Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Feet are a Burnin'!

Hand and Foot Syndrome (Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia)

A side-effect of some types of chemotherapy, can cause redness, swelling and pain on the soles of the feet and/or hands.

And I got it bad.

The heels of my feet are killing me.  They burn, I cannot put any pressure on them.  Walking in flip-flops kill, as the sole "flips" up and smacks the heel of my foot with every step.

I called Cancer Care today, all the nurse told me to do was keep it moisturized and to keep off my feet, and to make sure I tell my doctor about it before my next treatment.  All things I already knew to do, thankyouverymuch.  I have a baby shower and a wedding to attend this weekend, both will be interesting... IF I can make it.

But what I am really worried about is how I will walk for my brother's wedding in two weeks.  Fuckin' cancer...

I know it's not my wedding, that maybe I shouldn't stress too much, but fuck.  It's my baby bro's wedding.

My bridesmaids dress, which I ordered in February, was ordered a size too big knowing that breast cancer patients can gain 5-10 lbs during treatment.  I went to pick it up a couple of weeks ago, and it didn't fit.  It was too tight.  And they can't let it out.  Perfect.  Fuckin' cancer.

If this 35+ degree weather holds up 'til the wedding day, then I will be sweating in that frickn' wig all day long.  Fuckin' cancer.

And last but not least, the burning in my feet and the fatigue from chemo... I have no idea what I'm going to do on their wedding day.  Fuckin' cancer.

I am grateful to be more than halfway through treatment, but this new drug is killing me.  This drug also causes the most intense pain in my bones, which was the worst on days 3 and 4 after treatment.  I could barely move.  Oh well, better than nausea I guess.

And that is my rant for the day.  

Thanks.  'Til next time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Been super moody lately.  Extremely irritable and sometimes even feeling like I might be depressed.  I dunno wtf is going on with me.

So steer clear of me.  I might rip your head off.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


"It doesn't feel the same, and it's hard to carry your purse.  I cry at least once a day about it because it's hard to overlook it when you're standing there in the mirror.  When you look down, it's the first thing you see... So you're reminded constantly of this thing -- this cancer thing that you had."

- Christina Applegate

Monday, June 18, 2012

Two Down, Four to Go

It is nearly 8:30 am, wide awake for over five hours now.  My second round of chemo has messed up my sleep schedule.

I had taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging.  I've been having trouble putting down into words exactly what I want to say lately.   But here is a quick breakdown of what has come since I started chemo. 

I met with my oncologist for the first time nearly five weeks ago, who very patiently and attentively reviewed my pathology reports, answered my DISC "C" (my patient personality) questions and concerns,  and discussed my treatment plan.  I am to have 6 rounds of chemo, 3 weeks apart.  No radiation.

And the following week, it started.

I remember walking into the hospital the morning of my first treatment.  It was a beautiful and sunny day, wearing capri's, a tank top and a light sweater.  I made my way through the Cancer Care entrance up to the chemo room.  I can't say that I had any real expectations of what I would be seeing, but I was caught off guard.  The nurse led me to my chair and along the way I passed many patients, sitting in their big cushy chairs; bald, covered in blankets, some lying down and/or sleeping.  They looked sick.  For a split moment, I felt like a fraud, like I didn't belong there; I had all my hair, I was dressed 'normal' and I looked perfectly healthy and fine.

I sat down and the nurse presented me with a medicine cup containing my premeds.  In addition to the anti-nauseant that I had taken just 60 minutes prior, I was to take a cocktail of more anti-nauseants along with some steroids to prevent any possible allergic reactions.  Because I had yet to have my port placed, I had to remove my sweater in order for them to administer my chemo through my arm.  "Oh, you're going to be cold!  Let me get you a warm blanket," the nurse says as I sat there in my tank top.

Then, I felt a little more like one of them.

I hate I.V.'s.  Hate them.  Having an I.V. in my arm scares me to the point where I don't want to move, with the fear that in one swift motion in the wrong direction the whole thing can come ripping out of my arm.  I hate the sensation of fluid moving through my veins.  I hate knowing that there is a foreign object sticking out of my body from a vein.  But without a choice, here I was, and the nurse set me up.  Two of my drugs were pushed into my line by hand, took about 15 minutes.  The last of my chemo drug was through a drip, timed at 1 hour and 5 minutes.  And so I sat.

My visit wasn't all that bad, to be honest.  The staff is great.  So friendly, and most of all, patient.  I truly appreciate a very patient health care provider.  They also have volunteers who walk around with decaf coffee, juice, water and cookies.  Some of the other patients around me had friends and family sitting with them, talking, and while I showed up at my appointment alone, I didn't feel as lonely as I had expected to feel.  It was a lively place to be in that morning, and it helped that I have a friend who works down the hall and sat with me during her morning break and kept bringing me snacks lol.  An older couple of men even joked with me about my expertise at manoeuvring an I.V. pole as I made my way to the washroom and asked if I would help if they needed.  The request wasn't as creepy as I probably made it sound, lol, we all just laughed.  And I felt a strange sense of comfort from that moment on.

That first treatment was quite tolerable.  The bus ride home seemed quicker than the bus ride there, and I felt fine.  I even took a quick walk before making my way home.  The nausea hit a few hours later, I slept, and when I woke I was feeling much better.  I did feel a bit queasy over the next few days, and the drowsiness from the anti-nauseants hit me as well, but not enough to stop me from taking a weekend getaway in Minneapolis for a friend's stagette!  My tummy troubles kept me from drinking but it was still a weekend full of much needed girl-talk, shopping and dancing.

The other side-effects.. oh gawd.  And the second treatment.. I shall post of that later this week.  This entry took me forever to write.  On top of brain fog, there is so much that has happened since I had stopped blogging regularly and I don't know where to begin.

I will end with this, though...

There is a newfound happiness in my life.  I don't think the word "happiness" can even justify it, actually.  It came at a time when I had already come out of the shadows, felt content, happy, and was looking forward to starting a new life after surgery.  At a time when I wasn't even looking.  At a time when I even felt that I didn't want.  Then he came.  And I wanted.  ♥  

Til next time. :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It Ain't All Sunshine and Rainbows

I feel ugly.  My hair is ugly.  My skin is ugly.  My body is ugly.

Everything is changing and I hate it.  My hair has changed.  My skin has changed.  My body has changed.  My face has changed.

I hate that I have no one to talk to who will understand what I'm going through.

I hate the awkwardness it creates whenever I talk about it.

I hate when people smile and try to be cheerleaders when I express the frustration I feel.

I hate going to appointments alone.

I hate trying person after person for a ride when I'm done.

I hate that I constantly have to ask for help.

I hate that it feels like more than half the people who offered help when they found out about me only did so for show.

I hate that some of my friends have disappeared off the face of the earth since I got sick.

It's the ugly side of the cancer experience.  Fucking cancer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Apparently, the term 'Sickly Thin' does not apply to everyone who is sick.  I have put on almost 10 pounds since my surgery.  Granted, I did lose a buncha weight in the couple weeks leading up to my surgery, but I have now gained more than I had lost.  And I could tooooootally feel it in my clothes.  Ugh.  Being inactive has a huge part to do with it.   But an even bigger part started with all that yummy food that everyone kept bringing me when I had gotten outta the hospital.  Chocolates, cakes, cookies and candies.  All this filipino food, deliciously coated in salt, sugar or deep fried.  I somehow went back to eating white rice instead of brown.  And now that I'm up and about, I've been dining out like craaaaayzeee.  Too many people to see and catch up with.  And having steered away from eating clean for that time has altered my desire for certain foods, so instead of having that grilled salmon on the menu I'll opt for that cheeseburger with bacon sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches.  Man.  On top of that, there has been a lot of drinking.  Yes, I know that I can have fun without alcohol, but c'mon now.  I like my alcohol on my nights out with my girls!  Gotta get this all outta my system before I start chemo!  Mmmm... Moscato.

One of the things I am looking forward to the most after chemo is getting my butt back into the gym.  I miss my sessions at HLF with Mary Ann and Vernis.  I miss working up a sweat at Combat and at Pump.  I miss dancing my ass off.  The physical ability to be active is another one of those things that I will never take for granted again.  I miss it a lot, I really do.  So for now I will have to settle with walks around my neighbourhood (not to be underestimated, though... I love going for walks) and half-dancing around the apartment to Mayer Hawthorne.  And hopefully yoga will start sooner than later, as Cancer Care Manitoba co-sponsors a specialized yoga class for cancer patients undergoing treatment.  They also sponsor a pilates class for cancer patients who have completed treatment and I am sooo looking forward to that.  All for free.  Thank you, cancer.  Lol.

Oh, and another contributing factor to my weight gain?  I've been trying to get back into baking.  I'd like to think that the stuff I make is actually pretty good.  And they always say not to trust a skinny chef.  :)

So, what else has been going on with me?  Well, I think that I have Brain Fog.  No, wait.. I DO have brain fog, or Chemo Brain as it is still sometimes called.   My mind is shot, it's so frustrating.  It seriously just does not work sometimes.  I have trouble saying the things that I want to say.  My memory, especially short term, will sometimes last only seconds.  I have to make lists for everything, but I will sometimes forget to look at my list.  At times, I won't even remember the names of people I have known for years. 

With that said, I didn't think that having cancer would change me, that other than having a cluster of mutated cells in my body, I would still be me.  But I have changed.  Physically, I am different.  I have a chest that I was not born with and ugly scars that I would not have if not for the cancer.  The yo-yo effect on my weight.  The bald head that is to come.  Mentally, I have changed in many ways.  Not just with my memory, but in the way I see and look at things.  A lot of clarity.  New perspectives.  Which in turn has made me a lot more selfish.  It's like a, "Fuck you, I have cancer so I'll do what I want," kinda attitude.  At the same time, my priorities are where they should be now, which I sadly admit was not always so.  I am spending more time with the people I love and care about, my friends and family, who continue to show how much they love and care about me.  I've been so busy with family parties and get togethers with my friends.  Quality time with the special people in my life.  And I love it.  Finally, I have definitely changed emotionally.  I am so much more sensitive than I was before when it comes to certain things.  I used to wonder why some girls would cry at the thought of getting their hair cut, but what did I do last week?  I cried, with the realization that I was probably getting my hair cut for the last time before I lose it all.  Man.  And when it comes to other things, I feel like I have no emotions at all anymore.  I find it a lot easier to disconnect my feelings when it comes to dealing with bullshit from other people or coming across situations that I have no control over.  I accept it and move on.  Not gonna waste my time with wishing things were different, that time is way too precious.

Cancer has changed me, in sooo many good ways but some also in bad.  But I've accepted it.  Now time to move on.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Good Life

So here is a complete 180 from my last post.  Because life is pretty frickin sweet right now.

I got a call last Tuesday from my surgeon with my pathology results from surgery.  Lymph node involvement was confirmed to be negative.  Such a huge relief to know the cancer hadn't spread, I can't even tell you.  Also, the mass was smaller than they originally had thought, being less than 2cm in size.  This means that my cancer was in Stage I.  Thank gawd.  As horrible as a cancer diagnosis is, it is what it is, and I feel blessed to know that mine was at least caught at such an early stage.  

On top of that, I have to say that I am the happiest that I have been in a long time.  In months, even, from even before my diagnosis.  Not to say that I don't have any complaints, because I do, but I am loving life right now. Why? Because each morning I wake up knowing I am one day closer to full recovery.  Every day things get a little easier (for now, at least.. until chemo starts.. bah!) and I've accepted that for now, I have a new 'norm.'  But it's only for now.

But most of all, I am loving life because I can see so much more clearly now, that there is a reason why life throws these road blocks at us.  Not only does it create a challenge which in the end proves to ourselves what exactly we can overcome, but they give us lessons that we will learn so much from.  I know that for myself, I have a new appreciation for so many things in my life.  There are so many things that I will never take for granted again, from the little things like being able to wash my hair with both hands, to my family and the love and respect that I have for them.

At this particular moment, I feel that life is so great.  I get to occupy my time with doing the things I like, and more importantly, with the people who make me happy.  It's the good life.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fucking Cancer.

Everyday I worry about whether I'm healing well or not.  Wondering if the pains and aches I'm feeling is normal or not.  If the new bruises that suddenly appear or get larger and larger over the weekend is something I should call in about.  Why my side has been sore since the surgery.  Freaking out about blood clots whenever I feel the slightest bit of pain in my calves, or in my chest when I breathe in.  Feeling nauseas at the sight of my own body and trying my best to not faint while I'm in the shower.  Wondering who I could ask to take me to my appointments without feeling embarrassed in case they say no.  Having my schedule revolve around everyone else's.

Fucking cancer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A week and a day post-op

It has been one week and one day post-op and I am happy to say that I am feeling well overall!  A biopsy was done on my lymph nodes in surgery, and I am also happy to report that it came back negative!   The surgery was 5 hours long.  I spent 4 hours in recovery, as I watched them try to stabilize my blood pressure which had dropped down to almost 60/40.  I spent 3 days in hospital and went home on Friday.  Since then, my cousin Sheila has been staying with me and I am so grateful to her.  She has cooked and cleaned for me, helped me get dressed and even washed my hair for me!  Love her!  I've had so many visitors since my surgery, both in hospital and at home, as well as many thoughtful gifts, messages through Facebook and my blog, phone calls and texts.  I am surrounded by love all around, there is no doubt in my mind that is what has helped me have such a speedy recovery thus far!

The flowers, cards and cookie bouquet I received while in the hospital.
I have had to return to the hospital twice over the weekend for pain in the sides of my abdomen along with what I thought was fluid buildup in my sides.  I've had the pain since day one after surgery, and I've felt as though it was getting progressively worse.  The doctors were puzzled, as they did not even touch that area, but say that I may have bruising from the bolsters that kept me in place while they worked on my side.  Let's hope that is all it really is.

The surgery I opted for was a skin sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.  With my mass being 3cm x 2cm in size, I was given the option of a lumpectomy, but knowing that there was only a 50/50 chance that the surgeon would get a clean margin I decided that a mastectomy would be the better choice.  The type of reconstruction that was done was a latissmus dorsi reconstruction.  Here, the plastic surgeon took a portion of my lat dorsi, a muscle in my back, and rotated it to the front to create a pocket for the implant to sit in.  The top portion of the implant is tucked under the chest muscle.  Fat tissue from my back and skin from under my arm were placed overtop the muscle.  I had two drains, one from the breast area and one from the back where the muscle was removed, to collect extra fluid.  Those things were a nuisance to have, and luckily I was able to have one removed before I was discharged from the hospital and the other removed just yesterday at my first post-op appointment.

Yesterday's appointment was unexpectedly an emotional one.  They finally removed my bandages (which was extremely painful, probably the most physically painful part of the entire experience lol).  I have a weak stomach when it comes to stuff like that, and thinking about what I might see was making me light headed and nauseas.  But, when I finally felt ready to step in front of the mirror, I was practically sobbing as my nurse prepared me for what I would see.  It came out of nowhere.  I think that was the moment when I realized that I had literally lost a part of myself.  My body is now that of someone who I do not recognize, not mine, and most importantly not by my choice.

The scarring is not as hideous as I had expected it to be, and what I did not expect was all the bruising.  It looked as if my entire breast was sponge painted with dark purple paint, apparently from the broken blood vessels during the removal of breast tissue during the mastectomy.  I will have a scar that runs from under my arm and up my back towards my shoulder blade, where the muscle was removed.  I have blistering on my back from where the bandages sat, my skin was pretty sensitive to the adhesive.

I have lost feeling in my breast, around my side and part of my back, and in the underside of my upper arm.  It was the strangest sensation as the nurse cleaned up my breast after removing the bandages, it felt like there were a few inches of padding in between my breast and the saline soaked piece of gauze that she used to clean me up with.  The feeling in my upper arm is numb, as if it has permanently fallen asleep.  I have trouble moving that arm.  I am not supposed to lift my elbow any higher than shoulder height, but I can't even move it halfway.  I see improvement in my range of motion each day, though; I am now able to pull my hair back into a ponytail on my own, I can do the dishes and I can get dressed on my own as long as my top is stretchy enough.

I am still trying to get used to moving around.  Getting out of bed can be a challenge, and coughing (which I have been doing a lot of since the surgery) causes pain in my chest muscles.  Breathing is still sometimes shallow.  I went for my first walk outside today, Sheila and I went for a walk down to Osborne Village, hung out at Second Cup and walked back home.  It felt awesome to get out and get some fresh air!  But, the walk was slow and I found it challenging to speak at the same time, slowing down often to catch my breath.

Thank you to everyone for the 100+ messages that I received, the lovely gifts, phone calls, texts and visits.  Thank you to my family who have been there for me every step of the way.  Kuya for driving me to the hospital over the weekend.  Sis-in-law Sheila for being my personal counselor/therapist and nurse.  Joel and Len for the stupid little errands that I needed to be run.  Cousin Sheila for helping me and keeping me company once I got home.  Mom for your awesome cooking and dad for wanting to just be there.  And really, I could go on and on... I'm sorry for everyone who I did not name, I really need to start blogging daily to be able to keep up with my "thank-you's."  Mark for driving me to my appointment yesterday.  Also to those who regularly check up on me, some of you almost daily: Ger, Mary Ann and Vernis.  My boss and co-workers.  Ger and Tita Shelly who also visited me daily while in hospital.  Yah, I can go on and on..

BUT, I definitely must send a big thank you to Dr. Ethel Macintosh, my surgical oncologist, and Dr. Tom Hayakawa, my plastic surgeon, and their team.  Thank you, thank you, thank you... not sure what else to say but "Thank you..."

Counting my blessings.  Well, trying to, at least.  There are too many to count. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's time

I'm exhausted, but I didn't want to go to bed tonight without this one last blog before the big day.  

Drama and Jax
The past few days were spent with so many friends and family.  On Thursday, Ger and I went to the Humane Society.  I've been thinking about getting a dog.  I knew I wanted a little dog, was leaning towards a shih tzu (just like lil Drama and Jax!) but I saw some big, but really cute dogs at the Humane Society.  There was a pit bull named Frankie... omgeee.  Beautiful dog!  There was another that I really liked, his name was Solo and he is a rottweiler mix.  And there was a mastiff, I can't remember his name, but he also was a gorgeous dog.  I've decided that once I own my own house, I will be adopting a larger dog.  But for now, I will be on the search for a little shih tzu, and hopefully have a little one sooner than later.  

Westwood Dental (missing: Lily, Melissa, Brooke) 

I spent that evening and the days following catching up with old friends.  Hung out with Lisa, Shauna and Alexis that night.  Then had lunch with the Westwood crew Friday afternoon, who made me the most amazing cake!  Friday evening I spent with Eddie and Mark, who so graciously put together my microwave cart for me while I slept.. lol.  The next morning, Eddie took me out to run my errands, and Lori that evening helped me clean out my apartment.  Couldn't have done any of it without them. Finally, Cheryl and Mylaida came to see me on Sunday evening.  It was so good to see everyone.  I've been needing to surround myself with people these days, the mind does crazy things when I'm alone.

Sunday was my dad's birthday.  There was a get together with our closest family members at Kum Koon for lunch.  Again, family therapy is great therapy.  I love my family to pieces, it was a great way to spend the day.  It was an emotional time for me, both happy and sad.  Grateful to celebrate my dad's 65th year of life and good health.  Grateful for all the support I received from the extended family, as it was my first time seeing almost everyone since hearing of my diagnosis.  Grateful that we were all together.

I have spent the last 5 days thinking about how crazy it is, how much people have pulled through for me and how willing the people who truly love me are to help me.  Having friends from high school and friends from work who keep reminding me that they'll be around to see me and help me out in any way when I get out of the hospital.  Sheila, my sister in law, who has listened to me cry over and over again over the past few weeks... and who so selflessly stayed up until 7am Sunday morning to do my laundry for me.  Love, love, LOVE you, Sheila.  And Jady, who drove me to my appointment today and held my hand while I was injected with radioactive material (for my sentinel node biopsy tomorrow, which will be done in surgery to see if my cancer had spread).  And the lovely phone call from Nicole and Karen in Vancouver on Saturday night.  Really, so much support from the people who care about me, and even from some who I least expected it.  I can go on and on, I wish I could go on naming everyone but there has just been so much. 

When I wake up, I will be getting ready to go to the hospital for my surgery.  Thank you for all the thoughts, prayers and positive vibes.  I'm scared, but trying to remember that this is it... they're physically removing the cancer from my body.

Tomorrow.  Tomorrow I start my path to recovery.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy 65th birthday to my daddy.  I was reminded today how willing he is to do ANYTHING for me.  I love you, dad.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Family Ties

The Big Bean. Lol.

Gemma, Glen and myself
The trip to Illinois did some real good.  It was a last minute decision to go, and I'm so glad I did!  I spent some time with my cousin, Glen, and his wife and her family.  PS - spontaneous trips like that are fun.. on Monday I asked Glen and Gemma if they were going to be busy that weekend and on Tuesday I booked my flight, lol!  Anyway, there is no therapy like family therapy; being out there, I was able to talk about my situation without breaking down into tears and also be able to live almost as if I wasn't even going through this at all.  They took me out on the town, did a lot of sight seeing and had crazy laughs at the Sears Tower (or Willis Tower, whatever it's called).  Gemma taught me how to make cake-pops, something I can maybe get into while I'm stuck at home over the next few months.  But a big part of what made me come home stronger were the stories Gemma and her sister Grace had shared about themselves and their friends and what they had gone through.  I listened to the experiences of others, and what they eventually were able to overcome.  And they all really did come out stronger in the end.  

Vic, Gemma, Glen, Grace and myself
Thank you to Glen, Gemma, Grace, Ate Jane and Vic for taking me out, being there to talk to, to listen and for just hanging out.  And Drama and Jax... if I could have taken you home without them noticing, I totally would have!!

I got home on Tuesday night.  Yesterday was a tough first full day back.  I thought I was through with the crying!!!  So I kept myself busy.  I had to go to see my plastics nurse, as the medical supply store had ordered the wrong surgical vest for me and she wanted to see if I could get away with using that one.  I can't, so I've got to go back tonight to exchange it for the one I had asked for.  Then I spent some time with Ger and my God-son, Dylan.  Went for bubble tea, and OMG, can Dylan make me laugh!  Ger and I don't get to see each other as often as we'd like, but we're always there for one another, no matter what.  Friends like that are few and far between, not sure where I'd be without her.

Dylan in his Spiderman pajamas
After that, took my cousins who had moved here from the Philippines out job hunting.  Then spent some time with Johann.  He used to be one of my best friends, we used to talk every single day til the sun came up.  To be 19 again... lol.  There was a lot to catch up on. :)

I honestly don't know where I would be without my friends and family.  Not only have they all been there for me as I grieved my diagnosis, but they are also there for me as I grieve the loss of a relationship; Jon and I broke up.  If it weren't for them, I probably would still be living in my bedroom.  I don't take break-ups well, especially not this one.  It was in limbo for almost a week, with failed attempts to reach him and not knowing if I'd ever hear from him again.  For that week, I couldn't get out of bed and I didn't eat... and I probably would still be there right now if it weren't for my sister in law, my cousin and my friends.  They reminded me that I have more reasons to get out of bed than reasons to stay in bed.

Don't know where I'd be without you guys.

Today I am looking forward to spending some more time with Ger, and then dinner with some friends from high school.  It's gonna be a good day. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I had to edit that last post, I will not have any more of that!

Landed in Illinois a few hours ago and feeling refreshed!  Good people, good laughs, good times.  This is going to be an awesome trip.  :)

Flyin' away

Way too much on my plate right now.  See you all in a few days, I'm off to Chicago for a little getaway.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How it all began

I went to bed on Sunday night thinking that my great day would let me have a good night's rest.  SO wrong.  It was a terrible night, my body was exhausted but my mind was racing.  Which led to a really shitty Monday and Tuesday.  Good news is that I am feeling much better now, thanks to some great ears (and eyes.. via bbm/text) and great company.  Love, love, love you all.  Now that I'm feeling better, I'm ready to blog away again.

I've had a lot of people ask me how I found out.  Well, it's kinda funny actually, because I never do self-exams.  But one night at the end of November, for one reason or another, I decided to check.  And there it was.  I wasn't sure if what I felt was a lump or not, so checked the rest of that side, moved on to the right side, and checked the left side again.  It was bigger than a pea in size, but smaller than a grape.  So the following week, I went to get it checked out.  The doctor at first thought that it might have been a cyst.  He did an exam and said that it was harder than a cyst, but because of my age he thought it could just be due to fibrocystic changes, a lump or lumps that come and go depending on what time of my cycle that I am in.  Common in women my age, he says.  But just to be sure, he sent me for a mammogram.

A week after my mammogram, the doctor called me and said that I should go for an ultrasound and biopsy.  At that appointment, I pretty much already knew that it was cancer from the way they were talking.  I asked the doctor what exactly the mammogram showed.  He told me that there were calcifications, and a mass that "looked pretty nasty."  His exact words.  When he placed the wand on me for the ultrasound, he looked at his nurse (I think she was a nurse?) and said, "Well.. look at that!"  There was a cyst, which apparently was good news.  But, the mass that showed on the mammogram was directly beneath the cyst, so he proceeded to take 3 biopsy samples, including one from the cyst.  After he left, I confirmed with the nurse that his reaction from finding the cyst was a good thing, and as I spoke with her, I suddenly started to cry tears of relief.  She also reminded me, though, that the mass was still there, BUT that it is small, so if it is cancer, it's still early.

I went home and I have to say, that biopsy site hurt like a bitch after the freezing wore off.  I had to ask Jon to go out to buy some Tylenol, and I had to leave the ice on it continually instead of just the 15-20 minutes every hour like they told me to, it was so bad.  Anyway, I remember having conversations with Jon in the days leading up to my biopsy, and even on the way home that day, about how I wasn't all that afraid of the results coming back with cancer.  It's not a death sentence, I would say... they'll take it out and  I'll be fine!  The only difference with that conversation we had on the way home was that I had a hard time saying it.  It was strange how I started the sentence off so confidently and then literally out of no where, and mid-sentence, the words couldn't come out.

Anyway, a week later I got the results.  I posted previously about that, you can see that here.  

So what's next?  A mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and chemo.  Radiation is still up in the air, it depends on what they find in surgery.  I have had a lot of people ask me what stage of cancer I'm in, but that I won't know until after surgery.

And that is my looooong, detailed story on how it all began.  I've had a friend tell me that I often throw in a lot of irrelevant detail when I tell stories, lol, so I tried to cut some stuff out before actually posting this.  Hope it wasn't too boring of a read. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom! ♥

It's close to 1:30 am, but I didn't want to go to bed without saying Happy Birthday to my Mom!  Spending time with my family was the best way to end a really shitty weekend.

Tomorrow is a new day and I will face it with all the strength and positivity that I have.  Strength really can come in numbers, and you've all helped me believe that I am that strong woman that everybody says I am.  I will not let anyone or anything bring me down anymore.  I loved playing catch up with friends over the past few days (Lori, Ger, Mary Ann and Vernis), seeing more good friends over the weekend, and then spending my Sunday, my mom's birthday, with my entire family: mom and dad, Joel and Len, Kuya, Sheila and B, my cousin Sheila who just moved here from the Philippines a week ago today, and Kuya Emon, Ate Len, Honey and Hannes, who also moved here from the Phils just 2 weeks ago.  I should also mention that I received my first call today from my peer supporter, Bev.  Many good things today.  Many things and people to be thankful for.


Interesting Read

Another good read on young women and breast cancer.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's not just me

I spent the morning reading a blog that I found on the Young Survivor's site that Cheryl had posted a link to on my Facebook wall.  Her name is Angi and she was also diagnosed with breast cancer at 31.  I wanted to see what her experiences were like in terms of coping with a mastectomy, going through chemo, etc, etc.

What she also writes about in her blog is the emotional roller-coaster that she's on.  FINALLY someone I can relate to.  I have always been super sensitive, and it's been that much worse since I went for my mammogram in December, and even moreso since my diagnosis.  The stupidest things will make me feel incredibly hurt.  Other things will make me so angry that I feel like my head will pop off from my chest exploding.  This will be followed by tears of frustration, and then by even more tears of guilt.  As much as I never wanted to use cancer as an excuse for these feelings, how can I not?  A year ago, I thought I would be planning for the beaches of Jamaica.  But now with this, I had and still have serious, serious decisions to make.  Some decisions that I didn't think I would have to think about for years, or EVER for that matter, because of it.  And now I've gotta figure all these things out within a couple of months?! Lumpectomy or mastectomy?  Single mastectomy or double?  To freeze or not to freeze some eggs?  And then the little things, like how am I going to rearrange my apartment so I can live independently after my surgery?  How am I going to get to and from chemo without putting anyone out of their way?  Or the stupid things that I never should have had to worry about in the first place, like when the St. Boniface Hospital sent my letters informing me of my CT and Bone Scan appointments to my parents house.  WTF?  The last thing I need is for my mom to see a letter addressed to me from the hospital, a lovely little reminder that her that her baby has cancer.  On top of that, Victoria Hospital sent me a letter informing me of my MUGA scan appointment, which was scheduled for the same day as my CT Scan.  Is nobody keeping track of this out there for me??  Why am I left to sort this out on top of the thousands of other things I need to do, and where the hell did they get my parents address from???  So here I am, trying to get this sorted out while I am at work which is almost impossible to do, with my work hours being 8-5, and their hours being 8:30 - 4:30.  And then playing phone tag with them.  I know this sounds like such a minor thing to have been stressing about, but really... just let me vent.  Please don't judge.  To say that there were and are a million things on my mind doesn't even justify it.  And the need to justify why I'm so stressed and frustrated all the time, I'm a ticking time-bomb really, pisses me off.

So anyway, the gist of this post was to say that I'm glad I found at least one person I can relate to with the emotional roller-coaster that I'm going through.  I have friends and family who constantly remind me that it's ok and they can understand where I might be coming from, and for that I am grateful for, but it's even more comforting to read about and know of someone else who actually went though it.


Ok, time to lighten up the mood.  As a little thank you for the overwhelming amount of text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages and comments, here I present to you the funniest video that I have seen in a loooooong time!

Enjoy!  Love you guys!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"I'm sorry to have to tell you this..."

It was Friday, January 20th, just before 2:30 pm.  I was at work, had just finished my shift and looked at my phone as I was putting my coat on.  Missed call from the doctor's office.  Voicemail.

"Hi Vanessa, this is Dr. Clark from the St James Medical Clinic.  We have received the results from your biopsy, you need to come and see us as soon as possible.  If you would like to talk on the phone, you can call me here.  I'll be here until 3:00 today..."

I remember the voice message so clearly, I can hear her voice.  The conversation when I called her back, however, is very much a blur.  I remember bits and pieces: "I'm really sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, especially because you have never met me before..." "Cancer cells..." "Ductal Carcinoma..." "Breast Cancer Centre of Hope..." "I'm very sorry..." "Come see me if you like..."

"It's ok," I said. "I was expecting it.  I already had a feeling that it was."

"Make sure you have someone with you tonight.  Take care, Vanessa.  Just call if you would like to come and see me."

I left work that day stunned.  I said good-bye to everybody like I usually do, wished them all a good weekend.  Called my boyfriend before I left the parking lot to tell him about the news.  Then I made my way home.  My boyfriend was already there, and we talked about what we should bring to his friend's party that night.  I think back and I am still unsure of whether or not I was in denial or if I was still in shock, or if I was just that prepared for my diagnosis that it didn't even phase me.  But as we sat there silently on the couch, watching TV waiting for time to pass until it was time to get ready for the party, I decided that I no longer wanted to go.

I spent that Friday night feeling more hurt, anger and confusion than I had ever felt in my entire life.  I had what would be the first of many of my psychotic episodes to date.  It was an evening full of emotions that I would never wish upon anyone, EVER.  I never left my bed that night.  I had never felt so alone.

As alone as I had felt that night, and as alone as I still sometimes feel, I know that I am not... THANK YOU.  THANK YOU to each and every one of you for the well wishes and thoughts.   It is amazing how kind words can truly lift one's spirits, and you have all taught me that this should not be underestimated.  To say that I am grateful for you, my support system, would be an understatement.  Thank you.

With that said, I still feel hesitant to be around people when I'm feeling down.  I get frustrated very often for different reasons.  I lose control of my emotions and it can really take a toll on the people who love me and only mean well.  As strong as everybody keeps saying I am, I feel that I am anything but.  I mean, if I were so strong, then why can't I control how I express my frustrations?  If I were so strong, then why do I make the people who try to be there for me feel so shitty?  If I were so strong, then why do I take everything out on the people I love?  I am not strong, not in the way I should  be.  I am weak.  At times, I feel like a selfish bitch who doesn't deserve any support from anyone and I deserve everything that is coming my way.  And I hate myself for it.  I'm the one who needs the big fucking kick in the ass.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Read

Found this today in a forum on the Young Survivor website.  I was just telling a friend today that I wish there was more information available for women within my age group who are diagnosed with breast cancer.  A lot of the info that is found online and even through the resources provided by the Breast Health Centre and the Breast Cancer Centre of Hope consider "young women" to be under the age of 45.  No offense to these women, (yes, I know that 45 is still "young") but what I am looking for are resources aimed at women aged 35 and under.


Fertility risks.

Yah... I have a lot to think about.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"By the way, did you hear...?"

On December 30th, 2011, I had announced to my entire Facebook world how much I was looking forward to my 31st year of existence.  Thirty was such a great year and I couldn’t wait to see what thirty-one would bring into my life.  Little did I know was that I would start my 31st year with what possibly could be the greatest challenge of my life.

I am 31 years old, and I have breast cancer.

I am an extremely emotional person.  I am most definitely one who needs to talk things out, and my writings over the course of this journey shall serve as my emotional outlet.  Sure, there are many people I can turn to… and yes, I know that I would not be considered a bother or burden if I were to call my boyfriend or any one of my most loving and caring friends or family members for a shoulder to cry on.  However, this is what I feel the most comfortable with at this time, and therefore will be my go-to for emotional therapy. 

I apologize to any friends or relatives who feel offended for finding out this way, through the internet.  I am asking for forgiveness and understanding.  It’s hard.  My diagnosis is not a secret, I am actually quite open about it when it comes up.  I just don’t always know how to approach it.  I don’t even know who knows!  What I want is for everyone to know.  Not for attention, and certainly not for pity.  But because I don’t want my cancer to be something that people need to tip toe around me about.  To make it taboo makes me feel like there is something to be afraid of.  And I want to stop being afraid.

So when you see me, please don’t pretend that you don’t know.  Don’t be scared to ask me how I am.  It’s ok if you don’t know what to say, but please try not to pull away.  And please, please do not treat me any differently.  I am still me, still Vanessa.  Maybe a little more emotional (ok, much more emotional) and definitely more scatterbrained (it takes a toll sometimes, so much to think about, too much to do), but I’m still me.  

Here I will take you along with me on my emotional journey, my progress and eventually through my recovery.  In the meantime, I am off to meet with my counselor.  Thanks for reading, and thank you to all in advance for your support.