Monday, 26 August 2013

Long Term Effects

There are many long term side effects of cancer treatment and they are different for every patient out there. Many are obvious such as scars and the likes, but many are much less obvious.

For me, I have several long term side effects and things that really, sadly, doesn't let one forget easily.

I have the physical scars as mentioned. I have a ten inch scar on my right leg with a big indent from surgery. Above this, I have an area of extremely smooth and hairless skin from radiation. These long lasting things don't bother me so much, they are easy to hide and keep away from the outside world.

Other things are much less obvious. Chemo sure did a number on my veins and arteries. During chemo I could not extend my arms fully without immense pain as a result of the scaring it did to them. This is healing over time, however I still cannot extend fully without tightness. This is something I deal with all the time. I also really hate getting bloodwork done as well because as a result of these scars, my veins are very tough to poke through. This can make pulling blood to be a painful task.

As a result of  surgery, I can't really run very well, I am not as fast as i used to be (not that I would ever call myself "fast"), and it has given out on me from time to time, with stiffness in my hip from radiation also being a problem. I have no feeling still on the inside of my right leg either.

My blood and bones are still recovering from chemo. I remember quite vividly my doctor telling me it will take about five years for that stuff to get back to normal too.

There are plenty of mental scars too. These things I find to be the worst long lasting side effects. The biggest long term effect of cancer for me, is fear. Fear of recurrence, fear of going back to the chemo ward and reliving all those painful memories and times, and fear of maybe not getting through it next time.there is a lot of guilt too, for the pain I have brought to others. This never seems to go away.

It is enough to wear someone out completely that's for sure, and many days recently I feel worn out to the bone. It isn't great but I am doing what I can to get through it. I know it is tough for everyone around me, and I know it makes me a bit of a burden sometimes (more than sometimes?) so I try my best to deal with it on my own. It can be tough, and although many of these side effects will eventually go away, I am certain they won't go away soon enough.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Lately, I have become pretty bad at neglecting the blog. Been overly distracted it seems. Not sure why overall but a few things have cropped up.

It is getting to be three month check up time again. Probably the most common time that I get stressed about cancer things. Waiting to go in for tests and waiting to go in to have my oncologist give me "the news". So far they have all been good news but it is never less stressful for me. I know it is hard on Sara too, which makes me feel a bit bad about. She never signed on for this but has been a trooper and a great supporter. I know how hard it is on her too, and unfair on her, she has been really strong though. Impressive stuff.

I guess this has been highlighted further these days by the fact that I have heard of multiple people that I know or have met or talked to through social media and were in remission, no longer are. It is the biggest fear anyone who has gone through cancer could have. It just goes to highlight the fact that no matter how far along you are, and how much people want you to be "over it" and not worry about cancer, that many of these fears are completely justified by cancer survivors. I understand you don't want them to dominate your life, which I don't think I do, but it is nice to have them acknowledged as a real fear.

This stress has kind of built up over the last while, and I worry about the future and decisions I have made in the past. It has made me distracted, and honestly quite irritable, and this is no ones "fault", just something I have been dealing with. It has lead me to be quite disconnected sometimes, and I know this is not a good thing. I have discussed it with Sara and am looking at some more counseling tomorrow which I really hope will help calm the storm going on in my head.I have said it before, but no one wants to be past this more than me, but I still need time, and still need a little patience. I never really took a lot of time to deal with what happened to me, and it shows up from time to time in a negative way.

One thing is for sure though, I will continue to work away at it. Get these distractions gone, get reconnected with life, and get things back on track in a positive way!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Lumps, Bumps, Bruises and Being Mentally Tough

One of the hardest thing about being a cancer patient and/or survivor if the bumpyness of the human body. 

What do I mean by this? For most people, every person really, their body is filled with inconsistencies. Your left hand is not exactly like the right, same goes with legs and same goes with everything. Normally this isn't really a concern for most people. But as anyone with cancer will tell you, you get no so excited about this bumpyness sometimes.  It takes a certain level of mental toughness and always being "on" that can be hard to explain and can really wear on a person.

Personally I have had many experiences during and since completion of treatment that I fell into this hole. Many days, I would find some sort of bump or irregularity that leads me to believe that something may be wrong (so far they haven't which is great). I had cancer in my right leg. Lots of surgery, lots of radiation and lots of chemo lead to an odd system going over there. Recently, I poked around and found some oddness on my left leg. Also stressful, it is probably nothing but I don't know that. Things like this are stressful because they have probably been there for ever and when I compare to my right leg, well it doesn't feel the same.

Some days I deal with these lumps or bumps fine. Some days I poke and prod, pretending I know what I am doing, trying to figure out what it is and convince myself that it is all fine. Usually I end up bruising myself and it becoming swollen and painful. Those days I would not say I am particularly mentally tough. It can be made harder and more stressful when you hear about a friend or colleague getting cancer for the first, or second or however many times.

I am happy days where I can just shrug things off but they aren't as common as I would like, and they can make some days harder. Some days I tell myself "well I have a check up in a month I will be fine until then". I have been very good about trying to decide whether or not I need to go see a GP or my oncologist, but it can be tough some days. It is not an easy thing.

I believe almost every cancer patient or survivor goes through something like this. The fact that so many deal with it "gracefully" and can still get through their day, go to school or work, hang out relax, and take care of their families and loved ones is really a testament to how strong and mentally tough cancer survivors and patients are. Obviously, we are not all perfect on every day, but I really believe that with all the added weight on a person that adds, it is truly impressive.

So with every lump and bump I get, it seems for now at least I will continue to bruise myself. And stay as strong as I can.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

A Bit oif Time to Relax and Get Out

Over the last few weeks I have been doing a fair amount of traveling and when I can getting some down time (hence the slowness of getting some of these posts up!) but I have always enjoyed getting out and about and seeing different parts of the world.

Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to travel through all three maritime provinces in Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) and it really has been a lot of fun, and I have had the great experiences of meeting a lot of really great people along the way.

I spent some time in PEI for a job interview, and met a lot of great people, and then went to PEI, NS and NB with my wife Sara celebrating our first wedding anniversary and had a really great time seeing and experiencing a lot of things I haven't really had the opportunity to do or see before.

What does this have to do with cancer you may ask? When I was sick, I simply could not get around. I didn't do much traveling before but I had the unwavering desire to get out of my house. I was very work orientated and would always put travel off for an undetermined later date. I put off seeing the world. I think that was a mistake and something I won't soon give up.

I was able to travel a bit when I was sick. And a bit is not an understatement. My "big trips" were going from Vancouver to Victoria BC (mainly because they were close and there was a regional cancer centre there too, safe destinations in case anything happened!). And although they were great, most of the time I felt trapped because I couldn't do things, couldn't eat, couldn't really experience the area I was going to as you would want to.

I used to find travel stressful, but now, I view it as a major time to relax. Even if I am tired when traveling (which still happens, not 100% from cancer treatments quite yet!) it is nice to get out. I guess that is one thing that I learned when I had cancer. Even when things that used to stress me out come up again, I don't get nearly as stressed out, and travel and getting out is one of those big things.

I think todays post turned in to a bit of a ramble and maybe not the most succinct thing I have ever written. But it was a sunny day, I was sitting on my parents deck. And it was just nice to be able to get out and look back on the last week a little bit, and probably appreciate it a little more than normal.