Peach Party fun with the BCSF!

This past weekend I got to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness month by attending a fundraising event called the Peach Party at the Thompson Hotel in Toronto. It was for the Breast Cancer Support fund, a charity that I’m excited to be working with and supporting.

 

It was an incredibly fun night that hosted hundreds of people for drinks, food, live entertainment, silent auction and of course fundraising all for a great cause. I was seriously so impressed with this event, I can’t wait to make it an annual thing.

 

 

Living in Canada means we all assume that if you get sick, you’ll be able to get care and not have to worry about paying the bill. If you are fortunate enough to have a job that includes benefits, or are covered by your spouse’s plan then you assume that medication and extra medical costs will all be covered. Many of us living in Canada don’t even know how much medication costs, and have never had to worry about choosing between paying for medical expenses, or paying for everyday living expenses like rent, car payments, cell phone bills or groceries.

 

The crazy thing is that no one realizes that something like a cancer diagnosis can cause a lot of financial strain – right when all of your energy and focus needs to be on surviving a disease that is downright scary. I can’t imagine that stress, and no one should have to.

 

The fact is that many women (and men) who are diagnosed with breast cancer end up dealing with financial stress that comes from a lack of medical benefits, loss of income due to taking time off work, childcare while you’re at appointments or hospitalized, uncovered medications, extra treatments, supplies… not to mention wigs, extra makeup, or hats, and clothing that helps hide surgeries – it’s all expensive and not everyone gets access to these things because they’re not considered medical necessities.

 

The Breast Cancer Support Fund (BCSF) is the first registered charity in Canada that helps families affected by breast cancer directly. There is an application process, and then the charity is able to help families who need it the most, at a time when they need it the most.

 

Millions is raised for breast cancer research every year, and I’m grateful for that because all of the research has helped turn what used to be a super scary diagnosis into a diagnosis with a lot more hope and positive outcomes. I was fortunate to be able to get treatment without a looming feeling of ‘this might kill me’ all because of research.

 

BUT.

 

I had to stop working, my husband had to take time off work, arranging child care became a massive part of my life, I had to purchase clothing, supplies and wigs to help get me through feeling like myself. Plus we needed to pay for extra services like grocery delivery, house cleaning and other stuff like that… And even my top notch insurance plan didn’t cover all of the medication I needed, plus non prescription pharmaceutical supplies and over the counter  medications that are not covered at all.

 

Cancer became another financial expense in our lives, and that was something I never expected – because we live in Canada and have insurance. You don’t realize what goes into an illness like this without experiencing it for yourself.

 

The best part is that we had help. Like, a lot of help. My community raised almost $16,000 for my family in the first couple weeks of my diagnosis – without us asking – Burpees for Boobies, remember? And as uncomfortable as it made me in the beginning, a year later I’m grateful.

 

I also had friends rotate days to bring us meals – and feeding a family of 4 adds up! They spent their hard earned money on food for us, without even thinking about it. My friends rallied like crazy to be there to help with my kids whenever I needed it… which was everyday for many months.

 

My son’s daycare and their incredible director held a little fundraiser for me during chemo – collected prizes, sold raffle tickets, the whole nine yards – I am so grateful. Not to mention they were also always so accommodating with his schedule working around my schedule, etc.

 

We had to make concessions in our everyday spending, and a few things were put on hold – but overall, we were ok, and my cancer diagnosis didn’t mean anything too different from what we were used to financially. Overall, we are making it out of this cancer battle without too much effect moving forward.

 

That is not the case for way too many families. So many families go into debt, lose income or the job all together and struggle to make ends meet for their children. It’s something that is hard for me to wrap my head around – because I couldn’t imagine worrying about where the money is coming from to pay bills when all you should be worrying about is surviving cancer. For your family.

 

So, if you want to learn more about how you can help an important cause – check out their website and social media below.

 

Better yet, we’ll see you at the Peach Party next year!

Does this MRI go with my surgery? (Part 3 of 3)

So I went ahead and posted on my social media, letting my followers (and friends and family members) know that I’d be taking on another surgery. I added some kind of inspirational message – like I do – you’re welcome – and of course received an amazing outpouring of support. I am always so grateful.

 

I didn’t include the whole ‘I might have brain cancer’ angle, because I didn’t want it to explode into something more intense… my assumption is that most people made the assumption that it was something breast cancer patients normally do, to make sure the breast cancer was no longer in the breasts. Whatever they thought, I felt that I had to let people in on the surgery and MRI in general because it would be obvious when my physical appearance changed again, and that I was recovering from something. Or at least I thought this at the time, I realize now that my life didn’t appear to skip a beat.

 

The surgery was a complete success. It was quick, WAY less painful waking up, I went home the same day and had a much smaller incision site then I expected. It was such a small deal in comparison to everything else I had been through, why in the actual F didn’t I do this sooner? But, I didn’t know. Now I know.

 

I was back at the hospital the very next day for my MRI, which was also relatively quick and painless thanks to the subscription painkillers and really great care I always get in the MRI department. So now, all I had to do was wait for the results and this whole thing could be put behind me.

 

Or it’ll ruin my life.

 

Either or.

 

No pressure or anything.

 

I had a routine follow up appointment booked two days later, along with my usual Herceptin treatment in the chemo suite. Cancer life goes on friends…

 

I went into my follow up appointment expecting the usual things, and I knew I wouldn’t have my results yet because it was too soon. And that’s what I told all of my very impatient, yet loving friends and family who knew the whole story about what was going on. The nurse went over all my symptoms, took notes, asked questions and did her thing. Then she was reading off her computer screen and told me my MRI was clear, and continued to ask how is Herceptin doing…

 

Wait.

 

Pardon?

 

Did she just casually tell me between two other unimportant sentences that I didn’t have brain cancer?

 

I mean cool but, wait maybe she didn’t say that.

 

I interrupted her, and asked her to say that again, to make sure I heard right. The nurse clearly had no idea of the history leading up to this MRI, and didn’t think to go over it as if it was an important piece of information at all. It’s not her fault, I’m not saying it’s bad – it was just funny how unaware she was of the whole production.

 

So friends, point is my brain was a-ok.

 

Thank fuck.

 

I apologize for swearing, but sometimes you have to swear to really get your point across. I was so thankful, so relieved and sooooo incredibly ready to move the F on. With my new titties.

 

Which by the way, my new titties were smaller, more natural, a little odd looking, but overall much more comfortable. That in itself was a huge win for me. I still have another reconstructive surgery ahead of me in a few months time, to allow for the proper recovery from radiation, but until then I’ll be much more comfortable.

 

Side note – what once were boobs, became breasts with a cancer diagnosis, and then finally morphed into titties since they’re fake as fake can get. No breast tissue, no nipples, no sensations and no more of what they used to be.

 

They’re better. Because they’re not trying to kill me anymore, and well, I’m pretty happy with that.

More surgery, why the F not (Part 2 of 3)

Where was I? Oh yes, if the symptoms got worse, then it’s something we needed to take action on. My doctor also booked me to see a neurologist to get a second opinion.

 

Over the next few weeks I determined that the headaches weren’t getting better. The neurologist said he was pretty certain I was getting migraines (all day, every day) but he couldn’t be certain without an MRI. He wrote me a prescription to see if that would help, but those drugs typically take up to a month to have the proper effects.

 

I went back and forth on my decision to have surgery to get an MRI every. single. day. It became all consuming, even though I’d never admit that to myself, and in turn was causing me stress, on top of typical and atypical stress that was already a regular part of my routine.

 

Everyone I let in on the situation told me they’d get the MRI if they were me. I knew I wanted it, but felt bad for wanting it for some reason. It seemed silly to make such a big deal out of something I knew wouldn’t be anything in the end – is what I kept telling myself.

 

But.

 

What if.

 

I won’t even get into the back and forth I was doing in my head, because it was intense. But we as a people are not perfect – our ability to describe symptoms, describe what we’re physically feeling and to interpret how other people describe it all is not perfect. Technology is the only thing you can depend on, which in this case was an MRI.

 

So I made an appointment to see my surgeon to get his take on everything, encouraged by my oncologist.

 

Don’t forget – I am currently in radiation every single day while this is all going on…. So I’m a little preoccupied and busy!

 

That appointment set the stage for how quickly the rest of it would go down. We determined that I needed to get the surgery, I needed to have an MRI and I needed to put this to rest once and for all. It was obvious that it was stealing my peace and I needed it back. After all, I’m not being ridiculous, I had cancer, I’m in cancer treatment and I have symptoms.

 

The surgery wasn’t going to be a huge deal, and he’d fit me in right before the MRI appointment – whenever that was set. I appreciated the blunt truth and willingness to get this all done for me as soon as possible.

So I set the MRI appointment in motion, and got one in 12 days. So my surgery was booked for 10 days. Or something like that… it was less than 2 weeks for sure, which felt incredibly fast. But I could already feel the relief – not from headaches or other symptoms – but from the weight that had been weighing my down for months.

 

I spent the next week and a half exercising my butt off (I knew I’d need to take it easy again after surgery), cleaning and organizing our house (assuming I’d be out of commission for a while again), and when I told my friends and family about everything they were all ready to rally behind me again for any type of help I’d need.

 

Here I go again friends.

 

I knew it wouldn’t be nearly as intense as the last surgery, but I was nervous. Going under isn’t something I enjoy and I have to actively put my mind somewhere else when the nervousness sets in. I was also nervous about recovering, and any complications that might come up. We were putting a smaller implant into a space that was just home to a larger implant of different material – I knew it would be weird, for lack of a better word.

 

My husband booked off work, the kids were sent to grandma and grandpa’s house thanks to grandma also booking off work – and everyone was ready to help.

To operate or not to operate (Part 1 of 3)

The details behind my random last minute surgery a couple weeks ago are something I didn’t share very openly with people. Those who were closest to me knew what was going on, but other then that I didn’t share much.

 

This might seem like it’s not a big deal to some people – who in their right mind shares everything with everyone?! Well, me. I have been sharing all sorts of details with anyone who wanted to know ever since this whole journey began!

 

I’m mostly referring to social media. I’m also referring to oversharing with friends, oversharing with clients and always being the go-to person if anyone else had questions or needed guidance if they were about to go through a similar experience.

 

It’s one of my things, it’s what I do.

 

This was something I couldn’t share openly, for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of something that would likely not end up being a big deal. Second, I was starting to get tired of narrating my whole life on social media for everyone to read. I appreciate all of the support that comes from this sharing, but if I was getting kind of tired of it, then that probably meant lots of other people were getting tired of it too. Or at least that was the story I was beginning to build up in my head.

 

I know – who cares what other people think. It is so easy to say that, BUT I do care. I feel like am not supposed to admit that, but I do. So every once in a while it takes a little extra work, a little extra courage and a little extra wine to get back to what I know deep down is helping, and that is sharing to help others.

 

So here is more sharing.

 

HEADACHES. Let’s talk about being in my head about things – quite literally and figuratively. I started experiencing headaches before chemo was over, but along with all the other effects that come with it I brushed it off as part of the process, and knew it was temporary and would be over soon.

 

BLURRED VISION. I have glasses now. And it wasn’t until my second last chemo treatment that I realized my vision was no longer sharp, in fact there were times where I straight up could not see properly. It was consistently inconsistent – sometimes it was perfectly fine, and other times it was sketchy when I was driving… Again, it must have been chemo, right? Sure.

 

TINGLING. I was dealing with pins and needles, or numbness in my arms, legs, hands and feet – but mostly on one side of my body. This wasn’t as severe or noticeable, but it was there, and became more noticeable as time went on.

 

NAUSEA. I didn’t feel very well yet, but maybe it was the radiation… Oh wait, nope, it’s not the radiation according to my oncologist… so what is it? Why? It made no sense, except OBVIOUSLY it was the chemo still… sure, again.

 

But chemo had been over for a while now, and the symptoms weren’t going away. I finally remembered to mention it to my doctor and she immediately took it very seriously. In fact she was grilling me on my symptoms, which took me by surprise. She booked an MRI for my brain, and that was that.

 

But then I got a call explaining that they couldn’t give me an MRI because the expander (temporary implant) in my chest had metal in it, which made it impossible. My doctor was very frustrated by this, and then kindly began to go over her thinking process with me since I was still a little in the dark about what was really going on.

 

“Typically, for some reason that we don’t know yet, women with HER2 positive disease tend to experience metastasis to their brains – if it spreads.” Or something like that, I can’t trust my memory to the exact detail these days…

 

Oh.

 

Well fuck.

 

I see where this is going now. But I won’t think it, because no.

 

Her worry level seemed relatively low, but her desire to miss nothing and be on the safe side was the reason why I always felt like I was in such good hands. Plus my typical ‘don’t worry until you need to worry’ demeanour was kicking in, kind of like it did last year… you know, when they were testing a lump I found in my breast.

 

Yeah. You caught that too?

 

My innocence has been kind of ripped away from me on that one.

 

“When are you getting the expander out?” she asked. “Next year, in forever… like not anytime soon. Definitely not soon enough.” I explained. So now what.

 

I was booked for a CT scan, a similar but less detailed diagnostic tool to see if there was anything to worry about – and it came up clear. This was obviously a relief, but my doctor didn’t seem satisfied.

 

We decided I’d be on top of watching my symptoms, really focusing on the details of the headaches (which were every day, all day….) to determine if they were getting better. If they got better then it wasn’t cancer.

 

Oops, I slipped there and typed it out loud. Moving on.

Radiation Nation PT 3

The peak of the effects didn’t hit until after my last radiation treatment. It was weird, because on the one hand, I was very happy that it was over – but it was actually most definitely not over at all.

 

My skin was brutal. It felt like it was melting off me, and the tissue under it was getting extremely tight and ached. My temporary implant was popping out more then ever and it started to look even weirder then it did before!

 

   

 

My skin began to ‘open’, looked incredibly raw, and was extremely painful. Every movement I made hurt, sleeping on it was impossible and bathing became a whole production. It hurt when I sweat – which was nice because you know, SUMMER. It also hurt when my clothing brushed against it and I made every effort I could not to let my arm hang down casually because it was so uncomfortable.

 

Uncomfortable is putting it nicely.

 

     

 

It seems crazy, but I understand now why some people think radiation is worse than chemo. For two weeks I felt it, and for other people it is even worse – especially depending on the part of their body that is being radiated. I know people who missed more work with radiation then chemo, and the truth is I probably didn’t need to take on bootcamp (even just once a week!) but I had no clue it would get as hard as it did.

 

But, guess what.

 

My skin healed.

 

In fact, I still can’t believe how well it healed. It was crazy to see my skin go right back to normal, as if nothing happened. Howwwwwwwwwww.

 

I have heard all kinds of horror stories about how it’ll never be the same again, or how years later you can still feel it and see it. But not me. Like not one bit.  Okay, maybe just a little bit. BUT I feel incredibly lucky that my skin regenerated so well, and that it’s something I don’t have to see on a daily basis.

 

My temporary implant was incredibly tight, and had shifted upwards on my body… but that would be taken care of soon too -> that’s a story for a different blog post!

 

Moving forward, my beauty regimen has been taken up a notch. Who am I kidding, it’s been taken up about 100 notches! I never did much for my skin up until this point, as much as I’d hate to admit that. I didn’t take it seriously. From now on I’ll be all about the moisturizer… all over… all day… all the time…

 

Now please excuse me, I need to go moisturize.

Radiation wasn’t so rad PT 2

It felt like I was always at the Cancer Centre… because I was. I was there every day for radiation, once a week I met with my radiation oncologist to discuss how it was going and to treat any of the effects, I still had Herceptin every 3 weeks, had to do regular diagnostic testing, and was still dealing with the aftermath of my chemotherapy. Basically, life was super fun!

 

For the first few weeks, I barely felt any effects of the radiation. Yes, my skin started to look more and more red as time went on, as if I was getting a bad sunburn… but meh, manageable.

 

I had a few days where the fatigue was very strong. The technicians and doctors were constantly checking in on me about this, because it can be quite intense for some people. They say about 15% of patients have fatigue so strong it prevents them from being able to function normally. It is an immune response, where your body is kicked into overdrive to manage what’s going on… But overall, for me it wasn’t a big deal most of the time.

 

I was able to continue exercising, do life, raise kids, see friends, and all that fun stuff. I even started teaching bootcamp once a week again, just to get back on the field! It felt amazing to get out there and do my thing, feel normal and see some of my clients again after almost 7 months!

 

     

 

But then in the last two weeks things started to escalate, and my skin started to change – a lot. Every day I could feel it getting tighter and tighter around my temporary implant… and my skin started to bubble, scab and get to an almost purple colour. You could see the rectangle shape where the radiation entered my body, and there was even a rectangle on my upper back where the beam came in at a different angle.

 

     

 

This is when I had to get really serious about how I took care of the area, and it began to slow me down.

Radiation Therapy PT 1

Radiation Therapy. That was a ride. I started radiation exactly one month after my last chemo treatment, and I did it every single day for 25 days in a row (minus weekends, and holidays).

 

So that means for 25 days I had to arrange childcare, go to the Cancer centre, check in, get changed, wait in a waiting room, get called, get taken to the radiation room, lie down, positioned meticulously, readjusted, and sit absolutely still while the machine buzzed around me. Finish, change, get my schedule for the next day, and so on….

 

All in all, I spent 15-20 minutes in the actual room, and was only being ‘zapped’ for a total of 2-3 minutes.

 

The very first radiation treatment was longer, because the technicians had to find just the right spot and measure it as specifically as possible. They even TATTOO little dots on your chest and side to make sure the lasers are in the exact same spot every single day – you can’t trust marker or pen! These tattoos are permanent, but they’re so small they look like a freckle.

 

    

 

During the treatment you don’t feel anything at all – other than the feeling of your arms falling asleep while they’re positioned above your head. You stare at the machine above you, listen to the music playing in the background and try your best to think happy thoughts!

 

Happy thoughts. Like anything other than the fact that you’re currently being radiated!

 

Ha.

What do you mean I haven’t blogged in months?!

This is my first blog post in MONTHS. What took so long? I blame Cancer. I can do that, because you know, Cancer. I’ll use it when I can, it’s the least I can get from this whole ordeal, am I right? I dare you to challenge me… I had Cancer.

 

Key word right there, did you catch it? HAD. I HAD Cancer. I can proudly say this because after months and months, and all the treatments/tests/surgeries under the sun… I have confirmed that I no longer have any Cancer in my body. It is a pretty epic thing to feel, say out loud and explain.

 

What’s crazier is that it still doesn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel like this whole thing happened to me.

 

I am still having targeted hormone therapy, every three weeks until April 2020, and I still have another final reconstructive surgery ahead of me sometime in the winter next year. This is just to prevent a recurrence of the Cancer as much as we can. Overall, no more cancer.

 

Bam.

 

Moving the EFF on. But what exactly does that even mean? People always say ‘time to move on’, ‘now you can move on’, and ‘Yay it’s finally over for you’. Is it though? Will it ever feel over? Is it possible to move on? No. Definitely no. The people who truly know what I mean are the people who have also had Cancer themselves.

 

The Cancer is constantly on my mind. Like, literally almost every single thought that goes through mind is somehow connected to Cancer in some way. Maybe it’ll fade over time, but right now it is still very present. Here are some examples:

 

Thought -> Cancer version

 

I’m making Kingsley’s lunch for her first day of school -> I’m tired, probably because of the Cancer related medication I’m taking

 

Today is the first day of school! -> Today is the first day of school, I can’t believe this time last year I was about to find out I had Cancer.

 

Seeing all my school mom friends -> I wonder what they think about my hair, I wonder if they remember I’m the mom that got Cancer?

 

I’m going to Starbucks to write my first blog post in months -> I wonder if the people beside my think I had chemo because I have short hair. The barista smiled at me sympathetically, I wonder if it’s because she thinks I had Cancer. I’m drinking a black Americano, I wonder if my heart will palpitate because I had my Herceptin treatment last week and sometimes caffeine effects that. I’m writing about Cancer. I feel like all I talk about is Cancer…

 

And so on.

 

And so forth.

 

I think you get it.

 

Point is, I’m hoping that this fades with time, because my brain hurts. Literally and figuratively… Maybe it’s because I think ALL the time. What’s next, what do I do now? What is life after Cancer going to be?

 

I guess I’ll find out.

 

Happy Birthday to ME!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy birthday indeed… 34 is going to be an amazing year.

 

Why? Well, to start 34 will be the year I am finished with all this cancer stuff (for the most part), I will have beaten cancer and I will be what ‘they’ consider a ‘cancer survivor’.

 

CANCER SURVIVOR. Weird, it still hasn’t set in.

 

But, that’s pretty cool.

 

It’s also another year where I get to see my children continue to thrive into fantastic little mini humans. Everyday they surprise me, and everyday they get so much bigger and older! Time moves fast my friends, so fast.

 

34 is the year my business and career will really begin to blossom into what I’ve always envisioned. I’ve always seen myself on stage, speaking to large groups of people in the hopes I can inspire them to live healthier and more positive lives. It’s starting, and I know it’s just the  beginning.

 

Plus I’ll go back to work! I’m going to begin teaching bootcamp this summer, personal training, building my nutrition franchise – the whole nine yards. I can’t wait, and it’s going to be fun.

 

What else? Oh yes – fun. Fun in general. 34 is going to be a year filled with the best times with my friends, family, vacations, play dates, parties, events… you name it, I’m doing it and it’s going to be FUN! Life is meant to be fun.

 

Oh, and my hair has started to grow back… WIN.

 

Birthdays are something to celebrate because we are ultimately celebrating life itself. They’re a gift, and we need to appreciate them every single year. I’ve never been more aware of how much we need to appreciate them.

 

So, happy birthday to me!

Chemo hair I DO care

I can’t even believe this was my hair!  I’m finally finished with 5 months of chemo treatments and I’m honestly missing it more then ever.

It is absolutely one of the hardest parts of this whole journey. I don’t recognize myself, I don’t feel pretty, and I feel like I’m putting on a disguise every time I leave the house in a wig or head wrap.

What’s harder, is trying to be brave and ‘own it’ by going bald in pictures or in public. Let me tell you, it’s incredibly hard to put yourself out there to be looked at, because you can see people as they notice ‘oh, that woman has cancer’. It’s something I’ve always found really hard, although my level of ‘I don’t care’ has began to increase, with practice.

As positive as I am, I’m still constantly dealing with these little battles in my mind… and it isn’t easy.

I know it’s a temporary thing and I know it isn’t what’s important. I have all the support in the world and everyone is amazing because they always say the right things, at the right time. But damn I miss that hair!

Side note, yes I know my butt looks good.