Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chemo Brain

Today is the one year anniversary of my surgery -"salpingo-bilateral oopherectomy & hysterectomy." Say that fast five times.

It seems there are lots of anniversaries playing around in my mind of late. I was wondering if there is something amiss or is this a normal thought pattern? I can't figure out why cancer consumes me. It's not as if I have nothing better to do or think about. Cancer is always there. But then, when I think of cancer, I think of Jesus and I think of what a difference He has made in my life. Maybe cancer is my thorn...

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”
2 Corinthians 12:7

And then there are times when my brain is a little addled. I don't seem to be able to remember things like I should sometimes. I know some people laugh at me and maybe think I am a bit of a dimwit, but I am convinced that I have chemo brain. I have done a little checking with some of my new friends who have had chemotherapy, and it has certainly come to my attention (and to my relief) that I am not alone. I have also done some research online about 'chemo brain.' Guess what? It's a real affliction. Here's a snippet that I found interesting on a medical forum:

"Doctors pump the body full of harmful chemicals in an attempt to kill off the cancerous cells, but the treatment is not a very targeted one. Apart form the well-known side effects of hair loss, nausea and fatigue, cognitive impairment is now becoming increasingly studied. Dubbed “Chemo Brain,” many chemotherapy patients feel disconnected from their pre-treatment state. People who have chemo-brain may find themselves unable to concentrate on their work, or unable to juggle multiple tasks. Some find they don’t remember things as well as they used to."

So we tally forth and face the music - with or without the same amount of functioning gray matter. For any of you who may be wondering about this chemo brain affliction, and want to listen to a little longer presentation check out this video.

This is a presentation by Dr. Christine Korol of the Alberta Cancer Board about the cognitive changes that can occur during cancer treatment.

Sunshine Friends

Frannie, Rick, Gilles and yours truly dining out in Stratford last night. Fran and Rick are our sweet friends from Florida. Fran was my long distance, near in heart - friend who prayed, cried and spoke sweet words of encouragement to me as I submitted to my taxol/carboplatin battle. Joy and bliss prevailed as we all managed to squeeze in a little time out of our busy schedules to simply enjoy life together for a moment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Year

(Photo: Happy First Birthday Jocelyn!

With Birthday cake evidence on your chin!)

Joy. May 26th.,2009. Jocelyn is one year old today. What a blessing it is to celebrate with her on her special day.

Exactly one year ago today there had been so many 'what ifs.' Amanda was great with child and she was already a couple of days overdue. I was still trying to make sense out of my ovarian cancer diagnosis. My surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, May 28th. Was I going to be able to be with Amanda when her second little gift arrived? What if I would be too out of it to hold my grandbaby? What if the cancer had spread dramatically? What if I didn't make it? Could I even dare hope that I would see my dear new little granddaughter's first birthday?

Amanda's midwife was not on call on the weekend so she was praying that Jocelyn would wait and be delivered on Monday, May 26th. I wanted at least one day to treasure our new little grandbaby before I went under the sharp knife, so I, too, was praying for Amanda to go into labour on the Monday.

God was so good. He heard our prayers. And that was precisely what happened. Amanda went into hospital around 1pm on Monday, and ended up having Jocelyn at 3:30pm. And I was able to be there to share the moment. That was a wonderful distraction for me and a precious sight to behold. I will be forever grateful for that gift.

I love it when my plans work out to be just like God's. That doesn't always happen, but I trust Him completely to be the wiser One!

So now, one year later, I rejoice, and am still filled with awe at how God was at work. I have learned to treasure the moments and I continue to try to leave the rest up to Him. Did I mention I also count my blessings daily?

Today, though, I am focussing on one amazing blessing in pink! Happy Birthday Missy Moo. Grandma loves you...x

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dancing in the Street!

Okay, so maybe I am not physically boogy-woogying so much, but the news I received from the London Cancer Clinic yesterday was reason for my spirit to do the tango!

My CA125 - the marker for Ovarian Cancer has dropped to 8 - well within the normal range (normal is 0-35.) Prior to my chemo it was a whopping 1500 plus, so this is a far cry from where I was and I am rejoicing. I know the doc was reluctant to do the test last week at my checkup, lest it be elevated and I become stressed. But I was prepared to deal with what came my way. Thank you Jesus for this new lease on life.

I know I am not considered cancer free yet, but I sure am happy that I had the blood test and things look hopeful. I journey on now (albeit a little slower than before) and remember my "sisters" who are not quite as joyful about their blood levels. I will always be a voice for ovarian cancer and I pray I can find opportunities to tell others about this so called whispering disease.

So what's next on the trip? I guess my participation on the Sunflower Seeds Team as we walk to help raise both funds and awareness about ovarian cancer.

I still await the results from the ultrasound of the little lump on my rib. But I am not too worried about that. It's not the first benign lump found on my body! Sigh.

Meanwhile I am chin up and hands heavenward rejoicing where I am today. x

Friday, May 15, 2009

Testing 1, 2, 3

Today Gilles and I went to the Cancer clinic in London. It was time for my six month check-up. Time sure has a way of marching on, although when I stepped inside the clinic it felt like it was just yesterday that I was being poked and prodded and receiving my lion's share of the chemotherapy bittersweet poison.

I gazed at all the new faces and felt that old familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach. I supressed the urge to cry or fall victim to the 'why me' scenario.

Gilles wandered off to his old haunt at the clinic - the Tim Horton's coffee shop, as I punched my information into the new computer. I like the new terminals that have recently replaced the page after page of questions on the clipboards. Entering my information into the computer was a bit of a diversion from wondering what was going to take place this time around behind closed clinic doors.
After my check-up last time, I remember leaving the clinic feeling frustrated and sad. My own gyne/oncologist was not there then and although the Doc who filled in for him was nice, he did nothing to reassure me that all was well in my post chemo world. When I asked him about doing the CA125, he explained to me in lengthy medical jargon mixed in with some psychobabble, why he would not do it.
Today was different. I love my own Doc. There is something upfront and personal about the doc' who removed my uterus (and all the attachments) and I really do think he knows me better! So I proceeded to natter on about how I really would like to have the CA125 done for my own sanity. He discussed how the result might cause me stress if it is elevated and how they would not do further chemo so early after the last one, if it is up. Then I proceeded to tell him how stressed I would be if I walked out of his office without getting the test done! I convinced him. He has the most amazing, calming bedside manner but he did say that he would arrange for me to have the bloodwork. So I did. It's done and I await the results.
A couple of weeks ago, I found a wretched little lump in my rib area so I pointed this out to my nice doctor, too, today. He thinks it is a lipoma, which I tend to be prone to getting. But as is his way, he has ordered an ultrasound to check things out. More waiting. But at least I can get it done in Palmerston, which is about 15 minutes away, rather than having to travel the two hours to London again. I'm praying for that to be good news.
Having cancer has changed my entire outlook on life, and maybe this is a bit dramatic, but it never leaves me. Ovarian cancer winks and pinches me every hour of the day. I thought I was losing it when I found myself with such thoughts but after talking to other survivors I have learned this is a very natural way of thinking. Perhaps time will change things, but as it stands, cancer is in my pocket always (thank goodness I also have a little metallic cross in my pocket,too, that reminds me Who is stronger, though!) Sigh. We journey on. X

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Birds of a Feather

One of my 'good morning' friends. God's beauty is around us always.

Does anyone know what this little critter is? I can't find it in my bird book but it sure said a big 'howdy' to me the other day as it lighted at my feeder.

On Thursday I once again head off to the London Cancer Clinic to face the music. My 6 month check-up looms near. What is it that gives me that heartburn and sinking feeling? Memories? Fear? Futility?
I am wondering what the learned professionals will toss my way this time around. I am thinking that the song I hear may be the same old tune, so I'm going to stay positive and focussed on the things I can do something about.
Hearing the story about how there isn't anything anyone can do, and there is a fifty/fifty chance of my ovarian cancer returning, won't floor me this time. I'm ready. I'm leaving the details up to God. Afterall, He did say He would take care of the sweetly seranading birds, right? So I am thinking that if He can take such good care of those little winged critters, then I think He will take good care of me, too. x

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I Miss My Mom

Happy Mother's Day!

I sure am thinking of my own Mom right now. I miss her terribly. In July it will be two years since my sweet Momma' went to be with Jesus.

Some days I am strong and well in tune with life and death and how we were created as finite beings with the old three score and ten - or was that four score and ten - life span? Nobody has to tell me that death is inevitable and life does go on. I know that. But other days I feel as weak as a kitten and struggle to understand why loved ones have to suffer and die.

Then I remember God's plan. I remember how He promised that He would never leave or forsake us. I also remember that Jesus said in John 14:1 - "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Me. In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am..."

Although I miss my mother, I know I will see her again one day and I am hoping that we can have a room very close to one another when I make it to the pearly gates.

Meanwhile, tomorrow, when I celebrate Mother's Day with my own beautiful children and their precious families, I will treasure the moment and etch it deeply in my heart. I thank God that I was spared some more time to realize my blessings and gather more memories.

And I will think of my own mother...and sip a cup of tea in her honour...she did love her tea...I love you Mom xxx

Monday, May 4, 2009

Turning up the Volume on Ovarian Cancer

(Photo: Anja {ace photographer} and Yours Truly @ Zeal for Teal - May 2/09. Check out Anja's fancy- schmancy nails!)

I think it is safe to say that our Zeal for Teal fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, was a rousing success. We had an amazing, relaxing time and being in the company of so many sisters was wonderful and heart-warming for me, to say the least. We've had a some feedback already and I am very pleased to announce that it looks like we might have to do this again next year but in a bigger venue! We hardly advertised this time around for we were a little timid about getting too many and having to turn bodies away. Yikes! But most people we spoke to said they will spread the word and that they will tell others what a wonderful day it was.

Amanda, my darling daughter was the driving force behind this great day of scrapbooking and card-making. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I am going to have to give her an A+ for creativity. My little girl did her momma' proud as she conducted the day in such an organized manner. She put her scatter chemo-brained mother to shame! :)

I am thinking that God was smiling down on us on Saturday as we celebrated with lots of laughter, a few tears, a spirit of fellowship and a roomful of beautiful women. Just the night before I had received an uplifting e-mail from my heart sister, Frannie, in Florida. She was wishing us well for the day. Some of her tender and thoughtful words still resonate in my soul:

"Tomorrow is a special day....a day of personal rejoicing at the goodness of God in your life...tomorrow will be one year, one week and one day of moving forward, up and out and beyond the hopelessness of your initial diagnosis. He was there for you, every step of the way, holding you up and helping you walk through. There is a song..."Where would I be, You only know" -that is so true. And my dear friend, He knew EXACTLY where you were, what you needed at every can we ever thank Him enough for His loving care. We serve a good, good God!"

How blessed am I to be surrounded and encouraged by so many?

On behalf of our Sunflower Seeds Team {Darlene, Janice, Amanda (Jr) Amanda and me}...thanks to everyone who joined with us Saturday, whether in heart, body, prayer, thoughts...your support helps make this world a better place. We love you. x