Sunday, July 30, 2006

I think I knew that

According to this article I am coping with my diagnosis incredibly well.

The Psychological Challenges Facing Melanoma Patients

Interesting. I think I knew that. I'm pretty proud of myself.


Just so ya know, my arm feels good. I literally have zero pain from the incision because of all the nerve damage from prior surgeries and radiation to my axilla. I'm sure she could have performed the excision without any anesthesia as the whole area is perma-numb.

Other benefits of having had prior radiation to the area are that I no longer sweat or grow hair in that armpit! Think of all the dollars I have saved on razors and deodorant because I'm only using half as much!

Notice my right arm in the shots of me doing terrible yoga poses on the beach. It is clearly bigger than my left arm from the elbow up. That is what mild lymphedema looks like.

Went camping Friday night at Rondeau Provincial Park with a girlfriend. It was suppose to be 2 nights, but our other friend was sick so she had to cancel. Liz and I decided just to stay one night so we could come back home and spend the second night with the sicky-poo watching movies. Plus, there was a 60% chance of thunderstorms the second night. It was hot! And I was very greasy, sweaty, and all-around nasty as you can see from the pics!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Good News, Bad News

Big mass is scar tissue.

Small mass is highly suspicious for recurrant melanoma. Removed today. Pathology will make final call. I'll get the results sometime within 2 weeks. Not that it really matters. There isn't much else it could be.

I was awake for the whole procedure and the surgeon showed me the small mass she removed. Looked so harmless.

Anyway, it's been a long day and I don't feel like talking about this shit. I'm soooo tired of it. I'd say I'm over it, but I can't be. Wish I could snap my fingers or press rewind.

No further treatment. As I've said before, there is no adjuvant treatment beyond what I've already done and that didn't work. Now we just cherry pick tumours and hope they don't spread to organs.

It is such a wierd feeling to be incredibly disappointed in your body but incredibly grateful for it at the same time. My body is doing a wonderful job at keeping the disease in the same local area. For that I am so grateful. But, I am still so dismayed at the fact that a) I ever got this in the first place, and b) that I wasn't one of the people that go recurrance free for years and years or the rest of their lives.

So many people I have met online have been diagnosed after me and are already dead. I think of those people daily and remember how lucky I am really. I am here now. No one is guaranteed more than this second. I will not waste time wallowing in self-pity. If I allow the cancer to destroy my experience of today and my spirit, than it has already won. I know this will never happen. I can't conceive that I could ever take a second of my life for granted again.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Good Vibes Needed

MRI was last Thursday at 12am, 2 hours from home. Gah.

My sweet friend Liz came with me and waited the 45 minutes while I was strapped to a plank with velcro right up to my head and put into the cavernous machine that clangs and bangs the whole time while it is supposedly taking detailed images of my insides. Fun times.

I'm claustrophobic and took a Clonazepam to take the edge off then closed my eyes tight and deep breathed the entire time. Once about a year ago, I ran out of an MRI in hysterics before the procedure even started. Luckily now I've developed a technique to get through it.

It was a close one though. The technician had to reconfigure the bed because I refused to get into the cage contraption that was set up. They like to put a cage over your head so you can't move. I. Can. Not. Do. That. For freaks like me, they have this other, less than ideal device, that comes up sort of like a shield over your face, but not over your eyes. He was very kind and understanding and set the thing up especially for me.

So, tomorrow I suppose I'll get the results of the MRI. They want to find out if the big mass in my armit that my oncs feel but 2 FNA's say is negative for cancer is indeed just scar tissue. Right. It fucking better be.

I'm definitely getting the little lump that has become more worrisome excised tomorrow. I say more worrisome, because in the 3.5 weeks I've waited since I first found the lump, to when I saw my medical onc, to when I saw my surgical onc, to when I finally have an appt. to get it removed, it has grown. Before, it was definitely smaller than a pea. Now, it is definitely larger than a pea. Boo.

Please send your positive vibes my way tomorrow! I'm still hoping for a miracle! Maybe it is just a pea growing inside me! Heck, we planted some in the garden this summer, who's to say a seed didn't implant in me?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Little Denial With Those Fries?

All this waiting has not been so bad. The little lump in my armpit doesn't bother me so I am able to pretend it isn't there. Or pretend to pretend it isn't there. The big lump, I have convinced myself that, yes, it is definitely scar tissue. The MRI on Thursday is just a technicality. It is to prove what I already know.

I'm getting good at lying too. My parents think I've been at work. My dad thinks I went to Toronto mid week last week to see a concert (so what if they concert was actually Friday). When people ask how things are going or when my next Dr.'s appt. is I tell them everything is great and I have an appt. every 3 months and a CT scan every 6. I'm not due for another check-in for a while still, everything is fine!

I've told a couple friends but that's it besides the anonymous internet community. I just can't bring myself to crush people's hopes and expectations, especially if this is a false alarm. I'm planning on waiting until I have the results back from my surgery to tell anyone. If they are bad, I'll have to tell. If they are fine, no one needs to know I just went thru a month of uncertainty.

I sometimes think it is probably more painful for family and friends to watch me go through this stuff than it is for me. It's not because of the way they act or react, it is because I know how I would feel if it were someone close to me. It would be torture not being able to help, not knowing what to say, not being able to solve the problem, to watch me in pain or in emotional turmoil. Worse to be the caregiver than the patient I think.

Obviously this has been hard for me. But the brain is a miraculous thing. Able to adapt, able to perservere. And if all else fails, there are always drugs that make everything seem A-OK! A little Valium with those fries?

Life goes on as usual, and I love it! It is such a cliche, but you really do appreciate things more once you experience something like this. In a lot of ways, life is sooooo much more fun than it was for the first 27 years of my life, because now my eyes are finally fully open. Cheesy. But so true.

Today, sitting on the back deck, I was startled my a little birdie that zipped in out of nowhere and landed right by my feet. Silly little baby birdy was learning how to fly and flew right into the after-dinner coffee party of 6 big human predators. He must have been so scared. After about 30 seconds, he got himself together enough to scramble off the deck and into the lawn. The next half hour was quite entertaining watching mama and papa Cardinal encouraging little tweety to fly.

Poor little guy kept flying into the wood fence because he couldn't get up high enough. Luckily, he eventually figured out that he could just crawl underneath and into the next yard. I hope he got back to the nest ok. It really was amazing to see how Mr. and Mrs. C communicated and demonstrated to Baby C. It reminded me of a parent teaching their child to ride a bike. We really are so similar. If I was actually on Valium right now I might end this entry by asking philosophically, We're all just one aren't we?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I often wonder if people wonder to themselves if my veganism is the reason I have cancer. The thought must cross their minds right? I'm usually one of the only vegans they know, and I'm usually the only person under 40 they've ever met with cancer. So I can see if they might make that a connection.

Maybe no one does. But I can see why people would, if they do. People need to find reasons to believe this sort of thing could never happen to them.

Anyway, I just want to say: If that has crossed your mind than lay it to rest and come up with another theory as to why this happend to me and not you.

I have met hundreds of cancer survivors online and in person in the past year and a half, many of them my age and younger, and I believe I am the only vegan out of the mix. There is no correlation. In fact, many people switch to a plant-based diet based on their own research or on the advice of nutritionists after a cancer diagnosis because cancer rates tend to be lower in people that adopt this lifestyle. Of course, this is not a rule. Anyone can get cancer.

I am pretty confident that my primary lesion was a mole I had removed when I was 18, a full year before I even became vegetarian.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Waiting to Fully Exhale

We had a wicked weekend in Toronto. Lotsa shopping, lotsa eating at my fave vegan restaurant, Fressen, a fun laid-back wedding reception for some friends that eloped, lotsa walking and reminiscing, "When we lived in Toronto...". I lived downtown TO for 5 years, and the D-man lived there for 2. We miss it, but have made a life 2 hours outside where life is slower and the houses are much cheaper.

Still in the dark on what is going on in my armpit. I only got partial results from my CT on Friday because the analysis of my whole body wasn't in. My lungs are clear-- huge sigh of relief because I've been having some chest pain but I will now 100% attribute that to nerve damage and healing from surgeries and radiation. Some activity in my right axilla (armpit). The tiny lump that I found is too small to light up, but there is a bigger area that is unusual compared to my last CT in December. That would be the area that my onc felt and that the FNA said was clear (twice). My surgeon feels it is likely scar tissue seeing as the FNA's were negative and the fact that my last CT was prior to my last surgery. It makes sense that the area would be bulkier. But, to be sure I have to have an MRI of the area.

Wait time rant. My MRI isn't scheduled till June 21st at 12:15 am, and that is in a city 2 hours away from me. My surgeon implied that it would be done this week, but I think she is slightly out of touch with the reality of medical imaging wait times. Of course, the CT was done in near record time, but a CT only takes 5 minutes, whereas an MRI takes 45 minutes or so.

So, the jury is still out. And it will be out for another 2 weeks. Boo.

My surgery can't be scheduled till after the MRI, but I know there will be surgery. It will just be a matter of it being minor to remove the tiny lump to see what it is, or major to remove the other mass too. My surgeon indicated that if this other mass is malignant, the surgery will be riskier than my prior two because there is only scar tissue and nerves and arteries left in that area, no fatty tissue so she might opt not to do it. Um, what? I'll be shopping for another surgeon if she does take that stand, but we'll cross that bridge if we get to it. I'm 80% confident it is scar tissue. Trying desperately to get a surgery date for asap after the June 21st MRI but no one will return my calls from the surgeon's office. Last time I needed surgery in December, the secretary was on vacation so no one booking dates with the surgeon and my surgery was a month after diagnosis. I know I'm looking at at least a month from initially finding lump, to surgery this time too. The waiting is sometimes the worst part of all this.

I took this week off work. Because I am "in training" in my new position, which basically means reading tax legislation at my desk for 7.25 hours/day. As if I can concentrate at my desk when I have this shit on my mind. It would be another story if I had actual work to do, but it is hard enough to keep my eyes open reading that stuff on a good day so I said screw it for this week.

I think I may go in next week for the 3 days I'm supposed to work and suck it up. I'm still on a gradual back-to-work rehab program (topped-up from my insurance company for the days I'm not there) which makes it pretty flexible for me to just not come in if I don't feel I'm physically or emotionally up for it. This week off is just to remain sane. Physically I feel 100%. Must go for run tonight and get back on track with that!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Waiting to Exhale

Spent last 2 days in Toronto seeing different doctors about my lump.

My medical onc felt what I felt, and also thought he felt something else. Gulp. I felt what he felt and was pretty sure that was just scar tissue from prior surgeries. But I'm not a doctor, just a know-it-all.

Today I had two FNAs (Fine Needle Aspirations) which is where they stick a needle in the lump(s) to draw junk (yes, that's the medical term) out to biopsy. God bless Princess Margaret Hospital as they can draw the fluid, and read the slide and get an answer in 5 minutes! He said he could only see blood cells in the sample which is AWESOME but he took one more sample and I'll get the results Friday. Derek's mouth was open in awe during the whole thing, he was so intrigued by the process. I don't think he was grossed out, he was just utterly amazed at what the doctors were doing.

The tiny lump I found is so small that it could barely be aspirated and he said that he can't be 100% sure it isn't cancerous because the sample was so small. So, I have an appointment with my surgical onc on Friday for a consult and from there we'll make an appointment to get the sucker out and it can be biopsied better. Third surgery to my poor armpit in a year and a half.

I also had a CT scan which will show if there are any tumours anywhere else in my body. Results likely Friday from my surgeon. That's the really scare one. Please don't be in any organs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, there is hope! This could be a false alarm.

We also scored free tickets to Cronenberg's Andy Warhol exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and when we return this weekend to the T-dot we'll get to check that out. We have a very fun 1st anniversary weekend planned in Toronto, I just hope we get some great news to kick it off with otherwise it'll be hard to enjoy the weekend.

Here's a wedding pic of us because we're so cute! July 9, 2005 will be one year! How did that happen? In fact, where did the last 8.5 years we've been together go!

He's my bestest friend and it breaks my heart he has to go thru this shit with me.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Education and Prevention

Imogen Potter was a beautiful woman. I knew her from a cancer message board I belong to. She was only 37 when she died in May 2005.

Please take a moment to watch her video. I'm sure wherever she is, she would be happy to know her message is still making an impact.

Imogen's Video

Here is a great video on how melanoma spreads. People don't often understand how a tiny skin blemish can kill.

How Melanoma Spreads