Thursday, September 15, 2016

Five Years!

On September 9th I celebrated my five-year cancerversary. Five years to the day that I had a lumpectomy, and kicked out Ethel. On September 10th, I celebrated.

I threw a party, invited everyone I knew...(Golden Girls reference there, you're welcome). The theme of the night was "Death by Chocolate....not Cancer." I invited everyone to bring their favourite dessert and eat with me until we all felt sick. Or hated ourselves. Or both, I'm not picky.

I though the party theme struck the perfect balance of dark humour and slightly tacky references to death. It was a great night - it felt light, and fun, and loving. Exactly how I would want any party in my honour to feel. I didn't give any speeches (too heavy) or make any grand gestures (too much work). I just got to spend an evening surrounded by people that I know care about me. There were quite a few people that I know care about me that couldn't make it (it is both a blessing and a curse to have my friends and family spread across the globe) but I had a family make a video from the other side of Canada showing how they celebrated. It made my heart happy.

Five years seemed such a far way off back in 2011. I wondered if I would make it to that milestone. I soon realized the odds were in my favour, but still, I did some deep soul searching while waiting for test results. Even after all that I debated celebrating, because I'm not always comfortable asking people to do things for me. Even if those things are coming to a party. But in the end, I decided if you can't celebrate five years in remission, what can you celebrate? It's a pretty big deal. It's a wonderful thing. It certainly deserved a little cake. Or, in my case, enough cake to fill two tables.

I'm a lucky lady.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Tyranny of Time

It is strange to know that I have entered that phase in my life when people I know, my peers, will begin to die and it will become less and less unexpected. The tyranny of time rules every one; we just don't know how much of a clock we each have.

A woman I know passed away this morning. She was diagnosed over a year ago, with cancer that was terminal from the very beginning. She is young. She leaves behind a husband and three children under the age of 10. It is truly awful, in the deepest, purest sense of that word. It is awful and it is ordinary, and it is a thing that will happen to us all. It will happen to many of us far sooner than it should, for her especially.

Death will one day grab us all. I know this to be true. I've had the experience of  wondering in a very real, very literal sense whether I will be alive in three months. In the early days of my diagnosis, when we didn't know stage or grade, I really wondered how much time I had left. And even having lived that, death is still, mostly, an abstract. I can often forget about my eventual demise, and breath deeply of the sweet, musty spring air and be grateful that another year is reborn and I am here to see it. That forgetting is a good thing. What a waste of a life to spend it consumed by death. But on days like today, I spend more time thinking about the end, and less about the act of living.

This business of aging is difficult. It is hard for those who live to see the end of time's passage for others. I wonder if it isn't harder still for those who see their end coming too soon. Those who know they have been cheated of years and time and memories. That is what I'm thinking of tonight. Not just of the children and husband left behind with a void where once a mother and wife was. But also of that mother and wife, who must have grieved the part of her life yet lived, that will remain forever un-lived. Such a terrible thing, the tyranny of time.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Not a Mutant

I have now had three possible genetic mutations ruled out. I like to say I'm not a mutant, at least not in a way that the medical community has discovered you can be, but I also worry that by saying that I will offend those who do have a BRCA mutation. Or the other one they tested me for, which I can't remember the name of, but it doesn't matter, since I don't have that either.

I've known for quite some time, but (as I've mentioned before) I really am a wonderful procrastinator. So it's taken me awhile to get around to writing a blog post about it. The genetic counsellor that met with me to give me my news was almost apologetic, like "I'm sorry, but we don't know why you got cancer." Not that having BRCA would be better - it wouldn't be. But it would be an answer to "Why?" and "Why at 30?" I mean, beyond "karma." (Aren't I a hoot?)

I've had another check up since then. Just recently actually. I met with yet another oncologist. Although technically I am the patient of Dr. Dent, I have met this woman exactly once in the 2.5 years I've been going to the Ottawa Cancer Centre for follow ups. It would be nice to have an actual ongoing relationship with a doctor that I see and then...see again. But I guess that is not to be.

It is funny, and sometimes a bit unsettling, to see how varied the advice you get is based on the doctor you're seeing. This particular doc was of the opinion that I should consider ending my Tamoxifen therapy now, since I'm having some not-so-pleasant but totally-manageable side effects. His opinion was that the benefit I get from the drug might not be worth the quality of life issues. I've had other doctors mention the new studies that suggest 10 years might be a better length of treatment, which seems to be pretty much the exact opposite advice. What's a gal to do?

I've decided I'll stick it out. I've managed 4+ years, what's 9 more months. And this is the treatment protocol that is widely accepted across many nations, including Canada. It will be interesting to see if my sometimes incredible fatigue is just because I'm a person that is good at sleeping and less good at being awake, or if it really was the drugs. Just 9 months or so, I can tell you.