Friday, 26 December 2014

Goodbye 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, I reflect on this past year and hope for maintained stability for 2015. Both for my sanity and for this craptaculous cancer. I look back and recognize my last month of innocence, whilst still being in pain; January was the only month where I still assumed I was "cancer free." Even in January, although not formally diagnosed with mets yet, I may have already known deep down that it was back. Denial can be a beautiful thing. You can try to suppress the pain. Suppress those little "demon" voices that tell you repeatedly, "your so shit outta luck." I managed to go on a relaxing vacation to Mexico with my mom the week prior to learning I had a recurrence. I think I knew on that trip that something was terribly wrong. I remember someone once saying if you have a cancer recurrence "you'll know." I never really thought about this, until that fateful vacation when the pain became so unbearable that I truly "knew" it was back. You try to go over the scenarios of what else it could be, and I came up with many excuses as to why I was in pain. The other scenarios were treatable, temporary problems. Cancer is not temporary, and it would dominate my life from February onwards.

When I heard that my cancer had returned, and not only to my sternum, I was shocked and completely deflated. I was no longer in the survivors club, but rather the "surviving" club. I made this club up, but anyone is welcome to join:). I would require treatments basically for the rest of my life. This was the exact time in my life where my hubby and I had decided to start trying to have a baby. Instead of a little life growing inside me I had cancer growing inside me. Again. Fuck. The entire month of February was a bit of a blur as I felt so lost, confused, uncertain, and simply sad. Nothing could change what was, and everything I had worked so hard for throughout my life wasn't even important anymore. Nothing mattered.

After the shock wore off I knew I couldn't live in this pity party world anymore. What's the purpose of being alive if you've already given up on yourself? I refused to live sad, and decided it was time to get over it. That's when I started this blog. It had two purposes at the time. One was to inform my friends and family about how I was doing. There's something about having to repeatedly tell people of your diagnosis that feels like a form of slow torture. Not only is it horribly difficult to tell people, but then it becomes horribly difficult to try and console a loved one who is bawling their eyes out. I can handle so much, therefore this was hard. Secondly, I felt it would be therapeutic to write down my feelings and thoughts throughout this "journey." Ok, I hate that word so I would say this is more like a crapshoot, and who the heck knows where the hell I'll end up!!

As the year went on, my treatments seemed to be working! My pain decreased. My life developed a new flow, and I developed an increased acceptance of having, and living with cancer.  My hubby and I went on an amazing road trip that we had always wanted to do. We drove down the California coast, went to Palm Springs, and then went to Las Vegas. This vacation was so needed at this point as they had found a "questionable" spot on my brain. I left that appointment in June completely scared and tried to do some magical cancer math to try and determine what this meant for my survival. Anyone with cancer knows what I'm talking about. Dr. Google can kiss my ass!! I don't even know why I refer to google to determine MY survival because it's such a load of rubbish. I have learnt that with cancer what the internet displays are averages that never pertain to any specific individual. We had an amazing vacation none the less, once in a lifetime, and made memories that I'll cherish forever.

As the year went on, I had my brain blasted with radiation because, of course, that "questionable" spot was indeed cancer. I often wonder if someone approached me with a hand held radiation detector if I would beep off due to the amount of radiation I've had. I'm like my very own, walking, talking, Chernobyl! I kind of think of myself as a slightly contaminated nuclear disaster! I simply feel this way because I hate to even think about the amount of radiation I've received from countless CTs, radioactive dyes, and actual radiation treatments. I'm surprised the hair on my head doesn't permanently stick up like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket!! Oh cancer, the shit you have done to me, and how you've affected the way I think.

My hubby also damaged his knee at work, and was off for a few months recuperating from surgery. This was definitely not the year of health in the Saunders household!

I have had many, many amazing gifts from friends and family that I will cherish and never forget. As a new year approaches, I only ask for health. I ask for disease stability and good health for all my loved ones. I have had more infusions then I care to count, but I have learnt to make the most out of these days, and they have actually become days I enjoy! You see, I know I can't change the cards I've been dealt, but I can, and I will, decide how I play them. I refuse to be reduced by this disease. I refuse to allow other young women to feel isolated and alone, and will do my part to reach out to whoever I can. Therefore, looking forward to 2015 I hope to continue to be surrounded by those I love, continue to laugh wholeheartedly, and live like there's no tomorrow. Bring on the new year because I am ready to LIVE IT UP!!
                                                                  The last bit of 2014!!

My husbands annual work Christmas dinner, and a little bit of dress up on my part!

My sweet Sophia as my date for my last infusion of 2014!

Beautiful date in Banff with my hubby, and our festive hats. I basically had to inform my hubby that yes we are wearing these hat, and yes we will smile. I love how his hat just stood straight up!! 

Just had to post one more with our hats!

My princess noodle at her school Christmas concert!
My love bug on Christmas!

Monday, 15 December 2014


Before cancer I would watch the news and think what is wrong with this world, with people? Everything always pertained to crimes, robbery, war, and simply hatred amongst people in society. It was easy to see the bad in the world.

Now fast forward to today. I have been blessed with so many acts of kindness that I can't even believe that there is that much bad in this world. Suddenly, all I see is the good in this world. The amazing people who are selfless with their acts of kindness that have directly benefited me and my family. The amazing firefighters whom I have received countless envelopes from; thank you. Every time I've worried about people forgetting about me because I have been off work, and then I'm surprised. The "21 Days of Christmas" that my bestie organized and so many of my amazing friends took part in to make me happy. I've been on a high (natural high of course) since this as everyday I wake up I open a new gift and, my favourite, a new card or letter. Even on days I wake up sore, I go downstairs and see all the gifts under my tree and I'm left excited, happy, loved, and overwhelmed. You see, when you're off work from a job you love, it leaves you feeling as though you're simply a distant memory to those you used to work with. I often wonder why I even question this as my nursing friends are such amazing people, definitely a cut above the rest.

As everyone knows, I waited to get my hair done until after all my scans. Since I got good news, which started with the scan results, it has since snowballed from there. I have literally been in my own little happy bubble ever since! When I went to get my hair done, I was astounded by how my appointment ended. My hairdresser is lovely. She is kind, and a perfectionist with my hair! Obviously, I like this because I'm always guaranteed a great cut and color. After she finished I got up, and she looked at me and said, "this is on me. Spend your money to go out for a nice dinner with your hubby. Merry Christmas." Wait, what?? She can't possibly be serious; but she was. I completely understand that this is her career and this is how she makes a living, and it's Christmas time so I was not expecting what she said to me. She didn't need to do this, but she did! I left there completely shocked, and cried all the way home. Not sad tears, but the completely overwhelmed tears where I couldn't even fathom how amazing people are. Thank you Carly, you aren't just a hairdresser but an amazingly beautiful person and I hope you know how appreciative I am for your act of kindness.

I often wonder when we watch award shows like the Academy Awards, and we put these actors on a pedestal, but for what?? For being able to act, essentially for being good liars?? I wish I could televise and give awards to the amazing people in my life, so that they can be recognized for being amazing people. I mean isn't that what life is about? It's about individuals who act selflessly, wanting nothing in return. In reality, if we only spoke about all the goodness in this world I think people would be shocked to see that there really is more goodness then bad. Unfortunately, it took me getting cancer to recognize this! If I could say one thing to everyone it would be; do something for someone else, smile, and focus on all that is good. You would be surprised to realize that this doesn't just make those around you happy, but it also fulfills your own soul. One small act of kindness can completely change a person's state of mind, and turn their day around for the better. I dare everyone to try it, and I can guarantee you that you will be a happier person for doing it:).

Monday, 8 December 2014

2nd. Best. Day. Ever!!!

Alright I've often been heard bragging about how I have the best friends in the world, but once again I'm going to repeat myself. Thursday was an amazing day for me and my family as I heard the disease is presently stable. Friday I had my Herceptin infusion, but it turned into something I completely did not expect. At all!

My bestie came with me during this infusion, but she told me she would just meet me at Tom Baker. I thought; ok. I had decided to make 20bags filled with lotion, Epsom salts, pen, notepad, lip balm, and a little Christmas card for patients undergoing chemotherapy. I remember what it was like to receive chemo around Christmas, and I remember how awful I felt during the holidays. Therefore, with all the good news, and feeling really well, I knew I had to do something. So I filled up my trunk and told my bestie I would call her when I got to the hospital so she could help me carry all the bags.

I waited in the parking lot for a while, and then my bestie showed up. She came with no coat and no purse. Firstly, it's flippin freezing out!! When I asked her she had an elaborate story about how she fell in the parking lot, and got dirty so she put her coat and purse in the car. She had some dirt on her pants too, so I believed her. Off we went to get my infusion, and it felt like it always did.

When I finally got called in, it was by one of my favourite nurses, Stephanie:) I consider her like one of my "people" as she's so similar to what many of my friends are like. She was chit chatting all the way, and then we bumped into one of my other favourite nurses, Catherine. Catherine, I will always remember as she was the first nurse I had when getting chemo the very first time I got diagnosed. Once again, one of those nurses that I consider like my "people." Easy to talk to, very sociable, and intelligent. These lovelies are phenomenal at getting my IV. They had never missed before. Well...up until this day! Stephanie it may not have been your shining moment this day, but I think it's because I jinxed you. You got blood return, so I wouldn't consider it an epic fail, let's call it partial success;) Therefore, when we finally made it to my chair, the curtain was pulled and I was kind of just hoping it wasn't a soiled chair. As she pulled the curtain I was completely, and utterly shocked!! There I was speechless, again, as the area had a red blanket on the chair along with over a dozen wrapped gifts with a poster indicating it was from my lovely friends from the Alberta Children's Hospital. Essentially, they created "21 days of Christmas" for me with a single gift I was to open everyday from now until Christmas. I can tell you I was beyond shocked. My friends have done so much for me and my family. I mean way more than I ever could have expected. I never expected anything more than what they surprised me with earlier this year. Yet, here I was once again completely and utterly shocked. Shocked at the fact that they still think of me, despite being off work since February.

I never expected anything from anybody, really. I completely understand that everyone has busy lives and families. Christmas is stressful enough having to buy things for your loved ones, and I mean they really didn't need to do this for me. However, my plastered smile from Thursday is still plastered on my face from the surprise and shock from Friday. There will never be enough words in the English language that can sum up how completely and utterly thankful I am for the amazing people in my life. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but I could never be able get through all of this without each and every one of you. My bestie and her beautiful family for always doing soooo much, my phenomenal nursing friends for always being there, my lovely oncologist for essentially keeping me alive and for always having time (despite the fact that I doubt he has much extra time but he's good at making it seem like he has all the time in the world), and all the lovely nurses at Tom Baker for all your continued kindness. Lindsey C, one of my other "top five" nurses wasn't there this past Friday, but I hope you know the difference you make in people's lives; you are amazing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have absolutely nothing to complain about, and I hope everyone who has had such a positive impact on my life knows that I am forever grateful for everything. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, and I wish nothing but the best for all the wonderful people in my life!!!!! Love you all:)

This was completely clueless Judit, thinking I was being so sneaky with my small gifts for patients.

My bestie!! You are sooooo sneaky!! I swear Lex I think you could be a spy, except you're way too nice and caring, sooo... Nursing was definitely the right choice for you;)

Three of my lovelies!! Catherine, Stephanie, and Fiona. Missing was Joyce & Lindsey C. All the nurses are lovely, these just happen to be my favourite ones that's all. Obviously Nancy is also included in this list too;)

Not only were there gifts, but decorations and food!!! Feeling beyond blessed!
I required two wheelchairs to take all my gifts to the car!!!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Best. Day. Ever!!!!!!

Going into my appointment with my oncologist this week I was scared and stressed. I had my CT and MRI, and the week leading up to this appointment I was trying so hard to just keep it together. The morning of my appointment I was well beyond scared. I broke out in a rash from the stress and thought I was honestly going to vomit. It took a lot to try and calm myself.

The moment my oncologist walked in and simply blurted out, "everything's good." I had heard this before which then follows up with a "but..." I asked if there was a "but," however he said No. It was the biggest relief, as if the largest weight was lifted off my shoulders. I had been having quite a lot of pain to my left shoulder and was so scared that it was related to cancer progression. It wasn't. I probably pulled something, thank frickin goodness!!!!! The thought of it being a simple muscle strain was the greatest joy. It's been a while since I've been this ecstatic!!!!!

To further add to my elation was the MRI of my brain. Firstly, anyone with cancer is aware of the seed and soil theory in which if you have a solitary met to the brain, there may be a high likelihood that further spots will "pop" up. I can say there is NO NEW spots!! NOTHING!! The stereotactic radiosurgery to my left frontal lobe shrunk the cancer from 9mm to 3mm!! Honestly, this was the best darn Christmas gift I could have ever imagined. This is all I wanted and I got it:) I am so thankful for my amazing oncologist for always taking the time to talk, and never, not even once, have I felt rushed. I leave these appointments feeling as though I've been cured of cancer. I know I haven't been, but he has a phenomenal ability of being able to instil so much hope. I need this. It's the only way to deal with metastatic cancer. Small victories=hope=happiness=An amazing quality of life.

My hubby and I went for a coffee right after to celebrate. It's such a feeling of elation I can't even describe. We sat there and I saw my hubbies eyes well up. I recognize how this affects him, and I know he's just as scared as I am. These were happy tears. Tears that represent that cancer didn't get us today. Tears shed that literally allowed us to let go of all the fear we have both collectively held in this past week. I had to admit to my hubby something that I had done quietly, and not told anyone because it's a little bit shameful and maybe even a bit pathetic. My roots have been growing out and I have been long overdue to get my hair cut and highlighted. However, knowing I had this appointment I decided to schedule it for the following week. My thought process was what if things got worse? Specifically, what if it spread to my visceral organs? I know I would require chemotherapy, and once again this would lead me to lose my hair. Therefore, I thought why would I not only waste my money, but I don't want to look in the mirror and cry at the thought of losing my new, nicely styled hair. I know this seems very minuscule in the grand scheme of things, but I am 29years old, and yes this matters to ME. I don't want to advertise my disease. I don't want pity, and I don't want people who don't know me to know I have cancer. I just don't. I know people are thinking, but you blog about it so people probably know. However, I am nowhere near famous enough with this blog to have everyone know! I'm trying to avoid strangers from knowing. I mean people at the store, gas station, restaurant, who will look at you with that cocked neck pity party, sad eyes look, and say, "but you're so young." I HATE it when people say that as my only response is, "yup, it sucks." Next time maybe I should ask if I could get a discount? That may be the only benefit to having everyone know I have metastatic breast cancer.

As we drove home I was on cloud nine. I knew things were good when the Black Eyed Peas song, I Gotta Feeling, came on. It was timed perfectly, and resonated completely with how I felt. It was the final confirmation that my health, in this moment, was good. We are feeling very lucky, and extremely blessed, and I think this is the perfect opportunity to pay it forward. I know there are others, where today may be the worst day of their lives, and I would love to be able to bring some happiness into their lives, even if it is something small. However, it may just be what they need in that moment. I'll let you all know what I'm up to in my next blog post;)

Today, was one of the happiest days I've had in a very long time. I just want to jump for joy. I feel I have a smile plastered on my face like those scratch and win Christmas commercials! That's my face today, and I don't think anything will change this! So HAPPY:)

Our faces were a bit more composed here!!

Having my black coffee with the perfect words for a perfect day!!