This post is loooong overdue but anyone close to me knows how I’ve been battling with extreme fatigue these last few weeks. Extreme fatigue isn’t something we tend to give much thought to but it basically makes simple tasks like going up and down the stairs or even replying to a text message almost impossible. It peaked last week and I had to resort to being pushed around in a wheelchair to and from my appointments because I just didn’t have the energy or strength to take more than a couple of steps at a time. I am somewhat better today but I never know what to expect day on day so thought it was a good idea to write this post tonight since I felt strong enough to sit-up and type!
Two dates stand out in my cancer journey so far; January 16th 2010 was the day I heard I had breast cancer for the first time, April 9th 2015 was the day I found out the cancer was back. As difficult as it was to hear about the initial diagnosis, it was a hundred times worse to hear about the recurrence. I recall we had just returned from a trip to Huntington Beach in California and it was the most amazing holiday. We were in such a good place in our lives; we had moved to a city and country we were falling in love with its beauty and people by the day. Hubby was settled at his job and he loved it and was starting to build his patient base. I had a job offer I was looking forward to starting in a few weeks. Our beautiful daughter was growing happier and her personality was emerging by the day. To top it off, we had found a home we loved and we found out on the same day (after getting the news of the recurrence) that our mortgage got approved. Like I said, we were in a very good place and I was excited about all the future held. What I didn’t anticipate was a lifetime of living with cancer, it was the farthest thing on my mind as we waited to see the oncologist on that fateful afternoon…
I have learnt so much in the last year and here are some of them (in no particular order):
- THE LOVE OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS HAS BEEN THE GREATEST WEAPON IN MY ARSENAL: I have always been one of those people that made friends easily and my hubby still can’t wrap his head around how many friends I have 🙂 However, when you are facing a life threatening disease, the quality of your friendships are put to the test. As with everything else in life when put to a test, some friendships would fail and some will stand the test of time. I have had my share of both but my post today isn’t about the friends that didn’t step up as expected; my post is to appreciate every single friend and family that has STEPPED UP! Thanks for all the visits from Calgary, Britain, Germany and Nigeria. Thanks for all the cooked meals, help with grocery shopping and impromptu lifts to my hospital appointments. Thanks for the millions of messages and calls to check up on me. Thanks for babysitting our little one when we needed it. Thanks for all the many sacrifices so numerous to mention. I have had days where I thought I couldn’t go on but I receive a message or someone stops at the door and I am reminded of how much love we are surrounded with and that sometimes is all the strength I need to keep pushing forward.
- STAGE IV CANCER IS WAAAAAAAY WORSE THAN EARLY STAGE CANCER: I remember receiving my diagnosis in January 2010 and thinking the world was literally going to end. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that with early stage treatment, there comes a time when you FINISH treatment and can move on with your life. Don’t get me wrong, having any form of cancer in any stage is no walk in the park but there’s just something about knowing that there’s an END that keeps you forging ahead. I have been asked a hundred times when I am going to be done with treatment. Sadly with stage IV cancer, I am going to be on some of treatment for as long as I am alive. The prayer is to find a treatment that works and helps in making my ‘dream’ of being alive for many many years possible.
- SOMETIMES ****** THINGS JUST HAPPEN IN SPITE OF EVERYONE’S BEST EFFORTS: I have suffered some horrendous side effects since October that have greatly impacted the quality of my life. My family doctor, oncologist, pulmonary team and the palliative team rally together to do the best they can to alleviate some of my symptoms. In spite of their best efforts, I have had to live with most of the symptoms for weeks on end because no one can accurately figure out what the cause of the pain is. To make make matters worse, my last two treatments haven’t worked. There is no reason why these drugs shouldn’t have worked but like I said, with cancer, sometimes crappy things just happen because they do!
- I’M BLESSED WITH THE BEST MEDICAL TEAM IN THE WORLD: It is scary enough dealing with cancer without having to worry about how knowledgeable my oncologist is or if he’s got my best interest at heart. Everyone that is involved in my medical care go above and beyond each time to ensure I am getting the best care possible. I believe God put each of these people in my life to ease the burden slightly and I cannot be any more thankful for oncologist, family doctor, palliative care nurse and everyone else involved in my care.
- YOU ADJUST TO A NEW REALITY OF WHO YOU ARE: I have always been one to aim to write a professional exam every year, I believed continuous self improvement was the key to maintaining a competitive edge in the career world. According to my plans pre-recurrence, I should be making plans to renew my Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate and preparing to take the GMAT exam in anticipation of securing an MBA admission next year. Well, I have slowly realized these might not necessarily be the best use of my time and energy at this point. Apart from the career side of things, I barely got a chance to figure out the kind of Mum I’d be before Stage IV cancer got thrown in the mix. I have had to accept a lot of help with raising my lil one especially from my Mum and Mum-in-law who have both been incredible in the last year! It was hard initially to hear people say “oh, you are so lucky you don’t have to go through this or that because you always have someone around to help you”. Truth is, I will give up all the help in a second if it meant I didn’t have Stage IV cancer! Sadly, it is what it is and I am beyond grateful that I have people (family and friends) who chip in to make sure my daughter is having the most balanced, loving and happy life a 20 month old could ask for!
- NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BEATS THE LOVE AND SUPPORT OF MY HUBBY: I always knew I struck gold with my husband. He is probably the best human being I know and that’s not because I am married to him. As a husband, he was everything I hoped for and a whole lot more. Sadly in the last year, he’s had to add the role of a caregiver to his hat and I have to say he is the best support I could ever need. I know we are in this together 110%! He does every thing within his power to make this painful journey that little bit easier. He does the really big things like take time off work to go with me to appointments but he does the little things like make sure my pills are waiting with a glass of juice by my bedside when I get to bed at night. Oh and he’s been the best father to our little one. He sings to her, reads to her, plays with her (a little bit too rough in my opinion :)), bathes her, puts her to bed, feeds her and every other thing in between (especially when we have no one around to help us). I know these are perceived as normal activities but they mean the world to me when I am lying down on a bed with zero energy and I have an amazing partner who is happy to step up and meet all our daughter’s needs without me lifting a finger or asking. The one thing I know for certain is that I could not have gone through the last year without the love and support of my husband – it is as simple as that! He is the wind between my wings and the only reason I still smile.
I am by no means an expert on living with cancer and by consequence, this is not an exhaustive list; just a few things I have learnt in the last year walking this path. I imagine I will come back as time goes on to edit and add to the list. I pray for many more years hopefully with much better luck than I have had in the last year!!!