up time. It was educational and fun, which women with cancer need a little more of in their lives. I would highly recommend this program to any woman suffering from cancer. (And the big box of goodies is awesome!)
Your more beautiful friend,
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
We've had shepherd's pie, lasagna, a mexican casserole, raspberry/cranberry bread, rhubard compote, cinnamon bread, a (still warm) fruit cake, rice krispie squares, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and soup delivered with smiles and hugs to my home. (Please forgive me if I forgot something!)
I've even had a guest chef prepare a meal in my home with a sundried tomato and chicken pasta with cream sauce, caesar salad, macaroni and cheese, death by chocolate and apple crisp. Mmmm.
That's to say nothing about the lunches brought in from the London Life cafeteria (can you say carrot cake?) and the ones I've been treated to at restaurants with friends and family.
It's really a good thing that I've stopped worrying about my weight. Besides a healthy person with a little meat on her bones can tolerate the effects of chemo better than a skinny person (because if I don't feel like eating too much, I've got the stores to draw on and therefore I won't get too skinny). Who knew it would be a bonus one day?
I know my wonderful friends at London Life have a food schedule planned - and for that I'm enormously grateful. I know once I have the surgery, my cooking days are over for a little while. That's why I've frozen some of the food sent my way. Now Michael doesn't have to worry about what's for dinner - after taking care of me, the house, the kids, work, etc.
As much as I appreciate all of this, I feel guilty (I think it's due to my Catholic upbringing). And since I'm feeling good, the guilt is intensified. I feel there is no way I can repay everyone for the nice things they're doing for me. (And yes, I know I don't have to repay anyone but the feeling is still there). I feel I don't deserve all this kindness and support. It really is quite overwhelming.
But as my friend, Jodi, pointed out, people help because they want to do something to make things easier. Friends rally during sickness to support individuals and their families. Jodi went through this when her dad was sick. She told me she hoped the experience would make her more compassionate and understanding for someone else going through the same situation - and it has, because she's been amazing. In fact, so many people have been, and I know will continue to be amazing. I'm blessed to be surrounded by so many supportive people.
I know I have to let go of the guilt and realize people want and sometimes need to do something. As the individual with cancer, I have to fight alone and there's little others can do to directly help. But they can ease the stress, burden, sadness and loneliness of the fight - and you're all doing a great job.
Your thankful friend (who still feels guilty),
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The awesome videographers from work created the attached video to commemorate the Run for Ovarian Cancer. If you were there, you'll remember the amazing Matt Dow circulating and videotaping that day.
Warning: You may need a tissue during the watching of this video (I know I did - and I was there and many of the photos are from me)!
A special thanks to everyone who worked on this project. I love it!
I want this done and over with so I can move on. The worst should come the day after surgery when the wound is fresh, I'm actually conscious, the hospital staff teach me how to get out of bed without using my ab muscles and get me up to walk, etc. But then I'm on the road to recovery and each day should be better than the one before. That's what I'm hoping anyway.
During my appointment, I was fitted for TEDs - special socks to prevent dangerous blood clots. I'll wear these thigh high socks, which will be hooked up to a pump that will inflate every 20 to 60 second to pump the blood back up to my heart. Apparently, they feel like a massage, but I'll see. Right now it sounds like it'd be annoying and prevent me from getting any sleep. To top it off, the socks are supposed to be hard to get on and off - sounds constricting. Oh well, I think they'll be the least of my worries and once I get up and walking around, they can come off.
The nurse said the surgery is about three hours and then I'll spend about three hours in the recovery room before being moved up to my hopsital room. Sounds like a long day hanging out in the hospital for my poor family. Of course, I'll be taking a long nap that day and probably will be fairly groggy from the anaesthesia and pain medication into the night.
My anticipated length of stay is three to five days, with day one being the Thursday. So I should be home early the following week, barring any complications (heaven forbid).
My recovery time will be at least four months. For the first six weeks, I can't lift anything over 10 lbs. vacuum or do any exercises that will strain my abdominal muscles (whatever is left). For the following three months, I can't lift anything heavier than 20 lbs.
Yesterday, a research nurse asked if I'd be willing to provide my tumours for research into the cause and treatment of cancer. I told her they could have whatever they wanted if it could help me or other women. I honestly don't understand why someone wouldn't provide consent.
So, the surgery is a week tomorrow and I'm cramming in lots of activity between now and then. I'm trying not to freak out about it, although it's hard as I try to shut my mind down for bed. The social worker yesterday said I had a good attitude because I was so positive. But I have to be to get through this.
I'd appreciate it if you would keep me in your thoughts and prayers, especially next Wednesday.
Monday, June 8, 2009
The timing was perfect. I needed a crazy night to forget about my upcoming surgery and cancer. Even though I was wearing a hat at the wedding and a bandana at the reception, my actions didn't reflect that I'm sick. It was great.
Since I know life will change significantly (at least for a while) after my surgery, I'm counting down the days. Last week and the days up to my surgery have been a reprieve of sorts, because I feel great. I feel normal. I could forget I have cancer. But the surgery and subsequent chemo treatments will change that illusion.
The weekend, we're planning a family escape with a mini vacation. Since we don't know how I'll feel this summer, Michael and I felt it was important to do something fun as a family before the operation. We'll rent a hotel room, head to Canada's Wonderland, hit some garage sales and maybe see a movie. We'll simply spend time together as a family.
I also have some fun activities with friends planned for this week. It's like I'm trying to cram a whole lot of fun into my days. But hey, why not?
This morning, I have my preadmission appointment for my surgery next week. It's a trek back to reality. But I think I'm ready for it because I need to know what to expect and prepare for it mentally.
But even as I prepare mentally, I'm going to enjoy the next week and a half, and follow my mantra of one day at a time.
I hope you enjoy your day.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Of course, I've got the very real ones swirling around in my head too. In fact, I had a terrible nightmare about my upcoming surgery Thursday night that had my moods swinging like a pendulum yesterday (angry, hopeful, pessimistic, positive, depressed). I read a book about treating ovarian cancer written by Harvard physicians shortly before bed and I think the information invaded my subconscious to appear in my dream.
But it's my irrational fears that drive me crazy. When I go for a walk, I slather on the sunscreen and cover my bald head, but I still worry I'm getting too much sun. The chemotherapy treatments make me more prone to the damaging effects of the sun (and skin cancer) so I have to be extra careful. I'm going to a garden wedding today so I'll don my SPF45 and jaunty straw hat, and try to push the fear from my mind.
As for injuring myself, I've had two minor accidents in the past few weeks that prove my body isn't bleeding or healing the same way. A couple of weeks ago, as I was enjoying a walk, I tripped over a jutting piece of sidewalk to hurtle head first toward the cement. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to twist my body so most of it fell on the grass. But I cut my palm. It bled briefly, but because my blood doesn't clot the same way, I never got a scab. As a result, I had an open flesh wound for about a week.
Then there was my unfortunate (and stupid) incident with the treadmill on Wednesday. I have an open treadmill burn on my knee. It isn't scabbing and closing, so I cover it with antibiotic cream and bandaids. It's going to look gorgeous at the wedding today.
I've already discussed the fears of exercising too much and tiring myself out, and the presence of germs in other blogs. Enough said.
Medication, in its many forms, are another irrational fear. I worry about taking too many antacids and what they're doing to my stomach as I try to cool the heartburn I experience from the chemotherapy. I use a anti-anxiety medication to help me sleep, but it can be addictive. I also wonder if the pain medication I take to stave off the deep bone pain will produce any lasting side effects.
Of course, I fear the chemo will cause long-term damage to my stomach, lungs or extremeties (apparently some people can temporarily or permanently lose sensation in their hands and feet due to chemo). Okay, so that last worry may not be so irrational.
We all have worries, mine have just expanded to include the ones associated with cancer - as real or imagined as they may be. It's just another aspect of this journey with which I'm dealing.
But as I mentioned, I have a wedding today so the fears can take a back seat (they often do when I'm participating in social events). I'll toast the happy couple, enjoy time with my family, and sit back and enjoy the day. Luckily, it's a beautiful one.
Enjoy your sunny Saturday,
Friday, June 5, 2009
cannot shatter hope
cannot depress faith
cannot destroy homes
cannot limit humanity
cannot kill friendships
cannot silence courage
cannot ruin the soul
cannot reduce the spirit
can be overcome . . .
I received a coin with this saying in the mail yesterday from kind friends, Reg and Cheryl Fickling. Reg, bless his soul, had the coin and a photo of me with my surgeon blessed. I feel thankful for support in many forms, and as a believer in God, this action really touched my heart.
Because of my faith, I feel somehow better about my surgery knowing my surgeon has been blessed - especially since he's the one doing the cutting while I lay there and sleep.
I will also carry the coin around with me. I think in my heart I believe and live these principles, but it never hurts to be reminded:
My soul and my spirit are completely separate from cancer. Like I said before, I'm still Tina and the cancer is an illness with which I must deal, but doesn't define who I am in my soul and spirit.
While cancer can sometimes test my hope and my faith, it isn't destroying them. There are days when I wonder - Why me? Why do I have this burden? Can I really beat this? - but luckily most days I feel positive. I have to admit, I've also been angry at God because I (and my family and friends) don't deserve this burden. But again, these thoughts are short lived.
For me, cancer has increased my faith in humanity, improved my friendships and strengthened my home life. A serious diagnosis can make or break these relationships. Mine are better, stronger and more loving. It's made me realize people, in all their goodness and kindness, and my relationships with them are far more important than material objects, disagreements in the past or my work. They provide the strength that sustains me. I believe cancer has changed these relationships for the long term. So it's a good outcome.
Finally, cancer cannot silence courage and can be overcome. I am scared. I fear my treatments won't work or my surgery won't be able to remove the cancer. But I face my chemo and the operation with courage and optimism. It's all I can do. I won't lie down and roll over. That's not me. I'm going to fight, as long and as hard as I can. If that's courageous, then I am.
And I have to believe my cancer can be overcome. I'm not ready to leave this world, and all it has to offer, just yet.
Enjoy this sunny Friday and all it has to offer you.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I miss the step, cycling and kickboxing classes. I miss the comraderie of the London Life gym and its awesome instructors. I even miss . . . wait for it . . . running.
My oncology nurse told me I could maintain almost all the activities I was doing before starting treatment - but to listen to my body. But I'm afraid to do too much because of my ascities and extreme tiredness. (My whole new set of fears and how I hate them is a subject for another day.) So my activity of choice over the past few weeks has been walking, sometimes for long distances. But it's not the same.
Besides, the week after chemo is challenging enough without tossing in exercise. And sometimes I feel my body just needs energy to fight and/or heal. Besides, those first two weeks post chemo, I don't want to expose myself to too many germs and risk infection (and you have to bet gyms have a lot of them).
But yesterday I went to the Carling Heights Community Centre. My mother in law wants to improve her shape but had never been to a gym. So she needed me to explain how to use the different equipment. While I was there, I hopped on the stepper and proceeded to work my calves. Then I ran on the treadmill. Neither activity lasted very long, but I did get a good sweat going. It was great.
But then, I did a dumb thing. I tried to hop back on the treadmill, while it was operating at a good clip. I know better. I was distracted and didn't think before I acted.
Maybe subconsciously, I'm testing my body to see if it'll heal itself as quickly as before. I fell and now have treadmill burn on my right knee and a bruise on my left shin - dummy. And because I didn't really bleed and my blood has clotting issues, I now have this oozing type sore. Just my luck.
But the exercise was good. It's got me thinking about doing a little more over the next two weeks. Maybe hit the pool and swim a few laps. Perhaps do a small run at a nice easy pace through my neighbourhood. I may even pull my bike out of the shed and go for a spin. Yes, I'll listen to my body. I tire easily and still need the energy to fight.
Of course, once I have the surgery, my exercise will consist of trying to get myself out of bed and walking the short distance to the bathroom. At least for the first while. Doesn't that sound strenuous?
But until June 17, I'm going to enjoy walking, visiting, lunching and exercising - because I can.
Perhaps you can think about incorporating a little activity in your day and kick some endorphins into gear. Your body will thank you for it.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I really enjoyed my day, the hugs, the words of encouragement, the lunch in the cafeteria and the compliments on my bald head (a source of curiosity) with its halo of white, yes white, fuzzy regrowth.
I'll say it again, I'm very lucky to work with an amazing group of people who are supportive, compassionate and kind. I look forward to returning to work - hopefully this fall.
My work visit (and comments over the past few weeks) also reaffirmed my reasons for blogging. Sometimes, I question writing a blog almost every day. Some days, as I sit in front of my computer, I wonder what I'm going to say and question if there's anything worthwhile to discuss. Amazingly, once I start writing, the words simply flow from my fingertips and a blog appears - of course, some are better than others. Other times, I feel as though I'm navel gazing and wonder who on earth would want to read what I wrote.
But many people told me they enjoy reading my blog every day and often gain insight from it. Some have ritualized its reading - every morning, every night. One person shared he's used the topics to start dinner conversations with his own family. Wow, what a compliment!
I gain personally from the experience because I find the writing therapeutic. I have to explain the process of my diagnosis and treatment, and decipher the medical jargon. It also forces me to look inside myself and deal with the emotional aspects of the disease so I can write about it.
Sharing my emotions and struggles with everyone is a step outside my comfort zone. Before this blog, I was a fairly private person, only discussing my personal issues with a select group or using a journal to capture thoughts and feelings. I have to admit, I sometimes feel exposed because so many people know so many close and personal things about me.
But I almost feel compelled to write. It's my way of reaching out to others, to keep people up to date, to demystify ovarian cancer, and to explain what it's like physically and emotionally to deal with a cancer experience.
So, I'm honoured my blog has an audience and people enjoy reading what I write. I'm especially touched that it helps provide some readers with insight into their own lives. And so, I'll continue to write.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Then two dear friends visited last night for a good visit. Again, we talked and talked. Maybe I just needed some of the energy those two visits provided.
Last night, I was asked if cancer hurt. I'd never even contemplated that before. No, cancer itself doesn't hurt, which is why it can grow into big masses without the individual knowing about it. Now that I have tumours (that's right, say it like Arnold, TOO-murs), I think I can occassionally feel one in my abdomen. But then again, it could also be my overactive imagination now that I know they exist.
I think cancer hurts when it affects the functioning of other body parts. For example, when the fluid (ascities) built up in my abdomen and pressed against my stomach, ribs and back, that hurt.
I'm also excited because I'm heading into work today and I'll be able to see some of my friends and colleagues (whoever is around because I'm not crashing any meetings). I need to pick up some of my dressy summer shoes for a wedding I'm attending this weekend, which are in my desk.
My positive mood today reinforces the roller coaster analogy I used yesterday (not to be confused with the roller coaster of investing for all those who worked on that concept with me). I know Michael is on that roller coaster with me, and I suspect some of my friends have also joined us for the ride.
Unfortunately, it's going to be bumpy, but we'll get through this together.
Monday, June 1, 2009
I didn't hit bottom. I'm not despondent and hopeless (and I hope I never get there).
As I mentioned on Saturday, I'm worried. I feel twinges and pains (probably ones I've experienced every month of my life) yet they worry me now. I wonder, are the tumours growing? Are they spreading? What's with the weird pain in my thigh?
I read (in a damn book) that sometimes chemo doesn't always work as anticipated. So now I wonder if my chemo isn't shrinking my tumours and they're growing rampant in my abdomen. Even though this combination of drugs has been proven to best fight ovarian cancer, I am now irrationally questionning their effectiveness.
Maybe the biggest worry - and the one I'd shoved back in my subconscious until I got my surgery date - is that when they open me up, they'll discover the cancer is far worse than originally anticipated. Then what?
I also have a cold and didn't feel quite right on the weekend, which lowered my mood more.
But I did have some fun, which allowed me shift the focus away from me and the worries in my mind for a little while, which was exactly what I needed. I celebrated a 25th wedding anniversary on Saturday and we visited our bald (and now not so bald) friends on a whim in Port Franks - affectionately known as the spa - yesterday. Those activities helped.
I'm trying to stay positive - and boy, was I positive most of last week. I know it's better for me all around. It helps me focus on beating this cancer. It'll help me mentally prepare for surgery and recovery.
Some days are harder than others.
But I'm trying. I hope I can refocus and turn it around today. I'm having lunch with my sister, which is always good. And friends are coming over tonight (when I'll be able to wish my friend, Jacqueline a happy birthday + one day).
Maybe if you could all think positive thoughts today, it'll rub off on me. ;)