Friday, December 25, 2009

Can you feel the love?

The scene: Nat and her family have just finished eating a delicious Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, complete with almost all twelve meatless dishes, each one made by either her mom or her grandma. Everyone is happy and stuffed and the table is cleared for games.

Mom: Let's play that card game Asshole!

Nat: Which card game, bitch?


I hope you have a fantastic Christmas filled with happy chaos or peaceful rest, whichever tickles your fancy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm sorry, too

My popcorn is judging me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My fuzzy moment of the day

This made me smile. (And made me a bit teary, if we're being honest.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some people's children

I can't believe I said that my mom has a mustache. In front of a bunch of strangers. Strangers that included MLAs and the mayor! Oy. Some days I shouldn't be allowed out of my apartment.

My mom, stepdad, and I were at a banquet where my stepdad was one of the keynote speakers. As a result, we sat at a table with the other speaker, two MLAs, the mayor, and his wife. At one point the mayor addressed the room and, as part of his speech, talked about how November is Movember. He explained this meant that some men were growing mustaches for the month to raise money for prostate cancer.

When the mayor returned to our table, my stepdad complimented him on his speech and told him that I had just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer. The mayor asked how I was feeling and I told him I was feeling fine.

Unfortunately, I then went on to say that my mom had just shaved off the mustache she had grown to support me.

Sorry, Mom. Though...c'mon. That was funny.

How long can I blame stuff like this on chemo?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Health tip

I apologize, but the boredom has set in and this site helped me pass several enjoyable minutes.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Individual results may vary

I've told you briefly about my chemo experience, but I've received a few e-mails from people who are curious for more details. So here is, for better or worse, a blow-by-blow description of what I've been through.

I start preparing for chemo the day before. By that time it's the very end of my previous cycle and I'm feeling pretty damn good. It start the day with my pre-chemo doctor's visit. I take the bus down to the cancer centre and meet with my chemo oncologist. Actually, before I meet with her, a nurse takes me over to a station where she asks me my first and last name and my date of birth. She weighs me, takes my blood pressure, and then she ushers me into the doctors office where I wait.

When the doctor arrives, she asks how the previous cycle went. Did I experience anything new? Was anything worse? Do I have any questions? I go over how I felt and any concerns I have. This time around I asked her when I should get the H1N1 vaccine and she advised to wait at least 2 weeks after my treatment so that my white blood cells have a chance to normalize. (And before you yell at me, yes I'm getting the vaccination. I've done A LOT of reading and this is my decision.) The oncologist also gives me my blood work requisition form. It indicates all the things she wants tested before my treatment the next day. The whole consultation rarely takes longer than 15 minutes. Then I'm off to tackle the rest of the day.

I spend the day doing everything I'm not going to want to do for the next two weeks - washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, doing laundry, getting groceries and other must-haves. I go to the lab to have my blood withdrawn (yay! another needle poke!) and I also try to fit in lunch or coffee with friends and a trip to the gym. AND I do it all while getting to bed at a decent time. I accomplished all of that yesterday. Go me! (Well, if I'm being totally honest, I didn't make it to the gym. But still, go me!)

I also have to start one of my drugs the day before chemo. It's an anti-nausea drug called dexamethasone and I have to take 2 tablets twice daily for three days (day before, day of, and day after). These pills make me hyper and super hungry, which might explain all the energy I seem to have to accomplish all my tasks. Also? One of the side effects of my anti-nausea drug is...nausea. No, really.

The next day I get up early enough so that I have time for a healthy breakfast. This morning I had an apple and instant quinoa with cinnamon, ground flax, hemp hearts, and rice milk. Way tastier than it sounds. Then my mom picks me up and we head to the hospital. With chemo, there is no urgency to get there early. As long as you arrive within a minute or two of your start time, it's all good. I check in the reception and they send me over to the chemo waiting area. There are regular chairs and recliners to sit on. Usually there are magazines to peruse but this morning the tables were empty, save for a note explaining that, due to H1N1, all magazines and pamphlets have been removed.

Within a few minutes Mom and I are called into the chemo area. Mostly it's a big room with a row of about 25 stations, each with it's own reclining chair, IV stand, cart, blood pressure machine, and other medical paraphernalia. There are also a couple of other hidden corners with 2 or 3 stations and some private room stations. I've been in the big room once, the hidden corners twice, and today I was in a private room. I think I like the big room the best - more to see and hear to keep me occupied.

After waiting at my station for anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes, a nurse walks over and tells me about my blood work. Mostly they've told me that my neutrophils are higher than normal and that indicates I've been fighting infection. They then take my temperature and blood pressure to make sure everything's fine, which, after that first time when I was sent home, it has been. So despite the high count we proceed. The first thing they do is insert the IV. This is my least favourite part. I have lousy veins that don't stick up above skin level. They have to heat these two bags of green liquid that looks suspiciously like lime Kool-Aid and then put the bags on my hands to get the veins to pop.

I should mention here that I always have to have needles and blood pressure done on my left arm. This is because of my lymph node surgery and the need to prevent lymphedema. So each time I've been poked for blood work and an IV insertion or been squeezed by the blood pressure cuff, it's always been on the left side.

This is what hangs out in my hand for 4 hours or so

Finally after 10 minutes of hand-heating and tapping, my bad veins are ready to be poked and prodded for the IV. The first time it took the nurse two tries but every time after that they've got it in one try. Thank goodness. Then they hook up my 2 pre-meds. These have names which I've forgotten but have the delightful function of helping the dexamethasone in the quest to make me not barf. The nurse also gives me the small white sedative to slip under my tongue and let dissolve like it's supposed to dissolve all my irrational white coat phobias.

After about 30 or 45 minutes of pre-med dripping, the machine beeps. This means that these bags are done and it's time for the next. Every time I hear the beep, whether mine or a neighbour's, all I can think of is "Fries are done. Better take them out." Flashbacks to my Burger King job, I guess. So the machine beeps until a nurse notices and he or she comes over and switches bags.

Before I'm given the first chemo drug, docetaxel, the nurse asks me my first and last name and my date of birth. If I pass that test, she hooks up the bag and I wait. And wait. The docetaxel takes about an hour and half to finish. During that time I have to have the blood pressure cuff hooked up to my left calf and the machine takes my blood pressure every 15 minutes. (It has to be hooked up to my leg. They can't use my right arm due to lymphedema, and they can't use my left arm or they'll cut off the flow of the drug up my arm. It's all very annoying.) Docetaxel has a tendency to raise blood pressure and create other nasty reactions. I've managed to escape with nothing out of the normal every time.

Then my fries are done and a nurse comes over to flush the line with a saline solution. That takes 5 minutes. About this time I really have to pee, so the nurse takes off my blood pressure cuff and unplugs my IV machine and I trundle off to the bathroom. I attempt to pee elegantly and gracefully while using only one arm and then I trundle back to my recliner.

Next, What's your first name? What's your last name? What's your date of birth? Phew, I pass. Then they hook up the cyclophosphamide. It only takes a mere 65 minutes to drip in, but by this time I'm feeling incredibly antsy. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said the IV was my least favourite part? I lied. It's the waiting. The IV hurts for a bit but then it's done. Each time I went in, the treatment seemed to take longer and longer. But because of my small white sedative friend, I couldn't really concentrate on anything - I couldn't seem to read or do sudoku, and even having my mom read to me got sort of annoying. This last time the nurse could see I was getting restless, so she came over to turn the timer towards me - only 6 more minutes! Whew.

Then my fries are done again and the nurse comes in and flushes the line. Another 5 minutes. And then I'm free! The nurse removes the IV, presses a bandage on my hand, and provides me with a print-out of my next pre-chemo doc visit and my next chemo visit. She also hands me containers of ondansetron (anti-nausea), prochlorperazine (anti-nausea), and ranitidine (anti-heartburn) drugs.

Mom and I are finally free to leave for lunch or shopping or both because the day of chemo I feel fine. The truck doesn't hit until day 2 or (more often) day 3. Then comes the achiness. I've never felt anything like this before. It hurts to move. It hurts to not move. It hurst to breathe and blink. Ibuprofen makes it so that I can mostly sleep through the night, which is nice, but it's still close to unbearable. I also have a sore throat, a mouth that feels like I ate too many salt and vinegar chips, extreme exhaustion, and the most painful and annoying diarrhea I've had to endure. Too much information? Hey, you wanted to know. (Or at least a handful of you wanted to know.) All the nasty stuff lasts a week to a week and a half but the tiredness lingers. How much it lingers has increased with the treatments, so much so that it seems like I'm almost always tired.

(You may notice that nowhere in there did I mention barfing. That's because all those wonderful drugs they gave me through the process actually did their job with me and voila, no barfing. I still haven't broken my haven't-barfed-since-I-was-eight-or-nine-years-old streak!)

But enough about the bad stuff. Why am I telling you all this now? BECAUSE I'M DONE! I had my last treatment today and now chemo, she is no more! I must go do my happy dance and not think at all of the 5 weeks of radiation coming up.

The happy face the nurse gave me in honour of my last treatment

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two roads diverged

When I was in university I wrote a paper comparing ideas from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming". I has studied and enjoyed both poems in my Literature of the 20th Century class and wanted to share my excitement with the world...or at least with the professor. I'm not entirely sure what I wrote about, but the paper had something to do with Yeat's lines

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity


I was ridiculously proud of my essay. It wasn't one of the suggestions from the professor, and possibly nothing anyone had thought of before in the history of humankind! (Or at least I couldn't find any books or articles written on the topic at the U of R library during the 5 minutes I looked. Hey, back then that was considered serious research!)

When I received my paper back, written on the crisp, white cover page in dark red ink was this: "Very well done. You are a interesting and divergent thinker." Of course, I immediately had to go look up what "divergent" meant and was much pleased by what I read ("Using a variety of premises, esp. unfamiliar premises, as bases for inference, and avoiding common limiting assumptions in making deductions").

Later I excelled at comparing Holden Caulfied (from Catcher in the Rye) to Huckleberry Finn, and green policy in North America and Europe. I struggled through the close reading we had to do in my New Criticism class, and completely wrote off the need for accuracy in my chemistry lab. 14 mL? 16mL? Close enough.

One of my favourite projects from my education degree came from the Philosophy of Education class I took. I chose to present on a South American educator who believed everything in schools is political - from the language we use to the topics and books we study. As I researched my presentation, I learned that because females tend to be more "people pleasing" and males tend to be more "self centered," much of what we study is chosen because it will hold boys' attention.

We want children to learn how to classify things and so we study dinosaurs. Why not flowers or cats? Because we'd lose the boys. In high school we read books like Fahrenheit 451, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Flowers for Algernon...well, I could go on. Yes, these are all fabulous books, but they're also all very male-centric. You know, to keep the boys' interest.

Making these sorts of discoveries and connections and then sharing them with other people made me feel alive.

Since university I haven't had much chance to think. My job is one that forces me to focus on details and minutia, which is possibly why I'm so dissatisfied doing what I'm doing. The other night, though, I got the chance to dust off those old skills again. I was at a pub, enjoying some tasty beer with friends and I managed to piss everyone off.

My friends were oozing superlatives about the TV show True Blood (especially the 2nd season) and the movie Fight Club. I offered up the extremely unpopular opinion that the former ended up being about nothing more than a pathetic, deluded woman searching for a husband, and the latter? Oy. Don't even get me started! They make this cool, anti-consumer, screw the man movie and then they make the character spewing these beliefs bat-shit crazy. And what does he do to make his big statement? He blows up CREDIT CARD COMPANIES! Oh great - now all of us who racked up our cards uncontrollably can go out and do it AGAIN! You can bet that if all of a sudden my credit card debt was at $0, I'd be out there buying a bed - one that had never been owned by anyone else before. Can you imagine how luxurious that would be?

Anyway, I digress. It felt great to use the ol' noggin and piss people off again. I felt that familiar tingle of coming alive. Now if I could just find a job that allowed me to do this.


Cubicle farm

Monday, October 12, 2009

Foxy thoughts, pt 2

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians! I know that I should wax poetic about all the wonderful things in my life, but I'm always going on and on here about how grateful I am for absolutely everything. It's sickening, really. So I'm going to make it opposite day today and give you miscellaneous foxy rants.

(See here for an explanation of what makes these foxy.)

Queen of the Parking Lot
  • In Captain Corelli's Mandolin when Nicolas Cage kisses Penélope Cruz, it looks disturbingly like he's going to EAT HER FACE OFF. He's kissing her with such enthusiasm and she's just so freaking little that I thought for a moment it had turned into Captain Corelli's Zombie Musical War Movie. No, really! Watch it again (if you can stand it). Braaaaaaaaaiiiiiins...

The only good wasp is a dead wasp

  • Girls that kiss other girls and like it generally don't then go on to sing those exact words. Usually those are the girls who are just doing it to make their boyfriends all hot and bothered. The rest of us are too busy trying to get to second base.

Back alley treasures

  • I know that democracy is the best form of government that we can come up with and blah blah blah, but does it seem to anyone else like a giant high school popularity contest? I mean, the guy that the majority of the people like gets to run the place because he's so popular that he got the most votes, and then he gives cushy jobs to all his buddies. High school is the pinnacle of society? Am I still asleep? This seems an awful lot like that nightmare I keep having.

Autumn on the prairies

  • I hate when I go to a restaurant with friends and we go up to pay the bill and the server looks at me and asks, "All together?" I feel like if I answer "No, separate," everyone will think I'm cheap. And I AM! I just don't want others to know. So I end up feeling guilted into saying "Yep, together" and paying for everyone. Sometimes I'm awfully silly.

Sunrise on the rooftops

  • Why oh why are people here so surprised by winter every year? Everywhere I go I hear griping: "I can't believe it's so cold already!" or "Why is it snowing?" or "I'm not ready for this weather yet! Bring back the 30°C!" People, it's October and it's Saskatchewan. It gets cold and the snow starts. It's been this way since before I can remember and it'll stay this way until after I'm gone, even with global warming. If you hate it that much, please move.

Dead flowers in the snow

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brooding

I'm going to see these guys tonight. I CAN'T! FREAKING! WAIT!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Games people play

The scene: A small coffee shop/art gallery. There is a 60th birthday bash being thrown for Nat's stepdad. He knows the owners, who have shut down the place for the party. Nat's sister, the sister's boyfriend, Uncle Steve, and Nat have snuck away to the coffee shop's kitchen area to play some cribbage on a makeshift table while the party rages on. Uncle Steve arrived from Winnipeg earlier in the day just for the party.

A woman no one knows enters the kitchen.

---------------------------------

Woman: Ah, so this is where the real party is!

Uncle Steve: Absolutely. It's the kitchen party.

Woman: Do you use the coffee shop kitchen as your own kitchen, too?

Uncle Steve: [looking around to see if she's talking to him] Um...yes?

Woman: Must be nice to have such a big space to use for your own cooking.

Uncle Steve: [getting into it now] It's great! One of the benefits of owning this place.

Woman: I bet!

Uncle Steve: [gesturing wildly] Have you gone out back yet? We're expanding. We're building up, we're building down. We're building out and around and in.

Woman: [eyes wide] That sounds WONDERFUL!

Uncle Steve: You should see in the winter. Beautiful.

Woman: Oooh, I just bet! But I should let you get back to your game. Nice chatting with you.

Uncle Steve: [to her retreating back] Make sure you try the cheesecake!

---------------------------------

I sure hope that poor woman was far enough away before the four of us dissolved into laughter.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hair today, gone tomorrow

When I was ten years old, my then-step-grandma gave me a home perm. Please imagine horror movie strings screeching in the background when reading those terrible words: home perm.

Frog watching the sunset

I had been begging my mom for months to allow me to get a perm. She got them regularly - why couldn't I? Finally she relented after my step-grandma offered to give me one herself. I had high hopes for my first perm ever. I imagined myself walking into class with gorgeous wavy locks and all the kids collectively inhaling in awe at my new look.

Finally, after much burning and waiting and rinsing and drying, the unveiling occurred. It was HIDEOUS! I looked like a brunette Lil' Orphan Annie! I didn't know whether I wanted to to cry or shave my head first. Instead, I mustered up a shaky grin for my step-grandma and thanked her. Then I went into my room and cried.

The next day at school I tried to keep my touque on in class, but my teacher (heartless witch that she was) made me take it off. In front of everyone! The snickers and snorts still haunt my dreams.

Bridge construction

Since the home perm , I've struggled to find a hair style I liked. I cut it short, I grew it out. I dyed it red, I bleached it with Sun-In and lemon juice. I got real, salon perms. And through it all I uttered my all-too-familiar mantra: I hate my hair!

About four years ago I gathered up all my courage and had a friend give me a haircut I'd been aching to try. Short in the back, long at the sides, bangs - you know the one. I immediately fell in love with the style. It was quick and simple (two MUSTS for me) and I received compliments on it daily.

Flock of seagulls

And then April 28, 2009 happened and I found myself sitting in a surgeon's office being told I have breast cancer. And do you know what made me cry the most during that appointment (and, in fact, for days and maybe even weeks after)? It was when he told me that I would almost certainly need chemotherapy and I would lose all my hair. In our society, hair and clothes are seen to be expressions of personality and since I'm mostly unable to do that with what I wear, my hair became the way I showed there was more to me than people first assumed. And now my wonderful hairstyle was going to fall out.

I tried to put on a brave front for people. "I've always wanted to see what I look like bald, anyway!" or "They say it could grow back different - maybe I'll have those curly locks I've always wanted!" But that was mostly me saying things to make other people feel better. I didn't really believe it...at least at first.

A strange thing happened as I tried to placate others - I started to really buy in to what I was saying. Shortly after my aborted attempt at my first chemo treatment, I decided to get a kicky new pre-chemo hair cut. It was short and funky and I LOVED it! It made me stop dreading the whole growing-out process.

How many blackbirds can you see? I see 13.

Then a week and a half ago I noticed more hair in my hairbrush than usual. I decided that rather than going through the mess and the trauma of watching my fun new style go down the drain (and in the garbage and on my pillow and on the floor), I would have my friend Cake shave me. He couldn't do it until 4 days after the initial hair loss and by then my hair was falling off in clumps. There was a small section that was sticking out and I was trying to get it to lay flat and, instead, the whole bit came off in my hands. It was at that point that I realized that I was good and ready for what I was calling my Good Ol' Fashioned Shearing Party.

I went over to Cake's place, bottle of wine in hand. There were the obligatory before, during (complete with mohawk and fauxhauk), and after photos and to my utter delight, I didn't look terrible when he was all done! There were no weird lumps that were uncovered and my head isn't bizarrely misshapen or anything! I even walked home that evening without donning the funky head scarf I had brought with me in case of emergency.

Autumn sunset at the legislative building

Since then I've been embracing my new 'do, walking with my head high and scaring old people. But all of this doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to my hair growing back. I haven't spoken to my ex-step-grandma in 20 years. That should be a lesson to NOT MESS WITH MY HAIR AGAIN, cancer! I don't fool around about these things!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mom: 3 Nat: 0

The scene: Nat's mom picks her up to go grocery shopping. Nat just had her head shaved because her hair was falling out by the handful.

Mom: You know, if I thought I would look better bald I would shave my head, too.

Nat: How do you know how you would look until you try it?

Mom: It would start growing in and it would be mostly grey. I think it would look terrible.

Nat: So you're not going to be one of those moms that shaves her head to support her cancer kid?

Mom: Nat, you know I'm here for you to help with anything you need - but I don't love you that much.

How do bald people cope with the constant cold head?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Timing is everything

Since being told I have breast cancer, I've been doing a lot of reading. I want to learn as much as I can about this gawddamned disease to help me get through treatment and ensure I never have to endure it again. One thing I've noticed over and over is that the literature urges me not to feel like I have to be superwoman. I'm advised that I shouldn't feel like I have to do it all myself, that there's no shame in asking for help.

This confuses me. Of COURSE there's no shame in asking for help! Of COURSE I don't have to do it all my self. And besides, do what, exactly? There's nothing in my life so urgent that it needs to be done if I'm aching all over and can barely keep my eyes open. How silly of all these people to even suggest otherwise.

Not all of my reading has been so serious, however. I just finished a book called Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. My friend Cake gave it to me shortly after I told him about my cancer. It's fabulous. It's a graphic novel all about the author's journey through breast cancer. Even though her life is vastly different from mine (she's a high-powered career woman living a glamourous life in New York and I'm...not) there are so many similarities with our stories that it's like she's writing about me sometimes.

Nevertheless, one thing about the book annoyed me throughout. She is constantly fretting that her fiance is going to wake up one day, decide that he can't take it anymore, and leave her for someone younger and healthier. She can't see how lucky she is! She's with a man who clearly adores her and wants to support her every step of the way, and she can't even see her good fortune.

But then I realized that no one really knows how lucky she is. It's never a good time to have breast cancer. A woman doesn't think, "Oh thank goodness it's now when I have a caring, loving partner and children to help me get through this." No, she thinks, "What if this is too much for him to deal with and he leaves me? What if my children can't handle it? Why couldn't this have happened when I was still single?"

Just as I don't think about how lucky I am that I'm going through this now when I only have myself to look after and worry about. Instead, I've cried myself to sleep thinking about how women with partners have it easier. They've already found someone to love them and stroke their hair and help them. They're not stuck being single, hoping that one day they'll find someone who won't shriek at the sight of their Frankenboob.

I realized that's why the cancer literature urges us to not feel like we have to be superwomen. Many women who get diagnosed with breast cancer are wives and mothers and grandmothers. These women have people who rely on them. They have responsibilities and obligations.

Once I had this realization, I sat down and made a list. The following are things should make me writhe around on the ground with joy:
  • I have a wonderful family who I know is here to help me get through everything. My mother is alive and young enough to be there beside me every step of the way.

  • I have more good friends in my life than I've ever had before. Probably in all my previous years combined.

  • I have an adorable and cuddly cat that provides me with sympathetic mews and purrs.

  • I have a very low housework expectation level. Not only am I able to live with myself if I don't do the dishes for 2 weeks or clean the bathroom for a month, but that's just business as usual around here.

  • I have no one who's relying on my for income or care.

  • I have a job that provides me with benefits so that I can take months off to focus on my treatments, and a boss who has encouraged me to do so.

  • I'm young and strong and probably in the best health of my life.

  • When I eventually do find someone to love me, he or she will know exactly what they're getting into - Frankenboob and all. They will love me because of what I've been through, not despite it.
It turns out there really is a good time to have cancer!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Insulted by the mail

Why? Why did I receive this in the mail, addressed to me and everything? How did I get on this mailing list? The woman on the envelope looks older than my mom.


Look how she's reaching for me, like she's saying, "Just a little bit closer, my pretty...muuuaaaahahahaha!"

Friday, September 11, 2009

I don't love Oprah, but...

Oh how I would have LOVED to have been a part of this:



I'm not religious. I'm not a diehard fan of a big arena band. Hell, I don't even have a big family. These kind of collective events are rare and wonderful for me. They allow me to feel connected to people and part of something larger. This is what's missing from my day-to-day existence - I interact with a handful of people, really relate to one or two, and pass by hundreds of others like they're extras in the movie of my life.

Feeling part of a whole is why go to folk festivals, why I adored houseboating, why I've been in a concert band or choir for most of my life, and why I love comments on my blog.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Foxy thoughts

I was lounging in bed yesterday and listening to Wiretap, a brilliant, hilarious, and sometimes poignant show on CBC Radio 1. Jonathan Goldstein was talking about Archilochus and the difference between foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes know a lot of little things and hedgehogs know one big thing.

I am definitely a fox. I don't have the patience, interest, or mental recall abilities to be a hedgehog. Hedgehogs do one degree, then a Masters, and then maybe a PhD. Foxes would take one or two classes in almost any discipline imaginable, get 3 bachelors degrees, and then do work that has nothing to do with any of them. Ahem - or so I would imagine.

The main stage crowd at the Regina Folk Festival

I'm not sure if it's the chemo, my frequent naps, or my lack of having to do anything at all with my days that is emphasizing my fleet, scattered way of thinking, but I sat down and found it near impossible to write one cohesive blog entry. The most taxing thing I've been able to handle is deciding when to stop calling it "napping" and start calling it "in bed for the night." And so today? You get my foxy thoughts.

At the festival, even the mannequins were Hipster Douchebags

  • Women who claim they would totally be a lesbian if only the right woman came along annoy me. I suppose that my grandma is right and the opposite is true, too. The reason I claim to be bisexual is simply because I haven't met the right guy, yet. Honey, I'm pretty sure you're not a lesbian because the thought of putting your tongue in a vagina doesn't make you all a-quiver. Not because you just haven't found Ms. Right.

Perhaps they're waiting for the right person

  • Also annoying? Articles written by people with glamourous jobs who try to claim their jobs aren't as glamourous as we think they are. Oh, assisting the casting director for a big budget Hollywood movie isn't all glitz? Writing for the New Yorker isn't all fabulousness? You mean it's tough, important, "nitty gritty" work? Talk to me about hard work after being a nurse or plumber for a decade. Talk to me about ordinary after your soul has been sucked dry as a receptionist at Don's Used Car Deals in Wichita Falls. No one thinks their life is absolutely fantastic - it's just life and you're living it day by day - but you with your mani-pedi-spa power lunches, your all-access passes, and your expense account - just recognize what you have and appreciate it for what it is, okay?

Okay, curiosity officially piqued

  • I just heard an interview with Salman Rushdie on CBC. (I've been doing a lot of radio listening, as you can tell.) He is fascinating to listen to and I recommend you check out the podcast. During the interview, he said how in all of us is a conflict between the dream of home and the dream of leaving. I really like that. He also said he used to wear a shirt that said, "Blasphemy is a victimless crime." I like that, too.

She's a woman on a mission

  • Everybody poops. No, really! Think about it. Everybody poops. Picture the celebrity or historical figure you idolize most. Impressive, yes? Perhaps even a bit intimidating. Now picture him or her in the can, pants around their ankles, slightly bored expression, taking a dump. Talk about the great equalizer! All of sudden Paris Hilton's a lot more human. (Why yes, she IS the person I idolize most. You mean you didn't guess?)

Wasting time in a prairie town

  • I feel there is such a huge difference between "This is a terrible movie!" and "I thought this movie was terrible!" One intimates that you're crazy for liking it, the other merely states an opinion. And if there's one judgement I'm willing to make, it's that I shouldn't judge people. That brings to mind a line from Austin Powers: There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures...and the Dutch.

Tulips from a friend

Friday, September 4, 2009

Under pressure

"Nat, as a registered nurse, I just want to warn you about something. It's not so much the chemotherapy or the radiation therapy, but I'm worried about the retail therapy. If you have overextended credit it could lead to some vomiting, or you might have a burning sensation in your wallet. You might want to watch that!"

This was the message I received from my Uncle Steve after I got back to my apartment and he's not far from the truth! Good thing I only need 4 treatments or I'd be broke.

On August 20 I was scheduled for my first chemotherapy treatment. My mom picked me up at 7:30 so we could be at the cancer centre for 8:00. I was nervous but nothing too crazy. I more wanted to just get things started so they'd be over sooner than anything else. However, my eye had been twitching for the past 2 or 3 weeks and I'd had stronger-than-usual headaches, so I knew all was not well. The first thing they did was hook me up to a blood pressure cuff. One of the chemo drugs they would give me (docetaxel) can increase blood pressure, so my readings needed to be taken every 15 minutes while it's being administered.

"Hmm...that's pretty high," said the nurse. "You're probably nervous, aren't you? I'll give you a sedative." She gave me a tiny white pill to slip under my tongue and started the pre-chemo anti-nausea drip. She only had to poke me twice before she got the IV in.

Of course, when people are poking me and tutting over blood pressure, it does nothing at all to help. My mom was being all alarmed over how high it was and the nurse kept saying she'd let me sit for 10 more minutes to see if it would come down. People (ie, mothers) freaking the hell right out and saying things like stroke and heart attack is not an effective way of calming someone down. (To be fair, my numbers were ridiculous. Like, 165/110 kind of ridiculous.)

Think calming thoughts

They gave me 2 doses of the sedative but all it made me want to do is slip into a pulse-racingly high-thumping sleep. In addition to blood presure problems, apparently my white blood cell count was lowish as well, so after about 45 minutes of resting and waiting, they decided to send me home. They told me to go to my family doctor to get something for my high blood pressure. I know what - how about not having to go through chemo? I'd say that's an almost immediate guarantee to bring me back to normal!

My mom and I went to my doctor and I was set up with some samples to try to bring my blood pressure down. And then we went shopping.

Treatment #1 was rescheduled for September 1. (By the way, that's a mere 4 months after first finding out I had cancer. Does that seem fast to you? It seems fast to me.)

I tried not to be anxious about the day as it approached. I was on blood pressure medication but it only seemed to help at home. As soon as I would go to the oncologist or my family doctor for a check, my numbers would be high again. My doctor assured me that as long as it was managed at home, I should be fine. I just happen to have a sensitive system that magnifies any sort of outside influence.

Again, my mom picked me up and we went to the cancer centre. Again, they hooked me up to the stupid blood pressure cuff and jabbed me with a needle to hook up my IV. Again, my numbers were high and they gave me the small, white pill as a sedative. This time, though, my numbers came down enough to convince them to go ahead with the chemo drugs. I sat in the armchair for four and a half hours, successfully manipulating my chords and drips to the bathroom once. My mom read me the paper and we played sudoku. I dozed. The drugs dripped.

And then I was done! Free! To go shopping!

Purchases after the aborted chemo treatment:
  • 4 head scarves (why not be bald AND fashionable?)
  • Bottle of Angel by Thierry Mugler (which was totally worth it and I can't stop smelling myself when I wear it)
  • A fabulous purple purse (who doesn't need a purple purse?)
  • A brown purse (it was cheap and cute)
  • A big bottle of pomegranate juice (complete with powerful antioxidants)

Yummy!

Purchases after the actual chemo treatment:
  • A Booster Juice (Sonic Soy, the best one there is)
  • Pair of black leather sandals (comfortable for walking)
  • Pair of black leather sandals (dressier and not really good for walking)
  • A white purse (it was on sale and I didn't get that colour last time!)

I'm not sure what I'm going to buy myself next time, but I'll be sure to think of some delightful items I couldn't possibly live without. Hey, if I'm going to suffer through this light-headedness, grogginess, and surprisingly orange diarrhea (just for fun, do an internet search on that last one), I'm going to do it smelling and looking fabulous. And shopping brings down blood pressure, I'm just sure of it!

The yellow survivor's shirts at the 2009 Relay For Life

Monday, August 24, 2009

Frankly, I'm thunderstruck

Even though it is several kilometers away, I can hear the AC/DC concert from my apartment. I can hear the crowd roaring and the drums banging and good ol' Angus wailing on lead guitar. (Hark, is that "TNT" I hear? Yes, yes it is).

I can also hear the dog in the apartment below me barking and barking. I don't think he's a metal fan.

Truthfully, I'm not a metal fan either. I'd rather hear the Lost Fingers do "Shook Me All Night Long" than AC/DC. (If you don't know the Lost fingers, then you MUST click here for a snippet. They do 80s songs in a Django Reinhardt-type style.) Regardless of my dislike for the heavier stuff, I'm a little sad I didn't go to the show. I mean, it's AC/CD! My small prairie city doesn't get many huge acts and you never know which concert will be the one where an aging rock star falls and breaks a hip or something.

Speaking of concerts, have I ever told you about the time I snuck into a Rolling Stones concert? Oh yeah. I'm hardcore.

Like I've said, my small city doesn't get many big name acts, so 3 years ago when the Stones concert was announced I knew I had to go. I've always fallen firmly on the Beatles side of the Beatles/Stones debate, but going to a Beatles show would be a hell of a lot more difficult. The Stones were playing 2 shows here, one on the Friday and one on the Sunday. My step dad has connections and he managed to snag me 4 tickets for the second show.

Friday came and went and I heard great things, so I was pumped to go. I was attending with my two friends Mike and Kate, and my mom's weird cousin Larry, who had driven down from Calgary for the concert. We lined up with the crowd, got our tickets scanned, and made our way to our seats. They weren't awesome but none of us minded - we were going to get to see the Stones! About 15 minutes after we sat down, four people approached us and said that we were in their seats. We checked their tickets. We checked our tickets. They were for the same section, same row, and same seats.

We were about to raise a fuss when I noticed something different on our tickets, so I hissed to my people that we should go talk to someone about this and let these nice people sit in the seats while we straightened things out. Mike and Kate objected but I kept insisting that we needed to just go. After I got them away from the stands, I pointed out that our tickets were, indeed, for those seats but for the other show. The one that had happened two days earlier.

Larry wanted to find someone in charge IMMEDIATELY so that things could be fixed. Mike, Kate, and I were pretty sure that all that would be fixed is that we would be kicked out of the stadium and miss the show. The people scanning the tickets at the gate had messed up and let us in, and we weren't going to ruin it by hoping some event manager had a heart. Our plan was to hang around the concessions until the opening band was done, and then find a row that looked like it had empty spots and sidle in. Everyone was on their feet for the concert, anyway, so we figured it would be a piece of cake. Larry didn't like our plan. He was worried that if we snuck in, the ticket police would find us and throw us in ticket jail. But he was outnumbered and begrudgingly agreed to stay.

The opening band finished and as the Stones took the stage and the concession area emptied out, we made our move. We walked up the stairs, scanned the rows, and found one that looked perfect. There were still a lot of people milling about and as we made our way to our new seats, our group got separated. Nevertheless, we made it. Well, actually, most of us made it. Somehow we had lost Larry. We looked around for him but the music was starting and we figured he had just found another good spot to blend in.

The show was great in a cheesy, big spectacle kind of way. Mike, Kate, and I searched outside the stadium for Larry for 45 minutes afterwards but we didn't see him, so we walked back to my place. That's when we finally found Larry. He had been sitting in his car for the past three hours. He got separated from us in the stands, panicked, and decided he couldn't handle the stress of sneaking in, so he went back to his car, unrolled his windows, and listened from there. He drove 8 hours from Calgary to sit in his car and listen to the Rolling Stones.

So that's my badass rock 'n' roll story. Ahh, but tonight there will be no sneaking in and I will not be able to rock out with my cock out. However, this weekend has not been without it's highlights. Behold, the newest member of my household.

"Swept Away" - no, really, that's the name of the style

Lucy, my cat, is enamored with her and she was ridiculously expensive ($300? are you kidding me?) but how could I resist those luscious lips? Shopping for her was considerably less fun than I anticipated, mostly because the woman who helped me at the wig store was rather humourless. Listen, lady. I'm getting chemo soon. I'm going to lose all my hair. If I want to try on the the Farrah Fawcett just for fun, let me try on the gawddamned Farrah Fawcett. I don't care that you don't think it will flatter my face shape. I don't care that you think blond will wash out my skin tone. I'm not purchasing it, I'M JUST TRYING TO HAVE SOME FUN! I sneak into rock concerts! Don't piss me off!

Anyway, I haven't named her yet but I'm working on it. Perhaps in honour of tonight's concert I should call her Angus.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ridiculously fun!

MOVEITS! - Fel Del Av Gården

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Moving

Well this sure made me weepy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Water music

Before I went on the fantastic houseboating adventure, my sister gave me the excellent idea of making a water-themed mix CD for the trip. And I now share that playlist with you, because I love you so:
  1. SpongeBob SquarePants Theme Song - The Pirates
  2. Sea Cruise - Frankie Ford and Huey Piano Smith & Orchestra
  3. (Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding
  4. When the Ship Comes In - Bob Dylan
  5. If I Had a Boat - Lyle Lovett
  6. Wooden Ships - Crosby, Stills & Nash
  7. Six Months In a Leaky Boat - Split Enz (Thanks to my Grasshopper buddy for this one.)
  8. The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot
  9. Drunken Sailor - The Irish Rovers
  10. I'm Shipping Up to Boston - Dropkick Murphys
  11. The Boat Song (We're Gettin' Loaded) - The Ike Reilly Assassination
  12. Ocean Man -Ween
  13. Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
  14. River Song - Dennis Wilson
  15. The Banana Boat Song - Harry Belafonte (Couldn't resist linking to The Muppets! This isn't the version on the mix CD.)
  16. The Last Saskatchewan Pirate - Captain Tractor (I'm from Regina - how could I NOT include this one? And yes, this is the same "semi-famous Western Canadian celtic/rock-ish band" that I wrote about before)
  17. Sloop John B - The Beach Boys
  18. I'm On a Boat - The Lonely Island featuring T-Pain

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I was totally sloshed

It's been 2 months since I had my surgery and I definitely miss the sloshing.

My view for a week

Since my lumpectomy, my body has been doing some weird things. Almost immediately afterwards, the site of my sentinel node biopsy began swelling. At first it was only a little bit, but soon it was like someone had left behind a small-but-filled-to-bursting water balloon while they were in there. I told people it was a replacement boob I was growing in case of mastectomy. I joked about it, but it was really quite uncomfortable. The skin was stretching and simple things like sleeping, wearing a bra, or letting my arms hang by my side were difficult.

Legs in the hot tub

Finally, I called my surgeon and he had me go to his office so he could drain the fluid. He assured me that all this was normal and would go away on its own. While I was there, he asked me if I had also noticed my boob sloshing around. A light went on. Yes I HAD!

The eye of the tree

Until that very moment, I attributed the weird noise to my stomach. You know that sound that happens after you drink way too much water way too quickly and then move around? That kind of glub plook sound? Ever since my surgery, I kept hearing it at strange times. I'd hear it when I bent over to tie my shoes or when I got into bed at night or, most often, when I put on my bra. And every time I'd think, "Hmm...weird. I don't remember drinking a lot of liquid," and just sort of shrug.

Falls that were a short hike away

Yeah, I'm a little dense. But excuse me for not realizing it was MY BOOB SLOSHING! I guess in the same way that my little Underarm Water Balloon™ was filling up due to post-surgery trauma, so was the hole left by the tangerine-sized chunk my doctor removed from my boob. The nice thing was that, besides the scar, you couldn't tell anything had occurred there at all. It looked like I had two normal boobs. This lumpectomy thing was going to be easy!

I see you hiding down there

And then just like my surgeon had said, the swelling started going away. This was great news for my underarm, but not so good for ol' Righty. As more and more fluid began to dissipate, it began to look like my boob was caving in on itself. It still does, and I think that's how it's going to stay. I suppose I should be happy I didn't need a mastectomy. I should be happy it's not some essential part of my body they had to hack away at. But my boob. Is caving in! ON ITSELF!

She has a new name - now she's Frankenboob. And Lefty is Boobberry. (My apologies to General Mills.)

Breakfast is ready!

Ah, lest you think I'm spending my days pining for the boob that once was, slowly rocking back and forth on my couch in a big lump of tears and fears, don't fret! The photos interspersed throughout this entry were taken on a recent houseboating trip to Shuswap Lake, BC.

Beached for the evening

A friend of mine got married and for his honeymoon, 22 of us hopped in cars, drove 13 hours away, piled into 2 houseboats and drank, swam, sang, drank, ate, and slept our way through Shuswap Lake. Oh, and we drank. It was marvelous. Surrounded by people, both strangers and friends, I was in my element. I soaked up the companionship and comradery like beach bunny soaks up sun. I didn't think about cancer at all. It was exactly what I needed.

A friend sitting watching the water

Oh, and FYI: I have an appointment with my chemo oncologist on July 27. That's where I'll find out what the plan is for radiation and chemotherapy. On one hand, I'm happy to get this phase started but on the other hand, I already have Frankenboob. Haven't you done enough? Sigh.

Wish me luck!

Close your eyes and JUMP!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Don't be such a boob

I've been trying to write about this for a while now but it's difficult. It's difficult because I'd rather write a good news story where the worry turns out to be nothing and in retrospect, we can all learn blah blah blah. It's difficult because it still doesn't seem real. It's difficult because facts like "Only 4 of 10 people who get cancer are expected to be alive five years after diagnosis" are floating around out there, scaring the shit out of me. Granted, that's a figure for all types of cancer, but it's still a scary number.



I suppose I'll start at the beginning. I found a lump. I wasn't particularly looking for one, but I found it nonetheless. I told myself that it was probably nothing, and that if it was something, I'd rather not know. If it was going to kill me anyway, I'd rather not go through the pain and drama of dealing with it. It would be much easier to let it take its course.

But it was probably nothing. I'm young. I'm not on any sort of hormone therapy or even the Pill. There's no history of cancer, breast or otherwise, in my family except for one great uncle.

After a bit of time spent ignoring the goddamned lump, I drunkenly and off-handedly confessed its existence to a friend. (Hey, look at that - alcohol may have saved my life!) This friend has had too much experience with cancer to let my admission slide, so the next thing I knew she booked me in to see her doctor. My appointment was for April 7.

After poking at my boob for a while, the doctor tried to offer comfort. She told me not to worry until I had something to worry about, but I heard her instruct her assistant that she wanted me in for an ultrasound as quickly as possible.

That day after I went back to work, I told my manager that I was going through something medical that may or may not turn out to be something. I let him know that I may have to leave for appointments without much warning. He was wonderful and told me to do what I needed to do, no questions asked.

At home that night I threatened the lump that it better fucking well be nothing. I yelled for a while at Righty and told her that she might just be out of the will. I told Lefty that she was now officially my favourite.

On April 17, I went for an ultrasound and a mammogram, and 3 days later I was back at the doctor's office. She told me that they couldn't tell yet if the lump was cancerous or benign. She told me I needed a biopsy done and that the cancer centre would contact me with a date. I read the words possibly cancerous lesion on my chart while she was busy filling out another form and decided to walk the 3 km back to work, silently freaking out the whole way.

On April 27, I went to the cancer centre for my biopsy. I wasn't particularly worried about the procedure, but rather the possible results, so I waited calmly and patiently. An older woman in the waiting room entertained me, griping about the awful hospital gowns they make us wear, the pain of having to drive into town for these procedures, the awfulness of the MRI. I told her I hadn't had an MRI yet and she told me I was lucky. During the procedure, I stared at the upper left corner of the room and took deep breaths. The biopsy was unexpectedly painful, and the bumpy bus ride home didn't help. I called my boss to let him know I was taking the rest of the day off. The people at the cancer centre said I should have my results in 5-7 business days.



The next day I had an appointment with yet another doctor. I wasn't sure what it was about or who he was, but I went anyway. The appointment was in the medical offices wing of the hospital just across the alley from where I live, so I walked over. After a short wait, the doctor called me into his examining room and poked at my boob. He told me I could put my shirt back on and then he said that their goal with a breast cancer diagnosis is to have the patient in for surgery within 3 weeks.

My heart stopped. What? Did he just tell me I have cancer? He must have seen the shock on my face because he stammered a bit and said that he didn't need to wait for the biopsy results. Because of the location, size, shape, and feel of the lump, they can tell it's not benign.

I immediately started to cry. He offered me tissues and asked if anyone was there with me that we could call into the room. I told him that I hadn't told anyone because I didn't want them to worry if it was nothing. He was very kind and patient and advised that I should tell at least my family so that I have some support. He told me his wife was also 33 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and they just celebrated her 53rd birthday. He said she had been cancer-free for almost 20 years and that these days, a diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence.

He then pulled out a booklet that provided information about my options: mastectomy vs lumpectomy, axillary dissection vs sentinel node biopsy, post-surgery treatments.

Before I continue, I'm going to give a little crash course in breast cancer surgery. A mastectomy is where they remove most or all of the breast. A lumpectomy is where they remove the tumor and a surrounding margin of breast tissue. A lumpectomy is also called breast conservation surgery.

Axillary dissection is where they remove most or all of the lymph nodes under the arm. This is done because if the cancer has spread, it spreads to the lymph system first. They examine the nodes for cancer cells. If there aren't any, then the nodes were removed for no reason. If there are cancer cells, good thing they got all the lymph nodes.

A sentinel node biopsy is where they remove only the first 1-3 lymph nodes. Radioactive fluid is injected into the breast the morning of the surgery and it travels along the lymph system. They use a special camera to detect first few nodes and the surgeon removes those. The sentinel nodes are examined for cancer cells. If they are clear, excellent - no further surgery is needed. If they find cancer cells, another operation is required to remove the rest of the lymph nodes.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both options. It takes longer to recover from axillary dissection than a sentinel node biopsy and there is a greater chance of lymphedema. However, with the sentinel node biopsy there is always the chance that a second operation is needed, and there is a 5% chance that even though the first node is clean, a lymph node farther up might be cancerous.

End of lesson.

The doctor advised me that I should probably make decision right there and then so that I could get on the waiting list for my surgery. He explained the difference between the lymph node surgeries and told me that I was a good candidate for a lumpectomy because of the size and location of the tumor.

Tumor. It wasn't a lump anymore. Now it was a tumor. I hardly heard anything else he said, but managed to agree to a lumpectomy and the axillary dissection. I signed a consent form and slowly walked back home.



I spent that night sobbing on my couch. The next morning my eyes were so swollen that it looked like I was on the losing end of a fight. I desperately wanted my mom to know, but I dreaded telling her. How could I tell my favourite person on the planet that I have a potentially life-threatening disease? Before I knew anything I had decided that until I had confirmation, I wouldn't tell her. Except now that I had that confirmation, I discovered too late that it would have been easier to tell her that I might have breast cancer than to tell her I do. Ah, hindsight.

Three long days after my appointment with the surgeon, I finally told my mom. There were tears and hugs. I told jokes. There were more tears. We told my step dad and my sister. There were more tears. It was a rough week. I told the rest of my family, my boss at work, and all my friends.

Everyone was wonderful to me and then next thing I knew, it was May 5 and I had an appointment for an MRI. They wanted to make sure it was only one tumor and they wanted to get a clearer picture of its size and shape. I was taken into a room and a nurse told me she was going to give me an IV so they could inject dye into my system for the procedure. I had to sign a consent form that advised me of all the 834 possible side effects of the dye, including death. I could die from dye? That seemed ridiculous. At the bottom of the form, it said that despite all these side effects, they believed the benefits from the procedure outweighed the risks. Easy for them to say. But I signed the form. The nurse came at me with a needle and I told her I wasn't going to watch. She laughed and said that was okay, she would watch. I smiled and told her that was a good way to do things.

The MRI wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I think that was because instead of being on my back, they had me face down on the table. My head rested on an opening, much like you'd find in a massage table, and my boobs dangled out of two holes. I couldn't even tell I was in a small claustrophobic area. The machine was incredibly loud, even with the ear plugs they gave me. The radiologist spoke to me throughout the 45 minute procedure, letting me know when one series of images was finished and when the next one was beginning. Halfway through they injected the dye and a cold, awful feeling washed over my arm. Before I could panic too much, I pictured diving into a cool, refreshing pool and after 30 seconds or so the cold feeling went away.



On May 7, two days before my 34th birthday, my surgeon phoned to let me know I was booked for surgery on May 14. If you're keeping track of all these dates, that's 1 month and 1 week after my initial doctor's visit. I've heard horror stories of the Canadian medical system - of people waiting months for diagnoses and years for surgery dates. For me, things were moving so quickly I didn't even have time to think.

I did, however, have time to do some reading. I learned more about lumpectomies and mastectomies and was satisfied with my decision. I also learned more about axillary dissections and sentinel node biopsies and began to doubt my decision to have the former. I advised my surgeon that I had changed my mind and he said that unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to get in for the radioactive fluid injections the morning of my surgery. I either had to stick with my original decision and have all my lymph nodes removed or receive a later surgery date and have the new operation. I decided to wait and was given another surgery date of May 21. One month and 2 weeks after my initial doctor's visit.

That weekend I had a birthday bash where I got as hammered as I could with 30 of my closest friends and family members.



At 9:00 on the morning of my surgery, my mom picked me up and we walked over to the hospital. My first stop was the oh-so-scary-sounding Nuclear Medicine. A lovely nurse applied numbing cream to my nipple and surrounding area and answered my silly questions with a laugh. After the injection, will I glow in the dark? (No.) Will I be worth more radioactive? (No.) If I get bit by a spider, will I turn into Spider Woman? (Not that she knows of, but I should call her and let her know if it happens.) Then a doctor came and poked me with 4 needles right around my nipple. It was insanely painful - not the actual needle, but rather the fluid. It burned and stung for 10 minutes after the injections. After that I went for photos which I thought would be quick, but ended up taking about an hour. Two of the photos lasted 20 minutes each and 4 lasted 5 minutes each. Like the MRI, I had to be completely still.

After the photos were finished, my mom and I were whisked off to pre-surgery. The nurses there were wonderful and funny and gentle with me. They inserted the IV and talked me through what was going to happen. They asked me questions and then asked me the same questions again. They checked my blood pressure and oxygen levels and offered me warmed blankets and slippers for my feet. I asked them to please let the anaesthesiologist know that I didn't want to be inadvertently turned into a vegetable. They laughed and told me they try to avoid that - too much paperwork.

Then, all too soon, it was time to go to the operating room. My mom hugged me. She told me she was going to get some lunch and she'd see me before I knew it. I was wheeled into a small room with bright lights. I told the person transporting me that it didn't look anything like it does on ER and he laughed. The anaesthesiologist came over and introduced herself. She said they were going to administer the anaesthetic through the IV and that I would feel a little like I was drunk. Not 3 seconds after she said that I felt like I had just done 12 tequila shots and then there was nothing. No counting backwards, no slow descent into sleep, not even darkness. Just nothing.

And then? Garfield! That was the first thing I saw when I came to again. The hospital has ceiling tiles painted with various pictures throughout the corridors and rooms and the tile above my bed was Garfield snuggling Pooky. A nurse welcomed me back to the world of the conscious and told me to rest. That wasn't a problem, since I seemed to be able to fall asleep while blinking. There was more taking of my blood pressure and oxygen levels. There was morphine. Then I was wheeled back to the pre-surgery area and my mom was at my side. She asked how I was and I told her I was fine. I asked her how lunch was and she laughed. For me, she went to get lunch half an hour earlier but for her it was more like 3 hours.

By 9:00 that night I had met the three requirements to be sent home: I had walked, I had peed, and I had kept food down. I was officially discharged and Mom took me to her place. She and my step dad had set up the guest room so that I could stay there as long as I needed. I staggered into the house and immediately went to bed. Over the next 4 or 5 days, I did a lot of sleeping. I also received dozens of phone calls, flowers, and visitors.

I've had doubts in my past whether people really like me or if they merely put up with me, but cancer has silenced those doubts. I feel so incredibly loved that I get tears in my eyes if I think about it for too long.




This week I found out that the tumor was 2.5 cm and the margins (ie, the extra tissue the surgeon removed surrounding the tumor) are clear of cancer cells. This means that the we can feel optimistic that my surgeon got it all. Also, I found out that the sentinel lymph node is clear as well. This means that the cancer hadn't yet spread and that I don't need any more operations! That would put my cancer at stage IIA. It's not stage I, but I'll take it.

I have one more week of recovering to do and then I'll be back to work...at least until Step 2: the dreaded chemotherapy.



Cancer is more common than I ever imagined. Everyone I talk to knows someone who died from it or who is going through treatment or who is in remission. It's so prevalent that it's almost blasé. Yet my life was changed so completely by my diagnosis that I almost expected my news to be the headline in the local paper. But no, life goes on bit by bit.

One of the first things I did when I emerged out of my post-surgery grogginess was go for walk and take some photos. My mom lives two houses down from a creek that runs through the city and I walked along the bank on a beautiful spring day. During that walk I realized that I had been wrong - not knowing isn't better than knowing. Not knowing only has one end, and at least now I have a chance to delay that ending.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Seems logical

I saw this on someone's Facebook page and it was too good not to steal.

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage Is Wrong
  1. Being gay is not natural. Real people always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

  3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

  4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

  5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Brittany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

  6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

  7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

  8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in the world.

  9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

  10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Down with April

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

- from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot


T.S. didn't like April much. Me neither. I will now remember it as the month in which I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Good thing it's May now. Can we just skip April next year?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

STRIKE!

Are you kidding me? A windchill of -30? In March? That's it. I quit.

I have never been more ready for spring. Usually, I try not to complain about the weather. What do I expect? I live in Saskatchewan where it's stupidly cold in the winter, freakishly hot in the summer, and spring and autumn are lovely and last 2 weeks each.

But this past month at work has sucked big time. I've had to sit and watch wonderful co-workers and dear friends get laid off, and every day I wonder anxiously when I'm next.

I'm SO ready for one of the coldest winters in 30 years to end. My whole body is aching for above 0 temperatures. I want to shrug off this parka and kick off these Sorels and run free in the muddy, flooded streets!


I want to gulp down too many pints of Grasshopper on the patio of my favourite watering hole!


I want to see the trees and shrubs blush green again!


I feel like a 3-year-old having a temper tantrum in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store but I don't care. I'm on strike against the weather - who's in?


(Yes, I just wrote a whole post about the weather. So? If I was in an elevator with you, I'd ask if it was cold enough for you, too. Deal.)