Flat on my back

The end of my planned treatment was on Tuesday afternoon.  I had my last radiation and my last chemotherapy, and I had the honour of ringing the Bravery Bell!  It was all very exciting, despite the fact looming before me that the very next day, I would be checked into the hospital for three days, to commence my first of two Brachytherapy sessions.

I feel like during my treatment, they really played down what was going to happen during the Brachytherapy because they didn’t want to put you through five weeks of intense treatment, and then at the end be like “Oh yeah, here is the WORST thing, now, after all of the already bad things!!”  So I was under the impression that the Brachy would just be a small device put near my cervix that would deliver a direct dose of internal radiation.  Lets just say they “played that down” a little.

I checked in on Wednesday afternoon and I filled out paperwork, answered some questions, etc, and then they told me I could actually go home for the afternoon and come back at 9pm for an enema to make sure my bowels were empty for the surgery the next morning.  I was DREADING the enema, as it sounds frightening and disgusting and I have had the distinct pleasure of never having one, but I was excited to leave the hospital for the afternoon.

We came back in at 9 for the enema (which really wasn’t so bad, the thought of it was much worse than the actual deed.  Saro spent the night, because he is an angel.  We squished together on the rickety, tiny little hospital bed and cuddled as if our lives depended on it, all night long.  I woke up at 6am to another enema, Jesus, and then I was thrown right into the thick of things.

They put me under anesthesia and implanted a ring and applicator device that essentially had my cervix dilated to 3.8cm for the next coupe of days, for when my treatments would ensue.  When I awoke, I was in severe pain, and their first three attempts at managing it were not effective.  They finally ended up administering 5mg of morphine by IV drip, every two hours for the next two days.  That made the ‘not moving’ a lot more tolerable as well.  Because the device was planted so far inside of me and protruded outside of me physically, I wasn’t allowed to move.  I had a catheter in for bladder movements. the enema took care f the bowels, and I was expected to lay flat on my back until they removed the devices on Friday.  All I can say is thank god for the morphine and thank god for Saro, who indeed spent the next night on a little couch that he was able to unfold into a bed.

The whole experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, once they got my pain managed, but it was indeed daunting.  The actual radiation treatments themselves were not scary or painful either, they just came along with a lot of fatigue.

Probably the loveliest part of this whole adventure had to be Bev.  We had a nice big room with a view, and we had the loveliest surprise of sharing it with the sweetest girl named Beverly.  She was a beautiful asian, with a soft voice and a sweet, easy laugh.  She made me love her immediately.  She was in the hospital because she has stage four lung cancer, and she recently had a severe back surgery, so she was in because of low blood counts I believe, and she was starting her chemotherapy the next day.  She looked like she was in her mid thirties, but it turns out she was FORTY SEVEN!!!  Wow, the internal light that radiated from this woman (paired with incredible skin) really made her look like a sweet, youthful, strong angel.  She was an Operating Room nurse who regularly worked downstairs in the  very operating room I would be treated in, and her husband was a Doctor in a neighbouring hospital.

Spending three days with these lovely people opened my eyes to strength and beauty and selflessness.  They spent every year’s vacation doing mission work in third world countries, operating on cataracts on people who hadn’t seen their husband or wife in thirty years, helping children, and watching people line up for 10-12 hours to see them, just to get a single tylenol.  The inspiration I gathered from this amazing couple brought me to tears more than once.  Seeing how people handle adversity with grace and more strength than you think you’ll ever have, is the most amazing thing in the world.

I was afraid that at night I would move my legs and injure myself, with the parts of my equipment protruding out of me.  The hospital said they couldn’t restrain me, but I wasn’t supposed to move.  Bev and Saro worked out a genius plan to make me gentle restraints out of tightly tucked blankets, so I didn’t hurt myself.  She even went down to the Chapters downstairs when I was having my first treatment and was waiting for me outside of the room, talking with her colleagues to make sure I was ok, waiting with the softest, cutest bunny rabbit toy that I have ever seen.  I carried that rabbit with me everywhere throughout the rest of my treatment, including the horrific removal of my implant.

She was checked out about three hours before we were, but we agreed to stay in touch, get together in the future, and most importantly, volunteer together once we are both feeling better.  She is truly one of the most inspirational people I have ever met, I was brought to tears again just writing this post.  She left a ray of sunshine on my soul that will never leave me, and I am so grateful to have met her.

Back to the treatment for a moment…. On the third and final day, they did one more radiation treatment, but they raised my morphine to 7.5mg right before I went in.  After the treatment, they were going to remove the ring and applicator and all of the packing that was placed in my vagina so nothing was able to move.  WITHOUT anesthetic or freezing.  I won’t get into the gory details but it was incredibly painful.  The relief I felt when everything was removed was amazing though, and the pain stopped almost immediately.

This blog post wasn’t particularly grammatically correct, or dignified or funny or glamorous, but I just wanted to get it all down, everything that I felt and that happened over the past few days.  I wanted to write it down so I could remember it down the road, and so that my loved ones could peek into a tiny window of what I went through.

I am resting today and tomorrow, and I check back in on Monday for the exact same treatment.  Minus Bev, which I am more than a little sad about.  Apparently I get a big, beautiful private room with a great view, this time, but I would take her company in a heartbeat.

Ill post again next week, for “Flat on my back, part 2!!”

Lots of love,

Karmen

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Throwing sandwiches

It has been a phenomenal week and I’ve been revelling in the truth that it is my last full week of treatment.  In fact, after tomorrow, I only have two treatments left!  What a whirlwind, I can’t believe how fast the time has passed.  I am living proof that anyone can get through absolutely anything, if you put your mind to it.  Living one day at a time is a very monumental thing, once you master it.  Not worrying about whats coming next or what tomorrow brings.  It is very liberating, and it is one of the most important things that I have taken away from this.  I plan on living the rest of my life in this peaceful respite that I have discovered, and I know every day will be a day in itself, and a sanctuary that I am blessed to exist in.

On to the funny stuff.  Sooooooooo.  Yesterday I was supposed to have my last chemotherapy treatment, ring the damn freedom bell and all that jazz.  I was pretty excited, despite the persistent ringing in my ears that has been plaguing me like a gnat in the summer heat, buzzing and humming, whizzing and whirring.  That, my darlings, is a side effect from the Cistplatin.  Something about platinum based metal treatments has this rare side effect on some, and one of the only that I have endured.  I did my research and these side effects can be PERMANENT!!  Which, mark my words, is pretty fucking scary.   Its like, “Hmmmmmm…. You should choose the lesser of these two evils… Cure your cancer OR keep your hearing!”  I have enough on my plate, this isn’t choose your own adventure here, dammit!!  

Anyway, long story made short, I made an appointment to see my oncologist before chemo.  After radiation, a two hour check in with the doctor, and an MRI (which was fab, with all of that noise on my newly annoyed eardrums) they decided to put my chemo off until Tuesday, to make time for a hearing test, to make sure nothing horrific was happening.  It had been a long ass morning and I was tired, annoyed and mostly…. hangry.  (Webster’s English Dictionary defines hangry as: ‘The state of being so hungry that it has become infuriating. A hybrid of hungry and angry.’)

We make our way to the deli to have a bite to eat before the hearing exam and I am biting my cheeks in defiance of the hangry rage that has built it’s way up like molten lava in my soul.  The deli specializes in smoked meat (of course) but my stomach has been sensitive, so instead of ordering the delicious, fatty, slightly pink marbled, thin shaved fucking awesomeness that is recommended,  I do the right thing and order turkey.  TURKEY.  Saro, of course, isn’t an idiot and gets the smoked meat.

We sit across from each other, both on the edge of insanity.  He bites into his sandwich with great relish and smiles widely with great contentment.  I, on the other hand, am picking the dry crusts off of my shitty whole wheat bread and am rearranging the meagre turkey across the surface area of my embarrassing sandwich, as they obviously shoved it all in the front, to make this AS HORRIBLE of an experience as they could for me.  Imagine the frustration and disappointment I was experiencing with my day, situation, and …. just sandwich-wise… When Saro peers at me with a look of disgust on his face and says;

“Why are you touching your sandwich with, like, every finger you have?  Why?  I don’t get it.  Why can’t you just eat neatly?”

Don’t you judge me.  I recoiled in hanger-induced rage and….. and…… I threw my sandwich at him.  Yes, I threw my god damned sandwich.  Like a grownup.  At my fiancé.  In a public restaurant where cancer patients are eating.  Oh, god, the humility of it all.  I stormed off with my dignity left in a pile of crusts and limp deli meat, on Saro’s crumb ridden lap.

This was also a lesson I took away from this experience.  Don’t get hangry, it is a dangerous place to be.  Don’t hurt those you love with carelessly thrown sandwiches when this could have been easily avoided by keeping some cookies in your fucking purse.

I don’t regret this endeavour, because I enjoy every moment of my life.  Especially that moment when you justifiably throw a sandwich at someone, and walk away like you just threw a grenade at a car and it is blowing up behind you in a brilliant, fiery explosion.  It doesn’t happen very often, and I recommend taking the chance if you get it.  Oh, and also, I threw the pickle at him separately before I stormed off.  Like a BOSS!!

Wish me luck (and patience) this week.  It’s almost over!!

xoxoxo

Love, Karmen

Week four is almost no more!

Today almost marks the end of week four. That means I have one more Chemo and seven days left of Radiation! I can’t believe how quickly it all went. Days have melded into weeks, and a month has flown by as the breath of winter stopped tormenting us with its cool kiss and the sweet song of spring has been lilting in the air.
I often think that this happened at a good time. I hibernated through the worst of it, and as the end of treatment draws near, I can embrace spring with open arms and an open heart.

I met with my radiologist yesterday and we spoke about what is to ‘happen’ after the end of my treatment. He said that the next step is Brachiotherapy, where they implant a small device into my cervix and I spend two series of two days and one night in the hospital, where this little gadget will perform close range, directed internal radiation right onto the tumour. Dr Milosovic said that it is incredible technology, and it will be the final nail in the coffin to cure my poor, dilapidated cervix.

I asked him what the steps were after that, and when the likelihood of another surgery would be. He looked at me with the most confused, questioning look in his sparkling grey eyes, and he said, “Karmen, this is the treatment to cure. This is what this treatment has been all about. It is very unlikely you will need any type of surgery after this, it will simply…. be cured.” He had such resounding strength and conviction in his answer, that it make my heart skip a beat. I am so elated to hear such wonderful news.

Apparently during the Brachiotherapy, I have a CT and MRI before hand, to see the progress of my tumour, and during both 2 day stints, they are constantly imaging and monitoring the tumour. Lots of diagnostic imaging, he said that this would happen maybe at one or two other places in the entire world, and I am incredibly lucky, which I recognize.

Then I wait three months and get a scan, and we will see what happens then, but I am very hopeful that this will be the end of it. And if not, I trust that they will do whatever needs to be done to make me healthy again in the fastest, safest, smartest way possible.

I met a lady in the chemo waiting room yesterday, and it broke my heart. She was telling me the heart wrenching story of how her son is 26 and has leukaemia, and he is not doing so well. He is fighting the treatment and not taking his meds, he is very depressed and isolated, and he is already a year and a half in. I feel blessed with my short stint for recovery, and I am beyond grateful for the support from my fiancé and loving friends and family. I think positivity helps you heal, and I am well on the way. I gave her as many kind words as I could, and she cried and we had a nice moment. She tried to get him to talk to me as well but he was tired and sad and didn’t want to, which I respect. I pray for him and his family.

On a gross note, the weirdest side effect happened to me. I grew a little patch on my bikini area to “gourd my loins” from the dreaded lasers. LOL I knoooow it makes no sense, and is ridiculous but I felt like it would help protect my skin from the radiation. Yesterday I pulled my pants down to pee, and there was a world of little hairs in my underwear. I was like, “What the f*c& is that?” You have no idea how confused I was for a second. Well, it turns out that all of that zapping made my little patch of hair fall right out as if you were plucking feathers from a chicken. I, of course, yelled “SAROOOOOOO!!!!” and he came running to see if I was alright. “LOOK!!” I exclaimed, “Look how weird and gross this is!”
“Jesus, girl!” He said to me, “You never have any hair down there anyways, why do you care that it’s falling out? On the bright side, maybe it will never come back!”

That was my TMI for the day. I told my mom and she thought it was hilarious and told me that i “Must blog about that” – Apparently people like the gross stuff, 😉

My last chemo is next week and they told me that there is a bell that I get to ring once i’m done my last treatment. I am so excited to bang that damn bell and let my poor purple veins enjoy some time without Cisplatin running through them. I think I may even yell “FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!” and make a graceful exit.

Sorry for the lack of blogging, but I’ve been studiously and relentlessly working away at my book. It’s getting easier page by page and I can’t wait to get my story out there.

Wishing you a wonderful afternoon and lots of LOVE!!

xoxox

Karmen

Novel Beginnings (pun intended)

Well. Today is the day that I start to write my first book. I spent the weekend outlining the plot and…. This is going to be some project, let me tell you. I love to read, I have devoured thousands of books. Smart ones, funny ones, heartbreaking ones, terrifying ones. What I realized today was, each sentence must be special. It must be it’s own journey, it’s own story. No wasted space.

I am that person who likes to move ‘quick, quick, quick’ – And then possibly QUICKER!!! Writing my first page slowed me down and made me realize that I am writing a story, not racing to the finish line. So I will see you all in seventy six years, when I am done, because that’s how long it is going to take. JUST kidding! (kind of).

I am pleased with my first page, I will enclose it below for your reading and perusal pleasure. But before I do that, just letting everyone know, I am on week four of chemo and radiation. So far, so good! I am getting some pretty intense fatigue for sure, I was impossibly tired yesterday and today I am pretty sluggish too, but I am still motoring on and living my life. With all the sleep and rest I am getting, I’m pretty sure I am going to come out of this thing a teenager again!

The weekend was spectacular, it was like one of those really magical, lovely times that you know you will replay in your head a thousand times. We went for an extravagantly delicious dinner at Buca on Friday night, then went out with a friend for some drinks and some laughs. Saturday morning, Saro had to run some errands and he came back with the biggest, brightest, most stunning bouquet of flowers I have ever seen. Filled with peonies and gerber daisies and cala lilies, so much colour it looked like a bag of skittles. He brought me the flowers all wrapped in butcher paper and ribbon, along with a beautiful mole-skin journal with a beautiful little pen, so I can keep it in my purse, and when inspiration strikes, I can write down quotes for my book. You never know when genius is going to hit you square in the face. It was VERY thoughtful and I know I am a lucky girl to have someone who loves me so much and thinks of all the little things to make me smile.

We spent the day house hunting near the beaches. Ideally, in the next little bit, we would like to rent out our loft and buy a stand-alone home somewhere down by the water. An older home that we can renovate and make into something pretty spectacular. We drove around and it snowed just a little, the flakes were fluttering around like you were in a snow globe. It felt like the last day of winter, and armed with coffees and high spirits, we cruised around for hours, up and down side streets, ogling gorgeous houses that we loved. It was romantic and probably a lot more fun than it sounds, but life is all about the simple things, isn’t it?

Here is my first page, for your perusal, and I guess I’m going to get back to it!

The wind whipped around in reckless sheets, ferocious and unrelenting, grabbing ruthlessly at my hair and clothes as I made my way home on that torrid Tuesday. Horns sounded dramatically, a cacophony of noise as I propelled myself illegally across the traffic filled street, ignoring common sense and basic pedestrian law to get myself inside of my warm, familiar home in the most expedient manner possible. Noise from the concrete streets behind me echoed quietly as I entered the lobby, buzzing and gradually almost indistinct as the door gently closed with a sigh of relief. My world went silent for a brief moment, I closed my eyes and gratefully appreciated the warmth and quiet of my home. It had been a very, very long day.

Autumn in Edmonton was a complete disaster, a sudden and resounding disappointment after the few tolerable months of summer. The warmth of spring would sneak in after a long and intolerably cruel winter of bitter snowfall and temperatures so low, your blood would start to move sluggishly in your veins as if you were hibernating. It would quickly meld into hot, dry months of crackling yellow grass and crispy leaves and tepid overcast skies. And before you knew it, one summer day would turn into fall so quickly your head would spin and it was all over for another seemingly endless year.

I had been here for what felt like an eternity, but in reality was just shy of ten years. I moved to this dry heat, ice cold, bi-polar prairie just after my eighteenth birthday, and had been here, waiting in the sidelines for life my to begin, ever since.

I had a marriage for five years, and then I didn’t. It was that fast. The beautiful heartbreak of young love turned to the sputtering reality of adulthood comes so quickly sometimes, it’s hard to come to terms with when it began and when it was over. This was back when love was still some exotic pet kept in the corner of my actual life; something to come home and tend to with some kind words and a few treats, not nearly enough to sustain it’s poor life. Love deserved more than a pat on the head and a few rubs on the belly here and there, it’s no wonder it ran away from me in the dead of night.

I walked up the concrete staircase to the second floor where I made my way down the thickly carpeted hall, lit by pretty little sconces that made elegantly frightening shadows as I passed. I unlocked my front door and swung inside, closing it with a thump behind me, hands trembling as if the wind would chase me in. Keys tinkled in a pile on the counter, jacket strewn on the back of a silver chair, I collapsed onto my white leather couch and closed my eyes. My afternoon breath warmed the cushion next to my frazzled face. Today had been one of those days where there was no room for second guessing or regret, it was a day for doing.

Well, there it is! The rough beginning.

Lots of love to everyone!

xoxox

Karmen

The day after….

I awoke this morning with a renewed sense of purpose.  The sun was gleaming in through the cracks in the blinds, makings shadows dance along the balcony railings in our loft.  It was soft and pretty, and I languished in a deep stretch and a low groan, also feeling quite soft and quite pretty.  And then Saro turned the blender on and I literally jumped out of my skin, rattled by the racket, but excited for the milkshake-ey goodness he would be bestowing upon me.

I drank my smoothie happily in bed, watched an episode of Girls, and then got unbelievable tired, so I went back to sleep for another hour and a half.  Maybe it was a bit of fatigue, maybe I was just tired, but NO ONE can yell at me for sleeping too much right now and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.  I will get as nappy as I damn well please.

I decided last night that I am going to attempt to write a book.  I have been oft lectured by my parents, since about the age of ten or twelve, and I have been harassed by Saro for the past few years, but now my friends are staring to get in on the haranguing, so maybe there is something to this whole book business.  I have absolutely no idea what I am going to write, or what I am going to write about, but I figure that I will just write something that I would LOVE to read.  I’m not sure if you know this or not, but I do have impeccable taste, so if I love to read it, it must  be good.

Of course I googled tips to write a brilliant novel, and a novelist by the name of Anton Chekhov said: “Don’t tell me the moon is sining, show me the glint of light on broken glass”.  I love that, and that is exactly what I plan to do.

Besides feeling tired today, (which has passed actually, after a nice bowl of Mama Anna’s soup,)  I feel fantastic.  No aches, no pains, no bumps, no bruises, nothing to complain about whatsoever. Knock on wood that this keeps on keeping on!  I have some beautiful rosemary and thyme marinated Australian Lamb chops marinating in the fridge that I am planning on searing in my cast iron pan, and then finishing in the oven for dinner tonight.  I get zapped at radiation at 6:15 and hopefully I am home at about 6:45 to get my grill on.  Life really is wonderful, isn’t it?

Sending everyone lots of love,

xoxox

Karmen

Another one bites the dust

Dum.  Dum.  Dum.   Another one bites the dust!! And another one bites and another one bites, another one bites the dust!

That song is stuck in my head HARD today.  And for good god damned reason!  Another chemo, done like dinner.  If I was  more crude, highly dramatic and less respectful of my hard earned surroundings, I would be carving another line on my bedroom wall like it was a prison cell and I was counting the days down to freedom!!  But, alas, I am not, so I am celebrating in other ways.

Directly after chemo, Saro and I practically skipped to the car like giddy children, and we drove immediately to the Ossington strip, hankering down for some comfort food in an amazingly ghetto but delicious Pho restaurant.  Nothing like some black bean sauce, sriracha, slippery slurpy noodles, and that fragrant vietnamese broth to save your soul.  Soothe.  Soothe the soul, my soul doesn’t need saving!! (nervous laugh).

I came through it all like a champion again today, nothing bad whatsoever.  I feel incredible, and I am truly counting down, now! I am currently on the couch, watching “Montecarlo”, eating salted caramel ice cream, up to my chin in blankets and pillows.  Nothing to complain about here, I feel very lucky.  I read another quote today that I found fitting to share, it really resonated with me:

“Just imagine you are ninety nine years old and you are on your death bed, you’re sad and disappointed with the past, full of regrets about how you lived your life.  All of a sudden, you have a chance to come back to RIGHT NOW.  What would you do?  Whatever you answer is exactly what you should be doing.  Go and do it.” – Unknown

Now thats the GOOD stuff, right there!  We should all do a little more seizing and a little less wheezing.  (Sorry, I had to.  It rhymed and was just way to easy. Sorry….)  Carpe that f*cking diem, you never know when your luck is about to change and your cards are going to change.  Might as well enjoy every drop of the juice you squeeze, lest it be wasted.

This whole experience has taught me to love what you’ve got.  All the time.

On that note, I’m going to go do some loving right now!!

xoxox

Karmen

Week three! Yippee!

Today is day two of week three.  I had a fabulous weekend off, filled with lovely meals, amazing company, minor adventures and one incidence involving a broken plate.  All in all, exciting, fulfilling, and most importantly, HAPPY!!  Week two was pretty breezy for me, and the weekend is always cause for a beautiful celebration.

I worked out for my first time since surgery, last week, and although my thighs hurt like a mother, I am going to work out at least four out of five week days.  It makes me feel like I’m building strength where the treatment may be trying to whittle it away and enable weakness.  Although, that is not necessarily true, I take that back. I feel like a lot of people say that the medicine from the chemo and the radiation are poison and it hurts their bodies; So far, for me, I feel strong during and after chemo, and I feel like this medical marvel is melting away my tumour and helping my body kill this monster, and I do feel amazingly privileged to have such personalized access to it.  But I am adding exercise back into the mix, as well as healthy breakfast smoothies and a great diet and LOTS of water.

And, oh, as of yesterday, Immodium.  Lots of Immodium.  They warned me that the dreaded diarrhoea may be one of the side effects, and I was like, “It can’t be that bad! Poopy pants will NOT run MY life…”   I really had no encounters with it, until yesterday.  Saro went to soccer in the evening, and I literally spent an hour and a half running back and forth, and it wasn’t very fun.  Or glamorous.  Or ladylike.  Damn, there went my allure, right there.

They told me that the chemo balances it out and makes you constipated, and I do have chemo tomorrow, so until then, Immodium it is.  Other than that, feeling fantastic, I’m in high spirits and great humour.  Saro’s mom has been sending home lots of delicious homemade soups for me, and she’s been cooking things for me to pack for Saro’s lunch, so I don’t have to, which has been such a kindness.  She really is a wonderful cook and such a thoughtful person, we are lucky to have her around during this fiasco.  I have still been enjoying my culinary adventures in the evenings, though, and generally, about five nights a week, I am still cooking something amazing and we are enjoying it together at home.  The other two nights, we are going out and trying new things at new places and revisiting old favourites, trying to keep as normal of a life as we can during this next couple of weeks.

Yesterday, I started on an “HBO Girls” marathon.  Any twentysomething or thirtysomething who is going through anything, I recommend Girls as a form of therapy, to show you that your life is just NOT that messed up.  That show is so well written and it just makes you cringe and laugh and gasp, all at the same time.  In fact, I am going to get right back to that as soon as I wrap this business up.

As I finish my banana, strawberry, almond milk,spinach, mango smoothie, I wish everyone a delightful Tuesday, and I as always am sending out lots of love.  And tiny farts (COME ON, Immodium!!).  Just kidding, only love.

xoxoxo

Karmen