How did your year go. Since I don’t identify as a Christian I find more and more the Christmas season leaves me rather unmoved. Except of course for getting neato presents from friends and family. I do however like to celebrate and luckily for me the baby jeebus was born right close to the winter solstice, what are the odds of that happening.
At any rate I get to have some nice parties to celebrate the returning of the sun and then a week or so later the new year. This time last year I was two months into the realization that I was cancerous. In my heritage this is not a very good thing to be. My mother was the second youngest of nine children but nearly all of them died before they reached their 70’s and about half of them, including my mother died of cancer. The other half chose heart problems as the way out. Mum by the way died at the age of 55 way back at the dawn of time in 1976.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in late October 2009 one of my first thoughts after the initial shock was “well I guess I know now what will do me in.” As the solstice approached I had begun the preliminary testing and work to figure out how to try and treat the disease. I was also wondering if I would make it to celebrate another solstice or not. This I have found through the year to be one of the draining things about the disease. In its early days there are seldom any symptoms so even when the doctors thought they had managed to beat it with the radiation therapy there was always at the back of my mind the question of whether it was really gone or not.
During the spring after the initial treatments were completed I had nothing to do but rest, recover and try to get my strength back. It wasn’t a really good time because I still felt quite ill. The side effects of the treatment although certainly not horrible in my case left me constantly feeling not quite right. Some days I was so tired I barely got out of bed and on others when I felt better I was still unable to do anything strenuous for more than a few moments at a time. As March turned over to April and May I was feeling better and better but it seemed to me to be taking for ever to improve.
Then I started to have trouble opening my mouth. This led eventually to surgery in August but before I got to that I was feeling ill all the time again and when the surgery didn’t really fix anything more tests, poking and prodding led the doctors to believe the cancer had returned, which led to my more recent and much more difficult surgery.
Now once again the doctors feel they have been able to remove all the cancerous tissue. I feel better than I have for about 3/4 of a year. As said to one of my friends it’s like the difference between the feeling you have when you’re coming down with the flu or a cold and the feeling you get of localized pain if you have sprained and ankle or broken a bone. With one you know you just don’t feel right or well but maybe can’t quite put a finger on what the actual problem is. With the injury you know exactly where and what the problem is and can put your finger on it anytime you like. It just hurts to do that.
So now it’s solstice New Years time 2010. Although I have considerable amount of pain to deal with right now it is diminishing and I feel healthy except for that localized pain.
The doctors explained that the return of the cancer was of course not a good sign and that it means it is more likely that it will return again but since I can’t do anything about that I’ll just proceed for now as though that’s not going to be the case. It may well be that cancer is still the way I’m going to go out but not quite yet anyway. I expect to be able to celebrate this time of year again next year but who knows.
Now I also have to mention that I have met some extraordinary people through this whole process. The doctors and nurses at Juravinski and St Joseph’s have been phenomenal in their car of me. Special thanks have to go out to Dr Kim, the radiation oncologist in charge of the radiation treatments, Dr Hotte, in charge of the chemotherapy, Dr Archibald, surgeon and Dr Thoma, the plastic surgeon involved in the latest surgery. Their skills and dedication allowed me to make decently informed decisions about how to proceed with the treatments and along with many colleagues and students they worked with I always felt confident I was in good hands. Sandra Turner is a nurse working in the Juravinski cancer centre and it was she who was in charge of organizing the whole treatment scheme and keeping everyone informed about what was going on.
Outside of the medicos, I have also been blessed with family and friends who have stepped in to help with every and any need I had. My sister Sheana in particular has been supporting me with drives to and from treatment and running errands for me when I felt I couldn’t do something myself. There are other friends who I have known for my entire adult life who pitched in with actual physical aid at times and also with encouragement and spirit lifting abuse when needed.
Last and most unexpected have been people I know only through the interweb and the blogs I read or follow. KInd words, encouragement and sympathy have been offered through this medium and believe me they have been appreciated.
Now as I look forward to the new year I can once again get back to my pre-cancer plans of starting to train for running a marathon next October. I don’t know if I will be able to do so but what the heck I can’t just lie around here doing nothing. I still have a life to live.
I hope you all have a great winter celebration season. Whatever it is you celebrate.
And I hope you all have a great new year to follow your own desires as best you can.
We’ll talk again in a little bit. Have fun and play safe.