Archive for August, 2010

Sign from above?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Today is day #3 of “thinking”.  I have been asking my family and some of my friends for their opinions and I have been researching like crazy on the internet, at times I feel more lost than not, but ultimately I need to come to a course of action in the next few days.  Why is this so hard?  Oh yeah, that’s right……. it’s cancer.  This is my life that I am deciding about.  It’s not a question about whether I want to live or die.   Although I am not afraid of death, I am just not ready for it yet, the decision is about “quality of life” I guess.  Do I tough it out for a few more months and put my body through all that poison and destruction or do I give myself a break and allow my body and mind to heal until the scans and tests “talk” to me.  Ughh.   Although I don’t always tell everyone close to me exactly how bad I feel sometimes (I am great at hiding my feelings, especially pain,  sometimes not a good trait)  I always put others needs in front of mine, especially if it comes to sparing them emotional distress.   For that reason alone, I am thinking that is why it’s so hard for me to make this decision because it doesn’t just affect me. 

So here is what I am thinking about this morning.  I’m taking off my pj’s to get dressed for the day, for some reason I happen to be standing in front of the mirror.  I hate mirrors lately, because the woman I see looking back at me is not the external version of me.  She has very short dark brown hair (instead of long blonde curly hair) with more grey peaking through than she cares to acknowledge, and most importantly her entire abdomen has been, let’s say, re-designed.  She has two very large scars.  The first scar is a vertical line that starts half way between her ribs and belly button and it goes all the way down to her private area.  The second scar is a V-shape.  It runs across horizontally from the left to the ride side of her tummy with the v-peak exactly in the center just at the rib line.  When she looks at both scars (sees the big picture) as one scar, it looks like a huge arrow… an arrow pointing upward.  So does this arrow mean to think with your head or think with your heart or put your trust in devine intervention, or all three?  Where exactly does this arrow point to?

The hard way…

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Since I was a little girl, and I don’t know why,  I seem to learn best by “learning the hard way”.  (this drives some people who love me totally nuts)  However, I don’t make the same mistake twice.   Learning things the hard way, is what has been weighing me down for the last two days while I try to make a decision as to how to proceed or not to proceed with treatment.  Why can’t the doctors just tell me what to do?  This is the one of the most single important choices that I have to make and I just cannot learn this lesson “the hard way”.  Lord help me to something the easy way, the smart way this time.  I want to work smarter, not harder.    If only this decision was as easy as choosing what movie to rent, what colour of shoes to buy, what to wear today.

Dose of dizzy…

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Ok…. so …. sure my head has certainly been spinning since diagnosis, but now I have a team of 12 specialists spinning their heads too.  It’s getting dizzy here in cancer-land…. I have become a medical mystery…….  only one other person in the world that has documented the same case scenario and results as I have.   This time I wish there were frickin’ statistics to base a decision on…..   I am not at a dead end, but I have a choice to turn right or left… open door #1 or door #2….. do I place my bet on red or black… or bet on even or odds…. the unknown… the what if ?   The choice is mine.   Will I make the right decision?  This is the one time in my life where I wish someone could just tell me what I have to or need to do and I’ll do it…. no questions asked…. but only I can do what I feel is right.  The doctors say it’s up to me now.  The “tumour board team” voted and it was an even split.   I am going to get real acquanited with the blue sky tomorrow as I float in the pool and “think”…..  try to get to the core of my inner strength, my fighting spirit to make a decision and most importantly to stand behind this decision and be confident and have no doubts that is the right direction to take. 

ps.    I want to mention again at this time just how important it is to take your health into your own hands and get tests done, whether it’s a stress test, a mammogram, a colonscopy, a physical, whatever the test you think you should get done, just do it and don’t put it off any longer.  I am so happy that my friend had the colonscopy done today….you see, he didn’t have any symptoms at all, he was just curious and did the test due to his own family’s history.  The doctor found some polyps and removed them instantly, today.  If he didn’t have this test done, those polyps could have turned cancerous and deadly.  This is how colon cancer starts.  If you remove the polyps, you remove the words “you have colon cancer” from your life.

Update to the paragraph above …. note I received the following note by email from my friend that just completed his coloncopy…. these are his words as follows:  (note, I love the last sentence…. I think I may have t-shirts printed up with this !)

“Hey Karrie,

I have no problem with you sharing my story. Everyone needs to take charge of their own health. Feel free to use my name and my experiences. If anyone is sitting on the fence and knows I took the step to protect my health mostly because of my dad and what I have seen you go through. If someone wants to talk about it I’d be glad to. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! There is no shame in gaining the piece of mine from having a colonoscapy, had I not gone who knows what the polyps would have turned into, and now with them finding the 4 myself and my doctor will check me yearly.

You told me many times we’re going to kick Cancers Ass…..Well I started with mine! ;)  “
I would like to add to this note that he is only 40 years old also….. most doctors will not send you for a colonscopy until you are 50 years old, and even at 50, you still have to request one.  Had he waited another 9 years to get his first colonscopy test…. I am afraid of what his future would have been…. I imagine it would be very similar to what I have gone through for the past 8 months, due to the fact that he has family history with cancer…. but hey… I was only 39 at diagnosis and absolutely NO FAMILY HISTORY….. take charge !!

Team “Anti-Cancer”…

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

At this moment I am thinking about a friend of mine who is being pro-active about his own health.  I am very proud of him.  He is taking one for the team tomorrow.  The “anti-cancer” team !  He is doing the prep work today to prepare for his colonscopy tomorrow.  The most important thing is when the test results come back “clear”, at least both he and his doctor will have a base line record for future reference if needed.  It may sound strange, but knowing that he is going for the scope, actually empowers me.  It makes me think that perhaps my situation will influence others to take a stand for their health and not take things for granted.  We all have to remember that our tomorrows are not promised.  Are you going to do something about your health?  Something to think about, maybe it’s your turn to take one for the team !  We all need to stop making excuses… me included.    🙂Cancer sucks

Delayed letter writing…

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Dear Cancer,

I have been meaning to write you another letter, however I am too busy doing everything you hate in order to sit down to put some thoughts on paper.   Don’t you worry, the letter will come, but I’m choosing my words carefully and to be honest, you are on the bottom of my priority list.  My health, both physically and mentally are at the top of my priority list.  Although I think of you almost every minute of every day, these thoughts are not of missing you or wondering how you are doing, so when I feel like I want to “communicate” with you again, I will write that letter.   Just want to let you know that I certainly have not forgotten about you, the constant pain in my abdomen stops me from doing so.  Thanks for that by the way, but you still aren’t going to stop me.Karrie May 13 2010 e

It’s about time…

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Well, I have to say it’s about time….. I have not forgotten what life was like before cancer arrived 9 months ago and finally this week I have been able to actual live that life again, just modified a bit.   I’m sure things will never go back to my old kind of “normal”, but that’s okay with me.   “L I F E”   IS ABOUT CHANGE, REGROWTH AND NEW BEGINNINGS !  I am so ready, even though I will always feel like I am sleeping with one eye open and continually looking over my shoulder, but I am so prepared, I will do whatever it takes to prove that statistics do not apply to all of us !

Changes to my site…

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Hi everyone !

The site has been updated.  You will notice at the end of each blog that I post, there is a spot  in blue that states “no comments”.  If you want to enter a comment, feel free to do so.  Just click on it.  Keep in mind that your comments are not private and can be seen by anyone who visits the site.

Thank you  :)  Karrie

What am I ?

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

So…. what am I ?

Am I cured ?    Nope.

Am I in remission ?    Nope.

I am in the limbo line, and not complaining.

Thank You

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Thank you for allowing me to be completely open and honest during my journey.  This blog has been the best gift I have ever received. (thank you Rick)  It allows me to get things off my chest and out of my mind and truly helps me with the healing process on an emotional level.  I know sometimes I can offer information that is very personal, but cancer is real, it is very real and very personal.  My hope is that if I can be open with any and all information that I have experienced and faced in cancer-land that it will help others that may be on a similar journey.  We are all affected by cancer in one way or another, some more than others.  I believe that by sharing my story completely and un-edited may shed some light on some questions that perhaps you may feel uncomfortable asking me in person or asking someone else that you love that is fighting cancer.  I am an open book.  Some people may not understand why I am putting myself out there, but it’s not about me, really.  It’s just about a woman faced with a terminal diagnosis and how she is dealing with it, one day at a time.    

Below is a photo of my “happy place”, in Cozumel, Mexico… a small island near Playa del Carmen & Cancun.  I hope to return there again and dig my toes in the sand, this time I am sure I will be reflecting on many other memories, experiences, and looking into those gigantic waves of pure power hoping that I can continue to be a strong as they are. 

spring 2005 102

Tears of “joy” (for a change)…

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

IMG_0640_2230On July 24, I created a post titled ” A huge sigh”. 

The information I am now providing today is a continuation to that post.  

Ok…. so here goes, the latest update….. sorry for my silence lately, I’ve been in a bit of a state of shock and disbelief and it’s still trying to sink in.  Let’s just say, I cannot express words to you as to how great it felt for me to be able to give my Mom some news that was good for a change, well I should say “great” !  She shed some tears for sure, but each tear looked like heavy boulders releasing from her heart giving her some relief, that’s the best way I can describe it really.

Mom came with me when I met with my oncologist last week.  This was the first time I saw Dr. Mackenzie since April when I had my last chemo treatment prior to liver surgery.  When we walked into the cancer clinic it felt like it had been a really long time since I was there, even though it had only been 8 weeks.  I left Mom in the waiting area while I met with my doctor, this is the first time that I attended an appointment alone.  I felt strong enough (mentally) to be able to remember to ask all the questions I needed, it gave me such an impowerment. 

Dr. Mackenzie asked all the usual questions about how I was feeling post surgery since I was at the 8 week mark.  I explained to her that this surgery has been much more difficult to recover from than my first surgery (bowel surgery) back in December.  The best way I could describe to her of what I have been feeling is that I feel like there is a brick that I am carrying under my ribs and above my belly button all on the right side where the largest part of the incision is.  My tummy feels tight yet numb and it stills feels really “wierd” to touch my tummy because it is so different to feel things internally only rather than externally.  When my home care nurse Vanessa comes to change the dressing I close my eyes and we test out my progress on regaining sensation.  If I touch it I can feel it, but it’s a mind game thing because my brain is telling my hand or fingers what to do and I think it’s just a remembered feeling.  When Vanessa does it, I keep my eyes closed.  She moves her fingers all around the incisional area which is quite large and basically I tell her when I can actually feel something.  The sensations are improving somewhat but I wonder if it will ever return fully.  Hmmm.  Not a big deal, I can live with it, I am just grateful that my liver is regenerating and hopefully it’s just like brand new.

Sorry I got off topic there for a moment, on with the great news.  Dr. Mackenzie reviewed the pathology report with me again basically confirming the news that my surgeon had already advised me of 4 weeks prior.  What caught me by total surprise was that she told me that she has never seen these results in her entire career.  Results of where the pathology test states that there were “no signs” of cancer at all in the liver portion that was removed.  My immediate thought was that the lab tech probably screwed up on the test.  I didn’t say this out loud, but I did ask if this news warranted a second testing to be done.  She said, yes she has already put in a request to do this.  She also mentioned that she was surprised that I didn’t go off the deep end after being told that this operation might not have been necessary at all.   I said “are you kidding me?”  When you are told you have 2 years at best to live, you go into over-drive and you do whatever is necessary to prolong your time.  How could I live with myself and face my family and friends if I had told them, “No I don’t think the operation is needed, I will just give up and let cancer win… NOT !”

Basically the appointment that day was to find out when I needed to start up chemo again and what the schedule and course of action would be.  I knew it would start soon as it usually does right about 8 weeks after surgery and I was at the 8 week point.  Would I be required to do the 6 remaining treatments (3 months time) or would I need more?  I told her that if necessary or if it was an option I would do another full 12 treatments if I could just for insurance so to speak.  Rick and I spoke about this before I went to the appointment and he said, Karrie… don’t be stupid, you know that your body has been through a lot and that you are still trying to recover from surgery, even though you seemed to handle the chemo side effects pretty good the first time around, when you start back up on them again, you must realize and prepare yourself that it’s likely going to knock you flat on your ass this time.  Be realistic.  I knew he was right, but being the stubborn determined person I am, I didn’t want to admit that he was right.   I’ll do the chemo and consider it the next chapter on kicking cancer’s butt. 

Well much to my surprise, Dr. Mackenzie informed me that she didn’t feel it would be beneficial to me to continue with any further chemo treatments at this time.  If my body didn’t show signs of cancer, then it wasn’t necessary to continue the meds.  I asked again, if these “spots” or “things” on my liver that showed up on the CT scans (that I saw with my own eyes) were maybe benign tumours, would the chemo have destroyed them?  She said no, benign tumours are not affected by chemo.  This lead me to believe that they were indeed actually cancerous tumours and that the chemo did it’s job and totally wiped them out.  I also believe that my new healthy eating since December also contributed to it’s success.  Fruits and veggies galore, protein drinks, vitamin water, power juice pure supplements, etc. 

I will need to go for a follow up CT scan in a few weeks.   The scan will be of my abdomen and my chest.  I asked why a scan of the chest area.  She said that if or when cancer returns, it will show up in the liver first (even though the primary cancer started in the colon region).   Only 5% of colon cancer patients have recurrence in the colon area.  Hmm… that is interesting I thought.  (Here I am in my mind planning my next surgery already to reverse the colostomy and I haven’t fully recovered from liver surgery, what’s wrong with me, this shit hurts !)  Guess I just want to be normal again.  I snapped back into the moment and continued listening to Dr. Mackenzie as she explained the reasons for the scans.  She said that they will closely monitor the chest region because the next progression for the cancer to spread to is the lungs.  Lungs?  Ok, I’m thinking, I have never smoked, I’m good, it won’t spread to my lungs.  Then I snap back into the present again and ask her, if it shows up in the lungs what happens then?  What happens if it appears in my liver again too?  She said with this look on her face that I knew was of empathy, that they would have to operate again.  I am thinking, no problem, you can cut me open as many times as needed because I intend on driving Rick nuts for as many years as possible.  (I try to find humour in every situation, good and bad)  She also sent me to the lab for some bloodwork, a few viles later Mom and I were out the door and I was able to share the great news with her.

She told me that she is discussing my case with some fellow colleagues this week because she was so surprised by the results of the pathology and she herself wanted a few other opinions by some other oncologists.   I think this is great.  Let’s look at some explanations perhaps.  Can we chalk this up to devine intervention?  Did I get a miracle that we all hope exist?  So as it stands right now, my case is being presented to a “tumour board” of doctors.  I will be meeting with Dr. Mackenzie again soon to review what is discussed at their roundtable discussions of brain-storming.

On another note, when a cancer patient receives their last chemo treatment at the clinic, it is a custom for the chemo nurses to chime a bell and the other patients and their families that are in the clinic will clap and or cheer you on as you leave to wish you well.  It’s quite moving.  After I told Mom the “no chemo” news when we were in the parking lot heading to the car, I am thinking to myself… “Crap, I am missing out on the bell chiming and the encouragement”.  Oh well, I’ll create my own and I’ll do better !  I am celebrating !  We are leaving this cancer clinic  (without a chemo pump attached to me for 2 days) and I am treating my Mom to lunch and I won’t feel nauseated because I don’t have any poison flowing through my veins! 

I paid the fee with the parking attendant and as I drove out of the parking lot of the clinic I started honking the horn many times (chiming the bell) to celebrate.  I am sure that I annoyed some other drivers and they were probably thinking what is that chick’s problem? 

What the  f_ _ k is she honking at?  Road rage in a parking lot?  Get a grip woman!  What’s even better is that Mom and I couldn’t hide behind tinted window glass either.  We took my new car which is a convertible and we had the top down.  Yep, two crazy woman in a hospital parking lot.  I was thinking about renting the movie “Thelma and Louise” when I got home.  

Mom and I laughed as we were eating our lunch, we both realized that we were eating so fast, we figured it was because we were so excited about the news.  We were both on our cell phones sending out text messages to share the news.  It was time to head home to Chatham (an hour’s drive).  I said to Mom…. hope you are ready for the ride!  You will likely have a headache by the time we get home, the sun is shining, it’s hot out, the top is down and I plan on turning up the music loud and driving fast!  Damn this is the best I have felt in 8 months despite the fact that my stomach was aching from eating lunch so fast (minor detail).

I have had my new car for approx. 2 weeks now.  I love it !  It’s a 2006 Pontiac Solstice in mint condition.  Black on black, 5 speed manual transmission, leather interior, 2 seats, no trunk space, totally not a practical vehicle.  There’s room for your purse and that’s pretty much it. I decided that I was going to blow some of my retirement money and spend Rick’s inheritance for him (giggle insert here).  Keep in mind that I did this prior to receiving the no more chemo news.   Oh well, life is short and cancer can appear again at any given moment.  Screw it, I decided to live like my brother does…  live for today !

Mom asked if she could drive part of the way home, I said sure of course !  So I pulled over, we changed seats and continued home, music still loud and wind blowing hair all over.  (well her’s anyway)  I still don’t have too much hair, but it is growing, I am self conscious about it so I wear hats, bandanas or my wigs still.  Mom was wearing a ball cap too.  First time I saw her in one, she was styling !

Here are a few photos of that day.  The first one was taken before we left Mom’s house on our way to London, before the good news came, the next ones were taken on our drive home, self portraits.  I snapped the picture of Mom while she was driving.  We were laughing because the song that was playing at the time was by the Pussycat Dolls titled “Don’t ya wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”  We had some good laughs making fun of ourselves.  Mom cracks me up.  She is learning from me that sometimes you just have to say ” f _ _ k   it” and go with the  flow. 

Cancer can take a back seat in my life…. oh wait a minute, that’s right…. there is no back seat !