Monday, May 31, 2010

Suffocating anxiety

As this Monday marches on, my nemesis fear is singing louder and more beseachingly in my ear. I'm munching on my lunch, but I feel as though a giant tensor bandage is wrapped around my head, neck and chest, creating an uncomfortable squeezy feeling. I'm anxious and over-emotional. Yup, it's the day before the appointment with the oncologists.

I was able to meander through last week, feeling calmer as the week went on. I was super productive at work and was quite cheery. Then I had a great weekend, visiting with my family, attending a wedding and getting lots of outdoor chores done. The weather couldn't have cooperated more. I was able to bury my thoughts (and subsequently my fears) about what the doctors' visits may hold.

But it's too close now. My appointments begin at 10:15 tomorrow. I see both my gynaecological oncologist and the research oncologist. I have no idea what will happen at these appointments or what their outcomes may be. I don't know if I'll be able to keep up the new life I've created for myself or if I'll once again do a 180 degree turn that lands me on a new path (or makes me revisit an old one).

My sister and I have been comparing notes on the pains over the past week or so. The bloating and gnawing stomach pain (that disappeared last week, of course), could be an ulcer. The rib pain and discomfort may be related to the gallstones one of my CT scans identified. Maybe I've had a virus. Maybe I'm just too fat and my body is uncomfortable. The fact the symptoms seem to come and go perplexes us, for surely ascities would only continue to get worse. Or maybe we're trying to be hopeful and identify other, less serious medical problems that could explain the pains.

I guess we'll know tomorrow. Hopefully, the news is good. But even if it isn't, I know I have the strength and support system to continue the journey and whatever it brings. I love my life and all the people in it. I'm going to do anything I can to keep it.

As for today, while I know I'd be much better off telling myself there's nothing I can do until tomorrow, enjoy today and face whatever happens when it happens, I can't do it. The overwhelming anxiety is too immense to shove back into my subconscious.

So fear will reluctantly be allowed to tap dance across my mind and tie my stomach in knots until tomorrow. I'll try to distract it with meetings, my cancer survivor group and other enjoyable activities, but I doubt I'll be able to interrupt its dramatic fanfare.

Tomorrow will provide the results of my CT scan and some answers. Fingers crossed, they're good.


Friday, May 28, 2010


As I experience symptoms and think about the reoccurence of cancer, I get fearful. Sometimes it's irrational and out of control. To combat this overriding emotion, my therapist suggested I write a letter to fear. By personifying this powerful emotion, perhaps I'll be able to better manage it (since I don't let overpowering people control me).

Ironically, with my appoinmtent with the oncologists to review my CT scan coming up on Tuesday, I'm strangely calmer and less fearful. Am I subconsciously confident all will be okay? Am I accepting of whatever the future may hold, facing each challenge that's thrown on my path? Has thinking about this letter-writing exercise worked?

Regardless of why, it's a better feeling. Hopefully I can maintain it during the weekend because it's supposed to be a beautiful one.

So here's my letter to that controlling emotion, fear.

Dear Fear,

Back off! Sure, you have a place in my life, but you’re getting way too pushy for my liking.

I don’t know who you think you are, trying to take over. I think we’d both be further ahead if you stayed in your place and did your job. Then I wouldn’t hate you and grow frustrated at the person you make me become.

You do have a valuable role to ensure my safety. When you stick to your job of warning me of danger, you can be a valuable friend. It’s you that encourages me to lock my doors at night, wear a bicycle helmet, be extra cautious when driving my motorcycle and look both ways before I cross a street. The fight or flight instinct you initiate is valuable and saves many a life.

But, I’m sick and tired of you trying to control my life. You’re being a sneaky bastard too, popping up when I least expect it, whispering in my ear, drawing attention to aches and pains that may mean absolutely nothing to my overall health. When you make a production out of it, the pains join in the folly, growing in size and importance. It’s a show I don’t enjoy and I want no part of it.

I do need to be aware of the signs of ovarian cancer’s return, but you take any little ache and turn it into a major production. What a drama queen, you are.

Instead, quietly tap me on the shoulder and remind me to pay attention. Tell me you think it’s probably nothing, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware. Let the evidence of the symptoms speak for themselves.

But no, you barrel down my consciousness, exaggerate each twinge, bring up every miserable memory of fighting cancer so I dread facing it again, and almost drive me crazy with panic.

Your overriding presence makes my stomach knot, my muscles ache with tension and my mind numb with worry. When you’re really singing and dancing to gain my attention, I feel as though I’m being squeezed around my arms all the way into my heart. You’re like a giant boa constrictor, immobilizing me.

I’m frustrated with the way you make me feel. You tamp down on my optimism and enthusiasm. You block me from finding pleasure in the small miracles every day brings. You prevent me from simply enjoying my life. Your actions make me want to ignore you; throw your advice to the curb.

You are valuable to my life and my health, but only if you tone it down. I can’t trust you unless you become an adviser and a friend, instead of trying to hog the spotlight of my mind.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gilda's disease (and mine too)

Golden Gilda
Recently, I read a book about Gilda Radner, the comedienne most famous for her characters on Saturday Night Life, who died of ovarian cancer. She'd suffered symptoms of the disease for almost a year before she was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer (the highest stage). She fought it for three years before dying in 1989.

In some ways, it was a difficult read because it contain excerpts written by Gilda herself (in her own book, It's Always Something). She talked about her fear, frustration, anger, disbelief and exhaustion. In many ways, I could relate to her experience.

The book was written by Gilda's husband, Gene Wilder, in collaboration with an oncologist. So it also discussed the stages of ovarian cancer, the treatments (and their history), the effects on the body, and survival rates based on treatments, type of disease and staging.

These medical details were also difficult to digest because I've taken a step away from treatment during remission, so it's easier for me to forget those unsettling details because I've pushed them to the back of my mind.

While the book was challenging to read, it was also rewarding. I somehow feel closer to this woman, who died 21 years ago. I only vaguely remember her from SNL, but her situation and her story touched me. I feel an affinity because we suffered from the same awful disease.

I also found it a little encouraging to read how ovarian cancer treatment has progressed over the years. Hopefully newer breakthroughs will increase the survival rates (or eradicate all cancer entirely). Gilda died 21 years ago. Surely research has improved treatment and longevity rates during those many years.

Michael is now reading this book, Gilda's Disease, but says he has to digest it in small chunks. He finds it disturbing and emotionally draining, so he has to mentally process the information before he can read further.

Fewer survivors = less publicity
In a way, it bothers me that there are few famous ovarian cancer survivors - the most notable ones (or those I recognized) are Kathy Bates and Carol Channing. However, many famous women died from the disease including, Queen Mary I, Coretta Scott King (widow of Martin Luther King Jr.), Ann Dunham (mother of Barack Obama), Marcheline Bertrand (mother of Angelina Jolie) and Dinah Shore (actress). Scanning the list of famous folks who've had ovarian cancer startled me because of the young age at which many died.

However, there is an abundance of famous people who've survived breast cancer and talk about it regularly, including Sheryl Crow, Christina Applegate, Melissa Etheridge, Kylie Minogue and Kate Jackson, to name just a few. These individuals have raised the profile and accelerated fundraising efforts for this form of cancer.

Don't get me wrong. I think any form of cancer research is valuable, because a breakthrough in one area may lead to developments to fight others. The list of famous individuals affected by breast cancer is also much longer, highlighting that many more are diagnosed with that horrible disease (yes, I think any form of cancer is horrible).

I guess I'm a little sad at the lower profile of this silent killer. Perhaps if ovarian cancer could get a famous spokesperson like Angelina Jolie or Patrick Demsey (whose mom survived the disease), it would get a higher profile, more women would be familiar with its vague symptoms and get treatment earlier, and it would get more research funding.

Quick update on mom
I've been asked to provide an update on my mom every once in a while. She started her third round of chemotherapy yesterday. It was the big dose day; the one where she gets the taxol, carboplatin and gemcitabine.

I've already heard from her this morning and she says she's feeling pretty good. The tingling in her extremities hasn't gotten any worse, so that's good. The doctor is a little concerned about her low red blood cell counts, so she may need a transfusion at some point.

She's mentally geared up for the bad days (Saturday and Sunday), but is taking advantage of the good ones. Way to go mom!

It's a good reminder that we all need to take advantage of those good days.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I've never looked at one of those dating sites because I'm happily married and started dating Michael before their evolution, but I guess my profile would state that I like reading, writing, swimming, cooking, dancing, hanging out with friends, big dogs, beach vacations and camping.

It would share that I'm a bit of an introvert and am an early to bed/early to rise individual. And for the most part, I'm a quiet optimist who likes chillaxin'.

Of course, all these revelations would be without considering my kids or my cancer because they're not the point of this exercise. So what is the point?

Michael made a comment on the weekend that got me thinking. We were talking about how we're a perfect match and couldn't imagine being with anyone else. I said I was thankful for the dance where we met because I'm not sure if our paths would have crossed otherwise.

Then Michael asked if I thought a dating site would match the two of us. My initial reaction was, "Of course!" He looked at my skeptically, so I reconsidered my immediate answer.

While Michael loves camping, swimming, beach vacations, hanging out with friends and dogs too, he's an extrovert, loves playing and listening to music of all kinds, gardens, cycles regularly and likes to be busy most of the time. We have many things in common and absolutely love spending time together, but would we fit the criteria for a match? I don't know.

We're so great together not only because of the similarities, but the differences that complement one another's.

So the heck with using a computer to find a perfect match because chances are, it wouldn't have given Michael and me a chance. God paved the path for us to meet and we took advantage of the opportunity, working hard to build a great life together. I have absolutely no regrets. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?


Monday, May 24, 2010

Against my nature

I like that every time I visit my social worker, I learn something new about myself. While most new personal insights give me something to work with to change my actions or outlook, every once in a while, I'm stumped by the discovery.

During my appointment last week, we talked about how I feared the cancer was back. She asked what I would do if it were. I said, I'd go back to fighting, of course. Although I did admit, that sometimes, my mind travelled down the road to acceptance of the eventuality of my death. I told S, that reaction scared me because I felt as though I were giving up.

Then she asked if fighting or giving up were the only two options. That question stopped the conversation dead in its tracks for a beat or two. I floundered. I could think of no other middle ground in the response to cancer and told her so.

But fighting is not in your nature, she said, revealing an insight she'd learned through our many sessions together. Again, I was speechless. She's right. Harmony is one of my personality traits. I shy away from conflict. I don't stir the pot. I don't generate discord. I'd rather have a reasonable discussion than fight. If I'm hot and angry, I shut down until I calm down before raising the issue. Conflict makes me uncomfortable.

Of course, she did say protective instincts would kick in and I'd fight if I had to protect my children (or someone else I love, I thought).

So where does that leave me? If I don't fight cancer, won't it best me? Don't those same protective instincts kick in?

Every piece of literature and supportive message I've read tells me to fight the cancer? I've never heard any other term. What else would I do? Dance with the cancer? Live with it? Accept the disease. No!

S pointed out that fighting is against my nature and maybe that's why I'm so tired. I'm doing (or thinking about the necessity of doing) something that makes me uncomfortable and doesn't come easily to me. I've contemplated this conflict, but I don't know how I could react any other way.

Huh. So where does that leave me?


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gift of time

I learned about a tragic incident this week that got me thinking about my situation. A friend suddenly lost a dear friend. The man, in his early 30s, died suddenly because his heart stopped working. The malfunction wasn't due to genetics, lifestyle or outside influences. It was a freak incident that could happen to anyone.

This guy lived each day to the fullest, and those around him knew how much he cared. So he had no regrets.

How many of us can say that?

In a way, my cancer makes me lucky because it's opened my eyes to mortality and allowed me to change. It's given me the gift of time, so I can do more, say more and appreciate more.

I now try not to bumble through life without noticing the little gifts each day brings and the joy of the people around me. Right now, I'm enjoying the giggles of my daughter as she plays with our dog and the feel of the breeze wafting in from the living room window. The birds are singing, the rain is showering the grass with drink and my husband loaded the dishwasher.

I have to admit that sometimes when I get hugs or tell people I love them, I get sad, wondering what the future has in store for me. But that may be part of the gift. I realize how precious things are because of the awareness of my mortality; because I know I won't always be around to enjoy them.

In the past, I've said that I want to die suddenly, in my sleep (at a very old age). While old age is still my goal (even if it's somewhat unreasonable) I think I'd like to leave this world in the presence of someone I love. But in the meantime, I'm fortunate because I've learned to enjoy life a lot more while I'm meandering my way towards death.

We're all on the same journey, the path may just be shorter for some than others. We never know when the grim reaper will come knocking on our door, so it's important to live each day to its fullest.

Don't get me wrong. This blog isn't about sadness or fear, it's about enjoyment, love, blessings and appreciation. I'm very thankful that I marvel at the colour of the sky, enjoy the feel of little arms hugging me, anticipate playing cards and laughing with friends, and feel love in the strong embrace of my husband.

A couple of years ago, I would have taken these things for granted, not noticing their wonderful qualities. So, cancer brought this small gift. Unlike those who die suddenly, I have the opportunity to change my viewpoint and actions for the better.

What would you like to change? Don't put it off because life can toss some wicked hardballs.

But most of all, enjoy this Saturday of a long weekend. It's full of possibilies.

With grateful appreciation,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Of course

It's just my luck. I experience a dose of good luck and then run into a glitch along the way.

I'm considering my quick CT appointment good luck. I'm not even going to consider that my doctor put me at the top of the list in the event of a cancellation. I don't want to consider the ramifications and get the fear churning in my gut again. So, I'm going to consider it fortuitous and leave it at that.

But, does the process go smoothly for me. No.

Oh, it was chugging along just fine at the beginning. I arrived on time and finished my radioactive water ahead of schedule. I was called in fairly quickly, and I thought I'd be in and out so I could continue on with my day.

But the technician had trouble finding a vein for the IV. He tried a small one in my left forearm, but it quickly shrank away from the intrusive needle and collapsed. He couldn't find any other veins he liked and didn't want to root around in my arms, so he called the special IV team.

I completely understand these specially skilled nurses are in high demand, so I knew I'd wait awhile. They wrapped my arms in warm blankets to encourage the veins to open up and I looked a bit like the Michelin man.

But as I was sitting alone in the back room with only my thoughts for company, I started imagining my potential future. I realized that hospitals and tests were going to be a part of the rest of my life. On our 15th anniversary, I felt sad Michael and I would probably spend a lot of our time in hospitals. And I started to cry.

Luckily, another nurse must have sensed my distress and talked to me. I told her I was worried about my husband who was sitting in the waiting room, wondering what happened to me. The sweet soul got him and brought him back to wait with me. Michael said he didn't care what our future involved, as long as we were together. His words and presence calmed me down and cheered me up.

He also brought his luck, because a short while later, the IV nurse arrived, found a vein and with only minor, stinging pain, inserted the needle. Within 15 minutes, I was done the entire scan and getting dressed to exit into the sunny, beautiful day.

On a side note, the strangest thing happened yesterday. I don't even know what to make of this. On the way to the appointment, I was stretching, curling my abdomen up and in (like you're supposed to do when you do crunches). All of a sudden, it felt as thought my insides rolled backwards and got stuck, bringing incredible pain.

I told Michael to pull over so I could get out and walk around - as if to allow the internal organs, cavities and whatever else is in there, to fall back in their proper locations. It hurt so much I thought I was going to throw up.

I'd had a similar incident (on a much, much smaller scale) before I was diagnosed. I was sitting cross-legged on a chair and lifted myself by my arms to reposition myself. Then it felt as though something that curled up got stuck in my abdomen. It only lasted a few seconds and caused minimal pain, but I remember thinking it was weird. In retrospect, I guess it could have been the tumour.

Hopefully my gut-rolling incident was due to internal scar tissue or something. But needless to say, I'll be mentioning it to my doctors when I see them on June 1.

On a happier note, Michael and I celebrated in style yesterday with dinner at Michael's on the Thames. We had the chateaubriand for two, which is cooked right at the table and served with about 12 different kinds of vegetables. We also indulged in an appetizer, glass of wine, dessert and coffee. Throw in Michael's excellent company and the evening was just about perfect. We toasted to celebrating our 25th (and 50th anniversaries) in the future.

I find myself smiling this morning. Despite the setbacks at the CT scan (and that I even need one), the potential reoccurence of my cancer and the strange pains in my body, I consider myself a lucky woman. I have so many blessings in my life and I'm going to enjoy each and every one of them - for as long as I can.

Besides, it's the Friday of a long weekend and I'm headed to Port Franks (aka, the spa). Life is good.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another step forward

When I made the choice not to stagnate yesterday, God decided to help with my quest.

A nurse from the cancer centre called yesterday afternoon to offer me an appointment for a CT scan today. Someone had cancelled and presented an open time. Of course, I took the appointment (otherwise I'd have to wait until the end of June). I'd rather know and deal with the results than wait, wonder and worry.

So I will go drink the 1.5 L of radioactive water, get the IV contrast and expose my body to the radioactive rays of the machine. All to produce some grey lumps and squiggles for the doctors to interpret. Then they'll be able to tell me what the heck is happening in my abdomen.

My follow-up appointment with BOTH Dr. P and Dr. W is set for June 1. I don't know why I'm seeing two doctors. Dr. W is a researcher and presents clinical trial opportunities. If the cancer is back, I doubt I'd qualify for a research study. Even if it's not, I didn't qualify before, so I don't think I'd be a candidate now. I guess I'll find out on June 1. Luckily, that's less than two weeks away.

Apparently, my last-minute appointment kiboshed some special plans for Michael. It's our 15th anniversary today and he was going to surprise me with a picnic lunch in the park across from my work. Now, we'll be spending noon hour in the hospital. My lunch will consist of radioactive liquids. Doesn't quite compare to the plans my sweetie had in mind.

For better, for worse, in sickness and in health - Michael is there through it all and (amazingly) loves me all the more. He's my rock, my soulmate, my true companion.

Spending our anniversary lunch in the hospital, while unromantic and clinical, seems slightly appropriate given the past year. Luckily, we have celebratory dinner reservations at a very nice restaurant for this evening where we can mark this special occasion properly.

Yup, I'd marry him all over again, and I couldn't imagine anyone better to share this journey called life.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New day, new focus

It's a new day, the sun is shining and I'm more hopeful.

Yesterday was a bad day. I got stuck in the rabbit warren of negative thoughts and feelings. I wandered through its confusing tunnels with dead ends and oppressive, dirt walls. Fear coursed through my body, amplifying each ache and pain I'm feeling, which made me even more afraid. As a result, I was stuck on the hamster wheel of negative emotions.

I'm going to have bad days. I'm going to experience fear and doubt. It's part of the disease. It's especially part of ovarian cancer with its high likelihood of reoccurence and vague symptoms.

I learned yesterday from my therapist, that while I have fear and sometimes talk about it, I don't let it all out. I don't want to burden/scare those around me (whom I love) and therefore I don't feel I can safely let it all out of its cage. While I'm quite honest here in my blog, I still hold back.

Part of me thinks "Suck it up, Tina." I'm sick and tired of hearing myself complain, so I figure others have also had enough of the negative emotions and cyclical nature of my fear. But it's part of the journey - the not-so-pretty part.

She also taught me that by thinking about how others will react makes me true to their needs, not my own. Huh. It's an interesting observation but I'm not sure it's something that I can change about myself. I have to give it more thought.

My therapist also helped me understand that I don't have to let my fear control me. It could be a trusted advisor, giving me information with which to work. It can alert me to the pains and discomfort I have - and I have to listen to the messages it's giving me.

She said women typically tamp down their fear so they don't hurt someone's feelings. She used an example of a woman waiting for an elevator. While waiting for the car to arrive, a big man comes up and waits with her. He's kind of scary and her internal danger sensors go off. But when the elevator car arrives, she gets into an enclosed metal box with a man who's already ringing alarm bells. How stupid is that? But, typically as women, we don't want to hurt his feelings or appear weak by refusing to ride with him. That's ignoring the signals fear gives us.

In order to make friends with fear, I'm supposed to write a letter to it. By personalizing the emotion, I should be able to loosen its control on me. I don't let big, strong, overbearing people control me, so why do I let an emotion with the same characteristics do it? I'm willing to give it a try to see where it leads.

That's probably part of why I'm feeling better today. I have a purpose and a goal. I'm moving forwards instead of sitting stagnant in a pool of negative emotion.

It's a good thing to recognize emotions that are inhibiting us and discovering ways to use them to our advantage. I'm not proclaiming it's going to be easy or anticipating how successful I'll be, but I feel I'm taking steps in the right direction.

This cancer journey continues to be one of self discovery.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Down, down, down

The emotional roller coaster continues. It dipped way down this morning, leaving me with an upset stomach and a sense of panic.

As I soaped up in the shower this morning, I thought I felt a lump in my left armpit. I thoroughly probed the area, comparing it to my right one. After my mind let lose a string of profanities, I sunk into a bit of a funk.

Of course, it could be nothing. But considering I still have about a 45 per cent chance of getting breast cancer due to the BRCA gene mutation, my mind is swirling with the awful possibilities. Given that I had a breast MRI done in January (where my breasts were perfect) the likelihood of this being anything ominous is slim. But anxiety took root in my mind.

I thought I felt something in the left breast a couple of months ago and it went away. So I'll wait a week or so (monitoring the underarm area regularly) before I consider calling the breast specialist. Hopefully, it's some cyclical anomoly and will dissapear.

Naturally, I now feel as though the area is radiating a bright light. "I'm here, I'm here," it says. Combine this with the abdominal bloating and the random shooting pains or pressure in my abdomen, and I'm a walking bundle of nerves.

But my sister allowed me to vent when she called me this morning and I just talked with a friend, so I feel marginally better.

It didn't help that Tara was an emotional, little monster this morning. It was typically little girl stuff, but I didn't have the patience to deal with it.

Now as I sip my tea, I'm trying to relax. I'm trying to be positive. I think a slice of London Life carrot cake at lunch may help my mood. Then again, I may just be trying to justify the decadent treat.

I hate this emotional roller coaster, and what it does to me and those around me. I'd love to get off, brush myself off and say good riddance, but I think it's the nature of the disease to continue the ride. Though maybe one day, the big dips and spiralling loops won't be as dramatic. I look forward to that time.

Until then, one day at a time.


Monday, May 17, 2010


We had beautiful weather for the Run for Ovarian Cancer yesterday. It was an emotional, uplifting, exciting and exhausting day.

Team Tina had more than 50 members and raised over $11,000. With the generous London Life matching, we contributed over $17,000 to ovarian cancer research. I'm so proud and excited to be associated with such an amazing group of people. Who knows, maybe the dollars we contributed will lead to a breakthrough in detecting and treating this deadly cancer.

It was also an emotional day on many levels. I'm thrilled and honoured so many people come out to walk, run and fundraise as part of Team Tina. I don't feel I deserve that level of support and I feel so much love from those who participated, volunteered, came out to cheer or sponsored the run.

But it's also a difficult day because so many of those who valiantly fought ovarian cancer lost the battle. When diagnosed in its later stages, 60 per cent of women don't survive past four years. That statistic scares me and makes me so sad. These types of events, make me consider my own mortality and makes a voice in my head scream, "I'm not ready."

I did the 5k run yesterday, but I'm disappointed with how I did it. I walked more than ran and I was a sweaty, sore wreck. Michael, who was by my side the entire way, tells me he's proud of me and that I should be happy I simply completed the course. He tells me I'm wise for listening to my body. I just wish my body didn't tell me to stop so often.

But then again, I am here, one year later. Last year, when I promised to participate in this year's run, I wasn't sure I could stick to my word. But I did. Next year (oooh, it's scary to even say that), God willing, I'll be back to give it another try. If I'm able, I promise to train and do a better job.

I feel a bit teary today from yesterday's high emotions. I'm also a little behind on my sleep, which I'm sure doesn't help. I also feel at a bit of a loss because it's over. But I also feel very, very loved. And that makes me feel very happy and extremely lucky.

Thank you all,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Appointment update

My appointment this morning was quick and I left with no definitive answers.

Dr. P is sending me for a CT scan because of my vague symptoms. He tapped my belly (and it sounded hollow, which was a relief), and conducted a vaginal and rectal exam. He said, he may have felt something during the rectal exam, but it could be nothing.

Since my CT scans haven't been entirely clear with their squiggly grey shapes, it probably isn't a bad idea to have another one done to rule out growth. I know it'll make me feel better if it comes back unremarkable. I know CT scans aren't good for me, and they could actually cause cancer, but I need to know my situation.

Dr. P's nurse, Kay, informed me that when ascities returns, it's very noticable, very quickly. That was quite reassuring. Michael and I also asked the somewhat stupid question of, "If all the gynaecological parts (including ovaraies) are missing, how can ovarian cancer return?" Apparently, it likes to grow on the walls and linings still remaining within the abdomen. She said sometimes a tumour will grow there, which requires another surgery.

But I'm not jumping to any conclusions. I feel slightly better after the appointment. Again, it's the waiting game - waiting for the CT scan to be scheduled, having it done, going to a follow-up appointment with Dr. P. This round isn't over, but I feel as if I have a slight reprieve.

In the meantime, I have a great weekend planned, which I'm going to enjoy. Friends are coming for dinner tomorrow night, and then the Run for Ovarian Cancer and a Survivor finale party are on Sunday. I also feel more cheerful with the reappearance of the sun and blue sky. It's a good day to be alive.



Picture it:

Your car is making a funny noise. It goes ka-chunk, ka-chunk every time you brake. So you make an appointment with the mechanic to get it checked out. But on the day of the appointment, you drive to the shop and your vehicle is miraculously ka-chunk free. When you try to replicate the sound for the mechanic, nada.

That's a bit how I feel. I go see the oncologist for my three-month check up this morning. Last night, I felt less gaseous than I had in weeks and many of the pains I'd been having took a hiatus. I have a few minor aches this morning, but they're not so bad.

In short, I'm cautiously hopeful everything could be okay. I want to be positive, but it's very, very hard. Fear is a crazy, controlling, draining emotion.

But unlike the situation with the mechanic, where you know something is wrong with your car that's going to cost some big bucks, I'm hoping there's nothing wrong with my body and I can go on living disease-free. Summer is coming and there are way too many enjoyable things to go.

(Fingers crossed all goes well this morning. Yes, I'm still nervous.)


Thursday, May 13, 2010


Like a dog chasing its tail, my thoughts circled through my mind between 3:23 and 4:30 a.m. I woke up to go to the bathroom, but then my worries and ideas decided to gambol around my head and keep me awake instead of letting me slide back into slumber. As a result, I'm a little rough around the edges this morning.

In the middle of the night, I thought about my upcoming appointment with my oncologist, the weird aches and pains I've been experiencing, how I would be pissed if the cancer was back, my husband, my kids, my mom, Gilda Radner, the upcoming Run for Ovarian Cancer on Sunday and how I was going to arrange my shrunk cube to create a cozy workspace. Whew!

Of course, I had a hot flash or two in the midst of all that heavy thinking.

At one point, I contemplated getting up to write a blog or read a book instead of lying in the dark. But thankfully, my persistence to sleep paid off and I managed to doze for a couple more hours.

About the run, I'm excited to say that I'm back on top of the fundraisers (at least temporarily) thanks to some extreme generosity. I have my feelers out for a few more donations, so hopefully they'll come through (donate here). Not necessarily because I have to be top fundraiser (although that would be an absolute honour) but because it would produce even more research dollars.

As for today, I suspect I'll keep myself well caffeinated to prevent me from sleeping under my desk and turn in a little early. Hopefully, I'll be able to sleep tonight and won't dwell on my appointment tomorrow. I'd appreciate a good thought or a prayer around 9 a.m. It certainly can't hurt.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I know I shouldn't be disappointed. Yesterday, I lost the top fundraising spot for the Run for Ovarian Cancer.

I know all the money goes to the same great cause - research to find better ways to detect and treat ovarian cancer.

I know I've done my best, asking almost everyone I know to sponsor me. Of course, I'm also competing for donation dollars with my husband, kids, dad, sister, brother-in-law, mother-in-law and friends. I've stepped outside of my comfort zone to ask for support from people I usually wouldn't approach with this type of request.

I know I should be proud of myself, but a teeny, tiny part of me is still disappointed (How petty, eh?).

Don't worry, I will get over it by Sunday and be cheering for all the awesome participants and volunteers for their hard work and their fundraising efforts. We'll all celebrate.

In the end, the researchers, and ultimately the women with ovarian cancer who benefit from their work (me! me!), are the real winners from this event.

The Run for Ovarian Cancer is this Sunday, so there's still time to donate (yes, my last ditch effort pitch).

Thank you to everyone who is participating in or donated to stop the silent stalker, ovarian cancer. Every dollar raised can make a difference. A special thank you to all those wonderful volunteers/organizers who make this event possible. The amazing efforts of all involved are what make this run a success.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Today, I am afraid.

This morning, as it has for the week or so, my stomach hurts. While it mostly dissipates during the course of the day, it's an unusual symptom and worries me. My back hurts too.

These pains makes me wonder and worry if the ovarian cancer is back, or if the disease has decided to build a home in another part of my body.

All the cancer survivors in my group last night nodded in understanding when I mentioned my fears in light of my coming appointment. They all experience the same thing. One woman even mentioned that every pain makes her question her health. I get it. They get me.

I try to be positive. Today it's difficult. I have to keep telling myself to breathe. I feel I may dissolve into tears. I'm overemotional.

Cancer really sucks.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I love massages

Massage therapists are worth their weight in gold.

After a last-minute massage appointment Saturday morning, I felt better than I had in a couple of weeks. When booking the appointment on Friday night, I wondered if some of the pains I was experiencing were caused by tight muscles. I had to test my theory, if only to ease my mind. Of course, the wonderful benefits of a massage couldn't hurt either.

Jess worked her magic on all the muscles from the base of my skull to my lower back. She needed to use trigger point therapy on tightened balls of muscles from my mid back up. As a result, I'm still sore and bruised from the experience, but it's worth it.

The pain in my ribs (that I was afraid was due to returning ascities) lessened significantly. It's amazing the connection between the various body parts.

I hadn't seen a massage therapist in a couple of months. Why didn't I go earlier if it helps so much? Well, I only had one more appointment with benefits coverage until July 1. I was trying to save that one last appointment, but I obviously needed it now.

I may have to shell out some bucks so I don't have to go another month and a half without the muscle-relaxing benefits. If this weekend's appointment is any indication, I suspect it will be money well spent.


Friday, May 7, 2010


"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends." - Walt Whitman

"Friendship is always a sweet responsibilty, never an oppourtunity." - Kahil Gibran

I think I've been so wrapped up in myself lately that I've failed some of my friends. I've been excited about my vacation, worried about my mom and her chemotherapy, nervous about my health and wrapped up in my work. As a result, I haven't been a very good friend.

I am very, very lucky because I have many awesome people in my life. But as the quote above reminds us, friendship is a responsibility. It takes work to continue to cultivate friendship. I learned yesterday that I've failed a dear friend - one I don't want to lose in my life because she's a giving, kind soul.

I also learned from my social worker and my husband, that not vocalizing my needs could be jeopardizing relationships. How can others be there for me (and I'm lucky that people do want to help), if I don't tell them what I need?

This advice came when I shared a story about Monday night. I went to my cancer survivor support group, yet didn't feel connected. I went home feeling alone and in need of a hug. Michael had been working for over two hours, trying to install a new lock on our front door. He'd broken drill bits, scratched paint, had to cut away a piece of the door and had a lot of trouble. By the time I got home, he was extremely frustrated so when I walked in the door, he vehemently vented to me.

I understood his frustration, but his words hit me like a wall and I walked away. I didn't get what I needed, which was reassurance, love and a hug. My therapist said maybe if I asked him for that hug, he would have felt needed and useful (which the work on the door wasn't doing) and I would have gotten what I needed. That was a bit of an eye opener for me.

My friend, told me what she needed and how she felt when she expressed her frustration about our relationship yesterday. It hurt, but I appreciate the honesty because thankfully our friendship means enough to her to say something to me.

These two situations this week taught me that I need to work harder on my friendships and tell others what I need to help relationships grow (including the one with Michael). So what do I need?

I'd appreciate a little patience from others. I know I'm not always rational in my fears, but I honestly can't help it. I can't just brush it off or forget about it. Cancer is a cunning beast that stalks all the time. Some days I'm better able to deal with the threat of the disease than others. I know I'm a basket case and over-emotional. Other times I'm oblivious to others because I'm selfish or worried. Please forgive me. I'm only human.

I also need sympathetic ears. I try not to talk about cancer too much because I feel I'm burdening others or that some really don't want to hear about it. Sometimes I need to talk (including all my irrational fears), but don't necessarily know who may be receptive to the discussion. And yes, I know I repeat myself and am not always logical. I struggle with the disconnect between the logical and emotional mind.

Hugs always help too.

So, my lesson on this sunny, but cool, Friday is to work a little harder on the relationships in my life. My friends are golden, as they proved many times over. They make life (and the fight for it) worthwhile.

Thank you, my friends.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nervous again

I haven't felt quite right for a couple of weeks now, which makes me nervous. I feel gaseous and bloated, which are both signs of ovarian cancer. I get full quickly, another sign. I also have some pains in my stomach and ribs. Bingo.

Now, I managed to mostly ignore them when I was in Myrtle Beach. Since my check up appointment is next week, am I noticing pains more? Am I once again being a hypocondriac, imagining symptoms that really aren't there? I don't know. What I do know, is this drives me crazy.

Especially since this appointment with Dr. P will probably involve a blood test to check my CA-125 level and a discussion. That's it. I guess if my CA-125 levels skyrocket, I know I'm in trouble. But what else will he do? Will he run any additional tests? I think I'd feel more comfortable having scientific proof the cancer is not back. Then maybe my brain will leave my body alone.

This fear of reoccurence is common among cancer survivors. I noticed in my survivor group that we monitor our tests results and anticipate our appointments. In some ways, I think we all live with a little fear that it's coming back - and we don't want to deal with it again.

I'm sick of complaining and tired of being scared. (And I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it.) But it's one of those steps on the journey with cancer. I feel like a hamster, stuck on a wheel of cycling emotions - hope, normalcy, fear, paranoia, relief.

Of course, if my cancer is back, I'll fight the fight for as long as I have the strength in me. But I just don't want to go through it all again.

So the anxious, sad period begins yet again. It'll probably last until a medical professional declares me healthy.

Let's just pray he does.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grammar geeks

I am a self-professed grammar geek. As a writer and communication specialist, that's a good skill to possess; however, I think I sometimes drive others crazy with my fastidious attention to the English language.

I think Michael sometimes chuckles as I correct announcers on the radio. I listen to a local talk radio show as I get ready for work in the morning. The radio personality regularly uses the word myself incorrectly and I'll verbally correct him as though the air waves were two-way communication devices.

"Give Ryan or myself a call," he'll announce. Using myself does not make the conversation more polite, although I know many people incorrectly believe so.

If you removed John from the sentence, it would be, "Give myself a call," which most people can identify as incorrect. But adding an extra person somehow causes confusion.

"Give the book to mom or myself," is wrong too. Remove mom and the sentence sounds dumb. Give the book to me.

Unless someone is doing something for him or herself,

"I sent myself an email."
"I made the sandwich for myself."

the correct word is I or me, as in:

John and I sailed the boat around the bay.
Mary talked to Larry and me.

I'm straight laced with my grammar rules too. I abhor written sentences that end in a preposition (for, by, to, above, beneath, about, across, after, on, etc.), it drives me crazy when the wrong form of its/it's is used and I shudder when people use apostrophes incorrectly.

No, you don't add an apostrophe to make a noun plural. It's not apostrophe's, horse's or monkey's. Even when the word is an acronym, it's still just an s, as in TVs, DVDs, RRSPs and CDs.

I was shocked when I went to the opening of the new downtown London library and discovered its signs used the lowly little apostrophe incorrectly. Sigh.

While we don't use who and whom regularly in normal conversation, the written language really should continue to make a distinction. There's even an easy rule to follow. If you can answer the question with he or she, the word should be who. If him or her is the answer, use whom.

Who ate the pie? [He ate the pie.]

To whom are you giving that piece of apple pie? [It's for her.]

And no, it's not Who are you giving that piece of apple pie to? because the correct word is whom and the sentence should not end in the dreaded proposition!

Whom should you contact to get your own piece of pie? [Contact him to get a freshly baked piece of yummy pie.]

And don't even get me started with than and then, their, they're and there or compliment and complement.

The English language is crazy. Yes, I realize that I too am slightly crazy with my attention to detail. But someone has to do it. I feel slightly better because I'm not alone in my strident attempts to use proper grammar. I'm surrounded by fellow grammar geeks at London Life. If you can believe it, we even have grammar discussions. We regularly confer with our dictionaries and style guides. We love a well-written sentence.

We are geeks who believe we can improve the world, one apostrophe, comma or sentence at a time.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Not just good

A couple of years ago, I participated in a group creative exercise where we were asked to completed the phrase, "A good man . . ."

". . . doesn't exist," said one participant.

". . . takes out the garbage and cuts the lawn," chimed in another.

A third, added the old adage, " . . . is hard to find."

My answer was, and still is, "A good man is at home."

Last year while I was off fighting cancer, a friend reminded me of this exercise and my response. It may sound cliche, but I do have a good man at home. I'm very lucky to have Michael in my life.

We met just over 17 years ago at a St. Joseph's Health Centre event. Unlike many of my friends who were already paired up, I was single at 26 years old. I'd been accused of being too picky and chastised for turning dates down when I wasn't interested in the individual asking. I'd just given up the idea of finding someone and decided to have a good time with my friends. As the saying goes, just when you least expect it . . .

The story is a little embarassing (to me), but I'll share the highlights anyway. That spring night, I'd been consuming some cold ones with some friends before a charity dance. When I met Michael, who arrived with a date, my immediate reaction was, "Wow!" Later on in the evening, the beers started talking and I told him I thought he was attractive.

The next morning, I kept berating myself for being so stupid, for being so forward, for drinking too much. Little did I know that when he went to family dinner that afternoon, he told his family he'd met someone. I guess I made an impresssion even in my off-kilter state.

We started dating two days after meeting and have been together ever since. In a couple of weeks, we'll celebrate 15 years of marriage. I guess waiting for Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right Now paid off for me.

Michael is incredibly supportive and loving. We've experienced our share of tribulations - Michael's ankle woes and surgeries, my difficult pregnancy, Noah's bipolar, ovarian cancer - but most of the time, they've made our relationship stronger.

Even when I broached going to Myrtle Beach with my sister, I didn't even get the words out of my mouth when he told me to go. He's a generous, kind individual and I can't even imagine my life without Michael.

I guess I knew with that first "wow" that I'd met my soul mate. I'm lucky enough to have not just a good man, but a great one at home with me.