I want to give recognition to two families who are struggling to get to remission from cancer and one for whom the struggle is sadly over.
BigDCdn has just completed a stem cell transplant. He was diagnosed with stage IIa Hodgkins and relapsed after 3 cycles of ABVD. My thoughts are with you, big guy.
SQLman was diagnosed with advanced Squamous Cell Cancer in his throat. He’s gone through a powerful course of chemo and radiation. We’ll know in a few weeks if this was enough to send the tumour into remission.
Lastly I want to acknowledge charter member Wayne who became emeritus a few weeks ago. Wayne passed away after a long battle with kidney cancer. I met Wayne and his wife Colleen through friends in summer of 2009 and I know they did follow this blog. I hope that it was some small comfort to them. My thoughts go out to Colleen for peace of mind and heart. He will be missed.
This is a club you don’t want to be a member of… though it’s OK being an alumni. Unfortunately the initiation ceremony and dues paid can be brutal.
As for me, life goes on. Remission continues as per my last checkup with Dr. Valerie in early March. I’m dealing with some lifestyle issues (eating and drinking less) which had been put on hold to fight cancer and am feeling much better for it. Work continues. Cass, the dogs and horse are as well as can be expected. Spring is here. Life is wonderful.
“I suddenly understood with great clarity that nothing in life — except death itself — was ever going to kill me. No meeting could ever go that badly. No client would ever be that angry. No business error would ever bring me as close to the brink as I had already been.”
David Davis Jr. editor of Automobile Magazine. Nov. 7, 1930 to Mar. 27, 2011.
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On the day that I got my H1N1 influenza vaccination the radio station we listen to here on South Vancouver Island (The Zone, 91.3) was fielding lots of calls about whether it was a good idea or not. Many of the calls were paranoid and supposed an enormous government conspiracy. I called in and left a comment on their line basicially saying that I had had cancer, had got immunized, felt fine except for a sore arm and was looking forward to not having H1N1 flu.
Now, my comment seems to be in heavy rotation on The Zone’s break fillers. It’s weird to be driving along in the truck and realize that the voice you are hearing on the radio is your own. I imagine they play it because it’s fairly informative and not very hysterical. Anyway… if I’d known it was going to get so much play I would have tried to sound like less of a nerdy goon.
“I wrote a song, but I can’t read music. Every time I hear a new song on the radio I think, “Hey, maybe I wrote that.””
“New York: the only city where people make radio requests like “This is for Tina – I’m sorry I stabbed you”
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This is the morning of my check up with my oncologist Dr. Sheila. I have been feeling “off” for the past week but it’s hard to know if that is because of a mild reaction to the H1N1 vaccine or because of anxiety related to this examination. I have been jumpy.
We wake up at 6am and loaf in bed until 8. I’m a bit of a basket case emotionally and have come to expect that on the mornings of these checks. There is a sun shower early and an intense rainbow because of it. It’s very beautiful and affects me emotionally. We get washed and dressed and head out to Pure Vanilla for scones and coffees. Cassie’s fruit galette is disappointing… the pastry was not flaky… sigh… our life is so hard <sarcasm>. Then it’s off to the Vancouver Island BC Cancer Association facility beside the Royal Jubilee Hospital.
It’s busy there. The clinic waiting room is full. I notice that the pamphlet rack has a new sign: “If you touch it… take it with you or throw it in the recycling!”. This is one of the measures to fight the transmission of influenza viruses but I think it will have the unintended affect of preventing people from looking at pamphlets.
Dr. Sheila breezes in, tells us that I look great, says that my blood test results look fine, prods and pokes my neck and torso, congratulates me on my continued remission, shakes my hand and leaves.
And with that… I pass one year in remission. As soon as the doctor leaves the exam room Cass and I grab each other in a fierce, tearful hug. I didn’t realize how much tension, worry and expectation we had been holding in over the last week in anticipation of these results. For me, this is an important anniversary. It’s one year since they first declared I was in remission. Through our happy tears we agree that this was a great year… a year of good love, fun, work and life. Every year you are well is a great one.
We will have some friends over for dinner tonight. Cassie is making roast beef. Yum.
I will have my next check in March 2010. Here’s hoping for another 4 months of “no lumps”.
“I’m very pleased with each advancing year. It stems back to when I was forty. I was a bit upset about reaching that milestone, but an older friend consoled me. ‘Don’t complain about growing old–many, many people do not have that privilege.’”
“Life isn’t a matter of milestones but of moments”
Rose F. Kennedy
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Well, so far so good. The doctor says my blood tests are acceptable though my lymphocytes are still low compared to normal. That is understandable because of the illness that I had. She poked and prodded me and couldn’t find anything that shouldn’t be there.
So, I would say that I can now call myself a survivor… no longer a patient. I have been free of any evidence of disease for 4 months so I think I come by that title honestly. It doesn’t mean that there will not be problems in the future but for now I live on.
We also stopped by the chemo infusion room and donated all of my leftover anti-nausea medication…Cass finally felt ready to give them up. (And she claims that she’s not superstitious!) Some of the medications cost more than $20 per pill and there are many patients that don’t have the luxury and fortune of the medical plans that Cass and I have.
“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” Bill Cosby
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I have my first “post remission” checkup with my oncologist in a few hours. I’ll post when I get back how I made out.
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You considered having children an important and serious business. You had a degree from the University of Toronto as a nutritionist but you also had good common sense about what was good for people to eat. You often told me that when you were pregnant with me you liked to have a beef-steak with streamed broccoli for breakfast. I ate well as a child and teenager. There was always lots of good food to eat and you cooked from scratch every night. As a preschooler I remember you getting dinner on the go at about 3pm unless you were cooking something Ukrainian, which had to be started in the morning.
You used to tell me about how both your and my dad’s genetic backgrounds were generally good. People in our family live into their late 70s or middle 80s. Heart disease is virtually unknown. Your father had died of cancer at the relatively young age of 69 but you always rationalized his early death with his occupation; He ran an auto repair shop from 1920 to 1965. You would tell me stories about the fumes and solvents that he used without the proper breathing apparatus and ventilation that is now required. Your implication was that my grandfather had “voided the warranty” on his body by subjecting himself to a carcinogenic environment so it was understandable that he didn’t live his full life.
I’m happy to have survived Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, at least so far. Long may that last. I don’t think that my contracting Hodgkins had much to do with either my genetic background or environmental toxins I might have encountered. I do think it relates to a prolonged period of impaired immunity I experienced due to a serious infection in 2007 which I discuss in detail in “A Child’s History of Lumps”. However, I do believe that all of the crap that had to be done to me to put the Hodgkin’s into remission has “voided my warranty”. I’m like a DVD player that had a sticker on that back that said “No User Serviceable Components Inside. Breaking of this seal Voids Warranty.” My seal is most definitely broken.
The chemicals and radiation treatments that were used to kill the malignancy has left a trail through my organs. The Adriomycin has possible heart effects and the Bleomycin has possible lung effects. The Vinblastine has caused neuralgia which I often feel in my fingers. The radiation treatments have increased my chances of contracting other types of cancers including Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So, I’m sorry mom but, all bets are off on my possible projected life span.
However, I’m certainly happy to have had all the health, both genetic and environmental, that you gave to me. It was like capital that I had in the bank and needed to spend for a rainy day. It allowed me to withstand the cancer treatments. There are many people who are not healthy enough to do so. The doctor’s can decide that the condition (either genetically or due to deterioration) of your heart and lungs are too poor to withstand the Adriomycin and Bleomycin. My immune system could have dipped much farther than it did, exposing me to an infectious illness that might have killed me. There are a dozen times where my body could have failed me in my struggle. But it didn’t.
And sorry about breaking the seal… I had no alternative.
Love always, Tom.
Leona Petrachenko, 1924 – 2001
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Today is our 6th anniversary. We try to celebrate all the things that are important to us and our marriage: boat, horse, dog, food, drink and %&(#%$. We wake up late, go for coffee at Pure Vanilla, visit the boat, visit the horse and now are back at home resting after some tasty %&(#%$ and waiting to go to Brasserie L’Ecole for dinner.
We’ve felt much more reflective this anniversary. We’re both very aware that our anniversary bookends my cancer diagnosis and treatment. We’re remembering that all we had to worry about last anniversary were trivial work troubles. This anniversary we have the whole process of cancer diagnosis and treatment to consider. We’re in agreement, strange as this may seem, that it was a “good” year.
That might seem like an oxymoron… that a year spent fighting cancer was good. However, we believe that we felt deeply about important things, dealt with issues that really mattered to us, lived in the moment, enjoyed each other’s mutual support, had meaningful relationships with our friends and family and reciprocally enjoyed their company and support. We felt pain and despair but also hope and victory. So, without a doubt, this was a good year… maybe a great year. That’s the way we see it. Happy anniversary.
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their Finest Hour.'” Sir Winston Churchill
Happy anniversary, happy anniversary, happy anniversary... HAAAAAAAAA...PEE anniversary!!
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