Chemo Eve Eve

My friends do this thing each year called Christmas Eve Eve – when everyone gathers at a bar/pub to have some drinks and just pause for a good time. It’s nice and I’ve loved going.

Well, tonight is my ‘chemo eve eve’. It’s far less jolly and eventful than Christmas celebrations – however, I did paint my nails this evening, which was an adventure. With my eyes being so messed up, trying to focus upon the thickness of the polish upon my nails was rather different. Things a few feet away aren’t so hard, but those very close up details do challenge me. The entire time I was working that paint brush with my cutiicles, I was narrating to Zsolt: “Can’t clearly see what I’m doing, but it’s going on. Oh! All over the finger. Okay, now for the other hand!”

It may have helped if it the room hadn’t been so dim. My Dad always says “don’t curse the darkness, turn on a light.” But as I was only cursing the nail polish, I forgot all about the lights.

But hey, this was the best part of my evening, and I was revelling in the ridiculousness. My nails are now a very dark blue/green, and they look like someone painted them with a translucent blindfold on. Which is somewhat true, at least in the case of my left eye.


new hair cut, pre-nail-painting

So chemo starts very soon. Chemo and the magic key to remission: HER2+ targeted drugs. I am both dreading the chemo side effects, and looking forward to getting the cancer under control. It has truly had its way with me these past few months. Unfortunately I now have spots alongside both eyes, and – ugh – in that layer between the skull and the brain. So pretty much skirting the brain, though perhaps technically in the brain. But at least it’s not in the essential tissue … and I would like to avoid any ‘yet’ with that statement, and just say we’ll radiate the heck out of them and blast them away. Or so I pray. Brain is bad bad bad news.

But eye on the prize – we’ll do chemo, and then at the same time, radiation. I don’t know if it will be a targeted radiation treatment or full brain. The lovely doctor I spoke with today said he needs to consult with a few other doctors first. Either way, it will make painting my nails in dim lighting with one wonky eye look like a total cakewalk. (Karen, next time I’ll give you a call!)

Here is a nice story, and it’s also why I think I will do much better this time around than 5 years ago when first diagnosis. Everyone I love is here. My husband is beside me, and my family are here for me, and my friends are never too far away either, even when I’m too tired to do anything but think of them. 🙂 Just this past weekend, my mom broke out the flip chart board, and my entire family brainstormed ways to help support me in beating back the cancer – getting to that golden word ‘remission’ (officially my new favourite word. I like it even more than ‘butter’ and ‘delicious’). This family gathering was the most touching thing you could see. And then, after all that brainstorming, we made a picture board together. 🙂

Mission remission. Get this damn cancer under control! I’m going big, because there’s no choice for going home – except if you are speaking literally, but let’s not muddy that up. I want the cancer gone. gone, gone, gone. May this Chemo eve eve mark the moment when everything starts going right. It needn’t be a shitty day – but instead a day that tips the scales, and gives my body the chance needed to regain control. Let’s pray on that, if you dig prayer. Otherwise maybe you can just nod your head and think: go for it.

Cheers to getting better. And to family. And to dark nail polish. And – oh! To a cute new pixie cut. It may only last a week, but at least that’s one week when I can rock this new look. (I may look a bit grumpy in this picture, but really I’m just exhausted. Cancer is exhausting.)

And now, it’s time for bed.


May it be worthwhile

After a while of simply not writing things down, I guess it just becomes easier to stop altogether. That’s what I’ve been doing lately – stopping all together. It started just after that post I posted (oh man, ugly wording) about the blood and the hospital and the lung and yada yada yada.


I just stopped with the posts. This will happen sometimes. Often it’s because I’m out having an awesome time in the world. But sometimes it’s because I just don’t want to share.

All this being said, it’s been a trip.

Life has gone all pin ball machine lately, and I’m that metal ball pinging from paddle to paddle. Sometimes I shoot up in a happy moment, other times I roll down towards that game-over pit and not a paddle can save me . . .

That’s really dramatic language. When I started with that pinball metaphor, I actually thought it would be more fun.

Life has been like a plate of spaghetti. I’m the meat ball on top, sinking into the marinara sauce and wet, warm noodles . . . and the Parmesan cheese, with that pinch of salt and sprinkle of pepper . . . and the fork going in there with the spoon, wrapping all the goodness together . . .

Actually no. Life hasn’t been like a meatball on a plate of spaghetti. I’m just seriously hungry. Like SERIOUSLY hungry.

Life has been like this: it’s has been busy. After that trip to the hospital, a few different things happen:

  • My oncologist, Dr Canada, ordered a biopsy – meaning a tube-down-the-throat-into-the-lungs biopsy.
  • Then, following that, radiation was ordered – meaning shoot radiation at your lungs for two weeks every evening after work.
  • Then, following that the side effects kicked in – meaning don’t eat because you can’t and lose 10 pounds for swim suit season…except it’s winter and we all just want to indulge in cookies and chocolate. At least, I do. Stuffing too. And meat pie. And pretty much everything right about now. Just today I had my first solid food in a week. I chewed that olive about 40 times before swallowing.
  • I missed work, and worried.
  • Biopsy results came back. Interesting stuff. More another day.

Other things happened too!

  • Zsolt became CANADIAN.

I was going to throw him a party like this: Everyone would come over wearing red & white. We’d be decked out in Canadiana. He, being the guest of honour, would name the best Canadian outfit. We’d have a map of Canada and people would be blind folded, and would need to ‘pin the capital on the country’. There would be a table filled with Canadian themed food from Beaver tales to maple syrup to a veggie platter (because you need something healthy) to maple cake to Canadian beer, etc. And we’d all give Zsolt our best advice on how to be Canadian.

None of that happened, except in my head. Maybe it will, probably it won’t. Unfortunately the radiation side effects were stronger than anticipated, and we cancelled the party. Party or not, the man is still CANADIAN. And it’s still really surreal.

More things!

  • Refugees began to arrive in Canada! This makes me really happy to watch in the news. They’ve been going through a nightmare. Even though the memories will of course follow them, they are here. They are in a new home, and we want them to feel as safe as possible.
  • We decorated our apartment. Finally, after months of the pictures hanging around and the freezer being in the middle of the floor, we have put everything away and made this new place feel more like home.
  • Work! It went well.
  • I went and bought some clothes. Somehow, in between the physical phases of treatment, my mother and I went to the shop and I picked up some clothes for work. The sale rack was good to me. I no longer need to shop for another 1.5 years. ­
  • My family has been awesome-incredible-amazing-loving-supporting and more. Zsolt and I have been so touched.


This is what I need to remember going into 2016. It is probably not going to be a bed of roses, but if I’m lucky the lows will seriously be balanced, if not totally knocked aside by the highs. I need to remember what I’m fighting for. These good things need to be the center of me. It may not always been easy, but I pray it is always worthwhile.

That is all.



Radiotherapy in a nutshell

No joking around, I am t-i-r-e-d. They say that radiotherapy can cause exhaustion, and while the majority is due to radiation, at least some of it has got to be due to routine. And speaking of which, here is my Radiotherapy Routine, which I’m guessing is similar to others undergoing treatment.

Every morning I take a shower and scrub down. Why not in the evening, you might ask? Because revealing two sweaty armpits while a group of people lean into your chest is embarrassing. My first radiotherapy session, I go in and take off the three layers of shirts (undershirt, t-shirt, jumper) and was most definitely sweating with nerves. Getting on the table, the nurse asks me to raise my arms above my head and – whew!—in that shaming moment the lesson was learnt. No more night-time showers, it’s every morning from now on. Nothing like complete strangers having to inhale your body odours to drive a lesson home.

Right. So I take a shower and put on fresh clothes.  Makeup, deodorant, perfume etc are not allowed.

Next Zsolt drives me to the hospital. This is generally pleasant until we reach the hospital parking lot. The radiotherapy ward shares a teeny tiny parking lot with eye care emergencies . . . and I don’t know how many people are sticking objects into their eyes per day, but this parking lot is always full. So, per routine, I get out of the car and check to see whether any places are available. If not, we wait at the parking lot entrance until someone finishes their business with the hospital and leaves. Today while waiting, cars behind us somehow assumed we were broken down and started driving into the parking lot, totally gong-ho on finding a spot, only to reverse their metallic butts back into line once they realized there were no places, duh (expect for one line cutter, but she got a honking).

Anyhow, at this point, with or without Zsolt, who may or may not still be waiting for a spot, I head into the radiotherapy department.  It’s essentially a large hallway with padded chairs and magazines. The ceiling is high, the lighting is bright and there is a garden area that is currently seal off due to poor weather.  I scan my bar code – there is no receptionist – and wait to be called.

The longest I’ve waited to be called is about ten minutes. These people are fast.

“Catherine Brunelle” and I go in.

During my first appointment they took several measurements – by the time I was allowed to move again my arm had gone numb. However, since then it’s been much faster.

They escort you into a large room, center of which is a scanning-type machine with a long, hard bed/table  covered in paper. The table has a rest for your butt to be pushed against, a board to anchor your feet on, and some holders for the arms. It’s like the dentist chair taken to a higher, harder level of discomfort. And it’s flatter.

In the background music plays. You take off your clothes (whatever may be necessary) and get onto the table.

At which point they ask you to look up at the ceiling, totally relax your body, and let them move you around. As this happens the nurses have a very strange discussion: “A little emph here” “9.8 emph” “Lined up here” “A bit emph to the right” “13” “9.7” “10” “Emph?”

Okay, so if aliens were to abduct me tonight and lay me on their hard lab table, maybe they would use a similar language to these nurses. I have no idea what they’re talking about, and they have no time to explain. It’s all very quick.

But this isn’t an abduction. On the ceiling there is a picture of a tree with blossoms.

They move me very slightly here and there – I’m not quite sure what the point is because despite doing my best ‘rag doll’ impression, I’m bound to be moving a milimeter here and there, plus when the table rises or falls those vibrations shake me around.

Anyhow, they move me into position and the nurse put this rubbery/gel-ish ‘blanket’ across the area to be shot. Apparently this fools the machine into thinking it’s treating the area, and the skin ends up with more radiation. This is a good thing? Anyhow, they tape the blanket to my chest and then boot it outta there.

It’s just me and the machine.

The sounds start – machine sounds, a lot of quiet whirling, and then the radiation . . .

Firstly, it doesn’t hurt to be shot with radiation. Apparently the reaction comes later. Secondly, the beam is invisible. But there is a sound. An ugly sound. The loud static buzz of bees. Ugh.

And then the machine does it’s thing on one side, then the other, and then it’s done. Presto. The entire treatment take about six or seven minutes.

After which I throw my clothes back on, say goodbye to the nurses, Zsolt validates the parking and we go home.

Three days down. Twelve more to go. As of yet there is no reaction, but it’s still early days. Fingers crossed for some good progress!