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. ­čÖé

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.

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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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Post Chemo Life

It has been a month since I finished my treatments and I think I’m ready to write about my life over the last few months. I wish I could have kept up with my blog during that time, but I either didn’t have the energy or the drive to sit and type. So this post will likely be long as I want to explain what the last two months of chemo was like for me, and what I have been up too post chemo.

The last time I wrote during my treatments was chemo #10, which was also my first blood transfusion. After that first transfusion I ended up getting a couple more transfusions. One around treatment #14 and than one that replaced my last treatment which was #18. After I reached the halfway point my blood counts remained low. Almost every week I would have my blood checked on the day of chemo because my weekend blood counts were too low for treatment. I was always able to continue my treatments because my counts were always a point or two above the cut off number.

July is kind of blur in my mind now. I would say it went by in the blink of an eye, but at the time it didn’t feel that way. I slept a lot because of my low blood counts. I suffered from a bad case of chemo brain, which really bothered me because I usually have a great memory. The bone pain really started to bother me in July. The only way I can think to explain it is like this, it felt like someone was taking a melon baller and was scooping the marrow out of the bones in my legs. It didn’t hurt all the time, but when it did hurt…it hurt pretty bad. One of my knees also ached pretty bad, every time I would walk up my driveway or any place uneven ended in a bit of a limp. The numbness in my hands and feet got worse in July, I was told to use a cane when walking because I kept tripping. I didn’t use a cane, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t bring myself to use the motorized carts in the grocery store either. The last thing I wanted was for people to look at me and feel sorry.

July also brought along some really hot weather. Owen and I ended up buying an air conditioner because the heat and the hot flashes were making me feel worse than I really needed. The air conditioner helped cool the house down, but I felt kind of trapped. I knew going out would make me feel sick, so I stayed home more often and had my mom do my grocery shopping.

Speaking of my mom, she deserves so much more than I will ever be able to give her. She came to stay with me back in February when I had my surgery and pretty much stayed until I was done my treatments. She went home some, but she would always come back to cook, clean and take me to the hospital. I honestly don’t know how she did it. Between all the driving, staying at my house, cleaning up after me, making sure I was eating and endless hours at the hospital watching the life drain out of me…she is a strong woman and I will always be grateful for her. I think the job of the caregiver is almost harder than the job of the person going through the treatments.

August kind of came and went with a bit of a blur also. I had a couple treatments and then I was done. I was happy, but I was so tired that I don’t think it really registered. My bones still hurt and my hands and feet were still numb. At some point during the month I tripped going up my stairs, which left me with a cut on my hand and a big black and blue egg on my shin. A couple weeks after my last treatment I got a rash on my armpits, I think my hair follicles were irritated. A few days after that rash my arms also broke out. All of the hair that fell out wants to grow back and the start of the growing is really itchy and annoying for my baby soft skin!

What’s going on now? Well my hands and feet are feeling much better. They are still a bit numb, but not as bad as they were. I did trip down 3 stairs yesterday, but I think it was because I was daydreaming and not really paying attention. Thankfully I didn’t fall and although I hurt the bottom of my foot, it’s nothing too serious. My knee still hurts, I’m going to give it a little more time and then if it doesn’t feel better I will head to my GP for a check up. My bones ache on occasion, but nothing like they did in July and the first of August. I’m still tired, but mostly cause I over do it some days. I think my recovery from chemo is moving along at a pretty good pace. Each day I am able to do more than the last. Somedays I’m really tired and I take naps and push through the rest of the day. I’m reading and doing puzzles to help with the chemo brain. My head is not as clear as it used to be, but I have no doubt that I will get it all back eventually. I had a CT Scan and it showed no evidence of disease, I am now cancer free!

For six months I was busy with surgery, healing, blood work, doctors appointments and treatments. During that time I remained positive and happy for the most part. I almost always had a smile on my face. Now that the flurry of cancer is over (for the most part), I am left to heal. What I have come to realize is that there is more to heal than just my body. The emotions that I pushed back are now starting to surface. I was right in saying don’t worry about it, I will be fine. Because it was true, I have made it out the other side of the treatments and I am alive. But emotionally I think I am just starting to realize that I actually had cancer. Not only did I have cancer, but I had the most deadliest of female cancers. I beat it, and that is amazing and I’m really glad I did, but that doesn’t stop me from randomly bursting into tears thinking about all that I’ve been through.

Having had cancer is only half of it though. I am now able to process the fact that I have had a hysterectomy and what that really means for me. I have a giant scar that reminds me several times a day that I am missing something that I didn’t ever think I would lose. My body is not the same as it used to be, it can’t produce the hormones that it once used to. I can’t replace those hormones because of the type of cancer that I had. I used to act like a crazy hormonal person, I guess now I sometimes act like a crazy non-hormonal person. I am mourning the brown haired, big eyed, glasses wearing, booking loving, nerdy children that I wanted to give birth to. The little Buerkle babies that had stolen my heart before they were ever born. This isn’t about having children, it’s about not being able to bring a child into this world that looks a little bit like me and has 100% of Owen’s brains. I know that many couples can’t have children, it often has nothing to do with cancer, and I know that we will get through it, but right now it hurts. I thought that I was ok, but now that I’m not as busy as I was, I have a lot more time to think about what has happened and what isn’t meant to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still happy, I am still me. I have so much to look forward to. My list for living needs to be worked on. I have started knitting, but had to stop because my fingers hurt too much. I hope to pick it up again soon. The house by the Bay, well it will be less of a dream and more of a reality next year. If building a house doesn’t keep me busy, then nothing will! I’m also going to apply to school for next fall. After all the time I have spent at the hospital I’ve realized that I like it there, and I really admire the people who work there. I want to be a Licensed Practical Nurse. Maybe someday I will even be an RN. In the meantime I would like to volunteer at the hospital, I miss it already. It will be nice to be there for something other then treatments or appointments!

Have you heard Miley Cyrus’s new song “Wrecking Ball”? I know that a lot of people are upset with her for going from a Disney princess to a young girl who doesn’t wear enough clothes and smokes pot, but as an adult without children, I’m enjoying her new music. As for the video for this song…I don’t understand why artists are expressing themselves by being naked, but whatever works for them I guess! Until next time, I leave you with Wrecking Ball.

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Quick Update

I know that I am long overdue for a blog post. I’m not going to lie the past month has been really hard on me. I will write about what has been going on in another post (hopefully soon because I miss writing). The thing is, my fingers are numb and when I type it feels like little pin pricks, so I’m not typing very often, little Facebook updates so people know that I am still around!

Ok, so the reason for today’s quick post. I am having my 3rd blood transfusion today. I’m thankful for the blood that I receive it makes me feel much better. Before I get the transfusion I’m really tired, out of breathe and sore. Once I have the transfusion, I have a bit of energy (not normal energy, but I also don’t feel the need to sleep 16 hours a day), and I can walk up my steps without feel like someone has punched me in the chest.

More exciting than the blood transfusion is this: I AM DONE CHEMO!!!! I was going to have my last treatment today, but they have decided I don’t need it! I will have a scan in a couple weeks, but we’re all confident that I won’t show any evidence of disease! I am a cancer survivor. I am in recovery mode, the road will be long, but will be rewarding. I am so ready to start my new normal.

In true Renee fashion I want to share a video with you. The song is called Wake Me Up by Avicii. I don’t know what it is, but I find this song up lifting. I think a person can find meaning in almost any song, but this one speaks to me. “Wake me up when it’s all over.” I’ve been thinking that a lot lately. I’ve just wanted the treatments to be done. I wanted to sleep through the month. I feel more awake today than I have in a really long time. Once I get my blood I will probably be more awake!

I will try to post again soon!

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Chemo #9 and #10

Hey everyone, I hope you have been out enjoying some of the great summer weather we have been having! I wish I could say that I have been, but it wouldn’t really be the truth. On the hot days I have to hide in my basement because the heat gives me really bad hot flashes and also makes me feel sick. I hope this is just a chemo thing and not a menopause thing because I have always enjoyed hot days!

With the completion of chemo #9, I am officially halfway through! That’s pretty exciting for me. Owen bought me a nice pair of earrings to celebrate making it this far.┬áChemo #9 was a rough week and not because it was a double drug week, in fact it was only taxol. As I have mentioned before I seem to be growing increasingly tired, this week was no exception. In fact I was so tired that I had to have naps after completing the smallest of tasks. I baked a friends wedding cake, I was glad I was able to do it for her. I was able to attend her wedding, but had to leave before dinner because I felt really sick. It was a long week and I wasn’t looking forward to chemo #10.

The morning of chemo #10 the hospital called and told me my blood counts were low and I was going to receive a blood transfusion with 2 units of blood. They told me to be prepared to be there all day because I was still going to have chemo. This was a double drug week which takes longer then just the taxol week, so I ended up being at the hospital from 9 until 5:30. It was a pretty long day.

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The fact that I can still look happy while having a blood transfusion amazes me!

The new chemical free blood was such a help. Yes I was tired because I always am during this week. The zofran (nausea pill) makes me sleepy so I had a nap everyday. But, on Thursday I was able to go out with my mom for a bit and Friday I was able to do a little shopping. Saturday I went to a pool/dinner party and was able to eat. Sunday Owen’s family came to visit and I made a rhubarb vinaigrette and a Waldorf salad. I had more energy then I’ve had in a long time, it was wonderful.

I bought a book on knitting (it’s on my list for living) and have actually completed a small bag (for my niece) and a cell phone case (that I did a horrible job on) and am now working on a tablet cover (which is looking super awesome).

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Have you heard of The Color Run? It’s a global 5K run and it looks like a ton of fun! I am going to add it to my list for living and hope that it is something I can do next summer. Check out the video, there is likely a Color Run at a city near you!

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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 #5 and Chemo #6

The last couple of weeks have been my easier weeks, but I have to admit that the taxol is taking its toll on me. My hair is still falling out, which is ok, but my hair follicles are swollen and sensitive. My toes are starting to go numb, it’s a weird feeling, almost like they are asleep. Mouth sores are also common when taking taxol, I had a canker sore but I’m not convinced it was chemo related. Sometimes I just get canker sores! This week I have been really tired and have been taking naps, going to bed early and sleeping in longer.

This past Monday I went to a program for women with cancer called “Look Good Feel Better”. The workshop was 2 hrs of pampering. The volunteers showed us how to put on makeup, to help hide some of effects that cancer has on our bodies. For example, how to hide the dark circles under your eyes, how to make it look like you have eye brows or eye lashes, and more importantly how to just feel good about yourself. At the end of the workshop we got to take home a big box of cosmetics, it was truly an amazing experience. I’m not really a makeup kind of person, but it was nice spending time with woman who are going through the same thing as me. You can learn more about the program here.

Next week I start the first chemo of my third cycle, which means that I have both carboplatin and taxol…it will be a rough week for me. Thankfully I have figured out my nausea medication, which helps make me feel a bit better, but I will still have a few days that I will spend in bed.

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, I hope that you are all going to enjoy it! I am visiting my family which is really nice. I’ve heard that Daft Punk’s – Get Lucky is going to be the song of the summer. I haven’t decided if I like it or not….maybe it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just not what I would expect from Daft Punk. Anyway, here’s the song for you to decide for yourself!

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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 is Postponed

Like I said earlier this morning, the life of a cancer patient has many twists and turns. My surgery for today has been pushed to Friday instead. This messes things up a bit, for example Owen is off today and really needs to be at work on Friday. I can’t drive for 24 hrs after the surgery and Owen has to work on Saturday, but I also have to have blood work done on Saturday. Fun times!! However, things will work out, I will get to my appointments and Owen will get to work. This will not be the first time this week I have asked someone to drive me to the hospital, thankfully I have great friends who are willing to take my mom’s and Owen’s place when needed!

Have a good day everyone!

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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 #1

I made it through my first chemo treatment. The nurses at the hospital are amazing and made me feel really comfortable. I was a bit nervous but once things got started I was ok. The treatment took 4.5 hrs, thankfully I was able to keep busy by writing a blog post, reading on the internet and colouring a picture of a Care Bear.

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During my treatment I was a little cold so they gave me a warm blanket. I will be better prepared next time because I have received lovely blankets to take to the hospital with me. I thought I wouldn’t be cold, so I left my blanket in the car!

Receiving the chemo drugs didn’t hurt, putting the IV in to start the treatment was another story. They blew one of my veins on the first try, it hurt! Thankfully the second try wasn’t as bad, however my arm looks like someone beat me with a small hammer!

I was tired when I got home from the hospital, I’m sure it was a combination of the drugs and the long day. I was able to sleep through the night and when I woke up I was feeling ok. Not great, but well enough to get up, have some breakfast and take a handful of drugs. I even managed to go to the grocery store with my mom! My face was really red and hot, but I didn’t have a fever. I needed to have a nap late in the afternoon, I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I had really bad hot flashes during the evening. I woke up through the night with some joint pain but it went away after taking a couple Tylenol.

This morning I’m feeling ok, again not 100% but I don’t feel like I’m on my death bed either. I would feel like the luckiest girl on earth if all of my treatments go this way! My next two treatments are only 1 drug and should go pretty smoothly with very little side effects.

I hope you all have a great day!

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