Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good news is Great news

Hi All,

Just a quick update to let you all know that I got the dreaded call yesterday morning while selecting some sumptious french cheeses at the local Fromagerie! It was the familiar voice of my old oncologist who took such good care of me in the early days of my initial diagnosis. He has such a calming effect on me and genuinely seems invested in me and my case. He said "We have some great news. Everything on the MRI looks clear and normal." I exhaled and felt instant relief. Another win for Team OBB!! Here's to many more. C-cells - you don't stand a chance against this amazon.

I realised again that being scared is of course terrifying to experience but also a completely natural response to a situation like this. It doesnt mean I have a defeatest attitude or that I am depressed or that I am weak - it simply means that I am human. I have a lot of reminders of my humanness these days not to mention my own mortality. I think i will rename 2011- My year of character building. And people let's just say I am shocker block full and I still have 4 months to go!

So thank you again for all your continued support.I never take any of it for granted.

And a shout out to Captain AC who rocked Round 2 yesterday!

This week is a definite victory. Time to eat cake! (who am I kidding - I don't ever need a reason to eat cake.) :)

More later,


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Update on Round 3

Update on Round 3

Hello everyone,

This entry will be brief as I am so tired I can barely type and need to head to bed pronto. I also am lucky enough to have another visitor from Canada here this week so am extra busy playing tourist as well.

So round 3 went well with no major incidents to report. Blood work was good and I rocked through the IV again. I am really starting to lose some of my anxiety over it all thanks to my superstar nurse Ingrid who really knows her way around a vein!
There was a small niggle this week though that has been a bit stressful. I had this awful back pain that started a day after round 2 and just grew worse by the day and spread down my legs as well. I also had this strange nerve pain across my back that was just plain weird. I went through the week as usual and worked out, did yoga, learnt my Norwegian, went to physio and just did my thing despite the pain increasing. By Thursday, I was told to see the oncologist to check out that all was ok in the OBB camp.

So after my Cancerxise group, I headed to the doctor and really expected them to listen and look at me and then tell me it was all normal and send me on my way. Things did not go according to plan. After discussing my symptoms and examining me, the doctor told me she wanted to admit me in as a patient that evening and book me in for an MRI the next day. OMG – time to freak out. I was alone of course and when the doctor asked if I had any questions – I told her there was no point asking now as I would spend the whole night obsessing over what could be. I so desperately had wanted her to tell me that my symptoms were nothing to worry about it and that I would be fine. But the truth is once you have been diagnosed with cancer the reality is that no doctor can ever tell you something is nothing. Of course I understand why and I know that I should be happy that they are checking every single thing out and not taking any chances. But at the same time how can I not worry? Once you have heard the dreaded C word – anything is possible. So as I walked out of C-Town late that afternoon, I put my sunglasses on despite there being no sun in sight and squinted my eyes tight to hold the tears in. OBB was not going to crack! But to be honest for the first time in awhile I really felt the weight of everything on my shoulders and it seemed like just a bit too much for me. I really felt like how much more could I take?

So after round 3 was complete, I was taken for my MRI a few hours later. This happened at a time when I was usually passed out in my bed asleep so fatigue was hitting. I actually fell asleep in my chair in the waiting area only to be roused from my dreams by the technician calling out my name and then actually fell asleep during the MRI itself! If you have ever had an MRI, you know how noisy and confined they are – so the fact I slept was miraculous and possibly a testament to my level of exhaustion.

Now I must wait. Wait for the phone call maybe tomorrow or the next. I am positive and know that things most likely will be ok and this is routine when going through cancer treatment. But there is that tiny part of me – where the fear lives – that is scared. That is the part that reminds me that I am also human and alive.


Monday, August 22, 2011

A bit of this and a bit of that

Hello again everyone. It is Monday morning and I can finally sit down in front of my laptop and type out an entry! I can never really write an entry unless I have an idea or inspiration come to me and mine came as I was walking back from dropping my daughter off at daycare. It’s funny sometimes – I can get so frustrated with my little wonder during the morning routine especially with her current resistance to putting clothing on but the moment I close the gate of the daycare, I feel a little sad. I know it sounds cheesy but I already miss her. So as I was walking home listening to Gaga, I started to think about lots of different things – people in my life, feelings in my body, past, present and future.

When I was younger I was really obsessed with fashion magazines (still am really) and had a devoted following to what I called the bible – otherwise known as Vogue. I would run out and buy it every month and devour every page. I would try to mimic some of the looks and rush out and buy the latest must have beauty products. I still buy a lot of magazines but lately have gravitated away from the likes of Vogue. It was only when I came home with two yesterday and flipped through them that I realized why. With my new look – about 75% of the magazine is obsolete to me and makes me feel either a bit inadequate or a bit sad. Page after page of glossy haired amazons’s with long lashes, perfectly groomed brows and fabulous couture heading out to exotic locals and fantastic parties suddenly seemed miles away from my life. Not that I am really that depressed about it but when I see glimpses of my old life, it is only natural to feel a bit blue. There are good things that have come out of it – I mean my grooming regime saves me not only time but money these days. And I no longer worry about the weather and how it will affect my hair because my hair looks perfect regardless of the humidity index. So it is not all bad however I think I will stick to the trashy tabloids for now and relish in other peoples misery and take the bible out again once this cloud has cleared.

I finished round 2 on Friday and it went pretty well again! It was the first time I went through it without the help of my good friend Valium. It was a feat in my books considering my anxiety around needles being poked into my veins. And seeing as the blood tech couldn’t manage to actually get blood out of my veins that day before I think I kept it together. It was funny when I walked in the next day to meet the same tech as the day before. I said “So we meet again” and smiled. She looked much less thrilled to see me and my stubborn veins again. However we were successful this time and I then anxiously y waited for my blood results. Ever since I got a shock the week before with borderline white blood cells, I was nervous. I think when you are going through cancer treatment you are so focused on the end of it that the possibility of anything that could change that end date fills you with fear and anxiety. My day is October 28th and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of me getting there. So the thought of delaying a treatment was not an option for me. Thankfully my body was good to me and I was actually in the normal ranges again! Yippee! So onto to the c-spa suite for my cocktail. My new best friend (my nurse) again had a stellar IV performance and got the needle in with minimal stress or pain on my part and we were off! My husband tells me that I often start talking a mile a minute during the c-spa which I attribute to anxiety and stress. I asked my nurse whether I was more nervous than other patients and she smiled and said “Well yes a bit but the difference with you is that you talk about it so it makes it easier to manage.” I can handle that. So a few hours later we were out in the fresh air again and even decided to walk home. I am not going to lie - there was detour via Burger King and my favorite French bakery for a post c-spa treat and it was good! So far I have again done alright on this round with the usual fatigue and now some new back and hip pain that I am not totally sure of its origins. It is so hard to tell the difference between normal aches and pains and those attributed to the C-spa experience. It can also be hard not to freak out over the slightest thing but I try hard to contain the irrational fears and also the very real ones. I am now looking forward to ticking off number 3 on Friday and getting down into the single digits baby! October 28th – here I come!

I wanted to also give an update on Captain AC and her first trip to the C-Spa. There were a rocky few days of rough weather for her but she has recovered remarkably well from her first trip. Now she just needs to channel her strength and positivity into the next round which I have no doubt she will do.

Lastly I wanted to mention two books. Now I have never plugged any products or books before as this isn’t an advert space but as many of you have told me recently that you have passed on my blog to other young women you know facing the same enormous challenge I am, I wanted to offer some advice. Now when I was first diagnosed, I thought I would order lots of books and inform myself of my disease. What I didn’t realize was how these supposedly helpful books instead instilled such fear and anxiety into my mind that I couldn’t bear to read further then chapter one. Cancer is scary enough. I don’t need more information to further heighten the fear factor thank you very much. So the two books that I found comforting and informative in a positive and empowering way were given to me by two wonderful friends. Both of these girls generally rock the house when it comes to gift giving and too often spoil me with wonderful packages filled with goodies. The first book is for anyone – you don’t need cancer to read it and it is called “Anti-Cancer” by Dr David Servan-Schreiber. If you want to live a healthy and long life read this! The other is called “Uplift” by Barbara Delinsky. This book is filled with only positive messages for real women facing cancer and truly warmed my heart and soothed my nerves.

Well that is all for me today. Quite a mish-mash of thoughts and ideas but I do hope it still proves a good read. Don’t forget to stay in the moment and not let the little things make you crazy. There are so many good things to focus on – I try and check my baggage at the door!

Hugs, OBB

Monday, August 15, 2011

Today is Different

Today is different. It is the first day in over 6 weeks that I am home on my own. My husband has gone back to work and my daughter is now back in daycare. In some ways I have missed my “me time” though I feel abit guilty even saying that as I truly savor each and every moment I have with my family. However it was nice to dive back into bed (seeing as my human alarm clock woke me at 5am) and then wake up to some relaxing yoga stretches and some chill CafĂ© Del Mar tunes without any interruption.

Before all of this C business, I was someone who was often uncomfortable in my own company and would often grow bored, frustrated or just plain antsy with a few hours to myself. But now seeing as there is so much happening in my life right now (not in a good way!), this solace and quiet is delicious and I really feel that my body needs it. Those of you who have known me awhile will read this and be shocked to hear me say I need quiet! Not only does your body get physically drained by the C-Spa but your emotions and psyche really go through the ringer as well. I am happy to report that I am still feeling good but the fatigue has definitively gone up a notch. I even made it to a friend’s daughter’s 2nd birthday party yesterday which would have been truly unheard of on my earlier regime. She was surprised to see me and I was happy to take part in the festivities. There were people I didn’t know there and those who didn’t know my “status”. I have spoken about this social anxiety earlier in my blogs when I was much more uncomfortable with my diagnosis and how it would be perceived. I didn’t want a pity party and I certainly didn’t want to take the focus away from the darling 2year old celebrating her birthday and turn it into Cancer Town USA! Things were good until a woman running after two lively boys and a foreigner herself enquired what I was doing with myself these days. I told her I was home and she coached me on getting out there in the work force etc… I know she grew more shocked when she found out that this lazy North American was not only home all day but had her daughter in full time daycare! I really felt awkward but also felt that dropping the C-bomb at that moment would be wrong timing and make everyone uncomfortable. I know to her none of it made sense but sometimes I just want to hold onto to being just me and not the pitied young cancer patient. So I left things as they were and allowed myself to come across as some housewife of the OC who idles her day away with long lunches, manis and private pilates sessions. Oh if only I could eh!

So the rest of the week is BUSY! I seriously struggle to schedule in friend time these days as my cancer is really butting into my social time. Who knew cancer was a full time job? Today is my only day with zero scheduled other then getting my butt down to a toy shop to pick up a much needed 2nd birthday present for another friend. The rest of the week is full of physio and acupuncture appointments, my cancexercise group (I just came up with that – clever no?), Norwegian class and then a wonderful C-Spa session to round out my week. Little time to catch my breath but all of this will just make the weeks go that much faster as I slowly make my way down the long road towards that big pink finish line.

And my eyelashes and eyebrows are finally coming out. I am mourning them slightly as I do love how nice a coat of mascara instantly wakes your eyes up and I will shortly be relying only on the glitter of my retinas for the wow factor! The eyebrow thing will be weird as I think it might be the giveaway that I am C-Spa member but then again who knows. I have learnt through this process that most of the things I worry about end up being insignificant at the end of the day. What matters is always the same – love, life, family and friends and your health.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cuz I am Feeling Good

So I am happy to report that my first round of the new cocktail went off without a hitch. Now I am not counting all my chickens yet as I know side effects can be slow to come up but I am taking this as a big fat positive! I was very nervous when I walked into C-Town yesterday morning, grabbing my number and waiting for my turn to get the usual blood test. I always people watch while I am sitting there waiting…seeing the faces I recognize, the ones I don’t, reading the emotions on everyone’s faces. You can always pick out the first timers to the C-Spa – the look of sheer terror tends to give them away. I know this because I was there before too. Holding back tears and filled with such dread over what could or could not happen. I make a point of smiling at everyone whose eyes I meet. It is my way of giving off some of my positivity or letting them know that yes I have cancer but I am also ok. So as Elgar’s divine music filled my ears, I began to feel ready for my next cocktail (or maybe it was the mixture of the valium and strong anti-histamines I took!) regardless I was prepared.

It is nice to know my way around C-Town and to be familiar with the C-spa routine but it is especially nice that I am able to say hello to so many people I know now. Most of them are nurses who know me as the “English Patient” and greet me with a warm hug. They put me at ease and I know they have my best interests and comforts at heart. Once I get the all clear from my blood work which surprisingly was just on the border of what they consider acceptable to receive chemo (damn white blood cells), I am ushered to my chair and its showtime. Most of the nurses know about me and my anxiety (or sheer hysteria) over getting the IV put in and seeing as I decided not to get the arterial port, I am facing down my fear of the IV needle. I put on my favorite song and start doing my meditative deep breathing as the nurse finds a friendly and willing vein in my hand and poof she is in first try! High five to my girl Ingrid!! So nearly 3 three hours later I am good to go – filled to the brim with my toxic cure and imagining the medicine surging through my body killing off every nasty cell it sees and literally defining cancer combat!

When I went home I felt weird as usually it is just a matter of time till the sickness hits and I am confined to my bed riding out the waves of pure hell. This time there was no throbbing headache or tsunami-esque nausea; I actually went home and ate half a pizza! It was fabulous and after a small nap I was even able to take my daughter out alone to drop by a birthday party and pick up some much needed Ben and Jerry’s ice cream from the store. It was a miracle and boy did it feel good. Things were really starting to look up and suddenly the next 11 rounds didn’t seem so difficult to get through. And despite having my usual 4am wake up (thank u cortisone) this morning, I had another great day and am really doing well. It is refreshing to feel human again minus a few eyelashes. 

And I would like everyone to send lots of happy thoughts to my dear Captain AC who is embarking on her C-Spa voyage this coming Monday. I have reassured her and told her that she will never have to go through the first time again which perhaps offers her some comfort during a very scary time. I have bestowed on her all my C-Spa secrets like never eating your favorite foods on game day, walking every day no matter how close to death you feel, sweet potatoes are yum when u feel like nothing else, sedatives are completely justified, water tastes awful the first few days so mix in some juice, and every treatment you do is one less you have to do later. What I so wish is that I could be there on Monday to hold her hand as the first drops of her cure begin to flow as I know all too well how terrifying that moment is. But as I have said before we do this to give ourselves long and happy lives and remove the worry and the cells that simply don’t belong in our bodies. In reality there is no option here because we choose life.

Good night,


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A New Season, A New Cocktail

It seems like I woke up this morning and summer seemed suddenly over. The rain was pouring down and the air was cold. It was funny that I was slapping on sunscreen a few days earlier and now was putting on sweaters and jackets today! Well this is one of the downsides of living in Norway – short summers. It makes me happy that I have done the bulk of my chemo in the warm and bright summer months as it will be tough to drag myself to the hospital every week in the cold dark winter days. I will be starting my new regime on Friday and am again feeling those first time C-spa jitters. One of the scariest things about the C-spa experience is waiting for it to actually begin as you fear the unknown and how your body will react. I am hopeful this round will be easier and the next 12 weeks will sail by. From what I hear that should be the case and the biggest thing to worry about is extreme fatigue which I am no stranger to! For those curious types some of the other side effects from my new drug include finger and feet tingling (just plain weird), hair loss (goodbye eyebrows), nail loss (yes this one scared me too!), weight gain(time to cut back on Ben and Jerrys) and just plain old body aches. So I will channel my inner warrior again and take my new cocktail with as little anxiety as I can manage.

In other news – I have started my at home Norwegian classes in my bid to become fluent before my daughter is exclusively speaking Norwegian and I have no idea what she is saying. I am lucky enough to live in a country that provides me this service for free – Go Norway! So my teacher came to my house and I got the ol’ grey matter thinking again about things other than the Big C. It feels good to learn again and do something different. As I am keen to get back into normal life and a normal job once my treatment is done, it is important to do things like this that keep me focused on the future. Looking ahead in a positive way is so important to maintaining your sanity when going through something as major as cancer.
The not so good news is about my dear Captain AC. We had hoped the Captain would only need surgery and radiation but following her operation she was given some hard news. She will be checking into the C-Spa in a few weeks time and joining this elite group of bald headed warriors fighting the Pink War. I am giving her all the advice I can but know and understand how terrified she is. However she is a survivor in every sense of the word and I know she will get through this with the same grace, courage and humor she has used to get through all the other challenges in her life. And I will be waiting at that finish line for her and we can have one heck of a celebration.

So that is the news with OBB – nothing profound from me this time around but hopefully you are up to date with what’s happening in my world.