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From E.R. to Admission in to Princess Margaret Hospital

2:18pm. Saturday October 25th 2014. At Princess Margaret Hospital. 

How I’m feeling: A little rough. REALLY swollen and puffy. My high dose chemo is currently being fed in to me right now. 

At home, on the afternoon of Thursday October 23rd home I decided to take some pain killers with some codine in it to help ease the pain from my freshly inserted hichman line (which was done on Wednesday). Tylonel Extra Strength just wasn’t cutting it. Shortly after I took the medication, I passed out. Finally! Some sleep. P.S. I also had an emergency tooth filling re-filled and a tooth extraction from Oncology Dentistry on Wednesday. Dr. Wood squeezed me in – as I cannot afford any infections once I forgo the upcoming high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant.

When I woke up from my nap, I immediately felt odd. I went to look at myself in the mirror and noticed that my face, neck, upper back, chest were very swollen. While I have been swollen in those areas off and on ever since I had been diagnosed from both the steroids in my treatment plan and from the lymphoma (one of the symptoms of Lymphoma Cancer), this was on another level. I hadn’t been this swollen since August when I had to cut a relaxing vacation time at the cottage short to find out that my treatment plan wasn’t working enough – or just fast enough.

I got out of bed, and went downstairs to grab a glass of water. I plopped on to my couch and thought “Should I go to the E.R.? Am I really about to make this call the day before my birthday? What am I going to find out now?” I messaged a few friends along with my sis and mom, letting them know that I was debating on whether to go or not.

Mom was already on her way down to me to drop off my cell phone (I had left it in her car earlier) and when she arrived, we immediately grabbed a few things and drove to Toronto General E.R.

I walked in and thought “I am way too familiar with this place – a place I do not want to be familiar with” Luckily, the E.R. wasn’t so busy – relatively. I have definitely seen it busier. I sat down after registering with the nurse and waited to be called in. Tears just ran down my face as I tried to text my friends giving them the non-information I had.


Everyone wants answers. We all seek comfort in certainty and answers. But I had no answers to give. I still have no answers to give. What’s going on? Why did the swelling happen? How long will you be in there? What does this mean re: your treatment plan? No answers. Even my team here at PMH don’t have answers to these questions. No matter how many times these healthcare professionals have worked on lymphoma cancer cases, I quickly learned that every case is different and everything has multiple dependencies. I can feel the frustration, stress and urgency to need to know from my friends and family. Especially lately, I feel more panic from them than I feel within myself – and it’s because being part of this entire life changing process has taught me a heck of a lot. Half of the time, I end up consoling my loved ones through this. I’ve slowly been noticing that my approach in consoling others and problem solving has also changed.

Anyways, I end up moving through to see a doc and nurse fairly quickly in the E.R. There is a woman next to me whom is upset that they have put me ahead of her. She huffed and puffed, had a terrible attitude and treated all the staff like s#$t. Ms. Queen B, spoiled little brat. For a moment, I begin to feel really guilty – but then I remember, wait a minute: I f#$king have cancer.

Scan after scan and falling asleep on waiting room chairs, it quickly became 1:00am. At this point, I got moved to a bed since we know I will be there for a while and Mama Van went home. Birthday wishes began rolling in via text msg, email, Twitter and Facebook. I smile – and then I begin to sob in the dark by myself. Just uncontrollable and heavy sobbing. That painful kind of sobbing. Big drops of tears fell on to my gown in slow-motion and I wasn’t able to stop.


Press play.

I finally am able to sleep a little bit and I wake up to a few doctors and nurses letting me know that my hichman line looks good (no blood clots) and the CT scan didn’t show any negative change in my mass. Pretty much “we dont know why you look like a blowfish because all is looking good” Yay! But Boo.

My sister and mom come by and the room is instantly filled with laughter, love and happy tears. My sister shared a birthday video with me that she coordinated with friends and family. I will share it soon!

Shortly after, I received a text message from my nurse asking me to make my way on over to the Lymphoma clinic at PMH across the street. I get rolled on over while still in my hospital bed (because at this point, I’m still in a lot of pain from my hichman line) and sis and mom follow behind. As soon as I arrive, I learned that a bed opened up and that I’m being admitted – as in for the big treatment. The plan was for me to admitted next week around the 30th. I just wasn’t ready for all of this to happen. Then again, I haven’t been ready for any of this since day one.

I have been so bummed that I didn’t have the time and energy to plan something for friends for my birthday this year. I tend to do it up big! And so this year, I had a trip to Trius Winery planned with my family on Sunday – of which I can no longer make now since I have been admitted in to PMH. I’m so sad. Luckily, my doctor whom is currently in Africa made it an order for me to sneak out of the hospital last night to celebrate my birthday – as long as I made it back to sleep in my room at PMH Friday night. Thanks so much to Barb and Carla for taking me out to a couple of Fashionweek shows, to those whom made it out to Hard Rock Cafe, to RG5 for serenading us all and to Sami, Mirayam, and Stefanie for escorting me back to my hospital room at 1245am.

This morning kicked off with a bunch of hydration via my hichman line. I puffed up (even more so than I already am) instantly. After 6 hours of this, the dreaded high dose chemo began – including a dose of Benedryl which knocked me out cold. This high dose chemo has been giving me a lot of anxiety lately. It’s 5 times stronger than the aggressive GDP chemo I last received – and it’s why I have to be admitted here at PMH for 2 to 3 weeks. The nurses and doctors have to keep a close watchful eye on me due to the side effects I will be experiencing from it.

More coming up soon. I’m exhausted, my mind is fuzzy and every character I’m typing out is taking a lot out of me.

P.S. Follow the #CVKickingCancersAss hashtag on Instagram at @CarolynVan for some in the moment posts when I’m too exhausted to write out a full out blog post.

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