A time for miracles

Last night, I was invited to check out the super high-tech, one-of-a-kind guided therapeutics operating room (GTx OR) at the Toronto General Hospital. The operating room is equipped with really fancy, expensive imaging equipment which will be used during cancer surgeries, allowing surgeons to be much more precise when looking at and removing tumours. Pretty cool, right? It actually made me a bit jealous, like my surgeries weren’t sci-fi enough. However, this snazzy operating room is currently only being used for research purposes, i.e. very unique cases. And I’d prefer not to be a very unique case, so I don’t hope to be in there any time soon. Except to play with all the crazy machines, which from my understanding, is not allowed. Too bad.

The presentation about the room was a bit of a challenge for me, as the surgeon who was presenting spoke of aggressive tumours and the fast growing ones being more likely to “come back with a vengeance” and “those are the ones they worry about.” Even though I’m very aware of my cancer and what it could mean, I still don’t like hearing cancer spoken about in these terms. Other people are able to discuss it and ask questions, purely for interest’s sake, remaining safely detached. But I don’t have that luxury. Every discussion of cancer and prognosis and dying feels personal to me. I can’t escape the feeling of,ย that could be me he’s talking about. Someone again said something about me being brave last night, to which I replied, I am not brave, this is just my life. I have no choice but to wake up every day, and live this life. C’est la vie.

Next week, I’m getting yet another MRI. This time around, we’re going hunting for tumours in the brain. You see, I have been having headaches for awhile now. My oncologist was not overly concerned, but when I mentioned them to my family doctor and how they have been persistent, she wanted to do the MRI because of “my history.” In other words, because I have cancer. And once you have cancer, everything else could be cancer. That’s just the way it goes. So I’ll do the test, and I’ll try to meditate and breathe deeply and not think about dying while I await the results. Same old story, different organ.

I also have a UTI (urinary tract infection for the layperson). I felt the symptoms come on very suddenly last week. Even though it is incredibly minor and tolerable, I still got a little weepy and angry over it. I mean, can I not get one week off without my body malfunctioning in some way? Without having to order another test, or fill another prescription? I am so ready for a break from thinking about my health, my body, doctors, hospitals, medicine. I am trying so hard to return toย normal life (whatever that is) but it seems something always pops up, holding me back, keeping me firmly planted in this state of unrest.

Tonight is the last night of Chanukah. One of my favourite holidays. Presents. Fried food. Family. Chocolate. All of the key ingredients. Oh and of course, most importantly, Chanukah is about miracles. A big miracle. And oh boy, do I love a good miracle. More miracles, less cancer.

Someone should put that on a bumper sticker.

Clinging tightly to my wonderful Chanukah loot. Happy holidays!
Clinging tightly to my wonderful Chanukah loot. Happy holidays!

Why is this night different from all other nights

Tonight marks the first night of Passover, which is typically one of my favourite holidays. But right now, I am not in the festive mood. Unfortunately, the holiday decided to fall this year during my darkest of chemo days, so I do not get to celebrate. Thanks a bunch, lunar calendar. I am lying on a couch, alone, cursing the world, missing out on my family’s seder. I am not eating brisket or the many other delicious Jewish delicacies that soothe my soul. I would not even be able to taste the flavours if I tried. Instead of the happy, warm feelings I usually feel this time of year, I am filled with anger, sadness, loneliness. I am a Bitter Betty. Lately I feel as though holidays only exist as a painful reminder of what I am missing out on. What normal life was once like. I am watching life go by around me, and I want to jump in, but I can’t. And yes, I know one day, I will get back to living life and doing fun things and blah blah blah. I haven’t completely given up. But for today, I am having a big fat bad cancer day and I just want to wallow and feel sorry for myself. I want my damn brisket and I want to be able to taste it.

I want these so badly right now.
I want these so badly right now.

There was so much excitement over my last chemo round and ringing the bell and I thank all of you who rallied around me. It definitely makes everything easier, having nice friends like you. I wish I could be your happy cancer patient all the time. I wish I could be your shining beacon of positivity and let you know that you can make every day a great one if you just think happy thoughts, no matter how dire your situation. But the truth is, on days like this, when my drugs are making me completely looney and I can’t think straight and I haven’t slept more than a few hours in four days, positive thinking isn’t really going to get me anywhere.

I know for some people who are walking the cancer line, it is fundamental to their process to always keep on the sunny side. Always on the sunny side. And that is fine. Whatever gets you through. But for me, I have learned that sometimes I just need to be comfortable in my misery and sink into it. I don’t think this makes me weak, although all the images of super peppy cancer patients that saturate the media sometimes make me feel different. But I guess no one wants to see images of people crying all the time and looking like they’re a few inches away from death. Fair enough. If I were healthy and living my life, mostly oblivious of my own mortality, I wouldn’t want to think about those things either. But I don’t have that luxury. I have to stare at my reflection as I stumble past the mirror in my room in the middle of the night, and wonder who that shell of a person is and why she is standing in my place. No fuzzy, happy thoughts. Just reality. For the time being, at least.

Yesterday, I forced myself to go for a short walk with my husband, since the sun was actually out. I hid under my hood with my big sunglasses, as I often do these days. I started crying. I hate all these stupid bitches with their stupid hair. I actually said that out loud. I never in my life thought I would be so jealous of people, just for having hair. It’s not like it is their fault. You don’t have cancer, and I do. Bad luck for me, but no one’s fault. Yet still, it’s a challenge not to feel envious sometimes, of all you beautiful non-cancer types with your full heads of hair. Walking, laughing. Eating brisket. I want those things. I want them now.

I am pretty sure I will completely regret writing this post in a week when my chemo is wearing off and the steroids have left my system, but I do feel the need to document my worst days, for some reason. Maybe for the book I might write. Although I’m not sure if depressing cancer stuff is a hot topic for a bestsellers list. Maybe I just want to make other cancer folks who are reading this and having a crap day feel a bit less alone, or feel a bit less pressured to be something they are not. Or maybe when I do experience sweet moments again, I will want to look back at days and weeks like these, to make those moments that much sweeter and remind myself to savor every second. Like when I am one of those annoying bitches, walking around with my hair, without a care in the world. Oh what a day that will be.

Happy Passover to all.

Love, The Passover Grinch