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, 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 to 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!

Looking in the mirror

Last week I think I hit a new low of sheer misery. The fatigue that comes with chemotherapy is truly cumulative, and with each new treatment, it is growing increasingly difficult to do any of the things I once enjoyed. Such as taking a walk. Or lifting my laptop. Or lifting my head. The tiniest things we all take for granted have become incomprehensible to me. Memories of the past. Of a life I once lived, where my body would do whatever I asked of it, with ease. I feel as though I have been thrust into old age almost overnight. My bones ache when I try to move them. My body cries out for rest after walking up a few stairs. I wake up at night with hot flashes, my cheeks burning, thanks to the menopausal effects of chemo. Creases are starting to form on the outer corners of my eyes. My stomach and face are bloated constantly from all the drugs, making me look like I am five months pregnant. I can’t follow a basic conversation without losing focus, or feeling like I need to shut my eyes. I am an old lady. At the ripe age of 28.

Chillin with my Goodnight Moon bunny in bed, where I spent all of last week. I am looking super cancer-y these days. Yikes.

It has been difficult for me to look in the mirror lately. I don’t like what I see. A bald, puffy face, with red patches all over my cheeks and glossy eyes. Is that really me? It is hard to feel healthy or strong, when the image reflected back at me is anything but. Lately I am starting to feel as though I will never get my old self back. I can’t imagine having life in my face again. Or having hair. It seems like appearance should be relatively low on the list of things to feel bad about, when you’re dealing with all the crap that comes with a cancer diagnosis. But it is proving to be one of the biggest challenges for me. Looks aren’t everything, but when you’re already feeling just about as low as a human can feel, it really does add insult to injury.

It is hard for me to look at pre-cancer photos of myself now. I feel very disconnected from the girl I see. She’s pretty, and healthy, and happy, and completely unaware of what is about to happen to her. It’s as though I am looking at someone else’s life, even though I know she is me. Did I really do all those things at one time? Did I really look like that? Did I really have hair? I want to go back into those photos, just for one minute, just to remember what it’s like, to be happy and pretty. To soak up those moments. Because they are starting to slip away from me.


I hope that eventually I can start feeling better about what I see in the mirror. View my reflection as an image of a brave warrior, rather than one of a sick cancer patient whose body has been continuously cut, poked, and poisoned. I don’t want to be that girl who cries when she looks in the mirror. I have never been that girl. I refuse to let her win. And anyone who knows me knows I always get my way.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Are you the person who sent me these sweet strawberries in the mail? You forgot to sign your name, but thank you, mystery person.

I thought I should post something because I’ve ignored several messages this week and don’t want everyone to think I’m dead, seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day and all. So I’m here to let you know I am still alive. I’m not sure if I should regale you with the thrilling details of my week. It was not a pretty one. I don’t think I would wish what I have been going through on my worst enemy. Well, maybe Hitler, if he were still hanging around. But everyone else, I think I would spare. (Sorry for talking about Hitler on Valentine’s Day. I believe that must be some sort of faux pas.)

The agony and pain I have felt since the weekend has been nothing short of nightmarish. I had read many horror stories about the drug I was given prior to my treatment, and knew of the possible effects, but I believed maybe I would be spared. I had to, or else I wouldn’t have let them hook me up to the poison so willingly. A lot of people believe that as long as you think positive thoughts, good things will happen, and you can get through anything. But sadly, here I am, the Valentine’s Grinch, to tell you that chemo doesn’t give a poop about warm, fuzzy, happy thoughts. It doesn’t care if you’ve had a horrendous six months of terrible crap thrown your way and really need a vacation. It will kick you on your ass until your jaw throbs, your muscles seize, your taste-buds disappear, your bones spasm, your heads spins and your nose bleeds.  It’s one sick, ugly bastard.

I threatened to give up again this week. I said I wouldn’t do anymore treatments. This makes me feel like I have an ounce of control over what is happening to me, even though I know I really do not. Right now, the idea of putting myself through this again in two weeks seems like something only a severely mentally unstable person would entertain. I can currently sit up and walk through my apartment without screaming and crying, which is a marked improvement over a day ago. The fact that I’m typing right now seems like some sort of miracle, actually. Hopefully this means I am on the mend and will have an almost complete recovery by the next round. Because I need enough days to go by that I can wipe this week from my memory in order to do it all over again. And if that doesn’t work, I need one of you to hit me over the head and knock me unconscious and hook me up to the drugs yourself. Just remember to wake me up when it’s over, or that kind of defeats the whole purpose.

So it’s Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Valentine’s Day itself makes me a tiny bit queasy, but a lot of it is about chocolate, so for that reason, I can get behind it. And I suppose it’s also about love, and I am happy to say that I experienced a lot of that this week. From my dad’s cookies, my mom’s back-rubs, my brother’s drug stash, my sister’s hugs. My poor family had to sit by and watch as I cried out in pain and threatened to jump out the window, which I imagine must have been quite upsetting. And of course, my #1 Valentine, my husband, who sits with me in bed at night while I cry and says It will all be over soon. This is love. This is what matters. Giving chocolates and roses and expensive things is very, very easy. But this kind of love is the hard kind. And it doesn’t come often. And if you are fortunate enough to have it, you should thank your lucky stars. I do. I am the luckiest unlucky girl in the world.