Sunday, January 29, 2012


Ok, I realize this is my 3rd posting today.  I think all the fun I had last night has unlocked a portion of my brain and I just want to share everything!

I just wanted to give a quick update about the fertility stuff.  I know some people, my family especially, are anxious to hear some results.  They managed to get 10 eggs from the retrieval (which isn't bad considering we started the whole process late).  Out of those 10, only 8 were viable for fertilization.  Out of those 8, 7 of them were successfully fertilized.  All 7 of those grew to the stage where they can be frozen for future use!  Yay!

(Statistically, only about 60-70% will survive the freezing and then only 1 in every 3 is typically successful in implanting)

It is day 6 since my port-a-cath insertion and I am still hurting quite a bit.  This is not normal, but I've had it checked out and it is not infected.  They think it may be because I am fairly thin so there really isn't a fatty tissue layer to cushion the implant from aggravating the muscle/nerves.  Please pray for a relief from the pain.

I still do not have a set date for chemo.  It should be solidified this week (hopefully!).

Joy and Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine.  That's the saying.  Well, if that is the case then after last night I should be completely cured!  I had been hoping to have one last "Hurrah" before I started chemo.  The opportunity presented itself last night.  I had planned with my sister's a week or so ago that we would go out to Yaletown while they were here visiting.  We could have a swanky night on the town.  So fun!  Well, situations happened, of which I will not speak, and the sister's weren't feeling too up to dolling themselves up to head to the big city.  All the plans I had made were falling through.  Disappointment.  BUT....with a bit of compromise, we were able to salvage the evening and decided last minute to not go into Yaletown, but to go to a more relaxed pub instead on Granville Street.

There weren't as many friends out as I had originally hoped due to the last minute nature of the night, but we had a nice even number of 6 which worked quite well.  Three of my dearest friends from my university days came out to celebrate my last night on the town before my treatments.  I don't get out very often, and I'm not exactly drinking much alcohol at the moment, but having my 2 older sisters and 3 of my honorary brothers with me was enough of a high to keep me going all night.  We shared some pub grub, sipped some beer, took some pictures and posted them on Facebook (of course! haha).  We soon decided to move onto a different venue.  We decided to do KARAOKE.

We went to a karaoke bar where we rented a private room and promptly began to sing our hearts out.  There is something to be said about a room full of 6 adults singing out with wild abandon.  The fact that 4 out of the 6 of us are actors probably helped in the inhibitions (or lack thereof) department.  Katie put it well when she said, "It's refreshing to see men, masculine men, singing and dancing".  It's true gentlemen, if you want to impress a lady, dance and sing without caring how you look or sound.  It's quite freeing!  As a group, there really wasn't very much alcohol consumed.  We were all quite sober (especially me) at the end of the night.  We all marvelled at how much fun we had with the simple 'high' of laughter and fun.

I was reflecting on the way home about how important laughter and joy are in the battle against cancer.  I haven't had a lot of really joyful moments in the past couple months and I've got to wonder what the positive health effects are of having so much fun.  The hormones released from laughing have got to count for something.  I don't think it would matter how well I ate or how much rest I got if I was miserable the whole time.  I've been told that negativity is a killer when it comes to cancer.  Stay away from it at all costs.  We kept negativity at bay last night, and I can look back on that evening of fun as a perfect way to start the next chapter of my journey.  I do believe that laughter could possibly be the best medicine.  Whoever coined that phrase was a very wise person.


I've been noticing lately that I haven't been looking people in the eye.  I've always thought that not looking someone in the eye is either a show of insecurity, lack of respect, avoidance or dodgy-ness.  I've done my best through my life to remember to look people in the eye.  This is why I'm now starting to notice that I haven't been doing it.  I know it's not a respect problem.  I'm pretty sure that I'm not the dodgy type.  Insecurity is not normally a problem for me.  (Don't get me wrong, I definitely have my insecurities, I'm just really good at masking them.)  This only leaves one thing: Avoidance.

I believe that I do not want to associate myself with cancer.  I am subconsciously pretending that it is another person dealing with this sickness.  I am having troubles looking this disease in the eye and staring it down.  I don't want to recognize that it even exists.  Sure, I'm going through the motions.  I'm dealing with all the medical procedures, the conversations, the good and the bad that come with having a life threatening disease, but I'm not sure if I'm admitting to myself the enormity of it all.  I'm not sure if I can.  I might fall apart.  For the most part, I have felt strong and positive about this situation.  If I let myself look at it all on a bigger scale rather than the day to day, then I may dissolve into a puddle of sorrow so deep that I'm not sure I could climb out of it.  The best solution that my subconscious seems to have found is denial.  I will avoid looking at this all straight on, which allows me to continue getting through it.

This is where a facet of Faith comes into play.  I forget sometimes to rely on God.  I forget that He has the strength to get through this and that He can give me that strength.  I've said it before, I think it was in my first ever post, that God only gives us what He knows we can handle.  I am honoured that He thinks this way, but MAN it doesn't make the journey too much easier!  I must remember to rely more on God.  Maybe then I'll have the strength to face this head on and look this nasty cancer in the eye.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Human Pin Cushion

It's official.  I no longer like needles.  Ok, I never really liked them, but I never minded them either.  Doing the whole fertility/hormone treatment thing over the last couple of weeks has been interesting for me.  Any given day I was getting up to four needles inserted per day; either through the daily hormone injections that Mike gave me (I worked up the nerve to do a couple myself!), or with the blood tests I was getting every other day, or IV's for CT scans and other medical procedures.  My arms and belly are bruised from all the needles.  My veins are in need of rest and recovery.  I just learned in my Chemo Teach session (more on that later) that drinking lots of fluids = healthy veins.  I suppose that means I should up my water intake.

This week in particular has been filled with poking and prodding.  I had a port-a-cath inserted on Tuesday and my eggs retrieved for freezing today.  For those of you who do not know what a port-a-cath is, it's essentially a small circular, rubber port that is attached to a long, thin catheter (tube).  I was given sedatives through intravenous then they did local anaesthetic in my right pectoral and neck.  They made a 3 cm incision on my chest and inserted the port.  The catheter was then threaded under my skin and pulled out through another, smaller incision in my neck.  It was then inserted into a main vein in my neck, down toward my heart.  The purpose of port-a-cath is to avoid continuous IV's during the chemotherapy treatments.  It is more sanitary, less painful, and easier to use.  I have to do 46 hours of chemo at home, so all those characteristics will come in handy.  I was somewhat unprepared for the pain that I would experience from the insertion though.  Once the freezing came off... Yowza!  It was swollen and so incredibly sore that I could barely move my neck or right arm.  My neck was so sore that opening my mouth to eat and talk even hurt.  Mike took my phone away from me because I kept answering calls and then complained to him about how much it hurt to talk.  Fair enough.

Today, things finally had settled down on the port-a-cath front just in time for me to focus on having my eggs removed.  Mike and I went in this morning for the retrieval.  I was, once again, given an IV (I bled all over the place when she put it in.  Kinda funny).  They gave me all sorts of drugs.  Tylenol, Gravol, and Ativan just to start!  I was excited to see the Tylenol because I hadn't taken any that morning for my chest and I was hurting a lot.  I went into the procedure room and climbed on the chair.  I got the cute, friendly doctor with the nice voice for my procedure, so I was pretty excited.  He and the nurses did a fabulous job of keeping me comfortable.  I wasn't sure why they were trying so hard to make me comfortable when they started.  They told me the freezing needle would be the worst part.  It was nothing.  Once again, I started to wonder why they were being so comforting and encouraging.  Then the retrieval started.  The needle poked into my ovaries and started digging around, sucking out the eggs.   OH MY GOODNESS.  OUCH.  Imagine menstrual cramps x100.  It was like 10 minutes of a bad labour contraction without any breaks.  And that was WITH the freezing!  Not exactly what I was expecting.  The cramping started soon after and I nearly passed out while being wheeled from the procedure room to the recovery room.  The nurses kept telling me to keep my eyes open and to talk to them.  I was confused and said, "You want me to talk to you?".  They got all excited that I was responding.  The whole room went sort of wonky at that point, like the world was imploding.  Very odd experience.

Now, I sit on my couch, dozing in and out with a heat pad on my tummy.  Walking around is pretty uncomfortable, but it's definitely easier recovering from the egg retrieval than the port-a-cath insertion.  I have decided that my least favourite medical procedures to date are those in which I am cut open.  I just don't like it.  At least this most recent slice and dice was to help me avoid tons of needles in the future.  I do have things to be grateful for!  I won't be pestered by all those little stabs for the next 6 months.  Yay!  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ode To Long Hair

What is it that makes a woman so fair?
What could it be, if not her long hair?
It cascades and plummets like a waterfall, 
Flows down the backside, enveloping all.
With a move of the head, with a twist of the finger,
It shows men whether they should go or should linger.
It can be put up into an elegant twist,
Or set free to roam wild with a flick of the wrist.
It can be ironed flat or set into curls,
Or adorned with accessories when going out with the girls.
It is a piece of art, it is a place to hide;
For some it is even a matter of pride.
Could long hair be the biggest marker of beauty?
Seducing the world being it's only duty?
I wonder when long hair became so darn hot;
Was it when Hollywood began calling the shots?
When compared to the beauty found within,
Does it even have a pot in which to piddle in?

In my humble opinion, I think not;
But that doesn't stop me from wanting to look hot!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lady Lovely Locks

I have been contemplating cutting off my hair.  I don't know if the possible infertility and the potential hair loss are just side projects for me to work on to distract me from the impending chemotherapy, but it is definitely keeping me busy.  I've got the fertility treatments underway; Mike is stabbing me with a needle on a daily basis.  For someone who has no fertility issues, all these hormone treatments are a little odd, but it is the price I am willing to pay to have the peace of mind that comes with eliminating one of my biggest stressors.  But back to the point: My hair.  It's long, it's wavy, I have a ton of it; it can be sleek, it can be sexy, it can be whatever I want it to be.  The chemotherapy I'm doing does not tend to cause full hair loss, but it is known to cause hair thinning and change in texture.  I am worried that my hair will dry up and turn into a straw-like mess and I'll want to cut it all off after my treatments to let it grow fresh.  Maybe I'll even have a few clumps fall out, which will then start to regrow and cause short, frizzy strands to poke out whenever I do style my hair.  I've been thinking that maybe I should just nip this in the bud, be proactive, and chop it all off now.

The cool thing is, I have so much of it and it's so long that people might actually want to donate money to see me cut my hair off.  I could then donate that to a good cause.  Maybe colon cancer research?  The bad thing is, it costs a lot of money.  Custom hair pieces can cost up to $5000.  I would never, ever pay that much for a wig, but some people out there must be crazy enough to do it.  I've had some quotes and it looks like I can get cancer discounts at most places.  I was told that it would be a bit of a discount to use my own hair as well, but it still looks like the price will be around $1000.  How do I justify spending that much money on my hair?  It's for vanity purposes!  I know myself though, and I know that I like to look good.  I feel good when I look good.  I like to doll myself up and strut around.  The crappier I feel inside (illness-wise, not emotionally), the more I want to pretty myself up to make myself feel better.  (When I'm down emotionally, I really don't care how I look).  I am anticipating feeling pretty darn sick over the next 6 months and wouldn't it be nice to be able to clip on a wig that is already styled (thus saving me energy) and go out and about feeling good about myself?  I like having short hair too, so I could have a cute pixie cut that I could wear whenever I feel like it.  "Long or short today?  Hmmmm...I think it's a short day today."  Fun!  I have different glasses depending on my mood, so why not different hair?

 $1000- That's why.

Really, though, think about how much the average woman spends on their hair every year.  It costs me a good $200 every time I set foot into a hair salon.  It may be because I have so much hair, but I think that's pretty standard for any woman who dyes their hair or gets foils.   A lot of women, especially the ones who have chosen a hair colour that is much different than their natural colour, have to go back to the salon every 6 to 10 weeks.  If they pay $200 each time, that's an average yearly total of $1,300.  See?  Much more than my wig.  And the wig would last longer.  I can totally justify this!

Yes, I'm vain.  I'm an actor.  It comes with the territory.  I realize that I am going through chemo and I have every right to have yucky looking hair.  I would accept it and live with it, proudly even.  But, I would still be disappointed.  I love my hair and this is just one more potential loss that is coming my way because of the stupid cancer.  I've already lost my ascending colon.  I've already lost my beautiful belly button (it's now scarred).  I've added several scars to my otherwise scarless body.  I've lost the ability to care for my child on my own (this WILL come back).  I've potentially lost my perfect job (as a Disney Princess).  I may lose the feeling in my hands and feet.  I may lose my fertility.  But I don't have to lose my hair!  Picture me now on the floor kicking and screaming, "I DON'T WANNA LOSE MY HAIR!!  IT'S NOT FAIR!!".  This is why I want the wig.  Like all the rest of it, I will accept the loss of my hair as part of the process, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  In the mean time, I will do my best to figure out how I can preserve my lovely locks!  

See my lovely hair?  Who would want to lose that?!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Romance and Miracles

Yesterday I received word that a fertility specialist could see us this morning to discuss our options about harvesting some eggs before I start chemotherapy.  There hasn't been a ton of research done on chemotherapy and fertility (that I know of) because there aren't a lot of people of child bearing years who have cancer, or those who are still able to have children already have completed their families.  This morning, Mike and I headed out to Vancouver to check out our options.  We arrive at the reception desk and are asked to fill out very personal histories.  The doctor then called us in (another woman, how cool!).  She told me that before we started, she wanted to do an ultrasound.  She asked me to empty my bladder then disrobe from the waist down.  I'm thinking, "Odd.  Usually they want the bladder full when doing ultrasounds.  And why do I have to take all my clothing off from the waist down?"  Well, I got into the ultrasound room only to find the lovely chair with the stirrups and an ultrasound tool that was thin and rod-like.  Unbeknownst to me, they can do internal ultrasounds!  Did you know this?  I certainly didn't, nor was I expecting it!  I didn't know what to expect when we went in there, but it certainly wasn't a full on inner probe!  At any rate, it would appear that my ovaries are very healthy with a large store of eggs to be harvested.  Happy days.

We then headed into the office where we discussed more personal info and got into the details of the procedure.  We discussed the cost.  Yowza.  I can understand the desire to have children.  I've been there.  Fortunately, I didn't have the issues that so many men and women have, and I was able to conceive and carry to full term with no complications.  My desire in all this is to participate in that miracle of God once again.  I loved the feeling of a baby doing summersaults in my tummy, of kicking my sides, and yes, even the pressing up against all sides of my body in the final few weeks.  It was an honour to be a vessel for the miracle of life and to experience the sacrifice of body that every mother makes.  It's not just taking care of and giving up your body to this other person for the duration of the pregnancy; it continues far beyond that with the lasting proof of the stretch marks and the sagging breasts, the loose skin and the wider hips.  A mother's body image has to adjust first to the distension of their youthful body during the pregnancy and then adjust again as the body reverts and converts after the birth of the child.  It's an amazing and very challenging time.  And, boy, do I relish the thought of doing it again!

This is why I can understand paying the amount of money that it costs to have these procedures done.  Now, in my situation, I already have a child and there is only a slim chance that the chemotherapy will render me infertile.  This is what Mike and I ended up discussing in between our talk with the doctor and the orientation that they wanted us to do with the nurse directly after.  We sat down, both tired and hungry (we had no idea that we would be there that long).  We didn't know how we could put the money together to pay for this procedure that wouldn't even be a guaranteed pregnancy.  Mike had to go plug some money into our meter and while he was away I prayed fervently.  I was just straight up honest with God (like He doesn't know what's going on in our hearts anyway...).  I do want another child, but I love my daughter so much that I could honestly say that I would be satisfied with only her.  If I knew that it was God's will that I only have Gwen, then so be it.  All I could hear while I was praying was "Trust.  Trust.", and the lyrics "Que Sera, Sera.  What ever will be, will be".  When Mike returned, I said to him, "We really only have one question to ask ourselves.  Will we be content if Gwen is our only child?"  He responded, "As much as I would like another child, I would be happy if Gwen was it."  That's all it took.  We both decided to let God take control and leave it in His capable hands.

When the nurse arrived to give us an orientation, we were forthright with her.  I didn't want her wasting her time so we told her right away that we had decided that this probably wasn't for us.  She told us to wait until the end of the orientation and then decide.  We both cringed inwardly (we were VERY hungry and tired by this point), but we decided to stay.  What ensued was one of the most romantic experiences of our life (dripping with sarcasm).  She walked us through the exact days this month that we would have to administer certain drugs and the amounts of each drug.  She then pulled out a syringe and some bottles and asked us which one of us was comfortable giving needles.  I have absolutely no problem receiving needles, but NO WAY have I ever wanted to stab someone with one!  Mike seemed to be in the same boat.  When I told the nurse that I didn't think I could administer one to myself (I can't even rip my own bandaids off my body), she turned to Mike and told him that he'd have to learn.  Mike learned how to mix the drugs with a water solution and prep everything for the jab.  I had to pinch the flab on my tummy to give him a good spot and then, with some hesitation, he stabbed me.  I tell you, this should be an activity for the tv show "Fear Factor".  It is a scary thing to see your spouse coming at you with a needle when they have never, ever used one before.  I think, at the end of the day, Mike enjoyed it entirely too much.  His needle didn't have any actual medication in it though.  That came later from the nurse.  I know, lucky me, getting two needles in one day.  I ended up having a slight allergic reaction to the medication.  No fun.

So, after all this excitement is over, we are itching to get out of there because we still needed to rush back to Maple Ridge to get some blood work done for my oncologist (on top of the new requisitions from the fertility specialist).  We were told to go ahead and think about it over night and give them an answer the next morning.  Then the financial nurse came in.  Duh duh duh.  The moment of truth.  The nurse started going over the costs so matter of fact-ly that I almost didn't catch what she was saying.  They were offering to cover the costs of the drugs and absorb some of the procedure costs.  On top of that, there is a foundation out there that helps people out with some of their fertility costs.  I guess, because this really wasn't a fertility issue so much as a cancer issue (and most cancer treatments are covered by the Province), they decided to discount things as much as they could.  I was in tears!  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  This was truly a miracle.  The price was reduced to the point that it is within reach for us at this point, even with Mike in school and me not working.  Don't get me wrong, it's still a pretty penny, but I am astounded and amazed that this has come together in a way that I could never have planned or even hoped for.  The relief and peace that I feel is incredible.  The question of fertility was one of my biggest, if not THE biggest worry I had.  I can go through my cancer treatments with one less stress.  I can feel at peace with one of my biggest concerns.  God has taken care of me in such a big way, at a time when I needed Him most, in a way that I could never have imagined.  I know that there are probably hundreds of scriptures about how God provides in our times of need, but I don't think that I have ever in my life experienced His provision in such a big way.  I am so incredibly blessed!

Mike and I experienced another small miracle on the way home; we made it from West Broadway in Vancouver, all the way back to Maple Ridge in an hour...during rush hour!  No small feat.  We ended our date with getting our blood taken at the same time at the bio lab.  (He only had 2 vials, I had to have 12 taken.  Yuck.  I should get a gold star for that.)  After that, Mike thanked me for such a romantic day, but he asked me if he could plan our next date.  :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Decision

I considered giving this blog the title "The Decision", but then I decided that I needed to own my decision. I needed to claim what I've chosen as my path and not be deterred.  I know that no matter what direction I head there will be supporters and non supporters.  I also know that I have spent hours sifting through information, both from my own research and from others'.  At the end of the day, the decision is mine to make and mine to live with.  Some will say that I made my choice in fear.  I say that I am choosing to do the very thing that scares me most.  That is why I hesitate.  That is why this decision is so difficult.  I said in my last post, "Don't I owe it to myself and to my family to give myself the best possible odds?"  The answer is yes.  My body, my life, no longer is my own.  I have a child.  I have a little girl who I will have a better chance of seeing go through life if I do chemotherapy.  I choose to live for her, to go through chemotherapy, despite my reservations of putting chemicals into my body.  Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not fond of putting chemicals or medicines into my body (other than the odd alcoholic beverage, which has been sorely lacking in my life in the past 2 years).  I will do this if it gives me a better chance of having more years with my daughter and my husband and all the rest of my loved ones.

My earlier rant was really just me venting on the whole experience.  I don't think anyone can expect to get through the whole Wonderful World of Cancer without taking a trip on the anger wagon.  Today I jumped on, had my ride, and I am ready to get off.  I wasn't angry with any one thing or person.  I'm not mad at God, I'm not mad at the doctors; I really don't know what I'm mad at other than this whole situation!  It stinks! (No, that was not a poo reference...)  It is not fair.  It was never fair.  It will never be fair.  That's life.  All I can do is suck it up and find the positive.  I was taking my anger out on chemotherapy.  I still find it odd that the drugs being used to treat colon cancer were created/discovered over half a century ago.  There have been many advancements in treatment for other forms of cancer, but not so much for colon cancer.  Maybe I can help bring awareness to the research of colon cancer and there can be new discoveries made to help future patients.  Who knows where this could lead!  On the other hand, my husband did make a rather wise comment.  He said, "Penicillin has been around for ages and it is still being used today."  Point taken.  Chemotherapy does help a lot of people and even if I do end up with some of the potential lasting side effects, I think it will be worth it to have the peace of mind knowing that I did everything that I could do in my situation.

I will absolutely be doing alternative treatments and be taking preventative measures on the side.  I still plan on eating a very healthy, high antioxidant, low fat/sugar diet.  I plan on joining the gym and staying very active.  I plan on continuing with herbal supplements.  I need to give myself the best possible chance and, in my opinion, that means complementary treatments.  This is controversial as well, however this is what I feel is best for me.  I don't think anyone can say what they would do for sure unless they are put into the situation.  I never thought that I would have such strong feelings against chemo and that I would be so protective of my body.  I had a very wise friend post something on Facebook today that hit home: "Chemotherapy isn't the enemy, cancer is."

I was given the impression that any chemo that I would be subject to would be mild in form and short in length.  It hit me pretty hard when I heard that I'd be receiving some pretty harsh drugs for 6 months.  The thought of missing out on more of my life is almost unbearable.  I want to audition for a musical in the spring, I want to teach in the summer, I want to be healthy for my 31st birthday and for Gwen's 2nd birthday and for mine and Mike's anniversary.  I have fears that I won't be able to handle that much chemo, that I am already feeling like an incompetent mother and another 6 months of being sick is just too much to take.  I have fears of all the "what if's" that come with the chemo, the potential side effects.  What if I end up with neuropathy and can't feel my fingers to play the piano or feel my toes to balance in my sexy new high heels?  What if I end up with an ugly scar on my chest from the stint?  What if I'm rendered infertile?  What if, what if, what if????  It could go on forever!

I am choosing to not live in the "What if's" any longer.  I am choosing to live with the faith that God is with me on this journey.  He has been with me from the beginning and he will not forsake me.  He arranged some pretty cool stuff with my surgery, he has supplied me with (in Mike's words) a 'freakishly' huge support system, and he continues to show me his presence.  Just tonight, I had the gut feeling that I should head over to my pastor's house.  I decided that I wanted a treat on my way there, so I stopped at a Starbucks.  In retrospect, I didn't even go to the closest Starbucks to where I was.  A car pulled up beside me right after I parked.  It turns out it was two of my biggest supporters, Bill and Hilary.  This couple has been friends of my family for years.  They were a huge support to my entire family when my parent's split up. I have always known that they would be there for me no matter what.  So, inside we went where I cried openly and received much love and many hugs.  They were shocked at the news of my chemo and we sat there and prayed.  It was exactly what I needed.  God knew that.  God supplied.  If there are any "What If's" that I'm going to dwell on, it will be these:

What if You jump? Just close your eyes.
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by suprise?
What if He's more than enough?

Click here to listen to the full song

Lyrics from Nichole Nordeman's "What If?"

(This was the first inspirational CD I ever owned.  If I recall correctly, Hilary bought it for me...  Weird!  Coincidence?...)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stupid Oncology

When I started this blog, I had read a bunch of other cancer patient blogs and they all seemed so bitter and angry.  I swore I would never post one of those blogs.  Well, I lied.  I am coming to realize that anger and bitterness are part of the journey.  They aren't parts that I would like to linger on, but they exist nevertheless.  This is one of those posts.  Be prepared.

I had my first visit to the cancer centre today.  The staff were so warm and friendly.  Absolutely lovely!  Actually, it was to the point that Mike told me, "They must reserve all the friendly medical staff for cancer centres!"  I couldn't disagree with him.  In all my experiences in hospitals and clinics, I have never met a nicer group of people on the whole.  Not a single bad vibe flowing through that place.  And I know why.  The reason is, once you get into that doctor's office, life changes.

My oncologist, a woman, (How cool is that?  That means that ALL the doctors I've had through this are strong, educated, intelligent, powerful women!  I love it!), did a quick physical exam to see where I was at with my healing from surgery, then we sat down for "The Chat".  She let me know my options for treatment.  Poison or more poison.  Those are my choices according to the medical world in most of western society.  I can either do 6 months of chemo, with side effects ranging from nausea to neuropathy to infertility, or I can do a clinical trial with the exact same drugs but with the chance that I would only be put on for 3 months.  Only problem there is that they are giving a daily dose (or placebo, depending on which group you get put in) of an aspirin type drug which the patient will have to take for 3 years.  That means, if I wanted to do this trial it would mean putting off trying to conceive a child for the entire length of the study.  I turned it down.  If I am not rendered infertile (the chances are very low, but there nonetheless), I would like to start trying to have kids as soon as Mike is done school.  The more I think about it, the more I want kids.  They kept saying to me today that it is so rare for them to be dealing with a patient that is of childbearing age who is right in the middle of creating their family.  I've also been thinking that it might not be that bad if Gwen were an only child.  She is so amazing.  She is so beautiful and lively and full of personality and curiosity.  It is a joy to be around her (except maybe when she's teething...).  But, my heart does want more kids.  At least one.  It makes me feel weird to think about growing a child in my body again.  What if the effects of the chemo aren't gone by the time we conceive?  What if the child is co-existing with cancer cells?  My body is a battlefield at the moment and, by the looks of things, will continue to be for at least the next year.  Should I be introducing a child into the aftermath of that battle?

This is all for a 20-25% reduction in the chance that the cancer will come back.  The doctor did say that I could potentially be completely cancer free right now.  The goal of the treatment is to stop the cancer from coming back if it does still exist in my system.  If I don't have treatment and there is cancer floating around my lymphatic system, with the possibility that it is in my blood, then in 3 years I could end up with a bunch of cancerous growths in different parts of my body that could kill me.  According to the oncologist, I have a 40-45% chance of that happening.  If I put my body through hell and do the chemo, that number reduces by 20-25%.  Basically, I have a 1 in 2 chance of the cancer returning right now and if I do the chemo I have a 1 in 4 chance.  I don't like either of those odds.  The question is, do I do this for not much of a reduction?  When I asked the doctor if she would do this in my situation, she hesitated then said, "I am asked this question a lot.  It is very hard to answer.  In your case, because you are so young and healthy, I would do it."  I do feel like she was honest with me.  I don't think she would have said that if I was 70 years old and my health was failing to begin with.

I keep praying for discernment, for the right information to come my way to make this decision easier on me.  I don't like putting toxic things into my body.  I don't like taking drugs if I can prevent it.  Chemotherapy is the mother of all toxic drugs.  My whole being is fighting against this.  I don't want to do it, but what choice do I have?  Don't I owe it to myself and to my family to give myself the best possible odds?  1 in 4 is better than 1 in 2.  Not only that, but I have looked into some alternative therapies and, quite frankly, I just can't afford it.  Anyone have $80,000 they can spare for alternative treatments?  It all makes me frustrated and angry.  Not to mention, the drugs that they want to give me have been used for decades!  One of them was patented in 1957.  Can you honestly believe that there have been no better drugs or therapies found to treat cancer since 1957?  How much money do the pharmaceutical companies make off of chemotherapy again?  Oh yeah, was it several BILLION per year?  Why, in this capitalist society, would the pharmaceutical companies care about giving us a better, less toxic treatment when they have a treatment that sort of works that makes them multi billions per year?  Scientific research is controlled by money.  If you don't have the money, you can't do the research no matter how talented you may be or how incredible your new discovery may be.  I am not blind to the way this world works.  It's sad, but true.  There are some people out there that care more about making money than finding a treatment that will work better without filling us cancer patients with poison.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Exercise- Declare WAR on Cancer

Today is an article written by a guest blogger, David Haas.  I believe he has a great message that we should all be listening to whether or not we have cancer.  Our bodies, our health, are our responsibility.  We've been given these bodies to take care of, but how many of us are not the good stewards that we should be?  I know I am prone to neglecting my body.  I gained 5 pounds in 3 months (a lot on a small frame like mine) when I was directing Pride and Prejudice 2 years ago because I didn't have the time to get to the gym or to eat properly.  I think this is a common problem in our society.  Let's read this article and take note of what David has learned on this subject:

Exercise- Declare War on Cancer 
Hold it for a few more counts. 8, 9, 10…Push it just a little harder. You can make it!

These sentiments sound familiar? Exercising isn’t always exactly fun or pain-free for anyone. However, if you push through the pain, the payoff of benefits is worth the short-term discomfort.

Research has not only proven exercise as beneficial for individuals of average or good health, though. Current studies have identified the advantageous effects of exercise for those mediating a variety of health maladies; this includes all cancers from breast cancer to rare mesothelioma. Participating in an active and regular exercise routine can proffer a multitude of advantages and is one of the first steps toward declaring war on this once debilitating disease.

Specific exercise routines and practices are supported and purported by doctors as well as various other cancer specialists. A general exercise routine should be comprised of a total of approximately 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week in conjunction with 2 days of light muscle-strengthening workouts. The four elements of physical activity should be incorporated in this total time including aerobics, strength training, balance exercises, and stretching, but all components should be completed in moderation. Appropriate and effective exercises include walking, bicycling, or light jogging to raise the heart rate; strength training and light-lifting with hand weights for training and toning muscles; heel raises, walking in a straight line, and grapevines for improving balance; and completing v-sits, arm circles, and joint rolls to stretch different areas of the body. The suitable exercise routine is one that integrates a variety of exercises and is done with individual body awareness. Listening to one’s body is always important but especially as one is battling or recovering from cancer.

Engaging in a regular exercise routine is one sure way to insight combat upon cancer and any number of other health issues as well. Frequent exercise offers a variety of health benefits to any individual. Such assets from exercise include, in general, a longer life and faster recovery from disease. When fighting cancer, mood, self-confidence, and fatigue can be a particular issue. Exercise helps alleviate these stressors as well. Research has also shown that exercise can reduce the risk of recurrence as well as fatality from a variety of cancers by as much as 50%. Other risks imposed by cancer treatment, such as osteoporosis, depression, and heart disease, can also be avoided by participating in regular exercise.

The fight against cancer is very much that—a war raged upon and within one’s body. Activating effective warfare techniques, though, such as exercising and eating well, is a definite way to declare combat and become a cancer warrior.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Young People's Fight

Here is a link to a CBS News story about young people and cancer.  I am really get fired up about how many stories I've been hearing about teenagers and young adults with cancer who have been misdiagnosed.  It is leading to far too many deaths.  Our best way of fighting cancer in this day and age is early detection.  When the doctors are biased and don't believe that young people can get cancer it throws early detection out the window.  If my old doctor had started doing tests the moment I went in with initial problems, I probably wouldn't have stage 3 cancer.  It probably would have remained stage 2 and I wouldn't have to be facing chemotherapy now.  Not to mention, young people have to live with the side effects of chemotherapy for years!  That is if the chemo doesn't kill them quicker than they would have been killed by the cancer.  No wonder the death rates haven't been going down for my age group.  We are encountering far too many biased doctors.  I say to the medical profession: Rule out the worst and then work from there.  At least if they can confirm that it is NOT cancer, they haven't screwed our chances of fighting it at an early stage.  And then, if it is in fact cancer, we will be giving our best chance!  It only makes sense!!!

I should note though, I truly do not blame the doctors.  This seems to be such a global problem, it points to the education of the doctors rather than the doctors themselves.  I've never been through med school, but I can imagine that the text books give age brackets within which you would find the majority of patients for each disease (thus the term "Textbook Case").  This needs to change at the educational level, in my opinion.  I have no gripes about my current doctors.  I respect and admire the work they do.  My GP was extremely proactive in figuring out what was wrong with me.  I would recommend her to anybody.  My specialist had her hands tied somewhat by the system, so there were weeks, sometimes months between tests.  She was extremely knowledgeable and someone I will continue to put my trust in.  My Surgeon was a whiz who did a fabulous job of cutting out my "pooper" (as some of my dear friends refer to it).  She has a great bedside manner as well, which a lot of surgeon's aren't known for.  I love the fact that all my docs are women too.  Girl Power!  Wooot!  (Ok, I am officially lame.  I just rolled my eyes at myself).

Please read the article:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Telling the Family

I received a phone call tonight from an old friend of mine with whom I haven't had the opportunity to chat for probably over a year.  He heard the news about my cancer through his mom.  He had been out of town working for many months and by the time he got back, the news wasn't very fresh anymore and with Christmas and the holidays everyone had just forgotten to tell him.  I didn't do the whole 'call everybody I know' thing when I found out.  I know a lot of people and, to be honest, I just didn't feel like going over it a hundred times.  I figured people would find out through the grapevine and I encouraged that.  I'm not shy (I'm blogging about it, for Heaven's sake!) so I figured that would be a free pass to everyone to let their friends and family know.

The phone call tonight reminded me of my day of diagnosis.  Something that I've been wanting to write about was what it was like to be on my side of the phone when making all those phone calls to my family.  The first thing my specialist had told me to do was to let my close family know (my blood sisters, my mom and my dad).  It was very important to let them know to go get tested immediately.  At that time it was suspected that I carried the gene that makes colon cancer more common in some families (which we now know I DO NOT have- Phew!).  Nevertheless, if you have a close relative with colon cancer, it increases your chance of getting it sometime in your lifetime, so GO GET CHECKED if any of your siblings, parents, or children have it.  That's an order!  One of the worst things I had to hear from my specialist is that my baby girl is going to have to be screened for most of her life because of my cancer.  It makes me sad to think that my body's betrayal will affect my one year old's life in such a way.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that even though I had come to a place of some acceptance when I made each of the phone calls to my close family members, I still had to sit on the other side listening to them absorb and react to the information that their loved one has cancer.  I tried to be light hearted, I tried to make it seem like no big deal, but the whole cancer scenario is a hard pill to swallow.  One of those jagged little pills, if you will.  I had to listen as some of them swore, others cried, others tried to cover up the fact that they were crying, and just the general misery in all their voices.  It's a tough thing to take in.  It's tough to sit there, a province away in most cases, and not be able to make it better.  Then there was also the thought process of, "I shouldn't have to make it better.  They should be consoling me."  I suppose I made myself be somewhat selfish and did my best not to offer up too much condolence.  After all, the disease was inside me.  I could tell that each and every one of them wanted to be strong.  I could also tell that each and every one of them was scared sh*tless (if you don't mind the language).

Oddly enough, I had peace that day.  I had my day of fear and crying the Wednesday prior to my diagnosis.  (It was the day after my colonoscopy and I kind of pieced together what was going on and what the doctors were trying to confirm.  I was hoping for the best, but expecting the worst when I went in on the day I was diagnosed.)  I believe that the peace I felt came from the Lord.  I had to accept the fact that I might die.  I had to come to terms with that.  What was strange for me was that it felt comfortable.  The worst part about dying (not that I've ever done it or plan on it anytime soon), in my young and humble opinion, is leaving the people behind.  I got caught up in thinking about how everyone would feel and what they would do without me.  I think we've all fantasized or wondered about what our funeral will be like when we die.  Who will show up?  How many tears?  What songs will be dedicated to me?  And if you think beyond the funeral, what effect will my death have on my family and friends?  I have, unfortunately, had 2 friends of mine from high school pass away in the last decade and have seen and lived the effects of a young life lost.  It's tough, but we go on living.  We are humans and if there is something that we are good at, it's adapting.  We find the strength to go on; some in God, some in others, but we find it nonetheless.  We are incredible creatures.

I believe that now that we are a month and a half into my cancer journey, my family has a different outlook on the situation.  I'm sure those initial emotions have changed and the fear has subsided.  They are still very concerned.  My Mom is actually arriving tomorrow to help me out some more around the house and with Gwen (very excited!).  My family really has been rallying beside me and lifting me up.  They are my biggest supporters and I love them all for it.  I hope to be able to do the same thing if and/or when they need my support.

Monday, January 2, 2012

So Long 2011!

I know most people do their reflective blogs/articles at the tail end of the year, but I'm always a little fashionably late, so here it is.  I've decided to do my top 5 biggest moments in 2011.  They are not all good moments, but hey, this is what life brought my way this year.  So, without further ado, let's begin!

5.  Diagnosed with Cancer:

'Tis the big negative one, so I figured we should just get it out of the way.  November 21st, 2011 is a date that I won't soon forget.  That was the day that I sat in my specialist's office and was told for sure, without a doubt, that I had colon cancer.  What a drag.  I could have gone my whole life without hearing those words, but alas, it was me that the big "C" decided to come for.  I believe that was also the day that I began this blog, so maybe that day wasn't all bad for me!

4.  My 30th Birthday:

May 27th was the day I was welcomed into the 30+ club.  Every woman that I've talked to says the same thing: 30 is the age when women bloom.  It would seem that women really come into their own once they hit 30.  It's like we become comfortable with who we are; we've figured ourselves out to the extent that we can now work at a greater capacity than in our 20s.  I looked forward to turning 30, and despite the fact that my 30's thus far have not been the greatest health wise, I continue looking forward to the next decade.

3.  My Daughter's 1st Birthday:

Gwen will only turn one once.  How could it not be one of the biggest moments of the year?  It was a beautiful sunny day.  We had a very intimate family bbq, Gwen made a mess of her Spiderman cake, and she tried to strangle her new Elmo doll.  It was a lovely day for a lovely little girl.  It's amazing to look back on the first year of a child's life and see how much they've learned and grown.  I feel very blessed to be a part of Gwen's life and I look forward to sharing many more birthdays with her.

2.  Mike Starts School:

This could well be one of the biggest things to happen in Mike's life, and by association, my life.  We sold our big, spacious house so that we could afford to put Mike through school.  He is currently studying VFX and looks forward to a long and prosperous career in that field.  We hope that the couple years of sacrifice (living in a smaller place) will be well worth the gain at the end of the schooling.  I love to see Mike passionately pursuing an interest.  It's a wonderful thing to watch and see his world expand as he gains knowledge in his new field.

1.  I Directed My First Film

This was definitely my crowning achievement of the year, on a career level.  I have directed theatre for several years now, but I had never had the opportunity or, to be honest, the nerve to direct film.  When the opportunity presented itself, I boldly stepped into the role despite all my fears and insecurities.  Fortunately I had an amazing team to work with who had my back every step of the way.  I LOVED the experience and definitely look forward to my next film directorial project.

So, here's to everything that 2012 will bring; the good and the bad.  The good makes us feel, well...good!  And the bad, well it helps us grow and become fuller and hopefully better people.  I wish you and yours many blessings and much love this year!

(I have one more honourable mention... I went to the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Vancouver and Boston.  It was incredible.  I witnessed sports history!  I'm glad we got out of Dodge when we did though...stupid rioters...)