Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It’s my birthday…..

So, if it’s my birthday then why am I spending it at a hospital getting blood tests and visiting radiology.  I should be out picking out my present, getting ready to eat my favorite foods, surrounded by friends and family.
Nope….my gift this year begins with “C'”.  Yep folks…cancer.  Ain’t that a kick in the teeth….Stage 3a lung cancer.  I quit smoking 13 years ago to avoid lung cancer and I got it anyway!  Did you know that Murphy is my guardian angel…you know…”what can go wrong will go wrong”?  Yep, that guy!
Get yourself a coffee/tea/glass of wine and I will take you down my journey.  If not, skip the post and I will get you another day with a crafty thing….no offense taken here.

My journey begins at the end of February…actually, it began five years ago when we lost Rick’s brother Pat to cancer.  We visited him in respite care and I ended up with a virulent staff infection.  You know….nothing simple here…nope I pick up one that goes straight to attack the heart.  Well, Murphy sometimes gives me good along with bad…in my case, the staff infection saw a squirrel and went to the kidneys instead.  A couple of rounds of antibiotics and I was right as rain.  A year later and I am sicker than a dog (no offense canines of the world) and back on antibiotics.  Another year and another year and finally a diagnosis – I now have something called Diverticulosis.  Lovely disease…just don’t eat any of my favorite foods like corn on the cob, strawberries, sesame seeds, peas, beans, tomatoes…you get the picture. 

Now take us to October and Rick’s other brother Don calls us with “I have cancer and I have to go to the hospital”.  We don’t know where it originated but, it is in his lungs and his brain.  Eleven days from that phone call….November 5th we lost him.  Rick was not in a good place and I did my best to hold him up, their mom up, the siblings up and Don’s children up.

This takes us to February.  After four years and over fifteen rounds of antibiotics I found a surgeon who was ready and willing to do a bowel resection and cut out the bad part.  Wonderful!  We scheduled the surgery for March 10th.  March 3rd we were heading to Las Vegas and I had all my pre-op tests done before we left.  We got back on the 8th and the nightmare began….message on our answering machine to call my family doctor immediately, message to call my surgeon immediately, message from health department informing me of a CT scan scheduled for me on Thursday, another message marked urgent from my surgeon – this time with her cell phone number.  I call.  I hear the words “your surgery is cancelled as the chest x-ray showed a lesion that is suspected to be cancer”.  This brings us back to Murphy (you know, my guardian angel) and the good along with the bad.  Most surgeons do not do a routine chest x-ray for elective surgeries…this one did.  If she hadn’t and had gone ahead with the surgery I would not be in a good place.  Rick is not in a good place either right now….all he can see is Don….I am going to die like his brother.

And folks…signs of cancer?:  Drastic weight loss – nope (though I wish!), appetite – good, energy level – good…so, no signs…no warning…not even a little hint of anything wrong and wham – one’s life gets changed with a phone call.  Now, those who know me know that my life gets changed a lot:  Divorce and the custody battle, car after car after car accident etc.  Gotta love Murphy!
Ok…CT scan gets done and yes, it is suspected cancer.  Now we have to tell the family.  After losing Pat and then Don it was not welcome news.  I am so terrified I could choke….I do not want to die….I want to see my grandchildren grow up, get married and give me great-grandchildren.  I/we have so many plans for the future.  Here I am, again being the strong one…joking, laughing, down-playing the diagnosis.  Rick’s brother Kevin does the Ride For Cancer every year and we were supposed to go to Airdrie for a fund-raiser.  Not coming now…too many doctor appointments.  Everything is moving too fast and at the same time…slow as molasses.  Kevin sends me a text that he has added my name to his banner….and I lost it.  I sat and cried.  No sobbing my head off…no falling apart at the seams….just a few sobs….suck it back and… I call this “leaking”.  It still does not seem real…this is a nightmare I really, really want to wake up from.

Then comes an appointment with a thoracic surgeon who then schedules a PET scan for April 1st.  And…we wait, and we wait.  Another appointment with the thoracic surgeon who schedules surgery for May 2nd.  By the time we get home there is a message on the answering machine telling me the surgery has been cancelled and a biopsy is arranged for April 16th.  Rick and I show up at the hospital and I am my usual, “it’s all right” trying my best to be strong for Rick.  The biopsy itself was rough and while I was on the table having this long needle stuck through my boob and into my lung, I started to “leak”.  After it was over I was left alone for a minute before the tech came back into the room.  God bless him, he closed the door and stood over me while reality hit…I have cancer…I just had a biopsy.  Suck it back and get on with the day.

Now…people who really, really know me know that I am going to go home and head for the computer to look up everything.  DON’T!!  What a freaking scary world that is.  Man, I mean doom and gloom.  If I followed everything I read on the internet I should be planning my funeral.  But…like Pandora’s box…once open it is really hard to close the lid.  I had a couple of weeks of pretty scary feelings…trying to stay positive…trying to keep a smile on my face.  
Back to the surgeon to get the news….it is definitely lung cancer and it has effected my lymph nodes between my heart and the aorta…no surgery.  She is sending me to the cancer clinic.  Murphy – go pick on someone else for a change!
I am struggling to keep it together.  Rick keeps hugging me like he is never going to see me again and I am still joking and laughing on the outside but screaming on the inside.  I am trying so hard to be positive and strong for him and my family and friends.  I need something to hang onto.  Then I remembered a little girl called Talia (click on her name to go to her story).  She had to have been the strongest person I know.  She was on the Ellen show and Ellen asked her how she could be so strong.  Her answer was, “a little fish told me to just keep swimming”.  Ellen was the voice of Dory in the movie Finding Nemo….”You know what you gotta do when life gets you down? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.  What do we do we swim, swim”.  Talia is my role model…if she can be strong and brave…so can I.  When I get scared or worried I picture her face and start singing “Just keep swimming…”.  This song is on my phone…this song is on my tablet….this song is in my head and in my heart!

May 1st we meet with Doctor Anderson, the radiation doctor.  We go over my results and why they are not doing any surgery.  He says he will not operate if he has to leave cancer behind.  So…with the lymph nodes so near my heart, it is such an awkward place…no surgery.  We are going with radiation….six weeks of the stuff.  He asked me if I wanted to know the odds.  I told him I wanted to know my enemy.  He told me 1 in 5 are cured, if I am not cured I can expect to be around 2 to 3 years.  That is so much better odds than what the internet said.  He told me there was a chance of my hair falling out.  Ok, it is falling out anyway…no great loss.  I could lose weight…hell, that is a bonus!

Feeling much better…becoming more determined….we meet with the chemotherapy doctor on my birthday…the 6th.  We go over everything again.  This time I hear my hair may grow back fuller.  If chemo can kick-start my dead hair follicles and make them grow again…I will take it!  He asked if I knew the odds and when I told him….he figures with my age and health I have better than the 1 in 5….I will take it and run!  Blood tests done, chest x-rays scheduled, more blood tests scheduled, CT scan scheduled and we are back in a holding pattern.

Six weeks of radiation…five days a week.  Chemo for three days at the same time…three weeks off and then another round of chemo.  If I am handling it, I can do another two rounds of chemo.  All joking aside, this is going to be a rough six weeks.  I am not kidding myself…it is going to be really, really rough.  I am going to lie there picturing God’s hand on my chest shrinking the cancer…I have my mantras, I have a goal I want to reach…to go to Quesnel for Billy Barker days at the end of July….to see my grandchildren grow up.

I am going to beat this.  It picked on the wrong body! 
Just keep swimming!


Karie Hay said...

I love you Cath xo

Baby Sister

Unknown said...

Love you mom.

Jacky Hughes said...

I sit here with tears streaming down my face remembering a strong woman that held me so tight the day I found out that my father was dying. You were there every minute for me and my brothers. I can never thank you enough. Now you are in need of all the love and attention everyone has to give. I am here for you and my thoughts are with you and Rick while you beat this! I know you will! Love you both!