The Unexpected Journey

When they said, "Hey conversations about cancer don't make me squirm", she said "Hold my beer."

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I’ve been struggling structuring today’s notes about financial implications of cancer to the vulnerable. First, I am a financially-stable Canadian with a fulltime job with great benefits in southern Ontario. I’m pretty lucky. I was even able to book massages paid for by benefits during the stressful planning time. It’s different for those people who parse part-time jobs without benefits or are seniors with limited funds. I’ve had access to quality health care throughout my life. My...
When I heard chemotherapy, loss of hair wasn’t the first thing I thought about, but it definitely was up there. I’m not vain about my hair. I am embarrassed by my scalp. I have had sebaceous cysts all my life. My scalp has scars from removal. I have lumps and bumps. I would not be one of those women with gorgeous bald heads. I gave a small sigh of relief when I heard that I would not lose my hair. I approached my hair dresser for guidance. Colouring after treatment started would...
It’s Friday afternoon in early August. Now, anyone in HR or leadership knows you do not want to give bad news on a Friday – it’s bad practice to leave people stewing over a weekend with no one to chat too. I had phoned my gynecologist a few times earlier in the week, seeking the results of my cone biopsy. My results from pap, then colposcopy, then plan for treatment had all been phone calls, one during an off-site in Milwaukee. I was strong and ready for it. Then I got the results. Then...
I am not someone who likes to be dependent on folks or ask for assistance for personal items. I have learned from some of the best in leadership and have adapted my own style building strong teams; but….if it is personal to me, odds are I am doing it. So, how does that correlate to the topic at hand today, the people who wing me back & forth from Juravinski each day. I can tell you that I did not want to accept drivers. I am a good driver if more cautious than I was in my youth. I think...
Way back, after meeting with the radiation oncologist & nurse for the first time, they told me that I would need to have a planning appointment in the next few days with the radiation technologists before the treatment could begin. I was disappointed. I didn't want to come back again. It was a sign of the attention to the patient’s treatment load that the nurse disappeared and was able to squeeze it in that afternoon rather than the original date so that I could avoid the 2+hrs in...
When you have long days at hospital, there are certain things that fit into the classifications of want, need and desires. I had been using my backpack, but, each bag that I had was designed for travel. So built to be thrown around. Strong, but that strength added unnecessary weight to be carried, a challenge knowing fatigue was in the future. Plus, it was a pain to search for with IV connected to one arm. I trimmed down items to "need" Oh, how Mary Poppin’s carpet bag would be handy...
Chemo impacts the division of cells. That’s a good thing if you are fighting cancer. I have squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix, staged at 2B. Approximately 2cm in size, it had just started its journey past the cervix. Surgery was no longer the best option once it had started to expand territory. It’s a slow growing cancer probably caused by HPV (forewarning: a rant is building about vaccines & women’s health). The treatment plan is chemoradiation therapy with a prognosis of cure. As...
Warning: at times if you read my posts you are going to hear about female body parts. In support of the Ontario Sex Education program, I might even use correct terminology. The snatch is a key Olympic weight lifting movement with a lot of power and speed. It also happens to be crude slang for female genitalia. This spring, I had read about two creative women from Ottawa with different types of cervical cancer who had leveraged the power of the word, and forming a “love the snatch”...
I have felt great post chemo. In fact this weekend, I felt excellent. Saturday was a beautiful day to hangout, do some shopping and relax with T. After she left early Sunday, I had a great morning with a bit of lifting at CrossFit Brantford, some light tasks, and headed over to J&S’s for a short visit. You wouldn’t know that I was having treatment. I felt great though a wee bit jittery like when you’ve had one too many coffees. I really hate relying on folks, K was working, so I figured...
For those who know me well, you know that I hate taking medication. My best win was successfully ridding myself of thyroid medication post-thyroidectomy Sinus rinse fights off colds. I go to doctors when I must, and clearly, not often enough. Appointments are meant to be made but slip the mind, or made, and missed. This past winter exhausted from work and other demands, I picked up a cold. The cough progressed and would not leave. By spring, I could no longer hold off. I called in, met...
How to explain the emotions that are triggered at Juravinski. Maybe just calling it by its full name...Juravinski Cancer Centre. It doesn't shy from its name...and when you are there, it hits you. As T said, everyone here is sick. Not just at a hospital with an injury, or an important surgery, but...sick. It hits me when I see the handsome young man, the same age as my oldest son, walking out of the lab ahead of me with his mom & dad following him. As the first week wears on, you no...
Update day 5: Woot 5/25 of the external radiations are done, and 1/5 chemos...time is flying by. The discussion on blood etc yesterday was due to my having a high reading last night. It dawned on me it could have been due to a hot flash (hah, women of certain age will understand). Checked in with doctor during appointment, who agreed with what I did and concurred as possibly hot flashes but advised to confirm with gyn/oncologist next week responsible for chemo.. Although hot flashes do...
Thursday is my shortest day for treatment...which is good. Just a drive down, radiation, then drive back. So, approx 3 hrs, but, not much strain. I have started a little photo album of things around Juravinski and will share that so you can see how beautiful it is. I call this beast Hal. It is the radiation machine. You lie on the table, and everything moves to have the machine rotate around you. I have found singing 100 bottles of beer on the wall (under my breath), helps to pass the...
Day3: I will be honest and share that I was a bit anxious going into treatment today. I knew that I was in great hands, and would be fine, but, well, I was pumped. Kinda like the day of a go-live, when you have prepared everything and have a great team, but, you know...s**t happens. So, left the house at 9:30, got blood work done at arrival, then up to chemo for pharmacist training me on my meds, what they do, symptoms etc..for a good 20min, then, head over to chemo waiting room, and...
Day 2: Was a day to review schedules, create google calendar, figure out odd schedule days, and then, do my first review. Turns out there is a clinic run by the nurses you go to review symptoms, get help, and you can walk in if you don't have an appointment but need to see one. Quite amazing care and thoroughness. Session 2 of radiation done as well. Identified a scheduling oddity so thought I would ask the nurse. Crazy efficiency: she said she would check, and by the time I was in...
Day 1 of treatment finished, including: 1 hr long chemo training session with a 55 page handout, a 4 page safety handout, a wallet card, then labwork, then appointment with my gyn-oncologist nurse, then appointment with my gyn-oncologist doctor for specifics on chemo, then, a short break for lunch, then, pharmacy visit, then radiation schedule review, then training, then actual radiation. Jam packed day which included laughter and learning, and great support (wrapped by the 1+hr drive each...
At the beginning of the year, I had plans to do something for the first time each month. July's was to be Singapore, and August's Shanghai, or vice versa, with lots of other firsts with food, and sites, and experiences. Life has a way of throwing tricks at you, and well, some of you know, that my summer first's almost all ended up being medical First self-test of blood sugar First biopsy First ct scan First sleep hooked up for sleep apnea, and first sleep with a CPAP machine. First cancer...
Support: You may be someone who can offer to drive to a test, especially routine ones, or distant ones. Family / spouses will carry much weight, and having someone who knows you well, is great. Or maybe, you are someone who can care for the spouse. Take them out for a drink or a visit. You may be someone who was let in due to past experience. You can help by sharing, as appropriate any tips for making life easier. Do not overwhelm the recipient, but, let them know you are there...
There is an expression "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" You may be the person with a recent diagnosis of cancer, or maybe, you have a close person who has been or maybe still you have inadvertently figured something out, but, are not in the inner circle. This post is to share some of the experiences during diagnosis and planning time. As compared to the posts dated later, this post is both current reflection and notes from the time. Circles of Care: This was...
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