When real gets really real

Oh how easy it is to show all the highlights on the ‘gram, and how hard it is to show everything else! Like pictures that aren’t flattering, for example.

 

I get a lot of positive feedback from my supporters for being so open, real and willing to share all sides of my experiences. So, I felt it was important to show a picture like this, of my very current situation, even though it makes me very uncomfortable.

 

This is as real as it gets, my  friends. No makeup, heavily medicated, terrible hospital lighting, post cry, frustrated and angry, not feeling good, and straight up GRUMPY. Let’s just say positivity was not winning at this very moment… Things are not always peachy my friends! And I’m happy to share that, so I can always be equally happy when things ARE peachy!

 

I was hospitalized this past Monday evening (two days ago) because I had a fever and my white blood cell count was too low to be sent home. It is likely my body had been fighting some kind of minor infection or virus, and after chemo you simply do not have enough of the right stuff to fight on your own.

 

I’ve been receiving antibiotics, pain medication and shots to increase my white blood cell counts, along with monitoring to make sure I’m on the mend – which by the way, I definitely am.

 

I spent the first 24 hours in the ER, and have been moved upstairs to the Cancer ward since. You know what’s weird? Being a cancer patient, in the cancer ward… it’s another weird thing that you’d never expect to happen to you… and it still doesn’t feel real. I am not sure if it ever will!

 

I am hoping to go home today, as are the doctors. As long as my body continues to respond to the medication and no new complications come up – I’ll be free as a bird to continue to recover at home.

 

The silver lining in all of this?? The fact that this is the very last time something like this will come up because CHEMO IS OVER! Also, my doctors are so on top of my care it still surprises me. I cannot believe how much care and attention my situation gets whenever something like this comes up. I appreciate it so much!

 

Also, as always – I never have anything to worry about with my kids or my life because my husband, friends and family are always there in a heartbeat to step up and make sure everything continues to run smoothly while I step away.

 

Silver lining my friends, search for it, hold on to it. Positivity always wins in the end! Even if it takes a minute to find… My cute body guard (pictured below) always helps too.

Beach & Blog

My friends, I realize I have been MIA for many weeks now… and I blame chemo. And cancer.

 

I’m basically playing all of the cards I have to play just because I can! I quite simply got caught up with everything that was happening and this blog took a backseat.

 

But I am back.

 

I’m back because people have been asking me about what’s going on, people have been asking me if I’m still blogging and people have been giving me really positive feedback on how I’ve been sharing my journey so far – so I really want to keep it going!

 

Thank you all for the positive feedback, encouragement and support.

 

Now, as you can see, I had the opportunity to get away six months into my cancer treatment, and it was an absolute gift.

 

I am feeling so grateful for so much in my life, and it is important to focus on all of those things as often as I can.

 

I’m grateful for my friends who made this trip happen; I know what kind of effort and planning it took to get it done!

 

I’m grateful for science, because it’s the reason why I’ll be ok at the end of all this.

 

I’m grateful for what my body is capable of, and that health and fitness has made a massive difference in my experience so far.

 

And finally I’m grateful for ALL of the support I get online, in person, from friends, from family, and from total strangers – all of it. So, thank you.

 

 

Chemo & Herceptin sitting in a tree

Well friends, I have officially completely my 6th round of chemo and I couldn’t be more excited that this part of my journey is coming to an end.

 

I was originally supposed to do 8 treatments, over the course of 16 weeks – but due to the reaction I had to my 5th treatment, the medical team switched up the type of chemo which is administered every 3 weeks instead, and needs one less dose.

 

That’s right – one less treatment! I only have one more treatment. Did I mention that I only have one more treatment left? All of a sudden, it’s almost over.

 

Each treatment has presented a different experience in terms of side effects and challenges, but overall I still maintain that it’s been a relatively ok experience.

 

The main things I’m currently experiencing from my 6th round include body pain (the bone marrow in all of your bones actually ache constantly), nausea, chest pain, peeling fingertips and hands (you’ll notice in my picture that I am wearing large gloves – they’re actually an ice pack to help with this), more hair loss, headache, blurred vision and a general brain fogginess.

 

It only lasts a few days typically, so even though it sucks now and I’m in the thick of it – I know that it won’t be long before I start to feel better again. I’ll have almost a week where I feel stronger and get a chance to recover – and then I take on the last treatment!

 

No sweat, right? Right.

 

HERCEPTIN. This is the drug I’m going to be taking every 3 weeks, via IV in the chemo suite, for a year. I have just completed my 2nd treatment this week as well. The Herceptin is not considered a chemo drug, and doesn’t have the same kind of side effects – so as the year goes on it’ll just be a quick little thing I have to do and shouldn’t affect my day to day life in any way.

 

Herceptin is the drug I have to take due to my HER2 positive status, which makes my breast cancer a category 3 (most aggressive) cancer. Before Herceptin, this particular type of breast cancer was very scary – and now, it is considered the most treatable.

 

Therefore I am grateful for SCIENCE!

 

Chemo was definitely the worst part of my diagnosis. Hands down. It was the only thing I wanted to avoid, the only thing I was afraid of, and the only thing I didn’t ever think I’d ever have to do. So when it became my reality it was hard to swallow. Now that it is almost over, I have to say that it is the part of my story that will probably have the most impact on others going through hard times, so I’ll try to appreciate it for that. You know, looking at the bright side and all….

 

Final thought: 6 down, 1 to go. Bam.

 

Burpees for Boobies

Let’s take a moment to flashback to the whole burpee for boobies movement – do you guys remember that? Some of you might be learning about it for the first time, and let me tell you this is what started my cancer journey on the right foot. Who knew it was even possible to start a cancer journey on the right foot – I know – but it turns out you can.

 

The day after my bilateral mastectomy my girlfriend, and partner in crime – Ms. Jenn Brennan – came to me with an idea to put together a Facebook group where people could share their support all in one place. Since we both have a personal training and bootcamp business background, it only made sense to build some kind of fitness challenge around it.

 

Alas, Burpees for Boobies was created.

 

Now, truthfully at first I had a hard time with this whole concept. I know that people were trying to donate money to my family and I, and this is something that didn’t feel right to me. I felt like there were so many other people who needed it more, or that I didn’t deserve it, we’d be fine… it just overall all felt kind of icky. BUT, it was just a story I was creating in my own head and with lot’s of discussion I had to just let it happen – because if this situation was happening to anyone in my life I’d tell them to shut up and just let people do what they want to do!

 

Plus I was on a lot of painkillers… like a lot. So I didn’t have a whole lot of strong ground to stand on. In fact, this whole conversation isn’t something I remember – I was told a couple days later how it all came about when I started explaining it to people. Turns out I didn’t have the story right!

 

Anyways, where was I? Painkillers…. Oh yes. Thank goodness for painkillers.

 

I think I’m off topic.

 

THE CHALLENGE:

 

30 Burpees for 30 days. Post the video on the Facebook group. That’s it!

 

We chose burpees because they happen to be my favourite exercise. Seriously. When I was training to do my Spartan Races (obstacle course race) I had to really focus on burpees. For every obstacle you can’t complete you need to do 30 chest-to-ground burpees, and let me tell you – they add up! I was so terrified going into my first race that I’d be doing hundreds of burpees that I really focused on not dying from them. They got easier, I got better at them and this is when my personal fitness took a massive turn. My body had never been so fit, and I had never been able to do so much.

 

All because of burpees. So, that was the inspiration and the reason why we chose 30.

 

PLUS – this surgery meant I could no longer do burpees. I’d be able to do them one day again, after I’ve fully recovered from multiple surgeries over the course of a year or longer… but until then, it’s something I can’t do anymore.

 

One of the greatest parts of this group was that anyone could be a part of it. You could donate your time, energy, funds, message, support – whatever felt right to you. There was no pressure, just a whole lot of encouragement!

 

We had no idea what it would turn in to. I couldn’t believe all the people who were participating, posting vulnerable videos, trying burpees for the first time, sticking to it every single day, getting creative with locations, costumes, music and style! It was incredible. In a few days the group grew as big as 1700 people and hundreds of videos were being posted everyday.

 

I know, because I watched every single one. Literally.

 

I really wanted to watch every video, and comment on them, because I wanted everyone to know how much it meant to me that they were taking the time to support me in some way.

 

After my surgery I expected to be binge watching Netflix, movies, etc. But NO! I was binge watching these burpee videos. It made such a difference in my recovery to be in contact with so many people rooting for me. I felt like I was still working in some way, motivating people to get moving, and to do something good for themselves!

 

I was touched that entire families were getting involved, kids, grandparents, parents… Entire companies were getting involved, soccer teams, dance studios, play groups… My daughters school had a Burpee day where the whole school did them in their gymnasium, and my son’s daycare had their whole class of crazy toddlers and brave teachers do them as well!

 

GUYS – THERE WAS A BURPEE FLASH MOB! In Newmarket, a ton of people showed up on a particularly dreary day just to do burpees in public. It was incredible. Did you know that being a part of a flash mob was something on my list of things to do in life? Well it was, and now it’s checked off. (Featured image is from that day!)

 

These burpees were coming from everywhere around me, and it was honestly the most touching experience of my entire life. I am so grateful. It was impossible to be in a bad mood, feel sorry for myself or be super negative when I had all this positivity and support coming at me from so many different angles.

 

So, this group still lives on Facebook if you want to check it out. I do still, and I hope to one day resurrect it! Perhaps around the time I need to have my next major surgery once chemo and radiation is complete….muah hahahaha…

 

Consider yourselves warned.

 

This video tho.

This was a video made by a particularly awesome woman, Maricel. At the beginning of the Burpees for Boobies movement she went ahead and took the time to make a thoughtful video like this!  It was hard for me to watch at first, because it was so early on in my journey and it felt kind of funny having people go so far out of their way for me – but now I’m SO thankful to have it.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, enjoy!

And mom, try not to cry again… hehehe…

Well, that escalated quickly.

Well friends, I got cocky. I’ve been feeling very grateful that so far during my chemo treatments I haven’t had any complications, I haven’t fallen victim to my suppressed immune system and I’ve been able to maintain a decent level of normalcy.

 

Then I was quickly reminded that things can change fast.

 

My fifth round of chemo was a combination of drugs that I haven’t had yet. It was always the plan to have four treatments of a certain combo, and then the second four of another combo. My fifth treatment was much longer, 6 hours long, and I also started Herceptin, a drug that combats my HER2 status (what makes it so aggressive) and I’ll be doing that treatment every three weeks for the year.

 

So it was different.

 

At first it felt like a better round of side effects – no nausea, my brain felt clear and I had more energy compared to the first four treatments. I did suffer for a few days with some pretty intense bone ache, my hands and feet were numb and tingly, and my appetite completely changed due to a sore throat and lack of taste in food – but overall I was pretty ok with this.

 

Then out of nowhere, my body exploded in a rash. The rash started harmless enough (I actually thought it might have been an acne breakout on my chest), but then as the day went on I started seeing changes on my legs… then overnight it spread almost everywhere.

 

So, first thing in the morning I went to the ER, and they told me it was a reaction to my drugs, take Benedryl and move along. I wasn’t going to worry, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be enough.

 

Later that same day the rash was getting even worse, and then I had a fever. So off to the ER again, and this time I’d be told that I couldn’t go home until it was all figured out.

 

I’m currently writing this from a hospital bed, four days into my stay, and the rash is still very much a thing. I’ve seen a million doctors and they all had different opinions at first – but now they’re narrowing it down to a drug reaction. This is great news, because they know what drug it likely is and all that needs to be done is a modification at my next chemo treatment.

 

I’ve been treated for infection (just in case), a virus (just in case), a reaction (just in case), an infectious disease (just in case) and next stop is dermatology since you know, it’s a rash. Once I get that Doctor’s take on what this could be then I should be able to go home. Because, we’re hoping he’ll say it is a drug reaction and I’m good to go. Until then they’re monitoring me, watching my blood levels and waiting for test results from when I was first admitted.

 

That’s the scoop on what’s happening right now! All I care about is getting it taken care of so I stay on schedule with my treatments. The light at the end of this chemo tunnel is clear and I just want to get there as soon as possible!

Lindsy Vs. Chemo

For those of you who have been following my blog, and this whole journey – you will have noticed that I’ve been pretty MIA lately. I went pretty quiet on social media, haven’t written a blog in over a week and haven’t been my usual busy self.

 

My latest treatment (number 4) really knocked the wind out of me. I know it’s because the effects are starting to add up, and it’s getting harder for my body to bounce back… but it’s still something that took me by surprise.

 

Immediately after the treatment I feel something that I can describe best as a certain ‘heaviness’. My body feels heavy, my eyes feel heavy, I can really feel my heartbeat in my chest and I am just generally moving slowly. My eyes were so dry it was hard to keep them open, and the constant dehydration is a battle.

 

During the first three days after treatment I’m given oral medication to take at home, and once that is done – I go through a new phase of effects. The nausea was constant, the fatigue made normally easy tasks difficult, and I slept a lot.

 

I also have to take shots every day, for seven days, after each treatment. The shots aren’t a huge deal, and they’re very important because they’re what helps my immune system battle normal everyday things like colds/flus/virus/etc. by increasing my white blood cell count. These shots cause some major body aches (the doctors call it bone ache because it actually makes your bone marrow ache), and that is what I’ve struggled with the most.

 

I’ve been dealing with some other little things like peeling fingertips, tingling in my hands and feet, food aversions, mouth sores, and a lasting burning sensation in my throat caused by a growing list of food and drinks.

 

Guys, I still have my eyelashes and eyebrows though – so I feel like a winner! Seriously.

 

Honestly, I’m sure reading that all feels like a lot. And although it’s been pretty crappy, I know it means the medication is doing what it needs to do – save my life. Am I right?

 

Yeah, I said that.

 

Shit just got real friends. Again. Because it’s the truth.

 

My next treatment is in a few days and the cycle starts all over again, and I’m not looking forward to it, obviously. Especially since they’re giving me four new drugs for the remaining four treatments, and I’ve been warned they’re going to be even less pleasant than the first four.

 

Meh.

 

You have to do what it takes, whatever it takes, and that’s just what I am going to do.

 

The Chemo Suite

Chemo. What exactly is it like? Well, it is obviously very different for everyone, but for me it has been pretty smooth sailing so far. Besides my minor emotional breakdown last week, of course. Ha.

 

 

The Stronach Regional Cancer Centre in Newmarket has been a positive experience. It is organized, there is a ton of support and they seem to be really on their game when it comes to caring for patients. The actual chemotherapy suite is big, bright, not crowded and overall a pretty ok place to receive the world’s most famous medical therapy.

 

 

You are seated in a large reclining chair, there is a personal tv if you choose to watch, and lot’s of space to cozy up and do some reading, working or sleeping during treatment. You can snack while they offer coffee/tea/water throughout and basically try to make it as comfortable as possible while you’re hooked up to the IV.

 

 

You can bring one person with you to sit in a chair beside you to keep you company, and that’s pretty much it. Super exciting stuff.

 

 

Side effects. You can go ahead and picture a commercial where I’m skipping through life, playing with puppies and laughing with friends – and in the background you get to hear all the lovely side effects listed.

 

 

And despite what you’re about to read, it really isn’t that bad. I mean, it could be so much worse, and is, for some people.

 

 

I feel pretty nauseous for about a week following treatment. The drugs for that help most of the time.

 

The fatigue can be challenging, and tends to accumulate after each treatment.

 

I have to give myself shots every day for seven days following each treatment. These shots help you produce more white blood cells to fight viruses and infections. These shots also have the main side effect of body and bone aches. The aches have been pretty hard on me, and they are the worst during the second week.

 

Then there are mouth sores, tingling fingers and feet, dehydration and ‘chemo brain’, and that pretty much sums it up for me.

 

Chemo brain. It’s a real thing. I feel like I have trouble speaking correctly, like my brain and my mouth can’t work together. It’s like I’m in a haze, and it feels like I’m kind of floating. I find it harder to write, work and carry on normal conversations – and my memory is seriously suffering. I’ve always had a knack for remembering details, stories and events – and that is definitely not the case right now.

 

 

Oh wait, and my hair fell out. That too.

 

 

So I guess there are some side effects that aren’t great, and it may seem like a lot once I write it all out. But I guess I’m just trying hard not to focus on the bad stuff… because that’s a slippery slope into feeling sorry for yourself, which is something I’ve never been big on.

 

 

I focus on the good – and there is good I promise you! I’m completely committed to being as normal as possible. I’m still taking care of my kids, although they may be watching more TV than usual… I walk them to school, prepare meals, take care of bath time, talk with them, read with them, and even take them for play dates. I still need to take care of the house, and I am still working from home – although I have taken a break from personal training and my bootcamp business.

 

 

I am obviously more tired than usual, and the first week after chemo my patience is a little thin – but I’m doing it. Headaches come and go depending on what drugs I’m taking post treatment, but they’re manageable. Everything is temporary.

 

 

And yes, I’m still finding time to drink wine – approximately every other weekend, with friends, and it’s a lot of fun. Being able to go out for dinners with friends and enjoy wine and tell stories and be ridiculous is honestly one of the biggest reasons this hasn’t been all that bad. My friends have been there through the good and the bad, the boring and the interesting, and if it wasn’t for them I’d be in a much more negative and depressed place. I know me, and I need to be social (even if I don’t feel like it) and go out and do the things that make me happy in order to get through this in one piece.

 

 

Tomorrow is my last round of the first two chemo drugs. Which means that is 4/8 done and halfway there. For the last four rounds I’ll be getting a few different chemo drugs and I’ve been told the effects may get harder. But I’ll just keep managing the best I can, work at staying active and continue to focus on the positive!

 

I believe the term is “living my best life”

I have always had a particular ‘energy’ for living my life to the fullest, and filling my time with lots of experiences and fun. I am not sure where it came from, or how long I’ve been this way… but it’s something that is obvious to my friends and family, and it comes up often.

 

It’s also a theme that seems to come up with my therapist regularly (Yup, I go to a therapist and would recommend that every human does), because when we discuss why I do the things I do, it always seems to come back to me wanting to pack as much life into my life as possible.

 

One day this past summer, I was sitting outside in my backyard with my husband – because I hate being inside in the summer – and we were discussing nothing in particular when I mentioned to him that I had a thought, and it was a thought I didn’t even want to say out loud, because it felt silly, but I was thinking it nonetheless.

 

“What if this whole live life to the fullest thing I do is because something is going to happen?”

 

“Like what”, he said.

 

“Like, what if I feel the need to pack as much fun into my days and weeks, and not miss out and not waste time… because my time is limited?”

 

Blank stare. Because I’m a psycho.

 

I continued. “Or, being less dramatic, what if I’m going to get really sick, or whatever, I don’t know, it was just a thought…” and that was it.

 

I don’t remember what he said, or really how the entire conversation went. But it happened. At some point in the summer. I basically told him that I felt like something not good was coming, for me specifically.

 

 

Now, I’ve always been energetic about life, but last summer was next level. Luckily I have a partner in crime who is also a lot like this, and together we had the best summer ever. I had other friends who were on maternity leave or stay home with their kids so there were always lot’s of things to do. Most days  with the kids, we hit the beach, a pool, a splash pad, play park, trampoline park – so many activities. Cottaging, friends places, amusement parks… everything.

 

When I was able to leave the kids at home I was out with friends, partying, sometimes into the early hours of the night. Girls nights, pool parties, visits to the city, weddings, group dinners… it was the best. And because I’m so busy it made me appreciate the down time even more too. I loved having nights off, staying in, watching a movie, playing with the kids in the back yard or going for a walk, a hike or a park.

 

So, back to the whole doomsday prophecy thing.

 

I don’t know why I thought this negative thing. I honestly don’t have many negative thoughts, and I especially am not the type to worry about something that doesn’t exist yet, and even when I could worry – I try really hard not to, because it serves absolutely no purpose. I didn’t want to say it out loud because… well I just didn’t want to hear it, say it or acknowledge it. And I felt dumb.

 

 

And hey, if nothing bad actually happened it would have just been some random weird weekday conversation that would have been forgotten.

 

 

But, something did happen.

 

 

Just as fall was coming into full effect, the cancer happened. The. Cancer. It’s the thing I think people worry about the most, for themselves and those they know. Chemo, surgery, radiation, other medical therapies, lifestyle changes and the whole fighting for your life thing. It’s scary. It’s touched everyone in some way or another… and it is now happening to me.

 

 

I’m not saying I predicted this was coming. I am not a psychic. My therapist thinks I knew it was coming on some subconscious level. I had the lump for a long time, so she thinks that maybe I knew it was there and buried it and all that stuff… but I honestly don’t think so. I truly thought the lump wasn’t a lump and that it was just something hormonal, or whatever. I really didn’t think about it, I wasn’t avoiding it, and it wasn’t something I felt needed to be checked out until it started to hurt (refer back to older blogs…).

 

 

Anywho. I have only told a select few this story, and now it’s out there. I feel like it should be, because it is simply interesting at the very least.

 

 

I was joking with a friend yesterday that I was borderline scared for my life in regards to how this summer was going to go for me. My ‘zest’ for life has always been pretty intense – imagine what it’ll be like after I’m done all my treatments, and feel like myself again! I’ll be living my very best life, filling my time with fun and positive experiences, and my kids/family and friends/clients will be along for the ride.

 

Watch out.

 

Saying Tata to my tatas. (part 2)

I woke up from surgery in the most amount of pain I could ever imagine. Like ever. I vividly remember thinking that I’d give anything to give birth to a basketball because at least it would take my attention off the pain I was feeling in my chest. Something had to be wrong, why was I feeling all this, why weren’t they giving me more painkillers! It was next level.

 

I am a bit fuzzy on details, at least I’ll assume I am, but all I know is that I was PISSED. Someone, more drugs now. I explained how much pain I was in and I remember a doctor or nurse or someone asking me what kind of pain killer I wanted – like I cared – anythinnnnnnng! I was snappy, and angry… I couldn’t help it. I remember telling them I’m not normally an asshole, but that is just how much I was hurting. They get it, right? I definitely felt like I was being reasonable, good thing there is no video footage to show just how ridiculous I probably was…

 

After some of the pain subsided a little more, and I was in post op recovery long enough it was time to head to my room and recover there. I felt like it was forever, and I’m pretty sure it was. I asked for my husband a million times, and I knew I had a couple friends waiting too – I just needed to see someone I knew. But man, it was over. I was ok. It was over.

 

The DL on the surgery:

 

The general surgeon successfully removed all of the cancerous tumours and cells, and both breasts were removed entirely. I knew that some lymph nodes ended up being removed entirely – but it wasn’t until two days later that I learned it was 6 lymph nodes, which seemed like a lot. They hadn’t been biopsied yet so it would be almost 14 days before I learned if there were cancer cells or not. (Spoiler alert, all lymph nodes were considered negative for cancer, phew. However isolated tumour cells were found in one of the lymph nodes, which is one of the reasons why I’m doing chemo… that’s another story.)

 

My reconstruction plan had evolved over the few weeks leading up to surgery, and I’m thankful for that. My HER2 status meant I’d be doing radiation, which can permanently alter any immediate reconstruction effort.  At first I was told that no reconstruction was possible – which was upsetting for obvious reasons – so I was happy when my plastic surgeon told me he wanted to try it a different way.

 

I have a permanent and final gel implant in my left side – which will not be affected by radiation. On my right side I have an expander. It’s basically a temporary fluid filled bag with a port in it – which means a needle can be inserted into the implant through the port to add liquid or have liquid removed during the course of radiation, in anticipation of the skin retracting. This means that leading up to radiation the fluid will be added to make the left side bigger than the right – expanding the skin, and then during the course of radiation the fluid will be removed as needed, in order to save the skin from getting too thin as it retracts (and risking the implant becoming exposed, or failing in another way), and the expander, in theory, will end up the same size as the left.

 

Science. It’s cool.

 

The skin can continue to change and be affected by radiation for months and months after it’s complete, so my next surgery to replace the expander with a final implant won’t be until the very end of the year, at the earliest. So, fingers crossed the expander process goes well and surgery won’t have to be a huge complicated thing! But, I will definitely have to do the whole surgery thing again.

 

I’ll look forward to the operating room playlist.