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 step one

As one door closes, another opens. This entrance is labelled ‘Radiotherapy’.

Zsolt and I went to the hospital level D last Wednesday, which is where all cancer related consultations take place. It has a large reception and waiting area. The walls are painted blue and orange and beige, the seats are coloured to match. There are piles of magazines because doctors never run on time, and a wait is inevitable. So far we’ve gone here three times. Once to meet my surgeon, once to meet my oncologist, and last Wednesday to meet the radiotherapist (radiologist?).

Eventually we were shown to a consultation room, and eventually the doctor appeared. I really enjoy meeting these men (they’ve all been men), because they are so incredibly confident in themselves. Whether they ooze charm, reserve, or whatever – they all know they know what they’re doing. And because they know it, I believe it.

In walks my radiologist and the first thing he says to me is, “Dr  So and So told me you’re Canadian! Where are you from?”


“Ottawa! My wife and I skated down the Canal,” and he launches into a story about how while living in Toronto he and his wife took up skating with the aim of conquering the Rideau Canal.

Clearly this man has some people skills.

He then sat down and dove straight into the concept of ‘radiation’ and how we’re always exposed to radiation, and how we’ve been using it for a long time to treat illness, and how the process has become much better over the years so things are now at a point of low risk and better recovery. Etc.

Why radiotherapy? Because apparently, somewhat like chemotherapy, it stops cells from dividing. Fast growing cells possibly remaining in my breast/chest tissue (if missed during surgery) will be stopped dead. At least, that’s the idea.

He drew me a picture of a woman’s chest, and demonstrated which layers will be struck by the beam. Apparently they angle the beam so a minimal amount of lung is effected (though yes, my lung will get an unnecessary dose). However I may be a ‘candidate’ for a more precise form of radiotherapy that uses CT scanning to move the beam according to the bumps and dips of the body. (he mentioned this after examining my scar and chest area . . . so perhaps my theory of having an overly bumpy rib cage is correct, hmm). This CT scanning helps reduce the side effects.

And then he gave me a choice. There are two routes, 25 treatments or 15 treatments. If I were having reconstructive surgery then 25 would be better because the treatment is spread over time, which therefore protects the tissue more. But reconstruction won’t be happening. No thank you.

I cannot tell you the exact pros and cons of 15 vs 25 treatments. I cannot tell you because as he explained each option, my head went into a slight tailspin and my ability to focus stopped (interestingly the same happened to Zsolt). Maybe something was in the air, or maybe it was the force of this doctor’s personality. Who knows? All I remember is him saying “gold star treatment” for the 25 shot option. But frankly, I’m leaning toward 15, it’s an overall lower dose, despite being very similar to the 25, and gets things done more quickly. I think the real difference between these two is time and flexibility. 15 is faster, 25 is more flexible.

Anyhow, I’ll google it before deciding.

Here is another interesting bit of opinion. Dr Skates mentioned that much of radiotherapy is done to improve surgery results. He seemed quite confident in the skills of my surgeon (which is why my armpit, neck and shoulder areas won’t be getting radiotherapy), but suggested that some surgeons he’s worked with in the past  are less reliable, which means they need to shoot a larger area to cover up for any potentially missed bits of cancer.

Another good reason to find a surgeon with a strong reputation.

I get such a kick out of these doctors. These are men of power – and I suppose they are powerful; lives are held between their fingers. Maybe some people would also suggest they’re men of ego, but better ego than uncertainty or meekness or lack of experience.

Now that doesn’t mean I won’t double check their opinions, look around online, talk to other doctors and ultimately make my own decision . . .

Zsolt always says that I don’t believe him. He tells me one thing, I need to double check it. The other day I had him meet me at a restaurant because it was snowing outside. I was on the mobile phone with him saying, “I can’t get a ride because the road is covered with snow” (this is England, driving stops when it snows), and he’s on the other end of the phone saying, “But there’s no snow outside!” to which I reply, “yes, there is, I can see it from here – come and get me.”

He came and got me, but there wasn’t a snowflake on the ground. From the back of the restaurant where I looked out the window, the orange street lighting did look like snow. Really! But – no, he was right. This was one instance where I should have listened.

But the doctors realize we’ll look up everything they say. Dr Skates wrote down the two treatment options and told us there will be tons of information once we start typing into our computers. They know. And still, they are confident in their own expertise. I appreciate their confidence, because ultimately I rely on it.

That was radiotherapy step one. In January there will be a planning meeting, which will include tattooing my chest and possibly a CT scan.

As one door closes another will open. Chemo is almost done. Soon I’ll have a rest, and then it’s onward in the road to breast cancer recovery.

We are getting there.


Now we are rolling! Thirteen down and three left to go.

BAM: appointment made with Canadian oncologist

BAM: ticket bought for flight home

BAM: Christmas presents under the tree

BAM: Air Canada troubles sorted

In the end it was my Dad who called back Air Canada. That’s not to say I couldn’t do it – but if I had called the UK office I would have gotten the same woman (I always get her) and would have felt the same stress. My dad instead called the Canadian customer service line and received a basket of apologies; the representative said that they shouldn’t be asking ‘why, why, why’ when a customer requests a wheelchair. Like I said before, the fact that we even ask ought to be enough.

Honestly, Air Canada has been a helpful company in the past, which is exactly why I had expected better treatment. When my mom needed to extend her compassion ticket to stay for my first chemo session, they went out of their way to help.

When I arrive at the airport, I’ll ask about a ‘meet and assist’, which means someone will come along to help me get through the airport (UK lady didn’t mention that!). It’s booked and ready to go. So Dad totally gets a gold star for helping smooth things out.

The snow is still on the ground. Chemo went well – I had my treatment yesterday instead of today. We arrived for a blood test, and because so many people had cancelled the lead nurse suggested I stay on for chemo as well. Once my blood results were returned (and my chemotherapy drugs released) I was taken to a spare room; this place was empty except for one other woman. It was such a quiet chemo room. The nurses flitted in and out, hooking me up to the machine, starting the drip, giving the anti-sickness, and finally attaching the chemotherapy. It took an hour longer than expected – Zsolt chased after our booked taxi as it drove away (not really, but it did drive away despite his arriving on time . . . taxi competition was fierce!). But the nurses were understaffed and I was tucked away in a deserted room; it was a wonder they remembered me at all!

Yesterday was chemo as usual, no surprises or interesting stories. The highlight of my treatment was the nurse popping round to change my drip and getting a shock when I appeared from beneath a pile of jackets on my chair. So that was a laugh, but otherwise it was totally uneventful.

Today Zsolt and I are hiding in the apartment. We’ve been watching cars pass by and seeing how they manage the ice. England and ice do not mix.

Still tired, still recovering, and so I cannot write anything interesting. This happens time to time.

Three left, baby! Thanks goodness for that.

Oh! Next week I have my radiotherapy consultation. That’ll certainly be something to write about.