Janet and I had a bunch of question for Dr. Hedley. They cantered primarily around the need to continue the Chemo Sessions if they were no longer effective. What were the repercussions of taking a Chemo Vacation at this point, or at the end of August as he was planning> Taking a vacation now would allow us to enjoy the summer.

We are slowly realizing that a lot of decisions are ours to make. If we want to quit the Chemo Session, than quit it is. We are in charge of our treatments. The doctors are there to guide and advise us. The ultimate decision is ours. This is a bit freaky. We are never sure if we are making the right decisions or not. Do we have the right amount of information to make a decision? Is it the right decision? To make matters worse, the doctors themselves are not sure either.

Every body reacts differently to the drugs. We were at a small party celebrating Kali’s birthday the other day. One of the friends has a brother with very advanced lung cancer. The gave him one Chemo session to which he reacted very badly. All the stuff they keep expecting me to go through. So sorry to disappoint. They removed his brother from any further Chemo treatments. So are you still on Chemo, he asks me. Yes. How long have you been on Chemo. Almost a year now, since last October. He was dumbfounded. I do not look or behave like a Chemo patient. Except for the afternoon naps. We are all different.

My blood work showed more positive results than last time. My liver enzymes are closer to where they should be with one indicative being totally in the normal range.

Dr. Hedley brought up the fact that we have not had a break since this thing started. I started feeling the pains in June 2009. By August 1, the diagnosis was fairly complete and certain. Operation on September 2, Chemo in October. Yikes. A year without a break. The doctor saw no reason why we should not stop the treatments right now and take our vacation. A CT-Scan was planned for Friday (today) to set a baseline for the future. Next CT-Scan in two months. Chemo would only start again if my situation deteriorates. A steady condition will result in a longer vacation.

A two month Chemo Vacation is on the books. Cannot believe it. I am in a bit of a daze. Basically what happens when you receive bad news or terrifically good news. You cannot believe your ears and shut down. Two months with no Chemo.

Janet and I stared at each other. What do you say? How do you react?

Doctor Hedley wanted to feel my stomach to make sure all was right. I suggested that things were still a bit tender. I can lift heavier bags now, but feel some discomfort if I overdo things. I am sure the healing process will speed up without the Chemo getting in the way. He appeared to confirm this. Good news. I am looking into going to the pool on a regular basis to strengthen the stomach a bit. I get bored swimming. Back and forth, you go. I will have to do it nevertheless.

Can we start eating raw meats again? I miss my steak tartar, sushi, and oysters. I was given the green light for sushi. Say it ain’t so. We decided on the spot that we would have that for dinner to celebrate. Diana, Nancy and her daughter Lily are coming over. Makes for a grand celebration.

Dr Hedley mentioned that we are in really good hands with his nurse, Shahnaz. We truly are. She is magnificent. She mentioned how much the nurses in the Chemo daycare like me. I walk in with my big laugh and cheer them up. The doctor just shook his head. All the nurses love him he says. Then gives me a gigantic hug before leaving.

Janet and I were left alone for a few minutes in the consulting room. She high fived me. This is the first time in almost a year were I could a glimmer of hope in her eyes. She seemed ecstatic over the news. She had a bright smile and a glitter to her eyes. That was enough to make me happy.

I phoned Fetneh and Fo’ad that night. It is always good to talk to them after news like this. It helps air my thoughts, clear the cobwebs a bit, get some perspective. I eMailed them of course, but that was not clear enough for them. Fetneh was jumping for joy. She made me promise to not withdraw from life because of this. The are chances of withdrawal symptoms creeping in if you are not careful. The hospital has been a home away from home, as it were. A very safe place to spend time in. You get sort of attached to these things. The routine. However horrible the Chemo experience is, you get used to the routine. The people. The support.

I assure her that I will not regress. I will keep the blog going. I may have a bit of trouble adjusting to the new freedom. We will see.

Fo’ad was just as supportive, of course. How does this change life? I don’t know. My curly head of hair may even make a comeback. I see no negatives in any of this. I become so much stronger when I am off Chemo for even a week. This can only be good.

We have lots of plans. We have been invited to all sorts of places. Long trips are out of the question. One day excursions within the vicinity of Toronto can be done. We are going to see Anne and Frank in Pickering, John and Sharon have invited us to their horse farm, Heather and Neil want us to go their farm. Heather reminded me that it is almost a year to the day when we went to their farm to share the news. Their friend Beth was there, also a cancer patient. She had a long conversation with me about what to expect. Strange to think of that now.

Devin is leaving us to go pursue a master degree in Change Management at the New School in New York City. We should be flying down on August 21. Sadness and happiness combined. I am ever so proud of him.

September will see me visit Montreal again to spend some time with Hong Lan. Janet will be attending the film festival in Toronto. My visit to Montreal will take some pressure off her. I have to talk to Hong Lan a bit more about what her remedies are. Stuff that includes acupuncture to increase energy levels. She deluged with so much information that I had trouble absorbing it all. A revisit is a must. To say nothing of spending time with Fetneh, of course. I will try and stay in the same apartment as before, taking advantage of Steve Mykolyn’s generosity. It is good to have a space of your own, specially when you are in my condition.

I lay down when we got home. All this stuff is a bit overwhelming. We had dinner and I returned to bed and made my phone calls.

Yesterday was my very first day of this vacation. I slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I also wandered around the house a bit lost. I have so many things to do, so many projects on the go. Where to start? Sleep of course. I am having lunch with Kali today. Looking forward to that. Planning the trip to New York when I get home from that.

Tomorrow is a new day. Taking us back to another sense of normalcy. Can’t wait.

We had Art Therapy today. Must be Wednesday.

Three people from last week did not show up, two new people showed up. Except they are not new since the moderator and one of the participants know them. Hey, how are you, long time. And so on. This is a safe place after all. Five women and me. The ratio is right again.

Today’s challenge: represent your support network. Is it internal? External? Faith based? What does your armour look like? Armour? There is the battle cry again. A subject for a different day at the sessions. No armour here, though others do not appear to have any problems with the concept.

I had a lot of trouble with this one. Kept looking for the inner child to show itself. Damn child stayed well hidden. Probably behind its armour. No, no armour here, and none for the inner child.

I took a lot of notes again. The session started with people talking a bit about themselves and what they are feeling. I was quiet. Not sure if I am ready for that yet. Which, you have to admit is bizarre. Here I am laying myself bare in a very public blog, but have difficulty expressing myself in an atmosphere of trust and safety.

There is a lot of anger. Different people expressing it. Same discussion as last week. Anger at people who do not seem to understand. Anger at the inconsiderate nature of people. Anger at being abandoned by close friends who cannot handle the change.

There is also a certain amount of condescension. A safety blanket of sorts. It manifests itself in subtle ways. An interesting aspect of belonging to a private club. We are invited to go shopping, but we turn it down. We don’t need to go shopping, we are not materialistic. The same sentiments were expressed last week, by a different person. Again, no one objected to the sentiment, or even commented. There appeared to be tacit agreement. Some of us are more empathetic than others. People are mainly concerned about themselves. Life is too short for us to worry about others. Are we being patronizing to those who are unlucky enough to not have been enlightened by having cancer?

One person talked about losing long standing friendships. The relationship has changed. Shopping is of no interest. Life has changed, but the friends are still looking for the old relationship. They do not seem to come to terms with the changes and how they will affect things.

One friend wanted to talk about the view from the other side. It was not to be. I was disappointed. Wondering what that was. I will have to take it up with my friends and see what comes out. It should make for an interesting conversation. This participant did not have the energy to listen to the other side, or the patience, or anything else. She listens to her friends talk about things that are no longer important to her, but are still important to her friends. Frustrating.

How much accommodation should we accord our friends? How much should be accommodated by our friends?

People need to do some self-reflection without it being started by someone else. I am not sure I agree with that one. We all need prompting from something or someone to wake us up. Look at us, the enlightened ones. We are self-reflecting, but only because we have been forced into it. Life would have gone on as before otherwise.

Comparisons were made to the Wizard of Oz. We keep looking externally for confirmation that we have brains, hearts, courage. All are within us, if we were only to look. There are lots of parts in our insides which take a lifetime to know. I think that is way too optimistic.

The Paintings:

Healthy Cell

She used green in her painting, even though she does not like green. Never wears it. She radiates from the inside out, drawing a cell, or is it an amoeba, or  a jelly fish. She does not know why she drew what she drew. It looks like a vulnerable inside protected by a more hard core exterior. Green representing spring, rebirth, new life. After all the feedback, and there was lots all centered on the protective shell, which still allowed the inside to radiate outwards, the participant said that what it says to her is that “I am here for you”. It begged the question, who is you? Sorry, what she meant to say is, “I am here for me”. That is an interesting thought that goes back to the original discussion we had about it being about you, and how much accommodation should be given and so on.


Water makes a return appearance. In this case it represents the friends and relatives who are there to support you. Surrounding you with calm and serenity. The oyster is her protected by the shell that is open to accept the radiation that is coming from the sun and others. Allowing her to help others and give of herself. The oyster represents purity and happiness.

A connection between the oyster and having to look deep within yourself? The expression that was used, I think was diving deep. Probably the most interesting comment of the day was given by the oyster: Give yourself permission to ask for what you need.

Strength from Within

Strength comes from within, while we are still nurturing others. Should we be more careful when communicating with others? Do we risk upsetting the equilibrium of relationships by being too open? This participant seems to think so. She painted her need to look inside for her support. Finds it exhausting to look outside. Energy sucking at ts best when you have to look outside for your strength. She painted herself as the centre radiating inner strength while protected from the outside by a thick wall. An internal light that needs protection from the  outside.

6 Circles

Six circles. She does not want to talk about her painting. Could not get into it.But she is pushed just a bit to tell more. She talks about the colours:

  • Blue=loyalty
  • Green=being grounded
  • Purple=creativity
  • Yellow=assertiveness
  • Grey=reflectiveness

There was a lot of comment on this painting. Circles leaning into one another, the colours bleeding into each other. A relationship between all the characteristics that are important to her. This has less to do with strength and support, and more to do with expectations of others. The conversation turns to support for the participant. She has done well to express herself. better than she thought. She wanted to draw balloons, but did not feel she a good enough artist to pull that off. As it is, are these asteroids colliding, or flowers?

She has grown up with negative messages, struggling to find her voice. Railing against all the negative messages that are pointed in her direction, She sent an eMail to someone cutting off the relationship . Should we cut people off? At what point? For what reason?

One participant did not wish to participate She drew three pages, participated in the conversations, but nothing abut her paintings. I hope she comes around next week. She may be robing us from an experience.

Where does strength come from. I have written about this before. Inner strength, I feel, is fed from outside support and help. Faith is definitely a big player. As are conversations. this bog which gives me a venue for dealing with thoughts. I guess that means that comments from readers are also very valuable.

Faith, Friends and Internal

My painting represents me at the centre, fed by my Faith (the nine pointed star), and my friends and relatives surrounding me. How great an artist am I! The brown stuff at the bottom is me being grounded. There was a lot of conversation around this. Maybe because I went first. Does my Faith bring people in to support? It should make for an interesting conversation, the role of Faith in one’s life. Whether the Faith in you attracts others,  or others create the Faith in you. Another day.

I said  at the beginning that there is a lot of anger in the room. Not at each other. Another item that came up was the giving nature of some of the people in the room. I asked everyone in the room if they were givers. All saw themselves as being givers, a couple hesitated a bit saying only part of the time.

The book, AntiCancer talks about the C personality. Among other things, it mentions that one of its characteristics is that they are generally givers and not takers. I brought the book in. I had made reference to it the previous week. One of the participants was reading the section, which I had bookmarked, detailing our personalities. Interesting reaction,a s one person disagreed with this entirely. Not believable, she said My cousin Ruja said the same thing when I was first diagnosed. She says it makes us more vulnerable. In a room of six people who have cancer, 6 people are more or less givers.

One person said that people would probably not fess up to being takers. Does this make takers lesser people? No judgments here. I asked a free question, allowing people to answer any way they wished to. There is a negative connotation to being a taker, but really and truly, no judgments here.

I was discussing this with Leslie, who wondered if the giving is hiding those other emotions. Could it be hiding the anger that is already there? Is it masking some other feelings that are just waiting to get out and manifest themselves?

An interesting two hours.

One of the recurring themes is where my inner strength to cope with this is coming from. It is a good question, the answer to which has eluded me.

I attended a Relaxation and Visualisation session at Wellspring this afternoon. There were six of us in the room at various stages of the journey. The session was split into three sections, relaxation, open discussion, and visualisation.

The subject of journaling came up. Two people mentioned that they were journaling.  I mentioned that I am blogging, a remark which was met with some silence followed by comments of not having a computer, or being computer illiterate. Journaling is a private affair, while this blog lays all bare.

I made a decision very early on to open this blog. As I have indicated in past entries, the results have been amazing in so many ways. I am truly astounded at the responses I am getting.

One of these comes from the very eloquent Sharon Singer just prior to my second chemo session in which she reminded me of all the people who are holding me during this process.

Janet mentioned in a conversation that she believes all this support results in a human positive energy current that is a web of energy created by all the people who are praying and thinking and talking about you. This came out in a conversation with one of her co-workers whose mother had cancer. That whatever happens outside is as important as what happens inside.

During this afternoon’s session, I was surprised at what appears to me a dearth of support for the other participants. This may be on purpose of course, since people tend to remove themselves from society. A huge quest for privacy.

I am now convinced that a huge part if the inner strength, such as it is, that I am exhibiting is the result of all the support I am getting from everyone, for which, I am eternally grateful.

© 2010 I Have Cancer Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha