Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Journey Continues

Hello ALL!!!  It's been a while.  I have had the urge to return to writing the past few months, but, to be frank, I've been ignoring it.  I've been keeping myself "busy".  I think part of it has been the slow creeping realization that there is a lot more to deal with when fighting cancer than just healing the body.  Since my declaration of remission in August, I have started running to train for 10k runs in order to raise money for cancer and other illnesses, I have played Mary in "Mary's Wedding" where I spent the whole hour and a half onstage non stop, I have battled ridiculous numbers of colds and flu, and I have produced and acted in a short film.  All this was while being a full time mother and working to support the family while my husband finished his schooling.  Like I said...busy.

Little did I know that the minute Mike finished school and got a job,  all the emotional stuff that I had been pushing aside would boil to the surface and consume me.  I think Mike has thought that I've been possessed by a demon from the darkest recesses of hell.  He's probably surprised that my head hasn't been spinning around full circle à la "Exorcist".  Sometimes it feels like it does though.  Nothing is straight in my mind.  There was a couple of weeks about a month ago where I could hardly see straight.  I didn't trust myself to drive, I felt like I was going to fall down any second, and I couldn't form a thought.  All I could feel was anger, resentment, fear, annoyance, sadness.  I am angry right now.  I'm hurt.  I had it out with God a couple days ago.  I told Him how much I hate Him for putting me through this.  I hate that I had to suffer.  I hate that I had/have to hurt.  I hate what its done to my family and the pressure its put on my relationships.  I hate that everyone abandoned me the minute I was declared in remission.  I hate that I am always still so tired and exhausted.  I hate that my immune system is still suppressed.  I hate that my husband and daughter have to live with me in this state.  There is just so much hate.

And fear!  I haven't even gotten into the fears.  What if it comes back?  What if the chemo destroyed my body?  What if my immune system never recovers?  What if it comes back?  What if I can't have any more kids?  What if I get pregnant and my body can't handle the pregnancy because of all its been through?  What if I have another kid and it comes back?  What if I feel this exhausted for the rest of my life?  WHAT IF IT COMES BACK!!!

Unless you've been here, you have no idea the dread that is invoked at the thought of cancer returning to the body.  I fear very few things, but this I fear.

But fear is not where I want to live.  Anger and resentment is not where I want to live.  I know this is a passing phase; an important part of the healing process.  I'm not exactly in a place where I can appreciate the good, but I know it's there.  I have grown in so many ways because of this journey.  I am a better person because of it.  I know people haven't actually abandoned me.  I was ready to reclaim my life with a passion.  I did that, not knowing that I just wasn't ready.  I haven't been asking for help and I'm not sure I would take it right now even if it was offered (call me stubborn).  And as for fear, I can't control it anyway, so why worry?!  My life would be so much easier if I could just let go of my need for complete control.  Just let go!  Or, as my 4th year acting class at University would say.... JUST LET IT HAPPEN.

And as for being angry with God.  He can handle it.  He knows my hurt.  I have a friend going through a tough time right now and her child yells words of anger at her.  She knows it is because the child is hurting.  Even though it hurts her every time her child says these things, she still loves the child.  God has that same unconditional love for us.  He can handle those yells and screams of, "I hate you!", and he will still go on loving us.  I will have my temper tantrums, turn into a puddle of tears on the floor, and rise again breathing easier, more relaxed, having just let go of a bit of the hurt that's been holding me down.  I will rise.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

You are Discharged

"You are discharged!"  Words I will remember for the rest of my life.  I've known for a couple of weeks that my final test results came back clear (thanks to my lovely doctors), but I had to wait for the official confirmation from the oncologists at the BC Cancer Agency.  Today was my appointment.

Despite the fact that I knew the results of the tests, I was keeping a very cautiously optimistic attitude about the whole situation.  I had this lingering wariness at the back of my mind, thinking that the oncologist would tell me that they missed something or that they messed up the test results.  There was a fragment of doubt remaining and I knew I just couldn't let out that final breath of relief without hearing the words officially from the oncologists mouth.  Today I finally got to hear those words.  According to him, my CT scan was great and my blood work was excellent.  There is currently no sign of cancer in my system.  I am technically in remission now.  This is so incredibly exciting.  I can barely stand it!  I have to be clear for a full 5 years before I am considered "cured" though.  I will also have to continue going in for regular tests as a preventative measure to keep any potential cancer from reaching the stage that it got to this time around.  Fortunately for me, colon cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent.  All I have to do is have a tube shoved up my back side every year or two for the rest of my life.  Believe me, I'd much rather that than have to go through this whole experience again.

The crowning glory of the doctor's visit today was when I received my appointment card back from the nurse.  After every oncology appointment, they take your card (it's almost like a dance card from days of yore) and they mark down the date and the time of your next appointment.  As they hand it back to you, they tell you those details verbally.  Today though, she looked into the card, handed it over to me and said happily, "You are discharged!".  A wave of emotion came over me.  Discharged.  That means I am no longer a patient at the cancer clinic.  This means that I am clear.  This means that I am a survivor.  Wow!  It all hit me at that moment.  I walked to the elevator with tears in my eyes.  I had to put my sunglasses on inside to stop people from staring at me while the tears started to spill over.  I promptly got into my car, called my best friend, and cried!  I could finally let my breath out.  I could finally breathe that sigh of relief.  I could finally let go.  When I found out the results of my tests a couple weeks ago, I had so many people say, "You must be relieved" or "I can't imagine the relief you must be feeling."  Well, I wasn't feeling it then, but I sure did feel it today.

I decided I was going to go home and make myself some dark chocolate mousse cupcakes to celebrate. The batter tasted so good that I'm surprised any of it made it into the oven.  I've been eating very healthy lately and haven't had much processed sugar, so this was quite the treat.  The funny thing is, I have been home all evening and I really don't feel like eating a cupcake!  I've been craving veggies.  What is wrong with me?!?!?!  I think maybe it's my body enjoying feeling healthy.  My energy is starting to return, the scars are starting to disappear, the nose and mouth sores are almost gone.  Unfortunately, my neuropathy has been getting worse.  I don't even bother doing up buttons half the time because my fingers don't work well enough to do them up anyway.  I couldn't even think of getting a pedicure right now because it down right hurts to have the dead skin on my feet sloughed off. This, I am told, should all go away.  It may take a couple more months, but it WILL go away.  I'm believing for that right now.

I am starting work again, I am being submitted for roles by my agent again, I am taking on the primary care giver role with my daughter again.  My husband is starting school again in less than 2 weeks and I am creating several new projects for me and my production company to work on (some very fun, intriguing projects that I can't tell you about- tee hee).  Basically, my life is returning to normal.  My outlook on life, however, has been changed forever.  I will be more focused.  I will cherish my time on this planet.  I will remember to laugh and not to sweat the small stuff.  There are many lessons to be learned from this journey, from diagnosis (Nov. 21, 2011) to remission (Aug. 30, 2012).  I look forward to using this experience to enrich my life and the life of others in the future.  I can't wait to see what the next chapter holds for me.......!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Love Letter to My Body


This was a challenge from an online magazine that I read called SheLoves.  I read my friend's letter to her body and couldn't help but write one myself.  It's a pretty incredible thing to separate yourself and think of your body as an independent, feeling being.  What would you tell your body if you had the chance?



We have been through so much in the past year.  We’ve spent our lives together, but never had we had to endure such hardship.  I am so proud of you.   You have been courageous and strong.  I haven’t always treated you the best; I could have cared for you better which would have made you even stronger through this journey.  That is my shortcoming.  If there is one thing that I want from all these tough times, it’s a renewed relationship with you.  I have a new appreciation and understanding of you.  I want to eat the right things, I want to be flexible and build muscle.  I want you to feel good.  You will never look the same again.  You bore a child, nursed her, went through surgery and chemotherapy.  There is no going back.  The scars are there.  I look on them with pride.  I used to look on them as ugly marks on a beautiful canvas.  Now I see them for what they are: battle wounds, experience, a story.  They are the living proof of what we’ve been through together.  They tell the story of our battles and our experiences.  How can I look sourly on the scar that birthed my baby?  The same scar from which death and disease was taken from my body?  The two small scars that saved my life; beautiful marks from a wonderful, talented woman who stepped into my life that fateful day?  So many stories.  So many lives affected by you.  
You have been an example to so many, an inspiration.  Some say it is me that is the inspiration.  I say it is you.  If you weren’t so strong, I don’t know how I would have made it through chemotherapy.  I don’t know how I would have held up if you had crumbled under the pressure.  It was and is hard for me to watch you go through the process.  Hair falling out, nails cracked and bumpy, skin falling apart and splitting.  You have been dying through this process, yet you still stay strong for me.  I can’t thank you enough for that.  
I have always been proud of you.  I remember asking my sister if she could see the curve of my hips as you slowly developed into a woman’s form.  I loved the look of the curves, soft, supple, feminine.  I was so excited for you to transform.  It was a slow process.  I would often envy the breasts and the curves that all the other girls seemed to have while you remained flat and somewhat shapeless.  I wasn’t always patient, but you did grow into what I have always thought was a desirable shape.  Still, I had insecurities.  I didn’t always look on you fondly.  Too much fat around the bottom, not enough around the bosom.  Flabby arms, thick ankles, cellulite.  All the nit picky details that no one really ever notices unless pointed out.  I should have loved you for what you were and are.  I should have known by the way people looked at you that I was being silly.  I am still guilty of that silliness.  There have been so many changes in the last few years.  I miss your flexibility, doing gymnastics and dancing.  I miss your muscular strength.  I miss my perky breasts and tight skinned stomach.  I miss these things, but also know that some can be remedied and those that cannot are a right of passage into a different page of our story.  
There have been many pages written, many stages where I didn’t treat you properly or respect you as much as I should have.  The one thing that I am incredibly thankful for is that you are still with me.  We survived.  We have come out on the other side of a huge physical battle and we are victorious!  I congratulate you; I congratulate us.  You have taken the brunt of this battle.  You are still overcoming some symptoms, but I know, together, that we will grow stronger.  I look forward to many years shared with you.  I am so excited for gravity to continue to have it’s affect on you and for more scars that tell our story.  It is an honour and a privilege to grow old and I will cherish every wrinkle and crease knowing that our time together is precious.  




Love Always,
Annette








  






Monday, June 18, 2012

Exeunt Stage Left

My pastor reminded me tonight that I am a writer.  It sounded strange coming from someone's mouth.  It was both a confidence booster and a confirmation that writing is indeed part of my talent pool.  I know full well that I am by no means at a professional level of correspondence, however the compliments I have received since starting my blog has made me aware of a certain competence.  Please do not take this as an egotistical statement.  My head is not swelling any larger than it actually is (although my head is already a healthy 22 inches in circumference- a good inch bigger than the average female head).  The statement from my pastor made me reflect instantly on the last time I actually wrote a blog.  It's been a while.  I do enjoy the video blogs, but there is a certain clarity of thought that comes with writing things down.  It purges and cleanses the emotions.  I highly encourage everyone out there to give it a go.  Buy a journal, grab a piece of paper, sit at your computer, do whatever works for you, but for heaven's sake write!

That being said, I have decided to write a blog tonight.  It's been an interesting day.  It is Father's Day (Happy Day to all you Dad's out there!).  I found out about an hour before church that a friend of mine had passed away from cancer.  I have mentioned her before in my blogs.  We knew each other in university, her as a stage manager and myself as an unruly actor.  She had surgery within days of my surgery.  We started chemo around the same time.  She was there ready to answer questions and compare notes, to joke and bitch and complain.  Our relationship was over the internet since both of our hospital schedules didn't seem to allow the opportunity to get together for coffee.  She had a great sense of humour about the whole thing, but was still very open, honest, and 'real'.  I didn't know what to say to her half the time since her journey seemed to bring her to more pain and less options, whereas mine was leading me to a full recovery and a hope that it will never return.  Two very different outcomes.  I can't help but feel guilty to be a cancer survivor.  I know there are a lot of survivors out there, but I also know that there are a lot who don't make it.  It's a bloody war.  We all fight valiantly, but some don't make it.

Megan was so brave.  She was inspiring.  I don't know if I could have kept the smile on my face.  She dealt with it all with such grace.  It really is a credit to her character.  I randomly ran into her on Mother's Day while on an excursion to Fort Langley.  I had a feeling that would be the last time I saw her.  I was flustered and awkward and really didn't know what to say.  I was so proud of her mom and brother who were with her, protectively staying by her side.  I could sense their love for her.  I really could.

Unfortunately, from what I've gathered in my experiences, death is harder on the loved ones than the one who is passing.  I was laying awake in bed last night pondering death.  I was praising God for the fact that facing cancer has taken away my fear of it.  Death is just another momentous event in our lives.  I liken it to giving birth.  Being pregnant for the first time can be full of anxiety.  Even though you know that hundreds of thousands of millions of women have done it successfully since the beginning of time, there is still an element of the unknown to fear.  No matter what, you are entering into an experience where people may be able to help out somewhat, drugs may take away the pain, but you have to do it all by yourself.  That can be scary.  It is quite often the unknown that makes us fear.  For me, God has taken that fear away.  I had to come to terms with it the week that I was diagnosed with cancer.  I didn't know what stage I was at.  I didn't know the outcome.  Fear of the unknown.  God gave me a peace that week that rests eternal in my soul.  I know where I'm going.  I know it's a better place.  I will be sad to leave my loved ones, but I am excited for that stage of  my life.  I now know that it could be another 70 years before that time comes, but I didn't at the time of this revelation.  I had to release it, surrender it all to God.  It's not in my hands, so why worry?  I can only pray and hope that I will be as surrounded by loved ones as Megan was.  That is the way to go.  Resting peacefully in the knowledge that you are loved.

Megan- You will be missed.  Ride on, my friend, ride on...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sunshine and Lollipops!

I woke up feeling fantastic and full of energy this morning....so I did a video blog!  I have been out all day and am now home and quite tuckered.  Shouldn't have spent all my energy.  But I couldn't help it.  It was a beautiful day and I am so happy to be alive!  Yay!

video

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Having A Bad Day

Here is my second video blog.  I felt like I needed to be honest with the world.  I've had a rough couple of days.  This was from last night.  I am still in a bit of pain, it seems to be lingering, but my overall mood is not quite so morose this morning.  It is a new day and I can feel my body starting to bounce back, as slowly as it may seem.  My "good days" are becoming fewer and farther between while my "bad days" start to take over.  I know I have the strength to keep going, it's just tough to remember that and access it when having the really bad days.  I have God's strength at my disposal, plus the support of an amazing husband, wonderful in-laws, and many more family and friends.  I feel the support.  I feel the love.  Man, do I have a ton of respect for people who have made it through chemo already and those who have done it multiple times!  Can't wait to celebrate the day I'm DONE!!!  It will be glorious.  


video

Sunday, April 22, 2012