Saturday, February 28, 2009

Writing My Experience

When I first started blogging in August of 2008, I had this need to start writing my experience. I needed some sort of outlet as I felt I would go crazy. I was really beside myself. Anyways, I started journalling my thought in a blog but I didn't tell a soul about it for about 2-3 months and even then, I'd share it with one or two people and ask for lots of feedback. Slowly I gave the blog address out to more and more people and my confidence grew. I was definitively shy about sharing some of my inner most thoughts and feelings with my family and friends.

Fast forward to today and I've shared my blog with not just my immediate family and friends but my extended cancer family around the world. I know it is helpful for me and my hope is that it will be helpful for others.

This next part is for Jill, from the United Kingdom that left a message in my guest book. Please leave a comment on this post or send me an email as I would definitely like to visit your blog.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Laugh Or Two

This week I've noticed something unusual. I've actually had a good laugh or two on a couple of different occasions. Besides this week, I really don't remember the last time I had a good laugh. Truly, I think it's just that the chemo drug accumulation in my body is down from previous months.

On Tuesday night, in class, the girl I sit next too and I giggled and giggled ... like we were in high school ... and then on Wednesday, we had our Breast Cancer Ladies Group meeting at the coffee shop and once again I laughed and ... I made others laugh. I think a part of original Daria is peaking out. Though the body is still very tired ... the mind is feeling just a little bit frisky.

Yesterday, I met with my friend Audrey, Stage 3! Who, me? and we had a nice lunch at Chianti's. We chatted about how much fun we were having with our blogging. We agreed, we have met so many nice people on line.

This morning was my Quilting Support Group at the Cross Cancer. I still haven't taken any picture of my work. My eyes water and so it takes me longer to do stuff. My focus is to keep up with everyone else and so no fiddling with cameras and pictures. I must say, I really do enjoy the quilting group as everyone is so kind and supportive and helpful.

This afternoon, I'm going to need a nap and then it will be school work.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wig Or No Wig

When I was first diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, I purchased a synthetic wig as soon as I shaved my hair. With my chemo back then, I think my hair started falling out after the second treatment. I had never owned a wig and just purchased the first one I saw at a department store. I really disliked wearing it because it continually rode up and sat too high on my head. At first I was really good at correcting it but later ... I just didn’t care. Little did I know that I didn’t have it fitted correctly.

I wore that thing for about 8 months ... yuk.

This time my hair started falling out week two of my first treatment and this time, I said I wouldn’t wear a wig and just go without. Well I had to 'eat' my words because I ended up wearing one ... why? ... because I didn’t want all the attention. I just wanted to blend in. For me, it was difficult to image going to the grocery store and have people stare at me ... with sympathy in their eyes. I don't think anyone wants to be stared at and felt sorry for and it's obvious because I don't remember the last time I was at a grocery store or shopping and saw someone with cancer hair.

I ended up wearing that old wig for a short time and then went to look for another one. That is when I came upon Alfred’s Hair. Alfred's Hair has been around since 1970 and only helps people with medical conditions like Alopecia, burn or accident victim, or chemo treatments. He is so good. I wore my old wig in and asked to be fitted for a new one because this one sucked. I forgot to mention ... the first time I wore my wig back in 2000, I had gotten too close to a hot oven and it fringed the ends of my bangs. Well to my surprise, Alfred fixed the damaged hair and he fitted the wig properly. I still ended up buying a new wig as well ... WOW... a choice in wigs.

On a humorous side, we named the wig Ratatouille, after the rat in the movie.

Anyways, I find wigs itchy to wear in the winter and hot and itchy in the summer ... and watch out for those windy days.

I found a great article on the internet about wigs and cancer ... it pretty well covers it ... Wigs for Cancer Patients.

One more thing, the Cross Cancer Institute has wigs you can borrow from their volunteer services.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cancer In the 21st Century

I found this interesting article about cancer. It is done by and is called 'When Will We Cure Cancer?' and takes a futuristic look at cancer.

The article suggests that a ‘cure’ for cancer may not be soon found but that there is a ton of research being done with hopefully tons of new drugs on the horizon. They say the cancer drug treatment of the future may be similar to that of aids treatment which would be a ‘mixture of drugs’ that outsmarts cancer as it progress.

The article touched on some of the ‘myths’ about cancer which are .... That cancer is caused by depression or miasmas or sexual repression.

The fact is it is caused by faulty genes. says that ... “Every tumor begins with just one errant cell that has been unlucky enough to suffer at least two, but sometimes several, genetic mutations. Those mutations prod the cell into replicating wildly, allowing it to escape the control that genes normally maintain over the growth of new tissue.”

The article suggests we think of cancer not as a disease but as a genetic process where it’s survival of the fittest.

So the future may not be to ‘cure’ cancer, but to have the right mixture of drugs to help people live with it for as long as possible.

Have a read.... It’s really interesting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Get Over It

Last night's sleep was once again broken up but better than the previous one. I had intense dreams ... one about farmers going bankrupt due to the bad economy ... I had a dream about numerous friends of mine getting a terminal or debilitating disease. I had a dream about me trying to get across the city ... and I had no means of transportation but my feet. In other words, I had these intense dreams that kept waking me up.

My hand-foot syndrome was also causing some disruption. I've mentioned before that when I put my feet flat on the bed, I feel pressure and heat which is uncomfortable. Also, my hands seem to fall asleep and wake up with a tingling, prickly feeling.

Tonight, I'm definably going to take an Ativan to help settle things down.

A fellow blogger left a comment on my blog saying that when she was on Taxotere, she felt it acted as a depressant. Renee, thanks for leaving that comment. For a few days, each cycle, I experience these mood swings that drive me wacko. O.K. I'll try to explain it. What I find is that the senses are amplified. For example, the TV is too loud, my husband's voice is too loud, things just smell off, visually, things appear to be worse than they are ... television is hard to watch. The dog is annoying. I get so agitated and frustrated ... I can barely stand myself. I end up just keeping to myself because any comment coming out of my mouth will not be good.

It's like I can see beyond it and want to kick myself in the butt and say ... GET OVER IT ... but I can't.

Anyways, those mood swings are pretty well over for this cycle. I know that I still feel anger and a bit of apathy.

I guess by my sharing this, I want people to know that cancer patients are not just 'depressed', that in fact some of it is caused by the chemo drugs and that they don't have much control of it. I also want to say that this must be very confusing and difficult for the care givers. I know from personal experience, people have tried to help me and I just 'bark' at them. It is not intentional.

Some of the other side effects I do experience that I don't think I have talked too much about is ... each cycle I get these 'whitehead' pimples around my nose, especially. They are huge and when I squeeze them (because they are itchy), they bleed like crazy. This only lasts about a day or two and then it's fine. The other side effect is my nose bleeds. One of the side effects of chemo is flu like symptoms and that includes a stuffy nose. So with a stuffy nose, you blow it ... and it bleeds. The problem will get worse in the next couple of days, then the nose will just start bleeding without blowing ... day or night. This lasts about a week and the problem settles down and disappears till the next cycle.

On a brighter side, I'm feeling better and am looking forward to being strong enough to get out and about.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Feeling Uky

Just a quick update as I’m still feeling the effects of the chemo. Last night I was in bed for 12 hours, unfortunately, it was very broken up and I woke up with a terrible headache. I’ve decided to have some oatmeal ... wait about half an hour to check my temperature. If I have no temperature, I’m going to take a couple of Tylenol.

My eyes are very watery and sore and my vision is still a bit blurred.

Even though I’m still feeling the effects of the chemo, this is nothing like what I felt in December. I’m getting concerned that I need to get the oncologist to increase the dosage again. It’s like I’m not getting enough. My CT scan will be just before cycle 11; I guess we’ll know better then.

My mood swings are crazy. I’m very irritable and feel negative. I know its chemo related and will improve as the week goes on. I find being alone and quiet works best for me during this time.

Later today, things should start improving ... I’ve just looked outside and it looks beautiful.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Circle of Life

This song touched my heart .... Circle of Life by Elton John.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quilting Update

Yesterday was my quilting session at the Cross Cancer Support Group. I was hoping to take some pictures to show off the fabric I had chosen but due to a finicky machine or a finicky operator ... I was struggling with the sewing. The machine was giving me all sorts of grief. Well maybe not the machine ... I think I’ve almost done everything wrong at least once and therefore should be ‘speedy’ next week.

The afternoon was spent on school work and getting just a few more things lined up for the uky days of chemo tomorrow and Monday.

Between you and me, I cheat and stretch the steroids out an extra day so that the withdrawal isn’t so bad. I think it is better in the end.

Anyways, that is it for now... it will be short and sweet for the next few days.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma

My journey all started back in about June of 2000 when I first found a lump. Well that may not be completely true. Back in 1980 at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with something called Prolactinoma. I started seeing a gynecologist to deal with a couple of issues. I had very irregular menstruation and I had milky fluid secretion out of my left breast. I was not pregnant and so this was disturbing. What the gynecologist found is that my pituitary gland had hyperactive cells that were reproducing. He said it wasn’t a tumor but could have become one if it stayed unchecked. I think, for one year, I was placed on Parlodel to help control this issue. I had CT scans every couple of years until about 2000 to make sure there were no changes to the pituitary gland. This went on until my cancer showed up. I was also placed on Provera for a few years to help normalize my periods. This happened quite a while ago ... so I hope I have the details right. My gynecologist decided to have me start mammograms very early ... like when I was around 30 years old.

O.K. fast forward to 2000, I felt a lump in my breast close to the centre of my chest. I was sent for a mammogram. The medical staff did an ultrasound which looked suspicion and so the doctor did a needle biopsy confirming breast cancer.

By the way, the doctor that diagnosed me with this cancer, died a few years later from colon cancer. Go figure.

I was referred to a plastic surgeon who tried to make me feel better by saying I had an 85% chance of survival. That sounded good to me. I had a mastectomy and was in the hospital overnight. I remember one nurse coming to me and saying ... you are my age ... and back then I was 39. I could see the fear in her eyes. I was referred to the Cross for treatment.

I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma Breast Cancer. An adenocarcinoma is a type of carcinoma that starts in glandular tissue (tissue that makes and secretes a substance). The ducts and lobules of the breast are glandular tissue (they make breast milk), so cancers starting in these areas are sometimes called adenocarcinomas. I had about 5 or 8 lumps with the biggest being about 1 cm in size. Because of the numerous tiny lumps, the decision was to have a mastectomy and not a lumpectomy. Also, because I had so many tiny tumors and some were so close to my chest wall, when they did the mastectomy, they couldn't confirm clear margins. I likely had ‘positive margins’. A positive margin means that it’s possible that there may be cancer tissue left behind. That was not good news. My cancer was and is grade 2 which is medium on the slow, medium, aggressive growth meter. I was diagnosed stage 2 back then but am stage 4 now. My cancer is ER (Estrogen) positive meaning it is fuelled by the hormone estrogen. During the surgery they took out 8 lymph nodes and 3 were cancerous.

The Cross recommended 6 rounds of chemotherapy (FEC - Fluorouracil, also known as 5FU, Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide) and 25 rounds of radiation and said they would likely put on Tamoxifen for 5 years after my treatment was completed.

In 2002, I had a bit of a scare when I had a regular visit with my plastic surgeon. He found a lump and did a needle biopsy right in the exam room. It turned out to be nothing. This is the same doctor that said I had an 85% chance of survival. I could see the fear in his eyes. Even though they ... the doctors give you these stats to make you feel better, I really didn’t believe them because their eyes always told a different story.

In 2004, I once again found a lump close to the center of my chest wall which was very close to my surgery line. After a mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy, it was confirmed ... more cancer. My surgery was very minor with local anaesthetic only. Because, it was on my chest wall, there really wasn’t much to cut out. In fact he cut out what he could and litterly burned the flesh to the bone. The same plastic surgeon did this surgery and the fear in his eyes was even greater. I went back to the Cross and they did some sort of x-rays and found no cancer elsewhere. I was a bit in denial and just went along with what they said. I was more than happy to hear good news and wasn’t about to question things. I now feel I should have asked more questions and demanded more scans and tests. They gave me the all-clear and changed my hormone therapy from Tamoxifen to Letrozole (Famara).

In about 2005 or 2006 I started coughing a bit. The Cross did a chest x-ray but saw nothing. I think it was 2007; I started having spotting indicating my periods were coming back. My chemotherapy in 2000 put me into menopause therefore causing my periods to stop. The reason the spotting was such an issue; was that it meant that my body was producing Estrogen which fuels my cancer. We quickly decided it was important to remove my ovaries once and for all to make sure no Estrogen was produced ... and so we did.

When you go through breast cancer, you think every ache and pain is cancer that has come back. I tried to balance it out by not being too uptight about it and trying to think ‘positive’ but deep down, it’s always on the back of your mind. Cancer is a real roller coaster of ups and downs with each doctor’s visit, each test or scan, and each ache or pain.

Back then I did not want to discuss or share my cancer story with anyone. Of course that has now changed. I now have this need to share my story with the world.

In 2008, I had my annual mammogram and cancer showed up in my other breast. The tumor was extremely small ... in fact it was so small they said they probably removed it when they did the core biopsy. As I talked to this doctor who was different from the plastic surgeon I talked about in the beginning, I also saw fear in his eyes, I said to him ... “dam it, it came back the first time 4 years later and once again it came back 4 years later” and he said ... “that is what breast cancer does ... it keeps coming back”.

We did numerous scans and tests and to my shock and disbelief, the news was awful. To be honest, I really didn’t expect it ... I don’t know if anyone does. The cancer had metastasized to my lungs, liver and bones which means it is stage 4. They told me how many tumors I had throughout my body but I just blocked that information out of my mind. It was a lot.

Presently I'm on chemotherapy (Docetaxel also known as Taxotere) which is causing some of the tumors to shrink. It looks like I will have to be on some sort of treatment for the rest of my life. There will be opportunities to stop chemotherapy for months or even up to a year at a time so that I can have a normal life for a period. The future is really up in the air. People often ask me how many more chemo treatments I will be getting. There is no definite answer. I think it all depends how long I can take the treatments. The oncologist looks at both my body and my mind ... how the side effects are affecting my body and how mentally strong I am I as I go from cycle to cycle. I’ve heard of woman with 14, 18 and over 20 treatments in a row.

I guess I’ll find out how strong I truly am.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Breast Cancer 101

Unless you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you may not know that there is more than one type of breast cancer. In fact there are quite a few factors that affect a diagnosis, type of breast cancer and therefore type of treatment.

I am not a doctor ... I am just offering some information and please understand it may not be completely accurate. That is my disclaimer.

My goal here is to show in a very condensed version how complicated breast cancer is. The information can be overwhelming.

I found most of this information from a couple of sources. If you are interested, there is much more detail on these two sites as well as many more on the internet:

1. Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada – Managing Your Cancer Care
2. American Cancer Society

O.K. here we go ....

A breast cancer diagnosis will be based on a pathology report which will be based on some of the following factors:
  • Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCTS) – This is an uncontrolled growth of cells within the milk duct.
  • Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) – This is an uncontrolled growth of cell within the lobule.
  • Invasive – This is cancer that began in either the milk ducts or the lobules but that has spread to surrounding breast tissue ... either lymph nodes or other organs.
  • Inflammatory – This is an aggressive form of cancer that occurs in the lymph vessels of the skin and quickly spreads to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
The pathology report will also include some other information about the tumor:
  • Stages – Generally it goes from 1 - 4 and depends on size of tumor, if it spread to the lymph nodes and blood vessels, to other organs, etc.
  • Grade – The grades are 1 - 3. The number generally depends on how aggressive the cancer is.
  • Hormone receptor status – This indicate whether the cancer is sensitive to the influence of hormones such as estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) status.
  • HERS status – This indicates whether the body’s cells have too much of a protein called HER2.
Other important considerations:
  • Vascular or Lymphatic Invasion – This indicates whether cancer cells are found in the blood vessels or fluid channels of the breast.
  • Lymph Node Status – This indicates whether cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.
Types of breast cancers:

There are several types of breast cancer, with some of them being quite rare. In some cases a single breast tumor can have a combination of these types or have a mixture of invasive and in situ cancer.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS; also known as intraductal carcinoma)
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS; also called lobular neoplasia)
  • Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma (IDC)
  • Invasive (or infiltrating) lobular carcinoma (ILC)
Less common types of breast cancer are:
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Triple-negative breast cancer
  • Mixed tumors
  • Medullary carcinoma
  • Metaplastic carcinoma
  • Mucinous carcinoma
  • Paget disease of the nipple
  • Tubular carcinoma
  • Papillary carcinoma
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma (adenocystic carcinoma)
  • Phyllodes tumor
  • Angiosarcoma
Tomorrow I will go into detail about my particular cancer and treatment thus far.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cycle 10 Chemotherapy

Today I received my 10th chemo. Everything when really well ... the Cross was so busy ... probably because of holiday Monday. I got the last seat available. The next person after me would have to wait until someone finished. The Cross has three different rooms for chemotherapy. It's hard to believe the numbers they must put through.

I always watch a movie on the portable DVD player and today it was The Green Mile. It is a really good movie ... but a tear jerker.

The steroids had me up early this morning. I finally snuck out of bed around 4:30ish and tried to sleep on the couch. No luck there ... so I went on the laptop and surfed the web.

I'm hoping for a better sleep tonight.

For your information ... I don't really feel the chemo drugs immediately. I will start feeling the effects the day I get off the steroids which is a couple three days from today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oncologist Visit

This morning I had my blood work and oncologist visit. My blood work is good for chemo tomorrow. My hemoglobin was 122 last time and is 119 this time. Once again, if it ever gets below 90, I'll need a blood transfusion. They also checked the oxygen in my blood and it is at 97 out of 100. That is really good too. The reason they checked my oxygen is that I mentioned I cough the odd time when I turn to lay on my side. They said the cough might be caused from having fluid in my lungs. They didn't seem too concerned.

My visit with the oncologist when well. I let her know that this last cycle was much better than the previous couple. In other words, I felt much better and had more good days. The research nurse said I looked better and sounded better. I told them I needed a good cycle ... mentally I was pretty down in December and January.

Yesterday I felt so good, I actually did some house work. I vacuumed, I dusted and oiled the furniture. I haven't done dusting and oiling for months. My sister who is a nurse said ... the fact that I even wanted to do house work is a good thing.

Today I picked up my meds for the next cycle ... I also stopped at the U of A Hospital to pick up my prescription of Heparin, syringes and needles. I was told there were meters right outside the hospital ... I didn't know ... parking is now a breeze.

Today I had a really nice lunch with a friend. We chatted for over two hours.

I'm off to do school work ...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gorgeous Day Out There

I just got back from having a Tim Horton's coffee with my sister D. It's a gorgeous day out there ... bright and sunny. My sister was already talking about Spring. First day of Spring is March 20 ... can you believe that is just over a month away.

Today I plan on working on more school projects. I have to jump ahead a bit because next week I will not be feeling up to school work.

Tomorrow are blood work and oncologist appointments ... and a lunch date with a friend.

One of the reasons I keep mentioning my outings is because I want people to know that I am getting out and about. Some people are concerned that I might not be getting out enough. I try and get out when I can. I have no stamina for walking or mall shopping but I do try and get out for coffee with my friends and family when I'm feeling good. That is on top of doing things like getting groceries and running errands. I just plan ahead and do these things on my good days.

With the grocery shopping ... I tend to lean on the grocery buggy for support. I try and do what I can. Yesterday I got groceries and washed the car right afterwords. That was good.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Flowers And Chocolates

Yesterday I received beautiful flowers and yummy chocolates for Valentine's Day. I really enjoy getting flowers ... it just brightens up the house so much.

Today I'm plugging away on my school work. Looks like I'll be busy with that for a few days. There is no class this Tuesday as it is Reading Week at the college. That is good news.

My chemo this cycle is on a Wednesday instead of the regular Tuesday because Monday is a holiday. That means everything is moved one day over and my bad days will be Sunday and Monday instead of the regular Saturday and Sunday. Class next Tuesday will be a real challenge because of that. Oh well ... we`ll figure something out.

This coming week, I`ve planned a couple of lunch dates and I need to stop at the pharmacy at the U of A hospital to pick up some more syringes and Heparin for my CVC flushing. Heparin is used to flush the CVC to prevent blood from clotting around the entrance to the CVC. Anyways, the prescription is at the U of A because they are the only ones that fill this type of prescription ... that is what I was told. Parking is a bit of a challenge ... so I`m grumbling a bit.

Otherwise, I`ll just be busy getting ready for my tenth chemo treatment. I can hardly believe I`m saying that ... tenth treatment. To be honest, this past treatment was much better than the previous couple. I recovered sooner and felt better and therefore was more positive than I was during the December and January treatments. I`m kind of wondering if they will up my chemo because I did feel so good. Anyways, I told a friend I feel better and have some ... `gas in the tank` now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Valentines Greetings

Yesterday, I really enjoyed the 'Quilt Making' group ... mostly cause I chatted with other cancer patients and facilitators. I was even told I should get after it and cut some fabric so that I would be ready to sew next week ... it reminded me of school ... too much talking and not enough work.

I picked out some fabrics and I wish I would have had my camera ... I would have taken some pictures to show everyone. Oh well, next week, I'll be more prepared.

I've never owned a sewing machine but I figure I should be able to sew a straight line ... we'll see. The instructor is from Earthly Goods and she said not to try and make it too matchy matchy but just choose a variety of colors. So this is my disclaimer for when people see the final product ... it is supposed to look that way. Wink wink nudge nudge. By the way, the quilt will only be about 2' by 3' ... not very big ... we only have eight weeks. Anyways, I think it is going to be fun.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quilt Making

Last night's supper at Vi's Pies with the ladies was absolutely a blast. We caught up on all the news with everyone. It was nice to chat about regular kind of stuff. The restaurant itself is really nice and the food was really good. I will definitely visit Vi's again.

This morning I'm signed up for a 'Quilt Making' Support Group at the Cross Cancer Institute. What happens is women dealing with cancer get together and quilt and talk about their experiences with their disease. I'm really looking forward to it. I've never been a sewer but always thought I might take it up some day.

For lunch, I'm off to meet my friend Audrey.

For a while now, I've wanted to share a blog I've been following for probably longer than any other. The blog is written by Pam also know as IPA and her blog is called ... Is This All There Is. This blog is about their struggle with her husbands prostate cancer. Slip over and have a peak .... as Pam is just a very warm, creative and inspiring blogger.

I'm feeling good and looking forward to another busy day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today Is A Good Day!

Yesterday we had a wonderful coffee visit with the breast cancer ladies.

Today I’m had lunch at Moxies at West Edmonton Mall with an old friend. I think we were in our early 20’s when we first met ... working for the same employer. Since then we have taken separate career paths however we have continued our friendship. Her birthday is one day before mine but she was born a year later ... that means, one day a year we are the same age. I like to rub that in. We can both be chatter boxes and when we get together ... look out. In one hour, we can almost solve the world’s problems.

My sister came by last night to flush my CVC. She is a nurse and just finished a 12 hour day shift. I don’t know how nurses do it ... not only do they have to work these long 12 shifts but they regularly switch from day to night ... in the same week. I’ve worked night shift before and it is brutal. I don’t know how they do it ... and for years on end.

Later today ... for supper, I’m meeting a couple of ladies I worked with at my previous job.

Today is a good day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What You Can Do To Help

I've recently received a few email from friends asking what they can do to help.

What really puts a smile on my face is if I get an email or a comment on the blog or a note in the guest book. I really am enjoying this blogging and if I know someone is reading it, that is really the icing on the cake. Oh yes, the emails can just be telling me what you are up to and what is new in your life ... don't be too concerned about what to say to me, I'm doing O.K. right now.

And for my long distance cyber friends, please do let me know what you think of the blog ... I'd love to hear.

I told my husband, I'm just a social butterfly this week ... NOT... I've just got a lot of good friends that are making sure I'm doing O.K. Next week is chemotherapy, so I like to take advantage of my good week.

This afternoon, I have coffee with the breast cancer group. Six ladies that have been meeting since about 2001. We generally meet every two weeks, but because of scheduling issues, this will be the first time we see each other since before Christmas. It'll be a nice get together.

Tomorrow I'm out of for lunch with one friend I've know for many many years and supper with a couple friends from my previous job.

I'm so glad I'm feeling pretty good this week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lack Of Focus

Yesterday I worked on some of my school work and found it so difficult. I was just about in tears and ready to give up ... and quit the course. I just had such difficulty focusing. As usual, my eyes water, so I struggled with reading the problems, especially on the glossy pages ... then my memory is so bad; I had to reread the problem over and over again. Well after great effort, things started clicking and the brain cells woke up. I’m glad to say I had success.

After all the hard work, I felt much better because I was able to do it. That is really one of the reasons why I keep pushing to take courses during treatment, it forces me to focus and I get such a good sense of accomplishment when I do it.

I’m a bit nervous about the exams but we’ll worry about that when we get there.

On a slightly different note ... my friend Audrey included me in her blog Audrey’s Journey on iNews 880AM. Click over and have a read. Audrey, thanks for your kind words.

Tonight is my course, but today, I plan on working on more math problems.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Brave Cancer Patients

Since I started blogging, I have connected with a few other metastatic breast cancer ladies. Can I Be Pretty In Pink is one of the blogs I more recently started following. Deena and I recently connected by email and I just wanted to share an email she sent me. I have her permission.

Hi Daria

I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma and Her2 Neu + .. I had 39 lymph nodes removed 29 were cancer and it was in my adrenals..bones..spine....then after chemo

They found 5 brain tumors

Removed them with Gamma Knife surgery and the next MRI showed 8 I did whole brain radiation for 20 days..

I'm just now feeling human again..done with all my treatments and cancer meds..and waiting for the all clear in April!!! I pray

Chemo wasn't bad..WBR was horrid

Take care of you..and email when you feel good again praying for you ..Deena

I just wanted to share how brave cancer patients need to.

I thought my treatment was bad but as always there are people who struggle with worse. I can't even image Whole Brain Radiation (WBR) or Gamma Knife Surgery.

You may or may not know, there are numerous kinds of breast cancer out there. My cancer is different from Deena's. That doesn't mean my cancer wouldn't spread to my brain or that I wouldn't possibly get this type of treatment.

Deena you are one strong and brave woman.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Abreast In The West

I don't have much to report today so I thought I would share some information with my breast cancer friends.

For the past 8 years or so, I've been receiving this breast cancer newsletter. It is delivered to my home four times per year and it is free. You can also read it online.

The newsletter is called Abreast in the West and is distributed out of Vancouver, BC. Click on the link and you'll get all the info you need.

I've enjoyed reading it and hope you would too.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Google It

Yesterday was a snowy kind of day ... very pretty but the roads were a bit ugly.

My friend Audrey and I got together and went for lunch to the Blue Plate Diner. We really enjoy each other’s company ... probably because we have a couple of things in common. We both have later stages of cancer and we both blog. Audrey and I originally met at the Cross Cancer Institute at a support group and have continued our friendship by meeting for lunch almost weekly ever since. Audrey’s blog is called Stage 3! Who, me? You can also find her blogging on iNews 880 AM. Her blog there is called Audrey’s Journey. Please take a few minutes and visit her sites. And remember, be sure to leave a comment. Bloggers love to read comments.

O.K. so on to something on the stranger side. My husband has been walking around for days and repeating something like ... ‘if my nose was running money, I’d blow it all on you.’ And then he’d laugh and laugh and laugh. Enough was enough, I had to find out what it was about ... so what do I do ... same thing I always do when I need information on something ... I Googled it and this is what I found....

Friday, February 6, 2009

Is It Better To Know Or Not Know

A while back I was asked by someone ... ‘Is it better to know or not know?' The question was ... 'Is it better to know you are going to die and have some time to deal with it or... is it better to not know and die immediately in say a car crash?'

I ponder that question often. I’m not sure I have the answer. After my first cancer diagnosis, 9 years ago, I felt O.K. with knowing I was going to die because it allowed me a second chance at doing a few things. I started changing the way I lived. I started downsizing or simplifying my life which included giving my stuff away, clearing out paperwork, and just unloading and simplifying in general. It is funny ... when you think you are going to die and you look at your ‘stuff’ and you realize no one else is going to want it... and I thought to myself ... but I worked so hard for that stuff. It’s quite the realization knowing only you value what you have.

So back to the question ... better to know or not know ... this is my third kick at the can and you know what, I really wonder.... second and third times with cancer are tough ... especially being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. You literally wait to die.

I feel guilty for having these thoughts because there are people out there struggling way way way harder than I am and yet I feel this way.

Since my chemotherapy started in August, I feel like I have this zombie like existence. I just move around with no real purpose. I'm sure if I wasn’t getting chemo, my opinion would be different. Chemo sucks the energy right out of you ... mentally and physically... and all the drugs send you into mood swings that slant your thinking. But then that is my life right now.

So to answer the question, is it better to know or not know you are dying ... I've come to the conclusion the answer will be different for everyone as they progress through different stages of illness and different kinds of treatment.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mind Is Much More Eager Than My Body

Yesterday I wrote...

Today ....

I need to go for a nap. I need to stop by my sister's so she can flush my CVC. I need to get some groceries. I need to do some house work.

Obviously, I'm feelin' better.

Now I will tell you what really happened.

I went for a nap and woke up feeling more tired than before the nap. I called my sister and asked her to come over to flush my CVC. I never got any groceries. Yes I vacuumed part of the living room. My mind was much more eager than my body was.

When my sister came, she flushed my CVC and then we went to Tim Hortons for coffee and a muffin. I really felt like staying on the couch but knew it was necessary to get out with the living.

For most of the day, I ended up sitting on the couch and playing with my blog. I’ve added a couple more gadgets to the website. To the left and down a bit is a guest book for people to leave messages. Feel free to leave a message ... let me know you stopped by for a visit ... and/or what you think of the blog.

At the very bottom, I’ve added a play list of songs that you can listen to while you are reading my blog.

This morning my sister called me again and asked if I wanted to go to Mundare Sausage House. She picked up a case of 25 rings of sausage ... yes a case and I picked up some of my favorites which are Scuffles and Prune Pompushky ... both are Ukrainian baked items.

We went back to her house and dug in. Even though my taste buds are awful right now, I still enjoyed it.

I think a nap is in order this afternoon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feelin' Better

Well I made it through my whole class last night. I really tried hard because it's a math course, and I needed to be there. It's algebra ... need I say more? During the class I struggled with 'gas' issues caused by chemo and sitting too long. I'll leave out the details.

During the class, I sat beside a nice young lady who I've gotten to know. She was having boyfriend problems ... the good kind ... too many at once. She said she had no one interested for ever and now there are numerous guys very interested. I really enjoyed listening to her problems ... normal everyday kind of problems. It made me smile.

When I got home, I was glad to see there was a note from D. indicating he was off to an Oilers hockey game. Since August, our lives have been all about my cancer and unfortunately, our social life has been very limited. It's nice to see him get out and have some fun.

Today ....

I need to go for a nap. I need to stop by my sister's so she can flush my CVC. I need to get some groceries. I need to do some house work.

Obviously, I'm feelin' better.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Review Of Side Effects

Yesterday I had a morning nap of over one hour long. This morning I had a nap over 1.5 hours long. This all on top of a full 9 hours sleep, I get at night. I guess I'm a bit tired.

So just a review of my side effects:
  • my eyes continue to leak.
  • my nose is stuffy and bleeds intermittently ... day and night.
  • my toes/feet feel chilled. I have very few symptoms of the hand-foot syndrome. For my feet, I feel heat/pressure when I have them flat on the mattress. For my hands, they are just a bit more sensitive picking up hot or cold items. The tips of my fingers are a bit sensitive too.
  • fatigue - I need extra sleep right now.
Today, I'm really trying to conserve my energy because I have class tonight and it's going to be really difficult for me to sit through 3 hours of lecture. I might just leave half way through.

Tomorrow, I'm going to go out and about a bit. I think the first place I need to stop is get some new clothes. Unfortunately, I have put on so much weight, I have run out of clothes that fit. How I wish I could get some control over that. Unfortunately, my will power is zero to none and the steroids don't help.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Keep It Real

My whole life, I’ve always wanted to be strong ... independent, self-reliant, resilient and to be weak at nothing ... or at least appear that way.

So in my pursuit of being courageous I have not allowed myself to show a weaker side. So what does this have to do with my cancer? Well, I really struggle sharing true feelings about my treatment and the disease. I often feel I need to be strong for others . I've always been known to be positive and how the heck can someone be positive about cancer with two recurrences?

My main issue is that I avoid talking about certain things because it puts me in a 'weaker' light.

Through this blog, I've had an opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings and I want to make sure I do that ... and I'm going to practice till I get it right.

Well I have a couple of supporters that continue to inspire me to be real. My friend A. in Edmonton continues to encourage me to ... 'tell it like it is' and a fellow blogger, Renee, Circling My Head who most recently left the following comment on one of my posts ... “Keep telling the truth. Like I say, keep it real no need to keep it strong.”

Thanks ladies for supporting me and stay on my case.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday ... A Day Of Rest

The worst of the chemo drugs and toxins are out of me.

Today, I'm definitely feeling more alive but am going to continue to focus on resting and nothing more. This afternoon, I tried to close my eyes for a nap but I couldn't ... likely because I slept quite a bit yesterday.

Nothing more to report ....