Thursday, 20 March 2014

Side Effects

Side effects. Oh goodness, we all know that every medication we take can have potential side effects, and my favourite is when they go on to say that it’s “rare”. Yes, that may very well be my favourite word yet. It may be “rare,” however there is always that one unlucky soul that it happens to, and to them it’s a pretty big deal. So up until recently I was willing to consume any type of analgesic in hopes that it would alleviate my pain. One medication caused constipation and the other made me feel so drowsy that I felt like I was simply existing on a daily basis, and that is absolutely not the way I ever want to feel. So, although these were annoying side effects the best were yet to come!!

The one medication that I receive that has the most lovely side effects is Zoladex. This medication is given subcutaneous every 3 months and thank goodness it’s not more frequent because it is by far the biggest “subcutaneous” needle I have ever seen. A few weeks after I got this injection the pleasant side effects started. Essentially this medication is meant to shut down your ovaries and thus put you into early menopause. Since my cancer feeds off of estrogen this treatment is essential to ensure that we get things under control. Now a few weeks after this lovely shot I am now experiencing the side effects. Firstly, if you look this medication up on a pharmacy website(Lexicomp was my choice) and read the possible side effects I feel that some of the wording may need to be explained a little differently. So here is my perspective on how these side effects should be worded.

“Emotional lability”

Well if someone were to tell me that this was a side effect I would think it means you may become a bit moody. In reality what should be written is, “You will lose your f*ck*n mind.” I am not an overly emotional person, however I now find myself crying for very unnecessary reasons. The best example is when I went to buy gas the other day. Enough said. Nothing happened at the gas station, I wasn’t robbed, so why was I crying??? I have absolutely no clue, but that was one of many “Judit is going crazy” moments and would really love for it to stop, soon, before I get committed to a psych ward.

“Hot Flash”

You would think you get a bit over heated and within a couple minutes that sensation will pass. In reality what this means is, “you will become so overheated that it doesn’t matter if you take all your clothing off, you will still feel like you’re on fire.” I wonder if someone lit a spark close to me if I would catch on fire??  Good thing my hubby is a firefighter:)


We all get headaches so what’s the big deal, right?? Well, when you have a headache essentially everyday it starts to become annoying. When it feels like your head is being crushed, whilst having a hot flash, plus being emotional it really puts you into a great mood for the dayJ

Although these side effects are truly annoying I am more than willing to accept them as long as it helps stop this cancer crap from getting any worse. Now I get to start a new medication called Letrozole, also called Femara, which is also meant to decrease the amount of estrogen produced in the body. I am a smidge bit hesitant to start it as I fear it may push me into laying in the snow naked because I can’t imagine a hot flash becoming any worse then it already is. So I will wait until tomorrow to start it as I have plans for this evening, and getting committed to a mental health ward is not a part of my evening plans.

Overall, I feel good. My pain is not even comparable to what it was a month ago and I’m going to assume all the medications are feverishly working to kill off the cancer. I had an appointment with my radiation oncologist last week and because I have been feeling so much better with the pain she felt I didn’t need radiation which was a nice lil plus!! I have had some wonderful coffee dates with friends, good laughs with my hubby, and some great times with my nieces. Essentially everything that is most meaningful and important in life I have. Realistically what more could I ask for? Although the side effects of the medications are bothersome they are more than worth it as long as I continue to have many more great times with my friends and family. Right now things are good, and in the moment that’s all that matters.

I love this quote because I think it’s so true!!

If it weren’t for cancer, I’d say I have the perfect life.
If it weren’t for cancer, would I even realize this?
- Phil Green

My bestie, Lex!! Don't worry we don't share a husband, we just refer to each other as sister wives since we are so similar!! Luv you buddy, you are an amazing friend!!!

My love bug!!!

My hubby, Chris

My princess noodle

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Perfect Response

As many of my friends are aware a couple of the most important people in my life are my beautiful nieces. After knowing for a few weeks about this cancer crap once again creeping into my life I felt an obligation to tell them about what was going on. Firstly, you must understand that these girls are smart and I knew my older niece had an inkling that something wasn’t “normal”. To understand a bit more about them, my older niece, AKA my princess noodle, is 9 years old and is intelligent, thoughtful, and very intuitive. Sometimes I feel as though she’s a 30 year old living in a 9 year olds body. I can sit and have some good conversations with her. Then I have my “love bug” who is 5 years old and as her nick name describes her, she is simply lovable, sweet, and has a huge heart.

I decided to sit down with my older niece, princess noodle, to tell her that the cancer was back because I felt she was old enough to sense something wasn’t right. Therefore, after a few weeks when I knew I wasn’t going to burst out crying I felt it would be a good time to tell her. The last thing I wanted to do was be a complete mess and scare the crapola out of her. I feel I need to mention how this conversation went because it was truly great. So I sat down with her and essentially told her,

Me: “ You know things are a little different lately, right?"

Princess noodle: “umm… yes”

Me: “Remember when I had cancer, well it came back but this time it found a home in my bones”

At this point my Princess noodle looked at me and then at the floor, all the while I knew she was thinking something.

Me: “What are you thinking?”

Princess noodle: “Well… It’s just that I was hoping you would say you were going to buy me cupcakes”

At this point I couldn’t help but laugh as it was really the best response I have had thus far! Don’t get me wrong if one of my friends responded like that I would probably think they are completely insensitive and ridiculously hungry, however I loved her response. Our conversation about cancer was over and we went to get cupcakes.

Anyone who knows me knows I love kids and this was the perfect example as to why. Kids are blatantly honest and they tell you exactly what they are feeling in that moment. This is the reason I work as a nurse in pediatrics. Kids are strong, resilient little people that I think we can all learn so much from. In saying this I must share what happened to me when I went for my bone scan because it reiterated why I will never work with adults again, NEVER. For a while I had contemplated whether I wanted to go back and work casual with adults. So Chris and I had gone for this test which was at the Foothills hospital. As we sat in the waiting room a lady possibly in her 60s came walking in with a walker. So there’s one word that you must remember, she was WALKING. Ok, so she goes to the front desk to check in and she says to the receptionist, “Am I able to go to the washroom?” The receptionist looks at her and says, “yes, absolutely the washroom is just behind you.” Now you must understand the washroom was possibly five feet away from her and she goes on to say, “Oh that’s fine I’m wearing a diaper, so I’ll just go right now.” I looked at Chris and thought what is happening?? On top of this there was a man continuously belching as though there was nobody else around him. I couldn’t have been happier to get the heck out of there!!! I told Chris right there that there was absolutely no chance in hell that I would ever want to go back to working with adults!! I felt as though I was in an institution with a bunch of people who felt that simply letting go of any inhibition whilst being in a public setting was somehow appropriate. For anyone contemplating for a second as to whether to work with adults or children, always pick children. You will learn the true meaning of strength and resiliency and they will always put things into the greatest perspective, even if it is something as simple as getting cupcakes.



Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Damn Bell

I feel I needed to write a post about this bell that is symbolic of finishing chemo treatment. For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about I’ll explain. When someone finishes their last chemo treatment they ring this bell to signify the end of treatment. Ahhh, sounds lovely doesn’t it? As if life goes back to what it was before, I f*ck*n hate that! Up until now I have had two herceptin infusions which is not chemotherapy but rather a targeted therapy. It’s a monoclonal antibody that interferes with the HER-2 receptor because my cancer was HER-2 positive.

The first time around with this cancer crap I feel I was very aware of the people around me when I went for treatment. You know that many of these people will never finish treatment, but they sit silently never saying a word to anyone around them. When I initially finished my last herceptin infusion I never rang the bell, but simply walked away because somehow I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to share my good fortune with people who may not be as fortunate.

Fast forward to today and that bell pisses me off even more. Now I have to choose my words wisely so I don’t sound like I’m a completely bitter, mean intentioned human being. This time around I am well aware that there isn’t an end in site in regards to treatment. Therefore, when I went for my first infusion and saw two separate people ringing this stupid bell as if it were the end of a damn school day, I wanted to take this bell from them and disassemble it. Actually who am I kidding, I wanted to throw it out the window!! I looked at the one lady in particular who was smiling from ear to ear and ringing it as if there was no tomorrow. I wish I could have taken a video to share with you all because it reminded me of one of those slow motion commercials where they are trying to promote a drug that can cause impotence, blindness, and death, but it works so well for your dry skin. You all know what I’m talking about, but who on earth would settle for a potential side effect of death?? I would much rather have some dry skin. Anyhow, now I’m going off topic but the point I’m trying to make is ringing that bell is comparable to a CEO of a fortune 500 company going outside and showing a bunch of homeless people how much money he has. It’s fabulous that things turned out well for you, however not everyone around you is in the same boat. Personally I find it a bit ignorant and obnoxious to see people express their excitement when others around them are simply struggling to stay alive. I remember sitting there, faking a smile as though I was happy for them while whispering under my breath to Chris, “just wait a couple years and you may be back here, don‘t ring that damn bell too hard”. I know that sounds awful and I would never wish cancer on anybody, but enough with this bell already!! If you want to celebrate, do it once you’ve left the cancer centre. I am very well aware of the unpredictable nature of this disease and would love it if people could simply be mindful of those around them. I think this goes with all aspects of our lives as we may all be ignorant towards something at some point, but sadly we are not aware of its effects on those around us to change our actions.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Thank You!!!

How can I even begin to say thank you for all the kind, loving words I have received thus far. When I decided to do this blog I thought it would be a therapeutic way to chronicle this “adventure”. I thought possibly a couple people would read it and that would be it. I feel so grateful for the amazing people in my life. I must say the absolute best, kindest, and amazing nurses work at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and they exemplify the meaning of friendship and genuine caring. I am beyond thankful for everyone’s support and I feel your kind words have made this entire process something that is doable, and I am more than ready to live the best life possible! Thank you, and I love you all dearly!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Day That Changed Everything

As someone who has never blogged, or even been on facebook i thought this would be the perfect time to start as a way to keep my family and friends informed about my craptaculous "adventure" that i'm about to embark on! Ok, i don't know if i would say it's an adventure because it's not like i'm taking a trip around the world (although that would be much more ideal), but rather i have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I was initially diagnosed with stage 3a breast cancer two and a half years ago when i was 26 years old and although it was a hard diagnosis to get, there was a light at the end of the tunnel that made it so much more bearable because it was "curable". This time around, it's no longer curable but i'm optimistic with the advancements in oncology that i will have a long and happy life:)

To give a little bit of background i had been having extreme pain to my sternum that radiated to my back for a few months that seemed to get progressively worse. By boxing day i had had enough of the constant pain so i went to a walk in clinic. That was my first mistake. I mean i should have known since i always hated their lack of thoroughness, however, in my mind i already knew what was wrong with me and i was simply going to ask for a stronger NSAID as i had thought i had costochondritis. Sure enough that's what the walk in clinic doctor thought and he wrote me a script for exactly what i had asked for, perfect!

Fast forward another month and sure enough the pain was only getting worse. A little voice in my head knew that this was no longer normal, but honestly i didn't want to accept the possibility of what else it could be. I decided after many continuous nudges, from some lovely friends with the best intentions, to email my oncologist. Sure enough he speedily decided to do a CT and bone scan. That was clue #1 when he got me in within a week that life may not be as sweet and peachy as i had hoped.

The day after getting a bone scan i went to meet with my oncologist. When i went to check in the lady smiled, asked for my name, and asked who i had an appointment with. Now don't get me wrong this lady seemed like a nice, friendly person, however as a patient who was already stressed to the point of wanting to vomit she used a couple choice words that left me even more stressed. She gave me a paper and said, "you need to go get bloodwork". I looked at her and thought, oh this poor secretary is confused as i did bloodwork a week ago and why would i possibly need to do it again? I simply told her, "no that's done already and it was fine". She looked puzzled, looked at the paper, and said, "no, actually it's STAT bloodwork. It's because you're starting treatment". I looked at her and kind of felt pissed off and told her, "No, not that i know of". She handed me the requisition and that's when i truly knew the cancer was back, although i wasn't sure as to what extent. I wonder how often a simple interaction with someone where words are spoken that end up changing a person's life?? I walked to get my bloodwork and at this point i was on the verge of wanting to vomit, burst out crying, or pass out. As i looked around i once again realized everyone there was more than double my age. These people were all old enough to be grandparents, and there i was with my sweet bald hubby (Chris) who appeared to look more like the cancer patient than me. These people got to grow old, and in a way i was jealous of them. How the hell did  i get myself into this super crappy situation?? I never did drugs, don't drink, and eat healthy, and yet these were the cards i got dealt.

When we sat down with my lovely oncologist to discuss the results; i already knew. Firstly, if you have to get cancer he is the oncologist you want because he actually seems like he cares about his patients, and in that sense i feel very lucky. He went on to tell me that i had cancer in my sternum, however also in my left hip and T7 on my spine. Those other two locations were a complete and utter shock. That's when i burst out crying. I tried to keep it together, however the realization of the reality and the scope of this diagnosis sucked.  I really don't know how else to explain it, but to realize that i will need treatment for the rest of my life for an incurable disease is devastating. So after many days of being mad, sad, confused, and a speeding and parking ticket, i decided to pull it together as i felt i had had enough of feeling like a mess. So i have decided that i want to have fun and laugh everyday. I will no longer waste my time on things that don't matter to me, and i want to inform my other youngish (under 40) females about the reality of this disease and the importance of early detection and prevention because this is by no means only an old person's disease.

I will keep everyone posted on the ups and downs, and everything in between as my life unfolds!!