Thursday, August 30, 2012

You are Discharged

"You are discharged!"  Words I will remember for the rest of my life.  I've known for a couple of weeks that my final test results came back clear (thanks to my lovely doctors), but I had to wait for the official confirmation from the oncologists at the BC Cancer Agency.  Today was my appointment.

Despite the fact that I knew the results of the tests, I was keeping a very cautiously optimistic attitude about the whole situation.  I had this lingering wariness at the back of my mind, thinking that the oncologist would tell me that they missed something or that they messed up the test results.  There was a fragment of doubt remaining and I knew I just couldn't let out that final breath of relief without hearing the words officially from the oncologists mouth.  Today I finally got to hear those words.  According to him, my CT scan was great and my blood work was excellent.  There is currently no sign of cancer in my system.  I am technically in remission now.  This is so incredibly exciting.  I can barely stand it!  I have to be clear for a full 5 years before I am considered "cured" though.  I will also have to continue going in for regular tests as a preventative measure to keep any potential cancer from reaching the stage that it got to this time around.  Fortunately for me, colon cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent.  All I have to do is have a tube shoved up my back side every year or two for the rest of my life.  Believe me, I'd much rather that than have to go through this whole experience again.

The crowning glory of the doctor's visit today was when I received my appointment card back from the nurse.  After every oncology appointment, they take your card (it's almost like a dance card from days of yore) and they mark down the date and the time of your next appointment.  As they hand it back to you, they tell you those details verbally.  Today though, she looked into the card, handed it over to me and said happily, "You are discharged!".  A wave of emotion came over me.  Discharged.  That means I am no longer a patient at the cancer clinic.  This means that I am clear.  This means that I am a survivor.  Wow!  It all hit me at that moment.  I walked to the elevator with tears in my eyes.  I had to put my sunglasses on inside to stop people from staring at me while the tears started to spill over.  I promptly got into my car, called my best friend, and cried!  I could finally let my breath out.  I could finally breathe that sigh of relief.  I could finally let go.  When I found out the results of my tests a couple weeks ago, I had so many people say, "You must be relieved" or "I can't imagine the relief you must be feeling."  Well, I wasn't feeling it then, but I sure did feel it today.

I decided I was going to go home and make myself some dark chocolate mousse cupcakes to celebrate. The batter tasted so good that I'm surprised any of it made it into the oven.  I've been eating very healthy lately and haven't had much processed sugar, so this was quite the treat.  The funny thing is, I have been home all evening and I really don't feel like eating a cupcake!  I've been craving veggies.  What is wrong with me?!?!?!  I think maybe it's my body enjoying feeling healthy.  My energy is starting to return, the scars are starting to disappear, the nose and mouth sores are almost gone.  Unfortunately, my neuropathy has been getting worse.  I don't even bother doing up buttons half the time because my fingers don't work well enough to do them up anyway.  I couldn't even think of getting a pedicure right now because it down right hurts to have the dead skin on my feet sloughed off. This, I am told, should all go away.  It may take a couple more months, but it WILL go away.  I'm believing for that right now.

I am starting work again, I am being submitted for roles by my agent again, I am taking on the primary care giver role with my daughter again.  My husband is starting school again in less than 2 weeks and I am creating several new projects for me and my production company to work on (some very fun, intriguing projects that I can't tell you about- tee hee).  Basically, my life is returning to normal.  My outlook on life, however, has been changed forever.  I will be more focused.  I will cherish my time on this planet.  I will remember to laugh and not to sweat the small stuff.  There are many lessons to be learned from this journey, from diagnosis (Nov. 21, 2011) to remission (Aug. 30, 2012).  I look forward to using this experience to enrich my life and the life of others in the future.  I can't wait to see what the next chapter holds for me.......!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Love Letter to My Body


This was a challenge from an online magazine that I read called SheLoves.  I read my friend's letter to her body and couldn't help but write one myself.  It's a pretty incredible thing to separate yourself and think of your body as an independent, feeling being.  What would you tell your body if you had the chance?



We have been through so much in the past year.  We’ve spent our lives together, but never had we had to endure such hardship.  I am so proud of you.   You have been courageous and strong.  I haven’t always treated you the best; I could have cared for you better which would have made you even stronger through this journey.  That is my shortcoming.  If there is one thing that I want from all these tough times, it’s a renewed relationship with you.  I have a new appreciation and understanding of you.  I want to eat the right things, I want to be flexible and build muscle.  I want you to feel good.  You will never look the same again.  You bore a child, nursed her, went through surgery and chemotherapy.  There is no going back.  The scars are there.  I look on them with pride.  I used to look on them as ugly marks on a beautiful canvas.  Now I see them for what they are: battle wounds, experience, a story.  They are the living proof of what we’ve been through together.  They tell the story of our battles and our experiences.  How can I look sourly on the scar that birthed my baby?  The same scar from which death and disease was taken from my body?  The two small scars that saved my life; beautiful marks from a wonderful, talented woman who stepped into my life that fateful day?  So many stories.  So many lives affected by you.  
You have been an example to so many, an inspiration.  Some say it is me that is the inspiration.  I say it is you.  If you weren’t so strong, I don’t know how I would have made it through chemotherapy.  I don’t know how I would have held up if you had crumbled under the pressure.  It was and is hard for me to watch you go through the process.  Hair falling out, nails cracked and bumpy, skin falling apart and splitting.  You have been dying through this process, yet you still stay strong for me.  I can’t thank you enough for that.  
I have always been proud of you.  I remember asking my sister if she could see the curve of my hips as you slowly developed into a woman’s form.  I loved the look of the curves, soft, supple, feminine.  I was so excited for you to transform.  It was a slow process.  I would often envy the breasts and the curves that all the other girls seemed to have while you remained flat and somewhat shapeless.  I wasn’t always patient, but you did grow into what I have always thought was a desirable shape.  Still, I had insecurities.  I didn’t always look on you fondly.  Too much fat around the bottom, not enough around the bosom.  Flabby arms, thick ankles, cellulite.  All the nit picky details that no one really ever notices unless pointed out.  I should have loved you for what you were and are.  I should have known by the way people looked at you that I was being silly.  I am still guilty of that silliness.  There have been so many changes in the last few years.  I miss your flexibility, doing gymnastics and dancing.  I miss your muscular strength.  I miss my perky breasts and tight skinned stomach.  I miss these things, but also know that some can be remedied and those that cannot are a right of passage into a different page of our story.  
There have been many pages written, many stages where I didn’t treat you properly or respect you as much as I should have.  The one thing that I am incredibly thankful for is that you are still with me.  We survived.  We have come out on the other side of a huge physical battle and we are victorious!  I congratulate you; I congratulate us.  You have taken the brunt of this battle.  You are still overcoming some symptoms, but I know, together, that we will grow stronger.  I look forward to many years shared with you.  I am so excited for gravity to continue to have it’s affect on you and for more scars that tell our story.  It is an honour and a privilege to grow old and I will cherish every wrinkle and crease knowing that our time together is precious.  




Love Always,
Annette








  






Monday, June 18, 2012

Exeunt Stage Left

My pastor reminded me tonight that I am a writer.  It sounded strange coming from someone's mouth.  It was both a confidence booster and a confirmation that writing is indeed part of my talent pool.  I know full well that I am by no means at a professional level of correspondence, however the compliments I have received since starting my blog has made me aware of a certain competence.  Please do not take this as an egotistical statement.  My head is not swelling any larger than it actually is (although my head is already a healthy 22 inches in circumference- a good inch bigger than the average female head).  The statement from my pastor made me reflect instantly on the last time I actually wrote a blog.  It's been a while.  I do enjoy the video blogs, but there is a certain clarity of thought that comes with writing things down.  It purges and cleanses the emotions.  I highly encourage everyone out there to give it a go.  Buy a journal, grab a piece of paper, sit at your computer, do whatever works for you, but for heaven's sake write!

That being said, I have decided to write a blog tonight.  It's been an interesting day.  It is Father's Day (Happy Day to all you Dad's out there!).  I found out about an hour before church that a friend of mine had passed away from cancer.  I have mentioned her before in my blogs.  We knew each other in university, her as a stage manager and myself as an unruly actor.  She had surgery within days of my surgery.  We started chemo around the same time.  She was there ready to answer questions and compare notes, to joke and bitch and complain.  Our relationship was over the internet since both of our hospital schedules didn't seem to allow the opportunity to get together for coffee.  She had a great sense of humour about the whole thing, but was still very open, honest, and 'real'.  I didn't know what to say to her half the time since her journey seemed to bring her to more pain and less options, whereas mine was leading me to a full recovery and a hope that it will never return.  Two very different outcomes.  I can't help but feel guilty to be a cancer survivor.  I know there are a lot of survivors out there, but I also know that there are a lot who don't make it.  It's a bloody war.  We all fight valiantly, but some don't make it.

Megan was so brave.  She was inspiring.  I don't know if I could have kept the smile on my face.  She dealt with it all with such grace.  It really is a credit to her character.  I randomly ran into her on Mother's Day while on an excursion to Fort Langley.  I had a feeling that would be the last time I saw her.  I was flustered and awkward and really didn't know what to say.  I was so proud of her mom and brother who were with her, protectively staying by her side.  I could sense their love for her.  I really could.

Unfortunately, from what I've gathered in my experiences, death is harder on the loved ones than the one who is passing.  I was laying awake in bed last night pondering death.  I was praising God for the fact that facing cancer has taken away my fear of it.  Death is just another momentous event in our lives.  I liken it to giving birth.  Being pregnant for the first time can be full of anxiety.  Even though you know that hundreds of thousands of millions of women have done it successfully since the beginning of time, there is still an element of the unknown to fear.  No matter what, you are entering into an experience where people may be able to help out somewhat, drugs may take away the pain, but you have to do it all by yourself.  That can be scary.  It is quite often the unknown that makes us fear.  For me, God has taken that fear away.  I had to come to terms with it the week that I was diagnosed with cancer.  I didn't know what stage I was at.  I didn't know the outcome.  Fear of the unknown.  God gave me a peace that week that rests eternal in my soul.  I know where I'm going.  I know it's a better place.  I will be sad to leave my loved ones, but I am excited for that stage of  my life.  I now know that it could be another 70 years before that time comes, but I didn't at the time of this revelation.  I had to release it, surrender it all to God.  It's not in my hands, so why worry?  I can only pray and hope that I will be as surrounded by loved ones as Megan was.  That is the way to go.  Resting peacefully in the knowledge that you are loved.

Megan- You will be missed.  Ride on, my friend, ride on...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sunshine and Lollipops!

I woke up feeling fantastic and full of energy this morning....so I did a video blog!  I have been out all day and am now home and quite tuckered.  Shouldn't have spent all my energy.  But I couldn't help it.  It was a beautiful day and I am so happy to be alive!  Yay!

video

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Having A Bad Day

Here is my second video blog.  I felt like I needed to be honest with the world.  I've had a rough couple of days.  This was from last night.  I am still in a bit of pain, it seems to be lingering, but my overall mood is not quite so morose this morning.  It is a new day and I can feel my body starting to bounce back, as slowly as it may seem.  My "good days" are becoming fewer and farther between while my "bad days" start to take over.  I know I have the strength to keep going, it's just tough to remember that and access it when having the really bad days.  I have God's strength at my disposal, plus the support of an amazing husband, wonderful in-laws, and many more family and friends.  I feel the support.  I feel the love.  Man, do I have a ton of respect for people who have made it through chemo already and those who have done it multiple times!  Can't wait to celebrate the day I'm DONE!!!  It will be glorious.  


video

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Remember when washing your face didn't cause nosebleeds?  Sigh.  Those were the days...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

To Be or Not To Be...Stoned

I have been contemplating medication.  Like I said in my last post, I don't like to medicate, but I spent the last day and half laying in bed trying not to move too much and hoping to just sleep off the pain.  I've discovered the last couple of rounds of chemo that days 4-6 seem to be the worst for my most painful symptoms.  I have been getting this weird muscle/nerve pain all over my upper torso.  It hurts to move and it hurts to be touched.  I couldn't even stand to hold my daughter yesterday.  Once it hit, all I could do was lay there helpless.  This made me think... I'm useless anyway, I might as well be stoned.  Maybe that way the pain would at least be somewhat tolerable?  I guess the question is, what type of medication do you take for this?  I don't know.  I've had several people suggest marijuana for various reasons including appetite and nausea aids, but I feel like I can handle those problems without needing to feel the uselessness of being stoned.  I hate feeling useless.  I guess the good thing about being stoned is that you don't care if you're useful or not! Haha.  At least that's what the morphine did to me...  It also made me nauseous and constipated though, so NO WAY do I want that right now.  Methinks it is time to visit my lovely doctors... I think I need professional advice on this one :)  Wish me luck and many days free from pain- whatever way I get there...

Good Friday

Ask anyone who knows me well.  I do not like to medicate.  I would rather live with a headache than take tylenol.  I like to keep my body free from substances... other than the odd beer or martini.  (I am Albertan after all... ) I believe that I've always eaten fairly well compared to the majority of North Americans.  I do my best to keep the majority of the processed yucky food out of my system.  I just don't like to stray too far from the natural.  This is why I am a little miffed with the fact that I am the recipient of colon cancer.  There are SO MANY people out there with worse habits than me, with more risk factors, with ALL the risk factors, and yet, they are healthy as can be (well, cancer free at least).  Sigh.  But this mindset does nothing for me.  I know deep down that me getting cancer is for a bigger purpose.  I don't know what it is yet, but I know that it is.  That being said, why can't it be a little easier? I mean, REALLY!  The symptoms and the pain just keep coming!  It makes me laugh really.

 I sat in a Good Friday service yesterday and while the Pastor spoke of being afraid of needles I couldn't help but shake my head.  If he was afraid of the pain of needles, then God spare him any major illness!  He went on to speak of the pain and suffering that Jesus had to endure to free us from our sins.  By his stripes we are healed.  This confuses me at times because I don't feel very healed.  In fact, the discomfort and pain seem to be worsening.  I believe that I am healed.  That is not at issue here.  I guess I just wonder why I have to endure the pain and suffering.  I know there is a reason.  I'm just not clear on it.  I think though, that what I am experiencing is nothing compared to what Jesus had to endure on the cross.  Whether you believe him to be the Son of God or not, the history books have recorded the agony that this man experienced.  I would not want to switch places.  The worst part of his experience though was at the end when God separated Himself from Jesus.  Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?".  It was at that time that Jesus experienced the worst pain, the separation from Love itself, the disappearance of his father.  This is what Jesus spared us from.  He took it all so that we could forever be loved by God.  My faith has never been stronger than now.  I know that God has not forsaken me and He never will.  I am leaning on Him so much right now that I am incredibly grateful that He has such large shoulders.  When the physical pain is most agonizing, I reach out, I cry out, I whimper to Him who holds me close.  I can feel His presence.  And nothing can take that away from me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

5 done, 7 to go!

This blog finds me coming off the high of going down to L.A. for the weekend to see my film on human trafficking premiere at the 168 Film Festival.  I had 3 full days where I could (almost) forget that I was in the middle of chemo.  It was a whirlwind trip, but well worth it.  We made many connections, met some amazing people, and really enjoyed the artistic community.  It was especially great to connect with other Christian film makers who have the same heart and similar giftings.  Also, we won an award for Best Supporting Actress- Goldie Hoffman, so there was that added bonus and excitement.  Yay Goldie!!  We stayed in the lovely home of my colorectal surgeon, who has the most AMAZING bed.  We looked forward to going to sleep every night.  Only problem was that it made it very hard to get up in the mornings.  The trip as a whole was fantastic and I felt beautiful the whole time.  I love L.A.  I've always felt that I belonged there, ever since I first stepped foot on the soil when I was 11 years old.  I belong in the sunshine and warm weather.  It makes me feel whole.

We met some pretty amazing film makers and saw some incredible films, but the time finally arrived for us to return to Canada.  We flew in late last night to the welcome of my Step-Sister, Lauren.  She flew in from Calgary to spend some time with me this week.  I had to be up this morning very early to get my blood tests done to confirm that I would actually be able to do chemo today.  They must have been fine because I got my full regiment while Lauren and I gabbed it up.  It was the shortest feeling hospital visit yet!  I guess time flies when you're having a good conversation.  It is so nice to catch up with Lauren and to connect with her.  I've always had a soft spot for her and it's really nice for her to be here right now.  It's especially comforting because she's a nurse and deals with chemotherapy all the time.  It's like having my own built chemo information booklet.  I love it!

Today was the first day that I really chatted with some of the other chemo patients.  I've been doing Friday day for my hospital visits until now (they pushed the chemo rounds back so that I could go to L.A. and live a little).  I'm thinking that all the young people must come on Mondays, because I never really saw any when I was there on Fridays.  I chatted with a couple of young women who were both fighting breast cancer.  I don't think I'll find any colon cancer patients of my age and gender.  Oh well!  One of the ladies was completing her last round of chemo, so I was able to celebrate it with her.  She was so positive and inspiring.  She told me that I can make it through this.  She knew about the ups and downs.  She knew that it can be tough.  And she knew that I am strong enough to do this.  The second woman I met was close to the end of her rounds and still had a beautiful smile on her face.  We had a good chat about our fertility treatments, being that she is only 26 and I believe has no children.  I was very pleased to discover that she had planned for her future.  It's nice to see other women who do not give up and refuse to lay down and die to this disease.  They are strong and beautiful and inspiring.

I've joined an online support group so that I can connect with people about cancer.  There are so many things that we cancer patients and survivors go through that people just can't comprehend unless you've been through it yourself.  I've been feeling the need to chat and connect with other patients so that I can truly empathize with them and have them empathize with me.  These treatments can be very isolating and it's nice to know that others are going through it too.  I can't wait to develop some new friendships and have some people that I can talk to who really understand what I'm going through.  I do have some friends currently fighting and/or surviving cancer who I have talked to, but it seems we are all at different  stages of the fight.  I am really excited about connecting with people at the same stage.  I think that's why it was so nice to chat with those ladies today.  Our drug regimes may be different, but our experiences were pretty similar thus far.  I will forever remember the smiles of these two women and know that they touched my heart and inspired me to keep trucking through these treatments.  Thanks ladies :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

True Surrender

What does it mean to truly surrender yourself to someone, something?  I believe I am being taught the full meaning of the word surrender through this life experience called "cancer".  I have had a pretty bad day today.  It's about to get graphic so watch out...  My anal fissures did not fully heal from the last round of chemo.  Constipation is part and parcel with the chemo drugs and the anti-nauseants that ease the chemo symptoms.  I thank God for the anit-nauseants, but my bottom doesn't always concur since it is the thing that is being painfully ripped open every 2 weeks.  It doesn't help that another one of the side effects of chemo is the disintegration (for lack of better words) of all the soft tissue in the body, including nose, mouth, digestive tract, and other unmentionable lady bits.  If I didn't already know how painful and uncomfortable it is not to have a bowel movement, then I would be praying for them to stop.  I come to look forward to the part of the process where I get diarrhea so that the fissures have at least a fighting chance to heal.  I'm so thankful that I have an extra 3 days of healing this round as well because I will be heading down to L.A. to the film festival where our film on human trafficking, "Coerced", will be playing. (We got 3 nominations this year! So excited!).  I'm also very much looking forward to "The Hunger Games" which opens this Friday.  I read the books last month in about a 5 day period.  Couldn't put them down.  I find I really need to have something to look forward to each round to help get me through.  Last time was a limo ride downtown to see a Canucks game with some of my bestest friends.  It's those moments that keep this journey light and joyful.

And then there are days like today.  I woke up.  Sort of.  I don't think my body and brain woke up together.  Mike had an early morning appointment in Abbotsford, so I was home with Gwen.  I should have called someone for help the moment I woke up.  I figured that Mike would be home within 3 hours, so I'd tough it out.  5 hours later, and much mommy guilt for not being able to really move off the couch (at least I got Gwen fed and changed!), I was finally able to return to bed.  We all had a nap and then we went and did some desperately needed grocery shopping.  I couldn't fathom eating anything tonight other than pot stickers, which the stupid store that we went to didn't carry.  BAH!  It's rare that I crave anything right after my chemo, so I really wanted to eat while I was craving something.  Usually all I can taste is a metallic taste in the back of my mouth and I seem to constantly have the smell of chemicals in my nose, so food in general isn't that appealing.  Holding back the nausea, I managed to make it to a different store and got what I wanted.  They definitely hit the spot.

I got another surprise this evening.  My wonderful monthly friend decided to join me.  Better late than never!  Maybe I won't end up infertile after all!  That is, in fact, good news.  Despite how crappy it makes me feel on the cramping side of things...  Let's just add one more symptom to my list!  The end of the night brought me to a hot bath with epsom salts to ease all my aches and to cleanse all the soft tissue damage that has occurred.  It really was great.  I was able to have a really good conversation with God.  I opened myself to him and I sobbed and cried and sobbed and cried.  It was bad enough that Mike had to come check on me.  I always know I've had a good cry if Mike actually can hear me :)

It felt so good to connect to everything.  I have been having thoughts that I just can't do this anymore.  I am only a third of the way through my treatments.  I seem to be focusing on how much I have left instead of celebrating how much I've already done.  I know I'm focusing on the wrong thing.  I don't have the mind set going into each round that "I can beat this" and it's "one more down".  Instead, I've been walking into this with a sense of dread.  I want that to stop.  I want it gone.  I want it all gone.  The verse that keeps coming to mind for me this treatment is "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13.  I have also been clinging to Psalm 73:26, which is probably my favourite verse in the Bible (and I like the New Living Translation for today's purposes): "My health my fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever."

What I love about that is that God IS mine forever; and I am His.  I can give him everything.  I can give him all this pain, hurt, sorrow and HE is big enough to carry it for me.  It is so freeing!  He graciously takes all our bad, all our good, all our in between and will carry it for us.  This is why he sent his son.  To take all this from us so that we can be clean, so that we can be cleansed enough to stand, or kneel or lay face down, in HIS presence.  He does this so selflessly and all He asks in return, as our guest Pastor said on Sunday, is all of ourselves.  Wow.  That's actually pretty huge.  This is where I begin to learn a thing or two about surrender.  I cannot think of a time in my life where I have wanted to be rid of something so badly.  I can't think of anything else that I have ever wanted God to take from me as much as all this chemo "stuff".  I cried out for God to take this.  To heal me fully, to mend my soft tissue and to give me the strength to get through these treatments so that I can go on to do His great work.  Then it hit me.  I have to commit to surrender ALL OF ME.  Every last bit.  Then I realized, I don't know how to do that.  I have always kept a portion of myself off limits, even to God.  I don't do it intentionally, but I sensed it in this intimate moment of prayer.  I had been holding back.  I haven't given my all.  If I am being moulded and shaped right now for His purpose, then I sure as sugar better get this right.  I'm sure that now this door is open, that I have this new honesty with my Saviour, that He will begin to reveal to me in what ways I can become more faithful.  I look forward to this because I know that He has been faithful to me through this whole journey.  I have known every step of the way that He has been walking with me, carrying me.  He will not forsake me.  He is forever faithful.  I can only hope to be the same.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Me All Hooked Up

Here are some photos that I took my first round of chemo and I am finally getting around to posting them.  I wanted to introduce you all to my pump and my super cool chemo "look".  Here goes!

This is me in my super comfy pj's.  I basically wear these for 2 days straight.  I'm not allowed to shower. Boooooooo.

Everyone, meet my pump.  Most people call him Baxter.  I'm still undecided as to his name.  Yes, the liquid inside the balloon is toxic chemicals.  It is very hard to break open the outer shell.  Makes me want to try.... mwaahahahahahaahaha.

This is me all hooked up.  The circular thing on the left is the needle that clips onto my port-a-cath.  The white thing on the right is basically a temperature sensitive drip which moderates how fast the chemo drugs are going into me.  The hotter I get, the faster it goes.  That's why I don't wear make-up while I'm hooked up.  It makes me way too hot.  ;)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pesky Leg Hair and Other Perks

Ladies!  Want to know the secret to getting rid of pesky leg and underarm hair?!?!  Try CHEMOTHERAPY!!!  It's the all new way to lose-that-leg-hair with no pain and no nuisance!!!  WOWZA!!!!

Ok, well maybe a bit of pain and nuisance...if countless doctors visits, hospital stays, and disgusting side effects can be considered a nuisance.  But hey!!  I'll count my blessings while I've got 'em!  I found a wonderful perk to this chemo stuff.  I had been noticing that my underarm hair wasn't growing back the same way as it used to, so I decided to break out the chainsaw and try an experiment on my leg hair.  Yes, it's been a while since I shaved my legs.  It was winter!  And I was in surgery!  And I'm married!  Who shaves their legs in winter when they're married?  I needed some extra warmth in the winter months up here in Canada, eh!  Anyway... I shaved my legs and VOILA!  They are still smooth 3 days later.  Amazing!  I'm not sure what to make of this, but it's not necessarily a bad thing, right?  I just hope that it doesn't mean I start losing my hair.  I've been considering myself lucky because my hair has stayed on my head.  The texture has changed a bit, but I also bleached it.  Tee hee.  I had to go platinum for fun while it was short.

Apparently during chemotherapy, if you are a woman of menstruating years, your cycle can be disrupted or it can even cause early onset menopause.  I am starting to experience some early onset symptoms, which has me sighing with relief that we had some embryos frozen, but the symptoms in all honesty aren't too bad.  Who wants a period anyway?  That was the best part of being pregnant and breastfeeding.  None of that monthly bother.  Wahoo!  So, like I said, this chemo stuff can have some perks....and I'll take 'em!

Now for something a little more serious....

I just found out today that my great uncle, who was doing chemotherapy at the same time as me, passed away on Tuesday.  I didn't know my uncle very well, had only met him a couple times in my life, but it was somehow comforting to know that a family member was going through this at the same time as me.  My Mom had told me that he had the chemo blues just like me right after his treatments.  I always have a day or two, or three, after I get unhooked from my pump where I want to avoid the world and just feel sorry for myself.  I turn into a grouch and hide myself away so that no one (other than Mike) has to deal with me.  It was nice to know that someone understood, even if I wasn't talking to him or in touch with him.  He died suddenly, as often happens when on chemo, which brings this element of reality to these drugs.  I figured going into this that I am young and healthy and will tolerate it well.  My uncle's passing has shaken me up a bit.  It's still a very serious process and I need to remember that.  Anything can happen.  It's yet another reminder that life can change in a blink of the eye.  My family will now be preparing to celebrate this man's life when last week it wasn't even a thought.  My heart goes out to all of them and I will have them in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Annette 1- Chemo 1

Hey All Y'All!!  My husband is cringing right now because I used my Texas language.  Isn't it fun pushing people's buttons?  I only do it cuz I love him so much.  *hugs*.  I've barely started this blog and already I have run off on a tangent....

I am laying in bed at my in-laws' house, hooked up to my pump and almost ready to sleep.  I started my 3rd round of chemo today and, to be perfectly honest, I'm not feeling too bad!  I'm tired, but I'm not nauseous.  I have cold sensitivity, but I think I'm learning how to cope with it.  My last round was pretty mean to me.  As a whole, I got knocked on my bottom by the chemo.  I survived the time in the ring, but the chemo definitely got in more shots.  Not only were the symptoms worse than the time before, but I ended up catching a cold, which led to a fever, which is not a good thing when you are doing chemo.  I've been warned by what seems like every person I've encountered in the cancer agency about what to do if I have a fever.  Apparently, the fever is one of the only ways to detect if a patient has an infection during chemo.  The white blood cell count is usually so low that normal signs of infection, inflammation at the site for example, do not occur.  The majority of deaths during chemotherapy are a result of infection that has gone undetected.  Thus the huge emphasis on educating us patients on what to do when we have a fever.

First step, monitor the temperature!  I have a mouth thermometer nearby all the time.  Apparently the ear ones read a bit higher than the mouth ones, which means they aren't quite as accurate.  Pity.  I would much rather stick one in my ear, but I suppose putting in in the mouth beats the other options.  I have had enough probing of my behind, thank you very much.

Second step, wait for temperature to rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once there, continue to take temperature every hour.  I had problems with this step.  I was taking my temperature every 10 minutes, partially because I was paranoid that my fever would spike and partially because I was bored.  I had a headache, couldn't be in the light, couldn't watch TV, couldn't read, couldn't use my computer, wasn't tired enough to sleep.  All I could do was lay there feeling gross.  So, I took my temperature over and over again.  It can be a fun activity- guessing if your inner heater has turned on or off.  


Third step, once temperature remains consistently above 100.3, call the oncologist.  After 2 1/2 hours of my game, I decided to call the on-call oncologist.  She was great.  I had fortunately gone to my GP the day before who was wise enough to send me for blood tests.  This was extremely helpful in allowing the oncologist to figure out what to do with me.  All my tests and everything that my GP had observed when I went in the day before pointed to a viral infection.  Not the kind to worry too much about.  I was allowed to take 2 tylenol and go to bed.  If the fever continued or went up, I was to go to the hospital.  Thankfully, my fever broke a couple hours later and I started to feel ravenously hungry.  A good sign I think!


The toughest part of it all was that Mike had to work that night and since I was in no condition to even look after myself, I had to find someone to watch Gwen.  Thankfully, my dear friend Charlotte (who is also my Landlord) was able to come down and offered to stay the night on my couch.  What a life saver!  I think God put me in this house for a reason.  Mike and I had a pretty hard time finding a place to rent after selling our house to put him through school.  We didn't know the plans God had for us, but I count myself very blessed for being so close to part of my support group.  We didn't know how long we'd be in this basement suite.  We knew that it would depend on God's urgings and His timing.  We thought it could be 3 months or 3 years.  No telling!  It's small for us, pretty cramped compared to our old house, but we make these sacrifices for the greater good.  I am so excited for Mike to finish his schooling and get a REAL job!  Haha, I feel like my parents have been telling me to get a real job all my life (rather than acting).  It's sort of funny that Mike is going into a line of work in the same industry that I've been in.  Fortunately though, VFX is much more likely to have the ability to support a family.  


OH! I didn't get to tell you all that Mike has been accepted into the Lost Boys VFX school in Vancouver!  It's very exciting!  It's an 8 month course with a 100% job placement rate for the past couple of years.   He's decided to delay his start date until September so that I'll be done chemo.  A very smart move in my opinion, but I know how hard it is on him to be putting this off.  He wants so badly to get through the program and start working.  He really loves this line of work.  This sacrifice, allowing him to focus on me and hold our lives together while I do chemo, is a big one and I appreciate it more than words can say.  Isn't it lovely to see a spouse sacrifice themselves for their partner?  I think it is.  It's even better being on the receiving end, knowing how much I must mean to him if he's willing to put off this thing that he desires so wholeheartedly.  I think I like him.  Maybe I will keep him around after all.  ;) 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hearing God

I've discovered that chemo is not easy.  You know all those good stories about how it's not that bad that I was talking about before?  Well, that's not my experience.  At the same time, I'm not having the nightmare story either, so I guess I can count myself lucky.  I am essentially out of the rat race for at least 40% of the next 5-6 months.  There is a small chance that my symptoms will get better, but more often than not, as the drugs start to pile up in the system, the symptoms tend to get worse.  That will mean more numbness and tingling in my hands, more sensitivity to cold and hot, more nausea, more fatigue, more, more, more.  Funny thing is though, one of my biggest dreads about the late stages of my treatment is that it'll be summer and I won't be able to eat or drink anything cold.  Bummer!!!  (Wow, I pulled that one straight out of 80's.  Who says that anymore?).  So, while I slowly count down the days to the end of all this chemo madness, I will do my best to keep myself preoccupied with side projects.

Now that my company's short film is complete, I will be focusing some of that energy on a spoof music video.  I don't want to give anything away, so you don't get to know what video I'm spoofing, but my intention behind it is to put some smiles on the faces of other people who are doing chemo.  I'll be taking some "shots" at chemotherapy from the patients perspective.  Definitely one of those projects that can't be done unless you've gone through the process yourself.  I also have a screen play in my mind that is itching to be written, so I will have to sit down and do that.  One of my biggest problems is that my brain seems to have left me most of the time.  That's why I haven't been writing as many blogs.  Half the time I don't have the energy to write one, and the other half of the time I don't have the brain!

There is one good thing that comes from these chemo sessions though.  I was able to identify it thanks to my fellow Worship Leader, Keri, at our usual warm up on Sunday.  Despite being pretty exhausted and emotionally raw, I went to church to play and sing and worship.  I was, as usual, having some troubles focusing and mentioned that I was feeling pretty crumby.  Keri said to me, "It's in those times when we are at our weakest, especially physically, that God is able to step in and we will lean on Him.  Open your heart and let Him in."  So I did.  Then I proceeded to cry through the first 3 songs that we practiced.

What Keri's words moved in me was the opportunity to connect with God through these rough times, through the times when I don't feel like talking or thinking.  I really do become very emotionally raw after the 50 hours of chemo, which is actually a perfect opportunity and time for me to hear from God.  I feel like when all the junk is cleared away, when I'm just not caring about anything because I feel gross from the chemo, it's the perfect opportunity to hear God.  I can sense what He is truly laying on my heart.  Then, when I have the energy or the opportunity, I can act on it.  So, all in all, these sessions won't be that bad if I can only surrender myself to being fully sensitive to where God's working.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Round 2 - Ups and Downs

The journey continues.  Round 2 started yesterday.  I am currently at my in-law's house relaxing in bed.  It's a pretty sweet set up really.  Speaking of sweet set-ups... You should have seen my little chemo booth yesterday at the hospital.  Mike and I came totally prepared.  Just our second go at this and we've already got it figured out!  We had my computer with season 2 of "Chuck", double earphone jack, snacks, specialty coffee, lunch- it was great!  I was in at 1pm and didn't get out until 4:30pm.  It was 45 mins less than last time, but I still saw most people who came in after me leave before me.  It makes me kind of jealous.  Why do I have to sit there for so long?  Aren't there any other colon cancer patients doing the same type of chemo as me?  What's with that?!  I guess it doesn't make much of a difference if I'm in the hospital or not though.  I felt pretty tired and yucky yesterday, so it's not like I would have been doing anything different than sitting in a chair or laying in bed.  Last night was especially bad.  Pretty nauseous and shaky.  Felt like I had a really bad flu; the type that makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry.  I took my breakthrough nausea drugs, which didn't help much, so I ended up taking gravol, which not only took away the nausea but knocked me out for the rest of the night too!  I'm taking 4 different nausea drugs (thank the Lord that they exist because this would REALLY suck if I was vomiting constantly).  They work in different parts of the brain.  Who knew that a bunch of different parts of your brain could make you nauseous?

My last post was quite a while ago.  The last thing I wrote was that I wasn't doing too well emotionally.  It's been a couple weeks of ups and downs.  I spent so much time preparing mentally for my first chemo session that I didn't take the time to actually FEEL my emotions during the process.  I believe that is what came out on days 4, 5, and 6 of the last round.  I mean, I wasn't feeling great and perky physically during those days either.  Funny though, by day 7 my energy and positive mind set had pretty much returned.  I became tired a bit more easily than normal, but it wasn't too bad.  My energy returned just in time to help out the day before we started shooting our film "Coerced".  It was a wonderful thing to look forward to after my first round.  Nothing better to pull you out of an emotional slump than living your passion.

We shot the film Friday and Saturday.  All went relatively smoothly.  There's always hiccups, but we had such an amazing team that any problems were dealt with swiftly.  It's pretty incredible working with a core group that you can totally trust and that work so well together lending their own specific strengths.  Where one person may falter, another can step in and use their talents and abilities.  It makes me proud to call these people my colleagues and friends.  One of the best parts of the whole shoot is that my Mom was on set!  Mom graciously stepped into the role of 'caterer', taking on the giant task of feeding a group of 30-40 people 3 meals a day, plus snacks, for 2 days.  It was really special having my Mom there in the mix of my own set.  She got to see me in action as an actor and producer.  She got to see what my work is and the people I work with.  It was really exciting for me to be able to share that with her.  Not to mention, she now gets a credit on the film!  That's always the best part; watching your name pass by on the screen ;)

This past week was spent in post production (editing, musical score, etc...), which was headed up by Katherine, who also directed and wrote the film.  Most of my time this week was spent preparing for round 2 of chemo.  My Mom went home on Tuesday morning (just in time for a nice Valentine's dinner with her hubby!), so I've returned to my Mommy duties.  It was scary, but I'm able to lift Gwen now and my port-a-cath seems like it has healed up finally, so I'm not uber paranoid that Gwen will hurt me.  I put Gwen to bed by myself on Thursday evening!  I'm very proud of myself.  lol.  It's so nice to return to the everyday activities and find that I can actually do them.

I feel like my mind set in preparation for round 2 has been that of a boxer, a fighter.  I had to visualize what was about to happen.  I had to steel myself for the next few days.  Chemo isn't a good time.  I don't look forward to it.  In fact, I don't even want to do this again, but.... I have to.  10 more times.  This takes some great mental strength to step into something that every fibre of your being wants to never experience again.  I will be so thankful when this is all done.  God willing, I will never have to do this chemo thing again.  So, a lot of energy was spent preparing myself for this round, both internally and externally.  Thus, the sweet set-up in the chemo room.  If I'm going to do this, I'm going to make it as comfortable as possible.  Mike and I also scored some more Skylanders (a video game with tiny creatures that are transported into the game), so that we can play when I don't have the energy to do anything else.  I have books, movies, TV series (all graciously donated by friends) to keep me busy and occupied over the next few days.  I didn't even have the energy to watch TV last night though, so I just laid there listening to relaxing music until I felt like I could sleep.  If it weren't for the fact that I felt so bad, it would have been a very nice time.  Like I said, all I can do is make it more comfortable for myself.  So, I will continue to do that.  I will continue, I'm sure, to have my ups and downs, but I can be confident in the fact that my eternal positivity will prevail.  Don't feel too bad for me.  I can get through this and will...with a smile on my face :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You'll Never Walk Alone

I have had a rough couple of days.  I'm not sure if I'm just hormonal or if the chemo drugs are taking their toll on me.  One way or the other, I have felt very discouraged both today and yesterday.  I am having troubles staying positive.  I am doubting my ability to get through the next 6 months of treatment.  It's on days like today where I need a nice positive reinforcement.  I was going through my emails and almost missed one from a friend of mine from University.  She sent a message of encouragement, but more than that, she shared with me some of her soul.  She is an Opera singer and has the voice of an angel.  She attached a couple of songs for me to listen to.  One of them was "You'll Never Walk Alone".  This song brings so many memories to me.  Memories of my youth, of discovering my own voice.  Memories of two of my dearest friends on their wedding day in Ireland.  Memories of hope and inspiration.  It was the perfect reminder on a day like today to hold my head up high because I do not walk alone.  I will NEVER walk alone.


When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thank You

I got some news tonight that my place of work (where I haven't exactly been working since July) did some fundraising for me during their Superbowl Party today.  They raised a very generous amount and all seem very excited about the outcome.  I certainly am!  This comes after a flood of donations and gifts of financial support from my family and friends over the course of the past couple of months.  I have had one friend in particular blow me away with her fundraising efforts.  I am overwhelmed by people's generosity and so incredibly touched.

I have had so many people step up and help in so many ways and I don't know what to do other than write down my sincerest expression of gratitude.  I have had people give up copious amounts of their time (which, in this day and age is equivalent to money) to help take care of me and my family.  I have had family members reach out to me with cards and gifts to show their support.  I was given a card that my sisters delivered last week and I was so touched at all the personal messages that I couldn't help but cry my eyes out.  As I sobbed, I turned to my sisters and said sarcastically, "See how strong I am?!".  We all had to laugh at it.  At least I still have a sense of humour, I guess.

So far we have had our fertility treatments, a wig, some naturopathic care, and now many prescriptions paid for by our generous supporters.  I was actually just starting to think about the prescription costs this week because I realized that the anti-nauseant drugs that I had purchased several weeks ago were not in fact to cover the whole 12 rounds of chemo, they were only enough to get me through one round.  When I initially purchased them I thought, "Hey, that's not so bad!  Could definitely be more expensive."  Well, it is.  It'll be 12 times as expensive.  So many expenses that you don't think about!

My hopes in writing this posting tonight is to be able to tell each person who has contributed, be it financially, time, emotional support, food, babysitting, prayers, or thoughts, that they have truly been a blessing to my life.  I'm not sure if they will ever read this, I hope that some of them do.  I don't even know who all of them are!  I would like to speak to each person and tell them individually what an impact they have had on my life, but I'm not sure if that will ever be possible.  My truest, most genuine hope is that I can one day bless and touch their lives in the way that they have mine.  Thank you all so much for your love!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Round 1- Rocky Balboa

My favourite movie of all time is Rocky.  I love the story of the underdog fighter who is given his big shot to take on the world champion.  He has to change his habits, train hard, and beat some of his own demons, but in the end he takes on the Champ.  He doesn't win though.  I think that's the best part of the whole movie.  The fact that he stepped into that ring with the reigning world champion, knowing full well that this guy could knock his block off and that he probably didn't stand much chance of beating him, but he entered the ring nonetheless and went the full 12 rounds against this guy.  He eventually loses to Apollo Creed by judge decision, but that can't take away the fact that he went in there and surprised himself and his opponent.  He went the distance.

I find it funny that I am doing 12 rounds of chemo.  I feel like I've entered the ring with a very worthy opponent and am about to find out how hard it can beat me up.  I just finished, and survived, the first round.  Only 11 more to go.  I can do this.  It actually wasn't as bad as I was expecting.  Granted, some of the symptoms can get worse through the treatments as all the drugs start to build up in the system.  I have a lot of people asking me about my chemo treatments and how I've been feeling so I'm going to do my best to describe what I'm going through.

I went to the hospital on Thursday morning and they accessed my port-a-cath.  I call this being plugged into the matrix, except my portal is located on my chest instead of the back of my head.  I'm still bruised and sore from the insertion of the port-a-cath, so I kind of stiffened up with the pain when they pushed the needle into the portal, just like in the Matrix movies.  It made a weird "click" sound too, so it sounded like I was being plugged into some device.  Once I was plugged in, they filled me up with 2 bags of sugar water, 1 bag of Calcium/Magnesium, 1 bag of Oxaliplatin (one of the chemo drugs), 1 bag of Leucoverin (a chemo drug aid), another bag of Calcium/Magnesium, and lastly, 1 bag of Flourouracil.  There was a lot of liquid to get in me.  I was there for just over 4 hours and peed the same amount of times.  I couldn't believe how quickly it filled my bladder!  Once the last bag was done, they hooked me up to a small portable pump that would then continue to pump more of the Flourouracil into me over the next 46 hours (which I keep in this nifty fanny pack thing attached to a belt).  The pump is controlled by a white device that had to stay taped to my skin because it's my body heat that controls the speed of the drip.  Ah, the wonders of modern science!  Once I was hooked up to the pump and had been given all my instructions for who to call if I was having problems and schedules for my anti-nauseant drugs, I was free to go.  I couldn't help but think how funny it was that they were letting me out into the world with these toxic chemicals.  All the nurses had to pretty much deck themselves out in a HAZMAT suit every time they came close to one of the bags that contained the chemo drugs, and here they were letting me roam free with them in my fancy little fanny pack.

As I was receiving the drips at the hospital, I started feeling quite fatigued.  I had only brought reading material with me and I was having trouble focusing on the words, so I ended up watching TV the whole time instead.  I experienced some numbness and tingling in my right hand that was making it difficult to text on my phone (the horror!), but it was gone before I left the hospital.  I couldn't feel the drugs when they were entering my system, but it did feel like my blood was on fire and that I was burning up from the inside.  I kept feeling hot and couldn't figure it out.  I've been cold for so long because I lost so much body fat and all of a sudden I was having no issue at all heating myself.  It was odd.  I also had a metallic taste at the back of my throat that went away after a few hours.  I think the symptom that ended up annoying me the most though was the sensitivity to touching cold or hot items.  I was told to watch out for cold objects because the Oxaliplatin causes neuropathy and can make it feel like you're touching an electric fence when in fact you are simply pulling something out of the fridge.  Fortunately, mine wasn't that bad, but it was bad enough that it felt like I had grabbed onto a metal pole in -20 C (-4 F) weather.  It also felt like I had frostbite for the next 10-20 minutes after I touched something cold.  I was so sensitive to cold that the metal on my computer was hard for me to touch.  I ended up wearing leather gloves around the house.  This phenomenon didn't just affect my hands though.  All my skin was sensitive to cold, just not to the same extent.  I took a drink of my room temperature water and ended up feeling like it was burning my esophagus.  Apparently, drinking icy drinks or taking a breath of cold air can cause the muscles in the esophagus to spasm and feel like you can't breath.  I was warned of this symptom and told not to panic.  They said to find some steaming liquid and inhale the steam or to take a drink of a warm liquid and it would stop the spasms.  I hope to never have this occur in the first place.

The only other symptom that I can think of is that I was craving a big, greasy, juicy burger afterward...with bacon.  I've had that symptom several times after my most recent hospital trips, so I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's just an intense craving and no real symptom at all.  Or, maybe it's a symptom of being raised in Alberta by beef farmers.  Perhaps I should just go make myself a giant bacon cheeseburger and be done with it!  So much for my no red meat, low fat diet.  C'mon, Will Power!  Get control!!!

I spent the next two days living on my couch.  I just didn't really feel like doing anything.  I probably could have gotten up and done some stuff, but I was feeling really wiped and thought I deserved a bit of rest.  Maybe I was taking advantage of the fact that I had toxic chemicals coursing through my veins, but hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do- and I had some TV to catch up on!  I've had a mild state of nausea hiding in the back of my mind since I started this round of drugs, but the anti-nausea drugs are doing a good enough job that it is in no way interfering with my life.  I woke up this morning feeling pretty refreshed (by then the pump had finished giving me my dose), and I continue to feel pretty lively.  I got some laundry done (washed, folded, and even put away!), I heated up lunch for my husband and child, Mom and I took Gwen and Pebbles out for a walk in the sunshine, and I even chased Gwen around the house.  I had to have a nap halfway through the day, but overall I'd say I was feeling pretty normal.  Even though it may be hard for me to gauge what feeling normal really is for me anymore.  I haven't felt like myself in well over a year, so my memory is a little foggy as to what my "normal" is.  All I know is that I feel some energy returning and I need to do my best to not push myself too hard because of the excitement of having it back.

From now until my next round, I sit back and try to stay away from germs and any other form of infection.  I was warned by the nurse that most deaths during chemo are caused by infections that are not able to be fought off by the body because of the compromised immune system and the patient didn't take enough care to get to the hospital quickly.  I have to monitor my temperature closely and at any sign of a fever (even a low grade), I have to march myself to my local hospital ER immediately.  I skinned my finger when getting some laundry out of the dryer and it was bleeding.  I had to wash it with antibacterial soap and then put polysporin on it and cover it up.  I can't risk any infection of any kind.  I feel like I need to be put into a bubble.  That could be fun.  Watch out, John Travolta and Jake Gyllenhaal, I'm taking over the bubble!  "Bubble Girl" will be coming out next year.  Check out your local listings for showtimes!  Haha!
 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Whatcha Gonna Do About it?

At my oncologist appointment yesterday, I found out that I'll be starting my chemotherapy tomorrow, February 2nd.  When she told me that a date was set, my stomach did a flip.  I have been waiting in heightened anticipation since mid December for this time, but I felt like a part of me was living in denial that it would ever actually happen.  Well, it's happening.  I get hooked up to my pump tomorrow and will have a little "pump baby" to carry around for 46 hours.  I'll have to give it a name.  Let me know if you have any suggestions. 

I went to Lifewomen this morning at Relate Church in Surrey because I knew that is a place where I can always go to be supported and lifted up by a great group of ladies.  The guest speaker today was no other than Miss Canada 2011, Tara Teng.  She has a fire burning inside to lend her voice to the eradication of modern day slavery, to freeing the victims of the sex trade.  She stands for the abolishment of the trafficking of humans, not only around the world, but here in our own backyard.  Many people do not know that human trafficking happens in Canada.  The Lower Mainland is one of the worst places in Canada for the entrapment of young people, girls predominantly.  We are not talking about young women in their 20's, but GIRLS.  The average age is 12-14 years old.  We all have connections with people who have children of this age.  Can you imagine your own daughter, niece, sister, grand daughter, or even your friend's daughter being ensnared in that world?  Her voice taken away for fear of death or harm to her loved ones?  What would you do?  What can you do?  It's not like we're all special agent's like Liam Neeson's character in "Taken".  We can't march in there, efficiently kill each bad guy with a swift chop to the neck, or knee, or groin.  As much as some of us may fantasize doing that, it just isn't reality.

My business partner and friend, Katherine, and I thought that we were going to do a comedic film this year for the 168 Project film festival.  When we started praying about it, we felt led to bring awareness to child exploitation, sexual abuse, and trafficking.  We decided to do something about it.  We decided to make a film that would get people interested in learning about the subject.  We want to join the movement and show people what they can do.  We want to set up an educational program in the school systems to teach children and teens.  We want to use this short film to gain funds for a feature film that would be used to further teach people how they can help.  We should not be standing for this.  We should not be resting until slavery is gone from this world.  This is 2012.  Why does this still exist?  Why are we allowing it to exist?  Why are we not so angry and outraged at the thought of what happens to these children that we can't help but use every ounce of our being to join the fight?

The term "human trafficking" has been tossed around in our society as a catch phrase.  You may think, "This is just a trend.  I'm not jumping on the bandwagon only to have it crash and burn in a year".  This is not the case.  This issue is being fought at the governmental level by advocates such as MP Joy Smith ( www.joysmith.ca ).  Miss Canada, Tara Teng, has deemed this an important enough issue that she has dedicated most of the past few years of her life to bringing awareness to the cause.  She travels the world visiting places that are most touched by the sex trade, visiting victims and survivors, bringing hope.  She has the platform to do that and, personally, I'm glad that she was chosen as Miss Canada so that she could bring awareness to this issue.  I have been finding it so frustrating over the past six months as we've tried to raise funds for our film and awareness to the cause.  It has seemed like no one was listening; like no one cared.  I asked a 17 year old friend of mine if she had ever been educated in any way on human trafficking and she replied, "No".  This scares me!  Why are we not educating our youth?  Why are we not giving them the warning signs to watch out for?  I realize that this topic can be very touchy and most people, especially if you have a little girl, don't even want to think about it.  I get that.  I have a little girl.  But, I've decided to do something about it.

I'm tired of being a spectator.  If being diagnosed with cancer has done anything for me, it has helped me realize that we really don't have much time on this planet and we need to make the most of the time we do have.  I am not going to sit here and wallow in self pity.  I choose to take the energy that I do have and commit it to helping others in this world who are suffering.  They aren't suffering in the same way as someone with cancer, but there suffering is no less important, no less painful, and no less life threatening.  There are probably hundreds of cancer groups in this world who raise millions of dollars every year for research.  What if we could give money and support like that to organizations taking on human trafficking?  What kind of a difference could we make?  According to the World Health Organization, in 2000 there were approximately 10 million cases of cancer (with tumours) in the world (6.2 million died).  The global estimate on slavery is 27 million.  That needs to be repeated.  27 MILLION.  That is very close to the entire population of Canada.  I ask again, why are we tolerating this trade that is based in lust and greed?  HOW can we tolerated it?

I can't, which is why I'm doing something about it.  For the future, for my daughter, for all the daughters out there that have been taken and groomed for the purpose of sexual exploitation.  As I start my chemo tomorrow, I will be thinking of all those 27 million people out there who have it much worse than me.  Who have no voice.  I will use any platform that I can climb onto to cry out for these people.  I am ready for the fight.  Will you join me?

  I challenge you to find a cause that you want to support and do just that, in whatever way you can, be it financially, or vocally, or by doing research and passing around information to educate.


We are still raising funds for our short film "Coerced".  Go to www.coercedfilm.com to find out more or to donate.

Please check out some of these websites:

www.hopeforthesold.com
www.humantrafficking.change.org
www.endmoderndayslavery.com
www.love146.org/blog
www.tarateng.wordpress.com

See how many slaves you have working for you by doing the survey at Slavery Footprint .

   

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Update

Ok, I realize this is my 3rd posting today.  I think all the fun I had last night has unlocked a portion of my brain and I just want to share everything!

I just wanted to give a quick update about the fertility stuff.  I know some people, my family especially, are anxious to hear some results.  They managed to get 10 eggs from the retrieval (which isn't bad considering we started the whole process late).  Out of those 10, only 8 were viable for fertilization.  Out of those 8, 7 of them were successfully fertilized.  All 7 of those grew to the stage where they can be frozen for future use!  Yay!

(Statistically, only about 60-70% will survive the freezing and then only 1 in every 3 is typically successful in implanting)

It is day 6 since my port-a-cath insertion and I am still hurting quite a bit.  This is not normal, but I've had it checked out and it is not infected.  They think it may be because I am fairly thin so there really isn't a fatty tissue layer to cushion the implant from aggravating the muscle/nerves.  Please pray for a relief from the pain.

I still do not have a set date for chemo.  It should be solidified this week (hopefully!).

Joy and Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine.  That's the saying.  Well, if that is the case then after last night I should be completely cured!  I had been hoping to have one last "Hurrah" before I started chemo.  The opportunity presented itself last night.  I had planned with my sister's a week or so ago that we would go out to Yaletown while they were here visiting.  We could have a swanky night on the town.  So fun!  Well, situations happened, of which I will not speak, and the sister's weren't feeling too up to dolling themselves up to head to the big city.  All the plans I had made were falling through.  Disappointment.  BUT....with a bit of compromise, we were able to salvage the evening and decided last minute to not go into Yaletown, but to go to a more relaxed pub instead on Granville Street.

There weren't as many friends out as I had originally hoped due to the last minute nature of the night, but we had a nice even number of 6 which worked quite well.  Three of my dearest friends from my university days came out to celebrate my last night on the town before my treatments.  I don't get out very often, and I'm not exactly drinking much alcohol at the moment, but having my 2 older sisters and 3 of my honorary brothers with me was enough of a high to keep me going all night.  We shared some pub grub, sipped some beer, took some pictures and posted them on Facebook (of course! haha).  We soon decided to move onto a different venue.  We decided to do KARAOKE.

We went to a karaoke bar where we rented a private room and promptly began to sing our hearts out.  There is something to be said about a room full of 6 adults singing out with wild abandon.  The fact that 4 out of the 6 of us are actors probably helped in the inhibitions (or lack thereof) department.  Katie put it well when she said, "It's refreshing to see men, masculine men, singing and dancing".  It's true gentlemen, if you want to impress a lady, dance and sing without caring how you look or sound.  It's quite freeing!  As a group, there really wasn't very much alcohol consumed.  We were all quite sober (especially me) at the end of the night.  We all marvelled at how much fun we had with the simple 'high' of laughter and fun.

I was reflecting on the way home about how important laughter and joy are in the battle against cancer.  I haven't had a lot of really joyful moments in the past couple months and I've got to wonder what the positive health effects are of having so much fun.  The hormones released from laughing have got to count for something.  I don't think it would matter how well I ate or how much rest I got if I was miserable the whole time.  I've been told that negativity is a killer when it comes to cancer.  Stay away from it at all costs.  We kept negativity at bay last night, and I can look back on that evening of fun as a perfect way to start the next chapter of my journey.  I do believe that laughter could possibly be the best medicine.  Whoever coined that phrase was a very wise person.


Avoidance

I've been noticing lately that I haven't been looking people in the eye.  I've always thought that not looking someone in the eye is either a show of insecurity, lack of respect, avoidance or dodgy-ness.  I've done my best through my life to remember to look people in the eye.  This is why I'm now starting to notice that I haven't been doing it.  I know it's not a respect problem.  I'm pretty sure that I'm not the dodgy type.  Insecurity is not normally a problem for me.  (Don't get me wrong, I definitely have my insecurities, I'm just really good at masking them.)  This only leaves one thing: Avoidance.

I believe that I do not want to associate myself with cancer.  I am subconsciously pretending that it is another person dealing with this sickness.  I am having troubles looking this disease in the eye and staring it down.  I don't want to recognize that it even exists.  Sure, I'm going through the motions.  I'm dealing with all the medical procedures, the conversations, the good and the bad that come with having a life threatening disease, but I'm not sure if I'm admitting to myself the enormity of it all.  I'm not sure if I can.  I might fall apart.  For the most part, I have felt strong and positive about this situation.  If I let myself look at it all on a bigger scale rather than the day to day, then I may dissolve into a puddle of sorrow so deep that I'm not sure I could climb out of it.  The best solution that my subconscious seems to have found is denial.  I will avoid looking at this all straight on, which allows me to continue getting through it.

This is where a facet of Faith comes into play.  I forget sometimes to rely on God.  I forget that He has the strength to get through this and that He can give me that strength.  I've said it before, I think it was in my first ever post, that God only gives us what He knows we can handle.  I am honoured that He thinks this way, but MAN it doesn't make the journey too much easier!  I must remember to rely more on God.  Maybe then I'll have the strength to face this head on and look this nasty cancer in the eye.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Human Pin Cushion

It's official.  I no longer like needles.  Ok, I never really liked them, but I never minded them either.  Doing the whole fertility/hormone treatment thing over the last couple of weeks has been interesting for me.  Any given day I was getting up to four needles inserted per day; either through the daily hormone injections that Mike gave me (I worked up the nerve to do a couple myself!), or with the blood tests I was getting every other day, or IV's for CT scans and other medical procedures.  My arms and belly are bruised from all the needles.  My veins are in need of rest and recovery.  I just learned in my Chemo Teach session (more on that later) that drinking lots of fluids = healthy veins.  I suppose that means I should up my water intake.

This week in particular has been filled with poking and prodding.  I had a port-a-cath inserted on Tuesday and my eggs retrieved for freezing today.  For those of you who do not know what a port-a-cath is, it's essentially a small circular, rubber port that is attached to a long, thin catheter (tube).  I was given sedatives through intravenous then they did local anaesthetic in my right pectoral and neck.  They made a 3 cm incision on my chest and inserted the port.  The catheter was then threaded under my skin and pulled out through another, smaller incision in my neck.  It was then inserted into a main vein in my neck, down toward my heart.  The purpose of port-a-cath is to avoid continuous IV's during the chemotherapy treatments.  It is more sanitary, less painful, and easier to use.  I have to do 46 hours of chemo at home, so all those characteristics will come in handy.  I was somewhat unprepared for the pain that I would experience from the insertion though.  Once the freezing came off... Yowza!  It was swollen and so incredibly sore that I could barely move my neck or right arm.  My neck was so sore that opening my mouth to eat and talk even hurt.  Mike took my phone away from me because I kept answering calls and then complained to him about how much it hurt to talk.  Fair enough.

Today, things finally had settled down on the port-a-cath front just in time for me to focus on having my eggs removed.  Mike and I went in this morning for the retrieval.  I was, once again, given an IV (I bled all over the place when she put it in.  Kinda funny).  They gave me all sorts of drugs.  Tylenol, Gravol, and Ativan just to start!  I was excited to see the Tylenol because I hadn't taken any that morning for my chest and I was hurting a lot.  I went into the procedure room and climbed on the chair.  I got the cute, friendly doctor with the nice voice for my procedure, so I was pretty excited.  He and the nurses did a fabulous job of keeping me comfortable.  I wasn't sure why they were trying so hard to make me comfortable when they started.  They told me the freezing needle would be the worst part.  It was nothing.  Once again, I started to wonder why they were being so comforting and encouraging.  Then the retrieval started.  The needle poked into my ovaries and started digging around, sucking out the eggs.   OH MY GOODNESS.  OUCH.  Imagine menstrual cramps x100.  It was like 10 minutes of a bad labour contraction without any breaks.  And that was WITH the freezing!  Not exactly what I was expecting.  The cramping started soon after and I nearly passed out while being wheeled from the procedure room to the recovery room.  The nurses kept telling me to keep my eyes open and to talk to them.  I was confused and said, "You want me to talk to you?".  They got all excited that I was responding.  The whole room went sort of wonky at that point, like the world was imploding.  Very odd experience.

Now, I sit on my couch, dozing in and out with a heat pad on my tummy.  Walking around is pretty uncomfortable, but it's definitely easier recovering from the egg retrieval than the port-a-cath insertion.  I have decided that my least favourite medical procedures to date are those in which I am cut open.  I just don't like it.  At least this most recent slice and dice was to help me avoid tons of needles in the future.  I do have things to be grateful for!  I won't be pestered by all those little stabs for the next 6 months.  Yay!