Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Operation fuck kancer: Chemo 8

Final chemo, baby. Decked in the shield necklace,
borrowed from Becky, and red power lipstick from Sharon.
© gscameraworks

So I think it's fair to say I'm 2/3 through treatment. Surgery and chemo are done, just a month of radiation to go. Unfortunately, radiation is not starting as soon as I thought it would. Apparently, the body needs four to six weeks to recover from chemo first. Looks like I'll be starting in four weeks, fingers crossed.

My tribe rocks

Again, my family and friends came through with flying colours for the final chemo.

I've told you about the awesome colleagues who have become awesome friends. For today's treatment, I wore the lovely necklace Becky loaned me, which she termed a shield. Funny thing is, I'm pretty sure the only treatment I forgot it was the day I had an allergic reaction to the Taxol. Coincidence?

I also donned my red warrior lipstick, given to me by Sharon T. And in my pocket, I carried the St. Agatha rosary Dragos brought back from Malta. The middle digit you see in the photo is my gift to cancer.

Tablet games from Rahel,
and a hello from Jerome.
© kittelberg writes

Rahel came for a visit again, and brought her tablet so I could play games. She also brought a hello from Jerome, who she'd run into at the coffee shop on her way to the cancer agency.

A gift from away

When we got home, there was a gift from my cousins Alison and Patti and their mom, Aunt Phyllis: two pretty scarves, red and purple. My cousin Pam had given them my favourite colours. When our fall weather hits, I'll be sure to post photos of me wearing them.

And just days ago, a hat arrived from my friend and partner in youthful craziness, Jenn.

My point

I know some people feel like they need to do this journey alone. And who am I to say what will work for everyone? All I can do is say that my family and friends have been a huge part of my making it this far through treatment. Thanks again, everyone.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Music that brings me joy

Last night, George and I took a break from Sons of Anarchy season two. Too much stress watching them try to get that damn baby back.

Lo and behold, PBS had one of their music specials on - this time, it was a bunch of Ed Sullivan footage.

It included the Supremes, which always makes me think of my parents. They both grew up in southwestern Ontario, and listened to the Detroit radio stations a lot when they were in their teens and Motown was in its heyday.

Diana Ross, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Commodores, and Marvin Gaye formed the background music to my childhood.

Granted, there were other musical influences, but Motown stuck with me. Maybe because the music simply stands the test of time.

Although Motown artists shared their fair share of heartbreak, right now, it's the happy songs that resonate with me. Could be because I am attempting to embrace happy things right now.

That's why I decided to share Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life" with you. Enjoy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Operation fuck kancer: Chemo 7

To say this week has been crazy would be an understatement.

On Tuesday I turned 40. On Wednesday, the project I've been working on for nearly a year - the fabulous, shiny new City of Vancouver website! - launched. And on Thursday, I had chemo 7.

It's kind of weird when getting a half-day off for chemo feels like a break.

Staving off the panic

After having an allergic reaction during my last treatment, I can't say I was looking forward to chemo 7. My oncologist offered to prescribe Ativan at my appointment the day before, but figured I would try the mind-over-matter approach.

The fact that my chemo nurse, Sue, was the same one who lead the Chemo Teaching class I attended before starting treatment probably helped, as did the fact that Angie, the nurse who took awesome care of me when I had the reaction, happened to be covering Sue's lunch break when my Taxol drip started.

Then there was the pre-Taxol Benadryl. I was dosed with enough that I couldn't complete words, much less sentences by the time George arrived with sandwiches. In fact, I managed to turn "Bena Dryl" into two words.

Chemo a welcome non-event

By the time my manager, Rahel, came for a visit, I had recovered enough to eat and speak. We talked shop a bit, but mainly chatted about books and TV shows we liked. Which of course, made me want to start watching shows I have yet to see, like Nurse Jackie. But first, I really do need to finish two-and-a-half seasons of Sons of Anarchy.

After Rahel left, I did something I had yet to do during chemo: I napped. My first four treatments, the A/C part, I never napped because they were less than two hours. My first Taxol treatment, I almost napped, but couldn't fall asleep when I heard the woman next to me vomiting. Last time, when I started to lay back, I had the allergic reaction.

This time? Sweet sleep. I guess I needed it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Feds inconsistent with EI benefits

Canadian parents can now get up to 35 weeks of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits if they have a critically ill child. I've read about parents going broke after having to quit their jobs to care for a sick child, particularly when the family has to travel to another city for treatment.

This is a good thing. And it certainly provided a nice photo opp for the federal government. But where are the benefits for critically ill adults?

How the system fails sick adults

If your employer doesn't offer extended benefits, or if you don't qualify for them because you are working on contract, you could be entitled to a whopping 15 weeks of EI. That is, provided you pay into the system via your employer.

If 15 weeks isn't enough, and your illness or treatments are debilitating enough that you cannot work, you may qualify for Disability Benefits through Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Applications for CPP Disability take about three months to review.

So adults get much more time off for a sick child than they will if they happen to be the one who is ill.

My situation

In my case, I get paid a percentage in lieu of benefits. I pay out of pocket for a very basic benefits plan that does not include sickness benefits. Silly me didn't anticipate getting cancer at age 39.

I applied for Disability and was denied because I can work, now anyway. Fingers crossed I don't start having debilitating side effects later in treatment, or that if I do, it happens within the three-month time slot I have to appeal the decision.

So far, I've been lucky: I feel okay to work, and I have a job I really enjoy where my colleagues are incredibly supportive.

But imagine if I didn't feel well enough to work, but felt too well to qualify for Disability. And if I had a stressful job that taxed my energy reserves. Not exactly a prime situation for healing, is it?

Add that to the fact that I apparently make too much money to qualify for any other type of assistance and I'm the stereotypical member of the middle class who is screwed no matter what.

There are a lot of things I'm grateful for, the quality of cancer care in BC in particular.

But the financial support system for people with cancer has holes in it. It's time for the federal government to take a consistent approach to who they award EI benefits to, and fix it.

Put the pressure on

If this bothers you too, make your voice heard:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crossing the threshold of awesome

On my way to cross the threshold. © kittelberg writes

I stole that headline from my friend Lynn. If I say that right away, it's not really stealing, right?

At 7:40 this morning, I turned 40.

Does kancer make a difference?

I'm not sure how much the whole cancer thing has influenced my vision of 40. Honestly, I didn't really care that much when I turned 30. The last time I cared about the number on my ID was when I turned 25. And then, it was only because everyone kept reminding me I was a quarter of a century old.

The cancer has certainly made me care less about other things that would have once driven the younger me nuts.

At one time, the fact that I couldn't take the days off around my birthday would have made me unbearable to be around. But this year? There's a big deadline at work that happens to fall on August 8. No big deal.

Friends who I thought would join the weekend celebration at a cabin on Pitt Lake didn't come. Only meant there was actually comfortable sleeping space for everyone, so you know what? No big deal.

And the friends who could make it made the weekend unforgettable.

Moonrise brings a new year

As we were being devoured by mosquitoes the last night at the cabin, we watched the moonrise. This is something I've never done before, not because I wasn't awake for it. Rather, I either didn't care, or was too busy partying. Perhaps I've seen double-moons at times. It's hard to say.

It was amazing to first see the light, then the moon peek out a bit at a time. In minutes, there it was, a glowing egg, perfectly reflected in the lake. All this happening to the background of my crazy friends laughing at at a combination of old jokes, and new ones ("Terri, I want an apple. Peel it!")

Lynn has right. We have crossed the threshold of awesome. And there is only more to come. Bring it on, 40.