Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Summer, Fall and Winter winds

Today actually looks and feels like Fall - a rare thing as we have been thrust between summer and winter weather in past weeks.  Snow one day. +18 the next.  Such is life - the phrase "if you don't like the weather in Calgary, wait 5 minutes" really applies.

Round 3 chemo is set for this afternoon.  Learnings from round 2 improvements should help make this round a bit better again.  Mouth sore strategies that result in less discomfort and greater ability to eat more, which lead to more strength, predictability of the worst fatigue days etc.  My vision issues continued to slowly improve during the past few weeks - left eye opening almost fully and some of the double vision resolving.  However, it's a bit like golf - "almost a par" counts the same as a bogie;) Until it fully resolves, I continue to have to use eye patches (soft, light-blue variety not the pirate kind) over one eye so that one eye works to focus, otherwise walking and talking to people is too challenging.  My balance and mobility overall has improved since round 1 although far from my June/July levels - I'm able to get off the sofa or toilet myself with my cane...a jump in independence only those who have lost themselves can really appreciate.  

I have also been benefiting from the use of a light weight travel wheelchair which can be folded up and placed into the car - my mom's cousin Ellen sent it to help manage the distances from the car to various appointment locations.  It has been tremendously helpful and allowed me to get to appointments less tired.  We have noticed how poor the "access" is for many places in Calgary - whether a lack of access or that the automated doors open into the wheelchair not away from them!

The biggest physical challenge these days is what I call "ding-dong head".  It's as though someone put a heavy metal cap on me - so when I walk and my head tilts slightly, I feel like I might tip over and even fall.  I've felt this sensation for a while and there are multiple possibilities of why I could feel it, with no real way of knowing ultimately the cause and if there is a potential solution or action that could reduce/eliminate it or what it might be  If I could get rid of the ding-dong head my balance issues would be so much more manageable.

Up until mid-round, I continued to accumulate a list of things I would do once the vision, balance  and other issues had resolved.  A list of people I would respond to (being a one-eyed jack, as I call it to my nephews makes typing slower), logistical things I need to address, writings and paintings I would like to do, has accumulated during August and September.  After an eye appointment, where a very efficient young eye doctor with limited empathy and communication skills asked my mom (I was in the room but I guess he assumed from my swollen eye-patched face and wheelchair seat that mom was a better bet) point blank "what's the prognosis" (I quickly responded to him by the way) and also noted blindness was a possible side effect of radiation to the brain, I realized that this may be as good as it gets. So I decided as much as my limited energy would allow, I'd start chipping away at my lists....whether it be the "shit list" (stuff like decisions of care and logistical details for my family if I'm not around anymore) or the good normal life things I'd like to do but are challenging with vision and ding-dong head.  So I'm slowly working on that list - this blogpost included.

The same day the young eye doc "snapped" me with (wintery) reality, I had a text from Dr. Brown, followed by a call and then a visit the next night by he and Naree, a nurse I have known since 1997 days at the bone marrow clinic.  They let me know some amazing (summery) news...an annual award is being crafted between the bone marrow program and Alberta Cancer Foundation in my name, that will recognize significant contributions by people similar to what I have done in the past 20 years.  It's already moving forward since they told me and my family in person, and is an incredibly overwhelming burst of energy for me during this time. Stay tuned.

Such full days - summery and winery.  While my limited energy, ding-dong head and vision issues limit me, I have tried to move on the lists, end did enjoy a few more visits, calls and shared messages with my close friends and family, including some from out of town and a birthday dinner for by brother.  With help from mom and a close friend (an naps pre and post!), I even managed to use the wheelchair to get to a move at the Calgary International Film Festival (one-eyed viewing still gave me something)  - I'm on CIFFs audit committee and would otherwise have done dozens of shows like last year.  It was a great film but more so a small victory in maintaining a fraction of my pre-April life that I so miss.

Of course this past weekend in the few Fall weather moments we had, how thankful I am for all the summery energy everyone continues to blow my way, how it helps me get through the wintry winds that whip up out of no where and what Thanksgiving really represents.  Whether a winter freeze comes tomorrow or much later, this could be as it gets, and we need to be grateful for things as they are today.  Thanks to all of you, and enjoy whatever season is blowing your way today.  Much love.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Patience and Predictability

Life is never predictable.  I thought I knew what to expect of the past couple weeks.  I did 2 of the 3 chemo drugs back in early 2015 for breast cancer, and I did radiation just this May - so I should know what to expect and based on that I would be feeling pretty good by now.

Not exactly - of course I did radition of a different kind and then almost immediately did chemo.  And my brain had lesions in it that were affecting my vision.  And later in the 2 weeks found out I had an infection layered on top.  So my mobility has been really limited - only walk with a cane and someone's arm, need help going to the washroom. I also became weaker overall and then had the normal chemo stuff - mouth sores that limited what I could eat, grey days etc. My vision issues (basically double vision) have not resolved so that added to the muddy mix and made reading and texting a challenge 

The good news is I'm seeing some improvement in most areas.  My eye is opening, I have moments of seing "one" of something, infection is resolving, strength building.  I am hoping for a big recovery week so I'm ready for another round of chemo starting in a week.

Friday an "access" team will try to put either a port or pick line into my chest/neck or arm, depending on what they think.  I'll be happy when that's done.

I had some bright points during the chemo/radiation storm - my cousins Brant and Shawn were in Calgary on their Western Canada tour ;) last Thursday and stopped by to see me.  My mom's cousin Ellen was in Calgary this past weekend so we relived some of our July lake adventure. 

So I was reminded you can't really predict what is going to happen.  And patience is everything.  And I am so grateful for everyone's love, messages, prayers, support.  And we take for granted being able to get up, go to the washroom and eat what we want.