Friday, February 26, 2010


I thought I was being a wimp. Some days on the trip home from work, I sit in the passenger seat of our van, lean my head back against the head rest and close my eyes. Michael, the sweet soul that he is, always asks if I'm okay. I usually reply, "I'm just tired."

I know I've talked about this tiredness before and I thought it was just the weather, work, staying up too late watching the Olympics, etc. But today I started thinking about how tired I seem to be at the end of most work days. It's as if I am a very heavy lump, rooted in place. It almost seems too much energy to support my arms or keep my head up.

On these evenings, I'm thankful my kids don't get much homework (because I'm not sure I could handle it) and my husband helps make dinner and clean up. And it's not every night, but it happens far more often than I would like.

Sometimes I can't wait until it's bedtime and I can crawl between my warm sheets and drift off into slumberland. (It's pretty sad when your bed is calling you at 6:30 p.m.)

So I googled tiredness after chemotherapy to see if what I am experiencing is normal. Most of the sites I visited, mentioned fatigue post chemo can last anywhere from six months to 1-1/2 years post treatment. One site even mentioned increased fatigue associated with women with ovarian cancer who were treated with a platinum chemotherapy drug, such as carboplatin (yup).

Another site mentioned the bone ache and swelling I experience, which can also contribute to the feeling of tiredness. Great.

Given that I'm six months post treatment next Friday, I'm not a whimp. This is perfectly normal and unfortunately may continue for a while. If I still feel fatigued when I see my doctor in May, I'll be sure to mention it. In the meantime, gentle exercise is supposed to help (expending energy to generate energy). I'm not sure my workouts this week were gentle, but at least I'm active.

So in short, I'm happy to learn my experience is normal and the fatigue will eventually end. In the meantime, I'm thankful for the support from my wonderful family and understanding of my friends. It's just another stepping stone on my cancer journey.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just another normal day

I'm thrilled how much my life has changed in three short weeks. At the beginning of the month, I was consumed with fear my cancer was back and growing in the warm, dark cells of my body. I paid attention to every ache and it paralyzed me. I almost couldn't function.

Yet, now I'm living my life like a normal person. The aches and pains have dissapeared for the most part (can you say psychosomatic?). In a way, I feel silly for being so obsessed with cancer, but I honestly couldn't help myself. I was very, very afraid for a couple of reasons.

1. The return of the cancer that soon would have been a bad indicator of my longevity. The quicker it comes back, the more serious it is and the fewer years the individual MAY have. I felt as though this first check up was an indicator of the disease's hold on me. Irrational? Maybe. I know I have to be positive, but man, it's hard sometimes.

2. I didn't want to do chemotherapy again so soon. I didn't want to go back to fighting in the dark well. I know everyone's chemo experience is different, but the depression, skunky taste and bone pain memories linger with me and I didn't think I could go back there. Of course, if I had to, I would. I'll continue to do anything I can to kick ovarian cancer's butt.

Of course, I still think about cancer every single day. I probably always will. So many different things tweak the cancer memory in me.

When I need to reference the time when I was away from work, I remember. Sometimes I don't know how to refer to that eight-month time span. When I first returned to London Life, I started saying, "When I was sick." Funny, how I didn't say, "When I had cancer." Now it's progressed to, "When I was off." It sort of sanitizes the seriousness of the situation.

I also feel I'm rubbing cancer in people's faces when I talk about my experience and I know many of my colleagues still aren't comfortable with my cancer diagnosis (or the word cancer at all). So in a way, I feel I need to be sensitive to that. While I'm more than willing to talk about my cancer to anyone who is curious, I don't want to bring the topic up. Some people just don't want to know. Some people can't talk about it.

I also remember I had (I still can't believe I can say had. Yippee!) cancer when I run into someone I haven't seen in a while and they almost surprisingly comment, "You look good!" While I like hearing the compliments, it makes me feel as though people expect me to look sick. I'm certainly not withering away to nothing. Quite the contrary. My colour is good, my hair is back and I generally look good - albeit with lots of grey in my really short hair and more than a few pounds heavier.

I'm also reminded about my cancer when the disease is mentioned on a TV show or in a book, and other times my mind, unprompted, brings up the topic. At those times, I'll stop and be thankful. "I'm here," I say to myself. There was a time when I thought I wouldn't be. I love life!

While I am experiencing some lingering side effects, for the most part I feel pretty normal. When I get too tired, my bones still ache and my limbs swell. It's a heavier tiredness too. It's hard to explain. And I seem to exhaust myself more easily than before. After work, I don't seem to have as much energy as I once did to work around the house or help with homework.

While I complain about being tired these days, I don't think I'm alone. Everyone seems to be feeling the February blahs. Nothing some warm weather and sunshine won't cure. Thank goodness I'm heading to Florida in a few weeks. Aaahhh.

Never lament being "normal" because it's amazing how quickly life can turn around. Enjoy each day, and everything and everyone in it. It's a gift. I am truly thankful for my gift.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


My mom is one tough lady and as a result, she's going home this morning. Four short days after her four-hour surgery on Friday, her doctors are discharging her.

Of course, by 10 a.m. Saturday morning, she was up and walking around. She hasn't needed much pain medication, she's moving around on her own (despite a drainage tube and catheter) and is in good spirits. While the drainage tube comes out this morning, the catheter must stay in for another week or so. She'll have to come to London so her doctor can do a test ensure her bladder doesn't leak before she can lose the catether for good.

But much to everyone's relief, she can recuperate from the comfort of her own couch and bed. She can watch the olympics on her own TV. She can eat and drink whatever she wants, whenever she wants (or whenever my dad will bring it to her).

Thanks to everyone who wished her well and asked about her throughout this entire process. The good wishes and concern are very much appreciated. She's one tough cookie and I'm very proud of her.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's over

The surgery was long, but its results held no real surprises and it's over.

During my mom's 3-1/2 to 4 hour surgery yesterday, Dr. C removed the cancer-filled ureter, a small portion of her bladder and the kidney. Apparently, the kidney was "sticky" and hard to remove, therefore it took the doc longer than anticipated because he had to carefully remove it from the adrenal gland. But he saved the gland. The lymph nodes he did see looked fine, but he didn't go rooting around and looking for them because of the length of time she'd been open.

Now it's a matter of lab results indicating whether her cancer is a quick- or slow-moving variety and make decisions (further treatment, chemotherapy, etc.) based on that. Dr. C said his plan would including keeping an eye on the bladder and burning away any new cancer growths. He made it sound fairly easy and managable.

Of course, he's a brilliant surgeon, but not the best communicator. Getting information from him was difficult and drawn-out and we're not exactly sure about next steps. But we needed skillful hands yesterday and that's exactly what we got.

Mom needs to recover. She was incredibly groggy last night when she got to her room in the early evening. But after four hours of anaesthesia, anyone would be groggy!

I'm thankful the surgery is over, the cancer (at least the visible stuff) is out of her and she's on the road to recovery. Thanks to everyone who said a little prayer yesterday for my mom. Our entire family appreciates the support.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Spare a prayer?

Today is the day. Mom goes under the scalpel this morning at 11 a.m. (an hour earlier than originally scheduled).

I talked to her last night and she was in remarkable good spirits all things considered. She said the fasting hasn't been too bad because she's been filling up on liquids. I guess broth and jello CAN sustain a body - at least for a couple of days.

Of course, she did say she'd love a nice, big, gooey chocolate bar. When I pressed her for what kinds, she gave me a list of half a dozen or so, but then said, "I don't know that I've ever turned down any kind of chocolate bar." A woman after my own heart, even though I'm a bit more selective because of my dislike of the chocolate and fruit combination.

I'd appreciate any prayers or some good vibes for my mom today. Dr. C will remove that nasty cancer and take a good look around. I've got my finger's crossed the cancer is contained in the ureter. Positive vibes, positive thoughts, positive outcome!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clear diet

As I sip my coffee this morning and wait for my toast to pop, I'm thinking about my mom. While her surgery isn't until Friday at noon, she's required to start preparing today. That means as of midnight last night until midnight Thursday, she can only consume clear items. On Friday, she gets absolutely nothing.

As you munch on your delicious meal or snack and savour the way it fills your belly, think about how unsatisfying broth, jello or black coffee/tea would be after the first three or four hours. Then imagine two days of saitiating your hunger with only clear fluids (I'm not sure jello qualifies as a solid).

Apple juice, broth (beef, chicken, oriental), black coffee, tea, jello, etc. are great to accompany other foods - they're NOT a meal.

I feel sorry for my mom and commiserate with her. As much as it wouldn't hurt me to stop eating because I have enough stores (read: fat), that doesn't mean I'm giving up food too. I like it way too much - and therein lies my problem.

But this preparation means her surgery is quickly approaching. While the operation will be painful, it's the first step on my mom's road to renewed health. By Friday night, the surgeon's scalpel will have removed her ureter, where the damn cancer lives, and her kidney. Even if she needs preventative chemotherapy to ensure all traces of the nasty disease are gone, this operation places her at the starting line on her road to recovery.

But I don't envy my mom with her clear diet preparation and wish her good luck.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic weekend

I have to admit, I spent a lot of hours watching the Olympics this weekend. Yup, I was a patriotic, flag-waving, athlete-cheering couch potato. I love the Olympics and celebrating the individuals who work so hard to become among the top in the world. Go Canada go!

Yet, it's not the only thing I did over the three-day weekend. We visited a friend in Oakville overnight where we caught up, ate great food, sipped some lovely Cabernet Savignon and, you guessed it, watched the Olympics.

We also went for a long walk in a forest with the kids and dogs. During this excursion I found out that unlike bumbles, I don't bounce. To trek along the creek at the bottom of a large valley, we had to make our way down a steep embankment full of trees and snow-covered dead leaves. I gingerly picked my way from tree to tree in an attempt to prevent an all-out slide down the side of the hill.

It wasn't until I was mid-flight, hurtling between trunks that I realized the tree to which I was heading was dead. Upon impact, it promptly broke. I must have done a spectacular somersault through the air before landing on my back. Luckily, my survival instincts kicked in, so I tucked my head and absorbed a good portion of the impact on my left shoulder before my spread eagle on the ground.

Luckily, no broken stumps or large rocks occupied my landing space, so I only had the wind knocked out of me. I also have a few more aches, pains and bruises than I did last week. But overall, it could have been far worse.

During the hike, I grew frustrated to learn my balance and strength aren't what they once were. I guess I can't expect recovery miracles, but I hate feeling weak. I hate requiring help. I've always been a strong, balanced individual so it was a shot at my ego to occasionally be pushed (by my butt) up the hill.

Now, having said that, my personal trainer would chastise me because as a woman using 17-1/2 pound weights in each hand while doing arm lifts and laying on an exercise ball, I'm not weak. I'm just hard on myself. I'll just keep working on it improving myself.

Despite my best efforts, my work will never, ever make me even 1/1000th of an Olympic competitor. But for the next two weeks, I will join millions of other Canadians, living vicariously through our awesome athletes and cheering them on from the comfort of my couch. Again, go Canada go!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ode to love

When I was younger, I longed to have a sweetie for Valentine's Day. I didn't date much, so the concept of celebrating this holiday full of hearts, chocolates, flowers and romance seemed like the ideal way to profess love.

Michael and I have now been together for 17 Valentine's Days. In the beginning of our relationship, we celebrated by going out for dinner and exchanging tokens of our affection - but usually on Feb. 15 to avoid packed restaurants with inflated pricing and take advantage of the clearance sales of pink and red merchandise. Even then our practicality ruled.

Over the years I've discovered we don't need (nor even want) a Hallmark holiday to demonstrate our love. We take advantage of little gestures every day - small touches, compliments, I love yous - to do just that. To us, that's what builds a relationship, a marriage. It's the small gestures every day that count - not those on a contrived holiday.

Don't get me wrong, if Valentine's Day turns your crank, by all means celebrate it. But I think I'm far luckier to have a relationship where the sentiments of this day infiltrate daily life. As I've said before, I'm a lucky woman.

Happy Valentine's Day (today and every day)

Friday, February 12, 2010

All the wonderful things

It's Friday.

It's the Friday before a long weekend!

It's payday.

My eyelashes are growing back (again).

My coffee is hot and sweet with a touch of vanilla.

I enjoyed lunch with a friend yesterday.

Michael is getting medical tests on a timely basis.

It's only one week until my mom's surgery when she can finally start the process of getting rid of that damn cancer.

The days are getting longer.

I only have one meeting today.

I'm wearing comfortable underwear (tee hee).

There are many, many things to be thankful for today. I'm reminding myself (and you too) that we have to notice the good in life every single day. Even when life gets crazy or hard, we all have something for which to be thankful.

Over the past few days, I've been very busy at work. It's busier than I'd like - especially with my new post-cancer attitude - but I know it's just a blip on an otherwise sane situation. The chaos caught up with me yesterday evening when I closed my eyes and leaned back on the headrest in the car on my way home. Michael wondered what was wrong. "Just tired," was my reply.

Don't get me wrong, I love the feeling of productivity. I love being involved in projects again. I love being wanted and/or needed. But I notice the frenetic pace more these days. I'm not sure if it's a result of post-cancer tiredness, the weather, lack of conditioning or my new attitude. Regardless, I don't have to keep it up because I only have one meeting today, I can spend time working at my computer and I can adopt a bit slower pace, which agrees with me more.

Putting on the brakes also allows me to notice the sweet little aspects of life, like those listed above. It's a lesson I learned during my cancer journey and one I don't want to forget, regardless of how busy normal life gets. There's another blessing - I'm living a normal life. Yee haw!

So on this cold Friday before the long weekend, take a few minutes to remember what makes your life worth living. Otherwise, what's the point.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Boring me

Wow, am I ever going to get boring. In a way, that makes me very happy because that means I'm living a normal life, with the same types of joys, successes, setbacks and tribulations as everyone else.

As my friend, Diane, commented on my blog when I questioned what to say about my situation, I can say I've beaten cancer when I start living again. I'm jumping head-first back into living, getting my hair cut, making plans and setting goals. So, I guess I've beaten cancer.

But going back to normal living means I don't really have anything to write about. Who wants to hear about how I went to the gym and yet again feel the tuggings of my scar tissue from too many sit ups, or how my visit with the social worker revealed I'm extremely worried about the grade 7 struggles of my son? Everyone has their own hurdles to overcome in their lives, and their own successes and blessing for which to celebrate. (Don't forget to do that.)

So, where does that leave me? I enjoy writing my blog. If I hear you correctly, you enjoy reading it. But I think I'll get tedious fast if I write every day. I guess I'll write when I think I have something interesting or insightful to say. Or when I can update you on my cancer journey.

For example, I went to my family doctor yesterday to talk about what I thought might be a urinary tract infection. Nope. Apparently, because of my hysterectomy/oopherectomy, I don't produce estrogen any more, which results in dryness. Oh great, another symptom of early menopause with which I'm challenged. But hey, it's a fairly minor inconvenience and it could be worse.

So, in short, I'll write periodically because I really enjoy it. I may rant a la Rick Mercer or contemplate the good things in life. Blogging helps me process events and it reminds me to be thankful for every single day. In fact, I commented about the pretty falling snow this morning. Yes, I realize many cursed the white stuff streaming down, but I was happy I found something good about this cold, snowy morning.

To me, that's what living is all about.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The difference a week makes

This past weekend, I enjoyed a fairly low-key couple of days. While I played cards and enjoyed dinner with friends, just like the weekend before, my attitude, mood and outlook for the future differed greatly. It's amazing the difference a week can make.

Of course, the previous weekend, I was almost debilitated by the fear of a reoccurence. Therefore every twinge, cramp and movement made me believe the cancer was back and filled me with dread. I anticipated returning to the chemo suite to have my veins pumped with the toxic chemotherapy and beginning the fight again.

I experienced all the same pains the past weekend, but I now know they're my new reality. They're not as scary when you know they're not cancer. I'll just have to get used to them.

I've discovered over the past few days, I have a different attitude, which may help when the next three-month check up occurs in May. I feel this first post-chemo appointment was the biggest hurdle. Since I made it through it, I'll make it many, many more appointments cancer free.

I hope this optimistic, can-do attitude sticks because I believe a positive attitude will not only keep the cancer at bay, but help me make the most of each day.

And I have lots of friends with whom to make the most of every day. I didn't go through the cancer experience alone, thanks to all of you, and I'm not celebrating alone either. I'm lucky so many people want to celebrate with me. My work had a little party for me on Friday morning and I have flowers brightening both my home and my office. As one friend said, "You had lots of flowers when you were sick. I decided to wait to give you flowers until you were better." I've also benefitted from lots hugs and congratulatory emails. It all makes me feel very fortunate.

Of course, everything isn't perfect, because life isn't like that. The doctors are running tests on Michael, I hold my breath nearly ever day Noah goes to school in fear of suspension, my mom's surgery is coming up and cancer claimed a couple more good people in the last few weeks.

But these days I am smiling and almost skipping because I am so very, very thankful to be alive. I need to make the most of it.

Make the most of your day. It's a gift.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Unfair hair

As promised by other cancer survivors, the wolfman hair that graced my face is going away all on its own. But with its disappearance, which makes me happy, I've noticed changes in the rest of my hair that makes me sad.

When my hair returned, it was very thick and soft. The hair on my head was baby-soft and thick, my eyelashes were long and lush, my arm hair seemed to proliferate overnight. I loved the beautiful, silky, thick head, eyebrown and eyelash hair - especially after having none.

But now, it seems the cells that so rapidly resumed their hair-growing jobs, decided to go back to pre-cancer production levels. They were gung ho production line workers eager to return to work after the strike and prove themselves capable, only to return to their slacker ways after a few weeks back on the job. They must be in a union.

My eyebrows have little bare spots in them and for some reason, my eyelashes broke at the halfway point. They look terrible. I swipe the mascara wand over them, trying to coax length and thickness, but to no avail.

Perhaps the hair wasn't strong for long because it was post-chemo hair. Again, I'm going to have to be patient, waiting for it to make a reappearance (I'm assuming it'll grow). I'm sure when it's all said and done, I'll have the stubby, sparce lashes with which I was born. But hey, it's better than having none at all.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Terminology delimma

I have a bit of a conundrum. I don't know how to categorize my current condition - and that bothers me. As you may have noticed in my blog the other day, I said the cancer is not back. But does that mean I'm cancer free? I don't know.

Okay, so what can I say?

The spots on my CT scan didn't grow, and in some instances, shrunk. But those cysts/growths/whatever don't necessarily seem to be related to the cancer. Or they're burnt out residual disease. Does that mean I'm cancer free?

Can I say, I kicked cancer's butt? Probably. It was definitely there and it's either dormant or gone now, so I think I've battled the Big C and won.

I can confidently say I'm in remission. Whatever is there is stable. So whew, I can proudly claim to be in remission.

I'm definitely a cancer survivor. I'm still here and, God willing, plan to be around for a long, long time.

When I passed along the news about Tuesday's appointment, many people said, so you're cancer free now. Yay, you've beaten it. But I was, and still am, reluctant to answer with a resounding, "yes." Hence, my conundrum.

I can say I'm relieved, thrilled and optimistic. And in the end, I guess that's all that really matters.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Let's dance!

I danced out of the cancer clinic this afternoon because my cancer is NOT back! I feel a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. When I got the news, I hugged Michael and cried.

I'm so excited because I can plan my life again. I was sure the cancer was back and was just waiting for the boom to drop. I was even afraid to book a hair appointment, because what was the point if I was going to lose my hair because of chemotherapy again. But I booked that appointment and I'm planning my life.

All those twinges, cramping and pain must be my new "normal." As Dr. W said, that's every cancer survivor's delimma - how to figure out the new normal versus signs of the disease's return.

Now, I still have shadowy sections in my CT scan. I have a 10 mm lesion near the dome of my liver - but I had that before I had my cancer surgery. Dr. P didn't remove it then, so I doubt it's cancer. I also have a "stable mesenteric lesion measuring 2 x 1.6 cm anteriorly, which is just below the stomach." They saw it in October and it's now smaller. So who knows.

The CT report says these two remaining lesions (on the liver and below the stomach) may represent some burnt out residual disease and no new lesions have developed. (I like the word burnt out - die cancer die.) Okay, I can live with lesions in my body, as long as they either stay exactly the same size or shrink.

It's funny how much I like the word unremarkable. My gallbladder, spleen, adrenals, kidneys, pancreas, aorta and GI tract are unremarkable. Yippee!

So, my bloating is from eating too much, eating the wrong stuff, too much beer, stress or a virus. Oh well, so I'm squishy and fat. I don't have cancer again! I can work on my weight issues. But then again, maybe not too hard, because I'm going to enjoy life. Let's enjoy life together.

I felt the love and prayers today. Thank you.

Dance with me my friends for the news is good.


Monday, February 1, 2010

On pins and needles

Today is going to be a tough day; a day of waiting. I was able to mostly distract myself on the weekend with friends, canasta, Carling, food and music. It was great. But today, I work and and I'm going to have trouble concentrating because of my worried mind.

I get the results of the CT scan tomorrow. I'm fearful the cancer is back (or I have an infection) due to some of the symptoms I'm experiencing. Twinges of occasional pain have turned into a pressure in my lower abdomen and I feel a burning sensation in my pubic region. Sometimes, I also feel bloated.

The problem with ovarian cancer - and why they call it the disease that whispers - is the symptoms are so subtle and could be attributed to other diagnoses.

So I wait for the verdict tomorrow. Then I'll either dance for joy (and seek antibiotics for my infection) or go into fight mode. Let's pray it's the former. Now isn't that ironic, I'm hoping for an infection.

I know my village is also on pins and needles today, just waiting for the opportunity to dance. And for that I'm thankful.