Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The sun will come out tomorrow!

Can you guess from the title that I went to see Annie last night? Tricia's grandma treated us to a night out in Calgary, to re-live Tricia's childhood of producing and directing the play for her block. Although we thought we knew the story pretty well, it gave us both a little reminder of something we can all matter what we're going through, just hang on till tomorrow.

For me the dark is my worst enemy. At night when I wake up to my thoughts or in the early morning hours before the sun comes out, it seems that my mind runs wild with 'what ifs'. At first when I wake up, for a moment I believe that life is perfect and normal and I breathe in a sigh of relief. But then I quickly remember what life is like these days and the anxiety sets in. I just need to make it through until the sun comes out and it literally feels like a much easier day. So that's what I focus on is one day at a time and the fact that I can't control what is happening right now, so I just have to do my best and hang on till tomorrow...come what may (is anyone else humming Annie right now?).

All in all though, we are in a much better place than we were even 3 weeks ago. My mom really helped us through a tough time and now Jo-Ann has moved in and we are getting her more setttled. Having someone here all of the time to help with everything is really the best relief I can get right now.

But, there are some other little angels in our life that have also helped brighten our days. The Powells bring us a delivery every week of organic dishes to help us get through the week with less cooking. It is so nice to open your fridge and see dinner just waiting for you to dish up! Some of our friends also just surprised us with a gift card to the Fairmont Hotels. Once Ryan's doctors give us the clearance to take a little trip, we plan to use this to recharge and relax. We have also been continuing to receive financial help for the Avastin treatment and get little surprises from unexpected acquaintanaces. More proof that people really are amazing.

We went for Ryan's check up yesterday and although he is experiencing his fair share of expected side effects, he continues to do really well. So well that they are slightly reducing his steroids over the next 2 weeks. This is a big relief to us all as they are creating some of the worst side effects. Ryan has his next MRI March 4 and then they will take another look at what's going on inside. From that scan, we hope they see a reduction in mass, so they can continue with the Avastin and decreasing the steroids.

So although we've seen our fair share of dark days, we have also experienced a huge upswing over the past few weeks. If you are having a dark day, just remember....the sun will come out, you better hang on til tomorrow, come what may! Sorry if you now have that in your head for the rest of the day, but maybe it's a good reminder that dark days are often followed by sun.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Coming out of the valley and taking in the view from the top of the mountain

You often hear that people look at life changing experiences, like having cancer, as a gift. It often takes people some time to get to that conclusion, but from those that I've talked to about it, it often goes like this. Before life just went on day by day, it had it ups (finding a parking spot right in the front of the store you wanted to go into) and its downs (a parking ticket), but overall everything was fine. But once you experience something that changes the way you live life and look at life, then those smaller things just don't really matter.

Now the ups are getting a clear CT Scan to know that your cancer hasn't spread and turned incurable and the downs are spending 12 hours laying on your bathroom floor because you don't have the energy to walk back and forth to your bed in between being sick from the last round of chemo. Once your life changes like this, the old life you used to have seems like you were living in the prairies.

Now, on days like yesterday when the doctor tells your husband that his CT scan looks the same as it did on December 12 and they have a "plan" to proceed with the chemo and avastin right away, the view from on top of the mountain is pretty sweet! Looking back on December 12, when Ryan was paralyzed on his right side, couldn't speak and would look right through you, you remember the deep valley that you were in and appreciate the beautiful view even more.

We left the cancer center in shock. Ryan started his daily chemotherapy pill last night and was in today for his first infusion of Avastin. Everything went really smoothly and he is already scheduled to go back in 2 weeks for a quick check up with the doctor and another infusion. Tomorrow I go in to see my oncologist for my 3 month check up and injection and then we get a much needed break from that place for 2 weeks.

They gave us the list of potential side effects and now we just wait and see how Ryan responds. We know the odds are still 50/50 of whether this will work, but a 50% chance for someone as strong as Ryan is pretty good. We are enjoying the beautiful weather today from on top of this mountain and breathing in some relief for now.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Coming out of the fog

I can't count the number of times I've heard people say things like "you're so strong" over the past 2 and a half years of cancer crisis'. And for the most part, I have been. I haven't been putting on a front at all, I have felt like I could handle it all. But finally last week the walls came down.

We had been fortunate enough to have Ryan's mom or my mom staying with us since Ryan's seizures on December 12th and it wasn't until we were left all alone last Saturday that I felt completely overwhelmed by the pressure of it all. How was I going to be able to be a wife, mother, nurse, psychologist, full time chaffeur, medication auditor, doctor liaison, cook and EMT all at once? The answer simply was that I wasn't.

I went to go see my doctor because I saw where my mood was headed. She said that I had reactive depression and anxiety. The anxiety part was easy enough to see now that I was alone. The negative thoughts spiralled quickly (especially in the mornings) and my chest felt like it had a million butterflies fluttering around inside of it. Reactive depression was new to me though. It basically means that over the past few years, I have been hit with major stressor after major stressor. Tricia's relapse and stint in the ICU, my cancer diagnosis, Ryan's tumour starting to grow, my relapse, Tricia's transplant and now Ryan's tumour turning very aggressive. Can you believe that has all happened since the summer of 2006? My body hasn't had time to deal with the events before it is hit with another and it has finally caught up with me.

So, she prescribed some medication to help with both of those things. The good news is that this type of condition is usually resolved quite quickly, but because the stress in my life is not over yet, she wanted something to bridge me until it is. I am fairly "anti-drugs" in general, especially because I am trying to clean my body out from all of the cancer stuff it has been fed, but in this case I need to be as strong as I can be and quickly.

One week later, I am feeling much more like my old self. Tricia and Kevin really stepped up to help our family out while we were without a mom. But the best medication that I got was my mom flew in to help us out until Jo-Ann can come back. We realized quickly after she left, that we truly do need another full time person around our house to help out with everything and who better than a mom? While Jo-Ann is adjusting her life to make this temporary move to Calgary happen, my mom is here to fill the gap and help us out!

Ryan had a CT scan last Thursday to take a peek into his head and see what's happening. We will go to meet with his doctors on Tuesday to talk about that and the next steps for his treatment. We are trying to stay positive, but cancer can tend to throw a couple of curve balls your way, so we are also bracing ourselves for what is to come.

I learned an important lesson this past week. You should never be afraid to ask for help. I needed help in a bunch of ways and was hesitant to say anything. But I am so happy I went to see my doctor and dealt with things quickly and that I asked my mom to please come and help us out. I am in a much better position today because of it and it will make me much stronger for whatever next steps there are.