Thursday, June 30, 2011

The road less traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

This quote hangs in one of the examination rooms in the Hamilton cancer centre. It aptly describes my situation. As one participating in clinical trial(s), I join the minority who take a less-than-conventional approach to cancer treatment. I consider myself lucky to have the option.

Let's hope it makes all the difference.

But this path, this journey with cancer isn't smooth. The road I'm currently traversing dropped suddenly with the reoccurence news and I'm now looking at a steep climb - and the road looks bumpy. But I sense this ascent, with it's slippery twists and hairpin turns may be shorter than those I've navigated in the past. Once I reach the peak, I hope to find a long, gradual, smooth road with some beautiful scenery and temperate weather.

Yes, I'm still experiencing the negative emotions of disappointment, anger, disillusion and annoyance. I have every right to focus on these bad emotions because the cancer is coming back.

But this morning, my thoughts are turning to the ways I'm fortunate. The Olaparib worked and shrunk my tumours. The cancer hasn't spread to any other organ or into my lymphatic system. I have a good chance of qualifying to get this clinical trial drug with its ascities drying and tumour stabilizing benefits. I still have options and I feel pretty good. I have an amazing husband, family and friends.

Sure, I'm tired. Yes, I feel bloated and my back is sore (even more so now that my mind registers every little discomfort as cancer side effects). But it's the Canada Day long weekend, the sun is shining and we're alive to enjoy it.

Make the most of it.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More details

I know I've been conspicuously quiet since the brief update yesterday. Usually, I post the night of my appointments with the nitty gritty details. But I couldn't do it last night. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and quite honestly, I didn't know what to say. I still don't, but I'll give it my best shot.

I have so many emotions flitting through my head and heart - some good and some bad.  In the end, I feel neutral; maybe even cautiously hopeful.

I honestly thought (in the back of my head) I'd walk out of my appointment yesterday with a date to start the next round of chemotherapy. I'd have to drop out of my life (again) and be thrown back into the deep, dark chaos of treatment. To be honest, that thought made me hyperventilate and tear up. I didn't know where I was going to find the strength to do it.

While chemo is an option now and one I'll probably need to comtemplate in the future, it's not the recommendation Dr. H is making now. He says my cancer responds well to chemo and there are lots of cocktail combinations we can try to control this stupid disease, but he's suggesting a new clinical trial. To me it doesn't feel right to jump to chemo at this point.

Medical details
Since my ascities, which is the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, is increasing and my CA-125 blood level is 514, doubling three times over the course of the last three months, the cancer is coming back. That means the Olaparib worked, but it isn't working any more. So I'm no longer an Olaparib girl. I had my exit EEG yesterday to ensure my heart function wasn't affected (it was fine) and I went home without the big, white capsules. The good news is I don't have to fast for three hours around their consumption any more.

In a way, it feels like I got kicked off the study and I was a failure - and that bugs me - but according to the latest research, I'm actually a success story since I had eight to nine months in remission. It doesn't feel like success to me, but I guess I had higher expectations of the "wonder drug" than the researchers. To be honest, the whole experience has me a bit disillusioned about clinical trials; but not enough to opt out of them. Maybe I'm a little more realistic in my expectations of what they can achieve.

The CT scan showed my tumour shrunk from 9 mm to 7 mm. Yay! The Olaparib obviously worked on those "older" cancer cells (as far as I understand it, the ascities would be from newer cancer cells that have developed a resistance to the drug and are growing). The cancer hasn't spread to any other organs, the deposits on my omentum are stable. The density on my liver, which has been there since 2010 and may be a cyst, is stable. All other organs are unremarkable. So that's all good. It's just the darn ascities that's building.

Clinical trial
Dr. H was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet with excitement when he recommended a new clinical trial. He thinks this is the best option for me at this time - and I honestly believe he has my best interests at heart. I have confidence in him and he was very straightforward with me yesterday. He researched various clinical trials going on in Toronto and London, yet thinks this one, which will be happening in Hamilton, may be my best choice.

The study is currently being considered by the ethics committee of the hospital and Dr. H expects it to open to participants in mid July. I don't have all the details, but it involves a new antianglogenic inhibitor, which cuts off the flow of blood and nutrients to new blood vessels. Because tumors cannot grow or spread without the formation of new blood vessels, researchers hope these chemicals will prevent or slow down the growth of cancer by blocking the formation of new blood vessels.

This phase I clinical trial study involves this antianglogenic inhibitor  in combination with other drugs (to see if the additional medications increase the effectiveness and assess the interaction of the drugs) versus on its own. Twenty women will be admitted into each arm of the study and I'm now on the list of potential participants.

According to research I did this morning, angiogenesis inhibitors usually have only mild side effects and are not toxic to most healthy cells. Tumors do not seem to develop a resistance to angiogenesis inhibitors, even when given over a long period of time, unlike the resistance seen when chemotherapy drugs are used. The side effects Dr. H mentioned are increased blood pressure, a rash on hands, protein in the urine (which apparently can cause kidney damage over time if the protein is too concentrated) and tiredness.

My research revealed the following limitations: Angiogenesis inhibitor therapy may not necessarily kill tumors, but instead may keep tumors stable. Therefore, this type of therapy may need to be administered over a long period. Because angiogenesis is important in wound healing and in reproduction, long-term treatment with antiangiogenic agents could cause problems with bleeding, blood clotting, heart function, the immune system, and the reproductive system (which I no longer have anyway). I'm sure I'd be monitored very closely to watch for these.

The drugs are taken orally and not in conjunction with chemo. I would have several appointments initially to sign me up for the study, get the appropriate tests and then be monitored, but then they'd taper off. Best of all, if I tolerate the drug(s) well, I'll still be able to work and do normal life things.

The hitch
While I am celebrating the 2 mm shrinkage in my tumour, that great news may ironically end up being bad news for participation in the new study. I need a measurable tumour of at least 1 cm to qualify for the clinical trial. So, it seems wrong, but I almost need to wish my tumour will grow to the appropriate size.

But I believe God put me here now for a reason and I will qualify. I need to have a "wash out" period of four weeks with no Olaparib in my system. Only 40 women can be part of this clinical trial so my reoccurence timing is ideal because Dr. H expects it will fill up quickly. And as I said, I'm on the list. It's as if all the stars are aligning to position me for this next path on my cancer journey.

My next appointment to talk about my situation is on July 26. Until then I get to go to the beach, spend some time at a cottage, go swimming, visit with friends, work - basically live life and enjoy my time. Of course, right now, I'm still feeling a bit perplexed and bombarded by the information and the hurricane of emotions I'm feeling.

My one big fear is the acities will grow out of proportion in the next month and swell my abdomen like a balloon. That would inhibit my enjoyment of the summer and the activities I have planned. It would also mean trips to the doc to get the fluid drained. I feel slightly swollen now, but I still feel good. Fingers crossed, I'll stay that way. The new drug is supposed to be very good at drying up ascities. (Another good omen I'm supposed to be on this clinical trial since that fluid seems to be my nemisis).

So those are the details as I understand and have processed them. I'm sure I'll have lots more information and thoughts to share over the coming days.

I also want to say thank you to everyone for being supportive and patient with me (and I love the hugs). My apologies if I didn't respond to you. I appreciate all the messages, but I'm a bit overwhelmed right now. Sometimes I don't even know what to say. But I do appreciate the open arms and understanding. I may need the listening ears when I am ready.

You're all amazing.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mixed results

"Good news doesn't necessarily always come in pretty packaging," says my sister, Angie.

Good news - Tumours shrunk more, physical exam was good. I feel good.

Bad news - More ascities present, Olaparib isn't working any more. In other words, cancer's coming back.

Good news - There's another clinical trial coming up in July that may be ideal for me. It's just going through ethics committee. It's a drug only, which means I should have minimal side effects and be able to continue to live my life.

I'll post more details later but those are the highlights.

Thanks for all your prayers and messages of support. You guys are amazing.


Monday, June 27, 2011


The countdown is on. In 24 hours, I'll be in the Hamilton cancer centre with radioactive juice in my system and sporting an I.V. to push even more into my veins during the CT scan. That test and the subsequent blood work will give Dr. H. the data he needs to present my options.

I have to admit, I'm feeling anxious this morning and as a result, my mind is rather scattered. The giant boa constrictor of worry wrapped itself around me about 20 minutes ago and I'm finding it difficult to breathe. My right eye is twitching too.

But I have an over-abundance of meetings today. That'll either be a good distraction or something that drives me right round the bend. My good friend also brought me a pink rose from the bush she planted for me when I was diagnosed. It's just about to open and it's beautiful. Perhaps that's a sign for good news tomorrow.

Luckily, I have the enjoyable distraction of my son's grade 8 graduation tonight. Being actively present to celebrate will help me from crawling the walls at home tonight.

As for my weekend, it was okay. Nothing spectacular, but not bad either. Michael and I went to the International Food Festival in downtown London and our family watched a couple of movies.
We cleaned the house (yuck) yesterday, so I feel better about its state. Anxiety and the feeling I should be doing something spectacular hung like a cloud over the entire two days, but what's done is done. It was quite normal. God willing, I'll continue to be able to experience normal.

Tomorrow I'll have answers. I'll let you know as soon as I know the direction of my path.

Wish me luck and maybe even a few prayers,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The clock keeps ticking

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

It's 146 hours until I'll be scanned and probed. The clock keeps measuring the seconds, minutes and hours until I learn my fate. I'm trying to be calm and casual, carrying on with normal life, but inside the pressure's building as the internal ticking continues.

I feel like this my last weekend and I have to cram stuff into it. But that expectation has also immobilized me into planning nothing. At the beginning of June, I thought I'd try to go whitewater rafting in Ottawa this weekend, but I didn't plan anything for fear I'd be bloated with ascities by ths time. Now it's too late.

Overall I still feel good. I'm tired, but everyone around me seems to be exhausted. However, it does erect a hurdle, because planning seems like too much effort. But of course, if I did schedule something fun, I'd get excited about the event and experience a burst of energy. How ironic.

Tara's friend's family embarks on an adventurous road trip next week after school finishes. Michael and I talked to her dad at soccer last night. We perused the atlas and discussed interesting locales we've visited. He gave us some good tips if we ever want to venture into the northeastern U.S.

The discussion made me yearn for a road trip. I'd love to just hop in the car and take off for parts unexplored. But my leash to reality yanked me back - work, school, graduation, soccer, riding lessons, medical appointments, chores, etc.

And while I feel this is my last weekend, it's not. I have many, many more to enjoy, even if I'm undergoing treatment. I will have time when I feel good. But this is the last weekend I can plan without knowing what my future entails. That's both a blessing and a curse. Fingers crossed, the expectation the cancer's back is wrong, and I'll be released to plan adventures (or not) until my heart's content. At least that'd be a choice. Undergoing treatment for cancer isn't something I'd willingly choose to do.

Oh, I know I have the choice to opt out of treatment, but medical interventions are still my best hope for survival. And I want to live as long as I can.

As for this weekend, I've now consented to a sleepover at our house on Friday night. I should clean the house (it's starting to bug me and cause stress too). Otherwise, I'm wide open. Any suggestions?

Tick, tick, tick, tick. Let's hope that's not the sound of a bomb, but a countdown to a benign reason for my rising CA-125 and an awesome summer.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The little things

Sometimes, it's the little things people do that mean a lot to me. I've experienced a lot of demonstrations of love and support over this cancer journey, but I want to call attention to a couple of the recent ones for which I'm thankful.

How ya doin'?
I have a good friend in my department who pops into my cube every morning to ask how I'm doing. It doesn't take long and it's a small gesture, but one I really appreciate. The best part - I can be completely honest with her and it's okay. I can tell her I'm sad, worried or perfectly fine. It's okay when I'm not having a great day.

Yesterday morning I talked to her about feeling anxious about my CT scan next week. Although I can't do anything about it and I'm trying to push it to the back of my head, I can feel the tightness beginning in the core of my being in anticipation of what will happen next Tuesday.

Preparation and hope
About 99 per cent of me is preparing for (the damn) treatment again and one per cent is hopeful my rising CA-125 is due to an infection or some other semi-normal occurence. I actually read on a message board about an ovarian cancer survivor whose rising CA-125 was due to a small bowel obstruction caused by a hernia. Her small intenstine was sticking through the wall of the abdomen.

"I talked with my oncologist and a friend who is an OB/GYN. Both said the CA 125 will rise or fluctuate if there are any changes to the chest or abdomen, particularly if there is damage to the primary peritoneum. I went online and found the same info at the National Cancer Institute site," she wrote.

I have a hernia with a portion of my small bowel sticking through it. I have damage to my primary peritoneum through my debulking surgery two years ago, when they scraped the cancer deposits off my omentum. As well, I'm sure the chemo didn't exactly baby the area. Perhaps (hopefully) that's the cause of my rising CA-125. It's fixable with surgery and it isn't cancer.

My rising anxiety is due to the anticipation my life will change dramatically again next week - and I have no control over it.

Best case scenario, my CA-125 drops, the whole thing was a fluke and I carry on with life. Or the hernia is the culprit and surgery is the cure. (They can remove my gallbladder at the same time and do a little scouting trip to root out any visible, remaining cancer.) Then I can plan and my mind can rest easier. I'm not counting on this, but I'm a teeny tiny bit hopeful.

A cuppa joe
The second gesture for which I'm thankful is when another friend regularly invites me to join him for coffee. We may spend 15 minutes talking during this java break. Sometimes it's about work and other times it's not. But he's person who asks how I'm doing and wants to hear the real answer. I like that. And being invited to coffee is fun too. I like coffee.

Someone made an interesting comment to me yesterday morning, which I've been thinking about ever since. He wondered how I can even function at work with all that's going on. I told him some days I wonder too. One day last week, I seriously thought I couldn't stand another minute focusing on tasks that won't mean anything in the long run, while my body could be growing millions and millions of cancer cells. I started hyperventilating, crying and I wanted to run screaming out of the building. But then I went to a meeting, transferred my attention to something else and moved forward.

In the end, it's all I can do. That and share my experience with others via this blog. Maybe my insights will help them too. Even though I was quite private before I got cancer, I've turned into an open book, sharing emotions, experiences and gory, medical details. But if my experience can help someone else, I'm doing some good.

As for moving forward, while it would be lovely to freeze a great moment in time and stay there, that would be boring. Experiences change who we are and help us learn.

Life is for living, changing and enjoying. Remember to grab a few moments and relish the enjoyment in yours.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Technical experiment

I'll be the first to admit I'm not technologically saavy. I can perform basic computer functions: I can manoeuver my way around Microsoft Word fairly well, understand the basics of other programs like Excel and PowerPoint, can connect a printer or new device (because the set up instructions appear automatically) and even map to a drive at work. But beyond that, I'm sadly deficient in skills.

In fact, when I accidentally perform a strange action, increasing the font on my computer screen or losing a tool bar, I need help to fix it. The fact I'm blogging is a small miracle (again, the program makes it quite easy).

So when friends mentioned they couldn't post on my blog, I didn't know what solution to suggest. Even after my test yesterday, I'm stumped.

I'm thankful for those who were able and did post a reply. I'm thrilled to know I have readers who are familiar to me and those I don't know. I'm touched people read regularly. I love the global reach of the internet, allowing me to connect with individuals in Iceland and Germany. Thank you all.

I also got emails from folks, telling me they couldn't post (including my husband). One technologically educated friend said, "I think it's a browser problem. I was using IE7. If anyone is trying to comment, they might be using IE6, which isn't supported." She then successfully posted with Firefox.

I wish I knew what that means.

I desperately wish I could help so everyone could comment, because I adore hearing from you. But I don't know what to do. I even scanned the various settings on my blog this morning, but to no avail.

So, like many people who either don't want to comment publicly, aren't set up to comment or simply can't due to technology problems, I offer the option of emailing me at:

I'm deeply touched by all you who read my blog regularly and provide me with verbal/written love and support. It truly means the world to me to know I'm not alone on this scary, emotional, enlightening, rollercoaster ride called cancer.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Test, test

Twice in the past week, I've learned friends haven't been able to post to my blog. Either something is wrong with the blogger site or their user profiles. So I'd like to conduct a little test. I'd appreciate it if you have the capability to post a comment, please do so.

I'd also be curious to know how many people are still reading my blog. I get some comments and emails outside this forum, but the replies on this site lately have been sadly absent - and I miss them. The tracking statistics indicate I still have a lot of readers, but you're a curiously silent bunch.

So write me a joke, make a comment about my recent blogs, wish me luck next week at my CT scan or just say hi.

I'd love to hear from you.


Friday, June 17, 2011


I know some of you have been worried about me and I want to assure you, I'm better than I was on Wednesday. While I'm still sad and worried, I am not overwhelmed by it all (at least not all the time). It helps that I've been busy.

While at work on Wednesday, I got super busy, which prevented me from thinking about me, me, me. I plodded through my responsibilities, and made it through the day without too many break downs.

What I am is exhausted. Heavy emotions and lots of work make Tina a tired girl. My eyes feel gritty and sunk in their sockets, my vision is a bit wonky, I have the start of a headache and my body feels heavy. I know my activity level lately is contributing to the exhaustion, but then again, a niggling part in the back of my brain wonders if I'm so tired because my body is using some of its energy to create tumours. Scary.

Oh, the wild rollercoaster of emotions that come with having cancer. I'd love to return to the days when my biggest worries were my children, budget, work, garden, planning all the activities in my schedule, vacation, getting older, etc. Cancer puts it all in perspective. (Don't get me wrong, I still worry about everyday things like having a clean house when company comes over or what I'm going to make for dinner. I just have an added worry - and a big one at that.)

But I will persevere. Cancer is not a choice, but I will certainly not lie down to it!
What I need to do this weekend though is engage in some soul rejeuvenating activities. Luckily, I get to meet my friend's new baby tomorrow morning and hang with some of my favourite people. I'm really looking forward to that.

I do want to thank you for all your support over the past few days - hugs, emails, visits to my cube, flowers. I am a very lucky woman to have such great friends.

Life is good.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Swirling emotions

Today is a bad day. I feel scared, sad, angry, disconnected and out of control.

Scared and sad
I've experienced a variety of pains lately. My biggest concern is one that regularly aches in my lower left abdomen. I know this was the location of the biggest tumour in the past and pain in that area automatically leads me to believe the cancer's growing out of control. The spot really bothered me last night as I tried to sleep. I palpated the area, as if I could feel the lump in my abdomen.

I get other aches, some that actually cause me to wince in pain. I had a terrible one in my side last Thursday. But then it moved around to the other side of my body - and then dissapeared - so I'm hoping it was gas or due to some other innocuous cause.

The potential cause of these pains make me fearful. I remember when my blogging friend Pateeta, who died of ovarian cancer a few months ago, talked about pains in her abdomen. She knew the cancer was back and then she died about eight months later.

I'm scared of what a reoccurence could mean for me. Will I start down the journey where I'll never feel well again. Will pain become a constant part of my life? I can handle treatment again if I get to experience good feelings and wellness in remission. But there are no guarantees.

It all makes me feel so sad - for me, my family and my friends.

At the wedding on the weekend, when my children looked so grown up and attractive in their fancy garb, I wondered if I would ever see them get married. I'm not ready to leave this life. I have way too much living yet to do.

So I get angry. This is not fair. I shouldn't have to deal with this yet again. I shouldn't have to think about dying in the short term, but years and years from now. I resent cancer's intrusion on my life. And to be honest, I'm still mad at God.

I'm also starting to feel a bit disconnected from segments of my life. Sure, I'm still working hard on projects for my job, but a portion of my mind wonders if I'll be around to complete them or if I'll have to go off work again. I sometimes sit in the frenzied activity of daily life and wonder if I belong. I sometimes feel so different than everyone else. It's a very lonely feeling.

Out of control
Over the past few days, I've heard a lot of comments about how strong I am and how I need to keep fighting. Of course, I'm not giving up! I have too many wonderful things in my life. Everyone is very sincere and supportive when they encourage me to keep fighting, but I kind of resent it too. So much is out of my control. I have done the very best I can and yet the cancer keeps coming back. My being strong will not prevent a reoccurence. Have others died of cancer because they weren't strong enough or positive enough? No.

Don't get me wrong, most days I'm positive and determined, but I will have days when I'm weepy and weak. Times when I feel discouraged and alone.

Today is one of those days.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The hoopla surrounding Margaret and Dennis' wedding is dying down and I've discovered I'm exhausted. After working more than full tilt for a few weeks, visiting with the relatives from overseas and all the wedding activties, I'm worn pretty thin.

Throw in the usual kid activities, more visits with the relatives who are still here and the underlying stress of wondering what will happen with me, and I feel as though I could crawl in my bed to sleep for a week. It helps that most of these activities are fun, but I only have so much energy. Luckily, it'll all wind down soon.

In a way, this hyperactivity has been a blessing because I haven't had much time to think about what could be happening in my body. Every so often, in the quiet of a soak or while lying in bed, I'll contemplate my future and what it holds, but otherwise, I'm just too darn busy.

I've also put some added pressure on myself. I feel I have to fit in fun and adventurous activities before my CT scan on June 28 - when my world could change yet again. But when? I need to get rid of the "should" attitude go with the flow. I need to enjoy the baby shower and stag and doe planned for this weekend and then anticipate my son's grade 8 graduation. I need to relish the visiting and any captured quiet time with a book.

Sure, I'd love to squeeze in that whitewater rafting trip I talked about last fall, but if thinking about scheduling it induces anxiety, it may not be worth the adventurous fun it would provide.

Deep breath and do what I can.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

Love and happiness

Today my sister-in-law, Margaret, gets married for the first time (at 45 years old). I'm thrilled for both her and her almost-husband, Dennis.

Of course, these part few days have been filled with activities and events. On Thursday night, Tara and I joined the bride, her mother, the matron of honour, her daughter and a cousin here from Scotland for manicures and pedicures. It was Tara's first professional nail treatment and the manicurist added little special touches. She painted little white and gold daisies painted on Tara's fingernails and some hot pink and white designs on her toenails. My little monkey looked so pleased and proud of her pretty nails. I'm sure she showed them off to all her friends at school yesterday.

Last night was the rehearsal and dinner. Tara is the flower girl, Michael's a groomsman and Noah is walking his Omi down the aisle. They all needed to practise their parts. Then we all went to Margaret and Michael's parents afterwards for some food and, more importantly, drink. But it wasn't too late a night because my kids needed to get their precious sleep. Tara arose about 20 minutes ago and Noah, thank goodness, is still sleeping. Even though Michael and I wanted to sleep in, it wasn't in the cards, so we had a long soak in the hot tub instead.

This morning, Tara joins the wedding girls for a hair appointment and the photographer arrives at 1. We'll try to keep it fairly low key until the photographs so it isn't too overwhelming. (Tara wasn't thrilled when she learned at the rehearsal last night she has to walk down the aisle all by herself!)  he ceremony is at 2:30 with the order of events thereafter being photos, cocktails, dinnner, speeches, party.

I'm the MC of the event, and while I usually abhor speaking in front of people, I'm pretty calm about all this (right now). I have my speech prepared, so I'm going to remain calm and cool. Hopefully that'll work. I'm not going to think about actually getting up in front of 140 people because that might freak me out. To be honest, I'm honoured to be part of Margaret and Dennis' special day.

As they begin their life together as husband and wife, I hope they remember this is just one day - a special day, no doubt - but only one in a lifetime together. It's important to enjoy the day, but it doesn't a marriage make. That's comprised of the happy, sad, ho-hum, sick, contented, angry and exciting days; in no particular order. A marriage is what a couple does on all the days that follow a wedding to keep their love alive and the lines of communication open.

I hope Margaret and Dennis have a fabulous day, full of fun and laughter, and a lifetime of happiness together, filled with love, understanding, forgiveness and joy.

I love you both. Congratulations.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Forgive my forgetfulness

I've always had a great memory. I was known for remembering birthdays, phone numbers, tasks on my to-do list, events in the past, appointment dates, etc. Lately, though, I've noticed a marked decrease in this mental capacity - and it annoys me.

My poor sister-in-law, whose wedding is this Saturday (woo hoo!), must think I'm mental. I've forgotten a couple of appointments for fittings (good thing she had the foresight to mention them a few times), and she's had to repeatedly remind me about hair and nail appointments times. Lucky for me, she's been patient.

On the other hand, this forgetfulness frustrates me. I've actually completely missed two scheduled appointments with a therapist and a dentist in the last six months. It's so unlike me.

I know the culprit of my forgetfulness: two rounds of chemotherapy.

I'd heard about chemo brain, and experienced a bit of its mind-numbing effects during and after my first six treatments in 2009. But my grey matter rebounded quickly, and I felt I regained my mental prowess. After my second round of six treatments last summer, I experienced a noticable decline in my memory skills; one that continues today.

Ironically, the July 2011 issue of Chatelaine, which I was reading in the hot tub on the weekend, described chemo brain and its long-term effects.

""Chemo brain" may be more than just a short-term side effect of cancer treatment - new research shows it lasts at least five years. Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle followed 92 patients for five years and found that in about 40 per cent, mild verbal-memory deficits and motor-skill problems carried on to the five-year mark."

It went on to say that after chemo, many people are slower at processing information and have problems multi-tasking and solving word problems, but most tend to improve after five years. However, if this stupid cancer keeps reoccuring, with chemotherapy being the treatment, I'll never regain that lost brain function.

I'll just have to get even better at note taking and tracking appointments. Chemo brain is real, I just have to find ways to work with it. It will not defeat me.


P.S. The same issue of Chatelaine said the Journal of the American Heart Association reported one or more cups of coffee a day reduces your risk of stroke by 25 per cent. Yum! I reduce my chance of stroke every day, yet I can't keep thoughts from slipping out of my memory. Go figure.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Calling all angels

I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to be positive these days. While I want to live my life with hope, happiness and positivity, those emotions have been evading me lately. I need to recapture them. I need to soak up the joy of every day and live it. But it's SO hard.

While I like my job and the project I'm working on, it's sucking up so much energy. The timelines are short, the details change every day and I feel very responsible (along with my fellow project warriors) for it all. Unrealistic? Yes. Atypical of me? No.

But when my right eye starts to twitch, I have work dreams, and I wake with a headache and that tight, squeezy feeling in my chest, the stress is too much. I didn't work last night and I'm trying very hard to adopt a different attitude today. It's not going so well yet. I'm really worried about my health (duh) and I argued with Noah three times this morning about showering thoroughly (so he doesn't smell) and cleaning his room. It was very frustrating.

Michael's work situation is equally stressful right now with departments moving out of the hospital and the impending postal strike. As the shipper/receiver, he's crazy busy right now. I know he's also really worried about me and what our future may hold. So we're both wound up a little too tight right now, with frazzled nerves and shortened fuses.

In my quest to acheive balance and listen to positive messages, I've been drawing angel cards each morning. I'm calling on the guidance of God and his angels to help me find balance. Some of the cards I've drawn over the past two days interestingly provided me with positive messages.

Archangel Raphael - He's one of the big two, along with Archangel Michael. Raphael's name means "God heals" and he's the heavenly, healing angel who oversees any health concerns. He jumped out of my deck while I was shuffling yesterday, which means I was supposed to get his message and then I drew him today. I'm taking his presence in my draw as a good sign that my prayers to get better are being heard. How that will manifest has yet to be revealed, but I believe in the message.

Visualize success - "See yourself doing well in this situation and have faith in a positive outcome." Of course, my focus during my card sessions is cancer and beating it. I drew this card yesterday. I'm sure it's telling me to be positive, think positive, believe in the positive. I'm trying and hopefully I'll get there soon.

Ascended masters - "Powerful, loving and wise spiritual teachers are watching over and guiding you." Excellent! The guidebook accompanying the card describes the ascended masters as powerful teachers and healers who once walked the earth. These include: Jesus, Quan Yin, the saints, Moses, Mother Mary, Ganesh and so forth.

Cancel, clear, delete - "Use only positive words and thoughts, as they're rapidly manifesting into form. Ask the angels to cancel the effects of past negative thinking." The guidebook asks, "Have you been complaining or worrying lately?" Of course I have. "The angels are asking you to be more aware of what you say, think and write about yourself." I'm supposed to catch myself saying something negative and then stop and sweep my hand at the wrist to push the energy of my words away from me. At the same time, I'm supposed to say, "cancel, clear, delete," like rebooting a computer.

While this sounds easy, it's a real challenge for me given everything that's happening. I'm not in a good mental space and part of me thinks I need to experience what I honestly feel as part of this journey. But on the other hand, the angels are telling me to get rid of the negative thoughts. I'm sure doing so will improve my mood and alleviate some of the stress. It may also allow me to enjoy each day more, which is my goal. So I'm going to try it. It certainly can't hurt.

I believe in the angels and wish I were better and stronger at listening to their messages. Like an fallible human, I can only do the best I can.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Melancholy Wednesday

Like a balloon with a slow leak, my anger and excess energy escaped through the pinprick, leaving me with a deflated, latex shell. All that's remaining this morning is overwhelming sadness. I've been on the verge of tears most of the morning and I feel sorry for myself. I'm quiet and withdrawn. It's not a good way to start the day.

Of course, I'm at the starting line of another busy day at work. My project not only beckons, it's screeching at me to move faster and work harder. In a way, it's good I have this productive distraction and I'm working with people I like. My responsibility and connection to the specific tasks distract me, which gives me a different focus than sickness and cancer.

But it's not enough, because in the whole scheme of life, work is not one of the most important elements. Then I feel sad I'm devoting so much time and energy to it. But it's a tug of war in my brain - do a good job versus it doesn't really matter to your overall life.

Hopefully the sadness I'm feeling dissipates as I bury myself in writing,editing and organizing. Perhaps the touch of friendship will also ease the melancholy. I know I'm entitled to feel sad, and I will for as long as I need to, but it seems a bit of a shame on such a beautiful day.