Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Healing torture?

They look pretty innocuous with their transluscent white coating and black lines. They're stored in a plain white bottled and delivered in a white paper sack. Yet, these unlabelled capsules could hold anything from a simple vitamin to a deadly toxin.

I believe they're my life saver; my chance to kill this ovarian cancer scourge. But after less than a week, I'm discovering the cost is pretty high.

When I toss those four capsules down my gullet every morning and night, I feel as though I'm purposefully poisoning myself. It's as if four acid-filled horsemen gallop down my throat and settle into my stomach and begin to battle with razor sharp jousts.

I eagerly popped those pills the first few days with internal chants of die cancer. But their cululative effect and my body's reactions now make me cringe before swallowing them. I will do it. It's my chance to live. But it's a pretty painful fight. Worse than anything I've been through before.

Last night was the worst so far. About 45 minutes after swallowing the capsules, I couldn't even sit still because I was in so much pain. I walked around the house, hoping burping would provide some relief. I rocked around on my feet, doubled over. I cried and moaned. I broke out in sweats and stumbled. I scared Michael, who wants to help relieve the pain; but there's nothing he can do.

I finally slipped into a fitful rest full of strange dreams and memories of the stomach pain. This morning, I woke and vomited. I'm now trying food with the hopes that it'll soak up some of the excess acid/drug/gunk left in my stomach.

Night seems to be my worst time. Maybe because I lie down to sleep, which prevents the internal juices from flowing. The side effects seemed more tolerable during the day yesterday, but again, last night's pain show could have been a build up of the drug in my system. Or maybe I'm nearing the end of the worst because I'm now five days post treatment and the chemo drugs may be almost out of my system.

Surely, an individual can't withstand this torture - for that's what it feels like - day after day. I think I'm a pretty strong individual, with a high pain tolerance and this drug already has me crying uncle. I see the doctor and research nurse today. Hopefully they can give me medication, strategies and insight on how to deal with this hideous beast called Olaparib.

It could be my saviour, but right now it feels as though it's killing me.

I want to say a quick thank you to those who've contacted me over the past couple of days. Just this morning, I woke to four encouraging emails, telling me to keep up the fight and that I'm not alone. They really help. It's a hell of a battle fighting this cancer, but it is easier when I know I have others by my side.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Forgetful phenomenon

Our minds go to great lengths to lessen the memories of pain or hardship. I truly believe women would not go through childbirth a second time if our minds didn't allow us to forget the pain of delivery and recovery. We'd all be running around with one-child families saying, "That's enough of that baby business, thank you very much."

My poor little mind, moved on from the chemotherapy experience. While I didn't feel good before I started treatment, with ascities blowing me up like a balloon, random vomiting, acid reflux and no room for food, gas or breathing, I'd forgotten how chemo kicks the crap out of me.

I thought I was getting off relatively unscathed until last night. I wrote it off to it being the first round (and I know the cumulative effects are going to make each subsequent one worse). Okay, it feels as though the chemotherapy and the Olaparib are sometimes eating my guts from the inside out and nausea is a regular occurrence in my day, but until last night, I'd escaped the bone pain and the general awful feeling.

When it arrived, I immediately wanted to lay my head on my pillow and escape into slumberland. But I had to wait until at least 9 p.m. to take my four Olaparib capsules. Sleep didn't come immediately after, as I'd hoped, but I slept fairly well until about 2:30 a.m. when unbearable stomach pain nudged me from my sleep. It's like wicked, acid-like gas and heartburn rolled into one.

I ate a few pretzels, hoping food would help. I chomped on a Maalox. I drank a little protein drink, hoping the milky coating would ease the burning in my gut. Luckily, after about 1/2 hour, the pain subsided enough to drift back into sleep. I'm going to have to talk to the research nurse about strategies for dealing with the gut-eating pain.

Despite the terrible evening and horrible night (and a small vomit this morning), I feel pretty good. I'm still tired and my stomach isn't behaving properly, but the bone pain seems to have retreated again and, knock on wood, food and drink still tastes pretty good.

But like last time, I can only take one day at a time. I will face each chemo cycle as it approaches. I will withstand each side effect as it arrives. I will survive. I will continue to put up with the crap, pain, depression and mood swings for the chance to keep on living.

What's your reason for getting out of bed and facing the day today? What are you anticipating? Who makes your world go around? Remember, we all face hardships to enjoy the good in every day. Remember what makes life great.


Monday, June 28, 2010

A witchy transformation

I don't know if it's the steroids or the chemotherapy drugs themselves, but my personality transformed over the weekend. I turned into a witch, with a great big, capital B.

I'd forgotten about this nasty little side effect of the treatment. I remembered the deep, dark depression. I remembered the bone pain. I remembered the skunky mouth taste and the withdrawal from life. But I failed to remember my metamorphisis. Maybe that's because I really don't like the person I become.

I guess it started on Saturday morning. I thought I was being direct and succinct with sales people. Michael enlightened me, explaining I was terse and curt. I felt my time was precious and people were too slow for my liking. Therefore, I thought I'd speed them along with a very clear idea of my expectations. Apparently, I was a little too direct.

Oh, and my patience tolererance is WAY down. Every little thing - spilling milk on the floor, one too many interruption, one misplaced comment - and I'm breathing fire (mostly internally, but sometimes it tumbles out my ears, nose and mouth at the fairly innocent bystanders). Although, that woman who wouldn't get out of the way at Costco yesterday afternoon would have deserved to hear my verbal blast for failing to move. Get out of the way!

Occassionally, I'll go from being this demon woman into a teary by-product of myself. I think it's because I so hate the nasty chick occupying my body right now. I hate how I treat my very supportive family when I'm like this. Luckily, Michael understands, and I think he tried to explain my strange behaviour to the kids last night. Regardless of how grumpy, nasty, impatient and witchy I become, he understands, our relationship is rock solid and we'll get thorough this together.

Luckily, I think it only lasts a few days - unless of course, the Olaparib is contributing to the problem.

On a side note, besides extreme restlessness, an inability to sleep properly, excessive peeing to expel the chemicals (and maybe some ascities), a lack of appetite, nausea, heartburn and a little stomach pain - and of course the nasty personality change - I've yet to experience the other chemo side effects. I'm mentally preparing for them to arrive today.

But of course, they're all worth it if it means I get to live. Die cancer die!

Your ill-tempered friend,

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feeling good

Round one down, five to go.

It's day one post chemo and I actually feel pretty good. I feel a bit nauseous, but I think that's due to the clinical trial drug. I noticed it when I took my four capsules last night, I had the sensation I was going to hurl them back up. The same feeling started after I swallowed the capsules this morning, but I took an extra special anti-nausea medication and it seemed to lessen.

It's all worth it if the Olaparib works.

Yesterday went quite smoothly, all things considered. The clinical research nurse met me in the chemo clinic at 8:30 a.m., we went over all the last minute paperwork and she showed me how to complete the study drug diary. She then handed over the first four capsules and much to her amazement, I swallowed all four, fairly large pills in one toss with a swallow of water. Her mouth literally dropped open and she said it takes some patients 15 minutes to get the drugs in. To which I replied, "See, I told you I was the ideal candidate for this drug study."

I had to wait an hour after taking the drug at 9:03 a.m., during which my chemo nurse gave me two more pills - one was Benadryl to prevent an allergic reaction and one to reduce heartburn. I started the pre-chemo drugs at 9:34 a.m. - with the second stick of the I.V. - and was done by 1:50 p.m. That's the quickest I've ever had all the drugs and associated liquids pumped into me. I'm not sure if it was giving me some of the drugs in pill form instead of via I.V. or whether because of my first allergic reaction in London, they always titrated the drugs in slower, but I was pleasantly surprised when the nurses said, "All done."

Even though I was tired at bedtime last night, I experienced the typical post-chemo restlessness and then when I woke to go to the bathroom at 2:30 a.m., I stayed awake for at least an hour before I drifted back into dreamland.

So all in all, I'm still doing well. I know my side effects are going to get worse before they get better, but at least I know that I'm doing something to kill that blased cancer. Mentally, I feel much better that we've started. I feel much more hopeful since I'm getting Olaparib in addition to the chemo.

I happily assume my role as the cancer slayer.


Friday, June 25, 2010

The war begins today

As my ribs hurt and my belly made me feel nauseous last night, I looked and it and said, "Oh, party on tonight, because the killing starts tomorrow."

Yes, I actually said that.

I feel today as if I'm preparing for war. This is only the first battle and the fight is going to go on for many, many months; but it all commences today. They'll be some casualties (those damn tumours) and injuries (my aches, pains and nausea), but those are the by-products of war.

Of course, I feel as though I now have a secret weapon in my arsenal - Olaparib. It increases my chances of beating back or killing this unholy invader for good.

Someone said I was starting to sound like Coach from Suvivor with all this talk of battles and being a warrior, well, if that's the case, I guess I'd like to be known as the cancer slayer. That has a nice ring to it because it implies death to the cancer. (Of course, I won't talk about myself in the third person like Coach. Way too annoying and conceited.)

Die cancer die!

From the cancer slayer,

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I am now an Olaparib girl! I just got a call from the research assistant at the cancer centre and she told me the computer randomly selected me to get the drug.

She said they don't get to choose who gets it, but if ever there was a time they wanted to ensure someone got the drug, this was it. I guess I made an impression.

It may make me sicker (make the chemo side effects worse), but I've got a better chance of fighting that damn cancer.

Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes. I'm in!

A thankful

A holding pattern

It must be fate that my chemo was postponed by a day. I'm not happy about it, but it allows me to relax a bit before the chaos begins. I have an extra day to rest, work, pack up the necessary essentials for the long day at chemo and generally organize life.

Even though I would have LOVED to have started killing cancer today, last night would have been crazy with getting Tara to her riding lesson, shuffling the kids to my in-laws, packing up the cancer bag and quaffing my anti-nausea medication. This way, I can take it all a bit slower.

I also got to see my mom briefly yesterday. Her appointment to get chemo and then two quarts of blood took a lot longer than expected. Angie accompanied her, as usual, but had her own appointments to attend yesterday afternoon. So Michael and I picked up mom and she waited for Angie at our house.

She's now completed round four of chemo and is doing relatively well. Her red blood cell counts were low, so she got a transfusion yesterday. She's also feeling very tired, which I hope the blood will remedy. Of course, there's the various aches and pains in the bones, which are mostly in her legs - but especially her knees. Those nasty chemo side effects!

But she's a trooper and only has two more rounds to go. Yay mom!

As she finishes round four, I start round one - tomorrow. The Thomas women are kicking some serious cancer butt!

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow morning, and send me good karma. Hope I get the Olaparib and it only takes one stick to get the chemo needle in.

Your trying-to-be-patient friend,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I just got a call from the cancer clinic that my chemo is postponed until Friday. They don't have enough time to input all the information related to the study into the computer in time for tomorrow. So I wait ANOTHER day.

While it's better to have the horrible side effects on Monday and Tuesday (which is when they'll be with chemo on Friday), I wanted to get the show on the road. I'm so tired of waiting.

I'd better be getting the Olaparib!


It's a beautiful day to prepare

It's a beautiful, sunny, summer day;  the kind I love.

I'm writing outside, with a warm breeze kissing my skin and the scent of flowers tickling my nose. The birds are chirping, the neighbourhood dogs barking and the air conditioner huming. It promises a cool retreat when the day heats up. Aaaah, summer in southerwestern Ontario.

I'm in prep mode today - mentally and physically. I don't have a lot of physical jobs on the agenda because I'm still quite sore. I think the fluid Dr. H drained from my belly had been sitting up under my ribs for too long and now I have a bruise, or owie (the technical term), under my left ribcage.

The jobs occupying the list include cleaning out the fridge and then hitting the grocery store to restock it. I may also putter a bit and clean up the space that will be my home office. I'll blog, respond to emails and write from that locale. That is, when I'm not outside enjoying the day Mother Nature provides.

Mentally, I need to gear up into fighting mode. I've been in a holding pattern for so long that it almost seems surreal that I'm going to get chemo tomorrow and start fighting this nasty disease. I haven't really contemplated how I'll feel this weekend, which may be a good thing since I'll feel absolutely terrible. I need to gather my notebook, my puke bucket, my thermometer and the other assorted paraphenalia associated with getting through the side effects. I've even blocked out some of the items I'll need because I thought I'd put that experience behind me.

Besides, with this waiting, I've felt like I've still got all the time in the world, which of course, now I don't.

The other to-do on my list is to fill the prescription for the anti-nausea medication that I'll start taking tonight. Five pills before bed and then five pills when I wake up. I'll also get some more to take for two days post-chemo to try to keep the nausea and vomiting at bay. It wasn't too bad last time, but if I'm on Olaparib, my experience my be more severe.

Yesterday was an adventure - a long, drawn out adventure - that I shared with my sister, Angie. We got lost a couple of times in Henderson Hospital, which is attached to the cancer clinic, trying to find ECG. Eventually we made it and my heart is just fine, thank you very much.

She sat beside me as I drank the peach-flavoured radioactive juice before my CT scan. I couldn't have anyting to eat or drink after 9 a.m. yesterday morning so when they handed me a cool drink at 1:15, I gulped a good portion of it down. I was parched.

We laughed at our wrong turns, she got me addicted to the brick breaker game on her Blackberry and we shared a very late lunch at the cancer centre cafe (including delicious pecan tarts). Even though I said I could go to this appointment by myself, I was happy for the company. She made it easier and more pleasurable. And thoughtful sister that she is, she even brought me a care-package chemo box filled with treats and chocolate to put in the chemo bag for tomorrow. What a sweetie.

This goregous day marks the last day of preparation because tomorrow the fight begins. I know you'll all be with me every step of the way and we will be victorious over this cancer.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

And the computer said . . .

Nothing yet. After six hours at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, I still don't know if I'm getting the clinical trial drug. Apparently, a radiologist has to read a couple of sections in my CT scan before Dr. H can enter all the information into the computer that will spit out whether I'm an Olaparib girl or not.

I got poked, prodded, scanned, examined and drained during my visit. Yup, Dr. H decided I needed paracentisis again or I was going to get too uncomfortable before the chemo could start drying up the fluid. He said it takes about 14 days once the chemo starts coursing through my bloodstream. By that time, I would have exploded. He drained another three litres from my abdomen. I do feel better.

But I'm really, really tired so I'll leave the storytelling for tomorrow's blog.

Suffice to say, I'll find out bright and early Thursday morning that I'm getting the drug (I'm trying the power of positive thought). My chemo is at 8:30 a.m. and I need to take the capsules an hour before I start, so the research assistant will meet me at chemo at my scheduled time to deliver the (good) news.

Let's go with the premise that no news is good news.


Straight to God's ears

Everywhere I go, friends tell me they (and their family and friends) are praying for me. Praying I get Olaparib, that I get relief from the ascities soon, that He takes care of me while I willing accept the chemotherapy and its side effects to kill the cancer cells.

To be honest, the sheer number of people supporting me is overwhelming. I can't believe all these individuals are rooting for little ol' me. My village has grown in size, and I'm so very, very honoured.

So if sheer numbers of people praying and wishing for something to come true holds any weight, I'll get the clinical trial drug. Surely, God hears all the prayers come from this little section of our big, blue planet (and a few in more remote locales like England, Scotland and Japan).

Thank you all for your support. If cheerleaders help win the fight, I'm sure to kick cancer's butt.


Monday, June 21, 2010

The poop of it all

Usually it's only with the very young or very old that you take note of bowel movements. Most people know they generally go once a day, several times a day or once every several days. Unless you feel backed up or have a bowel issues, you probably don't pay much attention.

I'm now the exception to that general rule. When I poop, it's a good day. Every time I visit the doctor, I'm asked if I'm still able to produce a bowel movement. With cancer looping all over my bowels and suffocating my cecum, defecating is a good sign.

I remember when my kids were babies and Michael and I would track each diaper change - both pee and poop - to ensure our little darlings were consuming enough sustenance. The quantity and consistency were stinky barometers of health.

I even recall one incident when my son was a toddler, climbing around on the couch. He'd taken his diaper off and was relishing his bare-bottomed freedom. Luckily, I was monitoring his explorations and noticed when he started to poop. With no diaper, and no time, I caught the offending brown production in my bare hands. My hands wash easily; the couch, not so much.

I read that comedian and actress, Gilda Radner's ovarian cancer temporarily stopped her bowel function. Her doctor said, she was literally full of shit.

It's an action I'd never really given much thought to before, but now appreciate. It's amazing how the bodily functions we take for granted become very important when they stop working as designed.

This is going to sound funny, but think of me next time you have a good bowel movement and realize how lucky you are that your organs are functioning properly.

Yours in good poop,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

People, not places

Yesterday was a beautiful hot day. I love summer.

Michael and I cleaned the house before the onslaught of medical appointments - and before I was going to feel too crappy to scrub toilets (pun intended). The other chore I checked off my to-do list involved laundering the sheets. I love the feeling of sliding between crisp, clean sheets. The last big chore yet to accomplish this week is stocking the house with food. Easy!

Just before noon, we got a phone call from Diane who said, "Where are you? It's beautiful and sunny. You should be at the spa." I laughed because, ironically, once we cleaned up after our Molly Maid extravaganza, we planned to head to Pete's deli for a sandwich. Pete owns DP Euro Deli in Forest and makes thick, awesome, grilled sandwiches. The entire family hopped in the van, eagerly anticipating a deli sandwich for lunch.

Once Pete and Diane closed the deli, they met us at their place (the spa). We had to pick up our fixed (finally!) motorcycle, and we had a brief visit before they headed out for a Saturday evening excursion. Even sitting on their front porch for an hour, filled me with peace. It's a great retreat - an escape from the city, the every day and the appointments, pills and needles that are once again part of my life.

Yet, in the five minutes I had alone in the Adirondak chair on the porch, I realized it's not the place that's special, but the people with whom I share it. Then I contemplated whether I'd want my ashes spread over Port Franks (yes, sometimes I go to that place) and came to the conclusion that while I love the nature, water and quiet of Port Franks, if Diane, Pete and Michael weren't there sharing the place with me, it wouldn't hold the same magic. Part of me thinks if I were alone in that beautiful locale, I'd feel lonely (let's not go to death and whether or not one feels lonliness, etc.).

To me, the people make the experience special. I loved going skydiving a few years ago, but the friends with whom I did it made it extraordinary. I've trekked across Canada, the northern U.S. states and to Florida many times, but the memories hold special significance because I've shared the adventure with Michael (and sometimes, my kids). I hold memories of tropical vacations close to my heart because of the adventures I shared with others.

I went to Europe with some friends that I didn't know very well at the end of my first year university. I went with these casual friends because I had never been overseas. Sure, I have memories from the jaunts to England, Belgium and France, but not great ones. Not ones full of laughter and shared comraderie. It would be special to go to the exact same places with friends near and dear to my heart. I guaranteed the memories would be ones worth recalling around a glowing fire with a glass of wine.

Which brings me to the one lonely entry I currently have on my bucket list. I want to go whitewater rafting next spring, after all these treatments and nonesense is over. I'm sure I'd love the exhileration and feeling of accomplishment. But I want to share the experience with others to make it truly memorable. So I'm throwing it out there - who wants to go whitewater rafting with me next spring?

I plan to keep making memories with those who mean the world to me. It's the best way to live my life to the fullest.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The price of the prize

You have to pay the price. You will find that everything in life exacts a price, and you will have to decide whether the price is worth the prize.
                                                     - Sam Nunn

Yesterday, I talked about clinical trial drug, Olaparib, and how much I want to gently caress the computer and speak to it nicely (with all my fingers, legs and arms crossed) before it randomly selects whether I'm one of those chosen to test this drug. Unfortunately, that unfeeling hunk of wires, plastic and metal will not take into consideration my winning personality, strength or sense of humour. It'll spit out the answer and that will be that.

From what I hear, the research to date points to extremely positive and exciting results from Olaparib for those with BRCA gene mutations. Clinical trials are filling quicker than anticipated because of these promising results.

But as the quote above says, there's a price to pay to benefit from the PARP inhibitor, Olaparib. Regardless of the side effects, I've determined they're worth the price to obtain the prize of a longer, disease-free period - and ultimately, a longer life.

Apparently, Olaparib itself has minimal side effects. But it apparently increases the nastiness of chemotherapy side effects. In fact, patients who receive the drug will receive a lower dose of Carboplatin because of the increased risk of blood toxicity, including a reduction in platlets, red blood cells and certain white blood sells. Recovery from these side effects, also takes longer with Olaparib.

So if I look back at my chemo treatments last year, some of the side effects I may experience again - but to a greater degree - are:

- Nausea (and potentially vomiting)
- Fatigue (feeling extremely tired, weary, exhausted)
- Lymphopenia (decrease in the number of blood cells to fight infection)
- Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
- Abdominal pain and distention
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- Dyspepsia (indigestion)
- Peripheral oedema (swelling of hands and feet)
- Dysgeusia (abnormal taste)
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
- Muscle spasm
- Pain in joints, back, chest, muscles and bones
- Anxiety, depression, insomnia - Ya think? I have cancer!

If my white blood cells drop so low that I'd be unable to fight infection, Dr. H may prescribe a drug, called a Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor or G-CSF to boost these cells. If my red blood cells drop too low, I may require a transfusion. So keep donating blood, my friends!

Of course, the additional side effects of hair loss, numbness in hands and feet due to nerve damage, skin and mouth sores, weakness, etc. will become part of my life again, as well. So be it.

As with any clinical trial, they document every medication, vitamin and herbal supplement I currently take. Some are okay, and others have been nixed from my regime. If I want to take anything different from what Dr. H prescribes or Tylenol, I have to check to ensure it's okay. And I can't eat grapefruit or drink its juice. Good thing it's not a common part of my diet. But don't you crave what you can't have?

Of course, if I don't get selected to receive Olaparib, I'll follow the same regime as last time (with grapefruit juice, if desired).

Yes, the list is long. Yes, it's going to suck. I'll whine and moan. I'll pop my painkillers. I'll attend the multitude of appointments. That's the price to put me on the road to health. Or at least on the road to defeating cancer.


P.S. One year ago today, I went under the scalpel for my hysterectomy, bilateral salpino-oopherectomy and tumour/omentum removal. Unfortunately, some microscopic dust remained after the surgery and chemo blasting. Soon, we'll start trying to damage them again; for good this time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The fight for life

It's amazing what humans will do to stay alive. I am anxiously waiting to have toxic chemicals infused into my body in an attempt to shrink and kill the rapidly growing tumours. This same chemical cocktail will kill off the good, rapidly dividing cells, wreak havoc with my body and drop me into a black pit of emotional despair.

I will go through it all again to maintain the life I love for as long as possible.

In fact, I'm signing on for even more discomfort (to put it mildly) by volunteering to be part of the clinical trial for the PARP inhibitor, Olaparib. But if it works to kill the cancer and keep it dormant in my body, I'll put up with the nasty side effects. Although, I have to admit, I'll probably complain as I experience them.

According to the study outline, Olaparib is a drug that damages the DNA of the tumour cells so they cannot continue to grow. Usually, when DNA becomes damaged, chemicals inside the cell try to repair it. But Olaparib stops one of the repair chemicals (PARP-1) from fixing broken pieces of the DNA.

"It is thought that many cancers develop due to genetic abnormalities and when this occurs, PARP activity may be increased. The ability of some cancers to escape the body's normal DNA repair systems and also to resist chemotherapy treatment may also be because of the PARP process. Drugs that slow down or block the activity of PARP may potentially be effective when given alone or when given in combination with some anti-cancer drugs. Olaparib may increase the ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells by preventing the cancer cells from repairing damaged DNA. This causes the cancer cells to die."

That's what I want to hear. This particular study is to test to effectiveness of Olaparib in combination with the chemotherapies Paclitaxel and Carboplatin.

During my appointment in Hamilton yesterday, Dr. H and his research assistant, C, explain how the drug works, the time frame for the clinical trial, the necessary tests and extra appointments involved with being part of the study, and the potential side effects of the drugs.

It's not 100 per cent sure I'll even be accepted until into the research assistant has to go over my chart very carefully and compare it with the research criteria. My slight reaction during my first chemotherapy treatment may also have the slight possibility of excluding me. I also haven't signed on the dotted line yet because legally, I had to have time to go away and think about it.

If I'm eligible, I'll go back next week to sign the paperwork and participate in the required testing to start the clinical trial. This includes a new CT scan, an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check my heart health, more bloodwork and a physical exam.

Oh, and I will find out if I'm getting Olaparib. While I was trying to sell myself to Dr. H and C as the ideal candidate for the drug, the company randomly assigns participants via a computer (input my patient number, get the yes or no). So I'll either be taking the capsules during my chemotherapy and afterwards as maintenance, or I'll just get the chemo, which is currently considered the best treatment. Nonetheless, I'll get regular monitoring and extra tests for being part of the clinical trial.

Even though I hate waiting, I feel I've taken the first step towards getting the necessary treatment. It all starts next week, when I'll know exactly what we're doing and begin treatment. Until then, I work, hang out with friends, take my kids to appointments and live life. That's what it's all about.


Monday, June 14, 2010


The whole process took 4-1/2 hours, but the end result is worth it. Even though I still have lots of fluid remaining in my abdomen, the paracentesis relieved me of just under 2-1/2 litres (making me 5-1/2 pounds lighter).

I am now able to breathe easier, eat an entire meal and sit more comfortably. Hopefully I'll also be able to sleep better tonight and get some much needed rest.

Here is a picture of me from yesterday, bloated beyond belief and very, very uncomfortable. It affected my mood and I was somewhat withdrawn and anxious. I now feel much lighter in body and spirit.

I arrived a little early for my 9 a.m. appointment, only to discover the nurses in the stretcher bay were in a meeting. Okay, slight delay, I thought. Oh, how wrong I was. I got into the procedure room to discover the time of my ultrasound appointment was 10 a.m. An hour wait, during which the nurse took my vitals - and I read my book.

I was then wheeled through the hospital, on my stretcher, down to ultrasound. Once there, I waited for about 10 minutes until the technicial steered me in for the goopy process. After she identified what she thought were two or three good pockets of fluid, a radiologist (and his intern) came in to take another look and mark my abdomen with a black magic marker.

He got me to shift into an optimal position for "getting all the gravy out of the pan." I was in a reclined sitting position, tilted to the left and resting on my left buttock. This position required me to keep my balance with my right leg in a bent position on the bed. No problem, I thought. Little did I know how long I was going to have to stay that way. Once the radiologist marked the spot with an x, I wasn't supposed to move.

Calling the porter and transporting me back to the cancer centre took a good 15 minutes. Then I had to wait for the doctor for about 25 minutes. By that point, my leg cramped painfully. But I held my position. I wasn't going through all this to lose the ideal drainage spot.

The procedure itself was painful. Not necessarily the needle going in (although that wasn't exactly a piece of cake), but the doctor moving it around in my belly to get the ideal spot hurt like a son of a gun. Once the fluid started flowing, the pain dulled to a managable stinging, burning sensation.

The worst part was when the suction pulled an organ up to the needle, and when the flow slowed to a drip and the doc tried to move the needle around to find another pocket of fluid. He must have nicked my intestines (or some other organ) with the end of the needle, because blood started to flow in the bottle and I experience a really sharp pain. By that point, he decided he'd drained enough.

The relief was instantaneous. I could take a deep breath and my very hungry stomach actually made a hollow, growlingy sound instead of a muffled, squished sensation.

Tonight, I feel discomfort where the needle went in and deep in my abdomen (my injured organ?), and I think I'm bruised under my ribs from the inside out. It still hurts to sneeze (so my body actually supresses them) or cough. Hopefully, it's remnants of too many days of being too full and not because I still have too much fluid remaining in me.

I'll continue to fill while the tumours are still present to produce fluid, but the chemotherapy should quickly start to make those nasty interlopers more worried about maintaining their existence than trying to make my life uncomfortable.

Off to Hamilton tomorrow to meet with Dr. H. We'll devise a plan of attack and secure a date (soon, I hope) to start blasting that parasitic cancer.

I'm heading to bed soon. I have to get some good solid shut eye so I can be strong and ready to start the long, uphill battle. But I CAN do it!


Needed: A plan of attack

While I'm not looking forward to the painful, belly-tapping procedure itself, I'm eagerly anticipating the relief it will provide. I'm uncomfortable all the time, which makes me tired and brings down my spirits. As a result, I'm not where I want to be - geared up to fight, fight, fight.

I remember reading in a book that some women feel better once they start ovarian cancer treatment. Despite the side effects of the chemotherapy, the ascities pain and overwhelming tiredness from their body trying to fight the disease alone is gone.

I hope this is the case for me. I'm concerned because I'm not as positive or determined as I was last time. My thoughts sometimes settle in the dark recesses of my mind, stewing over what could happen. I don't want to be that person, but I can't help it. I need action.

I almost feel as though I'm stuck in one of my chemo induced funks. Let me out! I prefer having a positive, fighting spirit than to be this negative, grumpy, pain-filled person.

I pray this week brings a plan of attack and wakes up the sleeping warrior in me.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Just my luck

I now have two puncture wounds to go with my (still) rapidly growing belly.

Even though Dr. P tried to tap my abdomen to drain the fluid, he wasn't successful. He got a little bit on the first try, but couldn't even find it on the second. Instead of using me as a human pin cushion, he decided to send me for an ultrasound to mark the location of the fluid and then try the paracentisis (needle drainage of fluid from the abdominal cavity) again.

Even though I really wanted the fluid to go, I'm glad Dr. P stopped when he did. He can freeze the upper layers of skin and tissue, but he can't dull the sensation in the layer directly above the abdominal cavity. So when the needle goes in, I feel it. But it's a procedure I'm willing to endure to provide relief. Unfortunately, that's not something I achieved today.

The fluid seems to be all on the left side. Dr. P said scar tissue in the abdomen can form barriers, which causes the fluid to gather on one side. If I look carefully, I notice my left side is fuller than my right. My right side may be full of gas or something because it's bloated too. A bit concerning, but Dr. P didn't seem worried.

The very kind nurse assured me that patients often need ultrasounds to pinpoint the exact location of the fluid before paracentis. Luckily, she quickly scheduled a follow-up appointment for 9 a.m. on Monday morning.

Apparently, I'll get to ride on a stretcher around the hospital to ultrasound and then back to the cancer centre for the procedure. I have to lie still so the fluid doesn't shift. Maybe if I look at it as an adventure ride, it won't seem so bad.

But quite honestly, I'm not all that fond of being wheeled around a hospital in a bed or a wheelchair. To me, it says I'm not capable of getting around on my own. I know that's not the case, but that's the way it makes me feel.

One good thing came out of the appointment today - I got to ask Dr. P a couple of questions burning in my mind.

Why did the tumours get so big so quickly? Is that typical? What does it mean?

He didn't seem to think that 5 to 7 centimeters was that big (I beg to differ) and assured me that quick growth means they're more suceptible to the killing effects of chemotherapy because they're rapidly dividing cells. Die cancer die. (Okay, he didn't say that. I added that sentiment.)

Is surgery not typical for reoccurence?
He said he does surgery in about 10 per cent of the cases. He does it when there is one or two big tumours, to extend the time between reoccurences. Because my cancer is all over, surgery isn't a good option.

So even though I want lots of time between reoccurences (say 20 or 30 years), I'm going to have to count on the chemo and the PARP inhibitor to do that.

I continue to pray I get the drug and not the placebo.

Your (still) bloated friend,

So tired

I'm so very, very tired. I'm physically tired because I'm hauling around all this extra fluid, which prevents me from sleeping well. I woke several times last night to adjust my position and try to get comfortable. Needless to say, I didn't have a great sleep.

But I'm going to see Dr. P this afternoon to talk about a belly tap. Think of tapping a keg of beer. But you certainly wouldn't want to drink the fluid that comes out of me. Yuck! Hopefully, the procedure will bring some much-needed relief.

I'm also mentally and emotionally tired of waiting around for some action. Every day, I get more and more freaked about the size of the tumours, with visions of them growing. They grew rapidly between the end of January and mid-May, and it's almost been a month since my CT. How big are they now? What are they doing in there? What organs are they trying to invade and influence? It makes me want to scream in frustration. Get out! Get out!

Obviously, I'm still struggling with the emotional roller coaster. One minute I'm saying, "It is what it is and I can only do the best I can to fight it." That's true, but not easy to maintain.

The next minute I'm angry at how unfair it is that the cancer is back already. Then I'm sad, wondering if I'll get the chance to take a cool road trip again with my honey. What a basket case I am.

Bottom line, I'm scared. Those closest to me are scared too. I can see it in their eyes and hear it in the tone of their voices. I want to be strong, but sometimes it's hard.

Cancer is a kick-ass, scary disease that affects not only the person diagnosed, but everyone around him or her. It's okay to be scared, sad, lonely, angry or determined. What isn't okay, is to keep it inside to fester. I'm lucky that I have some understanding folks who let me vent (including an awesome therapist).

And I have all of you, who let me vent via my blog and accept me, even when I'm tired and discouraged.

Thank you,

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I knew from watching Angie's face as she read my CT report last Tuesday, that I couldn't handle its contents right away. I was still reeling from the news the cancer was back.

On Friday, I sat down, took at deep breath and folded open the pages of the report. Yowza! How the heck could so much grow in my body in only three months?!

According to the report, I have significant progression of omental masses -tumours - in my omentum (the fatty layer of the abdomen). The largest measures at least 5.5 x 2.9 cm with numerous masses adjacent, forming omental cakes. Argh.

Of course, when I hear omental cake, I think oatmeal cake, which I quite like, with its soft, grainy cake and sweet coconut icing. But omental cakes are not so sweet. In fact, their existence in my body horrifies me.

The report goes on to say that I have serosal deposits (which I read as tumours) along my bowel loops, particularly in the ascending colon. Crap (no pun intended), they're all over my bowel and enveloping the cecum, which is a pouch that's about six centimetres long and 7.5 cm wide, that separates the large and small intestine.

The good news is there is still "satisfactory oral contrast opacifying these loops." I read that to mean these masses are on the surface, but haven't invaded the organs themselves. Okay, that's good.

I also have pelvic masses in my posterior cul-de-sac. I didn't even know I had a cul-de-sac! So, in the back of my pelvic cavity, I have a mass that's at least 5.3 cm and some fluid. I guess that explains my back aches.

Of course, the fluid has increased significantly since my CT scan on May 20 and I now look like I sport an inflated tire of jello around my mid section. It's pressing out, back, down and up. The extra weight also makes my legs ache. If it gets much worse, I'm going to have to wear yoga pants to work because they'll be the only thing that fits!

Of course, if it gets too bad, I could go get my abdomen drained. That involves a long needle, some freezing and a touch of courage. I'm not quite there, yet.

My CT report also says I still have a "lobulated contour" on the surface of my liver and I have subdiaphragmatic and parietal peritoneal thickening, which is more extensive on the right side. Whatever that means.

What shocks me the most is the number and size of the masses. At the end of January, there was some questionnable shadowy sections identified in my CT scan, but they hadn't really changed much from the one in October. As a result, I thought my situation was stable and these lumps and bumps were something other than cancer.

It concerns me they've grown so much in just three months. Hopefully, that means they'll also shrink quickly once we start blasting them with the toxic chemotherapy. Die cancer die!

I'm sure my face looked as horrified as my sister's as I read through the report (although I'm sure she understood a lot more than I initially did). I've gotten over the shock. I've accepted that it's terrible. While I still feel as though a parasite has taken over my body and is growing out of control despite me, I've got my mind set that I can attack and beat back this invader when I start treatment. Now we just have to start.

I meet with Dr. H on Tuesday to talk about the clinical trial. At that appointment, I'm going to eagerly ask, "so when can we start treatment?" If he said I could start that afternoon (yeah, right), I'd roll up my sleeve and gladly start chemotherapy. I'm hoping we can start later next week.

The waiting around while I know this is still growing is killing me (literally and figuratively). Let's get on with it.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Moving forward

I got the call! See, it was meant to be today. Maybe I needed to have optimism to move forward.

I meet with Dr. H in Hamilton next Tuesday at 10 a.m. I hope things move quickly into treatment after that.



The return of optimism

Optimism is slowly seeping into my spirit. A week after being told my cancer is back, and dealing with the negative emotional side effects, I'm returning to the glass-is-half-full type of girl that I naturally am.

I'm still sad and scared. I still think the situation is entirely unfair. But, thanks to the help of my family and friends, I'm easing away from being shell shocked.

I went to my cancer survivor group meeting last night. At first I wondered if I should go because, with my cancer back, I thought I was a survivor imposter. But then I realized that from the moment I was diagnosed with cancer until the day it claims me, I am a survivor. It hasn't bested me.

My fellow survivors hugged me, commiserated with me, said keep fighting, proclaimed they believe in me and offered to pray for me. I met these new friends eight short weeks ago and now they're willingly another secret weapon in my aresenal against cancer.

The meeting last night seemed to be a turning point for me. On the way home, I noticed the colour of the sky again, I felt happy and almost at peace.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not at peace with the cancer and I'm going to fight it with every cell in my being. But I'm past the shock and ready to try to live each day with joy and wonder. It doesn't matter if I have 100 days, 1,000 days or 10,000 days, I have to make the most of each one and appreciate what it brings me. (By the way, 10,000 days is 27 years. That sounds pretty good to me.)

Now that I'm slowly turning back into optimistic Tina, warrior Tina can't be far behind. I suspect that particular part of my personality will return when I have an action plan. I have my fingers crossed the doctor's office will call today and get the ball rolling.

Even though my situation isn't good (more on that and the results of my CT scan in another blog), I am not rolling over. I haven't been told by my doctor that I only have x months. I have been given no specific time frame. So I'm going into treatment believing my time to love life and the people in it is years, not months.

Believe me, I have lots to be thankful for and enjoy.


Monday, June 7, 2010

You look good

Almost everyone loves a compliment. I'm not talking about those insincere platitudes tossed off flippantly, but an honest to goodness, genuine admiring remark.

During my recovery, I've appreciated compliments even more. After months of debilitating aches that left me hobbling and too much time as the hairless wonder, I finally felt good. While I still wasn't entirely satisfied with my appearance, I believed in most ways I did look healthy, attractive and "normal."

In the past couple of months, I've received more than my share of compliments. A few people, who I don't see regularly, actually had an awestruck tone in their voices when they said, "You look good."

One person even said my skin tone was so good, I couldn't possible have cancer anymore.

But I guess looking good, having good colour and a jaunty walk don't prevent tumours from rooting and growing. Thick hair, long eyelashes and sparkling eyes don't prevent cancer from re-gaining its hold.

I ran into someone the weekend before the doctor's appointment where I learned of cancer's return. She complimented me on my hair and how good I looked. When she found out the disease had returned, she was absolutely dumbfounded. "But you looked so good," she replied.

It's impossible to tell who has cancer by looking at a person. Heck, diagnosis would certainly be easier if it were. And ovarian cancer isn't one of those diseases where a person starts to lose weight and waste away. In fact, I'm rapidly growing in size. I guess there's more of me to fight, fight, fight.

I'm reading a book on cancer etiquette and it talks about the comment, you look good. This is a common line that many of those in cancer treatment hear (more than those who have other medical problems). Often those undergoing chemotherapy look pale, pained, are bald and possibly swollen from steroids - and own a mirror - so they know they don't look good.

When someone says, "You look great" the initial reaction is, compared to what? Friends won't usually say, "You look awful," even if it is true.

Bottom line, don't lie. Try things like:

"I like the lipstick you're wearing today."
"I'm glad you're doing so well in spite of the chemo."
" You look better than you did last week."
"You look stronger, how are you dealing with treatment?"
"I like your shirt, it brings colour to your face."

Rosanne Kalik, the author of Cancer Etiquette, and two-time cancer survivor wrote, "What I really want them to say is, 'I know you feel like hell. Please feel free to talk about it with me.'" Being available to hear the good and the bad, is better than any compliment - but especially ones that aren't sincere.

Yes, I still look pretty good, but hopefully I'll start treatment soon and that will change. While, I'm pretty cute as a bald chick, don't compliment me unless you really mean it. It's okay, I can take it.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The rapidly expanding Tina

I'm sad and frustrated today because I'm getting more and more uncomfortable, and there's nothing I can do about it.

If I felt sick because I ate too much, I could abstain from food and feel better. If I felt fat, I could diet. If I were hungover, I could drink water, pop a Tylenol and wait it out. If I hurt myself, I could ice the affected area, take it easy and the injury would get better.

But I'm filling full of ascities (fluid in my abdominal cavity), which is making me very uncomfortable, causing pain in my back and ribs, and decreasing my lung capacity. Short of taking a trip to Emergency or the cancer clinic to get my abdomen drained, all I can do it sit back and watch my body expand. Every once in a while, a tumour or the ascities will hit a nerve and make pain shoot down my legs or in my abdomen.

Diane, in true spa style, gave me a massage last night. She poured oil on my poor, aching body and found a few wicked knots on which to work. When I complained my lower back hurt, she went to work on relieving some of their tightness. I'm sure it's from carrying around all that extra fluid. The discomfort and my size is similar to being pregnant, without the benefit of a baby at the end.

It was good to be at the spa and hang around with Diane and Pete this weekend. They reinforced that I only have to be me with them, and don't have to put on a brave face. They're happy having sad Tina, angry Tina, quiet Tina, sore Tina, happy Tina or warrior Tina.

I was sad this weekend. This is the first time in ages where I didn't stop for a moment while in Port Franks with an excited, gleeful feeling and say, "Wow, I'm really happy." I know I'll get there again, but it feels so damn unfair right now.

I'm not quite at warrior Tina yet, either. Maybe that state of being will change when I have some timelines. I STILL haven't heard from the doctor's office in Hamilton for my consultation about the clinical trial. Let's get on with it. The sooner I can meet with the doc, the sooner we can start blasting these damn cancer cells. Once that happens, the fluid will also dissipate. Maybe with dates and an action plan, my fighting spirit will re-emerge.

I also feel extremely tired. Despite sleeping in today - something I rarely do - I feel worn out. I think my body is doing its best to fight the cancer. Of course, lugging around the extra weight from the fluid probably doesn't help.

But I did swim in the lake yesterday, which is something I wanted to do before I started chemotherapy and the activity becomes verboten. I may try to squeeze in another beach visit before treatment starts.

Although, I've already decided I'm not going to put my life on hold as much this summer. I'm going to do whatever I can do. What is swimming in the chemically-balanced pool in my backyard going to do? Kill me? Ha! I didn't do things last summer in anticipation that I'd beat the cancer and do them this summer. Look where that got me.

So I'll continue to trudge (some would argue waddle) along with my rapidly filling body and do the best I can. I'll also try to gear up for the next fight of my life. It's all I can really do right now.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Five stage of grief

I've made a little foray into denial. This can't be happening to me. It can't be back again. I'm living a normal life - going to work, helping with homework, making dinner, chatting with friends and watching TV - so how can I be so seriously sick?

When I was diagnosed the first time, I went from shock into fight mode. Within a week and a half, I found out I had cancer, visited the emergency room, met with the oncologist and started chemotherapy. It was a whirlwind of action, which spurned my fight instincts. I went from shock into acceptance. "What do we need to do?" and "Bring it on," were my battle cries.

This time, I'm waiting for contact from the doctor in Hamilton and in stand-by mode, so the activities in my life aren't changing, yet.

The lack of immediate action is giving me time to process the five stages of grief and tragedy - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These steps do not necessarily come in order, nor are all steps experienced by everyone; although a person will always experience at least two. Often, people will experience several stages in a roller coaster effect — switching between emotions, returning to previously experienced ones, etc. — before working through the loss.

I, along with many of you, are riding that roller coaster right now, trying to hang on and not be flung off the ride. I'm still slightly angry. I'm experiencing a little denial (although I think I'm too rational to be completely in denial). I'm also on the precipice of depressed. I'm more sad than depressed. I haven't given up or withdrawn. I don't spend most of my time crying and alone.

So emotionally, I'm processing. The very visible and vocal demonstrations of support help. Many people have contacted me, I get lots of hugs, some are even hanging their Team Tina t-shirts in their cubes as a show of support. Friends - old and new - are letting me know they're behind me as I gear up for this fight. Almost everyone is asking what, "What do you need? What can I do." Nothing yet, but thank you all.

Physically, the symptoms are getting worse. I've had two people ask if I were in pain. No one asked me that before - not even my doctor - so it caught me a little off guard. Yes, sometimes I am in pain. I can feel the ascities building, which makes me extremely bloated and presses on different areas of my abdomen and rib cage.

Most of the time, I'm only slightly uncomfortable, which I can brush off and ignore. Other times, my back aches, my ribs feel as though a knife is being shoved under them or I can't take a deep breath to yawn, sneeze or cough because it hurts too much. I also get shooting pains travel through my abdomen. Luckily, the bad pain doesn't last long before the discomfort returns.

Of course, I feel fat with my distended belly. I know it isn't me, but it's hard to ignore the tugging of my shirt over the swelling mass. I've been a chunky monkey, trying to disguise the not-so-perfect areas of my body, for too long. I find it hard to rationalize that a medical condition is drawing attention to an area that I've always tried to hide.

I have a feeling some people are using this blog as a barometer of how I'm doing each day. Today, I guess I would be a bloated, slightly uncomfortable, partially sad individual who is also in a little bit of denial about the reality of my situation. Whew! How's that for a description?

But on the bright side, it's Friday, I'm going to dinner with friends tonight and I'm headed to the spa (aka Port Franks) for the weekend. Life isn't too bad - it's the alternative that really sucks.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Anger to sadness

Work was exactly where I was supposed to be yesterday. I got lots of hugs and undeniable support. Everyone commiserated with me and agreed my situation fucking sucks. (I know I never swear in my blog, but that's exactly how I feel. Saying another word doesn't convey the same emotion.)

Instead of sitting at home, by myself, contemplating the reoccurence of my cancer and wondering what to do, I surrounded myself with people who rapidly jumped back on the big, yellow, Tina cancer-fighting bus. Even though it's not a comfortable ride with it hairpin turns at a moment's notice, and its huge peaks and valleys, the bus seats are rapidly filling.

I was inexplicably nervous on the drive in yesterday morning, wondering exactly what I was going to say and how I was going to react. I was so hoping to be able to skip into London Life and proclaim the all clear - and then proceed on with my day and my life. Even though I know it's not my fault (because I did everything I could to fight the cancer and keep it away), I feel like a failure that I've got this disease AGAIN!

My village, my supporters, my friends all did what I needed them to do. They hugged me, shed a few tears, agreed with the injustice of my situation and asked what I need. Right now, I just need to know people are with me.

Every once in a while, I blogged about the lack of response to my blogs. Now I know you're all still out there, rooting for me and reading about the "normal stuff" in my life. But I didn't NEED you, so it wasn't crucial for you to respond.

But because you're amazing friends and family, you've emerged from the woodwork now that I DO need you. I'm amazed at all the visits, phone calls, emails and responses to my blog and Facebook page. Thank you. Your responses to my cries of anger and anguish make me know I'm not alone - even on this second, stupid fight with cancer.

Today I've moved past the overwhelming anger and transitioned into sadness. I'm tearful I have to fight again. I'm scared that despite how hard I fight, the cancer may get the best of me. I'm upset my abdomen is riddled with tumours (that sometimes cause me pain) and is growing in size.

I'm also broken-hearted at how my situation makes others feel. I notice the difference in everyone's reaction this time around. Maybe it's because I wasn't present to witness the reaction when I was initially diagnosed, but this time, it feels more desperate. (Don't worry, that's the way I feel too.)

I've already shed a few tears this morning and I suspect they won't be the last. I may need to carry Kleenex with me.

I'm back at work today, because that's where I'm gaining strength right now. London Life folks, you rock!

And thank you all for holding out your arms to catch me if I stumble on this new, yet strangely familiar, journey. I knew I could count on all of you.

Your sad friend,

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The day after

I feel broken - emotionally, physically and spirtually. Like a boat that's been battered by the tempest of the sea, I've survived to make it to the eye of the hurricane; only to learn the another side of the storm is yet to come.

Yesterday I experienced a multitude of cycling emotions. Angie, Michael and I were all deeply shocked when we learned the cancer was back. We were hoping for good news and went into the appointment with high hopes that my symptoms were due to something less serious.

Then I felt angry at the injustice of my situation. Sadness hit next, along with determination to fight. Fear, anxiety and a whole bunch of yet unnamed feelings also took their turns in my mind. I now waffle around among the emotions. One second I'll feel like crying and then next I'm full of steely determination. I'm sure these feelings will settle down, but for now I'm a bit of a basket case.

Physically, I feel like a leper. I feel dirty and unworthy with these stupid tumours in my abdomen. I also feel betrayed by my body. Despite my best efforts to fight and destroy the cancer, and my will to keep it away, the horrible tumours came back. The small, microscopic bits of sand, joined together to form sand castles in my open pelvic cavity.

In one small way (and this is little comfort), I feel justified that I wasn't imagining the bloating, rib pain and pressure, heartburn and all the strange sensations. Oh, I was praying it was part of the new me, but deep down, I've known something wasn't quite right for about a month now.

It scares me that the cancer has returned with such a vengeance in such a short period of time. The tumours are bigger than the initial ones. My CT scan showed nothing worth noting at the end of January, Yet the one from May 20 showed full blown, nasty masses. Hopefully, they'll shrink just as quickly when I start zapping them with the chemotherapy. Quick to grow, quick to shrink? I hope so.

Spiritually, the foundation of my faith suffered a tremor yesterday. Yes, I know God didn't give me cancer and He doesn't just take it away, but I feel a bit betrayed by the unfairness of the situation. I am a good, faithful, honourable, lovable person who deserves to live. But then again, aren't many people? Why am I any different? Because I'm me, my subconscious screams. It's not rational, I know. But I don't feel all that logical right now, so I may not act that way.

I know my faith is strong. I know it'll give me comfort in the months ahead. But I'm a bit angry at God right now. (But that doesn't mean I want you to give up on your prayers. I'm still praying. I still believe.)

I know this blog may be hard to read. I can appreciate no one really knows what to say or do. If it's any consolation, neither do I. But I do appreciate everyone who has contacted me to offer comfort and ask if they can help. I am so very, very grateful for all the special people in my life. Right now, I can't think of anything I need, except for support and maybe some hugs. I'm waiting for the appointment with the doctor in Hamilton to hear about our plan of attack.

I am at work today. I didn't want to simply disappear again. It felt wrong the last time, so I didn't want to repeat it. I honestly don't know some of my next steps. I'm fumbling in the dark to find my way. Maybe if you could hold out your arms to catch me if I fall, I'll make it through okay.

Your battered friend,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bad news

The cancer is back.

The signs were there and I reported them. Dr. P took me seriously and sent me for a CT scan, which showed multiple masses in my abdomen and pelvic cavity. Some of them are quite large (I don't have details because I haven't read the CT report yet). My CA-125 was also elevated - in the 300s.

Dr W, the research oncologist, said the fact that's it's been nine months since my last treatment is a good thing (although it certainly doesn't feel like a good thing to me) because the cancer obviously responded to the chemo. He said I now qualify for a PARP inhibitor study (which I've wanted to be part of all along - preferrably as a preventative measure as opposed to a treatment).

Unfortunately, the study isn't being held in London, so I'll have to travel to Hamilton or Toronto to participate. So be it. I'll travel.

The study involves taking a PARP inhibitor or placebo in addition to chemotherapy. Yup, I have to go through six hellish rounds of paclitaxel and carboplatin again. If I get the PARP inhibitor, instead of the placebo, the side effects from the chemo are supposed to be worse.

The fact that I have to fight again, that I have to commence the fight again so soon and that I have to suffer the side effects of chemo again absolutely suck.

The good news is, I don't have another form of cancer, it hasn't invaded another organ, I qualify for the PARP inhibitor study and I'm still strong.

Even though it may not be in my nature, I am going to fight this bastard with everything I have. This certainly isn't the end of me.



I slept very well last night and awoke to the smell of French toast. Michael, wonderful husband and father that he is, created the yummy breakfast treat for our family this morning. It was the perfect way to start what may be a challenging day.

I'm amazingly calm this morning. I think I've adopted the attitude that I can't change anything now. I can only learn the results and move forward. Perhaps it's the fear of the unknown that grates on my nerves.

As my friend, Diane texted me this morning, "It is what it is." True enough. But I know that regardless of the results, I have wonderful people standing beside me. Over the past year, I've learned, my friends and family are amazing, supportive and giving. Even my cancer survivor support group assured me they'd be sending good thoughts and prayers my way this morning. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm a lucky woman.

So I go to my 10:15 appointment with a bit of trepidation, but knowing I have thoughts, prayers and good karma coming from all over. For that, I'm extremely thankful.

Don't worry, I'll blog later to let you know what happens at my appointment. Hopefully, I'll be able to report good news.