Monday, May 26, 2008

Some Challenging Doses of Reality

It's been a really hard couple of weeks. The sadest thing that happened was that I lost my first cancer friend. His name was Julian and we worked together. We both got diagnosed around the same time in Fall of 2006. He unfortunately had lung cancer, so right off the top his prognosis wasn't that good. We talked every few weeks and compared treatment and side effect notes. He was mostly sunny, but definitely had a harder time than me so I tried to pick him up a bit whenever I could.

In the last couple of months though he let me know that his cancer had spread to his liver and pancreas. I knew right away that wasn't a good sign, but he stayed really positive. He even had a line on some experimental drug from Europe that he was going to get for us to help reduce our tumours.

The last time I talked to him, he was going to start another round of radiation. The doctors felt there might be a chance this could help and he was still a fighter. I begged him to let myself and someone else that we worked with take him out for lunch. But he said that his appetite wasn't much these days. He said that once he was done this round of radiation we could come and take him for a coffee and I was really looking forward to that.

Shortly after I knew his radiation would be done, I called and left him a message. This was usually how it worked with us and then he would call me a couple of days later when he was feeling up to it. But this time he didn't call back. I tried again a couple of weeks later and still nothing. It was about 2 weeks after that that we got the call from his wife telling us that he had died.

This news was more devastating to me than I could have predicted. I have known many sick people, but this was the first person that I considered a friend that had lost his battle to cancer. It of course brought up a lot of questions for me that I had been keeping pushed deep down. Could my cancer actually kill me one day like him? Was a positive attitude going to make a difference with me if it hadn't with him? If my cancer does spread, the likely place is my lungs and I now know first hand how that might end up. What about the other cancer survivors that I hold near and dear to me?

With some time passing, it is getting easier to deal with. However it does keep the reality of what I am truly dealing with close at hand.

The other big challenge that is going on in my life is Tricia's situation. Today she had her central line inserted. I'm sure she will update the details of it all on her blog, but with everything that seems to happen to her, it wasn't easy.

I also spent some time this weekend with Tricia and her parents. She gave us the "orientation" to her upcoming protocol and what to expect over the next few months. It was another hard dose of reality about someone that I care about. She will be admitted on June 3rd and then I can only hope that everyone prays to whomever or whatever they believe in that she will come out a champion again.

My health has also started wavering a bit. Although I have been handling my chemo well so far, Round 5 really kicked my ass! I felt the familiar sense of extreme fatigue from my previous chemo cycles and that was another dose of reality.

Today I also started having some chest pains and heaviness which is new. Anything "new" is always a concern. I will see Dr. Webster on Thursday and find out what he says about all of this. My plan is to still get through one more round of chemo and then have a 4 week break to recover briefly before 4 weeks of radiation. So hopefully Dr. Webster agrees!

These past weeks did have a sunny side though. We spent Tricia's birthday with her and her family for a nice dinner - celebrating 34 years of life! I continue to be blessed to have her in my life and this past couple of weeks has given me another reminder of how precious our lives are. Hopefully the next few weeks will be sunnier.


  1. Tasha,

    There will be sunny days ahead!!

    We are all comforted knowing that Tricia has such a great friend there for her....please give her an extra hug for me!

    Love Sonia

  2. Dear Tasha,
    Thank you for telling us a bit about Julian and your friendship with him throughout his battle with cancer. It shows just how supportive two people on the same journey can be to one another. His death has hit you all the harder because of your shared experience.

    This is not only a sad time for you but a scary one as well. As if to add to your grief, all the questions you are asking yourself have no answers. Only time will tell. I DO know that keeping a positive attitude is helpful under any circumstances; but luck, grace and even miracles are definitely part of the big picture, too. Julian did the best he could and so did you in trying to be there for him.

    We also appreciate your brief comment that the insertion of Tricia's CVC line "wasn't easy" for her. That is the first news we have had of Monday's procedure. The fact that you believe Tricia herself will update us on her blog, assures us that she has successfully taken this first step, however difficult it was for her.

    Your latest posting really supports the use of war imagery in the lives of people who are dealing with cancer. You sound battle weary in the face of Julian's death, Tricia's upcoming protocol and your own worrying symptoms. And yet you push on with plans for another round of chemo followed by radiation treatment. Most of us do not have to practice that kind of courage in everyday life. You deserve a medal!

    The privilege for us is that we are on the cancer battlefront, supporting the people we love and learning from their experience. Always, we feel our powerlessness and wish we could do more. People like Julian, you, Ryan and Tricia remind us of life's value and of its fragility. Because of you, we are encouraged to celebrate each new day of life with gusto.

    Thank you again for this latest insight into your journey, Tasha, and for the wonderful picture of you and Tricia celebrating her 34th birthday. It's a keeper!

    Continue to take very good care of yourself - just for today.
    Sincere well-wishes,
    Louise and David