Saturday, 31 December 2016

Year End Review for 2016

I can't believe another year has come and gone. Just like that another 365 days have passed. I look back at this year and feel thankful to have had many good days that far outnumbered the bad. Everyone's life entails highs and lows, but trying to navigate through life with MBC is exponentially hard, painfully sobering, and a constant reminder of days passed and the days that still lay ahead. I feel beyond thankful to have had a productive, happy, and fulfilling year. My definition of success has changed, from defining it based on monetary "stuff," careers, & education to simply defining it based on one simple, far too often overlooked, component: Happiness. To see those I love happy and healthy truly elicits a sense of calm and peace within me. Here's a quick little review of my past year:

  • January 4th: Celebrated my nephew's first birthday. Super high moment for me:)

MAD love for this lil dude. He has brought so much happiness into all our lives. I could keep posting pics of him, but I'll stop at three;).
  • February: this is when my meds accumulated and I learnt for the first time that it really, really sucks when this happens!! I also learnt that, as a bare minimum, I should  consume a minimum of 1L of water everyday while on this chemo or else I become dehydrated to the point of needing IV rehydration. It was also the month where my appetite went out the window, and I started to wonder if it would ever make an appearance in my life again!!! Happy to say it came back;). I also got the most epic blisters on my feet that I would have loved to have gone without. Not to mention that this month I stocked up on Boost...yup this month was officially the month that I felt OLD.

  • March: we decided to switch my chemo schedule from two weeks on and one off, to one week on and one week off to better manage the toxicity. This helped a LOT to make Chemo more manageable. 
  • April: this month was BUSY, but oh so worth it!! I had the wonderful privilege of taking part in Living Beyond Breast Cancer's (LBBC) Hear my Voice Advocacy workshop in Philadelphia. The best part was meeting many of my amazing metsters friends in person. It was such a high point, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity and for the friendships forged. To walk into a room where EVERYONE gets it and is living in a parallel world to yours is unbelievably refreshing, although I truly wish it was under different circumstances. To meet many in person, and then to hear about many of their passings simply made me want to advocate ten times harder!! The deaths from 2016 were far too many, and heartbreaking for the MBC community. Later this month I also had the opportunity to advocate for medical cannabis, thanks to Rethink Breast Cancer, in a medicinal cannabis forum. It was a wonderful experience, and made me happy to realize that the general population is finally beginning to recognize that this plant has medicinal potential. I also started on Twitter, and became an official tweeter, lol (@Judit_Saunders)

Love all these ladies. We are all living with metastatic breast cancer and simply hoping for more time. xoxo

Rethink Breast Cancer's panel on medical cannabis. Thankful for this amazing organization and for all they do for young women living with breast cancer (

  • July: A group of us metsters, from across Canada, decided to form an advocacy group to help serve a very underserved, and often ignored population: MBC patients ( Twitter handle @MBC_Advocacy_CA. Since the inception of our group, we have had other opportunities for advocacy. This month we also went on our annual trip to Invermere with my mom and nieces. Plus, I got to celebrate my 31st birthday this month:). Later this month my hubby and I went to Disneyland and had a lovely getaway! The Comedy Store in L.A was one of my favourite components of this trip, and the ocean...I love nothing better then being able to have a good laugh and some sun and sea:). This was also the month I got a selfie stick & utilized it like crazy...the following pics are brought to you thanks to the stick (just don't bring up the sour note of Disney and how it is a prohibited item)...
This was literally right before we got caught with our "prohibited item" and told to leave. They seem to take selfie sticks VERY seriously!!

Just a thought?? Hmm...if someone doesn't want to collect their children at the end of the day we are more then willing to accept them into our home!! If only it were so easy (sigh).

  • September: Firstly, I should mention that this was the first year I tackled having a vegetable garden and I LOVED it and actually managed to grow some things!! I had to post pics as I'm not sure if could ever replicate this!! I also went on our annual Vegas trip with my mom:). It got kind of derailed as our province decided to stop funding my Zoladex injections (this is the drug used for ovarian suppression). I was switched to Lupron and off I went to Vegas to be an emotional roller coaster crazy person with some horrendous headaches that lasted our entire trip!!!!!!!!! The good news? I learned my mom is a Saint....the fact that she could stand to be around me not only shocked me, but certainly made me realize that she would do anything and everything to make my world as perfect and blissful as humanly possible. For that, I could never thank her enough. Love you mom.

One of our planters with tomato's, squash, and corn. The corn was soooo close, but our gardening season was just not quite long enough (AKA: I planted them too late).

The final yield. I'm excited for next year to see how everything grows!!

Mom and I in Las Vegas

  • October: This was the month that we did the CIBC Run For the Cure. This year was different then all the previous years as our advocacy group decided to see how many MBC groups we could form across Canada. After which, we learned that the funds could go directly towards MBC specific research. We ended up with 10 teams across Canada with our local team raising over $11,000. Together with all our sister teams across Canada we raised over $32,000! Super high point! This month was also the annual Boobyball in support of Rethink Breast Cancer which supports young women affected by breast cancer.
Our amazing Calgary team. Thanks again to all those who took part or donated. xoxo

Firstly, this year was a jungle theme. Looking through my photos I came across the first two from Boobyball and don't quite know why my bestie and I were posing with a tree?? But there you with nature;)

  • December: Got Influenza A, and earned myself an ambulance ride. Didn't expect to end my year with this, but I don't think we ever expect the things that happen when living with cancer. On a bright note, I had a lovely Xmas surrounded by family, and had an enjoyable holiday season. 
This is how I felt during the flu...get your flu shot!!!

Here's a run down of what it takes to simply stay alive when living with metastatic breast cancer:

  • over 2000pills taken, and that only includes chemo & a dual kinase inhibitor (targeted therapy). Add supportive meds and honestly I have no clue how many that comes to!! 
  • 4 PET scans & 4 brain MRIs. The scans itself are simple but the stress of these exams are quite literally the most stressful and agonizing days I have ever experienced. It never gets easier. I have little patience during these times and it simply causes me to question my mortality. Every. Single. Time.
  • 4 Zometa infusions=strengthen those bones!! 
  • 4 Zoladex & Lupron inj to suppress my premenopausal ovaries=hot flashes that make you want to spontaneously combust and resort to air conditioning in the winter! My body just can't adjust to this and my wardrobe now consists of tank tops and cardigans. The cardigans allow for a quick and panicky removal of layers and then an easy and quick way to layer back up. 
  • I resorted to gluing my thumb back together at the end of this year as the HFS got so bad that I'm left with a gaping hole on my thumb. Happy to say it's very effective:).
  • This was my first year with Mets where I managed to stay on my current regimen and not have progression. This is bloody AMAZING & I am fully aware of how immensely lucky I am to have lasted this long. Pleeeeaaaase keep on working into the new year and on...and on...and...
  • Mouth sores galore & blisters on hands and feet
  • I got to have 5 weeks off treatment at one point. This was the longest time I got to go without taking meds everyday. It was soooooo good!! I think once a person has to live with this for the rest of their life, we seem to forget just how much of an impact these meds have on our quality of life, and it isn't something we recognize until we finally get a much anticipated break. To feel normal!! Not the whole "new normal," but NORMAL like every other person in their early 30s gets to experience!! 
These were all meds from this past year alone, and it doesn't even include everything. It's crazy to think that these prescription bottles are the reason I've been able to have the year I have had. Although there's many side effects, I must say it was all very well worth it to experience all that I had the opportunity to experience this past year.

Overall, I'd say I had a good year. Yes, my life continues to revolve around scans, appointments, and meds, but I have a wonderfully supportive hubby, I have an amazing family, and I have the best friends I could possibly ask for, and I continue to have far more good days then bad. I want to continue to advocate for MBC in 2017, and hope that new and promising therapies hit the market, not only for my own life, but for my many friends who are running out of options. I hope more funds will be dedicated towards RESEARCH. Moving forward, my one goal for 2017 is to be happy...find at least one reason to be thankful love with all my heart...and to do all the things that bring me happiness. That's it. I wish good health for all those I love and care long as we have our health, everything else is simply a choice. Don't ever forget how lucky you are, and hold onto any, and every ounce of goodness that this life offers. Here's to a new year...may it bring good health and lots of reasons to smile.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

This Year Was ALMOST Uneventful...ALMOST

I realized I haven't updated my blog in a while, but with all honesty all has been good! Treatment has been working, & life has been chugging along. Scans change in treatments (yaaaay)....overall I'd say peachy peach. After having a nice busy little weekend I developed a cough as we were driving home from an outing. I literally looked at my hubs man and said: "I hope this doesn't turn into anything." I think that statement sealed my fate!

The next morning I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a truck. Cough, everything aching, head pounding, nillo appetite, and a fever. Peachy. I quickly diagnosed myself with some nasty cold. Yes, after four years of post secondary education to become an RN, these days I use that education simply to figure out what the heck is wrong with me! The first day I took Advil, expecting to be fine by the next day. Ya, nope. The next day I woke up and felt even worse! However, my fever went from low grade to high. At this point I tried to think logically about what I should do. I decided not to take Advil (as I am on chemo and didn't want to mask it) that day and see if it would come down on its own. The answer to this was nope. My temp stayed at 39.3 all day, so I decided to call the cancer centre to see if someone could call in some script. Easy peasy. Ya, nope. I was told to go to either emerg or urgent care. Firstly, if you know me I like to take care of things myself and I don't like all the hoopla of needing to go to emerg, so after I was told how long the wait was at emerg I decided to go to urgent care instead. At this point, I just wanted to get bloodwork to make sure my counts were good to fight whatever this infection was, and then the go ahead to pop some Advil as I was starting to get miserable from the aches, but mainly the head pounding! 

By the time we got to urgent care I felt super crappy. After spending two days simply laying on my couch I realized this extra strain was feeling like I had just climbed Mount Everest :/. They did a set of vitals and by this time my temp was 39.8 and the rest of my vitals weren't on the stellar side of things so they called me in right away. After an EKG, a whole heck of a lot of bloodwork, and 4 pokes I finally got my Advil, 2L bolus, along with oral and IV antibiotics, and a chest x-ray. They wanted to rule out sepsis. I started to feel better after the Advil and fluids and thought I'd be on my way in no time! Then after the doctor came back he told me my Potassium was super low. Thanks to my nursing degree I'm aware that Potassium is one of those electrolytes that has a narrow window, and it is important for things such as for your heart's proper functioning. I was given oral and IV Potassium and when the doctor came back I was expecting him to say you look wonderful now and be on your way, but nope. Wrong again!! He essentially told me that although I looked better, based on how abnormal things were when I came in, he felt I needed to be admitted to the hospital. Firstly, I thought just nod and smile as if I'd go to the hospital, and then get the heck outta there and go home and go to bed. Well, he even put a pickle into those plans when he told me he would call EMS for transport!! I kinda laughed as I felt it was a bit of overkill, but this doctor looked at me totally straight faced and said he wouldn't let my husband drive me simply due to my low Potassium and fear of my heart stopping en route. In that moment, I thought my poor mother's heart would stop!!! Oh shit I thought...then I thought of my friend Mandi from out to my low Potassium buddy;). 

After waiting a while, and trying to think of any excuse to get out of this I finally realized "it is what it is" and I had to simply listen to their recommendations. So the medics came and I earned myself an ambulance ride to the hospital. I must say, why do cancer patients not have their own triage and emerg?? Having to sit in emerg around a bunch of germy people, I just left my mask on and essentially laid around for a while. By the time I saw the emerg docs, and based on how much better I felt, and considering it was after midnight; I was ready to to be discharged home. Nope...wrong again. I must say these doctors talk so kindly to a person, and seem so calm, that when I asked when I could leave they just kind of smiled and said, "No, we are definitely leaning towards admitting you." This is where I'd like to insert a distraught faced emoji because that's how I felt!!! I even asked if they had called the on call onc to consult with as I felt they would be more lenient. After consulting with oncology, and realizing what I wanted (to go home) and realizing what they wanted (admission) they were kind enough to compromise. They essentially told me that they would let me go home if I came back at 9:30 that morning (at this point it was after 3am) to see an infectious disease doc. I quickly said YES, and we compromised and I quickly got the heck out of there so I could get a few hours of sleep before coming back.

Essentially, you may be asking; what the heck was wrong with her??!! I ended up testing positive for Influenza A. Yes, this is the virus that causes the flu and what we get flu shots for!!! I will never ever again NOT get the flu shot as all this hoopla was certainly not worth it!!! Not to mention, the ultimate craptaculousness of how awful I felt!! Tamiflu and Potassium thanks for ending my miserable week. Thank you crappy immunity as I also developed a mouth sore from hell as well during this time...well...two actually that decided to merge and join sides to make my life extra miserable (insert another distraught or pissed off emoji here)!!  Here's to a low key, uneventful Christmas (minus any mouth sores) and for my appetite to pick up so I can actually feel like eating....or a lot of days being "lit" like my Christmas tree so I get the munchies....aaaand insert smiley, hungry, stoned emoji here (just kidding....but kind of not:)). 

This is the joyful face of someone who managed to compromise and go home:). There is no better place to recover then in your own home. If I didn't have cancer I wouldn't care, but my life has enough appointments, scans, and the list goes on, that the last place I want to spend another waking moment is in a hospital.