Week two: OVER!

This morning, there was a very gratifying feeling in my heart, realizing that 2 weeks have come and gone, and I am almost halfway through!  We went out last night and met up with some friends and had a few glasses of wine and a damned fun evening, so this morning, getting out of bed took some pushing and prodding.  We got ready and headed down to the hospital to meet with my oncologist and then have Radiation.

In the Gyne North and South wings, there are the nicest people working behind the scenes.  The secretaries to check you in, the nurses who take care of you, the doctors, radiation specialists and surgeons who are there to make you better, are all such LOVELY, special, caring people.  Saro raves about it so often, and he is literally a much loved celebrity figure in that hospital.  Everyone knows his smiling face, he talks to everyone, it is just the most adorable, happy, uplifting thing.  Everyone there knows our story and how we are eloping somewhere tragically romantic once this whole fiasco is over, and they always make sure to take the time to talk to us about it and laugh and smile.

Today, Saro took it upon himself to get a menu from Druxys, a delicious deli upstairs, and when we were waiting to visit with Dr May, he decided he was going to buy the entire office lunch.  I told him that was so thoughtful, but unnecessary.  He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and while I was waiting to get checked in for radiation, he went upstairs and ordered platters of sandwiches, vegetables and tarts for the staff, and he popped by again to let them know when it would be delivered.

I am so lucky, I am marrying such a selfless, pure, wonderful man, he truly inspires me and everyone around him.  The whole office was completely floored that he had done that, as was I.  Not many people that I know would spend $200 to make strangers happy, but I guess to Saro, they aren’t strangers, but people who are working hard at making his future wife well, and with a smile on their faces to boot.  That was such a happy way to end the week, I will carry that lovely thought with me always.

I had a nap when I got home and spent the afternoon reading.  Now it’s time to forget about cancer for a few days and have a beautiful weekend with my partner in crime.

Wishing everyone a few days filled with adventures and smiles and of course, love!!

xoxox

Karmen

Eyemasks and eggs- Luxurious afternoons

I woke up today feeling phenomenal.  Like, actually phenomenal.  I slept like a baby (thanks to the hospital prescribed little blue pill, unfortunately) woke up to cuddles and kisses from my amazing partner, and got up with a skip in my step as he left for work.  I was expecting to feel fatigued and decidedly unmotivated today, but I felt healthy, energetic and excited for whatever was in store for me.  I think I am really beginning to enjoy myself. I have been spending an awful lot of time with lovely old me, lately, and I think that we quite enjoy each other!  I read a quote the other day that really seems to sum it up nicely.

The person in life that you will always be with the most, is yourself.  Because even when you are with others, you are still with yourself, too.  When you wake up in the morning, you are with yourself, laying in bed at night you are with yourself, walking down the street in the sunlight you are with yourself.  What kind of person do you want to walk down the street with?  What kind of person do you want to wake up in the morning with?  What kind of person do you want to see at the end of the day before you fall asleep?  Because that person is yourself, and its your responsibility to be that person you want to be with.”

Saro is a constant source of inspiration for me.  Quite literally the best person I have met in my life.  He sees light in all things, and brings light to all things.  It is a miracle what an absolute pleasure this man is to be around.  It’s almost been three and a half years, and every day, it is something new and even more lovely with him.

I think it is a combination of being strong in the face of adversity, seeing the good instead of falling into shadows, spending a lot of time with myself and my thoughts, and being around someone so motivational and inspirational that is making me become a stronger, more patient person.

Today has consisted of languishing in the sun, eating fruit and scrambled eggs, reading a new book (while swathed up to my chin in filmy white blankets) and indulging in some ridiculously expensive gel eye masks that I was gifted in my Topbox this month.  Maybe it is my outlook (and the four litres of water I guzzle daily) that is keeping me happy and healthy, when I very probably should be sad and sick.  If that is the case, I am going to forage forward with a swagger and a smile and keep on keeping on.  Mind over matter.

I have bloodwork for my appointment tomorrow with my oncologist, and then radiation later tonight.  Until then, I am going to continue spoiling myself, gather my blessings and happy thoughts close to my heart, and focus on feeling as amazing as possible.

Tomorrow marks the end of week two, leaving a measly three weeks to go until I have completed my treatment.  If I could give anyone a few golden, glittering pieces of advice, no matter what your situation, it would be to take some time for yourself, love yourself, take care of your mind, body and spirit, in whatever way you can.  For some that might be having a glass of wine and relaxing.  For others, it may be taking a break from the wine and reading a book to nourish your mind.  All I know is that I feel good, and I want everyone I love to feel good too, always.  This whole thing has shown me that anything can change in an instant, and life truly is finite and delicate.  Time is of the essence.

Lots of love to everyone today,

xoxox

Karmen

Second Chemo- Smooth Sailing!

Today was halfway through my second week of radiation and my second Chemotherapy session.  I was afraid, as always, and I am not afraid to ADMIT that I was afraid, as every venture to the hospital is a little uneasy, must confess.  It is getting to be more and more routine for me though.  In the car, Saro chatting to me and keeping my mind easy and trouble free, getting dropped at the revolving doors, skipping through the lobby and clipping down the circular staircase to the basement in my clickety-clack high heel shoes.  I’m getting used to the looks that I get in the hospital, I can practically read people’s minds: “Why is that girl so dressed up?  Does she work here?  She can’t be sick, can she?”  Getting ready to go to the hospital is therapeutic for me, it is like putting on my armour.  I am so used to getting dressed up for the jewellery store every day, the last month has been an adjustment, swishing around the house in sweats and tee’s.  So every day, I make that effort, at about 430 PM, no matter how sad I was or tired or scared, or perhaps just gloriously lazy, I shower and painstakingly get ready.  A nice smoky eye, some glossy nude lips, a little bronzer, a nice blowout, and a sleek ensemble.  ALWAYS heels.  It is my time to take control of my day, not feel sorry for myself, and show the world that I will not pout, I will stride through this with ferocity and yes, fashion.

So today, I spent some extra time getting ready because it was a big day.  Chemo AND radiation. Uggghhhhhh.  I wore a beautiful navy dress, a grey cardi with adorable elbow patches, black tights, black over the knee socks, and stiletto boots.  Feeling good!  After getting zapped at radiation, went straight into chemo, albeit nervously.   Saro, in the meantime went down to the lab to drop off the horrifying mass that I so “Dexter-like” stashed in my refrigerator for the past few days.  Just so he wasn’t that weirdo carrying around a big hunk of flesh in a snack-size ziplock bag, I wrapped said bag in tinfoil and sent him down to the nurses station.  I expected them to just check it in and send it away, but he said the nurses all gathered around and opened the damn tinfoil takeout and examined it right there.  THE HUMILITY of it all!! I’m pretty ecstatic I wasn’t around for that awkward exchange.

So back to the chemo.  They sat us in an area that was way more public than last time, next to someone who was about seventeen, and another man who was about seventy.  Saro (in his take charge, never afraid to ask, manner) spots a private room across the way, where we were last time, and asks for us to be moved there.  Our nurse obliges and sends us to our merry little pincushion.

Long story short, the chemo didn’t hurt, no side effects, and we had another funny washroom fiasco.  Lots of lighthearted laughs.  After the treatment, we met with my radiologist, who just wanted to check on my progress so far.  I said I was taking it all like a champ, he was very pleased and that was that!  He also said that the mass that I passed was actually a piece of the tumour.  Apparently, some tumours can be cauliflower like, branching off a bit into sections.  My body is strong, and the first two times my body passed these, it was me trying to flush out my tumour.  This time, it was the same thing and it actually means the treatment is working, it is literally pieces of my tumour falling off, and he said that is great news.  MOM….. You were RIGHT!!!  Lord, mothers really always do know best, don’t they?

Your whole life, you grow up thinking that you know best and that your mother, albeit wise and beautiful and strong, is  …. well, just your mother!  Not my mom.  This woman is all-knowing, I am TELLING you!  She called this, as soon as I was diagnosed.  She said, “Karmen, your body is strong, and it is already trying to flush the cancer out.”  I thought, “Awww, mom is trying to make me feel better.  What a doll.”  Well, it turns out that my mom might as well be a cutting edge, state of the art, modern miracle Cancer Messiah.  She knew it all along, and I am so happy that she was right.  I’m actually just so happy for all of my blessings, today and always.  Things are looking up, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I have so much to celebrate.

ONLY THREE WEEKS LEFT!! (After the next two days, lol)

Sending all kinds of love,

Xoxox

Karmen

Back at it

Well.  It is day two of week two today, which is amazing.  In my head, I have actually done some very creative math and decided that I am practically done treatment.  Forever the optimist!

Having two days off from the hospital this weekend was pretty magical.  We ate gluttonously, we had a few glasses of wine, we saw friends, we shopped, I went to the hair salon, and most importantly, received impromptu pedicures and foot rubs from my glorious other half.  All in all, It was spectacular.

Sunday night, I was a little “dread-y” of Monday creeping up on us so violently quickly, but I slept fitfully regardless and decided to embrace the day.  Yesterday was no ordinary Monday, there was a plethora of things that had to be done outside of  my treatment, for once.  It was kind of nice, getting up and getting ready, slipping on a beautiful tweed pencil dress and sheer black tights and pointy black Louboutin pumps.  I had a job interview for a Sales Manager position, I had clients to meet to sell an engagement ring to, and I had a movie night to look forward to, with the girls.  Just normal people stuff.  I actually forgot that I had cancer, for the day, and KILLED the job interview, sold the engagement ring, and had a blast with my friends.  Karmen- 2, Cancer-0.  YES!

The only damper on the day was that I passed another small mass, vaginally, which was a little traumatizing.  At the beginning of this whole fiasco, thats what prompted me to go to the hospital.  I had been on the toilet, pushing for a classy and ladylike number two, when something “fell” from my vagina.  It was a piece of white flesh-like material, the size of a very large prawn.  I almost had a heart attack, back then, I thought I had a misscarriage.  I was too scared to save it, the first time around, I cried and flushed it, like a champ.  When I told the doctors, no one could explain it.  So anyway, it happened again yesterday morning.  Stronger, braver, more adept at being disgusting Karmen went right back in after it, rinsed it off and put it in a ziplock bag.  EW.  I know.   In the meantime, it is living in my refrigerator, hiding behind some things in the butter drawer where I don’t have to make direct eye contact with it. When I see my oncologist on Wednesday, I’m going to slap that baby right on her desk and have her send it to the lab, I will report back on what the mystery mass is.

Other than that, still symptom and side effect free!  My body is a virtual ROCK so far!  I pray to god that this continues and I remain a strong, sassy smartass until the end.  I have another radiation tonight and the BIG day tomorrow, chemo and radiation double whammy.  Wish me luck, I will write again soon!

xoxo

Karmen

Day three: Knock on wood this continues!

According to the doctors, today was supposed to be my worst day after my first bout of chemo, so no matter what, that was in the back of my head.  And so far, magically,  my body is prevailing!  I am having my third radiation treatment today, and it is day three after the chemo, and no fever, so nausea, still hungry… Cancer 0, Karmen 1.

I would like to take a moment to applaud the power of the internet, though!  The entire reason why I began blogging on the day of my first treatment was to  a) monitor my progress, looking back, b) keep my parents and sister in the ‘non-bullshit’ route of how I am really feeling, and c) maybe help a person or two who is faced with the terrifying challenges that I am going through.  When I was first diagnosed, I had a hard time finding any blogs that weren’t just a one page riff of what had happened to them, and they were either in remission or still fighting.  I wanted the GOODS!  The down and dirty, day by day play by play of exactly what was happening to them.  I wanted to know, so I could properly look fear in the eye and be like… Hmmmm, well, SHE did it, so can I!

Yesterday, I received a comment from one of my followers that surprised and pleased me to no end. It wasn’t them being inspired by me, it was me being emotionally moved, impressed and inspired by them.  They went through something similar to what I am going through, have been cancer free for a year, and are now trying to conceive.  It was wonderful and emotional to read, and it gave me even more hope, that there is a shimmering light at the end of a sometimes seemingly shadowy tunnel.

Hearing her words of support, and of course being a creep and fully reading her blog, made my morning, and put a skip in my step and a smile on my face.  The internet is often blamed for allowing people to cyber bully and to shame others with false bravado and confidence, but it can bring people from across the world together, to inspire and to help them fight the good fight that they need to win.

There are a few things that are keeping me smiling and happy throughout this unmitigated disaster: 1) The tireless, selfless, and sometimes hilarious efforts of my wonderful fiancé, keeping my spirits high and taking care of me like a princess.  If it wasn’t for him, I would be sad, scared and alone, instead of knee-deep in a real-life Indiana Jones adventure with my best friend.  I thank whoever is watching out for me up there for him every single day.  2) The medical marvels of modern day medicine.  The way they are doing everything, the way EVERYONE knows EVERYTHING and how smoothly things are running is just… magic.  And science of course.  But mostly magic.  I am never afraid when I am there.  Princess Margaret Hospital is one of the top five Cancer centres in the world, and I thank my good graces I am lucky enough to be cared for by them. 3) This blog.  Writing everything down, every day is a true therapeutic experience for me.  This is my support group.  It allows me to vent and channel my every emotion, get feedback, and feel supported.  And it gives me a gift to look back at, when life throws me other punches down the road.  Who would have EVER thought ANYONE would want their diary filled with their dirty laundry on the goddamned internet for all to read?  Well, it’s funny, but I guess a lot of us have that in common.  I think it is brave and beautiful.

Wish me luck for my treatment tonight, and I am doing the same for all of those who need it!

xoxox

Karmen

Radiation Space Station: Gravity minus George Clooney

Well.  D-day has come and gone.  I am safe on the couch, wrapped in a fluffy white blanket with a cup of David’s Tea steeping in front of me.  The terror is over, for now.  I guess the biggest worry and fear is that of the unknown.  For those of you who didn’t read yesterday’s blog, today was day one of a five week chemo and radiation plan, aiming to shrink my stage two cervical cancer tumour to nothing.  And after today, I am quite confidant they will zap that mother to smithereens, reeeeaaal quick-like.

Here is a play by play of my majestic day (so much easier and less scary than I thought it would be!  But what do I know, it’s only day one).  I arrive for radiation and everyone is so SOOO nice.  If you aren’t going to die of cancer, you are going to get killed with kindness in this place, I am telling you.  They oversaturate me with information, as per usual, prepare me for what is going to happen and then they lead me into the radiation room.  Oh, not before my fiancé gets exiled from the random room he is exploring, like a toddler who has done something wrong.  You cannot leave this guy alone with any machinery, computers, ANYTHING with a button, multiple cords, empty rooms, workstations, hallways… Basically anything.  You can’t leave him anywhere with anything because he will do exactly what a kid would do.  Touch everything, poke everything, ask random questions and often get punished for all of the above, often by me, or by one of the other adults around.

Anyway, back to the story.  I walk into this room that legitimately looks like a spa.  Giant televisions with ornate picture frames around them, boasting rolling ocean waves and serene skies.  I feel calmer already.  And sort of like they are going to zap me with radiation and then sneakily wax my moustache without me seeing it coming.  I see whats going on here.

I pull my pants down, as instructed, pull my shirt up and hop on the metal bed with all of the intergalactic space lasers surrounding it.  I lie down and think, “They literally have my ass out, IN BED, after only meeting them five minutes ago.  And without a single cocktail.  Impressive.”  

Long story short, they adjust me and adjust me until the lasers match up with the cool blue tattoos they inked me with last week, and they leave the room.  Cue Gravity or Apollo 13 or whatever space movie your imagination conjures up.  The machines literally orbit my body for about ten minutes, whishing and whirring and bleeping and blooping like cute little aliens.  Sporadically the pointy one stops ominously on a dime and literally makes a zapping noise, so you know it means business.  Then it’s over!  I pull my pants up, grab my jacket and my dignity from the chair in the corner where I threw them, and strut out of there, head held high and stilettos held higher.  One down.

Then the chemo.  We wait in a room with a whole bunch of people who look pretty sick and pretty tired.  They offered me applesauce and cookies, which I declined. I was feeling adverse towards baby food at the moment.  They came around a few minutes later, trying to lure me in with something else, but I was strong, I didn’t need their bribes.  LOLLIPOP!! IT WAS A LOLLIPOP! Oh yes, jesus, I had to have one of those.  I excitedly grabbed a cherry red one and popped it into my mouth with great satisfaction.  Damn it, they got me when I wasn’t expecting it.

The chemo was…. chemo, I guess!  Much less frightening than expected.  They needled me up real good, and strapped me to two big bags of liquid.  Everyone keeps telling me how lucky I am, and how it’s only five visits.  I thank god for this truth, every day.  They also tell me all of these HORRIBLE things that may or may not happen to me, and hop me up on enough anti-nauseants to disable a fairly large lion, but I power through like a champ.  My fiancé and I giggled the whole hour and a half, and talked, and peed twice, which is a challenge with the IV pole that you drag around with you.  The second time in the washroom we were laughing because he was flushing my toilet mid-pee and I found the random unnecessary courtesy flush hilarious, and then realized people might get the wrong idea.  Horrified, I thought that maybe people would think that we were fooling around in there.  But you know what?  If anyone who is going through chemo has enough vivacity and energy and… well… balls, for lack thereof a better world, to screw around with their partner in the washroom, all the power in the world to them.  That is badass awesome.

My story ends with Saro asking me what I wanted to do, as we walked triumphantly down to the car.  I looked him dead in the eye and said…. “Let’s go to Rashers and get a bacon sandwich!!”  So thats what we did.  I celebrated my first day of chemotherapy and radiation with a big ass bacon sandwich, instead of throwing up.  Like a BOSS.

**Drops mic on the ground and walks away

I’ll keep you posted!

xoxo

Karmen

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Rewinding to the start of the story

This is the first post of my journey.  A very interesting and somewhat treacherous  journey, and probably one that I should have been documenting long ago when feelings were fresh and emotions were raw.  I suppose I was too afraid, writing about things and seeing them in black and white makes them especially unforgiving and more importantly, true, which I probably couldn’t handle before today.

Everything changed for me almost exactly a month ago.  I was living the dream.  Small town girl makes good in the big city.  I was living in a beautiful exposed brick loft, right in the heart of downtown Toronto.  City of lights, city of dreams, metropolis of excitement and adventure, food lovers haven, fashionistas inspiration.  I had finally made it somewhere important.  That feeling really resonated with me and never once left me since the moment I moved here.

I had met the man of my dreams, and he loved me enough to put that big, beautiful sparkly ring on my finger, that even a year and a half later, I couldn’t stop looking at.  I was making amazing money at a job I loved, managing a high end jewellery store that was built and tailored specifically for me.  I looked good, felt even better, and my most monumental worry was “which elaborate vacation was next?  I can probably only take two more, this year…”

Everyone plays that comparison game with their lives and their friends lives.  It is a narcissistic and demeaning game  to play, but who is kidding who, here, we all play it.  And from where I was standing, I was on top.  I was happy.  I had arrived. I wasn’t exactly comparing myself with anyone, trying to look better or BE better.  I didn’t feel that I had to, because I was happy.   When you are truly happy, you are in your own bubble, and everything else is just auxiliary.

There were a lot of things leading up to where I am today, that I will get to in future posts.  There were a lot of things that contributed to my world utterly and completely falling apart.  It was like, when you see something strike a pane of glass and at first there is a crack, but you think thats all that it is, a crack.  And then you look away for a microsecond and when you look back, the cracks are spreading like veins and then the splintering begins.  Before you know it, that big, beautiful pane of glass is nothing more that a heap of sharp, painful broken pieces.

Tomorrow is my first day of chemotherapy and radiation.  Hi, my name is Karmen,  I am 31 years old, and I have cancer.

That deserved a paragraph all to itself.  Looking at those words, I still can’t believe them.  I am lying here in bed, as we speak, naked and cozy in my cluster of pillows and my silvery white duvet, rationing my last few Hydromorphone pain pills from my surgery last week.  I took one a few hours ago and it numbs the pain just a little bit, in my chewed up belly and my exhausted mind.

Today is the last day that I will feel like a normal, functioning human being, I suppose.  Tomorrow is day one of feeling like a victim.  I am going to be strong and pretend nothing out of the ordinary is happening, as much as possible, but I am scared.

The diagnoses was insanely surreal and frightening.  The waiting was the absolute worst.  The surgery was terrifying, because of course the darkest corners of your mind think the absolute worst, and that death is right around the corner.  I have made it past every single one of those demons, and now I face the biggest dragon of them all.  I know I can do it, and I know I will do it.  It’s just that horrific feeling of “what is it going to feel like?” “what if something bad happens”  “will I be in pain?”  “will this change me forever?”

Tomorrow, that story begins, and I will write it all down, step by step, feeling by feeling.  Maybe it can ease someone else’s worry or pain as they go through this.  Or maybe it will just keep me strong and centred, knowing that my journey and my story is floating out in the universe, and someone else knows how I secretly feel.  And even if no one reads it, I will be able to look back, when this is ALL over, and remember how it made me strong, and nothing can be that bad ever again.

Wish me luck!

xox

Karmen

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