Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: The End Boss

I am cancer free!!

Today was my appointment with Dr Baliski. I was called into his office and he gave me the good news. All of my results look great and he released me from his care. I asked about the missing results that Dr Bobyn had spoke of yesterday, and Dr Baliski was pretty sure that he had them all. When I see Dr Bobyn again in 2 weeks, I’ll double check with him, but I feel confident in saying that I am now cancer free!

Dr Baliski checked the 2 incisions and was very happy with how they are healing. I’m still on light duty for at least another week, but it’s worth it to be healthy! He wants me to stay out of the water (no swimming) for another week as there is still a risk of infection. He said I can try and play volleyball next week if my arm is feeling good, but warned me to stop if I experience any pain. But other than that, everything is looking great!

I go back to see Dr Bobyn again in 2 weeks to follow up and make sure everything is still on track. My care from here on out should be limited to annual exams and follow ups with Dr Bobyn to check for any new pigmentation. Any new spots that may appear will be removed immediately. I’ll have to be vigilant with the sun and be certain to always wear sunscreen and protect myself. I dub me, sunscreen police! I don’t ever want any of my family or friends to experience this journey.

I have to give a HUGE shout out and thank you to my doctors, Dr Bobyn and Dr Baliski, for attacking this cancer so aggressively and being so reassuring and compassionate throughout this entire process. They are my warriors and my guardian angels. A BIG thank you to my wonderful boyfriend, Kerrie, who helped me and supported me through this journey. And many thanks to my family and friends, as well as Kerrie’s family, who helped and offered support whenever they could. I am lucky to have these people in my corner.

Today is a victorious day. I have kicked cancer’s butt! And to all my readers, have a happy and SAFE summer! Remember, SPF is this year’s hottest accessory! xoxo

Monday, July 26, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: Boss Fight Number 3

Today was my appointment with Dr Bobyn to have my stitches removed and possibly get some results. My appointment was at 10:00 am and to my surprise, I was actually called in a little before 10:00! Dr Bobyn came in a told me he had some good news for me. He had the pathology report. My skin and tissue sample tests showed no residual signs of melanoma! Victory number 1! Dr Baliski has successfully removed the melanoma from the original site on my arm. Next, the lymph nodes. Dr Bobyn told me that we’re still waiting on a couple test results, but that the ones that we did have were clean and clear. Victory number 2!

Next up was suture removal. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’d never had this kind of stitch before. Much to my relief, I barely even felt it. I told Dr Bobyn I was nervous and he promised to be gentle. He kept apologizing and saying that he knew he was hurting me, but I didn’t feel anything! Not until the last one, and even that was just a bit of stinging. Everything was going great until Dr Bobyn left the room to get some steristrips. My arm was bleeding a bit and Dr Bobyn wanted to put the strips on for extra security. As I was standing there waiting for him to come back, I broke into a full body sweat and felt everything going black. Dr Bobyn came back in then and rushed to help me sit down and put my head between my legs. I felt so silly! I can’t believe I nearly passed out!! Dr Bobyn finished up attending to my arm while I concentrated on my breathing and kept my head down. He assured me that this was not an uncommon reaction, but I still felt so dumb! He told me that this often happens with patients that have been faced with major health issues, and when you receive the news that you’re almost out the other side, all of that stress and nerves just hit you. He thinks that’s what happened to me. After he was finished, he called his nurse, Dawn in to get me a cup of water and told me to just relax and not move until I felt better.

Dawn came back with a kid cup of water for me. The cup had fishies on it! Haha I was still super light headed, so she got me a cool cloth for my neck too. She left me in the room to recover and reiterated what Dr Bobyn had said; no moving or standing up until I felt better. She stressed that I didn’t need to rush. That I just need to be safe. I sat there for awhile; longer than my actual appointment took! When the light headedness finally started to pass, I checked my phone and saw that Kerrie had texted. I texted him back and told him the good news and the news that I nearly passed out. I told him it’d be a bit before I could leave.

When I finally felt safe to drive, I got up and told Dawn I was leaving. She let me know that Dr Bobyn wanted to see me again in 2 weeks for another follow up exam. My next appointment with him is on August 9th. My sister’s 19th birthday!

This afternoon my phone rang with an unknown number. I thought it was my mom as when she uses operator assistance to dial, that’s how it shows on my call display. It wasn’t my mom; it was Dr Baliski! He was calling to let me know that he had my results and that they were all good. I didn’t want to tell him that I already knew, so I thanked him very much for calling me. He also wanted to make sure I was coming in to see him for a post surgery follow up exam. I told him I’d see him tomorrow at 11:50 am. He laughed and said he didn’t realize that I already had an appointment and that he’d see me tomorrow then.

So tomorrow I’ll go over my results with Dr Baliski in greater detail. I still have a few questions that I didn’t end up asking Dr Bobyn with all the craziness of trying to blackout and all. = p Maybe he’ll have the other lymph node results as well and, by this time tomorrow, I could officially be cancer free!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 24

1 more sleep! Tomorrow the stitches come out and, fingers crossed, I'll get the results from the surgery!

I have an appointment with Dr Bobyn tomorrow morning at 10 am to have my stitches removed. I made the appointment to remove the stitches before I even had them! lol I've never had this type of stitch before; I've only ever had the dissolving kind. I'm a bit nervous to have them removed, but those nerves are being overtaken by irritation. Irritation that the stitches are causing my arm and the itching. Oh the itching!! I can't wait for them to be gone! I'm so looking forward to being able to wear whatever I want without worrying about the stitches getting caught and pulled. I'm looking forward to being able to wash my hair properly again. I'm looking forward to sleeping on my left side! All the small things that you completely take for granted until they're made difficult.

I'm also hoping to get the results from the lymph node biopsy and surgery tomorrow. I'm slightly nervous but also optimistic that the results will be clear and good. I think after the mix up with the initial biopsy, I'm also not getting my hopes up that Dr Bobyn will even have the results. I have an appointment with Dr Baliski on Tuesday, and I think in my mind, that's when I'm counting on getting the results. Any results tomorrow will be a bonus.

I'll be sure to make a post again tomorrow night of my latest adventure and any results I may get. Until tomorrow! xoxo

Monday, July 19, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 23

Today is a big day. It is exactly 2 months since I went in for my biopsy and 1 week since the surgery that will hopefully end this melanoma treatment journey.

Having been diagnosed with melanoma, I have become very aware of how much misinformation and misunderstanding there is about this form of skin cancer. The two most common responses I’ve heard are that melanoma won’t happen to them and that it’s “the best kind of cancer.” Both of these responses are scary. Melanoma can happen to anyone and can be one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

What is melanoma? Melanoma is a cancer that initiates in melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin; the pigment that colours our skin, hair, eyes and forms moles. Most melanocytes are found in the skin making melanoma of the skin the most common form of melanoma. Melanoma can also be found in the eye, brain, digestive tract and anywhere else melanocytes are found.

What makes melanoma so serious? Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer as it is more likely to spread to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body. Melanoma can spread anywhere but the most common areas are lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones and brain. If not caught early, melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Survival rates drop to less than 20 percent when melanoma has spread to other organs. People in advanced stages of melanoma are often given less than a year to survive. Early detection is key.

Who is at risk to develop melanoma? EVERYONE. Yes, there are factors that can increase your risk but the bottom line is EVERYONE, no matter your age, skin colour, or family history is at risk. One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is to believe they are immune.

What increases the risk of developing melanoma? UV exposure is the biggest factor in increasing your risk of developing melanoma. It does not matter if the UV exposure is from natural or artificial sources; all UV is harmful. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, approximately 65 percent of melanomas are attributed to ultraviolet ray exposure.

Other risk factors include:
Skin tone: Melanoma does occur more frequently in people with fair skin tone. Fair skin tones have less protection against UV rays then darker skin tones. However, this does NOT mean that people with dark skin tones are not at risk. Bob Marley died in 1981 of melanoma.

Light hair and eye colour: People with blond or red hair and people with blue eyes are also at higher risk. This is again due to less protection against UV rays. Again, this does NOT mean that those with dark hair and/or dark eyes are immune.

Personal and Family History: If one or more immediate family members have been diagnosed with melanoma, there are now studies that show your risk is increased as well. Also, those who have had a previous diagnosis of melanoma are at a higher risk to develop melanoma again in their lifetime.

Severe sunburns, especially in youth: Every sunburn increases your risk of developing melanoma. One blistering sunburn can double your risk of developing melanoma. Just one. Sunburns at a young age are especially dangerous. Protect yourself every time you are exposed to UV rays. It only takes 1 time, 1 burn to change your life.

How do I protect myself? Sunscreen. Every day, every time. Even on cloudy days. A sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 is recommended and should contain elements to block both UVA and UVB rays. Clothing choices is another way to protect yourself. Sunglasses, hats and clothing with the most amount of coverage are best. Now I know that telling people to wear long pants and long sleeves in 40 degree heat is not that all that likely. Cover yourself as much as possible and for all areas that remain exposed, make sure to cover in sunscreen.

Another common mistake is the thought that summer = sunscreen. The truth is that UV exposure happens at all times of the year. Just because there may be snow on the ground does not mean that you are safe. In fact, snow can increase your risk. Snow, water and sand all reflect UV rays which increases your chances of sunburn.

Be aware of your body. Know your body and be aware of any changes. Any new mole or a mole that shows signs of changing should be checked. If you are not satisfied with your first opinion, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Your health is the most precious thing you have. That’s cheesy, I know, but it’s also true. You need to be proactive when it comes to your health.

What should I look for in a mole? Any mole that you feel is suspicious or that is new should be checked out. When it comes to your health, it is always better to be safe than sorry! Catching a mole before it becomes cancerous is the best time to have it removed. Early detection is so important. The ABCDE’s of what to look for in a melanoma mole can be found here: http://yellowshoesdiaries.blogspot.com/2010/06/what-to-look-for-in-mole.html.
Remember, a mole does NOT have to meet all of these criteria to be dangerous.

Tell your doctor if you have small red, brown or flesh coloured patches of rough skin. The patches feel almost like sand paper. I had this symptom and didn’t know that it could be a cancer precursor. I had it on my chest and thought it was just dry patches. But it didn’t matter how much I moisturized, they didn’t go away. It would take a month or two for them to disappear only to reappear somewhere else. I never would have guessed that they could be related to the mole growing on my arm. It wasn’t until I read a magazine article that I realized that these dry patches might be linked to my mole.

Having an open channel of communication with your doctor is so important. If you do not feel as though your doctor is listening to you or taking you seriously, get a second opinion. Trust your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, make a doctor listen to you.

Despite a bit of a setback yesterday afternoon, my arm is healing and my range of motion is improving. One more week until my appointment with Dr Bobyn to have my stitches removed and hopefully, to get the results from the surgery and lymph nodes test.

Both my mom and my dad have struggled with why this is happening to me. In my low moments, I’ve wondered how this happened as well. I’ve never been a sun worshipper. I use sunscreen. It doesn’t make sense. But none of that really matters now. I have (or hopefully had!) melanoma and I don’t want this journey to be in vain. I want to educate people and get my voice out there. I want people to protect themselves. If I can get even a few people to change their sun habits, then it is worth it. If I can get just a few people to have their moles checked out, then it’s worth it. Rock the SPF and have a happy and most of all, SAFE summer!! xoxo

PS - For more information about melanomas, check out:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 22

Excuse me Sir, but I seem to have been bitten by an elephant....

Not too much new here. I'm still home bound and the cabin fever is setting in. I haven't reached full on crazies yet, but I'm getting there!

Last night, Kerrie helped me take the bandages off the incision on my arm. Gross gross gross gross gross!!! Okay, I guess it's not actually *that* bad, but still, ew! The good news is that it's looking very clean. Clean as in healthy. It's swollen and completely dyed blue, so that part is not so clean! haha The stitches are gross but mesmerizing. It's kind of like a train wreck that I can't look away even though it disgusts me! lol It looks like Dr Baliski did a good job with the incision and stitches though. Hopefully the scar will be clean looking, not gnarly. I have certainly graduated from a Mike Tyson bite to something much larger. Once my arm looks a little less like something in a horror movie, I'll post a pic. I both look forward to and dread having the stitches taken out. They freak me out but having them removed? Ew ew ew ew ew!! Yes, I'm a big baby! = p lol

The bandage that they put on it after the surgery was ridonkulous! It was massive!! Taking it off was a production. Now that it's off, I'm covered in glue from the bandage tape. We've tried nail polish remover, baby oil, soap, oil; nothing gets this glue off! I keep sticking to everything! My clothes, the couch, my blankets and pillow. I had to peel myself off of my bed this morning!! I'll try rubbing alcohol soon and maybe the Orange Clean soap that you use after getting all greasy working on cars. Maybe that'll work! Anyone have any other suggestions?

I can't believe it's nearly been a week already! Time sure has flown by! Yesterday was my first attempt at taking no pain medication. I used the ice pack during the day a couple times and the pain was pretty tolerable. Until this morning. I had a pretty rough sleep last night and my arm was hurting this morning. I could not get comfortable, so maybe I over used it. I'm not sure. I tried to ignore it for awhile but finally broke down and took a pain pill again. That helped a lot. Made me sleepy, but the pain is now just an ache again.

9 days until I see Dr Bobyn and hopefully get my results. 10 days until I see Dr Baliski who should definitely have my results. I'm anxious to hear them. I pray this is all done and all that's left is my yearly monitoring check ups. I'm still living the life of a shut in, but I'm keeping myself occupied the best that I can. Yesterday I spent the day going through 4x4 pictures and then posting 3 albums worth on Facebook. A few videos too. Hopefully by Tuesday I will re-join the outside world. I'm hoping to join Kerrie at our Tuesday night volleyball game. Strictly as a cheerleader of course! Maybe I can distract and gross out the other team with my scar! haha 2 to 3 more weeks until I can play again! But who's counting ;)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 21

I woke up in the post operation room very confused. Before I opened my eyes, I wondered why my arm hurt. Then I looked around and was confused again. I didn’t remember counting. How could the surgery be done already! I didn’t count! It was such a bizarre feeling. One of the nurses came over and asked me how I was feeling. I told her my arm was hurting so she put some pain medication into my IV. I was so sleepy and I’m not sure if I dozed off again or not. It’s hard to keep track of time when you’re that dopey. It didn’t seem like long before a porter came to take me back to recovery.

I was fighting to stay awake. The porter wheeled me down the hall past the elevator and I saw my Dad. I waved and told the porter that was my Dad. I thought Dad had seen me as he started to follow us down the hall. The porter positioned my bed in the recovery room and I waved at Dad again. As it turns out, Dad didn’t recognize me! Lol He said later that he didn’t recognize me without my glasses. I think it’ll be awhile before he lives that down! I was very happy to see Dad there. He stayed with me for a bit and we chatted. The nurse brought me some water and some ginger ale as I was feeling nauseous. My IV was really hurting so Dad helped me drink some of the water. We chatted about 4x4’ing and family. Dad asked me when Kerrie was coming back to the hospital and I told him that I didn’t know. I had told Kerrie to call the hospital if he hadn’t heard anything after 2 hours. I know the hospital says they’ll call but I also know that doesn’t always happen. Dad asked the nurse if he could use the phone and he called Kerrie.

Dad left and not long after, Kerrie walked in. The nurse brought me some crackers and cheese to see if it would help with my nausea. The IV was still bothering me, so Kerrie helped with the crackers and cheese. I was still super nauseous and the nurse wouldn’t take the IV out until the nausea was under control. It was getting close to the end of this nurse’s shift and she was anxious to get me discharged. But I was too sick to go. After shift change, the atmosphere became much calmer. I was offered some gravol but I didn’t want to be drowsy. The nurse came back with another anti-nausea medication that wasn’t supposed to cause drowsiness. I agreed to this one. The nurse also brought me some jello to try. I was so hungry but the nausea was making it difficult to eat.

The nurse still wasn’t willing to take out the IV until I could prove that I was well enough. I got up to go to the washroom again. I looked in the mirror and I was coated in pink dye. It looked like they had spilled it all over me. It was all over my neck, up to my chin. It was all down my back. My arm, my chest, everywhere! And it was sticky feeling. I called Kerrie over to help me try and clean up a bit. We wet a face cloth and wiped as much of it off as we could. After I came out of the washroom, the nurse agreed to remove the IV. Yahoo!! Great news! I was still feeling terrible, but I wasn’t going to tell her that!

I was discharged just after 8:00 pm. I was given a prescription for pain medication so we stopped at the 24 hour Shoppers Drug Mart to have it filled. The nurse had given me an ice pack to take home as I found that it was really helping with the pain. I asked Kerrie to pick up another (so I’d always have one in the freezer) and some ginger ale too while he was there. After Shoppers, we went through the Tim Horton’s drive through to pick up some soup for dinner. We finally got home around 9:00 pm. It felt good to be home.

I had a bit of a scare that night. When I was getting ready for bed, I noticed the butterfly bandages on the incision under my arm had already come off. They were supposed to stay on for at least a week! Of course, in my overtired overemotional state, I panicked. Thankfully, when I had the initial biopsy, the nurse gave me some extra bandages as she would have had to throw them out. She told me that they were handy to have in a first aid kit. I was grateful to have them at that moment so Kerrie could re-bandage the incision. The new strips have stayed on and I have learned my lesson. No more over using my arm. I’ll be a good girl now.

Yesterday, Karen came and spent the day with me while Kerrie was with his kids. I slept for most of the morning and Karen and I chatted the afternoon away. The day passed quickly. It was a good day. I was sore yesterday, but it wasn’t too bad. Kerrie got back to my place just after 6:00pm and we spent the evening watching DVD’s and eating chinese food.

Today has been a bit rougher. I am quite sore today and very nauseous. I spent the morning in bed again hoping that the nausea would subside. No such luck. They say it takes 3 days for the anaesthetic to completely wear off. Hopefully the nausea will also leave then. I’m sipping on some ginger ale now and hoping my tummy will settle enough to have some dinner. Nothing is very appealing right now though.

It will be 2 weeks until I’ll get any test results. Dr Bobyn is on holidays and so is Dr Baliski. I have an appointment to have my stitches removed (hopefully!) on the 26th and then an appointment with Dr Baliski on the 27th. I hope and pray that my results will be good and I’ll be cancer free. I pray that the lymph nodes are all clean and no further surgeries will be needed. Three surgeries in 2 years with Dr Baliski is enough! It’s very Hollywood to have your own surgeon but I’d prefer my Hollywood style to be limited to only my footwear!

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 20

I was brought back down for my scan at noon. Amanda was the technician who would be doing the scan and I’m sure she was glad to see I was much calmer this time. She got me positioned on the scan bed and explained to me that each picture would take 6 minutes. I would have to lay still with my arms above my head for each 6 minute picture. It wasn’t the most comfortable position but I just kept thinking about how I wouldn’t be lifting my arms above my head again for awhile. I reminded myself that in a few hours I would feel lucky to be able to lift my arms! The first 4 pictures went well and the time actually seemed to pass quickly. Amanda asked me not to move and came over with a marker to mark the spot where the lymph nodes would be removed. There was a small problem though. She was about to mark my right arm! I was confused and half asked and half commented about having surgery on my right arm as well. This stopped Amanda in her tracks as she realized that she’d been scanning the wrong arm! Gah!! Thank goodness I spoke up or else who knows what would have happened! Amanda apologized and told me that we’d have to start the scan all over. That was fine with me as long as the correct arm was marked for surgery! The rest of the scan was uneventful and I was wheeled out of the scan room at about 1:15pm.

The porter brought Kerrie and I back up to 2 West to wait for Dr Baliski and the anaesthesiologist to come in and see me before the surgery. As the clock ticked closer to my 1:45 pm surgery time, a nurse came in to tell me that my surgery would be late. I wasn’t surprised. I expected that it would be late, especially being an afternoon surgery. She told me that the lady before me went into surgery 45 minutes late, so mine would likely be 45 minutes to an hour late. At about 2:30, Dr Baliski came in to talk to me. He checked out my arm, looked at the mark that Amanda had made and tried to reassure me that everything would be okay. Soon after Dr Baliski left, the anaesthesiologist came in. I think her name was Dr Penner, but I honestly don’t remember for sure. She asked me the usual questions about anaesthetic and if I’d ever had any issues with it. She explained to me that I would be brought into the operating room and she would insert the IV for the anaesthetic. I tried fruitlessly to persuade her to put the IV in after I was knocked out. It was how it was done for my gall bladder surgery, but sadly for me, this time I would be awake. However, after those radioactive dye shots, an IV being inserted feels like a tickle!

At about 3:00 pm, I was wheeled into surgery. I said my good byes to Kerrie and gave my glasses to the porter to be put with my street clothes. The porter wheeled me into the operation department and I waited in the hallway until they were ready for me. And I cried. A few surgeons walking down the hall stopped to try and console me and reassure me. I appreciated it, but I was scared. The whole situation is scary. I was scared about the surgery. I was scared about the results. And I was tired. I’m not sure how long I was in the hallway before I was wheeled into my surgery room. I didn’t have my glasses so I couldn’t see the clock. A very nice male nurse came to speak with me and take me into the surgery room. He was a very calming and reassuring nurse. He told me that when we got into the surgery room, I was to announce to the room that they would be operating on my left arm. I was glad to do this especially after the mix up earlier! After all of the half a dozen or so people in the surgery room acknowledged that it was my left arm that would be operated on, I was asked to take off my house coat and booties and was positioned on the operating table. Being strapped to the operating table is always a terrible feeling. The anaesthesiologist came in at that time to administer my IV. She put the laughing gas mask on me to try and help me calm down. She also tried to distract me with stories of her 3 year old. After she was finished with her story about her kid, she asked me if I had kids. I think the gas was kicking in at this point because I gave her an emphatic “hell no!” Oops! Probably not the best way to respond to a woman who just finished bragging about her child and is about to poke you with a needle! I remember the nurse taking the gas mask off of me and then nothing. So weird! Every other surgery I’ve had, I always remember counting backwards. At least the 10 and the 9. But this time, nothing.

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 19

The surgery was on Monday and despite being a very long day, it went well.

My day officially started at 6:30 am Monday morning. I say officially because I was up about every 30 minutes that night. Ironically enough, it wasn’t due to anxiety about the surgery; it was due to anxiety that my alarm wouldn’t go off! I had nothing to worry about. At exactly 6:30 am, I was awoken to the lovely sounds of Mr Homer Simpson singing the Spider Pig song from The Simpsons Movie. ‘Spider Pig, Spider Pig, does whatever a spider pig does. ‘

After my shower, Kerrie arrived to drive me to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital at exactly 8:00 am. Perfect timing! There was a bit of a line up at the admissions desk and when we got to the front of the line, the next two admissions ladies that came available went on coffee break instead! It was very odd! Finally at 8:30, I was checked in.

After the admissions lady presented me with my lovely jewellery for the day (hospital bracelets), I was sent up to 2 West to prep for the surgery. We weren’t in the waiting room long before my name was called. I was taken into the washroom to change into the very flattering hospital gowns and to put on my super stylish booties. Watch out Jimmy Choo!! Lol After I was changed, I washed my arm and armpit with the antiseptic soap and then returned to Kerrie in the waiting room. I hadn’t even put my earrings away in my purse before I was called again for my pre-surgical interview.

Kerrie and I walked into the interview room and were introduced to Edith. The same woman who had called me the week before to fill out my questionnaire! It was neat to put a face to the name. We went over my allergies and a bunch of questions again. After Edith weighed me and measured my height, I was taken into another room to a stretcher. Getting onto the stretcher was tough. Not physically, but emotionally. I had a few tears.

Just before 10:00 am, a porter came to take me down for my radioactive dye shots. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like being wheeled through the hospital on a stretcher to make you feel sick! We arrived in the x-ray department and a technician named Amanda came to wheel me into the procedure room. Amanda asked me a bunch more questions and then explained what was going to happen. I would be injected with radioactive dye which would take a couple hours to circulate through my system. After the dye had had time to circulate, I would be brought back down to x-ray for my next scans. The scan would take about an hour. After Amanda explained the procedure and answered our questions, she paged the doctor to come in and give me my shots. 6 of them. And oh. my. gawd. I have never had such painful needles! They hurt like hell! I fell apart and bawled like a baby. I kept my arm still but man, did I cry. Another not so proud moment. After I was radioactive, I was brought back up to 2 West.
Kerrie was starting to get hungry nauseous so I sent him to get himself some food. Just nothing that would make him smell too yummy! It was going to be a long day and he needed his energy. While Kerrie was gone, I tried to nap a bit. Kerrie came back and he tried to keep me distracted until the porter came back to take me for my scan.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 18

Just a quick update as one handed typing is slow. I'll write a more detailed post soon = ) The surgery is done and every thing went well. It was a super long day but I'm glad it's all done. I'm stiff and sore today, but the pain meds and cold packs are doing their thing. Karen babysat me today until Kerrie got here. I'm being well taken care of = )

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 17

D-day tomorrow. Or maybe that should be S-day? Either way, by this time tomorrow, hopefully I'll be cancer free.

I called the hospital on Friday to get my surgery instructions. The lady I talked to was not the most pleasant, so I'm still in the dark about some of tomorrow's happenings. I do know that I have to be at the hospital at 8:00 am to check in. At 10:00 am, I'm scheduled to get my dye injection. I'm kind of expecting this to be done via IV again, but I'm not sure. At noon I'm suppose to be going in for another scan. I asked if it was another CT scan, but the cranky lady didn't know. The actual surgery is scheduled for 1:45 pm. Being that it's an afternoon surgery, I'm fully prepared for it to be late. The surgery will take about an hour to complete and then I'll be in post op for another hour or so before heading to recovery. If everything goes well, I should be released tomorrow night. Fingers crossed!! I want the IV gone STAT!

Today has been a busy day of prepping for tomorrow and the next little while following the surgery. I did a bunch of errands and got some grocery shopping done. Some healthy food and of course, some mandatory comfort food! Tonight I have a bunch of chores to get done before my arm becomes off limits. Laundry, vacuuming, and organizing. Woo hoo!

I found a mesh beach cover up for after the surgery while I was shopping today. It's long sleeve so it'll hide my gnarly arm but the mesh should keep me cool. If that doesn't work maybe I'll just tell the kiddies at the beach that this is what happens when you don't do your homework! Ha! = p

I've been too busy to really think about things too much, but as the day wears on, I am getting more anxious and scared. I'm looking forward to this being done! I want to heal up and move on! I miss volleyball and I haven't even missed a game yet!! I am also looking forward to a movie marathon in the coming days. Kerrie got me the new Alice In Wonderland (he picked up on my not so subtle hints! hehe Thanks hun!!) and a Monty Python marathon is certainly in order! If laughter is the best medicine, then a dose of the Holy Grail is a must!

Well I'd best get back to some quality time with the vacuum. I won't be able to lift it again for awhile. Hmm, maybe surgery isn't all bad!! ; p

Rest up Mr Cancer; tomorrow I'm coming for you! And I WILL win!! You can count on that!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 16

The Canada Day test run went off perfectly! We were ready for our big outing!

The next morning, we got up and played a game of Tetris with the truck. Trying to get 3 days worth of camping gear in there was a challenge but we made it! We headed into town to pick up any last minute things and meet Mike.

Our destination was Nickle Plate Lake, in the hills between Penticton and Hedley. After a bit of head scratching, cursing the backroads mapbook, and some direction from some dirt bikers, we finally found our home for the next few days. The recreation site was packed with a 4x4 club who were in the area preparing for an event they host on the August Long weekend. They took up the entire main area of the campsite, but we managed to find a spot to stay on the other end.

After camp was set up, we headed out to explore for a bit. Once again, the backroads mapbook got the best of us. There's been a lot of logging in the area lately which has created many trails that aren't on the map. We had hoped to find the trail to the top of Lookout Mountain, but alas we were out of luck. It was still fun to explore though!

We woke up to beautiful sunshine on Day 2 which was most welcome after freezing our buns off the night before! After a yummy bacon breakfast, we headed out. There were a few mine sites marked on the backroads map, and we wanted to see if we could find them. We were in luck! We found one of the old abandoned mines and it was such a cool thing to see!

After thoroughly investigating the mine, we carried on exploring through the hills for awhile before making our way towards Hedley for a gas and marshmallow supply stop.

After our pit stop to the great metropolis of Hedley, we tried to find a second abandoned mine but ended up running out of daylight before we could find it. Oh well, just an excuse to have to go back! = ) We headed back to camp before it got completely dark and relaxed around the campfire.

Day 3 was wet and cold!! After breakfast, we packed up camp and went to explore a bit more before it was time to start heading home. The weather was a complete opposite from the day before. We climbed Mt Riordan, but all we had was a view of fog. The wind was incredible and the cloud was whipping past us. It was quite the experience to see the clouds move so fast. Part way up the mountain we found what is either a new site for a chair lift for Apex Mountain or, more likely, an old site where a chair lift use to be.

The 4x4 excursions were a great success. We saw so many cool and interesting things and had a great time all around. And I learned that I am definitely my father's daughter. Every nook and cranny in the truck was filled with interesting looking rocks when we got back! haha The best part of the trip was that is was a fantastic distraction. My life has been such a whirlwind of appointments and tests that it was nice to be able to get away and escape it all for awhile. This next week will be spent preparing myself mentally and physically for the surgery with hopefully a little fun thrown in. I have my last volleyball game for awhile tomorrow night, and with any luck, the weather will hold out. Thursday is my Dad's birthday and we'll go and see him that night. Friday, I call the hospital for my final instructions and surgery time. This week is going to go fast!!

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 15

T minus 1 week until surgery! Wow, the time sure has passed quickly!

I'm back from a successful weekend of camping and 4x4'ing. This entry isn't so much cancer related, but I talked about this trip in my previous entries, so I thought I'd share how it went! It was so nice to get away for a few days. The weather was all over the place; sun, rain, crazy wind, cold, warm, and snow. Yes, we hit it all! We had a few problems with the truck during the trial outings, but hey, that's what test runs are for!

The first test was a trip up to the Big White Area. My sister, Kari, wanted to go check out some basalt columns that are in the area, so off we went.

We found the collumns in no time, so we decided to explore the area some more. We found some beautiful creeks and waterfalls, some gorgeous views and after A LOT of time and effort, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Boy that place was tough to find!

After Uncle Tom's Cabin, we ran into a water crossing and decided to play a bit. Of course we got stuck. And the truck got wet! My poor sister! Her first taste of 4x4'ing was certainly an exciting one! Between making our way down some crazy angled hills and then having water pour into the truck, yes you could say there was some excitement!

In the creek, we were really stuck! We couldn't go forward or backwards. We hooked up the tow rope, and a few tries later, our friend Craig pulled us out. None of us realized right away, but the truck had gotten a few pounds lighter. The next day, Kerrie and I realized the skid plate was missing!! You were a good skid plate, but now you sleep with the fishes. It did it's job though and took one for the team! Much better that the skid plate get ripped off than the front axle!! I think that a log must have gotten jammed in there and that's why we couldn't move forward or backwards. When Craig pulled us out, the log must have ripped the skid plate right off. Ah, good times and great stories = ) Pulling the carpet out at 12 am when we got home, those memories are priceless! LOL

The next day, we got the still kind of wet carpet back in the truck, put the seats back in and headed towards Enderby for Day 2 of the test run. This day packed it's own excitement as well. During day 1, we noticed the brand new temperature gauge was reading a high temp. Day 2, it was reading worse. We now know that my shiny new temp gauge is faulty, but at that time, we didn't. It meant for a lot of stopping and throwing water on the engine. In hind sight we now know we didn't need to. But better safe than sorry! The big excitement on Day 2 was snapping the alternator bracket. Yes, thank goodness for test runs!! Craig was with us again and had some bailing wire, and the boys managed to mickey mouse the bracket back together enough to last the day. They did a fine job too! That wire concoction held perfectly until Craig was able to manufacture a new bracket for me. Day 2 ended up being a beautiful day with some sun and some snow!!

The snow marked the end of our quest to the top of Mara Mountain, but it was fun to play in it for a bit! And my poor little Toyota with the broken alternator bracket was Queen (King) of the Hill. We made it farther through the snow than Craig in his Tracker or Mike in his FJ! Kerrie was pretty happy.

After Day 2, it was time to regroup and repair in preparation for the big multi-day outing. A new alternator bracket and a bunch of new fluids and parts later, we were ready for the next adventure! Our plan was tweaked a bit when we decided another day trip/test run might be in order. So, we spent Canada Day putting the truck and the new parts to the test!

Mike joined us in his FJ and we headed out into the hills behind Winfield. The plan was to make our way through the hills to Vernon and cross over to Falkland to see a basalt column. That was so cool!! Definitely worth the trek!

This was such an incredible sight to see. I'm not sure the pictures really do it justice. After we marveled in the wonder of Mother Nature, we decided to head off and check out Pinaus Lake, in the hills behind Westwold. I've wanted to go there for years and finally got the chance. And let me say, Pinaus did not disappoint! What a beautiful area! I'd love to go back and camp there some day.

Day light was fading so after checking out the recreation site at Pinaus Lake, we navigated our way through the hills and out onto Westside Road. We made it to Vernon just in time to see their Canada Day fireworks. It was a great day. No better way to celebrate this great country of ours than to go and explore and enjoy all it has to offer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 14

This afternoon I got a phone call from a woman named Edith in the surgery booking department at the hospital. She had received my pre-surgical questionnaire that I filled out at my last appointment with Dr Baliski and needed to go over it with me. We were on the phone for 25 minutes and besides answering a ton of questions, I also got some more insight to what will happen around surgery day.

Some of the preparation for surgery day surprised me. Edith asked me about any medications I'm taking including vitamins and supplements. I take a multi-vitamin and a calcium supplement every day. I have to stop taking them 5 days prior to the surgery. I also take a digestive enzyme with every meal, but those are okay to continue taking. Thank goodness because I feel terrible when I haven't had them! She also went over the usuals with me; no jewelry, no perfumes, no body lotions, no makeup and no nail polishes. The nail polish surprised me. I always wear nail polish on my toenails. I feel naked without it! It never would have occurred to me to remove it. I need to be freshly showered when I arrive at the hospital as well. I think I'll wash my hair and put it into braids to try and keep it as manageable as possible for after the surgery. I'm sure washing my hair will be next to impossible for the first few days. We also went over diet restrictions. No food or water after midnight the night before the surgery. Surgery day is going to be a loooooong day. I do believe an 11 pm snack will be in order!

Edith was also able to give me some insight as to how the surgery day would go. She could see on my file that I'm already booked in for a radioactive dye injection at 10 am, so I assume that I will need to be at the hospital by 9-9:30 am. After the dye injection, I'm booked for another scan. She didn't specify what kind of scan, so I don't know if it'll be a CT scan again or something else. The scan will be at noon and she said it would last 1 hour. I hope that hour includes checking in and prep. I can't imagine the scan itself would take an hour. I still don't know my surgery time, but I do know that there's a note on my file that surgery cannot be before 1:30 pm. The surgery itself will last 1 hour and I'll be in recovery for another 4 hours. I asked Edith if the surgery was in the late afternoon if I would have to be admitted for the night. She was certain that, baring any complications, I would be discharged that evening.

The one bit of a stumbling point I am facing now is after surgery care. Edith told me that I must have an adult with me for the first 24 hours after I'm discharged. Since I live alone, this is a bit of a challenge. Kerrie has his kids, but thankfully his sister and his mom have offered to help. His sister will watch the kids during the day while we're at the hospital. After Kerrie's mom gets off work, she will watch the kids and put them to bed. This will allow Kerrie to stay with me at my house that night. Now I'm just trying to secure a babysitter for myself for the next day. Kerrie will have to be back at his place by 8 am to watch his kids so his mom can go to work. I've called my Dad and Karen and both of them are going to talk to their bosses tomorrow about getting the day off. Fingers crossed one of them can do it because I really don't know what plan B would be. Edith warned me that the bandages would be quite large and cumbersome and that I won't be able to use my left arm for awhile. So my goal over the next 2 weeks is find clothes that will accommodate my limited range of movement in my arm and will fit over the bandages. Time to go shopping in my closet!

We covered a lot of ground in our conversation this afternoon and although it's nice to know a bit more about what's going to happen (and with a bit of advance notice!), it's also overwhelming and scary. When words like radioactive dye are thrown around it certainly makes things more real. It makes it hit home a little harder that I'm not just having surgery; I'm having surgery to remove my cancer. And that's scary! I guess this still all seems a little surreal. Even though I'm living this journey, it still doesn't always feel real. As odd as it sounds, it sometimes feels like this is happening to someone else. I wonder if it ever will completely sink in what has happened. If it'll ever feel like it is happening to me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: Boss Fight Number 2

Today was my appointment with Dr Bobyn that I booked after the blood test results. I had phoned and left a message for him when I had gotten the call booking my CT scan and was hopeful he’d have my results. The hospital had said it would be 3 days before he’d receive the written report but I was hopeful he could tell me something. While I was sitting in the big general waiting area, I heard the receptionist tell someone on the phone that Dr Bobyn was going to be away for 2 weeks and they were booking appointments for July 14th. Now I was even more hopeful they he had the results as I knew that I would not be able to get back in to see him before he was on holidays. My hopes were answered!

Dawn called my name and Kerrie and I were led into one of the exam rooms to wait for Dr Bobyn. Dr Bobyn was running behind so we waited for a while. When it was my turn with the doctor, he came in with a smile and good news. He had a few documents to go over with me. We went straight for the big one right away; the CT scan results. They had come in! He had the fax from the hospital that showed that my scan came back clean with no signs of the cancer having spread. Yahoo!! The scan checked my entire torso; lungs, liver, kidneys, bones. He was very happy about these results and obviously, so was I! Dr Bobyn made me a copy of the written scan report, but honestly, I don’t understand any of it! That’s okay though because this medical-ese translates into one more boss has been defeated and I’m moving on to the final boss! Rawr!!

Dr Bobyn also had the second opinion report with him. I had already heard most of those results from Dr Baliski, but I was nice to go over it with Dr Bobyn too. The second opinion report also found that the mole was in fact melanoma but that my prognosis looked good that it would be all removed with this next surgery. That’s what I like to hear! I’m sure Dr Baliski is a swell guy, but seriously, 3 surgeries in just over 2 years is enough! Random crossing of paths in a restaurant or the movie store would be fine with me! No more surgeries please!!

Dr Bobyn once again told me that although my prognosis is looking better and better with every test, I would still be at high risk for melanoma again. I will need to be monitored for the rest of my days and any new or suspicious moles would have to be removed right away. He told me again about all of the new discoveries and treatments coming out for melanoma and reassured me that although I have to be careful, new science is helping to make the fight against melanoma a powerful one. Every time I see Dr Bobyn, I just know that he cares about me. That in itself is reassuring. It’s good to have such a great doctor in my corner.

So one more boss is down and I have the end boss in my sights! I’m coming for you Mr. Cancer and there’s no stopping me now!! Surgery is scheduled for July 12th and although I’m absolutely terrified, I’m feeling positive that this will be the last. I’m ready to go from cancer fighter to cancer survivor. I’m optimistic that Dr Baliski will remove any remaining cancer cells during this surgery and that the lymph node tests will come back clean. My next appointment with Dr Bobyn will be on July 26th. I’ll go into his office to have my stitches removed and get what will hopefully be the last pathology report from the hospital. This time a good pathology report. The Queen has spoken!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 13

Lucky number 13! Hopefully it brings me some luck in my scan results!

This morning was my CT scan. My information package didn't make it to me in time, so I had no idea what to expect. It took every fibre of my being to keep me away from Dr Google too! I'm conflicted now as to whether or not that was a good idea. I think I'm still leaning towards a good idea. Dr Google can be a dangerous thing!

Kerrie and I got to the hospital at 10:15 this morning and checked in at the x-ray department. I was really surprised at how quickly things moved! I had anticipated a much longer wait. We were only in x-ray check in for 5 or 10 minutes before they called me to the CT scan waiting area. A nurse came out only a few minutes later and called me to change into a hospital gown.

The nurse brought me around the corner to the change room area and handed me my gown and a bag to put my street clothes in. She gave me instructions to change out of my clothes while she went to get me my cup full of water that I needed to drink. She told me after I had the water, she'd get me to sit in the chair and she'd be over in a few minutes. I looked over to the chair she had gestured towards and froze. It was one of 'Those' chairs. I asked her if that chair meant I was getting poked. Her answer instantly began the flow of tears. I was getting an IV. Oh my god, that's the worse kind of needle to someone with a needle phobia like mine! Blood test needles and freezing needles aren't great, but at least they're quick. In and out. IV's stay in. Gah!!

The tears came on quick and there were lots of them. I can't believe how fast they started falling down my cheek. I am such a baby when it comes to needles. I hate it. Logically, I know there's nothing to be scared of; it's completely mental for me. I'm not scared of the pain; they don't really hurt. I don't know what it is. I wish I did. My breathing was quick too and I think I must have gotten pale because the nurse was making me sit down in a hurry. I was fortunate to have the nurse I did. She was very kind and considerate. I sat in the change room and drank my water while the nurse went to speak with the scan technicians. She was so sympathetic to my fear that she wanted to ask the technicians if it was necessary for me to even have the IV. That was so sweet of her. = ) Unfortunately for me, the technicians confirmed that it was necessary for the IV to be in place for the scan.

I got changed and went and took my seat in The Chair. The nurse went to find Kerrie for me to have him come sit with me. Poor Kerrie, he had no idea what he was walking in to! He came in from the waiting room and I was sitting in The Chair blubbering and shaking. So much for trying to hide my irrational fear from him! Kerrie sat with me while the nurse put warm blankets around me and my arms. She had given me another glass of water that I thought I was suppose to drink then. I was suppose to wait and drink that right before going in for the scan. Oops. I had already drank half of it. But it did help calm me down a bit. The nurse was very nice and just took her time. She didn't rush me at all. She offered to get me some Ativan to help calm me, but I wanted to do this drug free. I really don't like taking things, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. She left me to try and calm while she tended to a couple other patients.

Waiting for the IV was certainly another low moment for me. I hate that I'm so scared! I always feel so stupid while I'm sitting there crying and shaking away. I don't know if it was better that I didn't know what was coming, or if it would have been better to have known before hand. From what a few people had said to me, I had prepared myself for the possibility that I'd be getting a needle. I had no idea it would be an IV. Sitting there in utter panic about this IV, I broke down again. The whole situation all became very overwhelming again. The reality that I have cancer hit hard and I broke down. If only you could quit cancer!! The nurse came back and offered me some Ativan again. Again I declined as I was determined to do this drug free. She also told me that I didn't have to do this at all, but I knew that meant that the scan wouldn't be done either. That wasn't an option. As much as I hate needles, not knowing if the cancer has spread is worse. I had to do this. So the nurse got her equipment ready and I picked a spot and stared. It's never that bad to get these needles which makes me all the more mad at myself after it's done! She was very good with me. I've also never had an IV line put into my arm. I've only ever had them in my hand. I must say, the arm is better!! You don't feel it nearly as much as the hand. After she was done, she wrapped my arm in a blanket so I couldn't see it. I appreciated that. She had me stay seated in the chair for awhile while I calmed down. When she came to check on me again later, she said my colour was much better. I must get pale when I get needles. I'll have to ask Kerrie.

Once the nurse felt I looked okay to stand, Kerrie and I were taken to some chairs outside of the scan room. Again, we didn't have to wait long before my name was called. We were both taken into the scan room. Kerrie was escorted through to the other side to another waiting room. I finished the last of my water and laid on the scan bed. The scanner was nothing like I thought! I was expecting a long tube, like what MRI's are done in. This was just a small doughnut shaped thing. The technician helped me get situated on the bed and in position. I had to lay with my arms above my head and would be prompted on what to do with my breathing. The nurse had given the technicians a heads up about my needle fear, so they were great about that too. The technician gave me a warning when she was going to unwrap my arm and hook me up to the IV tube. I just kept my eyes closed.

Soon we were ready to get started. The machine started doing it's thing, moving me back and forth through the doughnut. The nurse and the technician both warned me that when the IV fluid was turned on, I could feel a warm sensation and possibly have a taste in my mouth or a smell. They also warned me that some people feel as though they've wet themselves. That made me giggle. = p The technician gave me the 5 second warning that the fluid would be entering. At first I felt nothing. Then I felt the warm feeling. It wasn't what I expected. I'm not sure how exactly to explain it. It was odd, but nothing bad. I didn't get the smell side effect or the sensation that I wet myself, but I got the taste one. It tasted like I was sucking on a penny or something. But even that wasn't all that strong. The warm feeling passed quickly. The taste lingered for awhile.

I kept my eyes closed the entire time and just listened to the breathing prompts. The technician told me that I was almost done, that it'd only be another minute or so. That was fine, the worst part was over! This was a piece of cake! Just as I was going in for my final scan I felt a wet splatter on my face and arm. I told them something just sprayed me, but they didn't hear me. When the machine stopped, a different technician came in to unhook me. I still had my eyes closed at this point so I didn't know what had happened. It turned out the IV tube snapped and it sprayed the fluid stuff all over the place! After he took the IV needle out and I opened my eyes, I saw just how much of a mess there was. That stuff was everywhere!! It was all over the machine, the floor, the bed thing, me. I asked the technician if that would mess up my results at all. I really didn't want to have to do this again! He told me that I had gotten enough of the fluid into me and that it shouldn't be a problem. It was just a mess. The technician got a warm cloth and helped clean me off. The fluid was super sticky. The cleaning crew won't be happy to see that mess!

The first technician came back in at that point and helped me sit up. She had me sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before she'd let me stand. I was still a bit light headed but I kind of fibbed when she asked me. I knew I was okay to stand and I just wanted to get out of there! I wasn't allowed to eat and I was hungry! I wanted to go get some food! So she gave me the green light to stand up and took me to where Kerrie was waiting and where another set of change rooms were. I changed back into my clothes and we were out of there! The whole process took less than an hour! I was shocked!! It would have been even less without my freak out. = p

Dr Bobyn and Dr Baliski both have access to the scan pictures now, but the written report won't be available for a few days. I have an appointment with Dr Bobyn for Thursday but I think I might have to make another appointment for my results. I'm hoping Dr Bobyn will be able to look at the scan pictures and tell me a bit, but I'm sure I'll have to wait for the written report to get my full results. Fingers crossed for some news on Thursday!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 12

We have a date! I got a call this morning from the hospital's booking department. The lady introduced herself as Tammy and told me that she was calling in regards to Dr Baliski's request for surgery and asked me if July 12th would work for me. I told her that was fine and asked if this was for the CT scan. Nope, this was for the surgery! Tammy seemed shocked that I hadn't had the CT scan done yet and told me that that had to be done before she could book the surgery. She told me that she would phone the CT department and "gently prod" them to see what was going on. I thanked her and she promised to call me back.

Want to get something done at the hospital? Get another hospital staffer on it!! haha Not even 2 minutes later Tammy called me back. I've been waiting weeks for news on the CT scan appointment. Dr Bobyn and Dr Baliski have both contacted the hospital to see what the hold up was and got nothing. Tammy got me an appointment in 2 minutes!! Tammy told me that she had spoken to the CT department and they could get me in on Tuesday, June 22nd at 10:40 am! She said that I should be getting an information package in the mail, hopefully before my Tuesday appointment, that would outline the CT scan procedure what I needed to do before the appointment. She told me that the CT department had me booked in for July 9th, but that appointment would not work for when she wanted to book my surgery so she had them bump me up. Go Tammy!!

Tammy's persuasion with the CT scan people means I also have my surgery date scheduled. I will go in for the lymph node biopsy and the surgery to remove more skin and tissue from my arm on July 12th. I am to call the hospital on July 9th to get my surgery time and pre-surgical instructions. The surgery will be done under general anesthetic (completely knocked out), but it is suppose to be a day surgery, so I should be going home that night. I will need some help when I get home as I'm not allowed to lift anything with that arm. I also suspect that I'll be hurting quite a bit considering the amount of skin and tissue being removed from my arm and then another incision in my arm pit as well.

So thanks to Tammy, I'm no longer twisting in the wind! I have my dates booked! The other good news is that now I know I can go on my 4x4 trip! Woo hoo!! I'm hoping to have the last few things on the truck done in the next few days and then a mini-trek next weekend to test it all out before the big multi-day trip on the July long weekend!

In another twist of good fate, I already have a doctor's appointment scheduled with Dr Bobyn for Thursday. I called and left a message for both Dr Baliski and Dr Bobyn with my scan date, so I'm hoping that when I go to see Dr Bobyn on Thursday, we can go over the scan results right away! Things are falling into place!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 11

My phone rang this morning with an unknown number. At first I thought it was finally the call about the CT scan. Nope, still waiting for that. However, this call may have been better! It was Dr Baliski calling to tell me some good news. He started off by telling me that I still have melanoma but then there was a beautiful but! He had called to tell me that he had some great news about the spots in the biopsy that they thought was the cancer spreading. They now believe that those spots are not additional spots, but part of the original mole that was spreading. Yahoo!!

Dr Baliski explained that the course of action would remain the same; I will still go for a CT scan and still require another surgery and lymph nodes biopsy. However, my odds that the cancer has not spread have just gone up significantly! Now THAT’S a great way to start a Thursday! I believe that this is what the mystery second opinion was about as well! I will confirm that that’s where this new information came from the next time I talk to him. I’m not 100% out of the spreading cancer woods yet, but my prognosis just got a whole lot better! World 11 and surprise mini-boss down! Now let’s hope that the CT scan call comes in soon too and we can keep the good news coming!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 10

This morning I had an appointment with my surgeon, Dr Baliski. The appointment went fairly well and I did get some more information. The biggest thing right now is waiting for the CT scan. Everything else is on hold until that appointment happens. When Dr Baliski called me into the exam room, the first thing he asked about was if I’d had the CT scan done yet. I told him that I had not nor had I heard anything about it. He left Kerrie and I in the exam room and made a phone call in his office. I could only hear bits of it, but I’m pretty sure he was phoning to find out what the holdup is. When he came back into the exam room, he checked my arm and armpit again and then went over the biopsy results with me again.

The good news is that the melanoma is not deep. The not so good news is that the pathology report showed signs of spreading. The lab found additional spots away from the main mole. Dr Baliski then explained what would happen at the next surgery. He’ll go in and take a large sample of skin and tissue from my arm. I asked what to expect for a scar, and the scar will run about the length of my upper arm. It’s going to be a biggie. The sample he’ll take will go right down to the muscle and he warned me that there could be some nerve damage that could result in some loss of feeling in the arm. I’ll be restricted from doing any heavy lifting for the first 2 weeks and no volleyball for at least 3 weeks. I guess I’ll be the team cheerleader for the first half of the season. He also told me that I’d be injected with some radioactive dye (I think he said dye?) that would travel to my lymph nodes. That would determine how many of them would need to be removed. He told us that generally it’s 3 lymph nodes that are removed; however he is not the one who decides that number. He also showed me where the incision in my armpit would be. The skin, tissue and lymph nodes will all be sent for testing and with any luck, they’ll come back clean. I asked Dr Baliski what would happen should the next skin and tissue samples also show additional spots and the answer I got was a bit scary. He told me that at that point, we would just watch them. Yikes! I pray that there’s no additional spots found and I will be done with this journey!

Kerrie came into the exam room with me and I’m glad he did. He had some questions that I had not thought of. He asked Dr Baliski what exactly the CT scan would test. I knew the scan was to look for spreading, but had not thought to ask which organs they would be checking. Dr Baliski told us that the scan was to check my kidneys, liver and lungs. After my blood test results, I am fairly confident that my kidneys and liver are okay. It’s hard not to be aware of every cough lately, so it’ll be nice to know that everything there is okay. Dr Baliski is hopeful that I’ll get the call and potentially be in for the CT scan this week. He is quite confident that the cancer has not spread further than my arm, but needs these results before my surgery can be booked. Once I get the call and appointment, I’m to call Dr Baliski’s office right away to let them know. Dr Baliski can access the results of the scan within hours of the test; however he needs to know when to look. Once I get the appointment date, I’ll call and book a results appointment with Dr Bobyn as well.

We also talked about the second opinion referral that was made by the hospital lab. I’m still in the dark about that, but I now know I’m not alone! Dr Baliski also did not know why my results had been forwarded to this doctor in Victoria. He felt very strongly that there was no question that this was melanoma and is confused as to why the results would have been forwarded. The report from the doctor in Victoria still has not come back, but I hope that it will soon. I think we’d all like to know what’s going on there!

So overall, the appointment went well. Some good news, some scary news and a bit more information. I am not at all looking forward to this surgery. It will be done under general anaesthesia which also scares me a bit. My last big surgery certainly didn’t go as planned, so it’s scary going into this one. I asked Dr Baliski when he thought this surgery would happen, and he feels it will be after the July long weekend now. That would be great! We’ve been working on my truck since the end of last summer and planning a 4x4 trip for the July long weekend for months now. I would be super upset if I had to miss it!! Plus it gives me something to look forward to. I like distractions. Good distractions. Anything to keep me from thinking about the surgery!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What To Look For In A Mole

As part of secret-coming-out day, I posted my story and this link on Weddingbells. I truly do credit Sarah's story as the push to get this mole looked at and felt strongly that I needed to share my story with that community. One of the girls on the site posted a very kind reply and also posted a guidelines of sorts of what to look for in a suspicious mole. I thought it was very helpful and wanted to post it here too. Here is a copy and paste of that part of her post (Thanks Diva if you're reading!).

For those wondering about their own moles, the basic ABCDE warning signs to determine whether a mole is a melanoma are as follows (American Academy of Dermatology, 2009):

A. Asymmetry: one half unlike the other half
B. Border Irregularity: irregular, scalloped, poorly defined
C. Color: varied from one area to another, shades of tan and brown, black; Sometimes white, red or blue
D. Diameter: greater than 6mm, but can be smaller
E. Evolving: looks different from the rest or changing in size, shape, color

In addition, there are other features of melanoma such as surface changes (bleeding, oozing, scaliness) or signs of itchiness, pain, or tenderness.

When I first went in to have my mole checked a few years ago, it fell into only a couple of these categories. By the time I had it removed, it hit into all of these categories. This is a wonderful reference guide for those now questioning their own moles, but I would like to say, any mole that gives you cause for concern should be checked out. Even if it doesn't fit all of these categories. Early detection is key and it is always better to be safe than sorry! If you aren't 100 percent happy with the response you've been given, get a second opinion. Your health is worth it!

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 9

My Dad and Karen got home last night safe and sound. I picked up some stuff to make burgers and a couple salads while Kerrie picked them up from the airport and then we all met at the house. Dad and Karen were so excited about their trip and had many stories to share. It was great to hear they had such an amazing time! Kerrie and Kari helped me make dinner which I very much appreciated. While I was outside putting the burgers on the barbeque, Kari came out to see how I was holding up. I am so grateful for my Kerrie/Kari support system. They have both been so great. While we were all building our burgers, Dad asked me what was new. I decided this was my window to tell him we needed to talk after dinner. He asked if it was good or bad and I just said we'd talk after dinner.

After dinner, Dad went out to open up the motorhome for Auntie Joan and Uncle Bev to stay in. Kerrie went out to move my car and then called me outside. So out on the front lawn, I told my Dad I have cancer. My stomach was in a knot. I think the news took Dad by surprise. I showed him the scar on my arm from the biopsy and read him some of the results. I'm sure once the news sinks in a bit more (and Dad has recovered from the jet lag a bit more!) there'll be some more questions.

After we left Dad's house, I broke down. It was a bad night last night. Kerrie bought me the second season of True Blood on dvd and I had wanted to watch the season finale again before tonight's premiere. So we went to his place and watched that. That was a good distraction. But pretty much as soon as it was over, it all started to hit me again. I don't know if finally telling my secret made this all the more real or what, but it all suddenly became very overwhelming. Maybe I had been bottling things up in an effort to hide it and the cork finally came off. I don't know. I just know, last night was not one of my prouder moments. I bawled. It was like the last few years of my life caught up with me all at once. I feel like I've been hammered. I feel like it's been non-stop hurdles for the last few years and I desperately need a chance to catch my breath. And I'm scared. I hate that I have to have another surgery. I'm tired and I don't want to do it. I know that I have to, but right now, the tank is on empty. I think the news that I have cancer is finally just hitting me.

I am feeling a bit better today. The nice weather helps too. My frenemy, Mr Sun, is finally out!! Today my secret comes out and that's a little nerve racking. I've been letting aunts and uncles know and soon, I'll come out on facebook. The ultimate news revealing source =p I questioned whether or not to make this entry. It's hard to be open about my breakdown, but I also wanted this blog to be an honest journey through Cancerland. Last night was a bad night, but maybe I needed to have that. Today is a better day. I will get through this. I have to. There is no other option!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Mike Tyson Centre for Biopsy

It's been just over 3 weeks since the biopsy/removal and I still look like I was bitten!! Seriously, did I somehow wander into the Mike Tyson Biopsy Centre?! Oy! I'm a little scared to see what my arm will look like after the next surgery. Dr Bobyn warned me that it'll be big. Perhaps an elephant will take a nibble this time! ; )

Tomorrow evening my Dad and Karen come home. I'm getting anxious nervous for them to be home. I'm nervous to tell them but I've definitely reached the point where I'm ready for this to all be out in the open. Dad and Karen don't even know that I had the mole removed, so unfortunately this will be a lot of information all at once for them. Kerrie is picking them up from the airport tomorrow evening and I'll either go with him or meet them at that the house. I'm sure they'll be very jet lagged after spending a month away, but the selfish person in me hopes to be able to tell them tomorrow. Keeping this secret has been hard and exhausting! If not tomorrow, Sunday for sure. It'll be a long next couple days.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: Boss Fight Number 1

This morning I had my blood test results appointment with Dr Bobyn. Can I just say that my doctor is awesome? I feel so lucky to have a doctor like him!

I went to my appointment this morning not knowing what to expect. I had no idea what the blood tests were for and was doubting whether I should have even made an appointment. But I was following doctors orders to come in after every test to discuss results, so there I was! When I got called into the small room, Dawn, Dr Bobyn's nurse was very kind and asked me how I was feeling. Overall, I've been feeling okay. I have my moments when the reality of the situation hits and I get scared, but I've been trying to focus on one day at a time and one appointment at a time. Any more than that and I start to feel overwhelmed and anxious.

I didn't have to wait in the small room for long before Dr Bobyn came in. He quickly checked the biopsy scar on my arm and then pulled up a chair to go over the results. Dr Bobyn explained to me that these tests were to check for complications and effects that can be associated with my cancer. The first was checking my creatinine. It tested my kidney function and passed with a solid 76. Next, eGFR. This also tests kidney function and also passed with a solid 78 (anything above 60 is what we wanted to see here!). LDH was next on the list. This one is to test liver function and I passed it with 229. My sodium and potassium levels were also good which means my electrolytes are doing just fine. Next up, hemoglobin. In this test they were checking to see if I was anemic. Passed again! My white blood cells count was good which ruled out leukemia (whew!!) and my platelet count was also good. No worry of clotting issues. Dr Bobyn was very happy with my results and after they were explained to me in simple English, so was I! He wrote some notes for me on the lab report and told me he'd make me a copy to keep as well. Boss number 1; defeated! /flex

I told Dr Bobyn that Kim, Dr Baliski's receptionist, had called to book me an appointment to see Dr Baliski in his office on Monday. Dr Bobyn asked if I had heard about a CT scan appointment yet and I told him no. This was not acceptable I guess and Dr Bobyn wrote a note for me to take to Dr Baliski on Monday. He said that he wanted Dr Baliski to phone him Monday after I'd seen him so that they could discuss my treatment. Have I mentioned I have the best doctor? Dr Bobyn told me I was far too young to be this sick and he wanted to make sure that I was a top priority, not falling through the cracks. It feels great to know there's someone in your corner fighting this hard for you! We talked a little bit more about the CT scan and my upcoming surgery and Dr Bobyn told me about some new findings and a new drug that has just been released for melanoma cancer patients. He told me that there was an article in the newspaper the other day about it and told me about a case where a man who's melanoma had spread to many spots on his body received this new treatment and the melanoma spots that were all over his body were gone. That's the for dummies version of course. There were more fancy words in Dr Bobyn's version. hehe Dr Bobyn assured me that even if this cancer has spread, there's new options coming out everyday, especially for this form of cancer. Before leaving the room, he made me promise to make an appointment for 2 weeks from now to come in and see him again. By then he will have discussed my case with Dr Baliski some more and have even more information for me. Dr Bobyn smiled and told me I was a special case and he wanted to see me often. Even sooner if I got in for more testing before then.

So the first boss has been defeated and now I'm making my way towards the next one! My next appointment is on Monday morning with Dr Baliski. I think this will be the pre-surgical appointment, but I'm not certain. Right now I'm being a good little patient and doing and going where I'm told! ; )

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 8

Needles, CT scans and appointments; Oh my!

Last Wednesday, after my appointment with Dr Bobyn, I got a call from Kim, Dr Baliski's receptionist. She called to book me an appointment to get a blood test and give me a bit more information. I was to go in and get my blood work done asap and once the results were back, she would send the request in for the CT scan. The hospital would them book the scan and call me with the appointment time. The next morning I had to drive my sister to some appointments so I requested that the blood work be done at the lab on KLO. Kari's first appointment was in that area at 8:15 am and would take at least a half hour. So the next morning, I dropped Kari off and headed over to get stuck. The girl that I had was great. When they first called my name, I was brought to a cubicle kind of area with 2 chairs. At this point my usual case of the shakes began. The taker of the blood noticed me shaking and asked if I needed to lie down. I declined. I just wanted to get it done! While she got everything prepared, another lady was brought in and seated in the chair across from me. No, no, this was not good. In order to keep myself even remotely sane during a needle, I need to pick a spot, stare and focus on breathing. Needles to the left of me; needles to the right of me; lady getting poked in front of me; nope, this won't work at all! Thankfully the girl was really good about it and wasn't bothered at all when I requested a more private space. The private area with the bed was available and soon it was all over. She told me it would be 2 business days until my doctors got my results, so I called Dr Bobyn's office right away to make an appointment. The soonest appointment I could get is for Thursday (June 10th), so I'll know what the blood work was for and the results then. Hurry up and wait. This is certainly a lesson in patience!

Saturday was another long and busy day. It was the day I started telling family. Allan had agreed to come up to help me tell Mom. I was pretty sure she wouldn't take the news all that well and I didn't know if I could handle her reaction. Waiting for Allan to arrive was nerve racking. My stomach was one giant knot. Allan arrived at about 2:00 pm and I headed upstairs. We sat down and Allan asked if I wanted him to say it. I said I would do it. "Mom, I got the test results back and it's cancer." Her reaction surprised me. There was some misdirected anger towards a caregiver that has been giving us problems and then not much of a reaction at all. I told her and Allan what the course of action would be and explained the different types of skin cancer and which one I had. I started to feel silly for having Allan come over. Mom was dealing just fine. Or so I thought. Sigh, yes, my great plan backfired. Allan was barely down the street when the tears started. She didn't want to worry Allan. Oy, he had been there to help! I spent the next couple hours sitting with Mom, trying to calm her.

After Kerrie got off work, it was time for Round 2. We had made plans to have dinner with my sister, Kari and I had convinced my brother, Bryan to come by for a bit. I told him that I had something important to tell him that I didn't want to say through text message. We got to my dad's house and I made dinner while Kerrie mowed the lawn. Once Bryan got there, I asked Kerrie to come in and we all sat in the living room so I could tell them. Kerrie focused on my sister and I stared at Bryan. I looked at my sister once and felt the tears coming. I didn't want to cry, so I focused on Bryan. Bryan had been sitting casually, but as soon as the words "I have cancer" came out of my mouth, he sat straight up and looked protective. Kerrie told me my sister's eyes got wide and her jaw dropped a bit. She was definitely shocked. I explained what type of skin cancer I had and answered Bryan's questions. Kari didn't say much. She had had a rough day already so I'm sure this news was a bit overwhelming. We sat and talked for a bit until dusk started closing in. Kerrie went out to finish mowing the lawn and I finished making the garlic bread. Bryan ended up staying for dinner. The turkey breasts that I had on the barbeque were a little dry by this point but it was nice to all have dinner together.

When Kerrie and I got back to my place that night, I was exhausted. I didn't realize how mentally draining the day was going to be. Dad and Karen will be home on Saturday. I will tell them this weekend and then a couple of aunts and uncles. And then this secret I've been carrying around will finally be in the open! I look forward to that. This secret business and watching what I say is tiring!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 7

The next morning, I was at Dr Bobyn’s office at 7:45 am armed with a list of questions. When Dr Bobyn came in, he went over the report from the hospital with me. My tests came back with a diagnosis of Superficial Spreading Malignant Melanoma. Now there’s a mouthful!! There are 4 kinds of melanoma. I have the second best. This form of melanoma has a good prognosis. Dr Bobyn explained to me what the course of action would be and what to expect. First, I’d need more blood work and a CT scan. Dr Baliski had told me to expect these tests. Dr Bobyn explained to me that the CT scan would check to see if the cancer had spread and how far. He also explained what would happen during the next surgery. Dr Baliski would be removing more skin and tissue from my arm as well as going in through my left armpit to remove some lymph nodes for additional testing. If all of these tests came back clean, I shouldn’t require any more surgeries. Dr Bobyn also told me that I’d also need to have yearly check up for the rest of my life to monitor me and ensure that the cancer did not return. Any suspicious moles would be removed immediately. My head was spinning again so Dr Bobyn made me a copy of the hospital report as well as a photocopy of some info on skin cancer from one of his medical journals. He gave me a hug, told me that he and Dawn would be thinking of me and made me promise to come in after each test and we’d go over each and every one of them. I feel lucky to have such a caring doctor.

So that’s my story. I have cancer. You may be wondering about my post titles (if you’ve made it this far!!). I’m not sure if it’s because it still hasn’t sunk in or if it’s because I’m a little weird but in my head this journey looks a bit like a videogame. (Yes, I’m straight up nerd!) I feel like I’m making my way through cancerland clearing obstacles and passing tests. And the big bad boss that I’m working towards defeating, it looks a little like a Dr Mario gremlin. But where Mario was sensible in plumber shoes, I’m defeating this villain in heels!

Queen Awesome's Adventures in Cancerland: World 6

I was still trying to hold on to a shred of hope that everything was okay. I was trying to tell myself that the results had been forwarded because they were borderline and they wanted a second opinion that it was okay. Deep down I knew, but I was still trying to hope. That last glimmer of hope was about to shatter. That afternoon my phone rang. It was Dawn at Dr Bobyn’s office. My test results had been faxed and Dr Bobyn needed to see me right away. We agreed that Dr Bobyn would squeeze me in the next morning at 7:50 am. I felt like I was going to throw up.

I texted Crystal that I knew something was wrong. I told her about the call from my doctor’s nurse and my appointment the next morning. Kerrie’s son was with us which was motivation to keep myself together. Tuesday nights are also our volleyball night and I was hoping the game would keep me distracted. We were dropping Kerrie’s son off in town with his mom and picking up his daughter at the same time, so we packed up his son’s stuff, the volleyball stuff and put together some beach toys for his daughter to play with during the game. Just as we were pulling into town, my phone rang again. This time it was Dr Baliski.

It was just after 4:30 pm when Dr Baliski called with my results. He told me he had my results and he was sorry to tell me that it is melanoma. I couldn’t hold it back, I just started to bawl. The rest of the conversation is a bit foggy. I remember him saying that I needed more testing and that he’d be doing another surgery in 2 to 3 weeks. I remember asking him if I was going to need chemo. I also remember at that point Kerrie grabbing my hand. He asked me if I had any questions and I told him not yet. He said that I would and to write them down. His office would be calling me to set up appointment times for the testing that needed to be done and that he wanted to see me again before the surgery in his office. I hung up and Kerrie asked what it was. I knew his son was listening so I just said “what we hoped it wasn’t.”

We pulled into the Lordco parking lot and just sat there for a minute. Kerrie asked if he could text his mom and sister. I told him he could. After a few minutes, Kerrie and his son went into Lordco to pick up a part for my truck while I tried to compose myself. I texted Crystal “I have cancer.” It felt so bizarre typing those words. It didn’t feel like it was me typing. By the time Kerrie came back out, I was in a sense of shock I think. We were both shaken though and Kerrie decided to cancel the game that night. He called the other team and texted the rest of our team to let them know the game was off. I texted Crystal back. Kerrie’s son was starting to get antsy in the back seat. I can’t remember how long we were even in the Lordco parking lot. Kerrie tried texting his ex to see if we could move up the pick up and drop off time and we headed to the mall.

We got to the mall and waited for Kerrie’s ex and his daughter to show up. As the news sank in, I began to worry about how I would tell my mom. I was scared about what this news would do to her health. I told Kerrie I was going to phone my brother, Allan and got out of the truck. I walked the painted white line back and forth as I filled Allan in on the last couple weeks. I asked for his help with Mom and he offered to come down that Saturday to help me tell Mom. It was going to be hard to keep the secret from her for that many days, but I was grateful that Allan was coming to help. I got back in the truck and told Kerrie the plan.