Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Loss

Loss. Watching one of my best friends suffer from MBC was one of the hardest things to witness, yet it taught me about resilience in the face of major adversity. It taught me that grace was something you either possessed or you didn't (which for the record she possessed like nobody else). And it taught me about hope. Of always wanting more from this life and deeply yearning for not just a miracle but for some sense of calm and reprieve from all the pain, the tears, and the hardship. My beautiful friend 'O' taught me all these things. As you watch someone you love endure more in this life then you ever thought possible, it starts to etch away at your heart. Slowly but surely, the optimism starts to fade and turns into a hope seeded in desperation. When I watched 'O' handle every single bad hand that was dealt to her I tried to fathom having an ounce of her strength and tenacity through it all. The day she passed away was the day a piece of my heart permanently broke.

In order to understand the depth of what I am even trying to say you have to know a little about this beautiful soul. She embodied an infectious personality that made it irresistible to not be around her. We could laugh for hours upon hours. One of the things we always talked about was essentially how on earth did we both end up with MBC?? We both lived respectable lives and while others were out partying during their teen years, and into early adulthood , we were focused on academics and on the long term goals of what we wanted in life: a career, a family, etc.. Yet, those that spent the majority of their lives using their bodies as a personal trash bin got to live...relatively unscathed by their recklessness. Ok, I will say that the extent of our rebelliousness came in the form of speeding...not always...but enough for photo radar to catch us at times, lol. We always wondered why some were so lucky, but then we reckoned that we just must have had bad luck. Really, really, life shattering type of bad luck. We would say it and then simply move on...what other choice did we have in the matter?

Talking about life it was clear to the both of us that we collectively felt like our lives were perfect before MBC slithered its way in and tried to erode the beauty we had built. However, cancer could not destroy the love that one feels towards another. It could not steal the ability to still smile and laugh. To love with every ounce of our being. I think back to our fun days of pottery making, and for her openness and willingness to take part in my "crazy..." by this I mean every artsy fartsy activity I invited her to partake in... from making Christmas ornaments to trying to figure out how to use a selfie stick, whilst joking that an engineer should most certainly know how to use this special "pic stick, lol."

I even think back to one of her more recent hospital admissions. Prior to getting to the hospital we stopped to get some good food, and she accidentally purchased an alcoholic beverage as we were both too naive to realize that apple cider had alcohol in it until we saw the alcohol content and promptly returned it, lol. We laughed pretty hard thinking that it would have probably looked a bit sketchy to head to the hospital for pain control whilst intoxicated, hahaha. I wish our ignorance towards alcohol could have paralleled our ignorance towards this disease. But it didn't because we both knew, far too well, that this disease was like an evil monster that inhabited our bodies and we were at its mercy. You simply try to put the beast to sleep, but with MBC we knew far too well that it was always a matter of when, and not if, it tried to destroy us. Trust me, we both knew what it meant to live this life as we knew far too many taken too soon from MBC. The balancing act of naivety contrasted always with our stark reality...to the balancing act of trying to live as if life was never ending, all the while our bodies were slowly being overtaken by a disease that would kill us.

'O' was by far one of the kindest, funniest, most intelligent, personable, honest, and loyal friends I have ever had the privilege of having. She was a wife, a daughter, a mother to a beautiful toddler, a sister, a cousin, and a friend that everyone would gravitate towards. It's hard to fathom the ripple effect of her loss and how many people, from so many parts of the world, have been devastated and left with broken hearts. She was like no other person I have ever known in my life...she will forever be irreplaceable, but will be loved and remembered forever. Love you my friend. Xoxoxox


If you would like to read more about my amazing friend, and her life with MBC this is the link to her blog that she updated regularly: https://facedwithmymortality.wordpress.com/


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Update...Life... And Puppies!!

Wow...its been a while. Time has seemed to have flown by since April onwards. How is it the middle of June...halfway through 2017 already??!! I went to the the annual Living Beyond Breast Cancer conference at the end of April in Philly and had a wonderful time learning and catching up with friends:). However, what has kept me very busy has been my most recent purchase....a PUPPY!! I'll get back to the puppy shortly;).

Scans this year have been uneventful and I am happy to say that next month, July, will be two years on this current treatment combo! TWO FRIGGIN YEARS!!! This is amazing and I am grateful, appreciative, happy, and completely aware of how "lucky" I am. BUT, yes there's a but,  these drugs never get any easier to take. Every single cycle I tell myself maybe his one will be the one my body finally gets used to, lol...ya...nope. The HFS...mouths sores...the nausea...to the stomach cramps...heartburn...diarrhea...GI issues galore...ok, I'm complaining. Every single time I try to tell myself how lucky I am I realize that I don't need to sit around and sugarcoat the reality of living with MBC. I suppose not having a day of diarrhea or stomach cramps is a day of total bliss in my books.

Now onto the more important aspect of this post: the PUPPY!! I had always loved these tiny little furry fluff balls and then I met this one and I knew she was THE ONE. Her name is Lola and she is a high energy, feisty, tough, crazy, and simply irresistible pup. She's also got my attention span, so collectively we seem to wander the world in a daze of distraction, lol.  In fact, much of my absence from social media has been because of the non-stop busyness this two pound ms. Lola has occupied me with. She had a rough start as she suffered a seizure days after bringing her home and she most certainly has a LOT of fight in her, lol. A lot. As per the vet: "I have never seen a dog of this breed have absolutely no fear." That's Lola in a nutshell. I also learned that although I can deal with sick people I am NOT good with sick animals, and also learned that veterinary care may be similar to the American healthcare system..as in it's bloody pricey $$$$!! Now we are trying to rectify the non-existent relationship she has with our 6yr old dog Max. After bringing in a dog trainer to try and help us understand how to bring down the DOUBLE baby gates so our dogs can be around each other, as opposed to the maximum security penitentiary we have created to keep them apart, we learnt that our older dog has some major fear issues which is why he wants to attack anybody who enters our home; including Lola. Lola doesn't stop wanting to play and keeps jumping at his face and Max being the old man dog he is wants none of it, so he growl, nips, and I'm sweating with back to back hot flashes as he will most certainly kill her (simply due to her size) even with a nip. After the trainer took a brief history,she essentially told us that our older dog is the way he is because of my first diagnosis of cancer which occurred not too long after we got him:(. She said my scent would have changed from chemo, and my appearance as I lost my hair the first time. He was traumatized. Truthfully, when she said this I almost started crying right there. I mean...seriously??!!! The stupid disease has not only impacted my family and all those I love but also our DOG??!!!! I couldn't help but wonder if this second puppy would also be somehow "traumatized" by me which is the very last thing I would ever want. I waited for the trainer to leave before I went to the bathroom and cried my eyes out.I'm sick of the  constant losses...the consistency of all the things in life this disease erodes and destroys. I'm sick of it. A part of the reason I got the pup was to bring some more carefree fun and joy into my life. I love advocating for MBC, but I also want to LIVE and enjoy life without the constant cancer halo hanging over my head like a dark cloud that goes everywhere with me. Then, I get the pup and learn about how my older dog is fearful and scared due to my initial diagnosis almost 6years ago?! Pretty soon they'll tell us to take our dog to a damn therapist it seems, lol.

So, as of now, I'm loving this cute little fluff ball, feel guilty as fuck for the way Max turned out, and am desperate to get rid of the baby gates that segregate our dogs like we are living in a maximum security prison, THEREFORE anybody reading this a dog trainer, dog therapist (I'm sure they have those too as they have chiropractic and just about everything else in the world for dogs), or just someone who can offer any insight into how to get two dogs to live harmoniously together, I'm all ears! I typically write about wanting more for cancer research, and trust me that'll always be my number one, but right now a dog trainer will do.



Now I am going to shamelessly post pics of my new pup Lola. Enjoy...

"Hi, my name is Lola and I am super fast, think I am 100lbs even though I don't register on our home scale, have pipes that can pierce my owners ears, but I love to cuddle, bite hair, bite my new brother constantly, bite my owners feet, and walk on my two front feet like I am a member of Cirque du Soleil."

This was when we first brought her home..she melted my heart. I mean seriously that FACE & the FLUFF!!

Just to show you how tiny she is

Her ears flopping in the wind, lol


Bringing her home from the vet post-seizure. Seriously, that face though??!!

Yes, she has an outfit on and before you judge, she actually calms right down when she puts on her ELLEN attire, lol. It's like a thundershirt for her and pure cuteness to watch on my end, so a win win for both of us!

That face!!

I need more memory on my phone at this rate!!

These are our dogs. I LOVE Max as he is a wonderful dog if he knows you, and as long as you don't come into the house as he does not like strangers...this is Max's kingdom and we just pay the bills, lol. One day we will live harmoniously:)





Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Goodbye Mandi

How do I even begin...how do I express how I feel when I can't even explain it myself? Mandi (http://www.darngoodlemonade.com/) is gone. She went to see the ocean with her husband...to have a nice vacation whilst dealing with stage IV, but she never made it back home. How? why???!! This disease takes and takes and takes and takes and.... how much of this can a person withstand in ones life before they say I can't continue to watch these deaths continue!!! For those of us living it; we are begging, pleading, and desperate beyond what one could even fathom. But for those never personally affected it remains an afterthought. And THAT, that nonchalant "I'm so sorry for your loss," followed a day later by complete normalcy as if this is a normal part of life; that makes me realize they just don't quite get the magnitude of this issue. They've moved on, but I haven't! I'll tell you what I'm feeling right now and maybe some people won't like it, but I'm not writing to please anyone...I'm writing because I can't continue to watch people I care about deeply die, and die, and die, while the rest of the world throws a measly "I'm so sorry for your loss." Your words are no longer enough. We NEED ACTION!! We are DYING!!! If you're sorry then for the love of god HELP US!!

 In the last few weeks alone I have had 5 friends pass away...some I had the pleasure of meeting in person and others I simply knew through our shared experience of living with this disease through social media. Another entered hospice. One must understand that the relationships forged are truly unlike any other friendships. We are collectively facing our mortality and we simply get it. We are aware of time like you could never even understand. We make plans and execute them ferociously because our clock is ticking and we are ever so aware. We take trips when in questionable health because it's not getting better and if we hold off we may never even get the chance to go. That's our reality. A reality so distant to many that they can't quite wrap their heads around this type of uncertainty. Morning, day and night we think of this disease. We try desperately to get so much out of life, whilst watching others simply waste theres. How many people lose their young friends at a rate like this??!! This is not ok, and I am at my wits end with complete fu*ken anger for the world's utter; "I could give a shit" about this pandemic attitude, but I am also tired and completely heartbroken because they're all dead and dying. It continues to happen. Everyday. We advocate at our own expense and we die. Nobody is saving us and that's what hurts. There's so much we can do, but when our healthy counterparts simply state; "I'm sorry" or "I'll pray for you." That's NOT ENOUGH!!! I don't need more prayers I need a fu*ken cure. Nothing else. So please dig deeper...educate yourself about this horrendous thief of a disease that steals our vitality...our youth...our careers...our friends...and ultimately our lives. The only thing that can save any of us is research.

In just a couple weeks I was so looking forward to seeing Mandi in Philly again at the annual Living Beyond Breast Cancer Conference. Last year she cried because she didn't think she would be alive to attend this year, and sadly her fears became her reality. She knew. I simply couldn't entertain that thought. Now I have no choice. She's gone. I was excited to wrap my arms around her and give her a big hug in just a few short weeks. Last year we shared a room, explored Philly, and talked about our lives...and our fears. The last time I saw Mandi was at the airport in Salt Lake City. I was continuing on home to catch a connection and Mandi was home. I truly never thought that that would be the last time I would see her. Just like that another life is snuffed out and the MBC community collectively cries and loses another piece of their hearts...it's just that our hearts are so broken it's becoming harder to pick up the pieces. But we will. We will continue to fight for more, even as our health continues to decline because otherwise who will? I promise Mandi and every other beautiful soul we have lost that I will continue to advocate to the best of my capacity because they deserved it. They fought for my life and I will never stop fighting for there's...even if their lives are now just a memory. I am so sorry we failed you my friend. I'm so sorry we couldn't save you and now there's nothing we can do to bring you back.





Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Three Years Later...

Today marks THREE years since I was diagnosed with MBC. I think this acronym for metastatic breast cancer, AKA: MBC can double over as meaning: Major Brunt of Crap! I will never, ever forget this day. It was the start of the Winter Olympics, and also what would be the start of being in treatment for the rest of my life. Three years with MBC is pretty darn good. I mean to still be alive. Not so normal to think I'd be thrilled to still be alive at 31 when most in society don't need to even remotely entertain this thought. The relief that came from hearing that this current therapy is continuing to make it hard for my rogue cells to multiply, & infiltrate my vital organs makes me indescribably happy. I couldn't have gotten better news on the eve of my three year MBC anniversary.

I think back to this day three years ago, and realize how much has happened in the past three years. How many, if not most, of those days were good, fulfilling, and not plagued by this disease. I also think back to all the things this stupid disease has taken from me...my ability to have children...my career...and quite simply put every ounce of innocence I ever had left in me. For all of us with cancer we can no longer get a cough or an ache without analyzing every single aspect of what may be causing it, the duration that it has lasted for, and without our minds instantly going to that one dark place: cancer progression...and one step closer to death. I so longed for those days where I could have an ache or pain that would simply go unnoticed, left in the back of my mind, where it remained a completely innocent nuisance.

I would love for people who DON'T have MBC to understand that simply staying alive is essentially a full time job; constantly trying to balance and keep the cancer at bay, while also trying to manage the toxicities caused by chemo and targeted therapies. At this point, I feel these drugs accumulate quicker and quicker leading to toxicity faster and faster which then leads to feeling generally crappy. After the news of my great results, I was also told to stop both Lapatinb (Tykerb) & Capecitabine (Xeloda) for a couple weeks to allow things to settle down a bit. My hands and feet are swelling like crazy, and I feel like a good portion of the skin on my feet has come off. Don't worry I'll omit the ugly feet pics in this post;). Yes, it's painful to walk and use my hands. They kind of look like acid burns, and I mean chemo is toxic, and this is one of those common, crappy side effects. Secondly, the targeted therapy Lap, has seriously pissed off my GI system. I have been waking up at 3 and 4am with awful abdominal cramps!! I HATE anything waking me up, but pain tops the list of piss off ways to be awoken. Obviously, there's always the option to switch treatments to better manage quality of life, but I can't bring myself to do this when this combo is working so phenomenally well!! This line has lasted me longer then the very first line of therapy I was on which makes me very happy as the farther along you go with treatments the less likely the next one will work as long. If I switched treatments this line of therapy would still be an option I could go back to as I wouldn't have technically "failed" it, but like I said above, I don't want to jinx myself, especially knowing the few options available for brain mets and right now my brain is super chill (I think my brain has become permanently stoned, along with the cancer cells...they've become VERY lazy and that makes me ecstatic:)).

Looking back at this day three years ago I never could have imagined then how these last few years have evolved and unfolded. That day my world came to a screeching halt and my future was no longer guaranteed. I was 28 and told I was terminal but that we could still get "years" as I only had it in my bones at that moment. Fast forward four months and I learnt it was in my brain. Suddenly, I knew this was one of the worst places for it to spread to and I wondered if those "years" would suddenly start to dwindle down. Then as the months went on and I started on Cape and Lap and scan after scan continued to show improvement, I slowly started to realize that I wasn't dying anytime soon!!

Watching so many of my beautiful friends deteriorate, progress rapidly going from no evidence of disease to death within months keeps me focused on the reality and nature of this disease. It makes me question WHY I have been so lucky to last this long, while others have not. Because of this I have dedicated my life to advocacy. For as long as I am humanly able to I refuse to stop until we make this disease better for those going through it, having equity in care for EVERYONE going through this, and ensuring nobody ever feels alone and isolated because of it. Life can be, and is, more fulfilling for me today then it ever was pre-cancer.

Three years ago today I was lost, completely broken, and felt as though my life was already over. Watching others laugh and live carefree upset me because I just couldn't fathom why this had to become MY life, despite "doing everything right." Today, I am here to say that I am happy, grateful, and feel far from broken. Despite the diagnosis, the hardships, the pain, the losses (by far the hardest component), the never ending meds, GI issues, nausea, diarrhea, HFS, and scans; I'm alive...I am deeply loved...I have a perfect family...I have remarkably supportive friends...and I still have the ability to be a productive member of society through advocacy for MBC. Life may get crazy, and I know this treatment will eventually fail me, but TODAY it's still effective and I don't need to go there and worry about it. I'd have to say my life is truly beautifully imperfect and I wouldn't ask for anything more...except for a cure for cancer...that's when life would be perfect in every way imaginable, but until then beautifully imperfect works for me.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Year End Review for 2016

I can't believe another year has come and gone. Just like that another 365 days have passed. I look back at this year and feel thankful to have had many good days that far outnumbered the bad. Everyone's life entails highs and lows, but trying to navigate through life with MBC is exponentially hard, painfully sobering, and a constant reminder of days passed and the days that still lay ahead. I feel beyond thankful to have had a productive, happy, and fulfilling year. My definition of success has changed, from defining it based on monetary "stuff," careers, & education to simply defining it based on one simple, far too often overlooked, component: Happiness. To see those I love happy and healthy truly elicits a sense of calm and peace within me. Here's a quick little review of my past year:

  • January 4th: Celebrated my nephew's first birthday. Super high moment for me:)

MAD love for this lil dude. He has brought so much happiness into all our lives. I could keep posting pics of him, but I'll stop at three;).
  • February: this is when my meds accumulated and I learnt for the first time that it really, really sucks when this happens!! I also learnt that, as a bare minimum, I should  consume a minimum of 1L of water everyday while on this chemo or else I become dehydrated to the point of needing IV rehydration. It was also the month where my appetite went out the window, and I started to wonder if it would ever make an appearance in my life again!!! Happy to say it came back;). I also got the most epic blisters on my feet that I would have loved to have gone without. Not to mention that this month I stocked up on Boost...yup this month was officially the month that I felt OLD.

  • March: we decided to switch my chemo schedule from two weeks on and one off, to one week on and one week off to better manage the toxicity. This helped a LOT to make Chemo more manageable. 
  • April: this month was BUSY, but oh so worth it!! I had the wonderful privilege of taking part in Living Beyond Breast Cancer's (LBBC) Hear my Voice Advocacy workshop in Philadelphia. The best part was meeting many of my amazing metsters friends in person. It was such a high point, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity and for the friendships forged. To walk into a room where EVERYONE gets it and is living in a parallel world to yours is unbelievably refreshing, although I truly wish it was under different circumstances. To meet many in person, and then to hear about many of their passings simply made me want to advocate ten times harder!! The deaths from 2016 were far too many, and heartbreaking for the MBC community. Later this month I also had the opportunity to advocate for medical cannabis, thanks to Rethink Breast Cancer, in a medicinal cannabis forum. It was a wonderful experience, and made me happy to realize that the general population is finally beginning to recognize that this plant has medicinal potential. I also started on Twitter, and became an official tweeter, lol (@Judit_Saunders)


Love all these ladies. We are all living with metastatic breast cancer and simply hoping for more time. xoxo

Rethink Breast Cancer's panel on medical cannabis. Thankful for this amazing organization and for all they do for young women living with breast cancer (https://rethinkbreastcancer.com/)

  • July: A group of us metsters, from across Canada, decided to form an advocacy group to help serve a very underserved, and often ignored population: MBC patients (http://www.mbcac.ca/). Twitter handle @MBC_Advocacy_CA. Since the inception of our group, we have had other opportunities for advocacy. This month we also went on our annual trip to Invermere with my mom and nieces. Plus, I got to celebrate my 31st birthday this month:). Later this month my hubby and I went to Disneyland and had a lovely getaway! The Comedy Store in L.A was one of my favourite components of this trip, and the ocean...I love nothing better then being able to have a good laugh and some sun and sea:). This was also the month I got a selfie stick & utilized it like crazy...the following pics are brought to you thanks to the stick (just don't bring up the sour note of Disney and how it is a prohibited item)...
This was literally right before we got caught with our "prohibited item" and told to leave. They seem to take selfie sticks VERY seriously!!


Just a thought?? Hmm...if someone doesn't want to collect their children at the end of the day we are more then willing to accept them into our home!! If only it were so easy (sigh).

  • September: Firstly, I should mention that this was the first year I tackled having a vegetable garden and I LOVED it and actually managed to grow some things!! I had to post pics as I'm not sure if could ever replicate this!! I also went on our annual Vegas trip with my mom:). It got kind of derailed as our province decided to stop funding my Zoladex injections (this is the drug used for ovarian suppression). I was switched to Lupron and off I went to Vegas to be an emotional roller coaster crazy person with some horrendous headaches that lasted our entire trip!!!!!!!!! The good news? I learned my mom is a Saint....the fact that she could stand to be around me not only shocked me, but certainly made me realize that she would do anything and everything to make my world as perfect and blissful as humanly possible. For that, I could never thank her enough. Love you mom.

One of our planters with tomato's, squash, and corn. The corn was soooo close, but our gardening season was just not quite long enough (AKA: I planted them too late).

The final yield. I'm excited for next year to see how everything grows!!


Mom and I in Las Vegas


  • October: This was the month that we did the CIBC Run For the Cure. This year was different then all the previous years as our advocacy group decided to see how many MBC groups we could form across Canada. After which, we learned that the funds could go directly towards MBC specific research. We ended up with 10 teams across Canada with our local team raising over $11,000. Together with all our sister teams across Canada we raised over $32,000! Super high point! This month was also the annual Boobyball in support of Rethink Breast Cancer which supports young women affected by breast cancer.
Our amazing Calgary team. Thanks again to all those who took part or donated. xoxo



Firstly, this year was a jungle theme. Looking through my photos I came across the first two from Boobyball and don't quite know why my bestie and I were posing with a tree?? But there you go...one with nature;)

  • December: Got Influenza A, and earned myself an ambulance ride. Didn't expect to end my year with this, but I don't think we ever expect the things that happen when living with cancer. On a bright note, I had a lovely Xmas surrounded by family, and had an enjoyable holiday season. 
This is how I felt during the flu...get your flu shot!!!



Here's a run down of what it takes to simply stay alive when living with metastatic breast cancer:

  • over 2000pills taken, and that only includes chemo & a dual kinase inhibitor (targeted therapy). Add supportive meds and honestly I have no clue how many that comes to!! 
  • 4 PET scans & 4 brain MRIs. The scans itself are simple but the stress of these exams are quite literally the most stressful and agonizing days I have ever experienced. It never gets easier. I have little patience during these times and it simply causes me to question my mortality. Every. Single. Time.
  • 4 Zometa infusions=strengthen those bones!! 
  • 4 Zoladex & Lupron inj to suppress my premenopausal ovaries=hot flashes that make you want to spontaneously combust and resort to air conditioning in the winter! My body just can't adjust to this and my wardrobe now consists of tank tops and cardigans. The cardigans allow for a quick and panicky removal of layers and then an easy and quick way to layer back up. 
  • I resorted to gluing my thumb back together at the end of this year as the HFS got so bad that I'm left with a gaping hole on my thumb. Happy to say it's very effective:).
  • This was my first year with Mets where I managed to stay on my current regimen and not have progression. This is bloody AMAZING & I am fully aware of how immensely lucky I am to have lasted this long. Pleeeeaaaase keep on working into the new year and on...and on...and...
  • Mouth sores galore & blisters on hands and feet
  • I got to have 5 weeks off treatment at one point. This was the longest time I got to go without taking meds everyday. It was soooooo good!! I think once a person has to live with this for the rest of their life, we seem to forget just how much of an impact these meds have on our quality of life, and it isn't something we recognize until we finally get a much anticipated break. To feel normal!! Not the whole "new normal," but NORMAL like every other person in their early 30s gets to experience!! 
These were all meds from this past year alone, and it doesn't even include everything. It's crazy to think that these prescription bottles are the reason I've been able to have the year I have had. Although there's many side effects, I must say it was all very well worth it to experience all that I had the opportunity to experience this past year.


Overall, I'd say I had a good year. Yes, my life continues to revolve around scans, appointments, and meds, but I have a wonderfully supportive hubby, I have an amazing family, and I have the best friends I could possibly ask for, and I continue to have far more good days then bad. I want to continue to advocate for MBC in 2017, and hope that new and promising therapies hit the market, not only for my own life, but for my many friends who are running out of options. I hope more funds will be dedicated towards RESEARCH. Moving forward, my one goal for 2017 is to be happy...find at least one reason to be thankful everyday...to love with all my heart...and to do all the things that bring me happiness. That's it. I wish good health for all those I love and care about...as long as we have our health, everything else is simply a choice. Don't ever forget how lucky you are, and hold onto any, and every ounce of goodness that this life offers. Here's to a new year...may it bring good health and lots of reasons to smile.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

This Year Was ALMOST Uneventful...ALMOST


I realized I haven't updated my blog in a while, but with all honesty all has been good! Treatment has been working, & life has been chugging along. Scans stable...no change in treatments (yaaaay)....overall I'd say peachy peach. After having a nice busy little weekend I developed a cough as we were driving home from an outing. I literally looked at my hubs man and said: "I hope this doesn't turn into anything." I think that statement sealed my fate!

The next morning I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a truck. Cough, everything aching, head pounding, nillo appetite, and a fever. Peachy. I quickly diagnosed myself with some nasty cold. Yes, after four years of post secondary education to become an RN, these days I use that education simply to figure out what the heck is wrong with me! The first day I took Advil, expecting to be fine by the next day. Ya, nope. The next day I woke up and felt even worse! However, my fever went from low grade to high. At this point I tried to think logically about what I should do. I decided not to take Advil (as I am on chemo and didn't want to mask it) that day and see if it would come down on its own. The answer to this was nope. My temp stayed at 39.3 all day, so I decided to call the cancer centre to see if someone could call in some script. Easy peasy. Ya, nope. I was told to go to either emerg or urgent care. Firstly, if you know me I like to take care of things myself and I don't like all the hoopla of needing to go to emerg, so after I was told how long the wait was at emerg I decided to go to urgent care instead. At this point, I just wanted to get bloodwork to make sure my counts were good to fight whatever this infection was, and then the go ahead to pop some Advil as I was starting to get miserable from the aches, but mainly the head pounding! 

By the time we got to urgent care I felt super crappy. After spending two days simply laying on my couch I realized this extra strain was feeling like I had just climbed Mount Everest :/. They did a set of vitals and by this time my temp was 39.8 and the rest of my vitals weren't on the stellar side of things so they called me in right away. After an EKG, a whole heck of a lot of bloodwork, and 4 pokes I finally got my Advil, 2L bolus, along with oral and IV antibiotics, and a chest x-ray. They wanted to rule out sepsis. I started to feel better after the Advil and fluids and thought I'd be on my way in no time! Then after the doctor came back he told me my Potassium was super low. Thanks to my nursing degree I'm aware that Potassium is one of those electrolytes that has a narrow window, and it is important for things such as for your heart's proper functioning. I was given oral and IV Potassium and when the doctor came back I was expecting him to say you look wonderful now and be on your way, but nope. Wrong again!! He essentially told me that although I looked better, based on how abnormal things were when I came in, he felt I needed to be admitted to the hospital. Firstly, I thought just nod and smile as if I'd go to the hospital, and then get the heck outta there and go home and go to bed. Well, he even put a pickle into those plans when he told me he would call EMS for transport!! I kinda laughed as I felt it was a bit of overkill, but this doctor looked at me totally straight faced and said he wouldn't let my husband drive me simply due to my low Potassium and fear of my heart stopping en route. In that moment, I thought my poor mother's heart would stop!!! Oh shit I thought...then I thought of my friend Mandi from http://www.darngoodlemonade.com/...shout out to my low Potassium buddy;). 

After waiting a while, and trying to think of any excuse to get out of this I finally realized "it is what it is" and I had to simply listen to their recommendations. So the medics came and I earned myself an ambulance ride to the hospital. I must say, why do cancer patients not have their own triage and emerg?? Having to sit in emerg around a bunch of germy people, I just left my mask on and essentially laid around for a while. By the time I saw the emerg docs, and based on how much better I felt, and considering it was after midnight; I was ready to to be discharged home. Nope...wrong again. I must say these doctors talk so kindly to a person, and seem so calm, that when I asked when I could leave they just kind of smiled and said, "No, we are definitely leaning towards admitting you." This is where I'd like to insert a distraught faced emoji because that's how I felt!!! I even asked if they had called the on call onc to consult with as I felt they would be more lenient. After consulting with oncology, and realizing what I wanted (to go home) and realizing what they wanted (admission) they were kind enough to compromise. They essentially told me that they would let me go home if I came back at 9:30 that morning (at this point it was after 3am) to see an infectious disease doc. I quickly said YES, and we compromised and I quickly got the heck out of there so I could get a few hours of sleep before coming back.

Essentially, you may be asking; what the heck was wrong with her??!! I ended up testing positive for Influenza A. Yes, this is the virus that causes the flu and what we get flu shots for!!! I will never ever again NOT get the flu shot as all this hoopla was certainly not worth it!!! Not to mention, the ultimate craptaculousness of how awful I felt!! Tamiflu and Potassium thanks for ending my miserable week. Thank you crappy immunity as I also developed a mouth sore from hell as well during this time...well...two actually that decided to merge and join sides to make my life extra miserable (insert another distraught or pissed off emoji here)!!  Here's to a low key, uneventful Christmas (minus any mouth sores) and for my appetite to pick up so I can actually feel like eating....or a lot of days being "lit" like my Christmas tree so I get the munchies....aaaand insert smiley, hungry, stoned emoji here (just kidding....but kind of not:)). 

This is the joyful face of someone who managed to compromise and go home:). There is no better place to recover then in your own bed...at home. If I didn't have cancer I wouldn't care, but my life has enough appointments, scans, and the list goes on, that the last place I want to spend another waking moment is in a hospital.  


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Five Years

Five years. Five years ago today my life changed. Five years ago today I was at a nursing conference, simply living completely obliviously, carefree, and unaware of how much my life would change later that afternoon.

I look back at this day and recognize the life that cancer robbed me of. I wish I could go back and tell my innocent self "WAKE UP!" Don't wait until tomorrow...till next month, or next year to do something you want to do. No excuses...do it NOW. I wish work didn't dictate whether I was too tired to do something I wholeheartedly loved...to spend more time with the ones I love...to be present and truly recognize that I was healthy!! My body was strong, vibrant, pain free. Why couldn't I see the greatest gift that laid before me: my HEALTH. It's funny when everything is functioning as it should, disease free, how we imagine this to last infinitely. As if young age was the determinant to a long, healthy, carefree life. Age is merely a number. Just as we like to throw this term around towards those that are elderly; to continue enjoying, and living life, it should also be our cautionary tail to the younger population that the opposite of "age is just a number," doesn't guarantee good health. It's a fickley scenario. It's the; "I should have...I could have...if only..."

At the end of the day I got into my car to go home and I got a phone call from my doctor. Her words echoed in my ears: "I'm so sorry, but it appears you have breast cancer." That was it. That was the moment that would divide my life from complete innocence into a harsh reality. Everything moving forward was now viewed as "before" and "after" cancer.

I can still remember after those words were spoken, simply sitting in my car, in tears, and trying to comprehend the magnitude of what all this meant. I looked around and felt like my world stopped while everyone else's around me continued. It's a weird thing to try and explain because it's kind of indescribable. This happens to OTHER people, but I had become one of those people. I sat in my car for a while before heading home. The thought of telling my loved ones was almost harder to bear. I knew I would need surgery , but didn't know the details of the extent of treatment I would require. I called my brother in shock, and I'm surprised he even was able to coherently hear what it was I was saying. The drive home was a complete blur.

I went to my mom's house to tell her the news...news I so wished I would never need to burden her with. My mother had lost her husband, my dad, when I was a child from cancer and now me?! I still remember walking up her driveway and her greeting me with her friendly, loving smile. The same way she had greeted me for 26 years when I walked into her house; with open arms and a hug. She knew something was terribly wrong as I had been crying the whole drive home. I was never much of an emotional wreck, but cancer had already turned me into one! I remember sitting in the living room, trying to make sense of a completely senseless situation. Seriously, what's there to do other than cry?

I then had to tell my fiancé, who is now my husband, about it. This would be the true test to our relationship and whether he wanted to remain with me. He was a keeper as he never left, and trust me, at times, I know I was an impossible person to be around. I even told him, flat out, at one point that he could use his "get out of jail card" as I was most certainly making life seem like we were confined to a prison. An emotional roller coaster prison mixed in with hell. It was bloody hard. No, that word doesn't even do it justice. It was as though a snake was grappled around my neck, constricting the life out of me. This is not the way people in their late 20s typically live.

Today, 5 years ago, I thought it would be the worst day of my life, but I'd have to say my stage IV diagnosis trumped that by a million. 5 years ago today my life became divided. My cancer diagnosis froze me in my tracks. Everything stopped. My career was put on hold, and my life revolved around chemo , treatment, appointments, and scans. I had no control. I was forced to stop. My wedding had to become an afterthought, and survival became my only priority. I had to stay afloat if I ever dreamed of making my wedding a reality. And I did. Treatment came and went and it was almost like a new beginning. I understood the true fragility of life, the horrors of cancer, but also the beauty of living. I realized how loved I was through the unending support provided to me by not only my family, but my collegues and friends.

5 years ago my innocence, my naivety, and my very sense of who I was disappeared. Actually it was ripped out from under me.

As we approach October, AKA breast cancer awareness month I ask all who read this to understand one thing: early stage breast cancer/mammograms, etc... Play little bearing of what cancer will decide to do. I'm that prime example. I was deemed "curable" with this. I was "curable," or so I thought.

5 years ago today everything changed, and I was forced to recognize that cancer has the last word in regards to what these asshole, rogue cells in my body decide to do, but I'll be damned to ever allow it to take over my soul. So today, like every other day since, I'll give thanks to the beautiful people in my life, to the fact that I can breath, have minimal pain, and that I'm still here to see the beauty in this world.

Today, I'm sitting by a pool with someone I love dearly; my mom. Today is different from five years ago, although my health may not be better, I am genuinely happy. I'm happy because I'm relishing this very moment. I'm not waiting for tomorrow, or the next day to enjoy something in the foreseeable future. I've realized that by constantly waiting...waiting for the weekend or until next month I am simply robbing myself of the beauty of this moment. Nobody knows what the future holds, but I know what this moment holds, and it's pretty darn sweet so I refuse to let cancer rob me of anymore moments of pure bliss. We get one chance at this life, so I'm going to make it the most beautiful life...in this moment my life is perfect. Here's to many more years of finding the beauty that took me 26years to find.