Saturday, May 30, 2009
So, my tumor was clear cell carcinoma, that we already knew. The "Furhman Grade" was also higher than I expected and as such it has caused me some stress. This means it was a more aggressive form of cancer than we (ok I) had anticipated.
However, the tumor was also tiny, and well positioned. The actual tumor had a diameter of 1 cm and was resting on the edge of my kidney. Instead of losing a large percentage of my kidney as was expected, I lost only about 8%. The function of my kidney (or at least the cleanliness of my blood) has not been affected. All pathology of all other areas (lymph nodes, renal capsule, vessels, ureter, hilum and adrenal gland, pelvis, and fat tissue surrounding kidney) came back clear.
The tumor is considered fully encapsulated. As the doctor explained to me yesterday, it doesn't matter what kind of horses you have in the corral as long as they can't get out to wreck the fields (you can tell I live in ranch country?). In English that means my cancer was there, but was small enough to still be held in by the capsule around it. The doctor said I got the jackpot of cancers. Oh goody?!?
The final word came through as far as follow up as well. I will not have to see an oncologist again, instead I will have CT scans twice a year for the next little while, and yearly ultra sounds and blood work the rest of my life. Officially, according to the doctors, I am now a NED (No Evidence of Disease). All good news.
Emotionally? Its a different ball game. I want to know what I did to CAUSE this. I want to know what I can do to PREVENT this. I have never smoked. Ever, not once. And still I get a smoker's cancer? I am relatively healthy and in good shape. I get an cancer correlated with obesity? I logically know there is NO reason, or at least no reason I will ever KNOW as to why I got this cancer; that even if I had smoked that doesn't mean THATS the reason this cancer started.
The doctor called this "Health Confidence". He said it will return in a couple years of living well. I wonder if that's so? I wonder if I want to even forget how fragile life truly is? If I live to 86, I now understand that its NOT given. I want to appreciate old age because I hope I never forget how close I came to not seeing it.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Shel lost his job today.
We can survive about 4 days without his income. Maybe 5.
Pray for my boys because I have no idea how to tell my kids tonight that on top of Papa having cancer, your Grandma dying and Mommy having cancer and needing surgery - on top of ALL THAT, just incase you weren't stressed out enough or nervous enough about the future of our family - Daddy now doesn't have a job and that more than likely means we will have to give up our house and move.
Because you know, apparently, life is just too much to bear sometimes.
What I am NOT is someone used to accepting help for myself. Although I am so grateful for the kindness and generosity of friends and family its hard to shake of the embarrassment of NEEDING help.
Somethings are easier to understand embarassment wise. My MOTHER bathed me. Twice. Why? Well it was either accept help or stay dirty, so help in the form of my mother was required. If you know me (or heck know my mother!) you know what a stretch this was.
But its also embarrsing to admit that my family is enjoying the food from the tables of others. Many others. My freezer is like a catalogue of casseroles as friends, co-workers, neighbours and virtual strangers drop off food to feed an army, and satisfy my sons. I am so grateful because the idea of being required to cook for the masses right now is exhausting, the reality would be worse. But still, I wish I could just DO IT.
A friend went grocery shopping for me yesterday. I ASKED her to. Its embarassing to admit that "we" are stretched too thin, but also wise to be honest. My pain levels are high, my energy levels are low. I had been back in the hospital with some minor, although painful, complications this weekend and I am tired, Shel is exhausted and we simply needed help.
Another friend spent a free morning helping with the house work. It's an impossibility for me to try to vacuum right now, and well, although very well intentioned, the men around here just don't SEE dirt the same way as me.
I called a counsellor to get help for a son that is struggling with all the stress. I am not enough to solely help him through this difficult time. He needs help, and I need help to help him.
Hopefully learning some humility, graciousness in expressing gratitude and a huge stack of thank you cards will pull me through until I can return the favor.
In the mean time I am going to go lay on the couch and practice doing nothing. It's far harder than it sounds!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I walked in the door of my house to a "Welcome Home Banner" and THREE bouquets of balloons and MORE flowers.
I laid my sore, achey body on the couch to rest after the journey thrilled to be surrounded by those I love best.
My sons. My husband. My dogs.
Oh my dogs.
Trippy leaped over to the couch to greet me, scurrying up to my face to cover me in kisses.
AND THEN PEED ON MY HEAD.
Yes, you read that right, in the midst of his excitement to greet me, he peed. ON. MY. HEAD.
Three entire minutes after I got home. Three Minutes. Someone forgot to grow a brain while I was gone.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
In the top left corner you will see her prized bottle T3 pain killers that she accesses every 4 hours around the clock.
In the center of the picture, in lovely shades of purple, gold and browns you will notice the 5 half empty boxes of Purdy's Chocolates. Purdy's Chocolate's are an essential and addictive part of every surgery recovery.
Adjacent to this table lies the couch where Jen lays doing absolutely nothing other than eat and think of witty and somewhat boring blog entries to keep herself entertained. What she is NOT doing is opening THIS bottle again, anytime soon.
Thankful, of course, that chocolate is a natural laxative, Jen relaxes and reaches for another. It's practically health food.
The road to recovery is paved in Purple and Gold.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
And so I give you my thoughts from the couch. I might be lazy but I am not too lazy to blog.
#1) Thinking you are going to die in surgery is normal, apparently. This was my innermost, deepest fear. The reason for the family photos, the reason for the sleepless nights, the reason I was mostly scared about going to the hospital. You know how when you are pregnant everyone around you is pregnant? Or when you're in love every song on the radio is about being in love? Or when you are fighting every song reminds you of your anger?
When when you are "sick" there are ALOT of songs out there about life, and final choices, and dying, and missing a loved one. Apparently this was NOT God's way of passing on a secret message to me that I was going to die. I know this NOW because, you know, I didn't.
Everyone - from the front desk nurse to my extremely amazing surgeon - took it upon themselves to reassure me that being nervous was normal. I wish I would have voiced this fear earlier because maybe reassurances from others would have helped me. Instead, I just imagined that God was using Top 10 Hits to let me know my time was short. Which brings me to my next point ...
#2) No shame in using medications to get through. (I realize based on my previous list that some might think I CONTINUE to need additional medications, but please remember I am posting while under the influence of pain meds and cannot be held legally responsible for what I say. SO THERE). Sleep medications = good. Ativan = good. Maybe it's a pride thing, but relief did come when I finally caved into the fact I had these little pills hopping around in my purse and shaking for eight hours straight is no fun so TAKE THE MEDICATIONS. Apparently there is no shame in this. Who knew?
#3) My two BEST items at the hospital were ear plugs and eye shades (I have no idea what they are actually called but you know the soft, silky eye things that you imagine Divas wear when they sleep until noon.) Hospitals are NOT the best places to sleep and these two items when finally acquired gave me two good nights. Of course, I was also robbed of all my cash my last night in the hospital and its a bit freaky to me to realize that SOMEONE ill-intentioned was in my hospital room during the night going through my drawers and I didn't notice, but you know with the amount of pain meds I was on, I wouldn't have stopped him anyways.
#4) Some friends rock. Some friends suck. You just never know who is who until push comes to shove. Many of my friends (and family) were absolutely unbelievably supportive through it all, before, during and now after as I sit on a friend's couch and ruin her May Long Weekend as she waits on me. On the other hand, I have a friend I know cares deeply about me and would probably give their life for me if need be. This friend disappeared the week before surgery and during the week of surgery leaving me shocked and reeling from their notable absence at a time when I expected their support. Reappearing only, tearfully, regretfully, after I survived. The reasons for how people react to stress are complicated and my friend now carries more guilt than I could have ever heaped upon their head.
#5) Pathology results suck, even when you think you are prepared. There is no easy way to say this and no matter my brave face and stoic attitude, the words "renal cell carcinoma" written down on a piece of paper sent me reeling. I still am actually. I KNOW I am lucky. I KNOW my chances are very, very good. I KNOW others face worse every day. But still, it's cancer and it's me. ME. Jen. Cancer. Real cancer. There is no answer to the why questions I have. I have NO RISK FACTORS. Not one. How then can I keep myself safe? How can I prevent it from coming back?
It was growing in me. A bright orange little ball of lethal cells trying to kill me and I did not know. Growing, spreading and caught, but still was there. So secretive and lethal.
Everyone else took this news in stride, not remotely shocked because we knew, chances were, it was cancer. But for me that ever present hope that the tumor was benign was carrying me through. I was forced to process the reality of "CANCER" alone in a hospital room. If you are ever in a position of expecting pathology results, it would be best to not be alone. Ask my very supportive nurse, she will concur.
#6) Back to the pills. Stool Softeners have dosage guidelines for a reason. It is not wise to quadruple this number because you think its a good idea. Remember when making such decisions that the anesthetic makes you COGNITIVELY IMPAIRED. Be wise. Trust me. Just trust me.
#7) I am not super human. Despite my personal expectations, surgery does HURT. I am TIRED. Recovery has not happened in a week. Duh.
Back to the couch to take a nap.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thank you 1000 times over for praying, for supporting, for loving on me and my family this week.
For those of you that sent flowers thank you. My hospital room truly looked as if a greenhouse had exploded. The nursing station actually KEPT some of my arrangements as there was simply no more room to put them. Flowers would arrive on the floor and the nursing station would simply point in my direction.
For the meals, words of encouragement, the friends and the family that were supportive in more ways than I can ever possibly list, thank you. Your love, your kindness, your thoughtfulness and your encouragement were ever so appreciated. For Jess that ran herself off her feet keeping her own family going, running my blog and trying not to worry herself sick, a HUGE thank you. She is my sister by chance but my friend by choice. And she is amazing, in case you ever wondered.
For my sister-friends who went so far as to fly ACROSS THE CONTINENT to be at my bedside words are not enough either. So T, A, P, C and S thank you for the amazing box, the amazing in hospital facial (seriously there is nothing like a facial while attached to IV meds), the dinner, the tears, the hugs and the support. And I sit here in T's home resting while she cooks me food and serves me snacks and brings me my medications. I am blessed beyond measure with the best friends anyone could imagine.
And I am out. Sprung free. The doctor gave me a choice this morning, out today or in until Tuesday waiting for my complication to clear up. EASY CHOICE - no offense hospital as the treatment they gave me was great, but I am ready, very, very, very ready to be out of a hospital bed.
The family is doing great. Shel has kept things on the home front going in the right direction. He had a minor breakdown yesterday (lol hope he doesnt mind me sharing) as us being so far apart when I was facing sickness and complications was very hard on both of us, but the good news this morning has put things back into perspective for him. We will be ok. I will survive and I will be home in a week. Not quite raring to go, but better - and heck - now cancer FREE.
My biggest issue right now is nausea which I assume is from the pain meds. Doctor has informed me that (not so sadly) I would make a terrible drug addict as my body rejects all narcotics. Right now I puke ever so suddenly, ever so frequently. It's not pleasant and my incisions ache which makes me tired. But heh, a I AM cancer free so its all a matter of perspective right?
I had dreams I clung to of being able to shout from the blog rooftop that my tumor was benign, but sadly, that is not to be. I have stage 2, clear, renal cell carcinoma. Catching this really did save my life. The margins are all clear, the lymph nodes too. There was no sign of it spreading and I am going to be ok. They will check me every 6 months for a while.
And so, again, thank you. Back to the couch to surf and make Tamara bring me cold drinks.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
UGH!!! Okay, so Jenn is having some setbacks. It seems that her kidney, where it has been cut into, is leaking urine into her body. She has a drain that is supposed to be draining the excess blood, but it is draining urine. She does not feel well and has been vomiting.
If by morning this is still happening she will need another surgery. It will be fairly minor, but still. She is discouraged. Please please pray.
By later in the day, after switching her pain medication, she was able to get up and walk around a little. She has had a shower too. She had a great nights sleep and is feeling good this morning. She can get up on her own too.
There is a chance she will get out tomorrow, but we are hoping not until Saturday. She should be feeling much better by then. If there's anything new, I will keep you posted.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I have worn many hats in the last couple of years for different members of our family. Power of attorney, trustee, executor, auntie, sister, mother, wife, friend, daughter, granddaughter. Today I feel like everyone needs me, the banker, the lawyer, the financial advisor, the accountant, my mom, my dad, my sister, my boys. Today I had to choose. I had to choose my son, he needs mom today. I know Jenn understands, but it's hard.
Pray for us to have the strength to get through these hard times. Pray for Jenn as she is away from her family for another week at least. She is sick today and I am not there, it's hard.
I love you Jenn and know I wish I were there.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
She is very tired and can only visit for a bit before drifting off to sleep. She got up today for a little stroll with Shelby and I to the lounge about 5 doors down from her room, but swiftly followed it up with a lengthy nap. She might have mumbled something about feeling like an 85 year old.
She has a friend visiting her from out of town with a laptop. Jenn managed to log on, but could not muster the energy to type and her vision is blurred a bit. Perhaps tomorrow she will feel a bit more energetic. She does appreciate the comments though, as long as they don't make her laugh.
Her spirits are good and she looks great. She has 5 incisions on her left side stomach area, all about an inch in length. While I was there one of the surgeons came by to check in. He was pretty certain he had done a great job and managed to get it all out. The pathology results will take 10 days though, so keep those prayers coming!
Hopefully the next update will be from Jenn!
Monday, May 11, 2009
She will be in recovery for another 2 hours after that as well. Please pray for those who love her so dearly, Shel, Greg, Eric, Tanner, Caden, our parents, myself, and many friends and family who are anxious today.
Dear God keep my sister safe today. I thank you for this miracle discovery you provided so Jen can fulfill your plans for her life.
If you are praying for Jen or just want to leave her some encouraging words, please leave it in the comments, I believe she will be able to view them tomorrow and then later in the week.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Because not only did she take some amazing pictures of my family but Laureen (and the magic of her camera) managed to make me NOT look like the tired and stressed mom I am. Thank you Laureen for giving me this opportunity to reflect on the beauty of my family. The joy these pictures have brought me is enormous!
Friday, May 8, 2009
Son #1 - 14 Let's just say the child has driven me to drink on more than one occasion. His way to cope with a sick mom and the big, scary "C" word is to push me away. When you think about it, this makes alot of sense. Greg has already lost two moms (one birth, one foster) and NOW his mom, the supposed-to-be-forever-one is sick. It's alot easier to push me away, stay angry and convince yourself that life would be almost BETTER without her than admit how very scared you are. We are talking this through, and I know it makes sense to him too that maybe, just maybe I haven't suddenly turned into the Witch of the West. When I left yesterday to make my way down for surgery in Vancouver, I got a hug, an "I love you mom" and a big smile. I love that kid so much, and seeing how scared he is makes me want to fight this all the more.
Son #2 - 13 This reaction has surprised me because Eric's world must stay safe and that is what he clings to always, as I have talked about extensively on here. Eric has matured about 8 years in 2 months. He is being helpful and considerate, sweet and silly. He is holding his temper (for the most part) and trying, I think in his own way, to pretend everything is all right by keeping it all right for himself. Add to that, the drama of the older brother, and Eric's new role as the "well behaved child" makes life much easier. I know, always, that there will be fall out with Eric when the stress of this time is done, his "pretend everything is perfect" response will crack with the weight of the emotion he is feeling, but for now all is ok. He loves me, and shows me how much with this gigantic effort.
Son #3 - 11 Tanner is about as problem and conflict avoidant of a child as you can generate. You add that dynamic to a child that is complaint to the extreme and you have a child that is under severe stress. Tanner is my child struggling the most and attempting to hide it the best. He has developed a nervous habit of picking at his finger cuticles, they are now all bleeding and raw. He is failing every single class in school - this a child that was labeled "highly gifted" by the school system two years ago. He has forged (repeatedly, as I discovered yesterday) my signature on school papers and notes home from the teacher. All this in an attempt to pretend everything is alright. I am not supposed to know about missing homework because "I have cancer", I am not supposed to know about the detentions because "I have cancer", I am not supposed to know that he is struggling because "I have cancer". The difficult part here is that he is SO sensitive and acts completely fine at home. We would never know that his school life is falling apart. He is cuddly and happy and wants to chat. He hides it all. You would never know. He thinks he is making the problem go away and poor kid, doesn't know how to cope. I wish I could gather up my little man, trying so hard to be a big man, and take away his fear.
Son #4 - 8 Caden is scared. Caden will tell you, the guy at the grocery store and mention it to your dog for good measure. Caden is here with me because he wants to see me in the hospital and being at home is not an option. Probably, he is handling it the best. Apparently he is single handily praying for a league or two of angels to be with me and sending along "Theo" his treasured stuffed puppy to accompany me into surgery. He wants to be brave and see me "with the tubes", and to his mind being here means he has some control over the outcome. I love, especially right now, that he wants to cuddle because lots of times, right now, I need to snuggle.
Husband - 38 Calm, cool, collected. And totally faking it! But that's ok, we both know that acting strong and brave and competent right now is what we need to do for our kids.
Today I spend in the hospital getting more tests, meeting the drug doctors and last round of consultations with the surgeon. I am at the hospital Monday morning at 6:30am, under the knife by 8 am. Out of surgery, if all goes well, by 1 pm and on my ward by 4 or 5 pm.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Looks like Mommy is getting a new front window (and door and matching window about the door) and some boys owe me some chores.
The difference between living in a house WITH boys and knowing kids who live down the street is that our windows get broken from the inside out. The neighbour's windows, they are kind enough to break from the outside in.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Ok so I didn't even have to pay for it as this old trampoline came with the house when we bought it. Its an OLD trampoline and bouncy like crazy as a result. At first I worried, but our family doctor is also a dad of boys and as he said, it's better to fix the odd broken bone than treat a child with type two diabetes from too many video games. And thankfully, with 4 boys, 6 years and plenty of craziness, we've had only one broken bone. Lesson learned.
We obviously don't have "safety net" and just let the boys play. Actually, the safety net means kids can go nuts and not control their bodies and know their location on the trampoline at all times. My kids? They KNOW where they are on that trampoline because falling off of it HURTS.
It's been home to many sleepovers ....
Scientific Discoveries ...
I hope, when the boys grow up, that they remember I was the mom that sometimes closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and let them play.
I hope they learn that life is about bouncing back sometimes.
Friday, May 1, 2009
The last two years have been an exercise in a lack of control.
First, a tiny little girl I loved with all my heart, and with whom I shared my home and family, was gone. No good-bye. No say. Just gone. My screaming into the heavens made no difference. It was something I couldn't fix or change. She was gone from our lives. Period. This pain almost cost me EVERYTHING. Everything I value, everything I hold dear was almost lost into the dark abyss of depression and grief and I couldn't stop it. I couldn't control it or ignore it.
Then my Nan left, or was taken, depending on your perspective, to a town way too far away. And there her days would end. No control. No amount of screaming, begging or pleading changed anything. She would get sick AWAY. Then she died. AWAY. No control, no say.
My kids? They grow up! That whole freezing time concept, stay little and be my babies? Strangely they don't listen. Birth Family. High School. New friends. Different Choices. Ultimately I can guide but I cannot control. And it's scary. My role is different and new and I am unsure of the way to be a mom to independent teens.
Then, of course, there is a cancer. The Doctors MUST be wrong. They must. My dad is MY DAD. Listen to me God ... LISTEN TO ME. That's MY DAD!!! Please God, no. Please, just please, no. But I have no control over this. None. I have to sit back and watch the pain and watch the struggle and just control the tears, because that is all that is left to control. And still they come, unheeded.
And me. ME? Surgery is now days away. I try to control the details. What the boys will eat, who will watch them while I am gone. Where I will stay, when I will return home. But I can't control that tumor. I can't control the results of the pathology. I can't control the length of recovery. I can't control the reality that I have cancer too. I can't control if it will return. Or when. And I am scared and don't want to be, but it seems I can't even control my fear.
And now we come full circle, because the precious baby girl's life is falling apart, again, today. I know this, but I cannot share the details other than asking, BEGGING, you to pray. But I cannot DO anything to help her other than once again scream into the heavens for an innocent child who is paying a price too high for the grown ups issues. I am angry, and there is no point because there is nothing I can do.
If God is in control, then why? Why this pain? Why this loss? What's the point? Why should my boys go through the fear of losing another mother? Why should an innocent little girl suffer in uninmaginable, unnecessary ways when there are other options? When there were a million other options that would have spared her this agony.
I am out of control.