mixed. but good. i think. (by Laurie)

March 10, 2011

And I’m not talking about the weather, which while it has been mixed, has been pretty consistently bad for the last twenty four hours. We had a big dump of snow (the photo above was taken from my front door), followed by freezing rain, which will be followed by ordinary rain.
Good thing I just bought rain boots.

My GP called me last week to let me know the results of my endoscopy (I won’t get in to see the gastroenterologist until March 21st). All my results were negative – no celiac, no bacterial infection, no cancer. It’s all good.

Then I talked to my oncologist on Friday. We discussed my scope results and my digestive symptoms (diarrhea, heartburn, abdominal pain). He expressed surprised that I was still feeling lousy on Friday after a Tuesday treatment. I told him that my recovery time had gone from four to six days and that last round, I’d felt sick for a week (this ended up being the case this time, too).

Then my oncologist said, “It’s time to take a break.”

I was floored.

I had been hoping to hear these words for months (years even) but when I finally did, I definitely had a mixed reaction. I’m being taken off the chemotherapy not because I’ve been in remission for a while (although I have) but because the chemo has started to take too big a toll on my body.

As Dr. G. said, “You can’t stay on vinorelbine forever.”
I’m going to continue with the Herceptin but take a break from the chemo for at least three months. Herceptin is also known to induce flu-like symptoms but I don’t think it has the lasting toxicity of chemotherapy drugs. I’m likely to bounce back more quickly after treatments.

So we’ll see what happens. There are no guarantees of anything and no promises. Every change involves risk.

But the next few months will be devoted to healing.


Cross-posted from Not Just About Cancer.


10th annual conference for young women affected by breast cancer! (by laurie)

January 11, 2010

Last winter, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend the 9th Annual Conference For Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer in Dallas, Texas.

It was an amazing experience.

I expected to learn a lot and I really, really did.

I hoped to be inspired and I was, beyond my wildest expectations.

I didn’t think about it being fun but it really, really was.

The sessions I attended were informative, entertaining and gave me great hope. I met some terrific women. And more than once, I laughed until I cried (I will not soon forget the pajama party hosted by Pure Romance. The experience defies explanation but they’re doing it again this year, so come and join in the fun). I came home with a pink cowboy hat and a renewed determination to live well.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the conference and it will take place from February 26-28 in Atlanta, Georgia. If you were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45, this conference is for you. Last year, there were more than 1,000 women in attendance from all over the world who have been affected by breast cancer in a multitude of ways. It meant so much to me to see all these beautiful women, at different stages of treatment and to see other women with metastasis living their lives to the fullest.

It was a great conference, co-sponsored by Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Young Survival Coalition, two groups that do excellent work.

I have a scholarship to go again this year. If you have been on the fence about attending – hop off and come join me.

If you are planning to go, leave a message in the comments or send me an email (laurie dot kingston at gmail dot com) or a direct message on Twitter (lauriek). Or if you’re at the conference and you spot a blonde woman with red glasses alternating between knitting and taking notes, come on over and say ‘hi.’


missed milestones (by Laurie)

December 3, 2009

This  year, two dates –  November 24th (the anniversary of my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer) and December 2nd (the anniversary of the night I found the first lump) – came and went without causing me the anxiety of previous years. I noted both events in passing, took the time to breathe deeply and be grateful, and then got on with my day.

It’s been four years since I found the lump. It’s been three since the cancer spread to my liver. And it’s been two and a half years since my first clean scan.

I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday. I had nothing to tell him. He said, “Shall we keep dragging you in here every few months just to say ‘hi’?”

I readily agreed.

I have chemo next week. They’ve been building a new treatment centre for what seems like years. I have often jokingly pointed in the direction of the new building and said, “They’re building that for me.”

Yesterday, I discovered that the new building is open and the chemo room has been moved. No more listening to the sounds of construction during treatment. No more listening to the intimate details of the constitutional issues of the patient beside me. There will be a little more light and a little more room and hopefully, a little less noise.

I’m kind of excited.

And yes, that is somewhat ironic. I have lived long enough to be excited about getting chemo in the new building.


my husband’s chest

November 11, 2009

You don’t need to tell me how lucky I am.

I have a roof over my head, great medical care and I’m surrounded by people who love me.

And don’t think I forget how very lucky I am to be alive at all. Why did I get to go into remission? Why me? I am indeed very fortunate.

But there are times when I do feel sad that I will never put this cancer behind me. I feel the toll ongoing treatment takes on my body and my emotional well being.

So last night I stood in my kitchen, with my head on my husband’s chest (we say we were built for each other. My head lands flat on his chest and tucks under his chin). He put his arms around me and we just stood there, breathing together.

He didn’t need to say anything. He understood my frustration. Only a few hours before I was finallly feeling sharp and healthy and energized. And then, after chemo, I stood in his arms, feeling sick and more than a little shaky.

He didn’t remind me how lucky I am.

But I know it.


aware of the irony

November 9, 2009

Life is funny.

This morning was perfect weather for a bike ride. The sun was out and the temperature climbed to 17C (that’s 62.6 in American). It was my first time on the bike in more than a week – since before the plague toppled my family, like a series of dominoes.

It was a fun ride, and I didn’t even mind the big hill I have to climb on my way to the hospital. I arrived twenty minutes after I set out, a little sweaty and with my heart pumping. As I locked up and headed into the cancer centre, I noted with pleasure that I hadn’t been coughing.

“It feels good to be healthy.”

I very nearly said it out loud.

I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of my situation. Here I was, going to get my bloodwork done the day before chemo and thinking about how healthy I am.

Three years ago, at almost exactly this time of year, I learned that my cancer had become metastatic. I don’t think I could have imagined this day, when I’d be riding my bike up Smythe Rd. and thinking about how healthy I am.

So, as I was saying at the beginning of this post – life really is pretty funny.

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.


Death Be Not Proud*

October 26, 2009

(cross posted on Coffee and Chemo)
———————————————————————-

You know, I am good. I mean, I have cancer and everything, but I am good.

Mostly, I feel good, and I do things, and I even work a bit.

Most of the time, I do not feel that cancer defines me.

But it does.

I am unquestionably in the cancer world.

Even taking chemo in pills (at home), I still have to go to the hospital several times a month — for doctor’s visits and blood tests (every 3 weeks) and my bone treatments (once a month).

But that is not all. No, no, that is not all.

I also have to go to the hospital for regular CTs, MRIs, bone scans, echocardiograms, ultrasounds, and whatever other tests or procedures are deemed necessary by my team of medical caregivers.

Everywhere I go, I meet other cancer patients.

Over time, many of the cancer patients get better and “disappear” back to their “old life,” the life without cancer.

But not everybody.

Some people, like me, are not going to get better. We meet regularly, week by week, month by month. We get to know each other. We get connected.

Many are like me. They are good. They are living with their cancer, and they are really living. Struggling, like me, but living. Even, I would say, living a good life.

But not everybody. Not all the time.

Sometimes people disappear and I do not know why. Have they simply switched treatment days or….? I am afraid to ask. Afraid to know.

It is hard. Hard to keep hearing about people dying of cancer.

Hard to keep my head buried in the sand, denying the threat of death, when death is all around me.

When I was first diagnosed, I stumbled onto the devastating statistics: five years after diagnosis, only 20% of women diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer are still alive.

I desperately needed to find other young women who were living with cancer for more than 10 years, to know they existed, to know it was possible, to believe that I could be one of them.

It was surprised (though I should not have been) that it was not easy to find these women.

I contacted Sharsheret, a support organization connecting young Jewish American women with breast cancer, who connected me with an amazing woman. Though extremely private about her cancer, she generously shared details of her challenges and accomplishments. She was still working, full time, as a professor in a university! She inspired me, and gave me hope. I spoke with her several times, until I found more local support via Beit Natan.

I just found out that, a year ago, she passed away suddenly, leaving behind 8 children. She battled cancer for around 10 years.

Her sudden death shocked those around her. But not me.

I have already learned: cancer is devious.

A cancer patient can seem fine one day, and the next day is critically ill. The situation can revert back to being stable or the patient can be dead within a few weeks. There is no way to know.

We never know.

Every death is devastating. Another reminder that living with cancer is uncertain.

Everything can change in an instant.

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footnote: Death Be Not Proud, by John Donne (Link includes full poem and Wikipedia article)


bone loss: a public service announcement

September 18, 2009

I have been reading Cancer Fitness by Anna L. Scharwtz. I’m only a few chapters in, but the book has already taught me some important things.

I don’t tend to devote a lot of thought to preventing bone loss but I did know that regular weight-bearing exercise helps prevent bone loss and to build strong bones. And while I walk and run (just finished the Running Room‘s beginner program again), I really don’t do any strength training (or core work, for that matter, despite repeated promises to myself).

Cross-posted from Not Just About Cancer.

The women in my family tend to have strong bones (and good bone density) but what I didn’t realize was how many factors put me at risk:

  • early menopause, as a result of chemotherapy.
  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin, the infamous “red devil). I had 6 rounds (this is also the drug that temporarily damaged my heart).
  • decadron and other steroids (I had higher doses with the first 6 rounds of chemo but I still get decadron through IV with every chemo treatment, to help mitigate side effects).
  • lorazepam (Ativan, which I use only occasionally for insomnia. I had absolutely no idea that it caused bone loss)
  • regular consumption of caffeine.


And I don’t drink very much milk, either.

Remember, that promise to myself I made in January? Well, I have not made as much progress as I would like. So, I signed up for a fitness class at my local community centre that incorporates core work and strength training (since the free weights, stability ball and exercise bands don’t seem to be doing much more than collecting dust) to get myself started. Now, I have another reason to get to it.

I also took a calcium supplement today for the first time in months. Those suckers are horse pills but I think I need to get back into the habit of choking them down.

What are you doing to prevent bone loss?

Cross-posted from Not Just About Cancer.