The c word again

I have a friend in her mid to late thirties who has stage 3 breast cancer.

The doctor she had presented her lump to almost two years ago told her she was fine and it was all in her head.

Told her she had PTSD and anxiety. Two years for the cancer to grow and spread, and now after fighting for all that time is finally receiving treatment.

Round after round of chemo and years of tamoxifen in order to keep her cancer free. If she survives.

Shes an amazing, beautiful woman that I carry so much respect for, and I will never be able to convey it in any way that makes any level of sense.

Anyways she posted yesterday on social media a statement about all of these people talking about hair. Which hairstyle? What colour? Etc. Obviously, shes going through chemo, had no hair to speak of and its stung her a bit (a lot)

And I started to reply, but my statement may not be appropriate for the thread, bit i still want to get it out.

So here goes.

“It is just hair. It comes and goes, and we tend as women and men to be told that our hair in part, defines us. Our looks, our jobs our clothing are the definition of who we are.

But when life strips us of these things we’re still there. Naked and raw.

Sometimes life is gentle about it, and sometimes she’s ruthless, but eventually we stand there, naked, among our peers but most importantly, in front of ourselves to see ourselves in full.. to observe what we truly value, and who we really are.

How we proceed in those days is what defines us.”

And she has done an incredible job of being. In all of these harsh moments, fear or not, she has stepped up and confronted what it is to be human every day.

All I can say is, shes remarkable.

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The funny thing about Mets is….

A few months ago I broke down and talked to my new doctor about my spouse’s melanoma.

He was diagnosed a month after the twins were born and given a poor prognosis. Fifty percent chance of survival at five years with treatment.

He had the original mole/tumor removed, and never went back.

Fast forward 2.5 years and I still have a lot of questions. He has more strange looking moles becoming more apparent.

My assumption is that it’s spread. I brought it up to the doctor, told him the timeline, and prognosis.

He was immediately concerned.

His first words we’re, “The funny thing about Mets is, they start off small and depending on where they are they can take a very long time to grow.”

I like this doctor… I think He should be a professor for how well explains medical stuff to me.

We discussed the locations and likelihood of growth in his lungs, internal organs and brain.

Even in the brain, there are many outcomes of growth of a metastasis.

So I watch and wait. I really don’t know what for. For illness I suppose, for unusual weight loss or behavior changes, or coordination issues.

I question his bleeding. He bleeds a lot in his sleep due to being a construction worker. Blood on the floor in the bathroom or toilet. I wonder an abnormal amount.

I’ve developed a back up plan of his behavior changes more than to be expected considering everything.

If he gets violent. Because that can happen… And we have kids.

I’ve tried to start looking at career options and due to being an almost 40 year old, and a stay at home parent, my chances of a normal career are slim.

I’m past being terrified, I’m just holding onto hope that maybe it’s a bad dream until the day comes that it’s just a terrible fact.

Cancer hides and so do some cancer sufferers.

And on a related note: check your skin once a month. Especially if you have a freckle or mole that is unusual. Don’t put off going to the doctor. Early detection and treatment increases survival by a lot.

The “C” Word

My Grandmother was a really interesting and dynamic woman. Exceptionally talented and active in our community, wit as quick as a whip and our family matriarch. For a good portion of my youth she lived either next door or relatively close by, so I was lucky to have a healthy and close relationship with her.

But then the “C” word came up. I’m at an age where while I was still young, it was whispered about behind closed doors. Auntie so and so has “Cancer”.

It wasn’t that long ago that it was considered an almost a sure death sentence, and was a major cause of anxiety and grief. But, now with so many medical advancements, we have come to a point where many cancers, provided they are detected early enough, are manageable or better yet, can be reversed into remission indefinitely.

In my early teens something happened, my Mom and Grandma began to act funny and whisper a lot. They were hiding something from my brother and myself. This in itself was frightening and upsetting, as my family has always been open and honest about the goings on in our lives.

And then one day, my mom and I stopped next door to my Grandma’s house, somehow instinctively I knew something was very wrong. Most of the conversation is a blur, but, they sat me down, and told me that Grandma had breast cancer. That terrible “C” word.

There were medical terms and explanations, and questions, and breast removal and all kinds of things that you don’t wish on your worst enemy let alone your Grandma. I know I cried, I cried a lot.

It was a long go of it, but she survived, missing lymph nodes and a breast, but, survived nonetheless. She changed as a person, taking life less for granted and becoming a little less conservative. Remission is expensive time to buy, and for many people it’s worth every painful step.

Five or so years later, I was in my twenties, the “C” word was dropped again for Grandma. Not saying there weren’t other people in our lives that had gotten diagnoses, but Grandma was the closest and most visceral. This time, Colon Cancer. the survival rate at that time, was about twenty percent.

I went into immediate denial with this round. Twenty percent couldn’t be a death sentence, because they didn’t say that it was terminal. It took until just before the surgery that it sunk in that even if Grandma survived the surgery, that the prognosis was bleak.

But, once again, my awesomely cool Grandma fought and survived it. There were complications and infections and ups and downs, but, that magic word came out…

Remission… more time bought. Not without a heavy price.

The stupid thing about youth, is that young people don’t understand the power of time, and especially time with their loved ones. They go off and try to make their lives, and don’t spend the time that they should be. They don’t learn soon enough that time is a thief, and when they figure out what a bastard time is, they learn regret.

Fast forward fifteen years, and through an ultrasound looking at a hernia (from previous surgery) they found something inside Gramma. There were tests, and by this point the family at large knew the routine. The surgeon and oncologist decided to work together the oncologist to inspect and remove the mass for biopsy, and the surgeon to fix the hernia.

After the surgery, I went to the hospital to visit Gramma. The sparkling strong woman that helped rear me, was in rough shape. And her sparkle was greatly diminished. I asked her how she was. She looked at me, and took my hand… and took a deep breath. She told me that it was ovarian cancer, and they took everything out.

More blur. Lots more blur. After the biopsy, we were told it was really aggressive. There was no prognosis, just treatment to buy time. At this point, the rest of my life was falling apart, and it was all I could do to keep the wolves at bay. Those wolves were the minions of time. They stole time from me and time that I could have spent with her.

I did my best, juggling life and living. And we took back what we could, but she couldn’t take the chemo. It almost killed her a couple of times. She refused radiation, it was too spread out. Her philosophy all through was, “It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.”

With those words, she made the decision to stop treatment. The cancer spread so quickly, that it was less than three months after.

I don’t want to get into the details, but I do want to say this. My Grandma, went on her own terms, she went with dignity, laughter, and love. She was surrounded by all those that she touched in life, and the last time I saw her… the last conversation I had with her I would like to share.

I walked into her room in the hospice, and she was sleeping. Her white hair, curly like a cherub. She was wearing an almost white night gown and her sheets were white. She heard me come in, and stirred awake.

She smiled her amazing smile, and whispered, “Hi!”

I whispered back, “Gramma, you look like an Angel”

Her eyes sparkled, “Thank you…”

“How about I let you go back to sleep?”

She replied with “Yes please…. Love you..” with that smile and her green eyes sparkling.

“Love you too Gramma”

At the funeral I refused to look at the body. I didn’t want to ruin my last moment with her.

She was 77 years old, and lived life until the end.

I realized this morning that through all that, there were so many lessons learned, and gifts given.. some of which haven’t been opened yet.