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.  ;)