Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meandering thoughts = lack of sleep

Even though I was tired, I couldn't fall asleep last night. Like a curious squirrel circuitously exploring the trees in the park, my thoughts gamboled around in my head in the dark, instead of taking a break and allowing me to get some much-needed shut eye.

I thought about Pateeta's death and how hard it must be on her family. Then I thought about her young granddaughter, who may grow up with only hazy memories of her. Then I wondered if I'd ever had the chance to be a grandma, or see my kids get married or even watch them grow up. That lead me to focus on a pain in my abdomen (phantom pain, muscle strain, or something more serious?). Then I was angry I have this stupid disease and the unfairness of the situation.

Then my thoughts meandered to how busy it is at work, my attempts to exercise, my upcoming trip to Myrtle Beach and a bridal shower, I'm helping plan.

I also started making lists in my head. You know it's a bad sign when the mental assignment sheet plays a part in the pre-sleep countdown.

I got hot, I got cold. I flung covers aside and made a couple of trips to the bathroom. I'll admit, I huffed and sighed when I looked at the clock to discover I still hadn't dozed off an hour after turning off the light. Michael was soundly sleeping beside me. I envied his repose.

Even though I ceased taking lorazepam about two weeks ago, I needed it's mind-calming properties last night. So I popped half a pill and headed back to bed. Within five minutes, my mind felt heavier and calmer, and I was soundly asleep within 15 minutes. And I didn't wake once during the night.

And it's a good thing too because I have the feeling it's going to be another day full of mind gymnastics. With sleep, I'm better prepared.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Rest in peace

I'm incredibly sad to pass along that Pateeta (aka Patty) died yesterday. While I didn't know her in person, she was a very important blogging buddy and fellow cancer warrior.

I know she'd been in pain and suffering over the last few months, so I'm happy she's finally at peace. Dying is always hardest on those left behind. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.

While I expected the news, it's always a shock when someone dies. So, I'll cry a few tears for my fellow ovarian cancer warrior, although I'm sure she's now up in heaven partying on.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Knock me over with a feather

On Monday morning, I blogged I couldn't keep up with my running group and I wasn't going to try. But, at lunch I made my way down to the gym with two of my running buddies and hopped on the treadmill. I went into the exercise saying I'd do my best but not expecting much.

Well, lo and behold, didn't I run five-minute intervals. In fact, I did an extra 1-1/2 minutes to encourage one of my fellow runners to finish. Then, after a bit of a break, I did a couple 30 second fast runs (just like they make the contestants do on The Biggest Loser).


Then I went to the gym yesterday and did it again!


I know I can run faster and easier on the treadmill. Having my music and the TV to distract me also helps. But I was absolutely convinced I couldn't do it. Yet, it was far easier than I thought it would be. Go figure. I have to do one more run over the weekend, and I'll see how it goes.

Next week brings seven minute intervals. Again, it scares me to make a two-minute jump, but the least I can do is go into it with an open mind. I may surprise myself again.

I may get the hang of this running thing after all.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oooh baby, pass the coffee

I suspect today will be a caffeine-fuelled day. A busy Monday, a late evening and an overactive brain resulted in too few hours of sleep. As many of those close to me know, I need at least six hours of shut eye (ideally seven or eight) or I don't function well.

I was on the go from the moment I left the house yesterday morning. After a busy day at work, we shuttled Noah to an appointment with the social worker and then home again. Then Michael and I hit the John Labatt Centre to enjoy Jackson Browne's concert last night. Michael requested the tickets for his birthday, and last night was the very enjoyable show.

But the event meant we didn't even climb into bed until 11:30 p.m. But despite the late hour, my mind didn't shut down and jumped from thought to thought.

The lack of lorazepam may have contributed to this delimma. I stopped taking this mind-calming medication after last Tuesday's good-news appointment. I need to learn to sleep on my own again. But I sure could have used it last night to quiet my thoughts and still my mind. As it was, I saw the other side of 12:30 a.m. and woke several times in the night. When the alarm shrilled at 6 a.m., I groaned in displeasure.

I know many people function perfectly well on little sleep, but I'm not one of them! Luckily (or unluckily?), I have plenty to keep my mind occupied at work and several meetings today. With the activity and perhaps some reviving coffee, I'll make it through the day.

Tired Tina

Monday, April 18, 2011

This and that

Cough, cough
Since I haven't blogged in a few days, perhaps you thought I was out celebrating my good news. But unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I've been trying to recover from a nasty cold I developed last Wednesday. Returning to work full time, getting run down and exposure to a multitude of germs were the perfect storm to knock me down for the count. And I didn't just keep all these snotty germs to myself - I shared them with the family. So Noah and Michael have been sick, and Tara complained of a sore stomach this morning. Ugh.

Running fool or foolish running?
Despite being sick, I've continued to run. Despite feeling like absolute crap last week, I joined my running group on Wednesday for our jaunt around the park. But yesterday, I decided I can't keep up with the pace at which the group is progressing. We jumped from 1 minute run/1 minute walk, to 3 minute run/3 minute walk last week. Today we're supposed to do a 5 minute run/3 minute walk. I just can't do it. And if I try, it's going to turn me off running (more than I already am).

Besides, it's freaking cold outside, with a chance of snow. I'm NOT running in that. I'm going to go at my own pace and hop on the treadmill instead. In a way, I feel I'm copping out (especially on my friend, Dorothy, who joined the group because of me). But I have to be aware of my own limitations. I will get there; just at a slower pace than set by my run leader.

On a positive note, I swam a half mile yesterday (after my requied run) and felt much better than the first time. So perhaps my strength and stamina are coming back. Yippee! That's a positive. My cardio improvements will help me with the Run for Ovarian Cancer, even if I'm not built to run.

Woot, woot
Speaking of the run, we held a Starbucks fundraiser at work on Friday and made over $75 thanks to some very, very generous coffee and tea drinkers.

I'm still fundraising and appreciate any donations to the cause. Remember, the money directly supports ovarian cancer research, for which I'm thankful every single day.

I only wish the research and breakthroughs could have helped my friend, Pateeta. I think about her all the time. She's on her final path with ovarian cancer, can't text any more, is in a lot of pain and struggles every day. I wish her and her family peace and comfort.

I wish you all peace and comfort, too. Even though it's Monday, we're all here to make the most of it.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two-year cancer-versary

It's been two years since I heard the news changed my life.

Twenty-four months since I started the tango with the nasty beast that is trying to kill me.

Two years since I started really taking of note of who and what is really important to me. It gave me permission to say no and look after me. It made me treasure hugs, laughter and the colour of the sky.

That terrible day two years ago opened my eyes to the craziness of the medical system and the beauty of the world. It made me fearful of the disease's return and yet thankful for every day. It made me realize today is my life and it deserves living.

Two years ago, my life changed. So now I hope I have 30 more years to live out the good changes my diagnosis did to me.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Details, details

The plastic surgeon
My visit with the plastic surgeon on Monday went well. She suggested I have a one-step procedure that includes the double mastectomy and reconstruction. I'd come out of surgery with very small inplants and a port. Every couple of weeks, Dr. T would add more saline to inflate the breasts until they're the size I want. Then she'd remove the port. I'd go home the same day as the surgery (with drainage tubes) and the recovery time is four to six weeks.

When I asked about timing, she indicated she's booking two to three months from now. Yikes! I'm not ready for another round of healing just yet, so I'm considering late fall.

We discussed the tram flap procedure, which would involve taking my stomach fat and creating breasts from it. While this sounds like the ideal way to get a tummy tuck, she said there are far more issues with this method. Besides, if doctors need to go into my abdomen again - which they probably will, if only to remove my gallstones and fix the hernia - there may be complications with the net that would be in my abdomen after the surgery. Besides, it also involves cutting the abdominal muscles and I think they've been traumatized enough.

I told Dr. T, I was 99.9 per cent sure I was having the surgery, but I will go through with it. I'm extremely nervous about it all, but I don't want to get breast cancer too. Ovarian cancer is enough, thank you very much.

CT scan
Today, I had my six-week visit with Dr. H in Hamilton. This trip involved a CT scan (at 7:30 a.m., which meant leaving London at 6 a.m.), bloodwork and a visit with the doc. The news was reassuringly good.

The target lesion they're measuring for the study shrunk even more. In January, it was 14 mm and today it was 9 mm. I still have ascities and peritoneal lesions in my body, but they're stable.

The radiologist made note of "a nodule, just superficial to the rectus abdominis muscle which is of fluid attenuation and has increased from previously. Is there history of an injection or other intervention, which could produce this fluid collection." That line stumped me and Dr. H. I couldn't think of any reason for this result. Dr. H did a physical exam and couldn't find anything concerning. When I mentioned it to Michael at dinner, he wondered if it may have been caused by the ascities drainage last spring. Ah ha! Yes, they put large needles into my abdomen at that time. Perhaps, that's the cause.

Again, the report mentioned my rotated kidneys, gallstones and hernia. It also noted the dome on my liver. Since it hasn't changed in size, he thinks it's a cyst. More good news.

No abnormality of the spleen, adrenal glands, pancrease or urinary plader. No significat intrathoracic pathology. No aggressive bony lesion. Yay!

My hemoglobin is slowly rising. It's still only 113, but it's getting better.

I'm so relieved. I have hope I can enjoy this summer as a healthy, functioning person.

Thank God!

Short and sweet

Just got out of my doctor's appointment. Good news. Everything is stable. In fact, the target lesion shrunk from 1.4 cm to 9 mm. Dr H has no concerns. Physical exam was good.

I feel healthy and therefore thought the news would be positive, but I like having the scans and tests to confirm my status.



Day two

Off to Hamilton for my three-month CT scan and check up. Fingers crossed it all goes well. I feel good, so hopefully that means the cancer remains dormant.

I'm driving in the car with my sister, trying not to think about coffee, food and water. Can you tell I'm hungry and
thirsty? Angie reminded me I'll get to guzzle the peach-flavoured contrast solution in about 30 minutes. Oh joy!

I'll try to post later to share the (hopefully good) news.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Day one

On this rainy Monday morning, I begin two days of appointments. This morning I see the plastic surgeon to talk about options for my prophylactic double mastectomy. Whenever I mention this surgery, I watch people flinch. It's almost as if they're questioning the need for such an extreme procedure when I don't have breast cancer.

In my head sometimes, I wonder about its need. I think about the pain and recovery; the physical and mental adjustments. While I'm not overly attached to my breasts, they are part of me. I'm sure the whole process will affect me profoundly.

But when I explain why I'd undergo the surgery, I realize I haven't really got a choice. I have the BRCA-1 gene. It's obviously broken, and as a result, doesn't recognize cancer cells as bad and kill them - hence the ovarian cancer. Even though I've cut my risk of breast cancer in half through removal of my uterus and ovaries, it's still heart-stopping 45 per cent. And the risk only increases as I get older.

While I'm taking Olaparib, which is designed to replace the role of my broken gene, it's still experiemental. I have no guarantees. I'm praying with every fibre of my being it's the next wonder drug because then it'll keep my ovarian cancer under control. Theoretically, it would also prevent genetically induced breast cancer.

But I'm not willing to roll the dice with my life. Almost 50/50 odds are NOT acceptable to me. I don't want to have to fight breast cancer too.

So I'll seriously discuss the reconstruction options with the plastic surgeon today and make the decision that works for me.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cancer sucks

Cancer sucks. It's that simple.

My friend Pateeta, a fellow ovarian cancer warrior, is dying. I follow her blog and watch for her daily Facebook updates to let us know she's still alive and kicking. But I can read it's getting hard for her. I feel so sad for her and her family.

My friend, Jen's dad just died from this stupid disease. From his obituary, he sounded amazing. Another bright flame snuffed.

If you can spare a prayer, put a word in with the big guy for these two families.

And I'll say it again, cancer sucks.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Med mix up

Extreme tiredness, restlessness, jitteriness, aching legs, the feeling cotton is occupying at least half my brain. That's how I feel. Why? Because I accidentally took Noah's medication at dinner last night.

I guess I'm so used to popping pills and was sufficiently distracted enough that when I grabbed Noah's meds last night, I popped them in my mouth and swallowed them. I take an acid reducer every evening at dinner and thought that's what I was consuming. But when I sat down at dinner and saw my Nexium tablet sitting by my plate, I discovered my mistake.

Noah takes two medications in the evening - a antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. I suspect, the extended-release mood stabilizer is wreaking havoc on my systems.

I tried to contact the medical oncologist on call at the Hamilton cancer centre last night, but was told by the switchboard operator to call my family doctor or go to Emergency. Right, like they could do anything for me and understand my situation. So I'm going to call my clinical trials nurse today to ask if there are any issues with taking these pills and my Olaparib. (Not that I've stopped my doses of the clinical trial drug.)

I feel the mood stabilizer is creating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in me. Last night, I had flashing, colourful images under my eyelids when I tried to go to sleep. I've jumped from one activity and one thought to another this morning. It's very disconcerting.

To be honest, I also feel extremely self conscious. Last night, I had a couple of women over to plan an event and I couldn't sit still. I was so tired and had to force my eyes to stay open. I thought they couldn't help but notice I was acting weird. Then I wondered why they didn't say anything. I certainly didn't feel like me.

This experience makes me wonder what Noah feels like every day. I'm sure he experiences different things because the meds are designed to help his type of brain. But I'll have to compare notes with him - when I'm feeling back to normal.

Until the drugs are out of my system, I'll just do the best I can. Rest assured, this little mix up will make me be more careful with medications in the future. (I'm trying not to call myself an idiot, but that's what I feel like I am.)

Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reality and balance

It's so easy to allow myself to forget; not that I have cancer, but the seriousness of ovarian cancer. But then I'll hear or read something and the reality of my situation crashes down around me again. Things like,

Most women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer don't make it past five years.

The majority of research is done on treating ovarian cancer because by the time most women are diagnosed, it's extremely serious.

Women who have the BRCA gene mutations tend to have aggressively growing cancers.

I've lost far too many friends to ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer could be like a chronic disease, with a woman going through treatment 10 times or more.

Then I've read some blogs from ovarian cancer warriors who experience constant pain and have transportable pain pumps or ones inserted under their skin. I hear about hospital visits, complications and death.


1. I consider myself lucky to be where I am right now - relatively healthy and getting stronger.

2. I wonder if I'm living life to the fullest.

3. I question my priorities and how much emphasis I'm placing on certain activities - and the amount of stress I'm putting on myself.

4. I ask, "Why I can't just be kinder and more patient with myself overall."

Right now I feel normal and therefore, I forget I have a life-threatening disease. I want to be normal, but remember the lessons from fighting cancer. I want to live life to the fullest. I want to be able to balance the stress with the fun.

I guess I'm struggling with it all right now. Today, this whole situation just makes me sad.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Weary Wednesday

Wow! This working full time, trying to exercise, managing a household, schleping kids to activities and going to appointments is hard work. This is my first week back at work full time and I'm exhausted. And it's only Wednesday!

Of course, it doesn't help it's super busy at work. I can feel it in the air. It practically crackles with tension of looming deadlines and piles of work. Of course, we're all trying to feel our way around the new world, which is tiring all by itself. Uncertainty is tiring.

Speaking of uncertainty, I see Dr. H next Tuesday for my CT scan and check up. Until then, I'll have a little extra weight on my shoulders worrying about what's happening inside my body. Don't get me wrong, overall, I feel good. But one never knows.

This morning, I'm so tired I feel like crying, and only 8 a.m. I'm sure I'll make it through the day but it's going to be a long one. But I only have few meetings, so I can actually sit down and write. Stroking a couple of items off my to-do list may help my stress level.

To top it off, I feel like I'm getting a cold. That makes me unhappy.

I don't mean to complain, simply explain. As usual, I'll continue to do the best I can. It's all any of us can do.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Every dollar counts

Last night, I attended an organizing committee meeting for the Run for Ovarian Cancer. They invited team captains so we could share fundraising ideas. The committee also asked if they could help in any way.

I talked about Team Tina's souper fundraiser and everyone expressed astonishment it raised over $700. Then I talked about a few other smaller events we have planned. I also mentioned I ask almost everyone I know for a donation. I may get a no, because there are lots of worthy causes out there, but I definitely won't get a donation if I don't ask.

Although only a couple of other captains showed up last night, it was a pleasure to put names and faces to the other teams. It's a friendly competition to raise the most funds - one that I may take a little too seriously. But I am so close to this worthy cause and so desperately want a better way to deal with this disease. Besides, every dollar raised supports ovarian cancer research.

Last night we listened to one of the researchers, who discussed how the money is spent. It was interesting to learn they have competitions to earn the money, so the funding is supporting the best ideas in the city on the ovarian cancer research front.

I truly believe we're on the verge of some great breakthrough. And I'm proud to support that through my fundraising efforts.

I welcome you to join Team Tina and come out to the run on May 15. Or sponsor one of the team members. Join in the fight against ovarian cancer. Every dollar counts.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Simmering success

Who knew some steaming crock pots of soup and a bunch of hungry - and generous - folks could raise $703 for ovarian cancer research?

Yesterday, some of my work friends and I put on a "souper" event as part of Team Tina's fundraising efforts for the Run for Ovarian Cancer. I had many volunteer chefs, servers and ticket sellers/takers. Many bought tickets (or just gave donations) and enjoyed the delicious soup. A fellow cancer survivor donated a beautiful knit shawl in teal - the colour of ovarian cancer awareness - for us to raffle off.

It was an amazing success. We more than doubled the amount we raised last year and all the chefs received kudos on their soups. We also heard requests to keep doing the event because it's so much fun.

It was an amazing team effort, and I'm so very grateful for all the support.

So today I'm feeling very thankful.