sometimes about cancer

January 19, 2009

My personal blog, Not Just About Cancer, is having an existential crisis. I don’t seem to write that much about cancer these days. A more appropriate title might be in order (“Occasionally About Cancer?” “Not Just About Life, Kids, Dogs, Books, Weather Extremes and Cancer“?) but then how would people find me?

I was interrupted by the phone ringing. This is the subsequent telephone conversation, transcribed pretty much verbatim:

A (nurse who works with my oncologist, returning my call about my most recent CT scan results*): “May I speak to Laurie, please?”

Me: “This is Laurie.”

A: “Hi, it’s A. from the cancer centre.”

Me: “Hi A.”

A: “Everything’s fine. No change.”

Me: “Yay! Yay! Yay! Thank you, A!”

A: “You’re welcome! Bye!”

The cancer centre’s stated policy is that they do not give out results over the phone but my oncologist has been making an exception for me for a while now. If they ever do ask me to come in, I will be very suspicious.

So, I am happy to say that I have nothing new to report on the cancer front. I will continue on with treatment every four weeks, until it stops working. And with every clean scan, I know I’ve gained a little more time.

*I just tried to link to the post about my most recent scan (it was last Wednesday) and found that I didn’t write one. Instead, I wrote about the weather and losing my dog. It appears that, while they still make me anxious, CT scans are less newsworthy than the cold and my pets. Lucky me.

the day my life changed

December 2, 2008

I had an echocardiogram today. They are a pretty routine part of my life; I have them every few months to make sure that the Herceptin isn’t damaging my heart. So far, so good.

It’s kind of boring lying there, so I started to play a little game with myself. When I lay down at the beginning of the test, my resting hear rate had been 65 bpm (beats per minute), when I worried about my results, I noticed that it had shot up to 75 bpm (I could also see on the screen that my heart was whooshing away but I couldn’t tell whether it was doing it’s job efficiently). I took a few deep breaths and my bpm dropped again. I remembered that I have only bought one Xmas present and my rate went back up into the 70s. Up and down it went (I hope that I didn’t affect my results by doing this).

And then it occurred to me that today is December 2nd.

Exactly three years ago, I found the lump in my breast. That day, the world tilted on its axis (I felt it do that as I stood in front of my bedroom closet not quite believing I had this big hard mass on the side of my right breast) and my life was irrevocably changed.

If you had told me at that moment, how the next couple of years would unfold, I never would have believed that life could be as good as it is right now, despite the cancer. Don’t get me wrong. If I could choose to have never had cancer, I would.

I hate having cancer, hate being in treatment, hate the restrictions placed on me as a cancer patient and I do still grieve for all I have lost. There are many, many ways, though, that my life has changed for the better since December 2nd, 2005.

Maybe that’s why, when I remembered the date, my heart rate didn’t budge.

Whoosh! Whoosh!

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.

eating cake and the 20 second update

August 28, 2008

I have been out of town for a couple of days, spending time with friends at their cottage. We were four adults, four boys ranging in age from 17 months to 11 years and five dogs of various ages and sizes. It was barely controlled chaos and absolute bliss.

I am home now. In a few minutes I will turn off the computer and go curl up with a good book and a slice of my friend M.’s divine lemon pound cake (it contains an entire cup of butter and six cups of sugar. That’s before icing) Perhaps I’ll even have a ice cold cider with the cake.

In other news, I have a new post up at MyBreastCancerNetwork.Com, called “The Challenge of the Twenty Second Update.”

This past week end, I went to a beautiful wedding with my family. In attendance were relatives I hadn’t seen in many years, lots of people I had never met and one of my favourite teachers from grade school.

I always feel a bit of awkwardness at these kinds of events, as I brace myself for the inevitable questions, “What are you up to these days?” or “What do you do?”

No one wants to drop the c-word at a wedding, least of all me.

You can read the rest of this post here.

I hope you are all enjoying summer’s last gasp with your own cold cider and lemon pound cake. Or whatever it is that makes you happy.

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.

on being brave

July 7, 2008

This post was inspired by “Do It Afraid” by Jill .

My family and I went to a little party for brunch on Sunday. This would not have been a big deal except that it was going to mostly former co-workers in attendance and since the cancer returned I have been avoiding these kinds of events.

But this brunch was different. It was a surprise in honour of a friend and former co-worker who is in ongoing breast cancer treament (she is also one of the women with whom I am involved in a writing project and that I wrote about in my post entitled “the building.” There is a new building now but my friend still works for the organization). She has been treated quite shamefully by her employer (a supposed advocate for “workplace accomodation”) who has consistently refused to accomodate her need for regular time off for treatment. The case will be decided over the next two days by an arbitrator and I knew I needed to overcome my trepidations to show her my support.

And I had a great time. There were so many people there who I was happy to see (I think it is a testament to my friend C. She is a wonderful person who attracts wonderful friends, all of whom wanted a chance to show her how much we love her). The food was great. I loved being there with my boys (all three of them). I always enjoy showing them off and they made me very, very proud just by being themselves.

I am so glad I went, despite my fears. I always tell myself that I avoid these things because it will be awkward and sad. But I don’t think that I have been giving people enough credit. The truth is my tendency to experience social anxiety (which predates the cancer) has been exacerbated by spending so much time on my own (something I quite enjoy). I think I use the cancer as an excuse.

From the moment I stepped in the door, and saw all these people I genuinely like, I felt happy and excited and I know that my face and body language expressed that. It was lovely to catch up with people and easy to put them at ease. I know that going did me a world of good.

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.

breast cancer as a chronic illness: coping with the emotional toll

July 2, 2008

My oncologist likes to say that, for women in my situation, treating Stage 4 breast cancer is like treating diabetes (or any other chronic illness). It must be taken seriously and treated but it can be managed and, when one responds well, the progression can be slowed or even stopped for long periods.

This is good to hear, given the alternative. And it’s infinitely more hopeful than the initial prognosis when my cancer first returned.

But chronic illness brings its own set of challenges. While I am happy to be going for treatment only once a month, in some ways this makes it harder to face treatment. I certainly resent it more. And long term chemotherapy does take its physical toll. But it is the emotional grind that is perhaps the most debilitating.

I wrote this post for MyBreastCancerNetwork.Com and you can follow the link to read the rest of it.