Friday, August 24, 2012

CHERYL'S MEMORIAL - A Celebration of All Things Cheryl

Cheryl left me strict instructions on the form and content of the celebration and I am pleased to say we have booked a time and place. October 7 at 2:00 PM at Metro Theatre. With drinks to follow in the Metro Lounge. Cheryl left lots of details as to the form and content of the show - yes she used the word show - and I will be contacting some of you and asking you to perform or to help in other essential ways. Shelley Hunt, Kerry O'Donovan and Melanie Thompson are doing this with me and Emma Hale at Infinity Films will be coordinating us all.

I hope you can all be there - we intend to raise the roof of Metro Theatre all the way to the blue skies above through the sheer volume of joy and laughter in her memory. And in the sure knowledge that her spirit will be with us that day and every day.

I hope you can join us! More details to follow but mark the date in your devices.

- Shel Piercy

Monday, July 23, 2012

Metro Tribute

Alison wrote this beautiful piece to be published in the next Metro program at the end of August. It will be accompanied by the lovely photo taken by Scott Ashton Swan.
In early July the theatre community of Vancouver lost a much loved friend. Cheryl passed away peacefully after a valiant six year battle with cancer. This remarkable lady packed so much into her life.

During the day she worked for the Provincial Government as a Systems Analyst – travelling around the Province to train others. As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she spent countless hours volunteering in the theatre community.

From an early age, she was involved with Metro and over the years she was on the board, produced many shows, stage crewed several and played the role of Mrs. Holley in a 1981 production of The Bed Before Yesterday. For some 20 years she also ran the Metro box office, driving from the West End every night of performances to cheerily greet patrons at the window. Initially she was accompanied by her faithful dog Jericho, and later by her “box office dog” Bridget, who delighted many patrons by pushing out her cute nose looking for some affection.

When the journey became too much, Cheryl volunteered for several summers at TUTS – helping to organize the box office and helping in the office. Always generous with her time and talents, she helped many other smaller theatre groups, and, unbeknownst to many, also spent many Decembers answering children’s letters to Santa. Cheryl set up the Metro website before most other groups had even thought about it, and ran it at no cost until quite recently. She also acted as Metro’s Publicist during the last few years.

Theatre – especially musical theatre – was Cheryl’s great love and passion, and the crowning glory for Cheryl came last year when she was surprised at the Jessies to be presented with the Mary Phillips Award for meritorious service to the theatre community.

Her positive attitude and constant cheerfulness in the face of everything life threw at her remains an inspiration to all of us who knew and loved her. A more fun loving, kind, intelligent and generous person would be hard to find and we will surely miss that bright smile and wicked sense of humour.

  Rest in Peace, dear Cheryl.

Alison Jopson
Vice President, Metro Theatre Board

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cheryl's Obituary

Cheryl's obituary - published in today's Vancouver Sun and tomorrow's Province. Thank you Mark Robins for what must have been a difficult task ♥

It's easier to read it here at

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Celebration Date Announced Soon

Melinda here... Plans for Cheryl's celebration are underway. Please check here and her Facebook regularly for this special date announcement.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Scholarship in Cheryl's Name

Update from Steve... Cheryl had requested in her will that in lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to Applause Musicals Society to set up a scholarship in her name. If you would like to make a donation in her name you can go to the Applause Musicals sites - Or on Facebook - At either of these sites you will be able to donate. As per Cheryl, this annual award will go to a deserving student in a post secondary theater program to assist with payment of voice, dance, or acting coaching.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Condolences to the Family

Melinda here... For those wishing to send condolences to Dad Bill and family, here's Bill's address. Any cards of sympathy will be appreciated and will be shared with her three siblings.

W. Hutcherson
6466 Wade Road
Delta, British Columbia
V4E 3H9

I'll be posting details on the celebration event as soon as I have them. Thank you to all for your continued support and outpouring of love. Bill is speechless and so very very proud of his Cheryl. <3

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Goodbye and Never Forgotten

Dad Bill has just informed me that "Our dear Cheryl passed away at 11:20 am PST. It was a very peaceful passing as she just left us in her sleep." More later on celebrating the life of this truly wonderful woman. God bless you all ♥ - Melinda

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dad Bill update - 8:50pm PST Wednesday

Send love love love ♥ Cheryl has been transferred from the emergency ward to palliative care where she is heavily sedated and resting more comfortably. We are following her explicit instructions and making her as comfortable as possible while having her placed in an induced type of coma.

Dad Bill update on Cheryl

Approximately 10am Wednesday 11 July:

This is Bill, Cheryl's dad who Cheryl has requested that I once again become acquainted with you [Melinda] and keep you up to date and what is taking place with regard to her health.

The news, I am very sorry to report, is not the best. Cheryl had a very uneasy time last night and was forced to contact her friend Steve Oben twice during the period as she was having severe breathing problems and felt that she should be going to the hospital. Finally at two am they placed a call to 911 and she was taken to St. Paul's emergency where she still remains. The hospital, of course, is equipped with far better equipment to assist her with her breathing and she is presently equipped with a type of oxygen mask which has eased her breathing while, at the same time, allows her to drink fluids with a minimum of trouble. As I report all of this to you it is still in the very early stages of her admittance and there are few details of what will be taking place in the next day or so. According to Steve, she will definitely be in hospital for a few days until they determine what is causing this flare-up as the emergency department seemed to be unable to obtain much in the way of her medical records and these may not be available until later this morning.

Arrangements are being made to have her accommodated in palliative care if this becomes necessary but everything is on hold at present until they can find if the distress which Cheryl has encountered is a direct cause of the cancer or if she has contracted an infection of some kind. Steve has asked me to let you know just what is going on so you can update both Cheryl's blog and facebook and it will be very appreciated if you can do this for us. Thank goodness for the myriad of friends that Cheryl has amassed who are so willing to give of their time and energy. I cannot find the words to express my and my family's gratitude for all of the help offered and given during this very sad time, especially for her friends like yourself and Steve who I am dealing with at first hand.

Sincerely - Bill

Note from Melinda: Please do leave comments and I'll approve ASAP. Cher loves to hear from you!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012 -- And So It Begins

Hello Bloggie'mates!

Yep, true to form, I'm late for my own Blog entry.  And I know this bas to be a fairly long one so that I can catch the non-Facebook members up with the News I posted earlier this week on Facebook, and yet put enough details in to keep the Facebook friends feeling they are getting the missing bits and pieces.

So, I'm going to start off by saying, the latest News I have received re my treatments/condition has not been the best.  We new this leg of the journey would eventually arrive, but at one point I seriously thought we were talking 15, 20, possibly 30 years away.  I guess that is not unrealistic for anyone with cancer to hope for, right?  After all, for the most part of my journey, I have had energy, felt pretty ok, sure I had complaints and all, but hey, I could have complaints with the common household cold.  It doesn't take much to come up with complaints... but over all, I don't think I knew what a serious complaint was, so my complaints were fairly minor in comparison to the horror stories you hear of some people who go through horrendous journeys.  I don't know if it's the different types of cancers, or what makes some horrendous and others fairly manageable (maybe someone should write a paper on this subject!).

But I digress.... on Monday, I got the bad News.  For starters, I have been whining about my breathing struggles for some time now.  It was finally determined that a tumor was partially blocking my bronchial airwave, so the plan was to throw some radiation at it (when in doubt, zap it!) and then that should shrink the tumor, hence opening up the airwave.  I had been warned a week or so after the radiation treatments, it would feel worse before it feels better... but that didn't happen for 3 weeks.  And they were right... it was horrible!!  Harder than ever to breathe.  Grrrrr!  But I didn't say anything because, after all, this was expected.  Well, it went on for a month and I finally asked, "How long is this 'it's going to be worse before it gets better' going to last?"  Well, that stumped them... it shouldn't have been THAT long.  So, time for an X-ray to see if maybe there had been some radiation damage on the bronchial tubes/airways.  The X-ray didn't show any damage, so the radiation oncologist said that the cancer is more than likely now ignoring treatment and the radiation didn't do any good, but they wouldn't know for sure until my CAT scan which was scheduled for July 12th.  I told him there is no way I could wait until July 12th to know what is going on when I was having such a hard time to breathe.  This radiation oncologist did absolutely nothing wrong, but you know how sometimes a person just rubs you the wrong way?? That's how it was with him and I think he could tell I was not impressed.  So he said, "Ok, I will call the Imaging Dept. and see if they can push the scan up closer on an emergency basis."  "Thank you".  Sure enough, they could and I had one now scheduled for the next morning, Tuesday.  

On Tuesday, I had my Magnesium/Chemo appt.  I was feeling weak and off, because it was so hard to breathe.  When I got to the chemo room, I asked the Chemo Nurse if she could check my Oxygen Saturation Levels to see if this is any indication of why my breathing was such a struggle.  She said "No problem, I'd be happy to do that for you!"  She took them and that's when all the bells and whistles started flying.  Normal breathing and oxygen intake is between 95 - 100%.  Mine was at 82%.  No wonder I was struggling!  She called for my oncologist to come upstairs.

He came pretty darn quick, considering he was going into a meeting.  He also had my CAT scan results. Well, the damn scan results came back as bad News.  Not only did the tumors that we knew about, that we've been keeping fairly stable with the various chemos (we've now run out of chemo options) show growth, which means the chemo I was on was no longer working, there are now many new growths in both lungs... and in the abdomen... and two very enlarged lymph nodes.  This meant stopping the chemo since there's no point pumping the toxin into the body when it's doing no good and yet causing side affects.  So he canceled my chemo session.

Meanwhile, he ordered an assessment by a Respiratory Therapist and told me that the therapist would see if they could get me stable with a temporary oxygen tank to take home, but if they couldn't I wouldn't be leaving the building but staying in in the hospital ward there.  Yikes!  I wasn't prepared for that.  After all, I had Bridget to make preparations for, which of course is totally an excuse on my part.  Bridget was always my #1 priority should anything ever happen to me, who takes care of her on a temporary basis and who takes care of her on a permanent basis... and the plan has been in place for eons.  But your mind goes in every direction.  But the only thing I had with me that I would need was my iPhone and luckily my USB plug and cable (always prepared).  But no change of clothes, toiletries, etc.  This does not bode well for a Capricorn who must be prepared at all times (right, Christina???? ).

Ok, moving on... so Rob, the therapist, did all these assessments and had a heck of a time getting the right dosage, etc. but eventually was satisfied that I could go home with a tank, and he'd call the Oxygen people.  OMG People!  Seriously... when the medical system wheel starts turning, it's an amazing thing!  I got home about 4pm, I guess, by 5pm the Oxygen people called to see if I was home and they were sending someone over with my permanent tank and 5 portable "canisters".  The Oxygen people have no idea what my diagnosis is, they just know I need oxygen and it's been ordered by a doctor.  A very nice man shows up with this unit that looks like an air conditioner and I figure the best place for it is in the living room under the window (no, I was not thinking like someone who needs oxygen).  He then hooks up a 50 foot cable so that I can walk anywhere I want to in the apartment since I'm going to need oxygen 24/7.  He then shows me how to use the portable canisters and I'm ready to go... and he leaves.  Half an hour later, another Respiratory Therapist shows up to make the assessment in the home and sees that I'm still struggling somewhat with the prescription the first therapist gave me, so he wants to up it... but that means a whole new set of equipment.  Now I need to be put on liquid oxygen and a machine that can give greater quantities of oxygen than the equipment I had.  Sure enough, an hour later, another man comes and he has the new machine, some new portable canisters, but the new liquid oxygen storage tank seems faulty... so he, or someone, is going to have to bring one the next day.  The next day, their guys were busy, so they couriered that new storage tank... and the courier was NOT impressed that he had to get this up the stairs with no elevator in the building!!  The full tank is about 120 lbs.  But he did get it up, and he was actually very nice once he got it up.  Today, Jeff came by and he taught Toby and I how to fill/refill the portable canisters, so that I can have some mobility and leave home.  Jeff was REALLY nice and asked me if he could vacation on my couch for a week or so in the summer because I live in the best location of the city ;) Nice, fun, guy!

So, where does that leave us.  Reality check.  We knew this time would come but we had hoped that there would be years and years where the chemo would work and shrink, or at least keep the tumors that we knew about, stable.  There had been no new tumors and we hoped it would stay that way.  It's the dream of every cancer patient.  But when you are a Stage 4, the nature of the beast is that the cancer has metastasized, which means it has spread, and it will continue to spread once it becomes immune to the treatments.  That is where we are now... the cancer no longer responds to chemo or radiation treatments.  And the new growth of tumors has started.

There is no way of knowing how fast it will grow now.  Will it be fast growing?  Are we talking days/weeks?  Don't know.  Slower growing, are we talking months?  Don't know.  I know we are no longer talking years :/  I don't really want to hazard a guess, but I think it's safe in saying it's going to be sooner than anytime we had thought before (I had been thinking in years).

Ok... so I think all you readers get the picture, right?  I can stop talking medical talk ... stuff I really can't get my head around.  So  this ends the Everything According To Dr. Cheryl section.  In looking back on it, it's pretty long winded and drawn out, but hey, that's just my way of writing.  I tend to be very detailed in everything I write, from emails to Facebook Status Updates.  Heck, even places where one can leave comments, I can write a book, and I really don't think that's what they meant by "comments"  ;)  I have oodles more to say/talk about, but I promise I won't write it all in this one entry ;)

You may all think I'm treating this just a little too casually or nonchalantly.  I don't think I am...I don't really know.  I do know that I've lived with the terror of this disease for 6 years now.  By terror, I mean one is always on pins and needles... what is the next scan going to show, then having the scan and waiting for the results, then being on a chemo treatment and you think it's going well (and it is), when one day with no advanced warning it stops working.  So it means starting a new chemo.  Each chemo comes with it's own side affects and although I haven't had very many with each different chemo, the ones I've had have been pretty intense.  So, you go through the side affects and you put up with them because this chemo is keeping your cancer stable and may even be shrinking it a little.  The best news is that there has been no new chemo growths.  But not to pop your bubble, the Oncologists are very upfront and they tell  you that the chemos they have are pretty effective for what they are designed to do, but if the cancer has spread to other organs, then their job is to keep everything stable or possibly shrink the tumors and then keep them stable for as long as possible until the cancer gets immune to the chemo, then it's on to the next chemo.  Well, there's only so many chemos they can use per type of cancer... eventually you run through them all.  So the whole time you are going through your battle, you have this in the back of your mind.  It's a constant roller coaster.  Your emotions are all over the place.  It's up, down and sideways.  Family/Friends want to know how things are going and sometimes you don't have answers because you are waiting for results from tests or scans.  Sometimes the results are good, sometimes they are very disappointing.  Eventually you get to the place you knew was coming all along and, you just have to deal with it.  Oh sure, you will hear all the stories of a favourite aunt or uncle who was Stage 4 and beat the odds... 20 years later and they are still doing fine.  Or someone who has gone in remission... they still have the cancer but it's stable or has disappeared so the scans can't see any trace (this is known as NED - No Evidence of Disease) and people get very excited by this because they confuse NED with CURED.  Two very different things.  When our technology can't detect the cancer anywhere, it doesn't mean it's gone, just that it's too small to be detected.  I have never gotten to the NED stage.  For the 6 years, I have lived with cancer and been treated for it.  And now we are at the stage that I dreaded getting to but it was inevitable at some point.

Nature has a wonderful way of saying, "Well, it isn't going to do you any good to panic or get hysterical".  I can't really explain what it is... it's not fooling me or pulling the wool over my eyes, but it is keeping me calm about this stage.  I still don't know when the outcome is going to happen.  Do I have a couple of weeks, or a couple of months left?  Chances are, since I've told everyone, it will be stretched out for months and months! ;)  But whatever... I am so pleased that I am surrounded by the most incredible friends, both here in Vancouver and on Facebook and those of you reading the blog.

That leads me to the question everyone is asking... "What can I do?  What can I make?  What can I bring?"  The answer is nothing :)   I literally have everything I need.... and as us BC'ers know, anything to do with medical equipment/drugs/comfort care/services are all provided and paid for.  As for comfort food/meals/tempting desserts/etc that is a problem in that I don't have an appetite so even when there is food, I'm just not hungry.  We are working out a bit of a schedule because I have found if I don't eat then my blood sugars go all wonky and boy do I feel crappy then, but we have that figured out.  Now we just need to find the space/storage, which is very limited in my kitchen.

Lovely gifts of plants and flowers... personally, I love the thought, but again, I don't have the space in the apartment for them.  This is just a one bedroom apartment that has plenty of "stuff" and no real shelf/counter/table space ;)

But what have I really been touched with and seriously, it has carried me through this week BIG TIME??  All the comments/notes/private Facebook messages/emails where you have sent your personal thoughts.  OMG... when I woke up the next morning and say close to 200 comments on my Facebook Wall in response to my Status Update, it move me to a whole different plane of existence.  For those of you not on Facebook, there is an option at the bottom of each Blog Entry for leaving a comment.  You'll see a little envelope or pencil... just click on it and it will give you an area for writing a comment, as well, an option of how you want to sign in for doing the comment... either with you gmail account, or some other account and if you don't have any of them, then as "Anonymous".  Just remember, if you sign in the Comment section as an ANONYMOUS, sign your comment in the body of the comment... otherwise we could have a multitude of comments logged in by Mr. Anonymous and not know who wrote them :)

Ok... I'm getting tired now, not that I wrote this all in one sitting, but I think I better end it and post it now.  Toby, who took Bridget for her walkies, just heated me up some soup... I think that's my clue ;) So many of you have written wonderful emails, and OMG all the comments on Facebook!  I want you all to know I've read every single comment, and am reading every single email, and every single Facebook private message.  But if I don't get back to you, it's not because you've fallen off my list , it's because I'm not used to my energy, or lack of energy, level and I've just smack dab run out of time today.  Tomorrow's another day!! :)   We are also trying to juggle the visiting schedule because of course I would have everyone come over 24/7, but I have to be practical.  Tomorrow, I'm a little leary, but if the weather is nice, my neighbor Mimi is going to walk with me to the park next door (Alexandria Park) where there will be music in the bandstand.  We'll sit on one of the benches on the Bidwell Street side.... then Michel LaFleche is coming over from the island.  SO, Facebook people and Blog people... if you don't hear from me tomorrow afternoon onwards, don't worry... I'm being a juggler.  But I probably will be twittering and fb'ing in the morning from bed and the iPhone that wants to autocorrect everything I say to some insane nasty words  :) :)

Pink Hearts and Pink Stars to all... and to all a Pink Night :) :)


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 - the ongoing journey

Hellooooo Bloggies!

No excuses this time... I'm not even going to look at when the last entry was I put in my blog. I just know that this past month or so has had every sort of high and low imaginable. I don't even remember where I last left off, what I've reported on, and what I meant to but forgot, etc. So, some of this may be a repeat and other info might be brand new. Here goes... :)

I had been whining/complaining about this darn breathing problem. At first, it was every time I exhaled I would have this wheezing sound. Then it advanced to when I would inhale, there would be a gurgling sound that seemed to be caught in my chest... it wasn't something I could cough and release. It was driving me nuts! Of course, the explanation was that it was "bronchial spasms" which is very common for people who have chronic bronchitis, asthma, etc. Well, yes, I've had chronic bronchitis during my life but I had never experienced these bronchial spasms. But hey, as we get older, who knows? Alas, there's no cure for them... they will just go away on their own, in their own sweet time. But the problem is... I have not been having much in the way of bronchitis (had it just before the Christmas holidays, but that was the only time in over a year) and yet I had these bronchial spasms that wouldn't go away.

It was time for my oncologist to refer me to a Respirologist. Off I went to see (yet another) doctor. Well, he certainly wasn't hard on the eyes and seriously... are doctors all under the age of 25 now?? It sure seems that way!! But he was great! He certainly put me through my paces and put me through every respiratory test known to mankind... as well as the usual blood workups, CT scan, etc. It was Dr. Johnson who found an obstruction ... one of the tumors in my lungs was partially blocking my airwaves. This totally explained the problems I was having with the wheezing, gurgling and shortness of breath!! So he got together with my oncologist, Dr. Renouf, and they decided the best plan of action would be to have me see my radiation oncologist, Dr. Ma (who I hadn't seen since 2007)... and he agreed that we should go ahead with radiation and radiate the tumor that was causing the problem. 

That happened about 3 weeks ago. Now, Dr. Ma and the technicians all kept reminding me during the 5 days of radiation sessions, that the radiation would continue to work for about a week after we stopped... and then sometime after that week it's quite possible my symptoms will feel worse before they got better. BUT, the plan was/is that the radiation will shrink the tumor and then breathing will go back to normal... and that's what I'm counting on. Meanwhile... the week of radiation went smoothly, no reactions, nothing to report. The first two weeks after the radiation treatments, still no response/reactions. I even thought I was breathing better... but by then I was using a Nebulizer that I have borrowed from my father, which Dr. Johnston gave me a prescription for medications for it, as well, I have a heavy duty prescription narcotic cough suppressant in pill form. It was the THIRD week (last week) that the congestion came back fast and furious. I now have these coughing fits that, combined with shortness of breath, can literally take my breath away! Last night, I woke up from a fairly sound sleep around 1am, in a coughing fit and gasping for breath. Obviously, I could still breathe because I made myself sit up on the edge of the bed and immediately put the Nebulizer mask on and turned the machine on (it pays to have the medicine already set up in the machine for emergencies such as this). I did the fast relief medicine first, then followed by the longer term medicine (this is the same medicine that is in the puffers.. but more concentrated when done via mask/machine). I then took some cough medicine (liquid) followed by one of my prescription cough suppressant pills. That seemed to calm the coughing down (phew) and could crawl back into bed under the comforter. Should I mention here, my darling deaf diva schnauzer didn't bother to wake up and worry about her Mom... it was night time which is the time to be sleeping, thank you very much. Unless SHE is thirsty or hungry, there is no point in getting out of her warm bed

Anywho... today I'm breathing much better and the coughing is sporadic but nowhere near as bad as last night. I'm going to take this in my stride... after all, I couldn't tell you how many of the radiation techs as well as my radiation oncologist warned me not to be surprised, that this reaction is very common. The radiation, which is used to shrink the tumor also can do temporary damage to any tissue/organs in the near vicinity. Obviously, my airwaves are right there because the tumor was partially blocking them. It could have affected my esophagus as well... but so far (knock on wood), there doesn't appear to be any problem with the esophagus or throat (no problem swallowing). The airwaves have probably gotten inflamed, which means they will have become swollen, causing smaller tubes for the air to travel. This swelling should calm down over a few weeks, the tumor should shrink, and all will be well again. Dr. Ma has made an appt to see me on June 25... 5-6 weeks after the radiation and after any inflammation should have calmed down. SOOOO... long story longer, by June 25th I should be over the breathing and coughing problems :) 

Meanwhile... of course, it's never straight forward with me. Yet another scare! I noticed some weeks ago, a small lump on the left side of my neck, sort of just above the collar bone. It was one of those things where you notice it, but you aren't sure if you are just imagining it. It was not big enough, or obviously didn't concern me enough because I didn't mention it to my oncologist the last time I saw him a couple of weeks ago. But all of a sudden it DID become noticeable... and it certainly wasn't something I was imagining. I even had two friends, Michel and Toby, check (was hoping they'd say, "Oh, you are imagining things, that's nothing!), but neither of them said that! So I went to see my GP (Dr. Fay) at the beginning of last week. I think he tried to make light of it so that I wouldn't panic or anything. He said that since I had radiation in the area, it's possible that it has traveled through the lymph system and caused a lymph node to swell. It also could be a swollen gland. IF it was cancer, which is also possible, then I have already started my chemo treatment again and that is exactly what we would be doing if this had just popped up and was the only cancer we knew about. But we know I have cancer in my lungs and if this is a cancerous lymph node, then it will be treated with the chemo that I've started up again after a 2 month break (yesterday was only the second treatment since starting up again). Ok... I have got to be honest here. Finding this lump in my neck and how quickly it's gone from me not knowing if I could feel something to now where there's something there... that is obvious how quickly things can grow when not on treatment (IE: if the chemo stops working and there are no more options). That was a real reality check for me. I just assumed (I have no idea why) that IF the cancer were to spread and land somewhere else, that it would take another 5-10 years for it to actually grow into a tumor worth worrying about. WRONG! This happened in less than 2 months! 

Yesterday, I was getting my chemo treatment, so my oncologist came up to the 6th floor (my chemo tech had called him to explain I had found this lump and was a little concerned about it) to check it out. Of course, just by feeling it, he couldn't tell what it was... that would require a CT scan or biopsy. He said it would not be surprising if it was cancer because I had been off treatment for 2 months or so. But, if it was cancer, then it should respond (we hope) to the chemo. Of course, like anything cancer-related, it could take some time before we notice it shrinking. He says it's quite possible that this had been a smaller lump that I have had for some time. The CAT scans that I get every three months of of the chest and abdomen areas, so we would never have even caught this (it's not like you want to throw radiation at every part of your body, unless absolutely necessary) and there was never any reason to suspect there might be something going on in my neck area. That's one of the frustrating things about a Stage IV cancer... by the time a cancer has become Stage IV (meaning it has spread to a different area than where the primary cancer is), it is now "systemic". That means the cancer cells are/can travel anywhere in the body, through the blood and lymph system and land anywhere. 

Soooo... what is the plan?? Well, like I say, we have started the chemo again. Since we did have a two month break just recently (I needed the break so my fingers had some healing time, as well, both oncologists wanted me off the chemo while I had the radiation sessions), I figure it will take about 2 months to get back to where I was prior to taking the break... which will be around the end of June. We just recently had 2 CAT scans... one was my regular 3 month Abdomen/Chest scan and the second one was a different CAT scan of my lungs ordered by Dr. Johnston. So Dr. Renouf doesn't want us to rush and do a third CAT scan so soon after the first two... on top of the radiation I've just finished (Each scan has the radiation equivalent of 444 X-rays)... but my next 3 month scan he will also order that they do one of the left side of my neck. SHOULD the chemo not be effective on this lump, then yes, radiation would be another possibility. But I tell you... the realities of this horrible disease can be downright scary, even when I'm very good at compartmentalizing ... thinking about it, understanding it, and then putting it away so that it doesn't totally make my life miserable. 

There are so many things that I want to enjoy doing, time spent with friends where we are laughing and enjoying meals out, etc. And damn it... I plan on living life and not 24/7 worrying about the alternative... as much as it seems to love to rear it's ugly head. No, I'm not strong and brave... there are moments when I'm downright terrified... but when I write down what I'm going through, the understanding sinks in, and then I can wrap it up and put it in a drawer in my mental filing cabinet... then bring out the fun stuff and just deal with that. Call it denial, call it by whatever name people can come up with... but it's the way I cope ;) 

Speaking of coping... sooooo, let's put all of that away and what HAVE I been up to? Oh, I have so much that I want to do and yet, when I look at what I've done, it's pretty minuscule . BUT, I have found a place to hang my proverbial hat to help out on an ongoing basis. Some of you know the gals that run Carousel Theatre -- Carole, Jessie, Monique and Dani. They are so much fun and have done such a fabulous job of making Carousel the successful theatre company it is today... and might I add, the top Vancouver theatre company for youth! Anywho... I will be joining them on a part-time volunteer basis, where I will go in and help with various administrative projects. I love it! The offices are across the street from the theatre, down on Granville Island... so a quick, hop skip and jump over the bridge from home :) Check out their website -- 

I'm also thrilled to be involved with a brand new Canadian musical called Riverview High: The Musical. This is a musical that has been created locally by local Vancouver peeps! They have been workshopping it for the past couple of weeks and the will be doing the World Premiere at the Vancouver Fringe Festival this September. I will be joining the team as their Publicist and I'm thrilled to be involved with such a talented group of people!! Think the mid-60s, the Archie comic books and a combination of all the sitcoms back in the mid-60s... and all of that wrapped up into a musical that takes place at Riverview High :) So, life goes on... but golly gee whiz, it can stop throwing me these curve balls! I was never into sports so stop throwing balls at me!!! 

 Cheryl :) 

Some images from recent moments in my life ---

Bellini at the Keg on Granville Island... ahhhh, summer!!

Bridget in her seatbelt in the car... is that a cookie crumb I missed??

Eloise... the Radiation Machine that gave me 3 zaps, Mon - Fri for 1 week.

Watching TV is soooo tiring!! Maybe a cover-the-nose snooze about now!

Love this sign down on Granville Island... beware the wildlife!! (and they are serious!) :)

The wild life on Granville Island... beware!! They look innocent, but little do you know... thieves! All of them!!

The bridge I come over to come to Granville Island :)

Life on the West Coast is sooooo hard!!

This is on Granville Island as well... just behind the Waterfront Theatre.  Is it any wonder I (and so many others) love Granville Island??

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday, April 14th, 2012 - Happy Saturday, Everyone :)

Hellooooo Bloggies!

Yes, it's Saturday in Vancouver... ok, I'm pretty sure it's Saturday in a lot more places than Vancouver, but for sure I can guarantee that while I'm typing this, it is definitely Saturday in Vancouver. And a beautiful Saturday it was too! I know, I know... I'm constantly harping on how gorgeous the Spring is in Vancouver, when the weather cooperates. But then, we no sooner leave Spring and head into summer and lo and behold I'm harping on how fabulous Summer is in Vancouver, again assuming the weather cooperates. Last year, we really got ripped off of our summer, so hopefully that will be fixed for this year.

Anywho... it's already going on 9pm and I had every intention of putting in a blog entry this morning. No, I have no idea where the time goes, especially when I haven't left the apartment today!! So you'd think I'd have plenty of time! But nooooo! Well, it was a very productive day in that I got oodles of Suzy Domestic chores done... which I couldn't have gotten done without the help of Toby who lives across the hall. She is such a good friend and the biggest help! While my cleaning gal, Bailey, is off on maternity leave, there are some light household chores that I can do myself... but the others that take more energy, I can't do them. One of the biggies being LAUNDRY!! So, Toby, who does her laundry on Saturday mornings, just booked more time this morning and got all my laundry (3 loads) done! I'm very pleased tonight, knowing that all the laundry is done, even the doggy towels/bedding :) While she was doing that, I would putter in the kitchen... and put the laundry away when she would bring a finished load upstairs. Meanwhile, she had to change the bed linens, the duvet cover and the mattress cover because that takes just a little more breath than I currently have to give. But that's all done now and I'm feeling very happy with knowing the Suzy Domestics are done :)

Speaking of breath! I don't have a whole lot new to report, other than I did go see the radiation oncologist (Dr. Ma), yesterday. This was a consultation visit for him to go over what he thought he could offer me and for him to find out just what sort of understanding I have about my condition, etc. But, we do have a plan!!

The plan first is to go after the tumor that is causing the problem with blocking my airway. There are THREE tumors that my regular oncologist is concerned about, but as Dr. Ma explained it to me... when you radiate, no matter how well you line the machine up so that it's a direct hit on a tumor, there is bound to be some damage done to the healthy lung tissue around it. One has to also be careful not to touch any other parts that are in the vicinity. But he thinks we have a good chance to get this bothersome tumor... and it will be up to time to see if the tumor responds to the radiation. Once we've got this one taken care of, we can always revisit doing the other two tumors, but as long as they aren't causing any problems and aren't growing at great speeds, then he says we should not be in a rush to go after them... again because of the potential damage to healthy lung tissue. We can only do one tumor at a time, since one is right at the airway and the other two are on separate lungs.

Sometime next week, I should be getting a call from the Imaging Dept. with an appt. for another CAT scan. This is the scan that will be set up to just take a scan of my lungs/airways which Dr. Ma will then use to plan where exactly they will aim the radiation machine to get at the tumor. They will also set up little pin-prick size tattoos so that the radiation techs know exactly where the machine must be lined up to (same process that they did back in 2007 when they had to radiate my abdominal wall).

The difference... back then I was considered a Stage 3, so they were going after the area aggressively to make sure they had gotten the whole area so no cells could take hold and grow. Alas, it was about a year later that they realized that I went from a Stage 3 to a Stage 4 because the cancer had spread to the lungs. Not to the abdomen at all.. but to the lungs. As a Stage 4, there is no cure. Not only has it spread to a different location than the primary, but it means the microscopic cancer cells are now systemic and can land anywhere in the body and take root. So the treatment is now to stabilize, shrink, and keep any known tumors under control... hence the treatment for my lung tumors that are acting up is going to be radiation therapy. But just enough to get them under control.

Last radiation therapy in 2007 was Mon - Fri for 6 weeks. That's a lot of radiation!! This time, for the tumor blocking the airway, it is going to be 5 days, 5 sessions. Expected side affects:

- fatigue
- inflammed or swollen airwave so it will feel like the breathing is getting worse, but once the inflammation starts going away (after we stop the radiation), then (fingers crossed) the breathing should get much easier!
- possible inflammed esophagus... which could then create some very annoying heartburn. Hopefully we can keep that under control with medication.
- weakness, lack of energy... but this too should improve as the inflammation heals.

Soooo... once we have the CAT scan/tattoos done, the radiation sessions should start. If all goes according to schedule that should happen in the next three weeks.

Monday, I get my blood work done as well, I have an appt. with my regular oncologist. It will be at this appt. we will discuss whether to do another session or two of chemo before the radiation. I'm leaning towards no chemo until after the radiation/healing... but it will all be determined on whether the tumors are growing or are relatively stable.

So there you have it... the journey continues!! Now, before I sign off, which I really need to, just a quick note of recommendation to my friends who live in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. Last night I saw the opening night of a co-production between Carousel Theatre and Visible Fictions (from the UK) of the production Jason and the Argonauts. Fabulous performance by two actors who play multiple roles!! Yes, Carousel presents wonderful productions for youth... and this one is no different. Although... I can honestly say, whether you have children to take to the theatre or you and a friend are on your own, no children... GO SEE THIS PRODUCTION!! The acting is amazing... two actors being able to portray so many characters, seamlessly is really a sight to see. If you do have kids, probably 8yrs+, it's amazing to see their imaginations at work. I thought Greek myths might be a little bit too deep for kids... but it certainly wasn't for the kids who were in the audience last night. They definitely got it... no problem!!

Ok.. off I go to make some toast and tea! Have a fabulous Sunday, everyone!!



Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012 -- Scary Week

Hello Bloggies!

Ye, it's me... surprising, no? I mean, this blog entry is not a month or longer since the last one. That's just not like me! Where's my sense of procrastination?? Has it deserted me?? I mean, the last blog entry was only March 21st, and here it is, March 30th... only 9 days later!!

Ok, so that is good in that I'm working on the procrastination. And it does help that I'm in-between shows right now, hence the concept is that when I'm not working on a show, I would have more time... to say, catch up on email and do regular blog entries... or maybe even work on my idea of the ongoing e-Newsletters (which will need a website so I can archive each issue there). But, I digress... today's blog entry is going to be another Health Update entry. It has been one heck of a week and until I could get my head around the latest scuttlebutt and absorb the information, I wasn't up to talking or posting about it.

So, I may have to backtrack a bit... or better yet, refer you all back to the March 21st blog entry... the last one I did. In that entry, I had mentioned how I have had these darn "bronchial spasms" since December. The very first time I got them was last year, about this time, when I was on a chemo called "Irinotecan". I thought that was a nasty, nasty chemo because I had a reaction to it. That was when these darn bronchial spasms showed up... and my breathing got so bad that I ended up in Emergency at St. Paul's Hospital, up the street from me. They put me on one of the hospital-size Nebulizer machines (these are the machines that they put a medication in that turns to steam and you breathe it in via a face mask... which the meds open up your airways and you can breathe easier). This worked like a charm on me... as well, worked very quickly, which surprised the Emergency doctors. They took an X-ray at the time and couldn't find anything... so everyone put it down to an asthma-like reaction to the chemo, with accompanying bronchial spasms, which are very common with folk who get asthma or chronic bronchitis. My oncologist took me off that chemo... and over the summer, the bronchial spasms went away. Great.

Fast forward to December 2011. I came down with that cold/bronchitis that everyone seemed to get around the holidays. And why wouldn't I? I was out and about and mingling with crowds, which you can't escape from at that time of the year, so low and behold, guess who got the sore throat, which turned into a cold and a few days later turned into bronchitis? Sure enough, the bronchial spasms came back! Arrrgh! I guess now that I had gotten them once, I am susceptible to them. Bummer!

Note... for those who aren't sure what bronchial spasms are... its when your bronchial tubes get inflamed, which then makes your airwaves much smaller. This makes it hard to breathe... when you exhale, you wheeze. When they get really bad, when you inhale, you "gurgle"... and although you can breathe, you feel like you can't, or that it's very difficult. The difficulty actually comes when you try to do anything. Walking, going up/down stairs, lifting anything, or even something as simple as getting dressed, you run out of breath and have this "shortness of breath" problem. That is what happens when one has bronchial spasms... not fun and cause for panic.

So, I've been whining to any and every doctor who would listen to me since December. My cold/bronchitis ran it's course and it was gone by the New Year... but the bronchial spasms/shortness of breath remained. The doctors would use their stethoscopes and say my chest/lungs were all clear. There was no signs of congestion or potential problems. Yet I KNEW that this just wasn't right!

Now, in the last blog entry I did say I had had a CAT scan... and there was nothing on the CAT scan that would indicate a problem. Everything looked fine. Well, I knew there was something wrong because now I had a very loose cough, like when you've had bronchitis and it's broken up, so now you have a very productive cough. If there was nothing there, then why would I be coughing up so much stuff and running out of breath when I really wasn't doing anything that required a lot of energy?? So, my oncologist referred me to a Respirologist... and I got an appt. within a week. For this appt, I had to go to VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) because they have a Respiratory Clinic within the hospital.

So, this brings us up to last week when Michel drove me to the hospital and dropped me off. Since I had never seen a Respirologist before, I had no idea if I would get my 10 minutes of time with the specialist or if I'd have to wait around... so I told Michel to just drop me off and I would take a cab home when I was finished. Little did I know, I'd be at the hospital all day!! Yikes!

Test after test after test! Various doctors came to listen to my chest/lungs, have me do that test where you blow into this device which is hooked up to a computer of sorts. I failed miserably at the blow test (I know, I could make a rude joke here, but I am restraining myself!! ). For those of you on Facebook... you all heard a blow by blow (oh, there I go again!) description of what I had to go through... and the waits in-between tests. And then Dr. James Johnston came to talk to me. He was my Respirologist and OMG.. he was wonderful!! Definitely not hard on the eyes, but he also wasn't the stereotype specialist! He listened. He smiled a lot and kept me at ease and calm. At that point he said they still hadn't found anything that was causing the problems but it's quite obvious I was having problems with the breathing. He had the nurse put me on the Nebulizer machine and sure enough, I felt much more comfortable within minutes. So he said that, although I had just had a CAT scan the week before, he would like to do another one, slightly different because what they would be focusing on would be if there were any blood clots in my lungs. He was pretty sure that I wouldn't have any, since I'm on a daily injection of blood thinner... but the shortness of breath is a symptom of blood clots, so we may as well be thorough and check for them.

So, after the CAT scan, and he had conferred with the Radiologist, the answer was that no, there were no blood clots. He brought me over to a computer to go over the scan with me. Ok, I don't know about the rest of you, but no matter how much they point things out, I can't see them and I have no idea how these doctors/radiologists read scans. But he was showing me them and said that everything looked fine.. and then he found something which he hadn't seen before. So, he manipulated the screen and saw "damaged tissue" that the radiologists at the Cancer Agency had missed, as well as the Radiologists at the hospital (altho, I think the ones at the hospital did see something because they had to take a second scan because the first one had a shadow and they put it down to I may have breathed when they took the picture). So, whatever this is, Dr. Johnston could not say for sure. It could be damaged tissue from years and years of bronchitis, or years of smoking (yes, I was a diehard smoker back in the day), or chemo damage, or really anything. He was going to talk to my oncologist, Dr. Renouf, and possibly refer me to a thoracic surgeon for a procedure where they put a stent into the airwaves, which opens them up and I would be able to breathes normally again. But first, he'd talk to Dr. Renouf.

So, this week, I was expecting to hear back from Dr. Johnston, or hear from the surgeon's office about a consultation visit. Meanwhile, the day before seeing Dr. Johnston, I had gone out to my dad's and have borrowed his Nebulizer machine. What a life saver!! It got to the point where I did not want to sleep at night because I'd wake up in a panic thinking I couldn't breathe. Unless any of you have gone through that, there is no feeling more scary than not being able to breathe. I would have to walk around the apartment, telling myself to calm down... of course, I can breathe, of course I can breathe... but it was difficult. With the Nebulizer... I don't get so bad that I can't breathe and if I were to wake up panicky, I could start up the machine and be fine within a few seconds. So Dr. Johnston gave me a prescription for the Nebulizer meds for 1 month because I would be seeing someone before the month is out.

Well, I did get a phone call this week but it was not from a surgeon's office. It was from Radiation Oncology. My oncologist has referred me to Dr. Ma, the Radiation Oncologist I had back in 2007. I am having a consultation visit with him next Thursday. They are assuming (and will be following up to be sure) that this "damaged tissue" could actually be one of the tumors in the lung blocking my airwave(s). So the plan will be to radiate it and see if that will shrink it... which if it does, then that will solve the problem. If we go for the stent right off the bat, and this is one of the tumors, then the stent will do nothing for shrinking the tumor. That makes sense. But it came as such a surprise to me because I knew nothing about this option and here I was being booked for a Radiation consult without knowing anything about it. Then to really freak me out, the booking gal I was talking to who was very nice, she went through the referral paperwork and explained that my oncologist had referred me, for radiation of a possible tumor and this treatment would be "palliative treatment". Well that terminology freaked me right out!! When I think of "palliative", I think of "End of Life". Now, I do feel strong and relatively healthy, but when I can't breathe, I can definitely have my doubts and wonder, especially since no one could explain why I was going through this other than to say bronchial spasms!!

I immediately put a call in to my oncologist(s) office and asked that someone call me back asap!! I needed an explanation as to what is going on. While waiting, my Community Health Care Nurse, Selena, called. She was calling to see how I was doing and just keeping in touch. So I spilled the beans to her and she could tell I was really upset... so she was an angel. She had me calm down and then told me that it's unfortunate, but in Canada we use the word "Palliative" for two different reasons. The one is for exactly what I thought ... End of Life Care. The other is for when you have an illness that is incurable, then it is treatment to keep the disease stable. In the case of cancer, to keep the tumors stable so they aren't growing, or with a bit of luck, to actually shrink them with medication or some kind of procedure. Radiation is considered a procedure and if this is a tumor, then having the radiation to shrink the tumor so that I can breathe with ease again. Phew!! That definitely relieved me because I was stressing out big time! Shortly after that call from the nurse, one of my oncologists, Dr. Val Geddes called... and when I explained to her how I was stressing out and then what Nurse Selena told me, she agreed with the Nurse. She said that in doctor's terminology, they use Palliative to distinguish treatment for stability vs treatment for a cure. (Note: once a cancer has metastasized, it is considered incurable because there are cancer cells throughout the body... but they go out of their way to try to shrink any tumors or treat them to stabilize the growth).

Anywho... it was an extremely emotional roller coaster of a week and next week I'm not sure what all is going on. I have blood work and an oncologist appt. on Monday. At the moment, I'm scheduled for IV Hydration and Magnesium + Chemo on Tuesday. The chemo may be cancelled until we know what is happening with the radiation treatments... but that consultation appt. won't be until Thursday, but the actual radiation wouldn't start until at least the next week... so it may be that I get the Chemo on the Tuesday. All I can say is thank goodness for iCal, my calendar on the computer and iPhone, otherwise, I would have no idea where I was suppose to be and when!! ;)

Soooooo... tonight I'm off to see a one man musical called FLOP! The Musical. It has gotten rave reviews and is written, composed and acted by one very talented young man. I'm looking forward to seeing what the buzz is about the show :)

Other than that, I'm having a relaxing, no commitment kind of weekend. I have a funny feeling next week is going to be busy and a bit of roller coaster ride.

Have a great weekend!!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 21, 2012 - Health Update

Helloooooo bloggies!

Oh, you would never know by this blog entry the good intentions I had of doing up a blog entry complete with pictures and all kinds of stories about the adventures I've been on over the past month. But nooooo, here it is going on 11pm and I am only just starting it. Ack! You see, I just don't have enough hours in the day... or, enough days in a week!! So, I'm just going to make this one a health update... and hopefully can get a chit chatty entry done soon. A girl can hope :D

So, last week I had the dreaded CAT scan. I say "dreaded" because one is on tender hooks wondering if the results are going to be good, bad or somewhere in-between. I can't remember (chemo-brain) if I mentioned on an earlier blog post about these very annoying "bronchial spasms" I have been suffering with since early December. If I did go on about them, then sorry for repeating myself here. Bronchial spasms are that horrible wheezing people with chronic bronchitis or asthma can get. It's a horrible feeling because as you breathe out, your breath comes out as a wheeze. Clearing your throat doesn't help because the wheeze comes from your inflamed bronchial tubes. Now, I have had chronic bronchitis since I was in my early 20s, but never in my life have I ever had bronchial spasms. The first time I got them it was scary... it was because I was reacting to the chemo I was on (Irinotecan) and when it got really bad was when I ended up having an asthma reaction (along with the bronchial spasms) and I ended up in Emergency at St. Paul's hospital. That was scary but they put me on a nebulizer (sp?) and that really helped. But it meant coming off the chemo because that was too dangerous of a reaction to it... probably meant I was allergic to the chemo.

Well, this past December, I got the bronchial spasms again. That didn't totally surprise me because I had come down with a cold/bronchitis and obviously my bronchial tubes are susceptible to them now. But the cold/bronchitis went away in normal time, but the bronchial spasms never did leave. Breathing has been wheezy since December... and over the last 3-4 weeks, the cough has turned into a real loose, phlegmy cough. It can get so bad that I wake up coughing and it feels like I'm going to drown. Or the wheezing is so bad, I can't catch my breath. And walking? I walked out from the apartment to my car that was parked out in the back lane... so literally up a ever so slight incline the equivalent of walking maybe 3-4 car length... and I ended up wheezing and so out of breath. There have been more than a few times where I've woken up in a panic thinking I can't breathe. I make myself get up, use the puffers (I have three of them) and then make myself walk around the apartment to calm down and completely wake up to prove to myself I can breathe.

I also should add here, the chemo I'm on right now "pantimumab" (and no, I can't pronounce it but another name for it is "Vectibix", is pretty much the last option of chemos I have to try. That is scarier than heck because if it isn't working or it stops working, then I will have run out of chemo options.

So getting the results of this CAT scan was nerve-wracking. Besides checking to see if the tumors in the lungs have shrunk or grown or remained stable, they were also going to check to see if there is anything in/on the bronchial tubes that are causing the breathing problems.

Well, the news is not wonderful but also nothing super bad. As far as the tumors in the lungs... there are two of them plus a lymph node that has grown very little... he said about 1mm. It's so small, that they can't get an accurate reading... keeping in mind it's different radiologists who read these scans, so what one said/saw in Dec, the March one is read/interpreted by a different radiologist. So when talking the growth measurement of 1mm or less, for all I know, there might not have been any growth... it's just the angle might have been different. So, that is the good news... I think. Still, it would be better if there was a noticeable shrinkage and no possible growth at all. The other good news is there is no new tumors or growths... so that is something to be thankful for.

Meanwhile, there was absolutely nothing show up on the scan that would show what is wrong with the bronchial tubes and why I'm having such problems with breathing and a loose cough. Of course, doctors go by what they see/hear and since my chest doesn't sound congested and the scan didn't show anything, I swear they think it must not be as bad as I say it is. I told them it feels infected, that it is so similar to the bronchitis I used to get, minus the tightness in my chest. So my two once finally agreed with me to give me a short round of antibiotics to see if that makes any difference... so I only get 5 days of one pill/day. I don't know how 5 pills is going to clear up almost 4 months of this ongoing bronchial problem. I don't think they believe there's any infection there :/ I think they are thinking the chemo may be irritating the bronchial area... even though I told them this started when I wasn't on chemo. It's all so frustrating when you don't know what's causing a problem, hence no idea how one should treat it.

So, they are referring me to a respirologist and hopefully he/she can figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, they've cancelled my chemo until the respirologist can say the chemo is not the problem (I have no idea how he/she is going to know that). I still had to go to the chemo unit for my 3 hours of IV hydration and magnesium... just no chemo allowed :/

Well, I can't say my fingers and skin won't be glad of the break. The fingers are so sensitive, even though they made it a much smaller dose of chemo starting in January. Hopefully they will be able to heal a little bit while on this break, which I hope is just a break and not the end of getting chemo.

Ok... it's now almost 12:30am... time to go to bed! But, I did want to put an update in one spot because so many of you ask and I'm so grateful that you do and your interested... but I can't be writing these reports out over and over... hence, if I put it here, then everyone will know where to come find it :D

My bed is definitely calling me!! Nighty-nite!!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Monday, February 13th, 2012 - So behind... do you remember me? :)

Hello dear blogmates!

I know, I know... no one needs to remind me that the last blog entry was Dec 1st!! Yikes, that's over two months ago!! Where has the time gone by? Oh sure, there were the holidays in there, and then the Pancreatitis which did more than a bit of a number on me, and then a scare from one of the oncologists, and the list goes on and on and on. So where do I start to fill in two months of my life into some sort of readable babble that doesn't end up boring you to death??

Oh, what the heck, may as well just jump in, start somewhere and then take it from there. Let's start with some cheery good news! :D In the past year (Feb 2011 to Feb 2012), I have been trying to lose some weight, but without getting down to any serious dieting plans. I figure, since something (we aren't sure if it's the chemo or any of the meds I've been on) has taken away my appetite starting back in, I believe it was August, then this is as good a time as any to watch what I'm eating. More the good old "portion" control since my taste buds are just fine, but I have zero appetite... this should make portion control fairly easy to follow. Well, from Feb 2011 to July 2011, not too much happened... but then, I still had a reasonably healthy appetite. I lost 15 lbs in those 6 months. Nothing to get too excited about, but at least it was a loss and not a gain. Feb 2011 saw my weight at it's heaviest EVER, so 15 pounds is 15 pounds. Then the appetite disappeared. From Aug to just last week (Feb 6, 2012) I have lost a further 50 lbs, bringing my total weight loss for the year up to a total of 65 lbs! YAYAYAYA! Now, you would think that I could really notice a 65 lb loss, but it's like you hear where an anorexic thinks they are fat, even when they only weigh 75 lbs!! Ok, I'm NOT an anorexic by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't see the weight loss... I see myself as the same as before and notice no difference. Weird, no? But that's ok... I am going to keep doing what I'm doing and know that every kilo lost is a good thing for me... especially if down the road I have to look at surgery or an RFA procedure. So yayaya on me!

Now, the not so good news. Over December, I managed to catch one of the nasty colds/bronchial bugs. Nothing earth shattering and it was no different than the colds/bronchitis I've had many many times in the past. But since I had that bad reaction to one of the chemos last year (Irinotecan), as soon as I got this bug, I also got the bronchial spasms that supposedly are so common with people who have chronic asthma or chronic bronchitis. Grrrr! This is a real pain in the butt... bronchial spasms are when the bronchial tubes are inflamed so when you exhale (and sometimes inhale) you "wheeze" or "gurgle". You can still breathe when you have this, but it can give you a panicky feeling that you aren't going to be able to breathe... although I've had no problem breathing when I have this. Well, my cold/bronchitis cleared up pretty much by New Years Eve... but the damn bronchial spasms refuse to go away. And there's nothing that can be done for them other than, if they are bothering me, I use the "puffers"/"inhalers". I just wish it would go away so that I can feel like my breathing and lungs are ok. You can't help but feel, since I know my tumors are in my lungs, that the bronchial spasms might have something to do with the condition in my lungs, even though all the doctors say the two are not related.

Speaking of lungs and tumors... there's one bugger of a tumor that has been ignoring the treatments. Last count that I'm aware of, I have about 11 tumors throughout both lungs, of different sizes. It's the largest one that is acting up and ignoring the chemo treatment that I've been on. From Sept to the beginning of December, I was on Vectibix at full strength. OMG! I can't begin to explain the side affects and how much they affected my quality of life. The most notable.. my fingers and toes. I can't even begin to describe the incredible pain... and even now, when I think back, my mind has blanked out the worst of it. But as I tried to describe to a friend, when I went to pick up something, let's say a fork... it was as if someone took a hammer to my fingers and before I could finish the scream, slammed them with a door. This is just from touching something! The toes were probably the same, but since I have severe neuropathy in my feet, I couldn't feel the physical pain the same as I could with my fingers... but I would notice blood on the carpet while walking with bare feet... the bottoms of my feet and toes were peeling so badly they were bleeding.

So, starting Dec 1st, I was on a 6 week break from the chemo with the hopes that both fingers and feet would heal over the break period. Meanwhile, it was noted that the majority of the tumors were stable (IE: Not growing, not doing anything). The good news, the feet and most of the fingers healed just fine. Two fingers were taking their sweet time healing and ironically, the week I could say I think they both had healed was the week we started on chemo again ;)

But, I missed out on something... pancreatitis! Yes, at the end of November/beginning of December, I somehow managed to have a pancreatitis attack! I've never had one in my life so was not aware of what was happening. I just felt really sick and thought that, with my compromised immune system because of the chemo, I may have contracted a nasty stomach flu. I had no idea that this was pancreatitis and I should not have waited around but should have gone straight to the hospital. As horrible and painful as it was, apparently this was just a mild case. If it had been a more severe case, I would have been forced to go to the hospital and chances are, would have been placed in ICU, that's how nasty pancreatitis can be. This was another reason why I was given a break from the chemo. Although this particular chemo is not considered related to causing pancreatitis at all, your body is fighting enough just going through chemo treatments. Now, since my pancreas was inflamed, it only made sense to stop the chemo so my body would have a chance to be able to fight the pancreatitis.

For those who aren't aware... the pancreas is a small organ that plays a very important told in life. It is the organ that creates hormones, digestive enzymes and insulin... three things that are very important to the workings of one's body. Since the pancreas was badly inflamed during the bout of pancreatitis, everything was thrown out of whack when it came to these three things (hormones, digestive enzymes, insulin). Oh lucky me! Because the insulin was thrown out of whack, guess who now has diabetes?? As if I don't have enough on my plate??? So, I have been put on diabetes medication (Metformin) and so far (knock on wood) I do not have to take daily insulin shots.

I am now back on my chemo (Vectibix), only at a lower dosage than what I was getting before Christmas. We are hoping that the lower dose will still knock the tumor down, or at least keep it stable and stop it's growth... without having that horrible reaction that my fingers and feet had to it. I have had two treatments at the lower dose and so far, so good!

Ok... so that's the medical report which catches everyone up to the here and now... we are now in the middle of February 2012. I tried to keep it short and to the point but as you can see, it still took up a lot of space to report. All the more reason I have to do blog entries more often!! I am feeling just fine. My only complaints at the moment are the darn bronchial spasms which tend to cause me to wheeze when I'm breathing... which also tends to make me run out of breath faster than normal. I also get tired easily when I find it hard to breathe. It's a vicious circle.

It also doesn't help that an acquaintance of mine, Lisa, who has the same kind of cancer and, it too, went to her lungs. So the two of us have pretty much been on par with each other as far as treatments, etc. goes. She sees doctors in California and, of course, mine are all up here in Vancouver. But the protocol of treatments are pretty much the same all over North America when it comes to treating cancer with chemo/radiation therapies. Lisa and I have been keeping track of each other's progress only because our cases/conditions seemed so similar. She is a good 10 years or more younger than I am, but we both were in relatively good health throughout our treatments. She did end up switching to an organic, mostly vegetarian diet... which is something I have not been interested in doing. Unfortunately, Lisa's condition took a turn for the worst :/ She is now in hospice care and has the hospice nurses coming into her home. It's just a matter of time now and she will be leaving a husband and three children behind. So darn sad... and yes, it hits way too close to home for me.

But I'm keeping myself busy, busy, busy so I don't have to be thinking of the worst case scenarios. Right now, I am involved with a show in town called the "Marvelous Wonderettes". So much fun!! 4 wonderful girlfriends who happen to be extremely talented putting on this show. To hear them harmonize together is pure magic... not to mention the songs in this show take us straight down memory lane :D The first act takes place at their 1958 Prom Night, so all the music is from the 1950s. The second act takes place at their 10 year reunion, so 1968... and all the music in this act is from the 1960s.

Hehehe... I was going to add pictures throughout this blog entry (as if it weren't long enough already) but I figure that would only take more time trying to find pictures that were related to what I was talking about, so once again the blog entry would be delayed . Soooo, I'm going to post it without adding any pictures and perhaps the next blog entry can be mostly pictures with very little text!! LOL!!

My mind has gone blank right now! I know I'm missing out on a whole bunch of stuff that has happened or is happening in my life. Oh that darn memory... it comes, it goes and I never know when it's something I'm going to be able to rely on :) So, tell you what... I'm going to post this entry as is... and if I remember all the stuff that I meant to talk about, then I'll post a new entry ... otherwise, we'll just have to start from here :)

Until the next time....