Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Peel Strong!"

My friend Karey, another breast cancer survivor, was given a inflated balloon of a bumblebee when she was going through her treatments. The accompanying message was "Bee positive!" And she was - throughout her whole journey. This Christmas, her family wanted to offer me that same balloon but only found a purple monkey! So in her ever naturally creative way, she attached a banana to the monkey and told me "Peel strong!"
As I am a few hours away from my second chemo treatment, am I "peeling" strong this morning? In myself, not really...but I am reminded of the truth that the apostle Paul discovered: "For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2Corinthians 12:10 I don't have to be superwoman this morning, I only  have to rest in Him, who will be strong for me.

Another friend sent me this verse on Facebook last night:
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

This is my hope this morning as I face more treatment as well as losing my hair more and more. It's OK to be weak, that's when I'll be "peeling" the strongest!

Oh, and having my brother Carl and his wife Stefany arrive from Newfoundland for a visit tonight is an extra bonus - one of my best Christmas gifts and something to look forward to throughout this day!

Me and my new buddy "Eddie" the monkey

                                          With Karey, my "bee positive" friend
P.S Some people have had trouble trying to leave comments. I was able to change the settings so anyone should be able to post now. Just click on the comment button below. It may say "no comments" or "1 comment" etc. Just click there and afterwards you'll see a "Comment as:" with a choice of how you want to identify yourself. If you have a Google account you can choose that one, if not you can simply choose anonymous. Then you should be able to write something. Please let me know if you try it and it still doesn't work. I'll work on finding a solution. :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The gift of friendship

I was thinking the other day about all the messages of encouragement, solidarity and love that I have received since the beginning of this journey. I was so touched while considering the number of people who have been a part of my life during my "almost" 50 years, whether more recently or in the past. One day I receive a message from a childhood friend, or a former collegue. Another day I read one from a homeschool mom or a member of my first Church, or my family - all with the same desire to support, encourage me and communicate their affection. WOW!! I am overwhelmed! I was sharing with Daniel the other night: why does it take a sickness to stop and tell those around us just how important and special they are for us? However, they are, we believe it...but life is so busy, its demands take up all our time. With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to express to all those who have encouraged me since the beginning of my new challenge a BIG THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. You have warmed my heart in a way you cannot begin to imagine. You are a partner with me in this fight and help me not to give up! I believe you are a gift of God in my life! So during this Christmas season why not tell someone you love just how much you appreciate them; it's the perfect gift to offer. A very Merry Christmas to all!
                                         My new "short hair look" ...while I still have hair

Monday, December 15, 2014

1 week mark

Well, it has been 1 week since my first chemo treatment folllowed by the injections (1 to go). People have often asked me during this time: "So, how are you feeling?" "Are you having any side effects?" What to answer...? well, it depends on when you ask me, because it changes, often, many times a day... for instance last Thursday morning I went ice skating with Rachel. Flying around the ice on my skates, feeling the breeze, I felt great! I even said to myself: "hey, this chemo isn't so bad after all - I'm doing OK!" Then 2 hrs later I can hardly see straight as I make it up the stairs to crash in my bed, calling behind : "Don't forget to wake me for my injection at 3:30!" That has been my new normal - not knowing what to expect, day in day out, one hour at a time...

Yeah, I have had some side effects - fatigue, nausea, heart burn, shortness of breath, weird taste in mouth, weird cravings for foods (reminds me of pregnancy days!), but nothing that can't be controlled by meds or resting. I guess the hardest part is not the physical side effects, but this getting used to the "new me" or should I say "the ever-changing me".

Through it all, one truth that has comforted my heart and sustained me this week is that my Lord never changes. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Heb. 13:8 No matter what I go through or how I feel, He's always the same - always loving, always taking care of me. Nothing surprises Him. He has all this under control, even if I feel totally out of control. I rest in that truth.

Some good news - the biopsy of the lymph nodes showed no trace of cancer!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Daniel, the nurse!

Well, 1st injection given by my hubby (nurse in training) in front of the "real" nurse, who suggests that he give it in my belly because that's the most sensitive part!!?? After a few jokes with the needle in hand and his eyes closed (those who know Daniel will appreciate his "weird" sense of humour!) lol ...he ends up doing a good job. After 26 years of marriage, you do learn to trust your spouse! I do so appreciate his willingness to come alongside me in this way. It means not having to travel to the clinic for 7 days in a row after each chemo treatment. I love you honey!!!
Secretly though I think he's having great pleasure at the idea of getting to stick me with a needle! LOL

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How it all began...

Well, I finally decided to simplify my next few months in this journey by creating a blog. This way those who were interested could log on and share in this journey whenever they feel like it and I don't have to remember who I sent emails to or not!

Mi-July: I find a lump in my left breast and consult to see if it's anything to worry about. The doctor doesn't think so, but schedules me for an ultrasound just to check it out.

Late July: Go to the hospital for the ultrasound. Because the doctor is unsure when viewing it, he asks if I am free to have a mammogram and biopsy done that day - he would squeeze me in between 2 patients. 5 hours late we leave the hospital, tired but thankful for a quick intervention.

Aug.13th : While Daniel, Rachel and I are on vacation in a cottage up North, I get a phone call on my cell phone from my doctor who wants to see me. I tell her I would prefer to have the results by phone because we were 3 hrs driving distance from home. So, reluctantly she informs me that cancer was found in the lump and that I should meet with the surgeon the next day to schedule the operation to remove the lump, which she estimated around 1cm. We decide to pack up and come home, go to the appointment the next day and then proceed to inform our girls and the rest of the family of my latest health challenge.

Sept. 16th: I go to the nearby hospital to have the lumpectomy as well as the sentinal lymph nodes removed to test for the presence of cancer. It was a day surgery, So I was able to come home that evening. The recuperation went well, although I was not a very patient patient, not being used to lying around and doing nothing.

Oct. 15th: We return to see the surgeon for the results of the sentinel lymph node biopsy, expecting her to say that there was no cancer and that we would proceed with only radiation treatments. However, this was not the case. There was cancer found in 2 of the 5 lymph nodes removed. So the recommendation was - a second surgery to remove the other lymph nodes under the arm (in case there was more cancer there), followed by chemotherapy and afterwards radiation. We were in shock! Totally unexpected to say the least. The lump was 1.8cm and there were other secondary tumours found around the main tumour.

Since the beginning of the diagnosis we decided that we would get informed about the various treatments available to treat cancer, in addition to the more traditional route of chemo and radiation. So in August we began to do research on internet, read books, talk with different people to see what our options were. After a lot of soul-searching and prayer and finally being referred to a doctor of naturopathy and biochemistry in Montréal who has worked with over 800 cancer patients over the past 20 years, we decided to go with his recommendation to have the surgery and go through with chemo. He felt this was necessary because of the fact that it had metastasized into the lymph nodes. At the same time he is giving me supplements that will help my body better accept the chemo and increase the functions of my immune system.

Nov.13th: Second operation to remove the lymph nodes, done at the same hospital, but this time an overnight stay. This operation was more difficult - more pain and reaction to the anesthetic, plus having to keep in a draining tube for 5 days which made sleeping and other activities more challenging.

End Nov: More appointments with the oncologist and pharmacist to discuss the upcoming chemotherapy treatments.

Dec. 8th: First chemo treatment, accompanied by Daniel. I was the only lady in the room. It was me and "the boys". It went well, not too many adverse reactions, a little nausea and headaches, but overall positive. Now we wait to see what side effects, if any that I will have. They could range from nausea, ulcers in the mouth, intestinal problems and loss of hair. I will also have injections for 7 days after each treatment in order to increase the white blood cell count, which usually is reduced because of the chemo. I could go and get them each day at the CLSC (public health system) nearby or do the injections myself. My husband has so generously volunteered to play nurse & give me the injections. So tomorrow (Dec.10th) we will go for his lesson on injections. These injections tend to cause a lot of pain in ones' bones. Next treatment will be on Dec. 30th and then every 3 weeks up to 6 treatments in all.

That's the chronology of my journey with cancer up to this point, just to help everyone to be up to date. Next post I will talk more about my inner journey during this adventure.
                                              With my beautiful family this summer!