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Meeting my oncologist – and a new side of me

11:34pm. May 24th 2014. 

How I’m feeling: Great. I got to meet my new baby nephew for the first time tonight. Admittedly, up until that point – I was having a rough day. I’ve been pretty down. 

Note: Read “Good morning. You have cancer” before this post.

Thursday March 20th 2014.
We had received some news yesterday. I had been diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer – but I know that my family and friends had a bunch of unanswered questions, were very confused and quite frankly just didn’t know what to think and what to begin processing yet. As for me – all I wanted was to get out of there. Somehow I ignored the “You have cancer” part. It’s just that I hadn’t planned on being there past my biopsy on March 14th – and it had already been 6 nights and so I was still just expecting to be discharged from the hospital – and so my mind was still there. My mind was still playing catch up.

All I wanted was to be able to breathe. I was starting to get used to being so scared of going to sleep because I was scared of not waking up. And that’s a feeling I didn’t want to get comfortable with.

At this point, I couldn’t give anyone any answers. I couldn’t give myself any answers.

The last we had heard, we were going to get a visit from my assigned oncologist from Princess Margaret Hospital to discuss details and treatment plan options. And up until Dr. K came by on Friday, March 21st – I felt every second of every minute pass by me.

I want to note that it was about at this point where I started to feel a calmer me come about – for the first time. There was so much racing through my mind – that I had to do something to get a better handle on it. I couldn’t make sense of anything, I couldn’t make any conclusions – and while everyone around me remained quiet I could feel the stress and worry. Perhaps that was why I naturally fell in to a neutral and calm position. Maybe I subconsciously felt like I needed to in order to balance things out. I allowed my loved ones to really help figure things out for me. And the moment I did – I felt much much calmer.

While, I wasn’t frantically freaking out – I did have a moment when I was not sure if the conversations I was in the middle of having with those who had reached out to me – would be my last. Everything was so up in the air (and it still is to this day to a certain extent). I started thinking about who had reached out, what was being said and what I had always wanted to say. I thought about how I wanted to leave this world, how I’d want to be remembered and fessing up to some on how I had truly felt about them. While I was no where near ready to go – these thoughts did occur to me.

The moment Dr. K came in – my room was packed with family members. When he introduced himself to me, I let him know that it was ok that everyone in the room stays. Every single time an HCP came in to my room to give me an update while I was admitted at Toronto General and Princess Margaret Hospital – they would be surprised at how many people were in there. I was definitely always the most popular patient on the floor 🙂

I was comfortable with anyone who had visited me to be part of this very personal chapter of mine. I figured if they made the point and time to track me down in the hospital and visit me – they had earned their spot to share this very personal and intimate experience with me. I wanted them there with me through the updates and through some of my most vulnerable moments.

Dr. K sat at the foot of my bed and I sat up. I glanced over to my left at my sister Cathy and saw that she had our notebook out and had a pen ready to start jotting down notes. My cousin and brother were leaning against the wall.  They were both looking at the floor and I could tell that they were trying to prepare themselves for what they were about to hear.

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(Now, this is going to be fuzzy – b/c I can’t remember much of it at all)

Dr. K began by calmly telling me what type of Lymphoma I had been diagnosed with and reminded me of the size of the mass (approx. 10X10 cm). He proceeded with telling me what treatment plan he had set up for me – 6 cycles of chemotherapy every 21 days. He told me that I would be receiving the type of chemotherapy that would cause hair loss. And the risk of infertility.

With the amount of information he was delivering, it felt like he was reading out a laundry list. There was just too much to hear. He kept going because I didn’t have questions. Ever so often – he would pause to check in with me – but I had nothing. Nothing. I was still trying to process whatever he had said a few sentences ago.

I remember for a few seconds, escaping from my own physical body, hovering over and watching myself in this scenario. I was barely blinking and I said “ok” whenever Dr. K would pause between sentences. I could see from in my peripheral that Cathy was jotting down as many notes as she could – while trying to hold herself together and process the information herself. My cousin slowly turned away and walked out of the room because he was having difficulty hearing the news – and my brother quietly slumped to the floor and started crying. That was really tough. Seeing my brother cry for me.

You know how in movies, things move in slow-motion whenever big, life-changing or traumatic moments happen? It did. Everything moved in slow motion. Every tear drop, every blink of an eye moved in close-up slow-motion.

All I heard was….

You’re going to lose your hair.
There’s a risk of infertility from chemo.
You’re not going anywhere.
You have CANCER.

I felt defeated. I felt like my body was failing me. I felt helpless and without any control. I felt like every part of me had been a failure.

There had just been a massive spillover of bad news that bubbled over. I didn’t take in any of the details that were discussed. Thank goodness for note-jotting sister and for everyone else in that room. I figured between everyone – they could collectively figure out the information in detail that had just been dropped on us.

The one question I managed to get out of me was about infertility. Dr. K told me that there was the option of freezing my eggs. And just as I was about to ask about the process – he looked at me and said “Quite frankly, we don’t have time” My breathing – or lack thereof was so bad that we didn’t have time to freeze my eggs without risking well….me. My airway was closing up – and quickly. I was so devastated and angry at the same time. There I was being told that chemo may give me a difficult time having children – and I was left with no choice to preserve my fertility because of this F$#%ing cancer?! Well, I guess I had a choice (there is always choice) but the choice was a no-brainer: Start chemo NOW and live VS. Delay chemo to freeze eggs but not wake up.

And there was no way I was ready to stop fighting. I’m not ready to stop fighting. I will never be ready to stop fighting.

I don’t think I shed many tears at all while Dr. K was breaking things down for me. I actually don’t even know if I shed much once he had left. I was just in so much shock. And that shock by the way lasted for a very long time. Sometimes I even question if it’s still here.

Anyways, the very next day we got busy. I’ll tell you about how my first treatment day went another day.

P.S. I am more at ease about the fertility thing now by the way. After all, there are many options and I now know of many whom were told they would not be able to conceive naturally – and did!

1 reply »

  1. Carolyn!
    Hope you remember me from AY. Just wanted to pass my love and well wishes to you and that I’ve been reading your blogs ever since I heard what happened. My husband has caught me in tears in bed because I just get so tranced with your stories. I have so much faith in you to trample cancer with some nice pair of heels. Stay strong and continue to keep that stron face up :).
    Sincerely
    Duva

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