Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Prophet

I walk up to the counter at the liquor store today holding two bottles of wine and the older gentleman behind the counter greets me with, "My dear, are you old enough to drink?". I am a bit taken aback, but flattered, and reply, "Yes, but I wish I wasn't-- I'm 29", for lack of something wittier to say. He pauses, smiles, and says, "Ah, you haven't even reached your best years.... Your 30s and 40s will be the best."

Could he be some kind of prophet?

In any case, I needed to hear that today.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Five Foot Six Above

Fuck. The irony. I'm watching the final episodes of Six Feet Under on DVD yesterday, poking and prodding my armpit like I always do, and I find a fucking lump! It never ceases to amaze me that when I find this shit, I am doing the most benign activities, thinking the most benign thoughts, feeling supremely healthy and enjoying life. Out of nowhere this shit happens I tell ya.

Ok, it might not be a recurrence. I hope to god it isn't. I'm not going to get worked up too much either way. I know I can't know. The myth that one knows when something is wrong with the body is utter shit. I never know. When I present with symptoms to my onc and am convinced I have brain mets, I don't. When I present with a lump that I'm convinced is nothing, it is. I have no fucking clue. All I know is this new lump, a bit smaller than a pea, was not there a few days ago. I see my onc on Tuesday.

It can't be a cancerous lymphnode because they have all been taken out. The radiation was suppose to prevent recurrences in that area too. That's why I'd be floored if if it is. But, then, I guess bc I had a recurrance outside the field of radiation in December, that could have spread to the area which was previously treated. Could this be a sub-q tumour? Damn it.

Think positive. Think positive. Think positive.

I just can't fathom what else it would be. Fuck Fuck Fuck!

On a lighter note, here's a pic of me this past weekend looking like a total LOSER (but healthy as shit I must say!) with my friend before we went out to a bachelorette party. I swear, my bra didn't show through my shirt, it is just because of the flash on the camera! Ha ha ha!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I Run and I Rant

Did I mention I run? Yup, it's a newish thing. Since February this year. Before cancer (B.C.), I was fairly active, going to the gym 3 times a week (or so) and playing soccer. But I always thought I couldn't run outside. I could run on the treadmill, but put me outside and I'd be breathless within a couple minutes.

I went thru the whole cancer thang and put on a few pounds from being a forced couch potato for a year so in Feb I decided to get ready for bikini season. Even if I'm not going to be lying on the beach ever again, I can still have a great body, right? As an aside, it seems trivial and superficial to be focusing on body image in my situation, I know. But it is a) easier for me to focus on something that I can control with my body right now, and b) a testament to the fact that I value my body so much more now than I ever did. After being so sick from chemo for a year that I was often "to tired to speak" as I'd say, or too exhausted to walk from the couch to the kitchen to get a glass of water, I don't take for granted the fact that I have a strong body right now and I want to feel the power of it.

I want to run, to push it. Does that make sense? I want people to look at me and think, "She looks like a strong, healthy woman", and I want to feel that way about myself. For the most part I do. I don't think of myself as a cancer patient. That's not me. I am strong and healthy. The cancer part does not fit and it won't become part of my identity. I know that has sort of been the focus of my blog so far, but I think that's why I needed to start this. To give that small piece of me a voice, to get it off my chest here so it doesn't invade my life.

But I digress. I started the Couch to 5k program in Feb and it has worked wonders for me physically. So, today I had an awesome run. I've decided to push it a bit more by going longer distances. My technique will be the 10 and 1 where you run for 10 and walk for 1 over and over. Today I did three 10 minute runs. Sweet. I think I'll do that for a week then push it up to 11 and 1 and so on.

In other cancer related news, I had my 1 year follow-up at the lymphedema clinic today. I have mild lymphedema in my right arm from the surgeries and radiation. It sucks, but it could be much worse. Apparently I have had a 13% increase in size since last June. That's not cool. I asked about Kenisio tape and the nurse told me she has never heard of it. Are you kidding me? That's why I transferred my care to Toronto. The nurse in the lymphedema clinic at the London Cancer Centre didn't even know what Kinesio tape was. I called my Toronto hospital and apparently they have someone who treats with this method for free. But lo and behold, it is a trial and only open to breast cancer patients.

Um, I will rant a bit now. I know there is no cure for breast cancer. But it's like our society has forgotten that many other cancers exist. Sure, 1/8 women will get breast cancer, but more will get some other form of cancer! 1 in 2 of us will get cancer. Do the math. Yet everywhere I go it is pink ribbon this, pink ribbon that. It would be great, if only other cancers got the same support and funding from the public.

Breast cancer awareness and funding is this huge machine now. The more we hear about it, the more people give money to it, the more resources breast cancer patients gets, but other cancer patients get left in the dust.

I've been told numerous times by doctors, nurses and social workers in the field that the topic is highly political and controversial in the cancer community. My local Wellspring only has support groups for breast cancer patients for instance. Um, hello? Why? We all have scars, we all have body image issues, we all stay awake at night wondering if we are going to live or die. Why do the breast cancer patients get the support? Probably because someone died and left money to fund a breast cancer support group. Why can't I get into the Kinesio trial, even though my lymph node dissection of the axilla and radiation is the exact same reason breast cancer patients develop lymphedema too? Because breast cancer has the funding for research. Melanoma doesn't. I just hope they find a cure for breast cancer soon so the rest of us can be helped too.

My request is that if you are thinking about donating to breast cancer, maybe think about donating to something more broad that allocates money to many different cancers. Enough with the pink food processors and quarters already. Support other cancer foundations as well!

Canadian Melanoma Foundation

Melanoma Research Foundation

Canadian Cancer Society

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Food+Croquet=Good Times

The summer is fun. Last summer I was afraid of the sun so I didn't much enjoy myself. I prayed for rain or cloud cover most days. Plus, I was on Interferon (that's the chemo I was on for 11 months) so I was super tired and dazed most of the time.

Anyhoo, this summer is different. My second summer with melanoma (well, actually my third, but I was unaware it was growing inside me in Summer '04) and although I don't plan on baking at the beach, I also don't plan to let the sun ruin my summer. I have to be practical about it. The sun can do no more damage to my current state of affairs. It isn't going to make my disease progress. It could give me a second melanoma, and although my chances are slightly increased for this because I've had one, it is still unlikely. And even if I had a second primary down the road, I am so aware of my skin I'd definitely catch it early. Melanoma is 90% curable if caught early, before it spreads downwards into the lymph system and blood. I fear not a second melanoma. I fear the cancer that is already in me, because it is so advanced.

So, to celebrate the coming of summer, Derek and I held the First Annual Vegan Potluck and Croquet Tournament in our backyard on Saturday! Mmmmmm.... everyone brought delicious food. I made stuffed baked mushrooms with vegan cream cheese, onion and cilantro, a fiery mexican bean salad, and roasted veggies. Others brought hummus, babaganoush and pita, fattoush salad, an asian noodle salad, fruit salad marinated in booze and fruit kabobs. We have so much left over too, no one felt like carrying their leftovers home.

The croquet tournament was a hoot. We had three heats. I was in an all girl heat and we totally sucked. The rule became, if it goes thru the wicket, over the wicked or beside the wicked, it counts because the game was getting too long. I laughed my arse off though, it was pure comedy. Ben was the grand champ of the tournie and his grand prize was a beach ball, bubbles and a New Kids On the Block hip-sack circa 1989 in its original packaging!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Oh Baby

Feeling a little melancholy today. Sad for what I've lost-- they were only illusions anyway, so why am I so sad?

They say to picture what you want and work towards it. So that's what I've done. I did everything right. But then cancer came a knocking anyway. Fuck.

I feel like I'm in a dream, like none of this is real but I know it is.

I'm sitting in our home office thinking about how perfect a little baby room it would be. But of course, my baby dreams are on hold indefinitely, probably permanently. I don't want to be pessimistic or fatalistic in my thinking, and I don't think I am. I think I'm realistic. I wanted to have a baby by now. Before Sept 2004 happened (the month where I got a rude awakening-- I cannot control my destiny entirely, contrary to what Oprah has always taught me...) I was on a path. Get Derek and I permanent, stable jobs. Start saving for a house. Get pregnant. So I should be pregnant RIGHT NOW! Instead I have to somehow figure out how to live and move forward when the statistics say I will be dead within 5 years. What the fuck? I cannot wrap my mind around it. And I feel so good. It seems so unbelievable to me that tomorrow I could find a new lump, that I could have seizure because the cancer spread to my brain, that I could cough up blood because it spread to my lungs. I have to live in the present now.

Living in the present. Isn't that what all the yogis and Buddhists and granola crunchers strive for so hard? I'll tell ya how to do it. Get cancer. Get a cancer with a bad prognosis. I can no longer picture past 3 months in the future. It's like I have become incapable of imagining it. I think it is too painful to imagine the future anymore. When your dreams are shattered with one phone call, you don't set yourself up for that pain again. It is (ironically) self preservation of sorts. Some more judgmental minds would say I'm setting myself up do die then. I have to envision being ok or there is no way I will be. It's all about positive attitude they say. To that I retort: BULL SHIT. If that were the case, then I never would have gotten cancer in the first place. Shit happens. Face it.

I can HOPE for the best, and god knows I do. But I cannot predict the future. My best indication lies in the stats on what has happened to the overwhelming majority of people in my exact situation. Sure, I can be the one that makes it! I WANT TO BE! But please tell me how to wrap my mind around the uncertainty of not knowing this for sure. I will live in limbo, not knowing, for the rest of my life! It's not like in 5 years, they can say I'm "all clear". There is no cure. It can come back at any time. I just don't know how to make the adjustment from living life knowing that I would probably live to 80, to knowing that I will probably be dead within a few years. It changes EVERYTHING.

Work for instance. After 1.5 years off for surgery, chemo, radiation, then more surgery, I am back at work on a part-time basis. I don't hate my job. It's fine. Do I love it? No. Would I love any job given the fact that life has become so incredibly precious to me in the last year? No. I don't want to work. Spending 8 hours a day "earning a living" is not how I want to live if I am indeed going to die soon. I've fucking earned a living! I want to do whatever the fuck I want to do every second of every fucking day. It's easier to go to work and suck it up when you know the odds are in your favour to live till your 80. There is plenty of time for "free time". And don't come back at me with the old "well, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow..." That's a load of crap. Sure it could happen. But you know damn well that there is 99.9% chance you won't and a 99.9% chance you'll live till 80. So every decision you make in life is based on that implicit understanding. You don't think about it often, but this knowledge is the basis for how you order and pace your life. You put off that trip to Europe so you can save for 3 years. You wait 10 years to have a child until you are "settled". You tell your mom you'll spend Christmas with her next year. I don't have the LUXURY of thinking that way anymore. Believe me I wish I did. It is much easier to live that way. Living in the present is not all it's cracked up to be.

My heart aches because I can't have baby. The irresponsible, illogical part of me says, fuck it. Get pregnant and hope for the best. The realistic part of me says if I have a recurrence while pregnant I can't be treated. What if I die when the baby is new born? What if I leave Derek widowered with a 2 year old? Is that fair to him? To the child? And this whole thing would be even more traumatic then it already is for me if I found out I was terminal with a baby that I couldn't see grow up. I'd love to think that the universe wouldn't allow these things to happen if I had a baby. But I know it doesn't work that way. I've seen too many beautiful people, young, old, healthy, strong, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, die of this disease (online friends) in the past year to believe that God would give me special treatment.

God. Do I believe in God? I believe in something but I don't know what. I'm agnostic I suppose. I don't believe that anything purposely gave me cancer or that I am being tested or that it is karma. I am an organism. Just like a cat gets cancer, I can too. Just like a bee gets swatted, I can too. Shit happens. It isn't my destiny. Shit just happens. I never thought it would really happen to me. Not now.