Friday, 20 July 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

The very last thing I told myself leaving my follow-up appointment with my surgeon.

Seems like relatively simple instructions, doesn't?

Well, apparently I listen about as well as my 8-year-old.

I got my hopes up.

Which now leaves me in the strangely awkward position of having to give myself the “I told you so” lecture.

Truthfully, it can’t entirely be my fault… I mean, picture this:

You’re a student who knows the big end-of-year exam is coming and you’re dreading it. About a month before, your teacher says there’s a 50-50 chance that perhaps you won’t have to write it this year. Hallelujah, right? So you cross your fingers, your toes, your eyes… whatever you can in the hopes that you will be one of the lucky ones who can avoid this killer exam. Then, you get a call from your teacher right before the scheduled date and find out that, in fact, you have to write it after all.

It shouldn’t be a HUGE surprise, right? All year you knew it was coming, and here it is. But it was that tiny glimmer of hope that took hold in your heart and grew and grew that now leaves you feeling about 1000 times more disappointed and stressed out than you would have been if you’d just blindly followed the typical course of action.

Well, my oncologist was my teacher, and that dreaded final exam? Chemotherapy. It’s happening. My name is on the test paper, and truthfully, I’m pretty sure all the last minute cramming wouldn’t help the end result anyway.

Somewhere within the next month or so, I’ll have no choice but to face some of my biggest fears head-on:
•    How am I going to look without hair?
•    What sort of potential damage could these poisons inflict upon my body long-term?
•    What if I’m in the 15% of the population that has to endure all of this with no positive outcome?
•    What if this burden is just too much for my rockstar husband to have to deal with?
•    What if I’m just not mentally tough enough to truly beat this?
•    What if I’m not there to watch my sweet little boy grow up?

So many questions, so many fears… and truthfully, so little time to be worrying about any of them. The reality is, this is not the Fall season I would have planned for myself and my family, however, it’s the one that I seem to have been dealt. Therefore, doing anything other than dealing with all aspects of this situation head on and one step at a time appears to be wasted energy. Why worry about what “might” happen, when I need all the energy I’ve got to tackle what “is” happening?

Admittedly, it does wear on a person to continually listen to how rare, aggressive, invasive, and complicated my situation is. The only positive I’ve managed to squeeze out of any of the medical professionals I’ve encountered so far is that we caught it early. So I’m going to cling to that affirmation and wholeheartedly believe that it is that element of the diagnosis that is going to be the thing that works in our favour and gets us through this successfully.

Let’s get this straight – I don’t want to do this. I’m scared. And I hate not knowing what the outcome of any given situation will be – particularly one with such life-impacting circumstances. But I can’t worry about that right now. I need to get this journey behind me – and unfortunately that can’t happen without starting the treatment process. But I will get through it – and I will figure out what this voyage is supposed to teach me. I’m pretty sure I’ve got many more things that I need to accomplish in this lifetime. I may not know what they are, but I’m determined to find out. More importantly, my son has important things to achieve and, come hell or high water, I intend to be there in his cheering section every step of the way for years to come.

So here we go. Time for a deep breath… maybe two… A decaf double-tall non-fat latte for the road and off we go. I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to feel like… what I’m going to look like… how my body will respond… or what they outcome will be. The only thing I’m confident about is that I have incredibly strong & significant reasons for getting through this successfully – and I will be hugging each of them just a little bit longer every day from this point forward. Like the title of this blog says, with "two steps forward" and only "one step back", it may take a little longer, but you're still bound & determined to get there!

Monday, 9 July 2012

One Victory at a Time

In the weeks since I shared my recent cancer diagnosis, I have been truly overwhelmed, touched and deeply humbled by the outpouring of support from countless people. These days, it’s so easy to say you have a ton of friends/fans/followers, etc. but it is only through something like this – something that shakes you to your very core – that helps shed light on the fact that there are true compassionate hearts, shoulders to lean on, and hands to hold behind those names.

So, where are we now? We have officially reached the front line of the battle and are taking no prisoners. I’m recovering as well as I can from surgery – cutting out both the tumour and any delusions that this entire situation might have only been a convenient misdiagnosis. It’s definitely very real… and very sore… but on some weird level, I’m glad to have the first step behind me.

I’m pretty sure I make a terrible patient – did I mention that my husband is a total rockstar? – but I’m trying to find my glimmers of light wherever I can find them. The hospital was cold but the medical staff was incredible – and the heated blankets were a godsend!

So through all of the support I’ve been fortunate enough to receive, one sentiment keeps rising to the surface – everyone can’t wait to read the “major victory” blog at the end of this journey. Well, I can’t wait for that either, but because we’ve still got quite a few more steps to get through before this becomes a distant memory, I’ve decided to focus on the “mini victories” we’ve managed to achieve so far…

•    This process can be good for a girl’s ego – I’ve repeatedly been told how young I am throughout this whole process – haven’t really heard that much in days prior!

•    What better excuse to go out and stock up on some pretty new bras? If everyone in the world is going to be seeing them, might as well make them look good!

•    I finally managed to squeeze in a family portrait session – no idea how they turned out yet but at least I can visibly prove I’ve been part of this family too! (Thanks, Anita!)

•    There are some AMAZING resources set up to deal with these types of situations!

o    I found an incredible retail store in Burlington that outfitted me with a post-surgical camisole, support pillow and an avalanche of information and resources – all as part of a complementary support program. So sad that such a shop needs to exist, but so wonderful that it does!

o    I attended a Look Good Feel Better workshop and was shocked at the amount of resources, support and, yes, products I walked away with. Questions I didn’t even know I had were answered, hopefully putting me even further ahead in the game.

•    Did I mention my husband rocks? Forget the white horse – any guy who can deal with post-surgery vomit and empty an ‘ooze sack’ on a regular basis with a smile on his face is definitely my kind of knight in shining armour!

•    I have always been a “Let me know if I can do anything to help” kind of girl. One of the things I will be sure to take away from this whole ordeal is to offer less and do more. Seriously, my heart has always been in the right place, but I’ve learned to take the Nike approach going forward and “just do it”! The meals that miraculously appeared and kept my family fed, the decaf double-tall non-fat latt├ęs that made their way into my hands, the care packages filled with wonderful little time-fillers that just showed up, the playdates for my son that just materialized… I have no doubt that being able to enjoy these benefits while not having to coordinate a single thing definitely contributed to the entire recovery process.

Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things.  ~Author Unknown

And as for the latest medical “victory”? Well, the lump has been removed, the surgeon is confident she got it all, the lymph nodes they took all came back “clear” and I’ve been able to spend the last couple of weeks recuperating and enjoying my incredible family and friends. Whew. Next step is to meet with the oncologist and find out where the course of treatment will take me. Truthfully, this is the part that freaks me out the most, but I’m not going to let it get me down. I’m just going to take it step by step… and enjoy every victory along the way.

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