Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Feeling low

I feel sad today. Despite my optimism from yesterday and all the cool things I have planned for this week, this emotion snuck up on me last night and has me feeling tearful this morning.

Maybe it's the rain. Perhaps it's my still-hurting eye. It could be the weight of the whole flipping cancer reality and lengthy recovery situation.

Regardless of the reason, that's how I feel. I'm going to roll with it until it goes away.

Until next time,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Another visit from Murphy

A couple of week's ago, I blogged about Murphy's law. This weekend, much to my chagrin, Murphy visited me again.

I have a friend named Murph and I'd welcome a visit from her any time. But what I experienced this weekend is not welcome in my house. These types of events cause headaches, expenses, pain or all of the above.

Extreme agitator
Since London began using smart meters on Nov. 1, Michael and I have been saving our laundry for the weekends, when electricity costs less. Smart meters charge electricity at different rates based on the time of day and season. Consumers pay more to use electricity during times of peak usage and less when many people sleep and on weekends. Hence the big piles of laundry I had in my house Saturday morning waiting for the cheapest electricity rate.

We'd completed two or three loads when Michael knelt down in the laundry room to adjust one of the legs and level the washing machine (a common necessity on the old machine). He rose to discover the knee of his jeans was wet (as was the area rug). We wondered if perhaps water escaped from the machine because it was off balance and optimistically started another load. After a few short minutes, we watched water pour from the front corners of the washer and snake across the floor towards the drain.

Given our washing machine was over 20 years old, we knew the amount it would cost to fix it (if even possible) wouldn't be worth it. Heck, the service call alone would be over $50, without the necessary repairs.

Luckily, we'd completed washing and drying all the bedding in the house so we all had fresh, clean sheets on which to sleep. But we needed a washer! I even contemplated bagging up the remaining laundry and carting it over to my mother-in-law's and begging the use of her machine. Instead we went shopping.

Our choice of washing machine came down to price, features and whether we could load it into our van and cart it home right after purchase. Luckily, we found just that. Of course, the removal of the old washer,  which was heavy and the introduction of the new machine, which was even heavier (unbelievably so) was a nerve-wracking experience. It involved removing doors, manipulating stairs, hurt fingers and fears of damaging our floors and/or new appliance. Luckily, my in-laws came over to help.

Now that it's in place, I have to admit I really like it. Being a front loader, it'll end up saving money in water and electricity. Of course,  we didn't need the almost $700 price tag this close to Christmas and while I'm off on disability, but there's nothing we can do but suck it up and carry on. Hopefully, I'll notice those efficiency savings quickly (ha ha).

A poke in the eye
On Sunday morning, Michael and I were feeling the effects of our adventurous Saturday. We decided finishing the laundry and cleaning the mess involved in the machine switch would be the extent of our work. This would give us time to rest and recover.

Yet Murphy decided I needed another affliction to contend with - a poke in the eye. While carrying a load of laundry, I walked into a grapefruit tree branch. Since I sport only very, very short eyelashes, they don't protect my eye very well and the spiky branch scratched my eyeball. I couldn't open my right eye for a good portion of the day because bright sunlight hurts it and makes it water. If I had an eye patch, I could be pirate Tina. Argh!

Today, I can leave my eye open most of the time and it only hurts a little, so that's an improvement. But a stick in the eye reflects the luck I've had lately.

Four-leaf clover turnaround
But my cruddy luck is going to turn around this week. I have faith. Besides, I have some good things planned for this week and I'm going to focus on them:

1. Our hot tub arrives on Thursday! We were supposed to get it last week but the snow storms in the west delayed the truck carrying it from British Columbia for three days. So our delivery was pushed out a week. But it comes this week and we can't wait!

2. My daughter is in a play on Tuesday and I actually have the time to go see it.

3. My sister is taking me to my doctor's appointment in Hamilton on Wednesday. We'll talk on the drive, enjoy lunch and maybe do a little shopping around the required visit with the doc.

4. I have lunch plans with a friend on Friday. Yay me!

5. My extended family Christmas celebration is on Saturday (and I already have the gifts bought). We'll enjoy delicious food, tasty wine and most importantly, good company.

This Monday morning, I'm putting the weekend (and parts of last week) behind me and focusing on the good and exciting events happening over the coming week. Yup, I'm a glass is half full kind of girl this morning and it feels good.


Friday, November 26, 2010


Friends are like snowflakes.
Each one is beautiful and unique.

I saw this very accurate statement on the window at the Starbucks where I met a dear friend for coffee this morning. I loved it and thought I'd share.

BTW - I'd forgotten how energizing spending some time with a friend can be. So thanks M, it was fun and I'm still smiling about our visit.

Don't forget about all the special people in your life. Perhaps it's time to pick up the phone. . .


It's beginning to feel . . .

Ho, ho, Ho!

I was out at Walmart really early this morning to pick up a couple of their Canadian black Friday specials for Christmas gifts. On my way home, I saw a few flakes of snow and then I saw a salter/sander driving down the road. I don't care what the calendar says about Dec. 21 being the first day of winter, for me, it's the arrival of the flaky, white stuff.

Yeah, I know other parts of the country have already experienced a blast from old man winter, but it hasn't hit good old London . . . YET. I have a feeling it'll come soon. Honestly, I'm not ready for it. I'm not a big fan of winter, but there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Of course, doing my Christmas shopping only reinforces the feeling of winter. I plan to hit a few stores today so I can cross some items off my list. I've done a lot of shopping online, which is quite handy. But there are some items you just have to go out and see.

Luckily, I feel a bit more energetic today. Yesterday, I was absolutely exhausted. I don't know why. Perhaps I have enough get up and go for a few days and then the energy stores are depleted. So I take advantage of the more energetic days and lay low on the others.

But, today I go out - at least for a little while.

Enjoy your Friday and the weekend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A foodie fairy tale

Once upon a time, an culinarily adventurous couple lived in the eastern border of the city of London. They enjoyed a variety of foods, both at home and afar (meaning restaurants in the city and beyond). The woman loved scouring recipe books and magazines for new dishes to create. She took great pleasure in cooking varied foods, trying these new recipes and creating more than a few of her own.

The man loved food. He taste tested all the concoctions with relish, giving each a thumbs up (most of the time) or thumbs down. He eagerly anticipated dinner and the plethora of food it would provide. The woman would savour each creation and decide whether it was up to snuff or determine what needed to change the next time she cooked it.

Meals were rarely boring. A wide variety of ingredients graced their cart at the grocery store. New spices were purchased, local and exotic veggies lovingly selected and tantalizing smells wafted from the pots on the stove.

Then one day, this couple produced two offspring. While their children didn't immediately affect the couple's dining habits, before long, the chants of "Eeewww" and claims of "I won't eat THAT!" grew tiresome. It became far easier to create kid-friendly meals than to turn dinner time into a battle ground.

The woman would sometimes venture outside the usual family menu to encourage the kids to try new foods and provide her and her husband with a taste of the days BK (before kids). Sometimes she'd even create two meals to satisfy both sets of palates.

This restrictive atmosphere lessened the woman's enjoyment of cooking and bored the man. In fact, they reminised just this morning about the meals BK and talked about how they missed the variety. The woman wondered if her children would ever be more open to different foods or whether they'd have to wait until they kids were out of the house before resuming the adventurous repitoire.

It's a sad, but true, tale.

The end.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


It's not necessarily a bad place to be, but I feel stuck in limbo.

Chemotherapy treatment is over. My oh-so-frequent trips to the hospital now decrease. I take my Olaparib and monitor the symptoms. I rest and get better. But I feel like I'm waiting for something.

Due to the change in my antacid and the cold I had last week, I still don't feel I have a definitive grasp on the side effects I'm experiencing from the drug - and whether my doc can do anything about them to make my life easier. I'm still experiencing some acid reflex, albeit less. My stomach still gets upset, although it's mostly now in the late afternoon and evening instead of all day. And I still get headaches, but I'm not sure if they're related to the drug or to tight muscles in my back and neck.

While none of these side effects are horrible or debilitating, there are portions of every day when I feel generally unwell. I'm not sure if that will be the new normal for me with the clinical trial drug that may save my life. If that's the case, it's a small price to pay. But living day in and day out with this feeling is a little depressing.

Don't get me wrong, because I'm getting stronger and feel less tired, there are now portions of my day when I feel awesome (and mostly normal). I have to admit, I love those few hours when I don't think about my stomach, throat or tiredness and just do what I want.

Like I said, I don't know if this is how it's going to be or whether something can be done. Maybe the new antacid, Nexium, hasn't completely kicked in yet. Maybe I have an ulcer the Nexium will help heal. Perhaps something else can and will be done. But for now, I'll swallow my pills, keep track of the symptoms, celebrate the great hours and be thankful the side effects are relatively mild.

And I'll wait. I know I may have rushed jumping back into a normal life last year after treatment, and I'm so much more battered this time, so it's probably wise to listen to my body and doctor, and take it slow. But it's hard because I'm in that "what's next" phase and I'm a little anxious to know the answer. Again, I have to call on patience to get me through. I'm sure it'll all fall into place given time.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Road trip

I love a good road trip. The kind where you dress in comfy clothes, and pack up a bunch of rockin' tunes, a cooler full of snacks and a good attitude. A real good one lasts many hours, if not days.

I got the road trip urge as I tooled around town on Saturday morning. I ran a few errands to the gas station, library and bank before we headed to Port Franks for the weekend. But as I slipped a Bon Jovi CD into the player, the travel bug bit me. All of a sudden I wanted to fill the tank with gas, grab the GPS and hightail off to parts unknown.

With a road trip, there's not only the joy of the destination, but the sights, activities, food, music and conversation along the way.

Luckily, Michael feels the same way about hopping in the car for long jaunts. In fact, we cemented our relationship with a road trip out west. We'd only been dating a couple months when my beloved little Volkswagen Rabbit diesel blew a piston and was out of commission. Michael and I had both been planning to visit friends in western Canada that summer. With my car woes, he suggested we travel together. After some negotiating about where we'd go and for how long, we were off for 12 straight days together. Although we'd only been together for three months, we got along great and that awesome camping/visiting trip made us both realize we were meant to be together forever.

Now our kids also enjoy/tolerate road trips. Tara went on her first when she was only 10 months old. It was 2002. Michael and I overlapped maternity/parental leave and vacation, packed up our 1978 pop-up tent trailer and went on the road with our four-year old and baby for a month of camping, visiting and site seeing.

On that cool May morning, we started in London to travel across Canada. We went almost all the way to Vancouver via the Canadian route, then drove down through Seattle to Portland and took the second row of states (for the most part) back to London.

We dressed in layers when we left and experienced 100 degree farenheit weather on the way back. We saw the statue of Terry Fox, the corner of Portage and Main, the Rocky Mountains, Mount Rushmore, Craters of the Moon National Park, Old Faithful, good friends, snow, dust, bugs and more. It was awesome.

When my parents escaped to the Florida sunshine for five months every winter, we took advantage of the free accomodation their little trailer provided for a winter holiday. For nine years, we headed down the I-75 to spend two weeks in the warmth of the sunshine state. Except for one year, we completed the trek in 24 hours straight; not only to give us more time to enjoy at our destination, but save money as well. The various states on the drive down offer some varied and interesting scenery (okay, maybe not Michigan and Ohio).

I'm not sure where my next road trip will take me, but despite the urge, I'm not quite ready. My quick Saturday-morning errands left me tired due to my low hemoglobin and the whole recovery process. But one day in the not-so-distant future, I hope we'll gas up the van and grab the GPS to head off on another road-trip adventure.


Friday, November 19, 2010

The wave

My strength and stamina are slowly returning. But it's obvious when I've had enough. Tiredness washes over me like a wave, leaving me lethargic and exhausted.

I really noticed this phenomenon last Sunday. I brought Noah to a friend's house for a hair cut. Another friend came over and we had a big ol' gabfest. About two hours into the visit, the wave hit and I felt like a giant lump sitting on her couch. I knew it was time to go.

When I experience this tiredness, it's almost too much effort to move my arm to scratch my nose. In the aftermath of the wave, I'm stiller and quieter. My eyes get heavy and feel like they're sinking into my face. I guess I get pale too because my research nurse commented on the colour I have this week (as opposed to the past two).

While the intervals between the waves seem to be getting longer, I never know when it will strike. As a result, I take advantage of my energetic times, try not to do too much and then rest when I'm tired. I know that's the only way I will get better.

It's aggravating, but I have to remember to take it one day at a time.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

In the right direction

"You have eyelashes!"

Both my sister and the research nurse told me this wonderful news yesterday. When I looked in the mirror and felt my eyelids, I indeed have the beginnings of these wonderful bits of hair. This excites me. It means my body is recovering from the chemo onslaught. My eyelashes join the bits of fuzz that's trying to pass as hair sprouting on the top of my head.

Speaking of recovering, my hemoglobin is finally rising. It increased six points from last week and now sits at 101. While normal is between 120 and 160 in women, at least it's headed in the right direction. I'm opptimistically hoping it'll be hoving around the 115 mark at my next appointment in two weeks.

There's nothing really exciting to report about my appointment yesterday. Because I have this cold, I couldn't determine whether some of the symptoms I've felt over the past week were due to it or the Olaparib. So I was sent on my way with a new supply of the drug and an appointment for Dec. 1.

Dr. H is at a conference so I saw a different doctor (for a whole three minutes). But it was nice to hear another medical professional say how good my response has been to the chemo and Olaparib combination. I always love to hear the treatment is working. It means I'll be around to enjoy yet another day.

It lies before me full of possibilities. I know it's going to be a quieter day than yesterday, which is good because I'm tired, but that doesn't mean I won't be productive or have fun.

What are your possibilities for this November day?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In hot water

Invasion of the germs
When sickness circulates in your house, it's hard not to succumb to the germs; especially with a somewhat compromised immune system. Even though Michael and the kids used buckets of hand sanitizer, coughed into their sleeves and washed their hands regularly, the sickness still infiltrated our home and I got it.

So far, I've been lucky. The sickness has limited itself to a cold. Michael went to the doctor yesterday and, because of his asthma and the stress in his life, he now has bronchitis. The doctor prescribed some steroids to help him kick the illness.

My stomach is upset, but because I'm on the Olaparib and we've been fiddling with my antacids, I don't know whether to attribute the queasiness to the cold or the clinical trial drug. I'll pass along the information when I had to Hamilton today, but I doubt the doc can draw any conclusions at this point.

This morning, I shaved Michael's head. I've been complaining about how cold it is with a bald head and he offered to shed his locks in solidarity with my plight. While I have a tiny bit of stubble peaking out on my scalp, for all intents and purposes, I'm still bald. Hurry hair, hurry. Before the snow flies.

I love that Michael is willing to sport a cue ball head and subject himself to the chilly weather just to support me. What a guy!

As I woke up on this rainy, cool morning, I thought of my parents, who are now in Hawaii. It's going to be a high of 25C/77F on those beautiful islands today. I am thankful they've taken this trip and I hope they have a good time. They certainly deserve it after the year they've had.

I have to admit, I'm a little envious. Blue skies, warm sunshine, crashing waves and swaying palm trees sound pretty good right now.

No trip
That brings me to news about my celebration. I mentioned Michael and I would once again go on a trip to commemorate the end of my second bout of cancer. I did lots of research. I drooled over fancy resorts. I dreamt of warm sand and cool drinks.

We weighed our options and decided NOT to head south for some R and R. Instead, we decided to bring the celebration to us - a holiday in our own back yard in the form of a hot tub.

We've dreamed of getting a spa for years, but always put it off because it wasn't in the budget. We decided this year to stop delaying this decadent pleasure. While we don't have the full amount for the purchase and installation of the hot tub, the bank is full of money they're willing to lend us. (A wise fellow cancer survivor told me that once and it stuck.) So we decided to order it and enjoy it, while we're paying it off.

It's scheduled to arrive in the next couple of weeks and the entire Bratscher family is eagerly anticipating soaking in its therapeutic hot water.

Hopefully, by that time, the sickness in our house will be gone and we'll be able to properly toast the end of chemo in the hot tub with a glass of wine or two. And with any luck, we'll toast the exodus of cancer over and over in its frothy water for years to come.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Newton's first law of motion

It's so hard to get moving again. I'm now a big lump who likes to sit at home, work on my computer and read books. I am the perfect example of Newton's first law of motion.

According to Wikipedia, Sir Issac said, every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion (constant velocity) unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force.

The mass of my body is remaining at rest and I need to exert a force to get my booty movin' and shakin' again.

While I've done a better job of getting things done and being productive over the past few days, I'm still mostly doing so from the comfort of my house, with a few trips here and there (including to Hamilton to see the doc). I'm researching and shopping online, making phone calls and writing. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this, but I'm now almost reluctant to leave the comfort of my slippers behind. I resist going out on weekdays when Michael's at work and the kids are at school. Is that because I value the alone time? But it's getting ridiculous.

I completely understand the once in motion, you stay in motion portion of this law. I remember the days when I'd work, exercise, shop, take care of my kids and socialize without pause. It's easy to keep going to the gym once you're actually going (and feel really good and strong). Gotta love those endorphins.

But it's strange being on the other side of Newton's law. I wasn't this stuck when I had chemo last year. When I do go out and socialize or run some errands, I enjoy myself. But right now, I can practically feel tentacles growing up from my desk chair to hold me here. I hear the alluring cries of the Internet and my books. I continuously think, "maybe tomorrow."

But tomorrow is today. I WILL exert that pressure to move. I'm sure my slippers will still be waiting for me when I return.


Monday, November 15, 2010

The to-do list

I love lists. They keep me organized and on track. These days I need them even more because I've discovered chemo brain - and its ability to make things flit from my mind never to be found again - has affected me more this time around. I get a feeling of satisfaction when I cross accomplished items off the list.

But I have to be careful. While lists can be super useful to get chores accomplished, I can't tie myself to one. Sometimes I have to cut the strings and just be spontaneous. Many of the most enjoyable things in life won't be written on my list. These multiple tasks don't tend to capture the fun things in life, but instead record items like clean the house, call the teachers, complain about the service at a particular store, make doctor's appointments, etc. No fun at all.

That's not to say I don't write tasks that lead to fun items: make dinner plans, schedule a coffee date, book train tickets or schedule a massage. But lists definitely don't capture the spontaneity of running into a friend and talking for half an hour, jumping in the leaves (instead of raking them), talking on the phone to an old roommate or going for a walk with the dog on a beautiful day.

As Kris Carr so wisely wrote in her book Crazy sexy cancer tips:

"So often we wait for all our ducks to be in a row, our closets to be neat and tidy, and our endless to-do lists to be checked off before we allow ourselves to have fun. We believe that only after we get all our "stuff" done can be take a deep breath and live.

"Well, cancer doesn't wait for order. In fact, it thrives on chaos. Breathe now. Burn the lists, and let the dust bunnies roll like tumbleweeks. Narrow your focus on what really matters: you."

Doing so may mean my house isn't the cleanest and it takes me longer to get some of my documented tasks done, but it's because I'm out there living. I can't wait until I accomplish everything I think I should do because that list will never end. Time to spend doing the things that make life worth living will.

What have you done lately just for fun?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Response able

I went to school on Friday, and technically I should have received a detention for talking way too much. I attended parent/teacher interviews, and while I did discuss my kids' progress, most of the time was dedicated to other interesting subjects.

As every worthwhile trip to school should provide, I walked away with a few good learnings:

Being response able
My daughter's teacher passed along a message he learned at church. As human beings, we need to think about how we can be responsible (response able). How are we able to respond to those around us? While he specifically talked about volunteering - and not just around Christmas time, but in January when the charities really need help - I've been thinking about what response able means to me.

There are so many responses we can provide to make life a little better/easier/happier for others. While there are the obvious and very important ones of donating food, clothing or money and/or volunteering time to help those less fortunate, there are also little acts we can incorporate into our every day life to create a better world.

I know it always makes me feel good when I get a geninue compliment on something I've done well or how I look. Words can so easily provide sunshine to a person's day, when used generously, yet cost us nothing. Encouraging compliments are especially important for kids. I once learned a very valuable phrase that I try to regularly incorporate into my parenting: Try to catch them doing something right.

Spontaneously offering assistance to those who need it is another way to be response able. Helping a physically challenged or elderly person navigate an icy sidewalk, reaching an item on a tall shelf for a short person (like me!) or picking up the papers a colleague accidentally dropped. It's easy to walk by others who could use a hand, but it creates a good feeling to offer help.

Sometimes these little ways of being response able are called random acts of kindness. Shoveling a neighbour's driveway, letting somone with a few grocery items go through the checkout before your cartload or tossing a few coins into the guitar case of the busker in the subway can mean a lot to the recipient of our actions.

Little everyday choices can also make a big difference: our tone of voice, our driving habits, whether we hold the door or elevator for others, etc.

Credit where credit's due
Yesterday, I also learned we need to give ourselves more credit for the actions we do right. While we can be response able, we don't have to take on the entire burden of another's situation. For example, we can provide a batch of freshly-baked muffins to a recently widowed neighbour, but we can't feel compelled to take on all his sadness and responsibility. Be proud of the kindness and don't feel guilty for circumstances outside our control.

I've been on the receiving end of such kindness, and everyone who's helped in any way deserves a big pat on the back and a thank you. You've made a difference. But you can't be expected to take on my cancer fight. I'd never expect that of anyone.

Everybody has a story to tell
Another valuable lesson reinforced yesterday is everyone has a story. Everyone's life is interesting, we all have challenges and sometimes a sympathetic ear can make a big difference.

A good conversation requires give and take, talking and listening. Yesterday I had two really good conversations with two very different and interesting people.

My kids are lucky. They have teachers who are not only great educators, but wonderful people. That's why I ended up talking to them for about three hours yesterday (yup, detention for me). For me it was time well spent. I walked out of there with some wonderful lessons and a big smile on my face. It was an awesome way to start the weekend.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Murphy's law

Someone named Murphy must be sending her luck my way because when I went to Hamilton yesterday, the rib pain that's been plaguing me subsided, with only residual discomfort. When I saw the doctor, I reported my difficult week, with the nausea sitting at the base of my throat and the rib pain, which technically is the stomach area just below my ribs.

He examined me thoroughly and asked a bunch of questions about uneven leg swelling, bowel movements, abdominal discomfort, etc. He and my medically-inclinded sister then bandied about words like blood clots (which he thankfully ruled out), ulcers and residual acid reflux.

He wasn't sure about the source of my pain, but I was told if it returns to call so I could come in right away, while the symptoms are still present.

Even though I didn't walk out of the cancer centre with answers, I did clutch a prescription for a stronger antacid in my hand. This one will help heal my stomach if I do have an ulcer. But, I'm supposed to avoid coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol and spicy foods. As if. I'm going to see if the medication can work its magic on its own first.

Yesterday, I was surprised to learn my hemoglobin is virtually unchanged. I thought I was starting to feel better, but maybe it's wishful thinking. Dr. H said a slow recovery isn't uncommon after the sixth treatment of the second round of chemotherapy. I think my body did a great job and produced enough hemoglobin so I could get the chemo. Now it knows it's not medically necessary, so it's resting and taking a while to bring the numbers up again. My low hemoglobin explains why I'm tired, breathless, dizzy and cold lately.

The test result that bothered me was my CA-125. It's up a little bit from 53 to 59. No one else seemed worried about the increase and C, my research nurse, said the numbers fluctuate regularly. But it worries me. I want it to go down. I want it to be in the normal range of under 35. I don't like that I may have a "new normal" higher than the usual normal.

I return next week for more pokes and prodding. But that's okay, at least I know my situation is being watched very carefully.

In follow up to yesterday's blog, I took a step up my staircase. When I was done writing, I made a phone call I'd put off, I got out of the house (albeit to go to my regularly scheduled appointment in Hamilton) and I went for a walk in the afternoon. Baby steps, but movement nonetheless.

Today, even though I've succumbed to the cold circulating in my household, I plan to get some computer work done; maybe even some online Christmas shopping. When it warms up this afternoon, I'll head outside for some fresh air and exercise.

Onward and upward,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The staircase

As I look up, I see I'm in the middle of a giant staircase. Stairs ascend as far as I can see. Behind me, a seemingly equal number of stairs descend. I have a choice: Do I go up or down?

Down would be infinitely easier. Gravity would help pull me down those stony steps. But the further I go in that direction, the more pessimism, pain, misery, hopelessness, frustration and lethargy I would feel.

Going up will be difficult. Each step is steep. Each one raises me to a better place. Every single one of them will require effort and determination. But I'm tired of sitting on this cold surface in the middle of the staircase. I'm tired of being a recluse, shut away in my own home and, partially, in my own mind. I need to make a choice and move.

Of course, I choose to go up. This means:

I am going to start exercising again, even if that only means a walk around the block. I'm sure that walk around the block will lead to activities that require more exertion. But walking is a good place to start.

I am going to be less of a slug. That doesn't mean I won't be resting and getting better, but it does mean that I will stop procrastinating so much. I've even started procrastinating jobs that require no more effort than picking up the phone.

I am going to start meditating, reading positive writings, doing yoga and/or praying more. I need to work on the inside parts of me to bring more light and positivity into my life.

I am going to stop shuffling around the house in my slippers every day and get out in the world.

Yes, these are small steps, but they're ones in the right direction. As simple as they sound, they're not going to be easy. As I climb higher, I'll incorporate more ambitious goals into my plan.

But as difficult as this journey may be, I know I'm not alone. I know many friends will climb down from the places they've reached on the staircase, to help me climb a little higher. And I know, without a doubt, Michael will be with me every step of the way.

Of course, I may hit a slippery step along the way and tumble backwards. Luckily, someone will be there to catch my arm so I don't fall too far. When I get discouraged, others will give me a gentle shove from behind to maintain my momentum.

Today I take the first step. Wish me luck.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This morning, I feel like crying. I'm such a wimp.

I think my downward spiral results from a few things, which have compounded into a very big issue in my mind. Of course, I'm probably blowing everything way out of proportion, but it's hard to tell yourself to be rational when your emotions are spiralling downward.

The rib pain remains. It's an almost-continuous pressure on my left side. I'm scared because it reminds me of the pain I experienced when I was full of ascities Yet, that's impossible given my fluid-free CT scans a few weeks ago. My stomach feels round and bloated; if only I could pop that sucker, I'm sure I'd feel relief.

I like to sleep on my left side because it allows me to cuddle up to Michael. But every time I tried to roll over during the past two nights, the pain would wake me up. Michael says I've been moaning in my sleep. So I'm tired, which can in itself induce tears. I admire those who are in continuous pain and face the world every day. Give me a few days of it and I get all weepy.

Of course, I think my emotional distress stems from the misconception that all the difficult parts of this round of fighting cancer were essentially over. I made it through the ascities draining procedures, the initial acid-laden experience with Olaparib and chemo, and the dark chemical side effects. After a week on Olaparib with no horrendous reaction, I thought maybe I'd be able to be on maintenance relatively unscathed. I'm disappointed and scared.

I think the root of my fear is the possibility Dr. H won't be able to do anything about this gassy side effect and I'll be taken off Olaparib. Where does that leave me?

Then a few minor issues add to my already fragile emotional state:

- I'm fighting off a cold that everyone else in my family is experiencing.
- I hit something yesterday and jammed the fingers on my left hand. My middle finger is swollen and hurts.
- I'm still tired and get breathless with exertion due to chemo, which frustrates me.
- I can't do all that much around here, yet feel overwhelmed with what I do have on my to-do list.


I see Dr. H tomorrow and I pray he'll be able to provide some relief and answers. And hopefully, my mood improves and I return to my basically optimistic self. It's a lot easier to face the world that way.

Your wimpy friend,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Too much gas

Pain = gas?
Much to my chagrin, the pain under my left rib is back. I know from the results of my CT scan, my abdomen isn't full of fluid pressing against my ribs, as I initially feared. So I'm guessing this is some severe gas or a gastrointestinal bug tormenting my gut.

The pain started last night at bedtime, preventing me from sleeping on my left side. It woke me several times during the night as I tried to turn over. This morning, it's pressing, pressing, pressing, preventing me from sneezing or coughing.

I find I fill up with gas while I'm taking Olaparib. Toward the end of last week, the weekend, the feeling of acid or food stuck at the base of my throat returned. It's an unpleasant feeling. I don't want to continuously rely on antacids or Gaviscon, but those seem to be the only remedies to the situation. I'm going to chat with Dr. H and C on Wednesday about options.

I'm still tired, but it's not as oppressive as mid last week. My hemoglobin levels must be rising. Of course, it didn't help my recovery that I was busy with Noah's birthday celebrations on the weekend. They were fairly low key, but they still required some shopping, cleaning, baking and cooking.

Weekend blogs
You may have noticed I don't tend to blog on the weekends any more unless I have something new or important to report. I have a feeling readership drops off on the weekends too (which is why I don't feel compelled to write on Saturday and Sunday).

The lack of comments in general, made me wonder if people were still following my journey. But when I added the hits per week feature to my blog, I was surprised with the results. I guess lack of comments don't reflect the number of readers.

But remember, I love to hear from you, so feel free to add your thoughts at least once in a while. I've noticed some new followers, who've written supportive messages. Welcome and thank you.

It's a new week, full of opportunity. What are you going to do with it?


Friday, November 5, 2010

A birthday, side effects and a celebration

An important birthday
This week, I became the mother of a teenager. Yup, my son turned 13 years old on Wednesday. He's now taller than me, his voice is low and he requires frequent showers.

Last year, I blogged about how his birth provided my first experience with my own mortality. The grim reapers cold fingers brushed against my skin to remind me how fragile life can be. Yet, 13 years later, here I am. I'm very thankful to celebrate another year with my wonderful, confident and sometimes challenging son.

Olaparib update
I've now experienced eight days on Olaparib maintenance. I'm swallowing the eight, large, white capsules twice a day with, thankfully, minimal side effects. I think I may be developing some gas issues, because I've had some pain in my left ribs and back, which intensified yesterday.

I exerienced these pains on occasion during chemo, so they may be a residual side effect. Another lingering side effect is my numb moustache area (that space between your lips and nose). I don't know if these issues relate directly to the Olaparib or if they're due to residual chemo and its related drugs in my system.

I have to admit, I'm anxious about the next week or so because during treatment, I really started to notice the stomach queasiness during my second week of recovery, when I was only on the trial drug. This is week two, so I'm carefully watching my body's reaction.

But I'm keeping an eye on these side effects and my doc is keeping an eye on me, so I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of this fairly soon. Perhaps there is something the doc can recommend if the side effects stick around.

The acne that I think is related to the steroid, Dexamethasone, is still plaguing my face. I haven't been this pimply since my teenage years - and I don't like it. I was hoping it would be gone by now. Another lesson in patience, I guess.

Ready to celebrate
Michael told me last night that he's finally ready to celebrate the end of my chemo and moving into the next phase of our lives together. When I asked what changed his mind (because he wasn't ready last week) he mentioned my doctor's appointment this week. Although we're still not sure what's up with the lesion on the bowel wall  - is it the mass they've been tracking, is it a new mass, is it simply a thickening of the bowel wall or scar tissues? - Dr. H doesn't seem worried. Now Michael's taking his emotional cues from the doc.

But with the gas/rib pain issues and tiredness that makes me feel as though I've been kicked around the block a few times, I'm now the one who isn't quite ready to celebrate. I'm sure we'll eventually reach the optimistic emotional stage together and plan something.

Last night Michael hugged me and said, "I'm so glad you're still here with me." I agreed. That's the bottom line. I'm still here to celebrate birthdays, love and life.

Even if everything doesn't go your way today, it's far better than not having this Friday at all. Make the most of it.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Too much, too soon

I am exhaused.

It's been three and a half weeks since my last chemo treatment and I've been so excited to be done and recovering, I've planned my schedule with activities of a normal life. Now, I'm paying the price.

I want to be out there doing things and living life. I want to be able to buy groceries for my family and cook meals. I get satisfaction from doing some of the chores around the house; like the five loads of laundry I did on Monday. I enjoyed getting out and celebrating spa day with my sister. I don't even mind the trips to Hamilton for check ups. Being able to do these activities makes me feel like I'm moving past treatment.

But it's very tiring. One contributing factor may be my hemoglobin is only 96. (You may recall I needed at least 100 to get chemo.) Low hemoglobin circulates less oxygen through my body, making me tired, breathless with exertion and slightly dizzy. It also can produced headaches and lethargy. I know my HgB levels are on the rise, but hurry up already, I've got things to do.

While I planned to rest today and work on my computer, read a book and perhaps nap, Noah got suspended for the day and I need to supervise him and his work. The poor boy got suspended on his birthday and he was devastated. I'll try to keep it low key for both our sakes.

I saw the doctor yesterday and he's pleased with my progress. He isn't concerned about the area the radiologist measured on my bowel wall. He's happy with how I'm handling Olaparib alone. Things seem to be good. It was an three hour drive for a blood draw and a 15 minute chat.

And for those of you who've asked about my mom, she's doing great. She's had a CT scan post chemo and tests to check her kidney and bladder, and she's all clear. Yay! Her and my dad are packing and planning for a trip to Hawaii in mid November. They were supposed to take this dream trip last year, before her diagnosis. I'm so happy they're able to go this year. Aloha!

As for me, I plan to take it easy. One day, I'll be recovered and able to do all the activities I'd like to do. But for now, I have to let my body get better.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spa day

I ruined my sister's 40th birthday. The day before this momentus, milestone birthday, I found out I had cancer. She was the second person I told, after Michael, and she's provided unwavering support ever since.

As a result of my diagnosis, we never really celebrated her 40th birthday (and I'm sure she doesn't really care), but I felt bad. So I'm taking her to the spa today. Spa day is a myriad of celebrations - her 40th birthday, the end of my chemo treatment, a thank you to Angie for being by my side every step of the way, and a woman's version of trick or treat (emphasis on treat).

We'll get buffed, polished, massaged and coifed (or at least Angie will since I have no hair).

Unfortunately, I have a bit of a cold creeping into my sinuses this morning, but I'll pop some research-nurse-approved Dristan and ignore the pesky thing. Because it's a day for the Thomas sisters to be treated well. After everything, I think we deserve it.