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The “should-haves” downward spiral

10:45pm. July 16th 2014. 

How I’m feeling: I’m exhausted. I did two things instead of one today (and I also had a 3rd set of plans scheduled – that I didn’t make it to). I don’t regret following through with my two plans – as I had a really great time – but I know I pushed myself too hard. I know I should have stopped the moment I started tuning out in the middle of conversations during my first set of plans. Also, my mouth cankers (a chemo side-effect) came back – on my tongue and left side of my mouth and they are quite painful. After this post, I’m going to get ready for bed. I have three sets of plans tomorrow, that I’m likely going to have to chop down to two or one. It’s not easy having such a limited supply of energy and focus juice that unpredictably fluctuates. 

Going through something like this, you can’t help but go through some of the “should haves”. When Dr. K explained to me what the treatment plan was going to be like, I had asked him two questions specific about the cancer itself:

1) How did this happen?

2) It’s 10X10cm? How long has this thing been in me?

These two questions are also ones I get from friends and family all the time.

When I asked Dr. K how it happened, he shrugged and said “Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that are unknown” I remember quietly muttering under my breath “F$#!ing cancer!” What a frustrating response. Whenever something painful or unfortunate happens, the natural tendency is to try to learn from the experience. I wanted to know what I did wrong, what I could have improved on and what to steer clear of. I just wasn’t satisfied with his answer.

As for how long the mass was in me, Dr. K said that 10x10cm is quite big (it’s about the size of an orange) and that it’s been in me growing for at least a year. I was shocked and disgusted that this ugly thing had been growing inside of my chest for so long – and now was pressing up against my vital organs. I just wanted to rip it out of me, strangle it and kick it across the room.

As soon as Dr. K gave me those two answers, my mind started going down this downward spiral of full of “should haves” and “I wonder if that was a sign I ignored” – type of thoughts.

  • Could I have detected this earlier?
  • That time when I felt that thing – was that a symptom?
  • Was my cancer the culprit for my anxiety and stress levels over the past while?
  • Were those muscle pains I thought were from a past car accident, in fact the muscle soreness symptom of lymphoma cancer revealing itself?
  • Itchy skin is a symptom of lymphoma. Should I have thought something was up when those mosquito bites I got were itchier than usual?
  • What if I went to bed and never woke up? According to my scans, my airway was getting dangerously small.
  • Blah
  • Blah
  • Blah

While, I can’t answer all of the questions I had that are centred around the past, I quickly realized that I COULDN’T have detected it earlier. It’s something I’m at peace with. While I started coughing at the end of January and I didn’t go to the doctor until early March – I truly believe that I went to the doctor when my cough started getting in the way of my daily activities – dance, sleep, work, etc. And so, no I couldn’t have had it checked  out earlier because I wasn’t given enough of a reason to – until I was. I believe that everything happens for a reason and while this asshole of a cancer has been living and growing inside of me for more than year, I wasn’t meant to feel it until I did. While it may have tried to reveal itself to me earlier, I had to have things be removed from my life and other things enter my life in order for me to feel that something was not right. If you check out my timeline pre-diagnosis, you’ll learn what I feel these things were.

Here are some things that I did not mention in my timeline that I now looking back and today, I’ve realized:

  • I think Leia came in to my life at the right time. My ex-boyfriend rescued her in December (one month before we broke up) – and I’m so grateful that we did and that she’s mine. She has played a huge role in my healing process.
  • Just before I was diagnosed, I was doing some work in healthcare and medical marijuana (for terminal illnesses – including cancer) and through this, I learned a lot about the healthcare system and have met many physicians and nurse practitioners. I’ve taken away so much learning that I was able to apply to my own case.
  • I’ve had few people re-enter my life about a month before I was diagnosed. They have played a huge supportive role throughout all of this – from visiting me at the hospital multiple times to bringing me flowers, arts and crafts activities and books to cooking for me!

As time goes on and as much work I put in to myself, I’m uncovering more and more realizations. And you can’t “look” for the lessons, meaning and purpose in life events. It doesn’t quite work that way. Also, there is no point in burning too much energy on the “should haves” and past thoughts. Re-direct your energy, emotions and thoughts towards your present. On that note, go ahead and download the audiobook for “A New Earth”. I’m listening to it right now for the second time. It’s a really good one.

Some photos from my day:


I learned how to knit today – thanks to my friend, Shireen 🙂 It’s not easy with my numb fingers, but it’s fun. Also, it’ll make for a good activity for me to do when I’m not as mentally sharp to participate in activities that are more mind-stimulating.


I don’t think I’ve ever thought about eating a wall before. haha. Shireen was right when she said to me as I marvelled at the walls and walls of juicy balls of yarn “Isn’t it delicious?”

2 replies »

  1. Reblogged this on The Blue Brick | Photography and Handcrafts by Shireen Nadir and commented:
    My friend Caroline is battling cancer, and wrote this touching post about our day together which I spent teaching her to knit (What better companion for hospital waits and exhausted days?). She is inspiring, and a fighter. If you’re in Toronto, there is a fundraiser to help Caroline offset the costs of her treatment, which will include live entertainment, a silent auction (including resin jewellery!) and a performance of the High Heel Revolution that is sure to be awesome! Check out if you want more information 🙂

  2. You are so right Carolyn, I’m a strong believer that things happen for a reason and you don’t know it until after and look back and realize how it impacted/played a part/helped. And our dog children is a big one, best support and unconditional love!

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