A place where I can chronicle my family's journey through cancer. A place where WE can discuss our concerns. A place where WE can inspire each other. A place for hope.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just Breathe

Sitting in a local cafe on a beautiful Monday afternoon. A moment to myself, a time where I can just reflect on everything that's happened within the last month and a half. It's taken me a couple days to collect my thoughts together and really think, so this post spans a couple days. Careful kids, this ones a doozy!

It’s a beautiful morning today. The skies are blue, the air is crisp, and the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a coffee shop and find myself finally having a moment to reflect on everything that’s happened in the past month and some. Mom and Dad are probably sleeping away back home, resting and recharging their bodies for a new day. The last couple of days have been a little rough, to say the least. Since our last treatment on Friday, mom has been in quite a lot of pain. I’m not sure if it’s a sign that the chemo is working, or if it’s something else… but calling it fatigue would be putting it mildly as she needed assistance getting out of bed, walking, and getting out of her seat. She is such a strong woman, and it breaks my heart to see someone I love so much in so much pain. If there is a hell, then it is not one of flames and darkness. Hell is seeing someone you love in pain, seeing them suffer and not being able to do anything about it. That,my friends, is hell. It’s crazy how much of a rollercoaster cancer can be. I have never known anything so… terrifying, yet eye-opening, in my entire life. Everyday, I hurt. Some days are easier than others, but the fear and the pain are always there, like a snake that loosens and tightens its cold, suffocating grip around your heart. But at the same time, I feel a new sense of clarity and strength that I did not have before. It’s like I’ve been awakened by something powerful, profound, and meaningful. Almost like coming out of a fog with a newfound sense of purpose and direction. The highs are great and full of a weightlessness that makes you feel as if you’re normal again. With everything that has happened, you are able to truly appreciate and cherish moments like these because you know that a moment without pain and suffering is a moment to be thankful for. But the lows, they are equally as powerful, if not more. They are terrifying, devastating, and heartbreaking all in one. Since we first found out, I’ve discovered so much about my family and myself. I’ve discovered the power of optimism and hope. I’ve discovered how much it takes to draw strength from the deepest depths from within. I’ve discovered how powerful and important love and family are. When one first connects the word “cancer” to oneself, whether it be directly or indirectly through someone you love, your world falls apart. The ground beneath gives away, the sky comes crashing down, and you fall to your knees in such despair that you don’t know what to do, where to go, or even remember something as simple as how to breathe. Breathing is something that is regulated unconsciously and consciously through our body, something that is hardwired into ourselves to ensure survival. The impact of cancer was so devastating that, for about two weeks, I became a temporary asthmatic. I literally could not remember how to breathe properly. Constantly, I would find myself having to take deep breaths, not being able to draw enough oxygen into my system. Every time I drew a deep breath, I would get a feeling where my lungs would not be able to fill up completely. As if they were only able to draw in 80% of what they needed. I truly believed that I had developed a condition, but it was all in my head. The news had been so traumatic that I had become incapable of performing a task so simple and basic as breathing, to the point where I felt I had bruised my lungs from drawing so many consecutive deep breaths. Cancer was suffocating me. Breathing, something we do to draw energy from the world and live our lives, was being affected psychologically by my own body. And I wasn’t even the one with cancer! That is how much of an impact the news had on me. It temporarily persuaded my own body to betray itself, like cancer. When you first hear that cancer has chosen you or your loved ones, life is put into perspective. It forces you to take a big step back and seriously re-assess everything that you thought was important to you in your life. The effect of putting one’s life on a timeline that doesn’t all of the sudden extend into infinity is quite the experience. When we are healthy, we believe that we’re going to live forever, like immortals walking in the land of the dying and the diseased, completely unaffected. Cancer and other life-threatening conditions are myths and fables relegated to another universe. A universe eons away from the one you call home. It shouldn’t take something like cancer for us to wake up and realize how beautiful life is, to cherish each and every moment, to love, to smile, to just breathe. Because the truth is, we all have expiration dates, regardless of whatever foolish conditions you think may make you exempt from this universal fact of life. Life wasn’t created to be stretched over a period of time where we would forget what it meant. It was created so we could pass on our lessons and love, and more importantly, to truly live. When we are forced to realize this, it really is something else. What’s important to remember when you are diagnosed is that cancer is NOT a death sentence. Often times, the situation you find yourself in is what you make of it. It will be a death sentence if you let it become one. Never give up fighting and always look for newfound sources of motivation and inspiration. Today, research, medicine, and treatments are moving at such a rapid pace that a prognosis carries a diminishing level of importance (in my opinion). A doctor gives you a 5-year prognosis and you make it 6 years. So he gives you another 5-year prognosis, and so on, so forth until you’ve made it 15 years past your original prognosis. Whether you have cancer or not, you can't give up. Giving up is not an option. There will always be hope, even in the darkest of times. Hold on to it, believe in it, and use it to drag you out of the fire. This experience has changed me more in one month than any other experience ever has in my entire life. I won’t lie, there are times where a wandering thought will make its way into my head of what life would be like without my mother. My mom. My momma bear. And each and every time, my eyes begin to water and my heart begins to break. When you are suddenly forced to face your mortality face-to-face, it’s a scary thing and life seems so much more unstable and fragile. But you have to learn to wave those things away and stay on a path that will encourage you and support you. There are still moments where I will pause in sheer disbelief that this has become our new reality. I am still somewhat in denial, and I probably will be for quite some time. It's hard a thing to accept, even more so when it is forced on you like it has been on us and every other person affected by cancer. Everything moves so fast and quickly that you have little time to absorb. You're pushed and pulled in so many directions you literally feel like a dog chasing its own tail. Confused and getting nowhere. The world of cancer is vast and full of many unknowns. Time is of the essence. But not so much that you can't afford to pause and collect yourself, because you do have time for that. And it makes a world of a difference. Today (Friday), I met many lovely myeloma “warriors” at a support meeting (the first my family and I have ever been to). I’ve come to realize that there truly are angels on this earth, and some of them come in the form of nurses, doctors, support group members, and many others. These people are true godsends. Their hearts are filled with so much good. It’s amazing and leaves me overwhelmed and speechless. For those finding themselves newly diagnosed, I am truly sorry. This is not something that I would wish even on my worst of enemies. But if there is anything that I can tell you from my own experiences, just remember to breathe. Learn from my mistakes and our victories. I have felt what you feel, and let me tell you, the first 4-6 weeks are undoubtedly the hardest. The waiting. The pacing. The worrying. The news is devastating and traumatic, I know. At the time, we felt the most tremendous feeling of helplessness one could ever imagine. And trust me, trying to get a diagnosis during the holidays ain’t no walk in the park. EVERYTHING IS CLOSED! But know that you can gain control over your situation. Research, research, research and immerse yourself with as much information as you possibly can. And don't let anything discourage you! Information about the drugs you’ve been prescribed (side-effects, warnings, etc.), information about your condition (symptoms, care, etc.), information about nutrition (what to eat and what not to eat), information about precautionary measures (I decided to educate myself on CPR just in case I might need it some day (hopefully not)), and so on. There’s no such thing as being too well-prepared. The very basics for myeloma, that have been working for us, have been LOTS of water (at least 3L/day to help out your kidneys), plenty of fresh (if possible, organic) vegetables and fruits (for fiber and nutrients), daily exercise (to get oxygen into your system), cutting out refined sugars and processed foods (cancer FEEDS on sugar), and plenty of laughs (to keep your spirits up! Which is half the battle). For patients, like my mom, never stop fighting. Find a reason to fight! For your kids, to live a dream, to just LIVE. You will get broken and bruised along the way, but know that there will always be someone to lean on. Surround yourself with other patients, with family members, with friends. Surround yourself with goodness. And if you still find yourself alone or unable to reach out, know that you will always have me. Although I am still very new at this, an open ear needs no experience and you can talk to me about anything. Or, you can do what I did, and make a blog of your own and talk with the universe. Cast out your negative energy into space and share your goodness with others. For those of you who are caregivers, like myself, there will be times where you will feel helpless and other times where you feel like ripping your hair out! It’s ok to feel that way. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to take a breather for yourself. Take a break and spend a day to concentrate on yourself. You cannot help those you love unless you, yourself, are at your best. And for everyone, always remember to just breathe and believe. As I have mentioned, I am still very new at this. My advice may warrant a question or two from some of you, but what I lack in experience, I make up for in my sincerity and drive to overcome this beast with my family and all those fighting the good fight. I will share with you everything that I know so that we can all work together in finding the cure. If we work as a collective nation, we can and we will beat this thing once and for all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inter...regional Man!

On our way to our first support group meeting. It should be interesting and I'm curious to see how it's going to go. This will be our third time in calgary this week! I feel like such a jet setter!....minus the jet. Is it possible to collect frequent road miles!? :)
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Meeting went really well :) I was a little nervous going into it. I've never been to a support meeting of any kind, so honestly, didn't know what to expect. But everything about it was warm and inviting. The house, where it was held, was beautiful and homely, and the people were incredibly informative and supportive. Not gonna lie, I got a tiny bit emotional (but managed to keep that potential gongshow under wraps) because I was just so overwhelmed. From what? I'm not sure. Maybe it was because I was surrounded by people who...understood what we were going through. Maybe it was because everything just kind of caught up to me. Or maybe it was because we were all on the same path, fighting for ourselves and for each other. Who knows? As the meeting proceeded, I felt myself get slightly annoyed (not sure if that's quite the right word there...) because there were member(s) who seemed like quite the Debbie Downers. I thought to myself, "why is he complaining so much? Why is he being so negative?" etc. etc. But as the meeting continued, it dawned on me that maybe this was the only place where these people COULD vent a little, where they could complain and talk about their experiences with people who would genuinely understand. Because, as great as it is to get support from others, I don't think they will truly be able to understand what you and your family have gone through unless they, too, have gone down that road as well. So I get it now, and I suppose that's what a support group is there for, right? To be able to have someone to lean on, to lift the heavy weights off your shoulders (even if for just a moment), and to release your frustrations out into the world. Everyone is fighting their own battle, but we ALL are fighting the same war. The war to fight off this BEAST and find a CURE.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Just finished our first round of checkups with our doctor and everything went really well! We got the results back from mom's chromosomal test and everything came back normal. You have NO idea how relieved I was to hear this. Like, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW. I went into calgary extremely nervous and anxious and came out overjoyed! When we were sitting in the room waiting, I sent out a silent prayer pleading that everything would be ok. Once I heard the news, my mind was a huge blur of "THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU"s for about a good two minutes. I feel like a kid on christmas morning. THAT is how happy I am :) I don't think my parents understand how good this news really is, because if it came back abnormal with any sort of chromosomal deletion, that would have been some bad news bears. So, I'm ecstatic, but my parents probably think I snuck a dose of my moms Dex or something (it makes you really hyper and energetic. Think... The mom from "There's Something About Mary"). The only thing is that they forgot to mark off the correct things for her blood test so we won't be able to know exactly how well the chemo has been working until next week... But since she started chemo, the pressure in her back has almost completely disappeared, which is an excellent sign! The doc says that he expects her to go into remission after stem cell therapy! Bahhhh so happyyyyy :D. Tonight, we celebrate!!!
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Frog for a Friend

In any kind of situation, you have your good days and your bad days. For the majority of our treatment so far, things have been going quite excellently. Velcade and Dex have not limited my mom from being active and going for daily walks, catching some fresh air, and just being optimistic and happy. The last two days however, not so much. I'm not sure if this is something that we should be expecting with treatment, but fatigue would be quite the understatement. Her body is in so much pain that she needs assistance walking, getting out of bed, and sitting down. Sleepless nights follow long days, leaving us all thoroughly exhausted. Ironically, she is in more pain in the mornings (after sleeping(=rest)), than in the evenings. We were even at the point where we were set to take her to emergency because we thought she might have fractured something, due to her pain. It scares me... A lot. But I'm going to try and stay optimistic and hopeful here. We all are. Sometimes, that's the only thing that keeps you going, hoping that tomorrow will bring you a new day devoid of any (or as much) pain and stress as today and yesterday. Hope.

In other news, I decided to buy my mom a fish to cheer her up. I'm not sure if it was maybe the medication talking, but on the way home from treatment the other day, she said she wanted a fish. We thought she meant sushi. But no, a fish. Like a pet. So I went to the petstore and came home with a bright red fighting fish.... and dwarf frog. Random, I know. But I will go to the ends of the earth for her, and yesterday that meant the pet store. Have yet to name them, but they're quite the pair. At first, the fish got a little "wtf" which I guess would be normal, considering it went from living in a tiny little cup with only itself for company, to a huge vase with a frog for a friend. But now its used to it :) However, today I fed them and the fish got to a lot of the food before the frog. I think that might have ticked it off because the frog proceeded to give the fish a couple nips before swimming under a rock to be by its bitter self. Quite the pair huh?
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Friday, February 5, 2010


"Hakuna Matata"
- Timon & Pumba

Just Kiddinggg

Found it. :)
It was hiding in my bag...which was literally beside me the whole time I was freaking out. I found my first-born!!! I am happy :)
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Oh Hellllll Nah

On my way to calgary for another day of treatment....SANS my ipod. I may be calm and reserved on the surface (at the moment), but inside exists a raging banshee that WILL NOT cease to freak out until I find the whereabouts of the device in question. The last time I had it was at the gym and I am praying to the misplaced-items gods that I did not leave it there. I might as well have misplaced my first-born child. Am I being dramatic, you ask? Not at all. Today I embark on a quest to find my first-born and sew it into my arm so I never ever lose it again (we can discuss charging another time). Wish me luck!
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's A Beautiful Day

Woke up to this beautiful image this morning. We live in a postcard :)

Another day of treatment. I FINALLY figured out how to semi-read these darn blood test results. Moms CBC is pretty good, hovering around the normal range, so that's good. Finally discovered where the M-protein (one of the primary means of "tracking" your progress/treatment) is on the sheet as well. Its labelled as monoclonal protein. Alas, it was further broken down into type 1 or 2, which I have yet to understand. Getting closer though :)
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network