Teal Power Canuck

Sharing My Journey & Raising Cervical Awareness in Canada

The Big Zap

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Hi everyone. It’s been awhile. Last week was the dreaded inpatient internal radiation (brachytherapy)… or what I’ve been calling “the big zap” and I have been taking the time to rest and recover since I have been home from the hospital. But I think it’s so important to keep spreading the #TEALPOWER into February, especially because today is World Cancer Day. Check out what Princess Margaret Hospital is up to today here. We are so lucky to have access to one of the top five cancer research centres in the world here in Canada, and I am so thankful to be treated there.

I felt a lot of anxiety leading up to last week. Before all this cancer stuff I had never been a patient in a hospital. And with all this cancer stuff, I have been through a lot of outpatient, but this was the first time I would have to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. I spent a lot of time in hospitals eight years ago over the six months my dad was recovering from his stroke, but never as a patient. I wasn’t prepared mentally for what was going to happen that week. I packed a bag, but it felt like I was going away for a mini vacay or heading to the “county house” or the cottage. I kept referring to the hospital as the hotel – so much that I renamed PMH the Princess Margaret Hilton. I checked in on the Monday afternoon. I even had a sick view of the city from the 17th floor, however hotel it wasn’t.

The view from my hospital room at PMH

The view from my hospital room at PMH

Got my blood work done, they checked my vitals, I signed some forms and chatted with the doctor and then Ty and I got to break free for a bit for dinner. It still didn’t sink in what was going to happen. We made it back to the “Hilton” for my curfew and got all tucked in for the night. Sleeping in a hospital bed when you’re not hooked up to anything or in need of anyone’s help is tres weird. The next morning I was brought down to the operating room to get my body prepped for the big zap. I was in good spirits and cracking jokes, even made fun of Ty whose hoodie selection that day seemed to blend in with everyone’s scrubs in pre-OP – but still not sure what to expect when I woke up.

One more #TEALPOWER shot before heading to the operating room

One more #TEALPOWER shot before heading to the operating room

By the afternoon I was back in my room and all hooked up to the radiation machine. The machine held active radiation and was literally two feet from my bed. Then for the next 53 hours I would get pulsed by the machine every hour for about 13 minutes. The radiation would travel through a tube and would zap the exact location of where the tumour is. Everyone in my room had to evacuate for 13 minutes every hour while I got zapped or the machine wouldn’t activate. There was a five minute warning beeping sound that would go off before the zaps – a sound I will never be able to get out of my head after 53 consecutive hours. For those who had to leave the room it became a routine when the beeping went off – walk to the family waiting room, wait and watch for the light to change from red to green, which meant it was safe to come back into my room. It became a bonding experience between my family and friends that came together to help get me through such an invasive treatment. I have to admit, I was a little jealous when they would come back cause I was missing out on some of the fun 🙂

The radiation machine at the foot of my bed.

The radiation machine at the foot of my bed.

Green means go and safe to come back into my room.

Green means go and safe to come back into my room.

I had to lay still and flat for that whole time to make sure the rod didn’t move. If I needed to shift from side to side, I would need to call a nurse or technician to help me. Also, eating while lying down – not fun. It was definitely a test in willpower, something I will draw on when training for future runs. I didn’t think I would be able to make it without bursting into tears, but somehow the time flew by. The view of the city helped at night… we got killer sunsets. The drugs also helped. A wise lady I know gave me advice when I told her about the big zap – if they offer the painkillers don’t be a martyr, take the drugs… they helped. I kept thinking about so many other people I know that have to endure so much more for longer. I thought of my dad, my hero, who in his six months in hospital fought back and did what his doctors never thought would be imaginable – walk again. What I was going through was nothing compared to that. I am thankful for all the visitors and the awesome nurses of 17B who helped pass the time and took care of me, and my cool docs who came by to say hi sporting their #TEALPOWER bracelets 🙂

It feels weird not going into the hospital everyday for external radiation this week, the routine I have known for the last six weeks. It was beginning to feel like my part time job – get up, get ready, go to my appointments, rest days on Saturday and Sunday. I have a few more external radiation outpatient appointments in the next week or so… but fingers crossed that is it for my treatment. For now I’m enjoying the rest and recovery time… and I need it. My body feels so off and I am so tired. I was happy to be home for the Super Bowl though and have been slowly getting back to cooking in the kitchen. Hoping to be back in the swing of things in a few weeks. One thing I have noticed since I have been home, I have been super emotional. I think it’s hard to go through this without feeling that way, but I well up at everything – football vignettes, FB posts, daytime television. I’ve been saying the tears are from chopping onions, even though I’m nowhere near the kitchen. I keep hearing stories of people affected by this horrible disease, but also shedding tears of gratitude for everything in the journey and everyone I have crossed paths with.

Here are a few of the awesome #TEALPOWER group shots that have come in. If you look up the hashtag on FB, Twitter and Instagram you will see more of the awesome. I am so blown away by all the support:

– Through my bro and my guy I have gotten the chance to meet some awesome peeps at TSN. Rod Smith and Chris Shultz were at the Super Bowl this past weekend and took pics at media day on the field sporting their #TEALPOWER bracelets (how fitting for a publicist who loves football :)) this is the coolest!

1545589_10151956542231969_1123479461_n– And my family in Chicago – my Ohana (this is only a portion of that side of the family… for real!) in their custom Fight Like Ali t-shirts

1615062_10203099641440745_949624368_n– A couple days before I went into the hospital I was with a group of friends I have met over the years doing community theatre (some of my nearest and dearest) who all showed their #TEALPOWER support.

1614410_10153729441530313_1949693281_o (1)– Many of you know, I’m kinda nerdy. I spent many years as the Publicist for Space and some of my old colleagues from the Bell Media PR team, many who I consider extended family, showed their #TEALPOWER support on Space’s InnerSpace set.

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One thought on “The Big Zap

  1. Ali – been following your posts since the beginning. Although not ideal, I can’t think of a better person to fight off this disease. I’m so proud of you for kicking it’s butt through this phase of treatment, and although treatment has become your routine, I hope that you can get back to your normal routine soon and will never have to see treatment again. Thank you for sharing everything that you have. It’s really important for women our age to have frequent check-ups, some don’t realize how common this is. Awareness doesn’t even begin to describe what you’ve inspired through your story. Keep fighting girl, you got this.

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