Tuesday, June 24, 2008

how much resting can one girl take?

I forgot to let you all know that my ultrasound was all clear. They actually couldn't find the lump the doctor had felt, so they said not to worry about it. Easy to say...maybe not so much so to do!

In the past few months, my mind has been filled with much anxiety over my cancer spreading. Why is it so easy for us to focus on the worst case scenario and not on living each day? Every new pain or feeling I have makes me automatically drift to the idea of my cancer growing in another area of my body. Dr. Webster continues to assure me that we are hopeful that we have killed all of the cancer now, but without the tests to prove it, I am having a hard time believing in hope these days.

So, I enlisted the help of a professional! I have been seeing a wonderful counsellor at the Cancer Center and she has helped me talk through this all. Although I'm not yet where I want to be, most days I can keep my mind focused on the now and not the worst case.

What is helping me stay up is Tricia. You have all heard me talk on and on about what a walking miracle she is, but seriously! Her journey through her third transplant has definitely had a few bumps and she's not completely out of the woods yet, but overall she is continuing to be an amazing inspiration of hope!

In my spare time, I have been enjoying being a celebrity. Investors Group chose Ryan to be one of 8 people across the country that they are doing a spotlight on. They flew a crew out to Calgary to spend the day with us last week and they literally followed us both around the city. It was crazy to be out in public and have a camera crew right there, I felt like I was in a reality TV show. Ryan's business continues to do very well and considering we both are fighting cancer right now, it's truly outstanding. The next day I had a brief phone interview with a freelance writer out of Toronto who is doing a story on the benefits of writing during illness. Although this was all very tiring, my hope is that it helps one person deal with something a little bit better and it will be worthwhile.

My radiation is officially starting next week and I am meeting with Dr. Webster later this week to go through our plan again. Unfortunately I suffered another "episode" last week, but this time it was while I was getting IV treatment at the cancer center. The fact that I was already in the place where I needed to be made the situation a lot better, but it still reinforces the fact that my body is struggling. It was again a terrifying experience where I wasn't sure if my body was going to recover or not, but after pushing through a bunch of IV drugs to counteract my reaction, my body started to calm down. I have now done up an excel sheet filled with each of my 7 episodes, the details of what happened and what drugs I was taking at the time. I will review this with Dr. Webster on thursday and hopefully come to a better understanding of why this keeps happening.

On the family side, life is mostly good. We are attending an orientation for Talyn's new preschool that he starts in the fall. He is pretty proud of going to school! We have also been lucky enough to have some family come to help us out lately. Talyn's Uncle Chad & Baba (Ryan's mom). So, Talyn has had the opportunity to try his "kung fu panda" moves on someone other than his mom and dad.

One question that the interviewer asked Ryan and I that caught us both off guard was "how do you do it all?". It was funny because it left us both speechless. You would think we would have a great answer, but really all I could say was "day by day". No one knows what tomorrow will bring and we all have enough going on today, so we just deal with what we have to today. I am still learning this with the help of my counsellor, but I think it's an important lesson for us all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

home for a rest

When I was much younger and more energetic, the song home for a rest meant a chance to go and jump around on the dance floor of a bar. Today it means that my body has had it after 2 years of treatments and I am literally at home for a rest. After my exciting Banff hospital visit, I rested up and enjoyed an amazing showing of Sex & the City with Tricia and her mom. For those of you wondering, we viewed it at Eau Claire and it wasn't that busy.

Monday was another day of rest and then my oncologist said that I could restart my chemo drugs that night as long as I felt up to it. My competitive nature of course told me that I was up to it and I started again that night. After just two doses, the next morning I experienced another "episode" but this time I was at work. The people there were great, but I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

No matter what is going on, there is just something comforting about being with your family and near home and I didn't have either of these then. The same type of symptoms cropped up and Ryan quickly arrived to take me to the cancer center to chek it all out. When we arrived, we found out that my oncologist and nurse were offsite for the day and instead they told us to go directly to emergency. For you Calgarians you know that means a minimum of an 8 hour wait with really sick people and that was not something this girl was going to do. So, I asked Ryan to take me home and I spent the day in bed.

The next days continued with new side effects as my body continued to tell me that it was struggling. I went to see my oncologist on Friday and he agreed that my body needed a rest and we were officially ending my chemotherapy. The plan had initially been to get me through at least 4 rounds and hopefullly 6. I got through 5 and again my competitive nature wasn't loving that, but I wasn't willing to risk more of these "episodes" so I gave in.

I have been spending the past week at home and will do the same this week. They have moved up my radiation to begin on July 3rd and then I will go daily until August 1st. I then plan to really go home for a rest...to my parents cottage for a couple of weeks (aka 24/7 babysitting service)!

Sitting still and resting is really not my thing. And the feeling that I'm letting people down because of it comes as a close second. I have struggled with this my whole life and this cancer thing really tests me! I know it will be a good lesson to learn and I will continue to practice.

Tricia has been responding well to the treatments she has had so far. So much so that she has continued to update her blog daily. So go ahead and visit it for the full update if you wish http://www.triciaantonini.blogspot.com/. I have had the chance to visit her a couple of times and will be going up again shortly. Although I am still bracing myself for whatever might come, so far we have all been pleasantly surprised.

What I continue to learn is that no matter how well you plan, life can continue to surprise you. Sometimes the things you learn aren't positive at first, but it's all in what you take out of them.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

a few more blips on the radar

My health has taken a bit of a beating in the last week. I went to see the doctors for my pre-round 6 appointment and I had a much longer list of "issues" from the past 3 weeks than ever before. They did a very thorough check of my body to try and figure out what might be going on and felt a new lump under my left armpit. This one feels very different than the other ones I've had and it is sitting right on top of a muscle. It actually might just be the muscle that is a bit inflamed or it might be a growth on top of the muscle. Even if it is a growth, it might not be a worrisome one, but still worth checking out.

I will go for an ultrasound this week and then if they feel it looks suspicious, they will biopsy it on the spot. Because this one feels different than the others, I feel much more positive about its outcome. But because of my bad luck with biopsies, I can't help but consider the alternate possibility.

What I was really looking forward to was my birthday weekend extravaganza with Tricia! We have always had our birthday's 3 weeks apart and in the past few years have tried to combine these events into something fun that we both do together. It usually involves a road trip and some random events that we don't plan for.

This weekend, we went up to Banff to spend the day touring around, the night watching the Sex & the City movie at a smaller (less germ infested) theatre and then the night at a fancy hotel. It was to be a super fun weekend for us both and allow us to get away from the upcoming events.

Everything started off fantastic. We met at the Farmer's Market for some amazing coffee and pastries and then bid adieu to Ryan & Talyn and started our road trip. We immediately put in some great tunes that my friend Mireille had made for me and started singing. On our way out of town, there was a car that was slowing down beside us. When I looked over it was 2 younger guys. They smiled at us and we smiled back. A few lights later, they came up beside us again and I could tell from my peripheral vision that they were holding up a sign. I told Tricia and asked her to glance over. They were holding up a sign at us that said "U R A 10". We burst out laughing and knew that the weekend was on the right foot for our usual road trips.

When we were close to arriving in Banff, I felt a flush of warmth over my body and knew that something wasn't right. I tried to pretend I was okay, but Tricia could tell that I wasn't. When we arrived in Banff things got worse quite quickly. So much so that I started to have that sensation again that my head was spinning out of control and I wasn't really there.

We decided to try and check into our hotel early and maybe if I laid down for a bit I would be better. But things kept getting worse and I was starting to get worried. Tricia strongly recommended that I call into the on-call oncologist and tell them what was going on. When I called in, luckily it was Dr. Webster that was on call. While I waited even a couple of more minutes for his call, things were continuing to go downhill.

We happened to be driving right by the Banff hospital and Tricia recommended we go in, I reluctantly agreed. The good thing about being in Banff was that there wasn't the long wait I would have experienced in Calgary. They took me right in and started to run some tests. Dr. Webster also called as they brought me in. He gave me his "best guess" of what was going on, but asked that they call him directly if they needed to.

Most of my blood counts came back normal, but there were some variances from the counts I got 2 days earlier. My red blood cells were lower than normal, as was my potassium. The good news is that my white counts were still strong, so no sign of infection. They filled me with a bunch of fluids and potassium and a few hours later, I was released. The sadest news of this of course was that we had to turn around and drive back to Calgary just a few hours after we had arrived.

I was planning to take Tricia for a great getaway to get her mind off of things and do the one thing she really wanted to before her hospital stay - see the Sex & the City movie. The concern was doing it in an area without a lot of potential germs and instead I take her to the hospital! For those of you concerned about this, I did make her stay outside most of the time and we just messengered each other "U R A 10" to keep our spirits up.

I am obviously on a break from my round 6 right now and will talk to Dr. Webster in the next few days about what could be going on. Until then I am resting a lot and keeping myself on a strict diet, in case it was some food that might have set this off. As well, Tricia's mom, Marie and I are taking Tricia to the movie in Calgary tonight. We tried to pick a theatre that would be more empty, so I can't tell you which one right now.

Tomorrow Tricia starts her journey of Transplant #3. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't scared to death, but I also know that she is mentally stronger than I have ever seen her. If anyone can make history and give the cancer community something to cheer about, it's definitely her!