On Monday I participated in the Wellspring Well Dressed For Spring fashion show at Holt Renfrew. I got to wear expensive clothes and be fussed over and be a model for a day. I met some great people, many of whom had also had cancer, which of course gave us an instant connection. It is so strange how the second you learn someone else has had cancer, you suddenly start talking about very personal things that you might not even discuss with a good friend. The ties that bind.
As the show began and we waited backstage to be called, my stomach started flipping and I got extremely nervous. Why did I agree to do something where a bunch of people were going to stare at me? For someone who hasn’t felt very good about her appearance in quite some time, this suddenly seemed like a bad idea. A few of the other models were having butterflies as well. But then I reminded myself, and them, “We’ve all been through a lot worse than this.”
“Very true,” remarked my fellow model. The show must go on. So on it went.
After hearing my name called, I walked up onto the stage, while Amanda Lang from CBC read a short bio about me and my cancer story. As she said the words and everyone looked at me with tears in their eyes, I too started to tear up, which I really didn’t expect. I have no problem talking about my experience and have heard the story so many times. But it still sometimes catches me off guard, when I hear someone else describe what I have been through and where I am right now. It was all a bit overwhelming.
I walked down the runway, and the rest is really a blur. I remember I had had a plan of how I wanted to walk and I really wanted to seem cool and model-y, but that quickly went out the window the second I started walking. Cameras were flashing and everyone was cheering and my grandpa was blowing me kisses and I had a bit of a mental black-out. I really don’t remember walking. But somehow, my feet carried me, to the end, and back. And I didn’t even trip.
After the show, I had lots of people introduce themselves to me, and many people told me they have followed along with me since the beginning. No matter how many times I hear this, it always shocks me. I still have trouble comprehending that anyone other than my mother would be interested in reading my blog.
The evening was wonderful, and emotional, and fun, and exhausting. I am really glad I did it and had the chance to be surrounded by so much love and support. A nice feeling.
The next morning, I got up bright and early to do my final blood draw using my good ol’ port-a-cath. The nurse messed up the first try, so she had to give me a second needle, which was a bit frustrating. But I had a feeling things wouldn’t go smoothly, seeing as it was the last hurrah, and isn’t that just the way it goes.
After the blood draw, I had a check-up with my oncologist (actually, I got to see two doctors because I am just so special). We talked about various issues I’ve been having, and also some stats around recurrence and my odds. It is funny how when I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to hear any stats or numbers from anyone, because I couldn’t handle how scary it was to talk in those terms. It is still terrifying, but I have a much firmer grasp now on the reality of my situation, and a certain comfort level with it. An acceptance, of sorts. It still feels like a punch in the stomach to hear that after everything I have done, my chances of survival are still not as high as I wish they were (i.e. not 100%, which is what we all wish for… isn’t it?). But my doctors do seem genuinely optimistic, and I fully believe that they are not bullshitters, which is why I have allowed them to remain a part of my medical team. I like real talk. I also like hope. And they give me both. So I actually came away from this appointment feeling fairly good, especially after being told I will now get a nice THREE MONTH break from hanging out with cancer doctors, which is the longest I’ve ever had. So that is quite thrilling.
After my hospital morning, I went home to change and headed up north to attend Naomi’s funeral. The service was beautiful, with touching eulogies and stories shared about this amazing woman. I feel so lucky to have known her and to have gotten to know some of her friends and family. Of course, as nice as the memorial was, it was also extremely difficult. I wept the entire time, having it fully hit me that my friend is gone, and that someone so important to so many people, is gone. It is a hard reality to face. It is so hard to make sense of why these things happen. To know that it happened to such a loving, amazing family, who deserved nothing but happiness. It is all just terribly unfair, and my heart aches for all the people who are feeling the loss of Naomi and all that she brought to this world. I am also confronted with having to face my own mortality, and the notion that it could just as easily be my funeral, and my family left behind. The death of a friend causes many emotions to stir up, and in this case, maybe a few more. It is hard, to say the least. But I’m so glad I got to be a part of saying goodbye to someone who had a very significant impact on my life.
And, since my week wasn’t cancer-filled enough… today, I got my port removed. I was initially supposed to be sedated for the procedure, but I called yesterday and asked the nurse if I could do it without any drugs. She said I could, if I felt relaxed enough about it. And I told her, honestly, I really just didn’t want to fast all day, because not eating for one day is just way too challenging for me.
So today I made my way to another hospital, and checked in, and commenced a very long wait for my procedure. I had a phone call from someone on the medical team asking if it had been explained to me that I could receive medication and get an IV and all that. I told the guy that I had just eaten a bagel, so that ship had sailed. No turning back.
When they finally called me, I went into the operating room and lay on the bed and stared at all the machines and monitors. I instantly started to wonder if I’d made a huge mistake by offering to be awake. For the port insertion, I had been so nervous that I asked them to give me an insane amount of drugs, and I completely passed out. How things have changed. How I have changed. I have a new sense of bravery about these things that I never possessed pre-cancer.
A young doctor entered the room, looking like he walked off the set of Grey’s Anatomy, which for some reason put me at ease. He explained what was about to happen, asked the usual questions, and then began. I had to have several needles to freeze the area, which didn’t bother me. Then he made his incision, and I could feel a bunch of tugging and pulling that seemed to go on for awhile.
I started to feel very warm and noticed I was feeling a bit faint.
“Is everything okay with it?” I asked.
“Yes, there’s just some scar tissue that I have to scrape out first.”
He continued to remove the scar tissue and I could feel pulling on the vein.
“Are you almost done?” I asked, “because I think I’m pretty close to passing out or vomiting.”
He asked me if I needed a break and I said no, just get ‘er done. Before I knew it, he yanked the tube out and out came the port. Then he sewed me up and bandaged me as I felt my blood pressure return to normal and the room stop spinning. Easy peasy.
And now I am home, a bit sore, after what feels like a very long, highly emotional, exhausting few days. I’m having some bleeding come through the bandage, which is slightly worrisome. If it continues, I am supposed to go to the emergency room. But I am hoping that does not happen. I’ve had enough cancer-related events for one week. Time to get back to watching bad TV, sleeping, and being a regular human being… which, these days, is what I hope for, more than anything.
19 thoughts on “A model cancer patient”
I saw your picture in The Post! You looked so beautiful!!!
Haha thank you! I’ve heard a few people say they’ve seen a pic of me in various papers… I haven’t seen it though!
Since you quit your job, maybe modeling should be your next career…you looked great up there !
All I can say is you look unbelievably beautiful. You have the most gorgeous eyes
You continue to amaze and inspire me!
So cute! Did they let you keep any of the clothes?
Hope you have something fun planned this weekend to celebrate being port free!
Sadly did not get to keep the clothes! I kept asking, but apparently that was not part of the deal 😦
I thought the wave was more Royal than awkward. Hope you have a good day 🙂
I was fighting against a cancer stage 4.I think it is very important that family support to win, because i was very weak;really helped me participate in one group of victims of cancer, so my mood improved, also helped me a lot a medical adviser in treatment-lung-cancer-stage-4.com (they are doctors),this is important .I recomended not surrender, because sometimes the first treatment does not work as me, and sometimes change doctors it is necessary.Read positive thinking books gave me more energy.During my cancer,i changed my diet,now i eat vegetarian organic food(now i not eat meat).I think is a set of things that help me.
You are brilliant and oh so beautiful – it shines through every pore. I am one of the hundred-plus-plus who looks forward to, and eagerly devour your blogposts. I ache for what you have had to go through and cheer at your forbearance, resilience, will, wit and innate joy. I wish you continuing healing and the normality you long for, deserve and have surely earned. May you dance down the runway of your life today and every day.
First of all… how cute are Shirley and Carol? Lucky girl. I can feel your anxiety and sadness and fear and relief and exhaustion from all that’s been happening in and around and to you. And look at you… all runway pretty and whatnot. Keep writing. When you don’t, I worry about you. How’s that statement from a STRANGER? And likely there’s hundreds of us.
Your mother in law is proud of you too! Quite the week you have been through. You look like a real model!
Your mother is very proud of you!♥️
you look MARVELOUS!!!!!! and i m so so jealous of beeing port-free-HUGE milestone!!!
You are BEAUTIFUL inside and out ! ENJOY your mindful moments 🙂
Congratulations on getting through another difficult and eventful week. Your runway picture is gorgeous but its the pic at the bottom of the post that made me want to write you. You’re so beautiful and brave and you definitely deserve a three month break from cancer doctors.
Sending you big hugs from Vancouver,
Sweetie, you look like a professional model!! Glad for your three month break – you earned it!
Think happy thoughts and enjoy your down time. XXOO
You looked beautiful on the runway! Glad that you can take time for you. You deserve that. I am sorry to hear about Naomi. I met her 1 time. I felt her positive attitude. I wished her well.. what a terrible loss for her family and friends.