Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bring on Brain Radiation

Today is a new day. I'm thankful to be where I am and feel like I have a great medical team around me to help me.

The support, love, meals, babysitting, encouraging words, conversations, prayers, etc. have been overwhelming.

I have been admitted and am so thankful to be in a private room... yay for my "own" bathroom. I was able to speak with my oncologist and my new radiation oncologist yesterday. The plan is to start brain radiation this afternoon at 2:20. It brings me comfort knowing that we're moving forward even if logically it is incredibly scary.

My sister brought our little Monkey by the hospital this morning. It was so good to see him even if I couldn't be the one watching him terrorize the rest of the unit.

I feel incredibly blessed to have my husband by my side, my sister & Monkey closer than a text message, parents and in-laws close through the iphone & many other friends, church, neighbours, colleagues & even strangers offering help and support whether near or far.

Mostly I feel unworthy of having such an amazing God with me. I cannot nor do I want to imagine going through this without Him. I'm so thankful for the faithfulness of my Father, the understanding of suffering of Jesus and the intimacy of comfort and peace given by the Holy Spirit. Any "good" that is seen in me comes from Him.

So with my team around me, I move forward with treatment. And with the hopes and prayers of many, we ask for the miracle of healing and the strength to gracefully move through each day no matter what happens.

Thank you for journeying with us.

Together in ER

My view from upstairs

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Last week I was a wife and mom with cancer. I was driving myself to appointments, taking care of my husband and son and very much alive and living.

Things changed this weekend. My brain can still think clearly but my speech is slurred and movements are not coordinated. Despite increasing medications, my symptoms have progressed.

Today I'm back in ER and hope to be admitted this afternoon/evening to a ward. I've seen my oncologist and have received the news that there are more metastases than originally thought. I'm waiting to be referred to a new doctor. Hopefully the plan will be to get more imaging and then get on with radiation. My symptoms are not currently explained by the CT results we have.

Ironically, the cancer in my liver seems stable and my back doesn't appear to have gotten worse.

So we wait. And I ask you to pray... still for my liver and spine but specifically for my brain.

We are shaken & broken. We know the truth but have unanswerable questions. Our hearts are aching.

Tonight will be my first night as an inpatient (except for when I was born or when I gave birth)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

It's Sunday

It is Easter Sunday -- the day we get to celebrate Jesus conquering death & coming back to life.

For many years I have known and believed this but it means more to me today. My hope in life and my hope in death is because Jesus is alive. And one day I will die and live with Him forever.

That is my hope and that is what I cling to.

We don't have any more answers from yesterday's tests. The MRI was changed to a CT with contrast and happened in the later afternoon. After that I was discharged and will follow up with my oncologist & neurosurgeon when their offices open on Tuesday.

It was good to sleep in my own bed (again) and I'm happy to not have three other roommates and their families that close to me.

I may venture outside of my house these next few days but am still processing so much and will not be able to process out loud with everyone. Thank you for praying for us & supporting us. We continue to need Him in new ways each day.

I'm tired, tender, hurting, and yet I have hope. He is risen!

Enjoying a rare snuggle
(Photo by the lovely Linda)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

It's a dark day today, but Sunday's coming!

Most days I can push through the pain & emotions of this journey. Today I'm not doing it. I wish I could but it just seems like too much.

I've had a bad headache for way too long. Today I've had nausea & vomiting. My back has been hurting for a while and I've been experiencing some neurological changes. And emotionally I just feel tender and afraid.

I have not found anything to be helping my physical pain and I'm pretty sure that I have allowed that pain to affect me emotionally.

Everything combined drove me to visit the ER today. Triage. Assessment. Bloodwork. CT. Wait.

You know, just another Good Friday.

Then we got the news.

My head CT has shown some abnormalities in my brain -- most likely some new breast cancer metsastes.

Ugh. Xhevat and I cried. We tried to text those who needed to know immediately (but missed people in the shock).

Then we were sent over to RCH and I was admitted. As I looked around the others in the four bed room, I look nothing like the other patients. It scared me. Initial nursing assessment done. I lay my head down for the first time comfortably. Then the doc assesses me. He wants more imaging that won't happen until tomorrow hopefully.

"Do I need to be here or can you give me a overnight pass? I will be back whatever time you want me to be here." And he agreed!

So we're all at home. We picked up Matias from our neighbor's who were so fantastic to watch him (they only have girls clothes in his size). Nicole, my sis, arrived after 1am and now I'm supposed to hurry and rest and go back to my inpatient bed early in the morning.

It's a dark day today, but Sunday's coming.

Not welcome sites to see for me 

They're manly pink monkeys, right?

Monday, 31 March 2014

What I'm Learning from Disney's Frozen

Spoiler Alert :-)

While I'm off chemo, I have bloodwork and an oncologist's appointment every four weeks. And every four weeks I go through the anticipation and fear that I will get bad news & have to go back on chemo. February/March has felt like a repeat of August/September being that we went on vacation, I just had surgery and then my doctor's appointment a few weeks later. I was unprepared last October for the news that I had to go back onto chemo so quickly. The tension and the fear have been pretty all consuming at times... especially last Monday when I got my bloodwork done.

What does the movie Frozen have to do with my cancer & bloodwork? Elsa, the older sister, was born with magical powers inside of her that can create ice and snow. Her ability to instantly create winter injures her younger sister and as a result she & her powers are hidden away from everyone. The more she tries to control her powers and emotions, the stronger they become. Years later and after an outburst where everyone sees her magical powers, she feels that the only way to protect herself & others is to escape by herself and live in her ice palace.

While I don't have any magical powers inside of me, I do have a bunch of cancer in me. And as I let my cancer consume more of my thoughts, emotions & life, I lose joy, control and focus. The trust and faith that I have in my God diminishes. And my fear and insecurities tower around me in my own ice palace. From that place it is hard to feel love and live in what I know is true in my daily life.

At the end of the movie Anna, the younger sister, gives up what she believed was her opportunity to be healed to save Elsa's life. Both of their lives were saved.

Elsa: "You sacrificed yourself for me?"
Anna: "I love you."
Olaf: "An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart."
Elsa: "Love will thaw."

I don't want to live in fear. I want to live in God's peace. He knows I have cancer in me and He can heal me from it if He wants... but He can also use my cancer to teach me and others things that we wouldn't have known otherwise. He sacrificed Himself for me & He loves me. His love has thawed my frozen heart.

In the final scene, Elsa uses her magical powers for good to create a skating rink for the townspeople, a... and even a "personal flurry" for Olaf the snowman. What once caused destruction and death was now being used for good and life. I want God to use my cancer for His good and life. He has sacrificed Himself and His love has melted my frozen, broken & fearful heart. I don't know the ways that He might use my cancer for good, but I'm willing to be used and excited to see good that has & will come from my cancer.

P.S. The fear of what my bloodwork results would be overshadowed much of my last weekend. Today I will go to my doctor and receive them officially. I say "officially" because I was able to get my numbers online last week (all legit) and everything is good. I have more of a functioning immune system, my liver enzymes are all normal & my tumour markers are the lowest that they've been since I started this journey! Joy & relief are wonderful feelings! God is good.

Now go watch the movie (again)!

Just a fun movie to watch (especially for us big kids!)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

What Maui Meant to Me

Vacations are never perfect. Well, at least our vacations aren't.  Matias' carseat was forgotten in the car (which meant a quick trip back to the airport parking lot), the poor little guy got a cold, naps and nights of sleep were frequently interrupted, and there were more than several tears and tantrums.

Even with all of the bumps in the trip, Maui was simply wonderful for a number of reasons.

Maui was a vacation from my cancer diagnosis. No one asked and I did not offer that information. I was simply another tourist. Maui held no continual reminders of my cancer that I have in my home, when I drive down certain streets, when I wear certain clothes, when I eat or avoid certain foods, etc. There were no concerned "How are you doings?" There were, however, the occasional "How are you doings?" after watching our toddler who was full of energy run and run and run.

It was snowing here in Vancouver on the day we left and Maui's warmth and sun were just refreshing. Even the rain in Maui was refreshing! I wore shorts and a tank top comfortably (and that's pretty significant cause I usually feel cold and am dressed in multiple layers). The only time I was truly cold was when we watched the sunrise from the top of a volcano crater at 10,000 feet.

It was family time... just Xhevat, Matias & me. We enjoyed where we were but also simply enjoyed being together. Dinners were some of my favorite times when we'd bake fresh bread and have cheese and meat & fruit salad with it. As the little guy won't remember the trip, we took LOTS of pictures. He seemed to always fall asleep or have too much energy at very inopportune moments (ask the flight attendants... they'd agree).

One of my favourite times of the day was when we were heading back to our condo. The building was u-shaped and our condo was at the end of the U (with a beautiful ocean view). To get from the elevator to our place, we had to travel down two very straight and long hallways. Getting "home" meant that Matias had probably been strapped in his carseat or stroller for some time so whenever we got to these long hallways we'd set him loose and he would run and run and run the entire length. If he got too tired, he'd crawl.. but within a couple seconds, he'd be back up running. It was so nice to be able to set him loose (safely) without fear of him climbing over the railing on our balcony (or should I say lanai) or running into traffic or destroying store displays or jumping off the boat.

In the midst of the anonymity came an emails of love, support, encouragement & prayers... and even an offer of babysitting while in Maui from a friend from grade school! I felt loved & cared for.

Some might say that Maui was a break from reality... but it wasn't. It was a reminder to me of another way that I can live. Yes, I have cancer, it sucks and it's scary but I can choose whether I want to live with that fear. I am in the process of learning about my fears and what it means to trust... and by no means have I arrived.

What I Have Survived Since Feb 12, 2013
(in 138 Appointments)

IVs (successful) x 58
Bloodwork (successful) x 64
IVs or Bloodwork (unsuccessful) x 10
Biopsies x 13 (I think)

Chemo x 29
Bone strengthening infusion x 14
Injection x 9

MRI x 1
CT x 7
Ultrasound x 3
Xray x 6
ECHO x 1
Surgery x 2

Parking Ticket x almost one

Whale/Dolphin watching in Maui

Date Night in Vancouver at a Whitecaps Game

Road Trip with my Parents to Kelowna

Saturday, 22 March 2014

How Are You?

How are you?

It's a relatively innocent question. Some just ask out of habit or being polite. Others don't know what to say and so this seems like a safe question. Many people truly want to hear the answer. 

It can actually be a really hard question to answer.

How am I? What do you mean? How am I emotionally, physically, spiritually? Are you asking about how I'm recovering from my last surgery? Or how I'm dealing with menopause & tissue expansions? Or the constant pressure that I feel in my liver? Or about the uncertainty if my cancer is growing again?

Or are you asking about me as a mom and how I'm dealing with an energetic 19 month old who doesn't like to sleep and is an agile (and currently unsafe) climber? Or how I'm learning to cope with saying the same thing over and over? Or if I'm ever bored of trains, Mega Bloks, or farm animals?

Are you wanting to know how I'm dealing with my palliative cancer diagnosis? Or with the news that I'm getting too often of others' cancer diagnoses or deaths?

I've chosen to be fairly open about my journey this last year but I also have areas that are too private to share publicly. And while I appreciate the concern and care when I'm asked how I'm doing, my full answer can leave me feeling extremely vulnerable. If I'm trying to answer the question authentically, it's a really difficult and personal question to answer. And it's usually too much to get into in passing... so most of the time I answer that I'm fine or tired.

{If I run into you this week and you ask me how I am:
1. Please don't be offended if I answer fine or tired. It just might not be the time or place to get into a deeper answer.
2. Add the word(s) "today" or "this week" to your question (i.e. How are you today?). I find it much easier to answer this question. It helps me to narrow down my answer and not be as overwhelmed.}

Enjoying the warmer weather