Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hearing God

I've discovered that chemo is not easy.  You know all those good stories about how it's not that bad that I was talking about before?  Well, that's not my experience.  At the same time, I'm not having the nightmare story either, so I guess I can count myself lucky.  I am essentially out of the rat race for at least 40% of the next 5-6 months.  There is a small chance that my symptoms will get better, but more often than not, as the drugs start to pile up in the system, the symptoms tend to get worse.  That will mean more numbness and tingling in my hands, more sensitivity to cold and hot, more nausea, more fatigue, more, more, more.  Funny thing is though, one of my biggest dreads about the late stages of my treatment is that it'll be summer and I won't be able to eat or drink anything cold.  Bummer!!!  (Wow, I pulled that one straight out of 80's.  Who says that anymore?).  So, while I slowly count down the days to the end of all this chemo madness, I will do my best to keep myself preoccupied with side projects.

Now that my company's short film is complete, I will be focusing some of that energy on a spoof music video.  I don't want to give anything away, so you don't get to know what video I'm spoofing, but my intention behind it is to put some smiles on the faces of other people who are doing chemo.  I'll be taking some "shots" at chemotherapy from the patients perspective.  Definitely one of those projects that can't be done unless you've gone through the process yourself.  I also have a screen play in my mind that is itching to be written, so I will have to sit down and do that.  One of my biggest problems is that my brain seems to have left me most of the time.  That's why I haven't been writing as many blogs.  Half the time I don't have the energy to write one, and the other half of the time I don't have the brain!

There is one good thing that comes from these chemo sessions though.  I was able to identify it thanks to my fellow Worship Leader, Keri, at our usual warm up on Sunday.  Despite being pretty exhausted and emotionally raw, I went to church to play and sing and worship.  I was, as usual, having some troubles focusing and mentioned that I was feeling pretty crumby.  Keri said to me, "It's in those times when we are at our weakest, especially physically, that God is able to step in and we will lean on Him.  Open your heart and let Him in."  So I did.  Then I proceeded to cry through the first 3 songs that we practiced.

What Keri's words moved in me was the opportunity to connect with God through these rough times, through the times when I don't feel like talking or thinking.  I really do become very emotionally raw after the 50 hours of chemo, which is actually a perfect opportunity and time for me to hear from God.  I feel like when all the junk is cleared away, when I'm just not caring about anything because I feel gross from the chemo, it's the perfect opportunity to hear God.  I can sense what He is truly laying on my heart.  Then, when I have the energy or the opportunity, I can act on it.  So, all in all, these sessions won't be that bad if I can only surrender myself to being fully sensitive to where God's working.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Round 2 - Ups and Downs

The journey continues.  Round 2 started yesterday.  I am currently at my in-law's house relaxing in bed.  It's a pretty sweet set up really.  Speaking of sweet set-ups... You should have seen my little chemo booth yesterday at the hospital.  Mike and I came totally prepared.  Just our second go at this and we've already got it figured out!  We had my computer with season 2 of "Chuck", double earphone jack, snacks, specialty coffee, lunch- it was great!  I was in at 1pm and didn't get out until 4:30pm.  It was 45 mins less than last time, but I still saw most people who came in after me leave before me.  It makes me kind of jealous.  Why do I have to sit there for so long?  Aren't there any other colon cancer patients doing the same type of chemo as me?  What's with that?!  I guess it doesn't make much of a difference if I'm in the hospital or not though.  I felt pretty tired and yucky yesterday, so it's not like I would have been doing anything different than sitting in a chair or laying in bed.  Last night was especially bad.  Pretty nauseous and shaky.  Felt like I had a really bad flu; the type that makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry.  I took my breakthrough nausea drugs, which didn't help much, so I ended up taking gravol, which not only took away the nausea but knocked me out for the rest of the night too!  I'm taking 4 different nausea drugs (thank the Lord that they exist because this would REALLY suck if I was vomiting constantly).  They work in different parts of the brain.  Who knew that a bunch of different parts of your brain could make you nauseous?

My last post was quite a while ago.  The last thing I wrote was that I wasn't doing too well emotionally.  It's been a couple weeks of ups and downs.  I spent so much time preparing mentally for my first chemo session that I didn't take the time to actually FEEL my emotions during the process.  I believe that is what came out on days 4, 5, and 6 of the last round.  I mean, I wasn't feeling great and perky physically during those days either.  Funny though, by day 7 my energy and positive mind set had pretty much returned.  I became tired a bit more easily than normal, but it wasn't too bad.  My energy returned just in time to help out the day before we started shooting our film "Coerced".  It was a wonderful thing to look forward to after my first round.  Nothing better to pull you out of an emotional slump than living your passion.

We shot the film Friday and Saturday.  All went relatively smoothly.  There's always hiccups, but we had such an amazing team that any problems were dealt with swiftly.  It's pretty incredible working with a core group that you can totally trust and that work so well together lending their own specific strengths.  Where one person may falter, another can step in and use their talents and abilities.  It makes me proud to call these people my colleagues and friends.  One of the best parts of the whole shoot is that my Mom was on set!  Mom graciously stepped into the role of 'caterer', taking on the giant task of feeding a group of 30-40 people 3 meals a day, plus snacks, for 2 days.  It was really special having my Mom there in the mix of my own set.  She got to see me in action as an actor and producer.  She got to see what my work is and the people I work with.  It was really exciting for me to be able to share that with her.  Not to mention, she now gets a credit on the film!  That's always the best part; watching your name pass by on the screen ;)

This past week was spent in post production (editing, musical score, etc...), which was headed up by Katherine, who also directed and wrote the film.  Most of my time this week was spent preparing for round 2 of chemo.  My Mom went home on Tuesday morning (just in time for a nice Valentine's dinner with her hubby!), so I've returned to my Mommy duties.  It was scary, but I'm able to lift Gwen now and my port-a-cath seems like it has healed up finally, so I'm not uber paranoid that Gwen will hurt me.  I put Gwen to bed by myself on Thursday evening!  I'm very proud of myself.  lol.  It's so nice to return to the everyday activities and find that I can actually do them.

I feel like my mind set in preparation for round 2 has been that of a boxer, a fighter.  I had to visualize what was about to happen.  I had to steel myself for the next few days.  Chemo isn't a good time.  I don't look forward to it.  In fact, I don't even want to do this again, but.... I have to.  10 more times.  This takes some great mental strength to step into something that every fibre of your being wants to never experience again.  I will be so thankful when this is all done.  God willing, I will never have to do this chemo thing again.  So, a lot of energy was spent preparing myself for this round, both internally and externally.  Thus, the sweet set-up in the chemo room.  If I'm going to do this, I'm going to make it as comfortable as possible.  Mike and I also scored some more Skylanders (a video game with tiny creatures that are transported into the game), so that we can play when I don't have the energy to do anything else.  I have books, movies, TV series (all graciously donated by friends) to keep me busy and occupied over the next few days.  I didn't even have the energy to watch TV last night though, so I just laid there listening to relaxing music until I felt like I could sleep.  If it weren't for the fact that I felt so bad, it would have been a very nice time.  Like I said, all I can do is make it more comfortable for myself.  So, I will continue to do that.  I will continue, I'm sure, to have my ups and downs, but I can be confident in the fact that my eternal positivity will prevail.  Don't feel too bad for me.  I can get through this and will...with a smile on my face :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You'll Never Walk Alone

I have had a rough couple of days.  I'm not sure if I'm just hormonal or if the chemo drugs are taking their toll on me.  One way or the other, I have felt very discouraged both today and yesterday.  I am having troubles staying positive.  I am doubting my ability to get through the next 6 months of treatment.  It's on days like today where I need a nice positive reinforcement.  I was going through my emails and almost missed one from a friend of mine from University.  She sent a message of encouragement, but more than that, she shared with me some of her soul.  She is an Opera singer and has the voice of an angel.  She attached a couple of songs for me to listen to.  One of them was "You'll Never Walk Alone".  This song brings so many memories to me.  Memories of my youth, of discovering my own voice.  Memories of two of my dearest friends on their wedding day in Ireland.  Memories of hope and inspiration.  It was the perfect reminder on a day like today to hold my head up high because I do not walk alone.  I will NEVER walk alone.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thank You

I got some news tonight that my place of work (where I haven't exactly been working since July) did some fundraising for me during their Superbowl Party today.  They raised a very generous amount and all seem very excited about the outcome.  I certainly am!  This comes after a flood of donations and gifts of financial support from my family and friends over the course of the past couple of months.  I have had one friend in particular blow me away with her fundraising efforts.  I am overwhelmed by people's generosity and so incredibly touched.

I have had so many people step up and help in so many ways and I don't know what to do other than write down my sincerest expression of gratitude.  I have had people give up copious amounts of their time (which, in this day and age is equivalent to money) to help take care of me and my family.  I have had family members reach out to me with cards and gifts to show their support.  I was given a card that my sisters delivered last week and I was so touched at all the personal messages that I couldn't help but cry my eyes out.  As I sobbed, I turned to my sisters and said sarcastically, "See how strong I am?!".  We all had to laugh at it.  At least I still have a sense of humour, I guess.

So far we have had our fertility treatments, a wig, some naturopathic care, and now many prescriptions paid for by our generous supporters.  I was actually just starting to think about the prescription costs this week because I realized that the anti-nauseant drugs that I had purchased several weeks ago were not in fact to cover the whole 12 rounds of chemo, they were only enough to get me through one round.  When I initially purchased them I thought, "Hey, that's not so bad!  Could definitely be more expensive."  Well, it is.  It'll be 12 times as expensive.  So many expenses that you don't think about!

My hopes in writing this posting tonight is to be able to tell each person who has contributed, be it financially, time, emotional support, food, babysitting, prayers, or thoughts, that they have truly been a blessing to my life.  I'm not sure if they will ever read this, I hope that some of them do.  I don't even know who all of them are!  I would like to speak to each person and tell them individually what an impact they have had on my life, but I'm not sure if that will ever be possible.  My truest, most genuine hope is that I can one day bless and touch their lives in the way that they have mine.  Thank you all so much for your love!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Round 1- Rocky Balboa

My favourite movie of all time is Rocky.  I love the story of the underdog fighter who is given his big shot to take on the world champion.  He has to change his habits, train hard, and beat some of his own demons, but in the end he takes on the Champ.  He doesn't win though.  I think that's the best part of the whole movie.  The fact that he stepped into that ring with the reigning world champion, knowing full well that this guy could knock his block off and that he probably didn't stand much chance of beating him, but he entered the ring nonetheless and went the full 12 rounds against this guy.  He eventually loses to Apollo Creed by judge decision, but that can't take away the fact that he went in there and surprised himself and his opponent.  He went the distance.

I find it funny that I am doing 12 rounds of chemo.  I feel like I've entered the ring with a very worthy opponent and am about to find out how hard it can beat me up.  I just finished, and survived, the first round.  Only 11 more to go.  I can do this.  It actually wasn't as bad as I was expecting.  Granted, some of the symptoms can get worse through the treatments as all the drugs start to build up in the system.  I have a lot of people asking me about my chemo treatments and how I've been feeling so I'm going to do my best to describe what I'm going through.

I went to the hospital on Thursday morning and they accessed my port-a-cath.  I call this being plugged into the matrix, except my portal is located on my chest instead of the back of my head.  I'm still bruised and sore from the insertion of the port-a-cath, so I kind of stiffened up with the pain when they pushed the needle into the portal, just like in the Matrix movies.  It made a weird "click" sound too, so it sounded like I was being plugged into some device.  Once I was plugged in, they filled me up with 2 bags of sugar water, 1 bag of Calcium/Magnesium, 1 bag of Oxaliplatin (one of the chemo drugs), 1 bag of Leucoverin (a chemo drug aid), another bag of Calcium/Magnesium, and lastly, 1 bag of Flourouracil.  There was a lot of liquid to get in me.  I was there for just over 4 hours and peed the same amount of times.  I couldn't believe how quickly it filled my bladder!  Once the last bag was done, they hooked me up to a small portable pump that would then continue to pump more of the Flourouracil into me over the next 46 hours (which I keep in this nifty fanny pack thing attached to a belt).  The pump is controlled by a white device that had to stay taped to my skin because it's my body heat that controls the speed of the drip.  Ah, the wonders of modern science!  Once I was hooked up to the pump and had been given all my instructions for who to call if I was having problems and schedules for my anti-nauseant drugs, I was free to go.  I couldn't help but think how funny it was that they were letting me out into the world with these toxic chemicals.  All the nurses had to pretty much deck themselves out in a HAZMAT suit every time they came close to one of the bags that contained the chemo drugs, and here they were letting me roam free with them in my fancy little fanny pack.

As I was receiving the drips at the hospital, I started feeling quite fatigued.  I had only brought reading material with me and I was having trouble focusing on the words, so I ended up watching TV the whole time instead.  I experienced some numbness and tingling in my right hand that was making it difficult to text on my phone (the horror!), but it was gone before I left the hospital.  I couldn't feel the drugs when they were entering my system, but it did feel like my blood was on fire and that I was burning up from the inside.  I kept feeling hot and couldn't figure it out.  I've been cold for so long because I lost so much body fat and all of a sudden I was having no issue at all heating myself.  It was odd.  I also had a metallic taste at the back of my throat that went away after a few hours.  I think the symptom that ended up annoying me the most though was the sensitivity to touching cold or hot items.  I was told to watch out for cold objects because the Oxaliplatin causes neuropathy and can make it feel like you're touching an electric fence when in fact you are simply pulling something out of the fridge.  Fortunately, mine wasn't that bad, but it was bad enough that it felt like I had grabbed onto a metal pole in -20 C (-4 F) weather.  It also felt like I had frostbite for the next 10-20 minutes after I touched something cold.  I was so sensitive to cold that the metal on my computer was hard for me to touch.  I ended up wearing leather gloves around the house.  This phenomenon didn't just affect my hands though.  All my skin was sensitive to cold, just not to the same extent.  I took a drink of my room temperature water and ended up feeling like it was burning my esophagus.  Apparently, drinking icy drinks or taking a breath of cold air can cause the muscles in the esophagus to spasm and feel like you can't breath.  I was warned of this symptom and told not to panic.  They said to find some steaming liquid and inhale the steam or to take a drink of a warm liquid and it would stop the spasms.  I hope to never have this occur in the first place.

The only other symptom that I can think of is that I was craving a big, greasy, juicy burger afterward...with bacon.  I've had that symptom several times after my most recent hospital trips, so I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's just an intense craving and no real symptom at all.  Or, maybe it's a symptom of being raised in Alberta by beef farmers.  Perhaps I should just go make myself a giant bacon cheeseburger and be done with it!  So much for my no red meat, low fat diet.  C'mon, Will Power!  Get control!!!

I spent the next two days living on my couch.  I just didn't really feel like doing anything.  I probably could have gotten up and done some stuff, but I was feeling really wiped and thought I deserved a bit of rest.  Maybe I was taking advantage of the fact that I had toxic chemicals coursing through my veins, but hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do- and I had some TV to catch up on!  I've had a mild state of nausea hiding in the back of my mind since I started this round of drugs, but the anti-nausea drugs are doing a good enough job that it is in no way interfering with my life.  I woke up this morning feeling pretty refreshed (by then the pump had finished giving me my dose), and I continue to feel pretty lively.  I got some laundry done (washed, folded, and even put away!), I heated up lunch for my husband and child, Mom and I took Gwen and Pebbles out for a walk in the sunshine, and I even chased Gwen around the house.  I had to have a nap halfway through the day, but overall I'd say I was feeling pretty normal.  Even though it may be hard for me to gauge what feeling normal really is for me anymore.  I haven't felt like myself in well over a year, so my memory is a little foggy as to what my "normal" is.  All I know is that I feel some energy returning and I need to do my best to not push myself too hard because of the excitement of having it back.

From now until my next round, I sit back and try to stay away from germs and any other form of infection.  I was warned by the nurse that most deaths during chemo are caused by infections that are not able to be fought off by the body because of the compromised immune system and the patient didn't take enough care to get to the hospital quickly.  I have to monitor my temperature closely and at any sign of a fever (even a low grade), I have to march myself to my local hospital ER immediately.  I skinned my finger when getting some laundry out of the dryer and it was bleeding.  I had to wash it with antibacterial soap and then put polysporin on it and cover it up.  I can't risk any infection of any kind.  I feel like I need to be put into a bubble.  That could be fun.  Watch out, John Travolta and Jake Gyllenhaal, I'm taking over the bubble!  "Bubble Girl" will be coming out next year.  Check out your local listings for showtimes!  Haha!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Whatcha Gonna Do About it?

At my oncologist appointment yesterday, I found out that I'll be starting my chemotherapy tomorrow, February 2nd.  When she told me that a date was set, my stomach did a flip.  I have been waiting in heightened anticipation since mid December for this time, but I felt like a part of me was living in denial that it would ever actually happen.  Well, it's happening.  I get hooked up to my pump tomorrow and will have a little "pump baby" to carry around for 46 hours.  I'll have to give it a name.  Let me know if you have any suggestions. 

I went to Lifewomen this morning at Relate Church in Surrey because I knew that is a place where I can always go to be supported and lifted up by a great group of ladies.  The guest speaker today was no other than Miss Canada 2011, Tara Teng.  She has a fire burning inside to lend her voice to the eradication of modern day slavery, to freeing the victims of the sex trade.  She stands for the abolishment of the trafficking of humans, not only around the world, but here in our own backyard.  Many people do not know that human trafficking happens in Canada.  The Lower Mainland is one of the worst places in Canada for the entrapment of young people, girls predominantly.  We are not talking about young women in their 20's, but GIRLS.  The average age is 12-14 years old.  We all have connections with people who have children of this age.  Can you imagine your own daughter, niece, sister, grand daughter, or even your friend's daughter being ensnared in that world?  Her voice taken away for fear of death or harm to her loved ones?  What would you do?  What can you do?  It's not like we're all special agent's like Liam Neeson's character in "Taken".  We can't march in there, efficiently kill each bad guy with a swift chop to the neck, or knee, or groin.  As much as some of us may fantasize doing that, it just isn't reality.

My business partner and friend, Katherine, and I thought that we were going to do a comedic film this year for the 168 Project film festival.  When we started praying about it, we felt led to bring awareness to child exploitation, sexual abuse, and trafficking.  We decided to do something about it.  We decided to make a film that would get people interested in learning about the subject.  We want to join the movement and show people what they can do.  We want to set up an educational program in the school systems to teach children and teens.  We want to use this short film to gain funds for a feature film that would be used to further teach people how they can help.  We should not be standing for this.  We should not be resting until slavery is gone from this world.  This is 2012.  Why does this still exist?  Why are we allowing it to exist?  Why are we not so angry and outraged at the thought of what happens to these children that we can't help but use every ounce of our being to join the fight?

The term "human trafficking" has been tossed around in our society as a catch phrase.  You may think, "This is just a trend.  I'm not jumping on the bandwagon only to have it crash and burn in a year".  This is not the case.  This issue is being fought at the governmental level by advocates such as MP Joy Smith ( ).  Miss Canada, Tara Teng, has deemed this an important enough issue that she has dedicated most of the past few years of her life to bringing awareness to the cause.  She travels the world visiting places that are most touched by the sex trade, visiting victims and survivors, bringing hope.  She has the platform to do that and, personally, I'm glad that she was chosen as Miss Canada so that she could bring awareness to this issue.  I have been finding it so frustrating over the past six months as we've tried to raise funds for our film and awareness to the cause.  It has seemed like no one was listening; like no one cared.  I asked a 17 year old friend of mine if she had ever been educated in any way on human trafficking and she replied, "No".  This scares me!  Why are we not educating our youth?  Why are we not giving them the warning signs to watch out for?  I realize that this topic can be very touchy and most people, especially if you have a little girl, don't even want to think about it.  I get that.  I have a little girl.  But, I've decided to do something about it.

I'm tired of being a spectator.  If being diagnosed with cancer has done anything for me, it has helped me realize that we really don't have much time on this planet and we need to make the most of the time we do have.  I am not going to sit here and wallow in self pity.  I choose to take the energy that I do have and commit it to helping others in this world who are suffering.  They aren't suffering in the same way as someone with cancer, but there suffering is no less important, no less painful, and no less life threatening.  There are probably hundreds of cancer groups in this world who raise millions of dollars every year for research.  What if we could give money and support like that to organizations taking on human trafficking?  What kind of a difference could we make?  According to the World Health Organization, in 2000 there were approximately 10 million cases of cancer (with tumours) in the world (6.2 million died).  The global estimate on slavery is 27 million.  That needs to be repeated.  27 MILLION.  That is very close to the entire population of Canada.  I ask again, why are we tolerating this trade that is based in lust and greed?  HOW can we tolerated it?

I can't, which is why I'm doing something about it.  For the future, for my daughter, for all the daughters out there that have been taken and groomed for the purpose of sexual exploitation.  As I start my chemo tomorrow, I will be thinking of all those 27 million people out there who have it much worse than me.  Who have no voice.  I will use any platform that I can climb onto to cry out for these people.  I am ready for the fight.  Will you join me?

  I challenge you to find a cause that you want to support and do just that, in whatever way you can, be it financially, or vocally, or by doing research and passing around information to educate.

We are still raising funds for our short film "Coerced".  Go to to find out more or to donate.

Please check out some of these websites:

See how many slaves you have working for you by doing the survey at Slavery Footprint .