Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Cancer Anxiety

It is not often that I have these anxious moments but sometimes they just hit me suddenly. This morning I am full of anxiety and I can't seem to talk myself out of it. Maybe it is my upcoming trip that is adding to an underlying anxiety and has pushed my anxiety level to where I can't ignore it. But my thoughts are full of "what ifs" and causing my stomach to be churning and aching. I know that feeling anxious is a "normal" reaction for cancer patients after they have gone through treatment. Perhaps this is because we are so occupied with going through the treatment and taking it one step at a time that we bury the anxiety. Now that the treatment is finished, the anxiety can come to the surface.

I know I am anxious about the upcoming flight to Scotland. I look different to my passport photo because my hair is just starting to reappear after having lost it. Six years ago, we flew into LAX (the Los Angeles Airport) and the customs officer gave me a hard time about my picture looking different. Again, I was travelling with my hair just coming in. What if the customs officer in Glasgow gives me a hard time? What if they don't accept my passport and allow me into the country?!

This anxiety about the trip has transformed into anxiety about my cancer. What if the lymphoma is still here? What if the tumours start to grow again? What if this is the last time I get to see Scotland and our family there? I know I'm worrying myself into a sickened state this morning. I'm now feeling tired and like I mentioned earlier in this post, my stomach is churning.

I'm also feeling disappointed with myself because I'm letting this anxiety take away the excitement of the trip. I am normally strong and able to get past any anxious times in the past. I'm struggling to smile this morning and feel happy.

I'm posting this because it does help to "verbalize" what I'm feeling and maybe this will let other cancer patients know that it is normal to have full blown anxious moments. My hope is that I will get past these feelings this morning and start to enjoy looking forward to my visit to Scotland and family. Throughout the last 8 months, I've been telling myself, "I will not let cancer steal one more day than it needs to." I need to remind myself of this. I need to constantly tell myself this in these anxious moments. I need to remember to live life to the fullest while I can. In my mind, I have the picture of a closet door with the sign "What Ifs". In the past, I've also opened that imaginary door and thrown the "what ifs" into the closet and slammed the door shut. It is a pretty full closet but for today I will cram the above "what ifs" into the closet and push the door shut with my body in order to close it.

Perhaps it is also time for me to meditate and pray for peace of mind. I'll be spending the rest of the day trying to calm myself down. Breathe deeply, imagine my favourite calm places and pray. I want to be calm and peaceful. I want to enjoy my trip.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

100 Day Post Stem Cell Transplant Check Up

My stamina is increasing slowly. I can now string together four busy days although I am still asleep by 9 p.m. when I used to have a bedtime of 10 or 10:30 p.m. I can now shovel the full driveway in one outing rather than in a few attempts. I am able to do all the grocery shopping on my own although I am very tired by the end of it. I'm starting to be able to clean the house but again, it is done in stages as I tire quickly. I am enjoying spending time with hubby's cousin and when we get together, we often go for a brisk walk. They have started to get longer as I get stronger.

On Thursday I had my 100 day post stem cell transplant check up at the Stem Cell Unit. My weight is good. My vital signs are good. As expected after last week's check up, my blood levels are normal. I was told on Thursday that I have no more diet restrictions. Little things in life please me. I am so happy that I can again eat eggs over easy with runny yolks. I can now eat beef that is not well done. I also do not have to visit the Stem Cell Unit again. They are so pleased with my progress and no longer need to see me.

After last week's check up and this week's check up, I can now look forward to a trip to Scotland to visit my hubby's aunt and uncle to join in a milestone birthday celebration with hubby's uncle. I love Scotland and if I was very wealthy, I would have a second home there. I'm excited to visit Scotland again. I love going into Edinburgh and walking The Royal Mile. A visit to The Royal Whisky is always on the agenda whenever we go. When you walk into the store, it is wall to wall Scotch bottles and selections. When in Edinburgh, we definitely will visit it and pick up a bottle of scotch that we can't get in Canada. There are always numerous pubs that are always a nice place to rest as The Royal Mile is a long steep climb. But most importantly about visiting Scotland is spending time with our aunt and uncle. So the planning is happening and a trip is in the near future.

Hubby and I have been discussing our upcoming trip and realize that we will have to build in rest days for me. Part of me wants to just go for it and do a lot while there. I can always rest on the return home. However, I also know that when I get overtired, I start to feel ill. So rest days will have to be planned on and most activities will be based on how I feel each day.

Each and every day, I must still listen to my body and be patient with myself. Patience is not one of my strong points. I want to get up and go. I want my energy back. But as my oncologist pointed out last week, I still have another 3 months of progress before I will be at my "new normal". In other words, I may not get all my energy back. In the meantime, I will continue to try to do what I can. I want to get back into geocaching. I want to be able to walk many kilometres in one outing. I'm not there yet but hopefully will be within the next few months. For today, I'm feeling very tired both mentally and physically. This is probably because I've had three full days of activities. Again, I must be patient with myself. Sigh........

Thursday, 1 February 2018

3 Month Check Up and Worry

Oh what we do to ourselves by worrying! What a useless waste of energy! I know this and I still worried yesterday. While waiting in the waiting room, I was full of nervous energy. Either my fingers or hands or legs were tapping unendingly. I just could not settle as I awaited my appointment and the results of the January CT scan and yesterday's blood work.

Finally I saw my doctor. He was full of smiles and good news. He's very pleased with the CT scan. Although the 3 lymph nodes are still slightly enlarged he was encouraging. The enlarged lymph nodes could just be scar tissue or there could be lymphoma still there. He can't say for sure. So we take a wait and see approach. However, my blood work is all in the normal range. After asking me about my energy and activity levels, he again was full of smiles and reassurance. He's very pleased with where I'm at. When I mentioned that I get impatient with myself and unhappy with what I can't do, he smiled and said that I have to realize that I'm still in recovery mode and that I need to realize that it will take another 3 months of progress before I level off to the "new normal". I mentioned to him that I do not accept the status quo and that each day or week I want to do more. I want to be stronger. I want to be active longer and have less rest days. I want to get back to the energy I had before this last bout of lymphoma. I get impatient when I have to rest a full day or two after brisk activity. My hubby was smirking as he is the one to witness my attempts to push the limits. My doctor's response was that my determination and positive attitude will make the difference to how well I recover and may help keep the lymphoma in remission longer.

Overall, he is very pleased with me and it was reassuring to me to see him smile at the appointment. As I left the appointment, I had a smile on my face that I couldn't erase. I felt like a load was lifted off my shoulders. I felt happy and relieved. So onwards and upwards I continue to go. It snowed yesterday so today after I meet with some friends to do some singing, I will come home and shovel the driveway. It's is heavier snow so I'll see whether I can shovel the full driveway before having to rest. I have all afternoon to work at it.

Since I'm not working, my new job is to work on getting stronger each and every day. Walk, shovel, clean, cook or whatever can keep me moving and getting stronger.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

3 Months Old - Post Stem Cell Transplant

I'm officially 3 months old (although I'm actually over 50 years old). Yesterday I went for my first vaccination. I need to have all my infant and childhood vaccinations redone. The stem cell transplant wiped them all out. So yesterday I visited my family doctor for the first vaccination which was Prevnar 13 to help prevent pneumonia. I will have to have 2 more vaccinations. One will be in a month's time and then the next a month after that.

This afternoon, I will be going to my oncologist for a check up and to find out the results of my CT scan. I've not been sleeping well for the last couple of weeks and it is partly due to some buried anxiety regarding my CT scan results. I am normally pretty balanced in handling my anxieties regarding my lymphoma. However, sometimes it becomes too much. So this morning I am struggling with the "what if" questions. What if the 3 lymph nodes in my abdomen haven't shrunk back to normal? What if they are still enlarged? Does this mean that the lymphoma is still alive and active within me? Does this mean I just put in time until it hits again? I'm having night sweats. Is this because the lymphoma is still in me? They are a symptom and sign of lymphoma. Or are the night sweats because my hubby crowds me and sends of heat during the night? Or is it because the house is too warm at night? Or is it just hormones and menopause? So I secretly worry and try to keep busy and productive. If I keep my mind occupied then I can't worry....until the middle of the night when my mind gets busy with the "what ifs".

On a positive note, I tell myself that I'm getting stronger and my stamina is getting better as long as I have a full night's sleep. Yesterday we had snow and I was able to shovel the whole driveway as well as what the snow plow pushed into the end of our driveway. I still don't shovel as fast as I used to but a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't able to shovel the whole driveway in one attempt. I was having to shovel a quarter of the driveway each time I went out. So there's improvement. Then I tell myself that there would not be improvement if the lymphoma was still within me. Right?  I know that I can walk more briskly and for longer periods of time. Again, there's improvement and I feel stronger each week. Surely, this must be a sign that the lymphoma isn't still here. Or is it?

This is what I struggle with mentally each day and each week. As I approach the times for check ups with my oncologist or the stem cell unit, I get anxious. I'm afraid of what the results of my CT scan or blood tests will show. The fear leading up to the appointments could be debilitating if I let it. So I have internal conversations and pep talks with myself to pull me out of the downward spiral of fear. I pray. I ask for reassurance from God which comes in the form of random bible passages that I will find. I share my fears with my husband and then discover that he has the same fears but doesn't want to burden me with them. If I dwell on the negativity of fear, then I can easily fall into the negativity of bitterness and feeling sorry for myself. I start to have thoughts of "It's not fair to have lymphoma twice!" or "I live a healthy lifestyle and don't eat lots of junk. It's not fair!"

It doesn't help to dwell and live in those mental spaces. So I knit my socks for friends and family. I do my Sudoku puzzles to keep my mind occupied. I colour in the adult colouring books that friends and family have given me. I do all this to keep my mind from dwelling on "what if....." I make plans to visit with friends in order to keep myself occupied. Then I wonder am I only putting in time? Am I only filling my time until the next lymphoma diagnosis?

So this morning as I await the time to leave this afternoon to go to my oncologist appointment at the Cancer Centre, I vacillate between worry and recognizing the progress that I've made week to week.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

10 Weeks Post Transplant - Getting Stronger

The Christmas holidays were wonderful! My children were home over Christmas which was all that I wanted for Christmas. We had a great time full of laughter and we all helped make the Christmas dinner. We played cards and snacked on Christmas goodies. My digestive system continues to get stronger and better every week. My strength and stamina is also improving.

Now that we've made it into the new year of 2018, I have been out trying to get my exercise by shovelling the driveway. I recognize that I'm still very weak compared to how I used to be able to shovel the driveway. It used to be a cardio and aerobic workout as I would shovel the whole driveway quickly. Yesterday, I was only able to do a quarter of the driveway before I had to go indoors to catch my breath and rest. So I have to accept that the current new normal is shovelling the driveway in quarter increments. I'll continue to work and improve to third increments and then half of the driveway. We'll see how long that takes me to improve to those goals. Hubby and I are also walking at the mall every night. I do notice that I'm able to walk faster than I was before the Christmas holidays. This is how I keep my positive attitude. I look for the tiny moments of improvement.

I am enjoying going to the local OHL hockey games on a regular basis. I still struggle to climb the steps at the arena but again, I'm hoping that this will improve and I will get to the top without being exhausted and breathless.

This past Saturday (Jan. 6) Hubby and I went to a large motorcycle show. We walked through the show for 3 hours. I was exhausted at the end of it. Exhaustion affects me with tiredness, light-headedness and eventually nausea. At the end of our afternoon, I was light-headed and very tired. Thank goodness I didn't have any nausea. However, I did fall asleep in the car on the way home.  I must still build in rest days after busy days. If I don't, then I begin to feel ill again. Having said that, I am beginning to string together two days of activity before needing to have a rest day or two.

In my effort to get stronger in these early days of 2018, I have uncovered our old Wii system and my Wii Fit program. Again, I don't have a lot of stamina yet but I have started working on this using the program and also the Wii Sports program. Here's hoping that all this will help me recover faster.

Now that I've brought you all up to date, I must go back to putting away my Christmas ornaments and taking down the Christmas tree. I normally would have all this down by now but this is the new normal and I have to work at a slower pace. Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Seven Weeks Post Stem Cell Transplant - Christmas Parties, Preparations and Balance

Christmas is my favourite time of year. On Friday, I went with Hubby and some friends to Lumina Borealis on Friday night. This is a magical, interactive light show that is currently being shown at a local tourist attraction. I had a great time as the snow fell from the sky and we wandered through the exhibit. My friend and I sang into the microphone and saw our voices make changes in the shape and colours on the walls. What a great night it was! I felt like a little child and I wanted to spin with my arms outstretched. However, the adult part of me restrained myself and I wandered through with a big smile on my face.

Saturday, we enjoyed a dinner with friends at their home. Hubby and I enjoyed good food and great company until I ran out of gas and needed to head home. We did not need to walk very far to get home as we live in the same neighbourhood.

Sunday morning, I went to church and then headed straight home. I was very tired but also excited to see my son who was on his way home for the Christmas holidays. Hubby took me out for a late breakfast. We had just arrived home when our son arrived. I'm so happy to have him home. He was excited to show us his report from his teaching placement and he also showed us a test that he had written for the students in the class. I am happy that he continues to have such enthusiasm for his career.

Yesterday, I had a couple of appointments and then went shopping for Hubby's Christmas present. Then last night, I was at another of Hubby's Christmas parties. I was exhausted when we arrived home last night. I ate too much greasy food and had an unhappy stomach through most of the night. Thank goodness the stomach eventually calmed down early this morning. However, I had a disrupted, sleepless night.

As a result, I slept in and my body let me know all day long that it was tired. Normally after sleeping in, I won't need to sleep again during the day. Not today. I ended up having heavy eyes while sitting on the couch this afternoon so I went and had a nap. Hubby woke me up in time to eat some supper. I'm still tired and I will go to sleep early tonight. I have a big day tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will do my grocery shopping in preparation for our Christmas dinners and birthday lunch for my daughter. After all that shopping, tomorrow night I will go with Hubby to another Christmas party.

Thursday and Friday, I will be busy baking and cooking so I can visit with family on the weekend and still put together a good meal. In order to survive this busy time of year, I will be needing to go to bed early and perhaps even having small cat naps to rejuvenate myself. Despite the busy-ness, I still love this time of year.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

6 weeks Post Transplant - Set Backs

Overall, I continue to do well but my body lets me know when I've done too much. This week I have been planning my Christmas baking, Christmas activities and trying to schedule in rest days. I made my last batch of Christmas cookies on Monday. Then I decided to make my cinnamon rolls that my daughter likes to have for Christmas morning. The recipe for these cinnamon rolls came from my grandmother and I remember her serving them when we would visit her and grandpa on the farm. They are easy to make and really good. I made them yesterday. I've been working on sending out my Christmas cards. Again, I try to schedule in rest times as well.

Last night, my body let me know that I have been too busy. I was really tired around 8:10 p.m. but my stomach was showing signs of rolling and upheaval. So I took my Olanzapine which controls the nausea. Unfortunately, it was not successful and I had a disrupted night. I was supposed to go for a walk with my cousin-in-law this afternoon and I was really looking forward to it all week. I am very tired this morning and so I have cancelled out. I know she will understand and I'm hoping that we can get together next week sometime.

I was also supposed to get some groceries done today but that may also be put on hold until my body is up to it. I know I could rely on Hubby to do the groceries, but I am wanting to be involved with the groceries this week and also next week when we will do the groceries for celebrating Christmas and my daughter's birthday which is Christmas Day. Again, I have to schedule in rest times.

I know I'm getting stronger and better when I am frustrated with having to sit and rest. Life is too short but I also need to make sure that my body is rested. Otherwise, I will have more nights and days like last night where I am a friend to my bathroom and can't leave it.

On days like today when I am resting, I have time to reflect on the Christmas/Advent season. I recognized this morning as I lit my Advent candles for Hope and Peace that it is much too easy to let the busy-ness and consumerism of Christmas intrude and distract me from my real reason for Christmas. This is the time to sit, reflect and wait patiently for Christ's arrival on Christmas Day. Wait patiently for family to arrive. Wait patiently in Hope and Peace for my body to heal. Wait patiently and quietly while at the same time keep the busy-ness at bay. Waiting patiently and quietly during this Advent season also gives me time to reflect and pray for Hope and Peace not just for me personally but within my home, community and within the world. Especially for Peace at this time of world upheaval and intolerance. Peace and intolerance cannot cohabitate together. So perhaps my prayers for today should be for a decrease in the intolerance that is found in our communities as well as in the world.