Pyramid Lake

There is a lake in Jasper at the base of a mountain . . . well, not quite the base. If you are in a car, it’s an easy uphill drive along a winding road to reach beautiful water that reflects Pyramid Mountain above. And at that water you can rent canoes, take them out and paddle – quietly, peacefully, happily – to your heart’s delight.

Nearly ten years ago, while living in Jasper, I had that pleasure. But I didn’t have a car. Instead, a group of friends and I set out on our bikes to peddle to the base of this mountain, where the lake waited with the canoes on shore.

Jasper is high, and biking up a mountain makes it even higher. To reach that water meant physical turmoil. Our group of friends became separated – those who were stronger pushed ahead, those out of practise fell behind.

I fell behind: panting, swearing, aching. Cars whizzed past, and I considered sticking out a thumb, but didn’t because it was too embarrassing. Instead I simlpy pressed onward despite thoughts of giving up, because I knew – I just knew – that canoeing in that beautiful water, out in the open air, laughing and cruising, and being part of that incredible grandness was going to be worth it.

So bit by bit, with frequent breakdowns of determination and the occasional ten minute rest-stops . . . I finally made it to the base of that mountain. And my word, it was good.

It was so very, very good.

I wish that at the end of this chemotherapy there was something like that waiting.  My pink mountain with the canoes all tied up. Actually, there is – another chance, a plane ticket home, a break from this crap. But right  now I’m struggling uphill, and it’s getting pretty damn difficult.

Bright side: I received the expensive drug, and this weekend has been much better. Apart from Friday the nausea was little to gone, which makes the whole thing easier. Instead of suffering from illness, I slept away the weekend. This was a positive experience . . . and yet I can’t help feeling down. Thinking about all the treatments to come – all the needles and drugs – it’s like biking up that mountain and turning the corner, only to see more of that uphill climb.

I know this will be over in a matter of months. This part of the cancer ride will come and go, and I pray it’ll never be needed again. Somewhere ahead is that symbolic lake, though I do wish there was an easier way.

The weekend went well. That is what matters. But I feel this is a greater challenge beyond ticking off the treatments, and unfortunately there isn’t much choice . . . I just need to keep on biking.

Cancer treatment plan

There’s nothing like a dose of reality to make a girl feel crushed. But then again, there isn’t much better than a long nap and a drink of ice water to make this girl feel better.

Cancer never felt more real than it did today. Even with a breast removed, the ‘C’ word doesn’t become tangible  until the doctor lets slip those dreaded few words: ‘it’s chemo time, baby.’


So today (past tense) Zsolt, my mother and I go to the oncology outpatients centre.  We are received and shown a room rather quickly (very quickly – last time we waited about 45 minutes, this time it was 10). The nurse asked me to put on the cape; I said ‘no thank you’ and didn’t, because that cape is terrible and cold.

Eventually the surgeon arrives with one of the breast care nurses. This gentleman is not one for flowery words. He gets down to it. Your cancer is a mixture of fast and slow growing cells, it has spread to four lymph nodes. You will, most likely, be recommended a course of chemo therapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy.

Zsolt shoots questions from the right corner chair.

Zsolt: What about the margins, are they safe?

My Surgeon: The margins are clear, but small.

Zsolt: And the blood vessels?

My Surgeon: Good question (points for Zsolt). They have tested clear, but we can’t be sure.

Zsolt: Has is spread beyond the lymph nodes?

My Surgeon: Result show no evidence, but because it was present in four lymph nodes, there is a risk of spreading. (minus points for me)

A few more questions from my mom, which for some reason I cannot remember, and then he bowed out and left the room. I tried saying thank you for removing my breast, but he waved it aside. I do not think it was a rude wave, not at all, it was a ‘don’t worry about it, this is my job and I don’t do well with flattery’ sort of wave. It was a respectable wave, but I’ll probably send a card nevertheless.

So crap. Fuck. And yeah, okay I am swearing. . . but come on. Never in my life would I choose to go through such physical bullshit, this black hole of shit (as one friend described), and to swear feels good. Really good. I’d like to spend an entire day doing nothing but swearing because at the moment I am so angry with my body, and so angry with my circumstances, that to open a big can of ‘what the fuck’ and shake it all over town would be really satisfying. I’d like to get a mega phone and turn it to sonic high and just yell, and yell, and yell about how angry I really feel.

The funny thing is, there will always be people who have it worse. Walking through the hospital is a stark reminded of that reality. It’s one reason why I turn my stride to speed-walk as I navigate the long florescent corridors of the general  hospital; they have it much worse, and I don’t want to become one of them. That’s terrible, isn’t it? I know. I really know. But I’m desperate to not become a sick person in the hallway. Even if others look at me and feel the same kind of dread, I don’t want to ‘belong’. Though I am so very sorry that any person needs to be there. Everyone fights their own battle, and I’m finally starting to realize how difficult that can feel.

Anyhow, after meeting with the surgeon we met with the oncologist. He was a nice fellow, a little more sympathetic but still professional. He must deliver difficult news on a daily basis.

The friendly oncologist slowly unwrapped my situation. Essentially, he believes that without any further treatment I hold a rather high risk of reoccurrence. Particularly in young women with breast cancer reoccurrence is a concern. Seems like the cancer gets a kick outta young blood and has a tendency to ride it around the body, sometimes showing up again quite far from the original site.

He also explained that radiation therapy, chemo therapy and hormone therapy will reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence by about 50%.

AHHHH boy. Fifty percent. That’s only half the pizza.

But I need to do everything possible to improve my recovery – and to stop reoccurrence. I did not want chemo, but looking at the pathology it seems that chemo is a reasonable response. Not a happy one – but reasonable.

I know what I want: health, family, love, good things and great results. I know what I want. And just because I’ve been given a more difficult road doesn’t mean my eye is off the prize. It may be the doctor’s job to break tough news, but it’s my job to rebound and fight on.

Gotta keep throwing those bombs, gotta keep fighting back.

The reality of chemo has been difficult today. But people get through, don’t they? Many people get through and go on with their lives. Like I said before, I look forward to normal – my just like always. So long as that’s in my mind, I can fight.

Next come the decisions. Do I stay or go back to Canada? One thing is for sure, I will not leave my husband. Not a chance.

When I started Bumpyboobs I had hoped to write a light blog about breast cancer screening. There is so much out there that scares me to read; I feel a sense of dread while reading the experience of others, and I never wanted this blog to inspire that feeling. But this is cancer, and emotional highs and lows are inevitable.

But I do promise this – I’ll try and write the high as often as I write the low.  I can be angry one moment, sad the next, and then the sky may clear, or I’ll pass a rose bush, or my husband will blow a kiss, and suddenly it’s all highs and smiles once again.

This blog is not just about breast cancer. It’s about the good and the bad and the fight inside.

Keep an eye on the prize. These down moods can’t last forever; there are better things to come.

Oh boobs.

Man-Bugger-Frig-DAMN-Augh-Frack-Fuck. AhhhhhHHH!

I’ve been demoted a bra size.  My boobs have always been two different sizes, the left smaller and the right a bit larger, but the nipples were even, so who cared? Not me. I was a happy, healthy, proportionally kick-ass 34 B–ish. Ish.

Well, not anymore!  Post mastectomy, little lefty is all that remains and she is a healthy size A.

Okay, okay. ‘Healthy’ should be the key word in that previous sentence, I know. But Frig. FRACK. BOOBS!

Today I wore my first ‘false’ breast, which is why I’m griping. I have this post-recovery camisole with pockets for a fake breast. My mom and I spent about ten minutes with the comfy – pulling out stuffing and trying to find it the right position in the shirt. Once we finally had it in place, I pulled my dress over and took a look in the mirror – hmm, even looking . . . but, smaller . . . Even Zsolt has noticed, though I suppose of all people he would be the one to notice.

This is not the end of my world. On the brighter side, my drain has been removed by two wonderful nurses who visited my home (I really mean it, they are great. Vicky in particular was so reassuring). And on the even brighter side, my mom is here and we spent an hour in a cafe today talking; getting out was difficult at first, I nearly fell asleep on the table from exhaustion, but after a cup of tea the world become far easier.

So yes, there are good things happening. But it’s a change – that’s all I’m saying, and a disappointment.  Big reliefs and small disappointments. These feelings can be tough, but I know they won’t last.

Bumpyboobs gets a little bit smaller. Hey, they’re still cute , and lefty’s been good to me. She really has. Thank God she’s healthy. Now I’m praying and fighting so that she and the rest of me can stay that way.