Friday, 18 October 2013

End of an Era

Hey All,

This blog has meant a lot to me over the last however many months that it has been up and running. I have been able to express some things through writing that I may not of been able to do in other ways. It has been great to "meet" a lot of people along the way as well.

However, writing can be a two edged sword and I know a lot of the things I write can be difficult to read. Painful probably more accurate. I understand that no one wants to see people in pain or hear how hard things can be. Often times, I understand how many of the things I write can come as a surprise to people as I am usually not overly talkative about difficult subjects. I used writing as a way to get some of these out and "get them off my chest" so to speak. This blog was meant to be a way to find some support, not to make people feel bad, give me sympathy or anything like that.

The purpose of this blog was also never to make people upset, hurt peoples feelings or to paint them in a bad light. I feel like a lot of the time I have to apologize for writing a post sometimes and it was never meant to go that way. You should never have to say sorry for having cancer but I feel like I need to. I am sorry for the pain it caused in peoples lives. This was merely a way to express some of the things I have gone through post cancer treatment and to raise awareness of some of these issues.The people who have been around me during cancer treatment helped me through a lot. I hope that is clear. I am sorry for the fact that some of these blog posts have upset people.

Thank you very much for the people who have been reading this blog, the people who found it helpful and for those who I have met through this. I will keep the page up so people can read it if they choose, and maybe one day I will come back to it. Who knows. I will continue to write articles (a bit more frequently) for the Huff post, but may be tackling more general issues for young adults with cancer, rather than my own.

Anyways, I guess that is it for now. Thanks again everyone. Take care.


Thursday, 17 October 2013

A Hard Look Back

It is tough to deal with looking back at what cancer has done, and how it has altered my life over the past few years. Cancer is something I want to be able to move past, but at the same time it has irreversibly changed many aspects of my life. No matter how much I try to fix or change some things, that really isn't going to matter.

I realize I view myself differently. Pre-cancer, I was very work driven and, although I still work very hard at my job, I don't really know where I want it to go anymore. It is difficult because as I look forward in my career I don't really know where I want that career to go or what I even want that career to be. It is hard to look back and see someone who had so much focus, have little to none anymore.

I used to be a very outgoing person. I used to really like people. I still like people, but I view myself as broken a lot of the time. Why would someone care about me. I had a very random moment today when someone stopped to talk because of my hat (true story) and, I used to be someone who would actually stop and talk for a few minutes. Instead, I said a few pleasantries, didn't really try and kept on my way. It is hard to look back and know I used to be that.

I used to be someone who got excited about things and could carry on through my days very easily. I find it hard to find meaning in the days that I have. I have things I care about, people I care about for sure, but I have no idea how I fit into their lives. I know I am viewed as a damaged person, because, I am. I hate that some of my friendships and relationships used to be so strong and full of life, and not many of those exist today. I still have some, but I feel I have lost some of the "specialness" because of what happened to me. I am so apathetic where I used to be excited. Half of an effort seems like a lot, when I used to give so much. I believe this to be a source of why people (including myself) see me the way they do. Effort is sometimes replaced by apathy.

I had a view of myself before cancer. Life was really really good. Then I got sick. Now, even things that are going well, I struggle with and seem to take a lot of effort. I find it hard to look back and see how happiness came so easily to me before, I didn't have to work hard at these things. I still will, I won't give up because there are people out there I care about a lot. There are people that deserved to be cared about. I have to find a way to convince myself that things will be better, and that way it won't be so hard to look back.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Are You Okay With This?

"Are you okay with this? Letting people know you had cancer I mean..."

This is a sentence I have heard from multiple people resulting from many different types of conversations. I can understand this sentiment. I tried to hide everything I could from basically everyone for a long time with regards to my treatment, side effects, and everything else that went with cancer.

"People can just google this and they might find out you had cancer"

This line I have heard when having discussions on my blog, writing, my fundraising or anything else I really get involved in when Cancer is the main issue. And my cancer at that. When you put your self out there, I always have to think about who might read this.I understand all the issues with coming clean to the world. Some things may work out better, but some things may get worse, and there is risk associated with it.

I completely understand where people are coming from. For some, it is a privacy issue. For others, it can be something that can put strain on a friendship, or relationship that they have. Some people get offended by what you may say or do. And yes, it coming out that you had cancer can have detrimental effects such as losing insurance, or being completely rejected (This I had happen to me recently). Also, places like banks don't particularly like the fact that I had cancer, and won't give me money anymore (too much of a "risk").

Some people don't like to share what happened to them with regards to cancer, and that really is their choice. Some people have a harder time then others giving bad news or hearing bad news, and I understand that. The thing I I don't like about it some of these statements, is that there can be a negative connotation with it. The look in some peoples eyes when they ask "are you sure you want to tell people," for whatever issue, or whatever topic, makes you think something is up. Sometimes, when it comes out "are you okay with this" it makes me feel like I should be ashamed or embarrassed about what happened to me.

Truth is, I had cancer. It sucked. There is no other way to really describe it.It certainly isn't something I am proud of, but it is obviously part of my life. Something that left a huge impact on me, as it has for many others. I try to speak up, put myself out there as best I can with cancer issues, because I am not the only one who was effected by this. I am not alone in this battle, which is hard to remember some days.

The truth is I am not okay with having cancer and I probably never will be. But I am certainly not ashamed of it either. And I will continue to put myself out there, put my story out there, because if someone doesn't like the fact that I had cancer, or if someone is not willing to take a chance on me then that is there problem. It is just another piece of stress I can live without.

I feel putting my story out there, voicing my concerns, my problems, and my successes since I had cancer has, for me, been an overall positive experience. The people I have met, the stories I have heard of what people have and are going through gives me a lot of hope for people. I hear about people who are still fighting, some fighting again and again, and they are all important stories. I hear about great things, like people who many would consider "normal" people raising huge amounts of money for cancer research, setting up websites for support, and generally doing great things because they can.

These people by putting their stories out there (and being able to be seen on Google) gave me strength at times when I didn't have very much because of cancer. I am so happy that these networks were in place when I got sick. That people have made the effort in some many ways in the fight against cancer. So yes, I will always be okay with putting my story out there, and working to raise money for cancer research, because I feel every little bit helps, and I am thankful for everyone who put themselves out there.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Not Knowing the Pain of Others

When I had cancer I knew what I felt. A little too well. I know the pain of chemo. The pain of radiation. And the mental toll that it takes on a person on a daily, if not hourly basis.

Since I had cancer I know the stress of a check up. The thought that things might go back to what happened before. All the things I have worked towards may be going to be taken away again.

What I don't know, or even can be close to understanding is the sacrifices and the toll it took on the people around me. This could be anybody. A friend, a family member, a co-worker, a doctor or nurse that took care of me. I think about this a lot these days.

It is very easy, when I was sick to put my pain first. I couldn't do anything else. I was so sick that I just didn't have the energy or the mental clarity to take care of myself, let alone help anyone with anything. Many days if I got as far as walking a block or two it was a huge success. I was living every moment of every day in intense physical and mental pain. I know what that pain is.

I don't understand how nurses and doctors can separate themselves from their work and the pain that must bring sometimes. I have trouble leaving my work at work some days, and no one is close to being dead there on any given day. I can't even begin to imagine going in and knowing you were going to have to deliver bad news to someone...every single day.

It wasn't until afterwards that I really was capable of seeing what the pain was of the people who took care of me. I knew that they were missing out on things, having to take care of me all the time, putting my needs first, and basically having a 26 year old child to take care of. They had to miss things with their lives. Things that were important. While so many others were out doing fun things, they went to work, surely stressed about what they had to do when the got home, and all the appointments they have to sit through. And for people who physically couldn't be there, I don't know what it was like to be waiting for a phone call. Sometimes with me on the other end telling them what was going on, and sometimes not me because I was too weak or too sick to be able to talk on the phone. 

I know these pains still exist in many of my relationships. Some people are more open about talking. Some are not. I wish I could wave a magic wand a lot of the time and just get rid of it all, or maybe more realistically, say something inspiring to see if that gets rid of it, but I can't or I haven't found the words at least. 

I know the pain is there and there is little I can do about it. It is hard. But at least I will always make myself available. The sacrifices of caregivers, the ones who stay by our sides during cancer, and put them selves second for everything, should never be over looked. I may not understand their pain, but I sure do appreciate them.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

I Thought it Got Easier?

"Things get easier, you will get less stressed with each check up" - Everyone who I talked to who had cancer and is in remission

One of the hardest things I have dealt with since finishing cancer treatment is the growing sense of fear that everything will be taken from me again.

Fear of recurrance is a real issue that cancer patients deal with, and a lot of the time, I really feel like most people don't really understand that too well. I get the fact that most people want to be done with cancer "things" when treatment is over, and honestly the thought of going back is hard in everyone. I see the point of view of both family and care givers that it really took a toll on their lives. It really does take a toll.

However, for me, that toll seems to grow over time. It seems to get harder and harder with each check up. With each three month window life seems to get harder, more complicated, more difficult, and I am struggling to find the proper answers for things, or any "real" solution. 

I struggle more and more with "life" decisions. Where to work, what to do with money, where to live, etc. With every check up, I think "well I had those three months, it was a good ride while it lasted". Don't get me wrong, I am confident in my doctors, I am confident that they did everything possible for me and would do anything for me. I see all the time that these doctors at the cancer agency do their best to save lives. They are real heros. but it doesnt make me any less stressed out. Recurrance is  real, and I see it way too often. It makes me incredibly sad, and somedays, I feel incredibly helpless. I just want to live life and be happy. Make a difference, and continue on my way.

I don't know what to make of it these days. I still can manage to put it aside and go to work, and do my job. Get the bills paid, get things done. But it has gotten harder and harder with each check up. I know life isn't fair. I know, if it was, i wouldn't see children every time I go to the cancer agency. I just wish it actually did get easier. 

Not just for me, but for everyone in my situation.

Friday, 20 September 2013

21 Months

21 Months ago was my last day of radiation therapy.

It completed about a years worth of cancer treatments for Ewings Sarcoma that was in my leg and hip. I don't usually like to acknowledge that it was in my hip too, as it was only a small amount was there, but it was there nonetheless. 

This past week, I had my regular three month check up and it all went fine (thankfully). I have had several of these now and although the stress doesn't go away, this one seemed a little easier. Not because I was less worried about recurrence but more because I was so tired of worrying. I was completely exhausted.

For my next check up, 24 months, things get a little more exciting. This last appointment I had the conversation that was inevitable. The conversation that I knew was coming.

Now that you will be two years out, we need to start checking what damage the chemo drugs may have done.

This was the conversation we had to have. Chemotherapy kills, it is what it is built to do. It is aggressive because it has to be, and I am truly thankful that it is. It extended my life. I would most likely be dead today if this did not exist.

My next check up, is now far more complicated. I will have a full set of tests again, the regulars such as MRI, CT scans and blood work, X-rays and that weird tapping thing doctors do on your chest. However this time I get a little more. Examining areas that were fine before through CT. Something called an Echo Cardiogram which will look to see if the doxyrubicin caused damage to my heart. Seeing if I am tired, a possible cause being Leukemia (cancer cures can cause cancer, a fact I knew too well) and seeing if I am losing feeling in my fingers and toes.

I knew this all was coming, I just wasn't sure when we start to think about these things and it has left me surprisingly calm. I knew this was coming. I did my worrying about these things a long time ago. I have come to accept the inevitability that cancer treatment is very hard on someones body and to fully escape some of these long term effects I would have to be quite lucky.

I still worry about recurrence, I have these concerns too. It honestly has left me quite apathetic about many things in life. But it also motivates me to keep up the fight and keep helping to work towards cures by raising money. I have recently got my new web page almost done ( for this years "Ride to Conquer Cancer". I know, for me, many of these side effects will be unavoidable, however, I am optimistic that working to raise money will keep others from going through what I have/am.

I hope in another 21 months we are better along then we are now.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Some Long Weeks Ahead...

So Fall has begun and things are picking up at the University that I work at as is typical time of year. It really makes me miss the days of hanging around campus and going to classes and all the fun stuff (and stress) that go along with that). 

Lately, I have been pretty stressed with another check up coming up in a few weeks (21 months but who is counting?) and trying to find ways of dealing with all the stress that goes along with it. I have come to find that each check up seems stressful for a different reason, so using coping techniques from the previous time, doesn't really always work that well. I am less stressed about going into work around these times, when I first went back to work, my anxiety would be so bad that I wouldn't be able to do anything at work, but thankfully those days are gone. 

I have been able to accept the fact that these weeks leading up to check ups are very long, and very stressful times. I really am trying my best to manage and focus to get through these instances. It can be personally frustrating that I keep getting worked up, and I know this stress that is a result on me is not only hard on myself, but hard on the people around me. I am always thankful for the things people have done for me when I went through cancer. It wasn't fair to them to have to deal with these things, but then again, it wasn't fair to me either. 

Recently, I have found a good counselor who was really good to talk to and (finally) have some useful advice. I am no pro when it comes to dealing with cancer related stress, I know I have it, but can't do a lot about it (neither can the people around me) because I don't know how to fix things.This new one has been very constructive with giving me ideas and supporting my ideas on how to take care of myself and help get past these challenges. It has been quite refreshing, and I have been very thankful for this opportunity.

The stress has been tough to be honest. It has lead me to really down days, being upset at work, not doing things I enjoy, and not working on my writing (obvious?). The harsh realities as they set in are tough to deal with. Things like home ownership, health and life insurance, family planning, and investing all have become much more complicated due to my health concerns. That's tough because many of these issues are tough enough on their own. I hate being stuck in these situations, and they make the weeks even longer.

I am not quite sure what my next move is. Life is hard and I know I am making it harder for many of the people around me as a result of all these concerns and worries and whatever. I have learned that people don't always get what I go through, and that is fine because I don't get what others go through. But I am trying. I do want these long weeks to not be a recurring problem.