It’s been a tough couple of months. I knew the best place for me would be to come back here and write, but things kept changing, it never seemed like the right time, or I wasn’t ready.
Once you have cancer and beat it, your biggest fear everyday is that the cancer will come back. Unfortunately I have come to a bend on my cancer road – I found out in March my cervical cancer had returned.
I had been experiencing back pain and digestive issues since the late fall, early December. I thought – as someone who had gone thru chemo and radiation earlier that year – it was side effects from my treatment. I went to my doctor, went thru various tests, changed my diet, tried acupuncture, massage therapy, went to a gastrointestinal specialist – even went back in November for my regular scans and follow ups at Princess Margaret – nothing showing any signs of cancer. In February the back pain became unbearable. I was unable to run or go to the gym or stand up long enough to cook a meal. It was heartbreaking. Luckily I knew I had another follow up coming up at Princess Margaret. I expressed my concerns about the pain and they sent me in for an MRI and CT scan.
March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day – Tyler and I were sitting in the waiting room to get the results from my scans. We were feeling pretty positive – it can’t be cancer again, my scans came back clear in November – hopefully the tests would be able to tell us what was causing the pain so we could fix it. And then BOOM — they found a tumor on my cervix again – bigger this time and on the surrounding tissues. The back pain was basically being caused by the tumor pushing on surrounding areas and it’s inoperable… shitty! Tyler sat silent and in shock – I started making little jokes to lighten the mood (like I do)… and then the doctors and nurses left us alone for a second and I started to cry. How can we be back here? What are we going to do? How can this be happening again… and so soon? 2015 was supposed to be so much better for us than 2014. We left the hospital and went home and just sat in silence on the couch all night in a hug with the occasional crying session. I also decided – no more results appointments on holidays – my first diagnosis came on Halloween 2013… at least I wasn’t alone this time.
This time around has been a lot scarier. There isn’t a lot of information available about recurrent cervical cancer. The fear of dying comes into my mind everyday, but I try not to let it overcome my feelings of fighting this. Unfortunately things in life happen that are beyond our control – some shittier than others. I’m choosing to roll with the punches and try to go into this as positive as I can. What else can I do? I am thankful I kept on top of how I was feeling and didn’t let it just slip as post-cancer pains.
It has taken us a long time to accept and tell our close friends and family because we were scared – it’s more real when people know – hence why it has been hard for me to come back here to write about it. One thing I did feel confident about was that I was in the best care possible. Again – I would be treated by one of the top 5 cancers hospitals in the world… And I LOVE my oncologist. It took us a month and multiple doctor’s appointments to decide the best treatment plan. After months of trying not to think of cancer it felt surreal that the language was back in our vernacular. Chemotherapy was really the only option at this point – but which drugs would I be taking, what works best for recurrent cervical cancer in a patient my age, what does the tumor board think, were there alternative treatment plans available that could help stop this cancer? We read so much, my sister brought over her old anatomy books – we took in all the information we could.
On April 20 I started chemo. Full blown chemo this time – 2 drugs for the first session and my next session, which is actually happening right now is 3 drugs. Tyler came with me for the long eight hour first session as I was hooked up to an IV. My nurse Rosalie was awesome – she is Filipino and reminded me of my mom – I took a lot of comfort in that. Thank God for Netflix and episodes of Friday Night Lights – it helped make the day go by faster. The nurses gave Tyler and I the cuteness award that day and for being so well prepared for a long day.
Two things you will notice when you see me next – I lost a bunch of weight and I don’t have hair – consider this your warning so you’re not so shocked. I’ll go through 6-8 cycles of chemo every three weeks – it’s going to be a long year. My hair will fall out – it already has started so Tyler shaved my head to avoid the traumatic experience of seeing clumps come out. I wanted to be in control of something. Two days after I got diagnosed this time I made my sister take me to get my hair cut. I have had long hair pretty much my whole life. If I was going to lose my hair, there was no way my long locks were going to go wasted. I chopped 13 inches off and donated it to a foundation that makes wigs for kids with cancer. Our world was spinning out of control – but again, I needed to be in control of something. It made me feel good – something good was going to come out of this situation.
So far what I have learned – Chemo SUCKS!! I feel the systemic side effects from my first treatment in my legs and digestive system. I wasn’t nauseous this cycle – but I didn’t want to eat anything the first week and I lost way too much weight. I’ve been trying to recover these last two weeks before my next treatment and I have to go through it all again. I ordered a smoothie the other day and asked for the full fat frozen yogurt in it – I NEVER get frozen yogurt in my smoothies, but now all those extra calories I have been avoiding for years, I need to help get my body stronger to fight for the next round.
It’s been a terrible couple of months, but again I am reminded of how amazing the people in my life are, and how lucky I am to not have to go through this alone – because I’m not going through this alone. I would be lost without the advice and support from a very dear and close friend who went through something similar last year – my cancer sister. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the days that first week without my amazing mom making the trek out to the “country house” everyday to make sure I ate something – anything, while Tyler was at work. I am so thankful for the texts from my friends and family who would check up on me or send me a laugh each day. And Tyler – I can’t even write something here that would even justify how amazing he has been, and what a light he is during the dark moments – I am the luckiest.
So we’re back here – #TEALPOWER is back and in full force. One of the heartbreaking things for me was I was starting to train to be able to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer this year. I wanted to be one of those survivor cyclists with the yellow flag – it had been my goal since I finished treatment last year. I bought a new road bike and gear – but it will have to wait til after my treatment. Tyler and Chris will be riding again this year – and I look forward to being there during their journey again – it means so much more now. I don’t want gifts or flowers – the scent of the flowers kind of bugs me on my weak days – but would love if you could help support the Team #TEALPOWER in this year’s ride. All the proceeds go to Princess Margaret Hospital and more specifically – the clinic that is helping me: http://www.conquercancer.ca/goto/tealpower2015