Happy Cancer Girl

A Happy Girls Journey with Cancer

3 Month Update

I can’t believe its been 3 months since my last post! You can probably imagine I have lots to say. 🙂

Yesterday I had my 3 month check up with the oncologist and I am happy to report that everything looks and feels as it should. I have to have blood work done to check my levels but other than that I won’t have to go back for another 3 months! So on the cancer front things are good.

I think I mentioned my mood not being great in my last post. September was a really hard month for me. After the treatments are all done, you suddenly go from being extremely busy to being alone with lots of free time on your hands. You would think that this is a good thing, but really I was tired from the many months of chemo. I slept a lot and I cried when I was awake. I did realize that I was going to need some help, so I called around (I thought it was going to be one simple phone call, but that was not the case) and found a therapist to help me. It was nice to be able to sit and talk to someone who wasn’t a friend or a family member, someone who wasn’t really invested in my future, but wanted to help with my mental health.

I also found my way to the local women’s cancer support group. It was such a relief to sit in a room with a bunch of women who understood how I was feeling. We actually didn’t even talk about cancer and that somehow made it even better. One of the things that was discussed was a women’s cancer retreat that was happening near the end of October. I knew it was exactly what I needed.

At the end of October I went to the cancer retreat and it was incredible. I have come away from that weekend feeling more like the me I remember than I have in a really long time. I met so many incredible woman. I wish I could post a picture from the weekend, but I don’t have permission so I can’t. I am so thankful to the New Brunswick Breast Cancer Network for funding this retreat and allowing me to attend despite not having breast cancer.

November was a better month for me. Owen went to Toronto for work and he brought me home the most thoughtful gift I have ever received!

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He went to the Lego store and made this for me. Mark D, thank you for taking him to the store!!

I bought a Fitbit Flex which is a bracelet that tracks your steps, active minutes (the steps that you take that are actually exercise), and your sleeping pattern. I have committed to doing 10,000 steps/day. Let me tell you, I had no idea how much work it takes to actually do 10,000 steps/day. It pretty much takes me an hour on the treadmill and than whatever steps I take through out the rest of the day. On my more busy days I may only need to do 30 minutes on the treadmill, but that has been rare. I was not feeling well for a few days and didn’t make the 10,000 steps, but made up for them during the rest of the week so that my weekly total was over 70,000 steps.

Owen and I didn’t get to take a vacation this summer because of my treatments so we decided to go to Maine to go shopping the weekend before Black Friday. It was so nice to get away and spend a few days together without any distractions. Owen’s parents kept Georgia for us (thanks Beth and Udo we really do appreciate it), which was great because it gave me a chance to find good hotel deals without having to look for ones that take pets and no pet fee’s which is another bonus! We did so much shopping…bought our Christmas gifts for ourselves and for our family. I’ve wanted snowshoe’s for years so we each got a pair (which almost guarantees that it won’t snow this winter) and new winter jackets. It will be really nice to get out into the snow whenever we get some! The biggest gift we got while away was a new puppy. Owen has taken up hunting and thought it would be nice to get a hunting dog (thanks Erick), and the dog he wanted was at Kirby Mountain Kennels in Vermont. The puppy was only a few hours from Freeport which was convenient since we were already down there shopping. The drive took us through the White Mountains in New Hampshire, it was an incredible drive. The drive home was long…10 hrs, but we like driving so it wasn’t too bad. The new puppy’s name is Jake and he is an English Cocker Spaniel.

jake1Jake

 

We are all getting used to each other day by day. I forgot how much work a puppy is!! Georgia is really good with him despite him bugging her all day.

So there you have it, my 3 month update. I feel better today than I did this time last year which is huge! I’m happy and am learning to deal with everything I have been through. I am cancer free and hopefully always will be.

In true Renee fashion I will leave you with a video and because it is December and the holidays are upon us I will post a holiday song. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday’s, Happy New Year….whatever holiday you are celebrating.

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Chemo was Cancelled

Today was supposed to be chemo #7, but the hospital called this morning and told me that my platelets are too low so my chemo has been cancelled. I will go next Monday for #7 instead. I have mixed emotions about this, which is kind of silly because there’s nothing I can do about it. First a part of me is happy, I was so tired last week that I slept a lot, so this week I should feel a bit better. I was dreading going for chemo this week because I knew that I was going to feel bad as it’s my double treatment week. However, another part of me is reminded that this delay pushes my last treatment later into August and that kind of sucks. BUT, a friend of mine is getting married in June and I was planning to attend, I knew that it was one of my bad weeks and I would be really tired and it would be a hard day for me. With this cancellation, her wedding is no longer on a bad week for me and I will be able to enjoy her day in a much healthier way!

I have another post that I am working on for this week, I think it will be a good one so I hope you come back to read it. I’m going to leave you with a song today that Owen and I love. I almost think he likes it more than I do because he plays it over and over again! It’s Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, the video is super weird and I have no idea what it has to do with the song, but the lyrics are great.

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Chemo #3 and #4 and Chest Port Surgery

I know I am far behind on blog posts! I have so many things I want to blog about but when I’m feeling good and the weather is nice I want to be outside enjoying normal people things. When I’m not feeling well, I’m in bed wishing for the day to hurry up and pass, or I’m sleeping.

Chemo #3 was rather uneventful. My mom had to go home for her own appointment so my neighbour drove me to the hospital (thanks Chris) and I got a drive home from his wife (thanks Elaine).

At the end of the week I had my chest port inserted, it was a pretty neat surgery. (Note: If you are squeamish you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph). Ok for those of you who are still with me I am going to explain the surgery. I was in a surgical x-ray room that had an ultrasound and a big x-ray machine above me. The nurses put in an IV and gave me some happy drugs to make me calm. They washed my chest with some pink sterilizing solution and put on some heart monitors. They also put sterile green surgical rages around part of my chest and almost all of my face. At this point the doctor came in and used the ultrasound to look at the bottom of my neck/top of my chest. They also moved the x-ray machine over the upper part of my body. Once the doctor had a look look at my jugular vein he put a bunch of local anesthesia in my chest. He then made a small incision at the top of my chest and a larger incision down a little lower. He inserted a catheter into the small hole and threaded it down to the larger hole. This didn’t hurt at all, but it was a very odd sensation. The port was then put into the bigger incision and was connected to the catheter. Then the doctor stitched me up. I think it took him all of 20 minutes. The nurses cleaned me up and sent me off to recovery. This was the fastest and easiest surgery I have ever had. It was great being awake and listening to the doctor and the nurses interacting. They asked me often how I was feeling. The doctor told me I should feel like I drank a few beer!

(Note: For those who didn’t read the last paragraph welcome back, I’m done talking about the surgery). I was able to enjoy the weekend after my surgery and to top it all of the weather was beautiful.

Chemo #4 was my double chemo, so it wasn’t my best week. Monday (chemo day) wasn’t bad at all, Tuesday was pretty good also, but once Wednesday came the nausea came with it. I spent lots of time sleeping Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Friday I was feeling a bit better but I wasn’t feeling well enough to leave the house. Saturday and Sunday were much better days and the weather was fantastic to top it all off!

I hope you are all having a good day. I told Owen yesterday that I don’t have to grow up anymore and that I will always be 32, he agrees with me! So for my song/video today I’m giving you Here’s To Never Growing Up by Avril Lavigne!

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Surgery Again Today

I know I promised a post about the package I received in the mail last week, I swear it is coming! The life of a cancer patient often takes unexpected twists and turns. It turns out I have crappy veins, they are deep and small and they like to roll. When the nurses try to put the IV in my arm, they tend to blow my veins (which is leaving big bruises that aren’t going away), and they have to try multiple times to get the IV into a vein that is good enough.

Chemo makes your veins shrink over time, so the doctor has given permission for me to have a port put into my chest. A port is a small device that is installed beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. The port will allow the chemo drugs and blood to be taken from one simple poke, no more digging around for veins.

The surgery is a day surgery and should only be 1.5-2 hours long. It really is minor compared to the other surgery’s I have had. I believe I will have a local anaesthetic and some happy drugs through IV. I’m glad I won’t be going under general anaesthesia this time, the brain fog after stays with me for weeks!

I will try to post again this week to let you all know how everything goes today!

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Chemo #2

I had my second round of chemo on Monday. This treatment was only one drug (Taxol), and I’ve been feeling good since the infusion. Taxol is the drug that is causing my hair loss, so my scalp feels like it has goosebumps. My hair hasn’t actually started to fall out yet, but it probably will within the next week or two. Speaking of hair loss, I got an awesome package in the mail on Monday that I am going to blog about tomorrow!

I wanted to give you all an update on my first chemo session. The last time I wrote I said I was feeling pretty good, and I was at the time. I swear as soon as I was done posting, I put my laptop away and realized I was feeling really ill. I ended up being in bed and unable to eat for a few days. I am taking an anti-nausea drug called Zofran, so it helps me to not vomit, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling the nausea. Another unfortunate symptom is constipation, so I have to take laxatives every other day and then the laxatives give me stomach pains. Not fun at all! After spending a few days in bed last week I was really weak and found walking up a flight of stairs to be really tiring. On Sunday I begged Owen to not make me continue with the chemo (I think I was joking), but of course he said I had to keep going. But, like I said this second round isn’t bad so I’m sure I can handle feeling crappy 1 week out of every 3.

I am taking heavy doses of steroids every week before my treatments. I’ve never taken steroids before and didn’t really know what they would do to me. I’m still not 100% sure of their effect on me, but they are certainly causing me to have a very flushed face and terrible hot flashes! I have read that some people ask their doctors if they can lower the dose of the steroids, so when I see the oncologist again in a couple weeks I will check with her.

I have even felt well enough to dance a little bit around my kitchen yesterday. I’m loving this song, I hope you enjoy it!

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My Chemo Cocktail

I have a spare hour so I thought I would finally write another post to keep my awesome followers/supporters up to date on what is going on with me. I needed some kidlet time so I went to my parents last week so I could spend time with Karston and Marlee (my sister’s children). For me it seems that no matter how bad I feel, or how sad I am the faces of the children that I love always picks me back up and gets me on my feet. I was a little down last week because I have found the back and forth between my Halifax surgeon and my Saint John oncologist to be extremely frustrating. Spending time with the kids didn’t change my situation but it did help me forget about it for a while. I was also able to have an early Easter dinner with my parents which was really nice.

*Side note – I am currently at Starbucks and am sure that the girl sitting beside me just moved to the other side of the room because I am typing too loud!!!

I returned back home in time to spend a couple free days with Owen, which was also really needed. He has been working really long hours, so most of our time together lately has been spent at the hospital. The weather was wonderful so we were able to spend time with our neighbours (we’re kind of like the Cul-du-sac Crew on Cougar Town with much less wine) and we also had a lovely Easter dinner with the Addison’s (thanks guys it was greatly appreciated).

Monday brought rain and a 24 hour urine collection (yup it’s as gross as it sounds). I couldn’t really go anywhere because I wasn’t about to bring along a jug of pee and a gross plastic hat to collect it in. I had to go to the hospital again yesterday to hand in my urine and get more blood work done. Once I got there I was told the doctor wanted to see me. Never a good sign! Turns out the oncologist talked with my surgeon and the surgeon and her team of oncologists have recommended two chemo drugs for me, carboplatin and taxol.

I will now have chemo every 21 days which will consist of both drugs and then once a week with just taxol. For the next 20 weeks I will be connected to poison that will hopefully kill any tiny cancer cells left in my body. Unfortunately with chemo it comes with a whole host of side effects that are mostly short term but will probably suck while my body is drinking up the chemo cocktail.

Very likely side effects that I will experience are:

Risk of infection – This is really important, or will really impact my life as time goes on. The carboplatin reduces your number of white blood cells. White blood cells fight infection and because of this I will have to monitor my temperature and will have to go to the hospital if I have a fever of 38C or above. I have a card that I have to carry to give to the ER staff if I go to the hospital with a fever after hours, that way I will get in to see a doctor in a timely manner.

Bruising and Bleeding – The drugs will also impact my platelets which help your blood to clot. So no contact sports and I need to be careful when handling sharp objects. If you know me personally you know that this is going to be an issue for me. I am clumsy! I fall on ice often (thankfully winter is over), I drop knives almost every time I use one and I get paper cuts more often then not! I will have to learn to be a little more careful with my body.

Nausea and Vomiting – I think this may be a side effect of all chemo drugs. I have been given steroids to take before I go in for my taxol treatments, to help with the pain and I will also be given drugs to help control the nausea and vomiting.

Fatigue – I will likely be tired, but I hope that short walks in the fresh air will help with this.

Hair loss – It’s true…in a couple weeks I won’t have any hair. I have hats and scarves and I may get a wig, but because it is going to start getting warmer around here I’m unsure about the wig. I’m already warm because of menopause I don’t think fake hair on my head would help cool me down any. I think I’m ok with the hair loss as I have had months to prepare for it. It sucks a little that last week the doctor said I wouldn’t lose my hair and this week I was told I would, but I will lose my hair for the extended living I will get to do.

Sore mouth – There is a chance my mouth will be sore, or get sores. Thankfully I drink a lot of water so this should help.

Diarrhoea and Constipation – Yup, both…gross! However I hope that it can be controlled by eating the right types of food. I know they have drugs to help, but if I can control it on my own naturally that will be much better for me.

Numbness in hands and feet – This is caused by taxol. People get pins and needles in their hands and feet and this is one of the most concerning side effects to me. This is one of the side effects that can be long term, but in most cases the pins and needles goes away a few months after treatment is complete.

Pain in joints and muscles – This is also caused by taxol and the pain usually lasts for a few days after treatment and then goes away.

The drugs are hard on your kidneys and because of that there is lots of blood work done to make sure your kidneys are functioning properly.

So this is what I am up against. I will be at the hospital a lot over the next four months, chemo treatments, doctors appointments and lots and lots of blood work. On the plus side I won’t need to have any hair appointments or take time in the shower to shave my legs!

My free hour is just about up, I have a jam packed day. I had a nice visit with Bruce this morning, my hour to write this post, lunch with friends and then off to St. Stephen to get Owen’s taxes done and St. Andrews to drop of medical documents. Tomorrow I get to go back to the hospital..yay me! But this afternoon will mostly be driving in the car…that means music!

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The Saddest Place on Earth

If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth then I think that the oncology ward is the saddest place on earth. I am generally in good spirits, but after I leave the oncology centre I am sad and don’t feel like talking with anyone. The doctors always seem to be running late, so a quick 15 minute appointment turns into 3 hours. The waiting room is filled with old people, the only person I’ve seen younger then me is the receptionist. The waiting sucks, but I think the worst part about being there is how sad most of the people look. They look tired, sick and beaten down. I hope I don’t look the same way in a couple of months.

Owen and I met with the oncologist. She has decided to go along with the surgeon in Halifax. I will be doing 6 rounds of chemo. She thinks I only need 1 drug which will be hard on my bone marrow, blood counts and kidneys, but I won’t lose my hair. However, she wanted to make sure the surgeon in Halifax agrees, so it could change and if it does, it will mean having 2 drugs and hair loss, mouth sores and possibly numb hands and feet. My first chemo treatment will be on April 8th, I’m glad to finally have a start date and more of a plan! Unfortunately I don’t get to attend the chemo teaching session they usually do on Mondays because this Monday is a holiday and I start chemo the following Monday. Hopefully they will fill me in while I am there getting my treatment!

I’m sorry for my lack in replies and posts lately. I hope to post more and reply to your comments in a more timely manner, but I can’t make any promises. I don’t know how I will be feeling in the next couple of weeks. For now I am fighting the flu which has been really hard on me with my immune system already taking a big hit.

Have a good Easter!

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I’m on a Roller-coaster

Last week I wrote about going to see the oncologist and asked you to do a happy dance because she told me the cancer didn’t spread. This week the surgeon who did my hysterectomy called me to go over the final pathology report. She told me that the original tumour was endometroid ovarian cancer, my other ovary had a borderline tumour (which is not full blown cancer, but can turn into it), and my uterus had some unusual/odd cells (which I guess could have turned into cancer if it wasn’t removed). My cancer stage is called Stage 1C Grade 1, because the cancer wasn’t contained to one ovary and the original tumour was cut into while it was still inside my body (it was also stuck to my pelvic wall). The surgeon (who is a gyn-oncologist) told me that it was their recommendation that I do 6 cycles of chemo.

I feel like I am on a roller-coaster and I’m not allowed to get off. I don’t understand why the other oncologist told me that the cancer didn’t spread when in fact it did. I am looking forward to seeing her again next Tuesday so that I can ask. I know that when I had my first surgery they sent the slides to 3 different labs, so there are 3 different pathology reports and two of them agreed while one was a bit different. This could be the case again, but I won’t know until next week.

Despite everything going on, I feel good. I don’t want to do chemo, but I was also really nervous that I wouldn’t be doing chemo. I know the chemo will kill any little cancer cells that may still be in my body and once the chemo is done I will be able to move on with my life and won’t spend all my time worrying about the what if’s.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, it’s nice to have the support of family, friends, ladies who have gone through the same thing, and also people who are following along who don’t even know me. When it’s all said and done I hope that we can celebrate together and do one big happy dance!

Have a good weekend!

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Finally Some Good News

Yesterday I met with the oncologist and she was able to tell me about the pathology report. The cancer didn’t spread!!! Everything came back clean and clear. If I could dance I would, but rest assured I am dancing in my head!

So, what now? Well I still don’t know. The oncologist wanted to talk to the surgeon who did my first surgery before she recommended her final treatment plan. It is a little confusing to me because the GYN-oncologic surgeon who did my hysterectomy told me that I would have to have chemo to be on the safe side, due to the endometriosis. I guess we will wait to see what this new oncologist decides and we’ll go from there.

I also have a part of my incision that isn’t healing very well, so we need to give it time to heal from the inside-out (yup it’s as gross as it sounds), before I can start chemo. I see the oncologist again in 2 weeks, and if it’s a go with chemo it would probably start about 1 week after that…so hopefully in 3 weeks my hole will be healed!

Now that you’ve read my news, you can go do a happy dance for me!

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Sleepless Nights

I’ve read that it is common for hysterectomy patients to suffer from insomnia following their surgery due to an imbalance in hormones. I am almost 3 weeks post-op and haven’t slept through the night since I stopped taking pain medication. Without fail I wake between 2-4 and I am up for almost 2 hours. At first I tried just laying there and hoping to fall asleep, and now I’m reading but not getting a good nights sleep is quickly wearing me down. I have also read that your body should work it self out 4 or 5 weeks after surgery. I can only hope that this is the case! I would love to hear some ideas on how to sleep through the night, or how to get back to sleep once I wake up.

I am nervous about my appointment with the oncologist tomorrow. I don’t know why, maybe because seeing the doctor makes the whole thing real. You would think that surgery would have made it feel real, but women have hysterectomy’s for a lot of reasons…one big reason being endometriosis. I’ve known for a few months that I would be doing chemo, but now that I’m getting close to starting I’m thinking about what the chemo is going to do to me. I’m not looking forward to being sick, feeling like I have the flu, the fatigue or the brain fog that is going to come with the chemo.

Maybe some relaxing music would help me. I love Only Time by Enya…enjoy!

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