Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hello March!

For someone who resolved to sleep away the month of February, I am greeting March with a look back upon what turned out to be a fairly productive time for myself and my family.  I still have several outstanding items on my to-do list, but I also have some unexpected positives in the "complete" column.

I did join two support groups in February, one at Gilda's Club in Barrie, and one through my new social worker at RVH, also in Barrie.  The first one was lovely, I met some interesting people with stunning experiences. Sadly, I have had to put that one on the shelf for a bit.  Two drives to Barrie per week was a bit more than I could handle at this point, physically/personally, and in winter driving conditions.  

On Thursdays however, I have continued to go to the writing/support group, and it has been fantastic.  I have met some lovely new friends and I am getting a lot out of the exercises we discuss, and I am enjoying writing more than ever.

Journaling, creative writing, and poetry have always been a therapeutic part of my life, and I am really embracing the opportunity I have now to simply bond with my words, and let them go.  It takes time, but hey... I happen to have some lying around. 

I am feeling a bit better, emotionally-speaking, seem to be coming out of the hateful month of February to an exciting list of To-Do's in March.  I think I may be starting to embrace my situation a bit more and settle in to the fact that I can actually do what I want right now, and feel what I need to feel, relatively speaking. 

My tolerance for bullshit has drastically decreased, and I notice myself getting directly to the point with people more than I ever have in my life.  With the kids and Scott (which can sometimes be bumpy for all of us?), but also with friends and family, with doctors, and with myself.  

I am feeling (and talking/writing) my way through my "new normal," and I am learning that it is not just me who has to do that.  I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself  to still try to "fit in" with my old patterns, but I am learning that I just cannot do that anymore, I am developing. I am changing and I am a different person than I was a year ago. I suppose we all do that as we grow and age, but I have a feeling that a cancer diagnosis accelerates it in a unique way.  

I am taking every opportunity to think outside the box and work it out, especially with Claire and Cassandra... we ALL have to adjust to OUR new normal. 

Updates from around here:
  • On Monday the girls and I went for the trial week 30 bloodwork and consultation with my medical oncologist at Sunnybrook, it was a great meeting and we reviewed upcoming treatment schedule and at this point plan to continue with the maintenance phase of my melanoma treatment with ipilimumab, next treatment April 20, 2015.   
  • We also discussed my much-anticipated CT scan results from my January scan.  I guess it is official - I have had my first scan with no bad news on it!  If I sound like I am questioning this, it is because I am.  My doctors say it is natural for me to feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, but in the meantime I should frame the CT reports - they are Unremarkable  :-)   
  • Oncologist concurs with family physician that the lymph nodes showing swelling in my head/neck are naturally doing so in part due to post-surgical changes still healing, and in part because there are only a few nodes left and they are now doing all of the workload they used to share with their 37 now-departed neighbours
  • As for spine, C5 disc that showed a possible issue on October scan appears to be a benign bone lesion? and we will continue to closely monitor by CT for now, no bone scan required at this time
  • Abdominal scan is the best one this round, despite being my most feared, as it contains the post-op site primary for melanoma, plus my beloved liver which is closest organ to the primary site I am urging my inner pacmen to protect
  • Overall a good meeting, we discussed my thyroid bloodwork and meds, things are stable but will greatly improve after my radioactive-iodine treatment in March.  We all expect to have thyroid cancer behind us by April, then focus on the melanoma fight rah rah sis boom bah
And other news:
  • my daughters wrote and delivered their annual public-speaking projects, in French: speeches.  Cass did hers on "Art," with an introspective on her favourite forms of art plus a well-worded observation of how Art is all around us and is utilized in every day life.   Claire spoke eloquently about the Sun.  Yes, the SUN :-)  She researched some interesting facts about it and how it affects the human body as well as the world around us, including photosynthesis and the production of vitamin D. She touched on skin cancer, but was not specific re: me, though she blew the teachers away in her post-speech question and answer period, also en francais.  Both girls did very well!  And after a tie with another student, Claire landed top spot in her grade and the opportunity to deliver her speech at the Board level in the Canadian Parents for French public-speaking contest, Concours!  She and Cassie both did this in grade five, so Claire was excited and driven to try again.  She will compete on the evening of March 25, 2015 in Chesley, more to come on this topic for sure!!
  • I have connected with some opportunities to explore my interests in writing and editing - I am excited to report that I have been asked to help edit some stories/testimonials sent in to the Gilda's Club new website/blog called #iamnotcancer  at   This is volunteer work I can do from the comfort of my laptop, at the convenience of my health and family schedule.  More to come on this topic as well!  
  • I have ordered myself a few business cards, just compelled to do so one morning last week... perhaps prompted by the chronic writers cramp I've gotten from scrawling down my blog address when new acquaintances ask for it? -kind of an exciting problem to have. I appreciate the support of my blog and I am enjoying sharing my experiences and receiving feedback in return.   
I agree with Gilda's Club that no one should have to face cancer alone, and I am still revving up for a melanoma awareness effort of some sort..thanks for sticking with me while I mull it over.
  • on Monday March 9, 2015, I will stop taking my thyroid hormone replacement medication and begin my two-week low-iodine diet (salt-free, dairy-free, meat-free.. flavour-free??) in preparation for my iodine radiation treatment on Monday March 23, 2015  Woohoo - let the whining begin.
Otherwise, plugging along one day at a time, but buoyed by the little projects and distractions that are on my horizon.  March should zoom by: March break staycation plans with the girls, St. Patricks Day - a fun reminder of a fourth anniversary-ish for Scott and I :-D , writing group meetings and homework, upcoming three-day Sunnybrook stay, lots to write about! 

Enjoy the sunny day, thank you for your continuing support.  xo

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