Susie is Going to Win

A blog to share with family and friends

TRACKING MY CA125: June – 12, October – 20, January – 30, February – 40, mid-March – 48

FUCK CANCER – it’s back – but not the raging debut from October 2011…… “Just a little” …… one lymph node in fact.  Nothing to get all worked up about, right?  Wrong!  The CA125 is my warning signal and it has been a slow but steady rise.  PET scan results – I am no longer “in remission”.

The second time is much harder to face and I have been having a really tough time telling my friends and colleagues even though I know they will give me as much support as the first time.  I don’t want chemo again.  I don’t want……I don’t want…….Why me?……the list goes on and on.

Will I stop fighting for my life?  Of course not!  I want to live!  I just haven’t found my battle gear, nor have I been able to summon my fighting spirit.  Where is it?!  What’s going on in my head?  I somehow feel like it’s my fault.  I can’t help it.  However irrational that seems!

AND NOW FOR MY RANT!

Here are some of the reactions and responses when I have told someone ………”Susie, you just have to remain positive!”  “You did so well the last time”  “It’s not serious”  “Are you still meditating?”  “Doing yoga?”  “Get back to eating all those good green foods”!!  “It will be fine”  “You are strong”  “You’re a fighter”

Here are some helpful suggestions on what to say when someone has a recurrence of cancer (in my opinion):

“I’m so sorry to hear that”

“That’s terrible news”

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Please let me know how you are doing”

That’s really all anybody can say!  If I want advice, I will ask for it.  I just want people to listen.  Please do not judge, coach or try and pump me up!

It’s my journey and I am doing the best I can.

There – that feels better!  Well ….. it’s a start.

On the other hand, by re-connecting with you via my blog, I am asking for your support because you have supported me before.  It was really helpful and powerful to know I had everyone rooting for me.  It was also great not to blog for this time in between ……I enjoyed just living, working, laughing and sharing with my family and friends.

With gratitude,

Susie

xoxo

p.s.  I might have to go to the Re-Use Centre in Function Junction and find some appropriate ‘battle gear’.

Twelve!

Kiholo Bay, Hawaii 9/12

Kiholo Bay, Hawaii 9/12

Since my last post in August 2012, I’ve been enjoying life – one day at a time.  Holding my breath, just a little bit before each 3 month check-up.  I just had my 1 year after chemo check-up on March 13 and I am still a 12!  (CA125 = 12)  A big sigh of relief banishing my worries for another 3 months.  I am back at work and while the first weeks were really tough – I just wasn’t ‘into it’ as they say – it has gotten easier.  It’s nice to concentrate on normal day to day life again.  My new motto for 2013 is:

I’m in remission and I need a commission!  Humour is healing!

Briefly, I went back to Ontario in September with my sisters to put my Dad’s ashes in a closet – actually called a niche.  Some tears and lots of laughter too.  We watched all of our childhood slides that Dad took over the years especially when we were young.  What great memories!  What terrible hair and clothing!  Yikes!  Then Roland and I spent a week at our friends’ beautiful townhome on the Big Island of Hawaii.  It was so generous of them to offer it to us – thanks John and Penny!  We invited my friend Jill and her husband, Greg to join us – it was my way of saying thank you to Jill for looking after my business for all of those months.  We had a great time and visited Kiholo Bay where Denise and Grant wrote a my blog name with white lava rocks.  We couldn’t find the message but we wrote a new one.  The turtles were present.  Magic.  Then I wanted to take a ‘bucket list’ trip.  Somewhere really special that would be meaningful and exciting.  We chose to go to Ecuador – Quito, the Galapagos Islands and the Ecuadorian Amazon.  It was THE MOST AMAZING TRIP EVER!

Blue footed Booby

Blue footed Booby

Baby Sea Lion - Galapagos

Baby Sea Lion – Galapagos

Marinie Iguana Love

Marinie Iguana Love

Human blue footed booby

Human blue footed booby

Watching Albatross flying off the cliff - Espanola, Galapagos

Watching Albatross flying off the cliff – Espanola, Galapagos

I am really loving every minute of our Spring.  It’s a warm and sunny one and I relish every new bird chirping, the crocuses are finally poking through the dull, brown earth and last year’s leaves.  We’re going to go for a spring ski up the mountain tomorrow with friends.  Life is Good!

Love Susie

Encouraging words

Roland and I have been enjoying summer in Whistler – it’s so nice to wear shorts and sandals!  We’ve enjoyed some lunches and dinners on our deck – our flowers and herbs have thrived.  Sophie swims every day in one of our lakes.

I had my second check-up with Sasha on August 9th.  All is well!  CA125 = 11   Chest x-ray clear.  Phew!  I am grateful.  Next check-up November 8th.

    A friend of mine, Diane, who is also a cancer survivor told me about a woman she met at Lion’s Gate during chemotherapy called Bev.  She survived 21 years with Ovarian Cancer, 18 of those years were spent having chemo on and off.  Diane asked Bev if she would speak to me as she knew I was in need of a positive story.   It was so encouraging to hear of her successful fight.  I had to call several times – each time she was resting and her husband asked me to call back.  When we finally spoke, Bev was so kind and answered all of my questions.  She wasn’t feeling well as Sasha and his team had run out of chemo options for her.  She told me that all of her doctors were amazed at her stamina and they were still searching for a new drug for her.  She was grateful for the time she’d had and assured me that many of those years were good quality with travel and good times.  I felt guilty to be bothering her and I realized she was not getting better this time.  Her voice was weak but so gracious.  Sadly, Bev passed away on August 15 – she was 75.  I am humbled by her kindness and courage.  I wish for 21 years too – wouldn’t that be something?

Next is a note from a friend that I haven’t seen for a few years but is on Facebook.  She sent me this note via Facebook.

Hi Susie

How are you doing? I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy the nice weather finally!!

You came to mind on the weekend in such a strong way I knew I just had to contact you, so I apologise for the delay. I hope it doesn’t sound too weird … but sometimes I have been given things to tell people. Some call it words of prophecy or words from God. I just know it’s not from me and there is usually a huge weight and seriousness with sharing such a message.

I feel that I was given this message from God: “Susie’s got this beat” over and over. it’s always a bit stressful to share such things … what if I’m imagining things, what if it’s wrong? However, this has happened before … a barren woman gave birth, a confused boy was given the answer he needed, a lonely woman met the specific man I described. So I’ve learned not to trust in me, I just trust in God.

Ok, before I sound like a complete wacko … better go! I hope this is encouragement for the battles ahead. You already know you’ll win!!

Lots of love
Louise Bowyer-Smyth

Susie Frank

  • Thank you so much Louise for sharing and being brave enough to send me this note! I’m doing well…..anxiously waiting for my 5 1/2 month check-up on August 9th. This really means a lot to me and I am happy to have you in my cheering section!
    Love Susie

Healing

Happy toes!

I started this installment quite a few weeks ago and will just leave it ‘as is’ – except for a couple of revisions.  I’ve been slow in keeping up with my news…..I think I feel a general  overload…..spilling my guts and then clamming up because I wasn’t coping.  The support from all of you through my blog has inspired me and so……here I am.

May 9 – first check up with Sasha.  All is well – CA125 was 11 – couldn’t be any better!  We discussed some side effects from the chemo – my right arm is weak and hurts all the time.  Turns out that the chemo treatment from January (just after Dad died) likely damaged my veins and the nerves send signals all over the place in alarm!  Both my hands go numb at night – like carpal tunnel syndrome but it’s called Neuropathy.  Sasha said my vein may have been ‘fried’ by the chemo.  (I have found a really good massage therapist in Squamish who works with cancer patients and has studied the effects of chemo on the body.) The substance that allows the drugs to be soluble – at least in the case of Paciltaxol  is Ethynol……hmmmmm…….again – I refer to my love of wine………which I am sure helped me through the chemo.  They did counsel that the patient shouldn’t drive after chemo…..who knew it was because of alcohol?!  “No, Officer – I haven’t been drinking…..but I just finished a 4 ½ hour chemo session!”  Do you think I could have gotten off?

Summer on our deck!

My eyebrows are back and my eyelashes too.  It was really hard to be ‘blank’.  I was coaxing my brows back with a bit of Revitalash….works on eyebrows too!   I was able to put a bit of mascara on them tonight.  Hair is getting really thick.  I call my hair colour ‘taupe’.  It’s not grey and it’s not white and it’s not brown.  It is coming in really curly.  I think I can say – ‘ poodle head’ – not doodle which is softer.  This hair could scrub a bathtub or at least polish it.  Do you know the song, “My Father’s Eyes’ by Eric Clapton?  In the beginning when it was a bit sparse, my hair looked just like my fathers…..only not as white…..it was a weird feeling…..really freaked me out.

July 17 – Severe soaking wet, bright red hot flashes continuing…..hard to sleep.  My friend, Sue suggested laying a towel on the bed and pillow, then ditching it during the night – much better!

I visited my friends, Foster and Tracy in Palm Springs (sans Roland) in April.  They have a beautiful home in the old part of Palm Springs complete with tennis court and swimming pool.  It was great to get away and they treated me so well!  I felt completely looked after – is that another way of saying spoiled? I think so!

In May, my sister Bobbi and her daughter and new yoga teacher, Darcy came up to Whistler for a Yoga conference.  I did 4 classes in 2 days…..and got to meet Vishva-vi who is Darcy’s Yogi from the Ashram she went to in February for her teacher training.  It was really good and fun to have them here.  Darcy gave Bobbi and I some private instruction at home.

      I finally got to visit my great nieces and nephews and family in Abbotsford for the Relay for Life in June.  It’s a 12 hour fundraiser where    you walk around a track – someone from the team is supposed to be on the track at all times.  We stayed for a few hours – too old to stay all night.  It was more to support and encourage ‘the great’s’ – there is a memorial walk ‘for those we’ve lost’ and we have a banner with Kristie’s photo that the kids carry.  They sell Luminaries – a paper bag you can personalize with the name of someone who lost the fight or someone who is a survivor.  When it’s dark, they light all of them and they line the whole track.  Quite moving.  It was surreal to see one with my name but there you are.

We also visited our friends/neighbours who have a magnificent property on Hornby Island at the end of June.  This is paradise – one of the most beautiful beaches in BC – what a setting!

I’m having trouble quieting my mind…..I am not meditating as much and not laying on my Biomat either.  I have to get back to it.  June was miserable weather wise here in Whistler – cold and wet every day.  I have been seeing a counsellor (through my niece, Darcy) who works with cancer patients/survivors and also teaches yoga.  She is quite lovely and so far has used a different approach from other counsellors I have seen in the past.  I will be attending a 1 week retreat at the end of July to address and conquer my FEARS (well not all of them) – but around the cancer issue……then a week after that I see Sasha for my 3 month check-up.  I actually wanted to have another CA125 test a few weeks ago and my family doctor talked me out of it.  Another month won’t hurt.

I am getting stronger, day by day.  Walking, some biking, some golf……would really welcome a good night’s sleep.

Love Susie

Emails from friends

Here is a note from my new friend, Donna who was also diagnosed with Peritoneal Ovarian Cancer and was about a month behind me in treatments in Cranbrook.  She was introduced to me by our mutual friend, Adele in Panorama.  Although we haven’t met in person, we’ve spoken on the phone and kept in touch via email.  I’ve also included an excerpt from another friend, Jacqui who has completed surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer.  Both identified with my last blog post!  Reprinted with their permission!

Hi Susie,

I can’t believe your recent blog; it was like you were in my head and writing exactly what I’ve been going through.  Thank you for putting it in writing and doing so eloquently – you nailed it!  My last chemo was April 19 and I know I should be celebrating but like you am still quite physically fatigued and psychologically feeling lost and scared that it will come back.  I think the best analogy I have is for the last six months I’ve been a passenger on the journey and know I’m in the driver’s seat but have no idea where I’m headed.  The surgeon whom I recently had a consult with in Vancouver has recommended not doing the debulking surgery “at this time” as he doesn’t know what to remove.  CA-125′s will be taken quarterly and I’m to have a check up on my blood counts mid June (2 month mark).  I still have periodic pain which is likely IBS but who knows.  Apparently, I am officially in remission.

I have registered to take the two day workshop from Inspire Health out of Kamloops the first week of June and am hopeful it will help both Con & I with some direction and some tools to move forward and start living again.  I have managed to get out for a couple of social engagements but find I end up talking about my treatment, mainly because folks keep asking.  And besides what else do I have to contribute to the conversation being cloistered for 6 months.  Oh….the journey!!!!.  I managed to order one of the books you suggested and hope to receive it in a week or so.  I’ve just finished reading Anti Cancer – New Way of Life. 

I had a facial with Adele late last week and she tells me she is heading out your way in August for a visit. She is such a special person.  I’m still using the Essential Nutrition Mix everyday and have been taking the Optimum Multi-Vitamins recommended by Inspire Health.  I’m also going for a walk most days, doing some mild yoga & working at getting better at meditation (not very good at that).  I still get teary fairly often but the nicer weather has allowed me to get out of doors more and that does help to lift my spirits.  Also, had visits from my kids and grandkids early this month so that was special.  We have a short visit to Calgary planned the end of May and then will drive to Kamloops with a stopover in Salmon Arm to see my folks on the way home.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

My hair is quite funny, very fine and different colours and lengths (lots of white in there).  Some folks have told me I could stop wearing the head gear but except for in the house and in the yard, I’m not comfortable with that yet.  Still look like a cancer patient.  I have graduated to golf caps so it’s a start. 

It was good to read your blog, you really helped me feel that I’m not alone and despite reading that this helplessness is quite normal, it was more comforting that it came from someone I actually could put a voice to.

Take care – Be strong; be healthy, grateful and free!!!

Regards,

Donna

___________________

Subject: latest blog

Hi Susie,

It was very interesting to read your latest blog. I spoke to my radiation oncologist about the feelings of anxiety now that Tx is ended and I fell as if I am cast adrift to manage on my own. He reassured me (didn’t do a convincing job) that it is very common as you feel like they have done their thing and we just are expected to pick up where we left off- Not!  I see my medical oncologist at the end of this month and then it’s go back to your GP and call me if any problems arise in future.

I had my first post Tx mammogram and was tearful when I had to go back the next day for an ultrasound – déjà vu all over again? Anyway, it was a false alarm but it has crystallized in my mind that I don’t want to go thru this every 6 months  when I have to go for a mammogram so I will ask my breast surgeon about removing the other breast when I see her in a few weeks.

Your story about the croissants was so funny. I took  a double baked almond croissant from Thomas Haas to thank the receptionist at the X-ray office.

Did I tell you I went to a fund raising lunch for Ovarian cancer? I was a guest of a friend who had made a large donation to the VGH Ovarian cancer research team. They are doing amazing work and will be rolling out a new campaign soon to launch Ovarian awareness in the public and medical fields. 250 women are diagnosed with Ovarian cancer each year in BC -  a relatively small number compared to breast cancer hence the lack of funds raised. So much work with such brilliant minds who need funding to continue their research.

Paul didn’t ski once this year as he was busy driving me to all my appointments etc. You are so right in that you get so busy with just getting though the appointments and surviving the treatments that you have no time to reflect.

Think of you often.  Hugs,

Jacqui

Limbo

     I am strong.  I am healthy.   I am grateful – I am free!

     I am strong.  I am healthy.   I am grateful to be free!

…….I forgot to tell you that Roland baked at least 3 dozen croissants – chocolate and plain, for me to take to the Clinic for the staff on my last chemo day – March 7.  I crisped them up in the oven and put them in a nice basket.  Wow – what a great thing to do!  Everyone was thrilled to have one and Sasha (Dr.) was really happy to have one of each.  It was fun for me to go around and serve them to everyone.  Some of the patients also had them – one patient said it was the best pastry they had ever had in their life!  I wish I had done this for my first chemo – better service!  J

It has taken me 2 months to feel well enough to write another post.  The first month after the last chemo was really difficult.  I had expected to feel wonderful once the treatments were finished, but that is not how it goes.  My blood counts were really low, plus I felt as if I had been ‘let go’ without any instructions or hints on how to proceed.  On top of that, I had no energy, was unable to sleep and I found it difficult to focus on anything.  Then it hit me:  I hadn’t had time to let the ‘cancer diagnosis’ sink in.  I was busy getting through the appointments and treatments and that was all I was focussed on.  The truth is that I am scared the cancer will come back.

I found 2 books that have been helpful to me – Dancing in Limbo – Making Sense of Life after Cancer by Glenna Halvorson-Boyd and Lisa K. Hunter – both cancer survivors.  It was encouraging to read that everyone they interviewed and their own stories told of similar struggles to mine.  The first few paragraphs are telling:  “There is a cruel myth about surviving cancer.  In this myth, when medical treatment is successful, the story ends.  Having survived cancer, we pick up our lives where they were interrupted and carry on – with increased gratitude for the simple acts of daily life and the clarity of purpose that only a brush with death affords.  In this myth, cancer is a blessing in disguise.  Though the myth has some truth, it is cruel because it is impossible to live.  The real story does not end ‘happily ever after.’   Instead, we live in limbo:  after cancer, we know that we are on uncertain ground.  In the beginning, we think that limbo is only as large as our cancer:  Will I live or will I die from this disease?  Then we get the lightning bolt.  Limbo is the borderland where we will live for the rest of our lives.  Although we cannot control our fate, we must do more than wait.  We are responsible for how we live in whatever time we have, and whenever time is up, we will face our death again.  That is the awesome, awful truth of limbo.”

The other book is Picking up the Pieces – Moving Forward after Surviving Cancer by Sherri Magee and Kathy Scalzo (from Vancouver) which offers more practical advice on how to move forward with some specific exercises to work through.  The BC Cancer Agency is planning on having a one day workshop with Kathy Scalzo in the near future.

Some hints on what not to say to a cancer survivor – “What stage are you?”  First of all, that’s too personal and secondly it doesn’t always play out according to ‘the stage’.  I’m not sure why people ask…..but it’s a definite ‘no, no’.

Don’t assume that just because we look healthy that we feel great.  Although compliments are always welcome.

Signs of spring -      May 13 Whistler

Facing up to my new reality is a ‘work in progress’.   It is not ‘negative thinking’.  It’s part of the process so that I can move forward and get the most out of the rest of my life.  I revised my new mantra after several friends suggested the word ‘cancer’ shouldn’t be in it.

I so appreciate all of the support my friends and family have given me.  I feel blessed and am indeed grateful.

Love Susie

p.s.    Sorry, no humour this time!

Cancer free …….winning, won!

Last chemo!

So everybody – I’m finished my treatments!  CA125 at Chemo # 6 was 14.  I am HAPPY, RELIEVED AND ANXIOUS all at the same time.  I can also say that I had a relatively easy time of it in comparison to so many others I’ve met and heard about.  If I’d had another chemo scheduled, the Dr. said he wouldn’t have given me the chemo – blood counts were too low – but since it was going to be MY LAST – they went ahead.  Phew!

From October 11, 2011 to March 7, 2012 – pretty much 6 months from diagnosis to last treatment.  Pretty amazing and all of my treatments were covered by either BC Medical or my work plan which I’ve been paying into for 18+ years.  It’s estimated to cost about $90,000 for chemo, blood tests and surgery plus $17,000 for the 6 bone marrow shots which allowed me to have no delays due to low white blood cell counts.  The only test that wasn’t covered so far was the initial PET scan that I elected to have because my Oncologist advised me I shouldn’t delay starting chemo.

So, what are my next steps?  Why am I anxious?  I guess all cancer patients are nervous to finish treatment because it means they are not being monitored as closely anymore.  I’ll have a CT scan next week – ‘after chemo marker’ – then I will see Sasha in 3 months after blood work – then another 3 months – the crucial 6 month check-up, then the 1 year check-up etc.  I imagine that the longer you go, the easier it gets………….

My mantra during treatment thanks to my friend, Penny was:  I AM STRONG, I AM HEALTHY, I AM HEALING MYSELF.  I said this to myself and out loud, especially with Sophie on the golf course – sometimes at the top of my lungs!  It felt good.  I was always reminded of Helen Reddy’s song though…..I am Woman, I am invincible…..so sometimes I added that part.  My new mantra is:  I AM STRONG, I AM HEALTHY, I AM CANCER-FREE.

Now it’s time to nuture and heal my body after the chemotherapy.  I look forward to feeling better, week by week.  I am currently back on antibiotics – cellulitis again – this time in the right arm – not where the PICC line was but inside the forearm…..weird, because that would have been from the treatment I had just after Dad died in January.

Winter is back with a vengence!  Tons of snow in Whistler – good for Spring Break.  Here’s Sophie after Roland cleared some snow outside our dining room window!

That’s it for now,

Love and thanks to everyone who has supported me on this journey……………Susie

The PICC Line

My Oncologist recommended I have a PICC line put in for easy, painless delivery of chemo.  (peripherally inserted central catheter) I had it done at Lion’s Gate on Feb 13th, the day before my 5th chemo.  This is less invasive than a PORT which is put in your upper chest under anesthetic.  For the PICC line you only need topical freezing – quick and easy!

Roland took me – I had blood work first to make sure my blood was clotting properly.  A client of mine was there for some blood tests too – Vancouver really is a small world.  We caught up over coffee and heard all about their recent boat cruise in the Amazon.  It sounded like a terrific holiday!  He might list his property again.  I am not even trying to work!  After the waiting period, we went up to the 4th floor where the IV nurses have their PICC line room. The nurse, Jing called me in – Roland was to wait in the waiting area with my purse and coat with strict instructions not to put anything on the floor!  I took some Bach Stress Relief drops and changed into a hospital gown.  Jing got busy looking at my veins in my upper arm with a portable ultrasound machine. She agreed they are small and that I should have the smallest line.  The second nurse, Sharon arrived – ready to retire, but very experienced.  They busied themselves getting their surgical gowns etc. on…..putting everything out…..I let them know that I was very nervous and thought I should have a sedative!  No surprise there, eh?  No luck….Sharon assured me that Jing was the best – quick and painless.  So – out went the arm – on went the tourniquet at my shoulder - then the veins looked larger – next topical freezing.  That hurt quite a bit…..which made me more nervous…..I said I needed more painkiller…..you see, I’m a supreme chicken!  Jing said that I was bleeding a lot- she was pressing really hard to stop the bleeding (huge bruise)…..it took me a second or two to realize that the tourniquet was still on….no wonder the blood was spurting out!  I tried some breathing techniques….before I knew it the line was being put in……then Sharon told me that I should put my chin to my neck and turn towards Jing.  I did so immediately – “no, not yet”.  Sharon put the ultrasound on my neck…..”we don’t want to go near the jugular vein dear”.   Yikes….. she said she would help me by pushing up my head with the pillow….I did exactly as they instructed and then it was in.  Is this modern medicine?!  It goes from the inside of the upper right arm, up the shoulder, down the chest into the vena cava beside the heart.  Next, a chest x-ray to make sure it is in the right position…..it was!  Then a clean dressing – a tube is hanging out of my arm……then Jing pulled the wire out that helps her guide the tube through the vein.  Amazing but creepy.  Chemo didn’t hurt and it was easy access.

Maintenance of the PICC line…. you have to keep it dry.  I can’t waterproof my upper right arm….so I have to ask Roland to help me every time I take a shower.  I was bossing him around one day when he was helping me……”no, not like that!  Tighter…..higher……not my elbow!”  Bad idea with the scissors and tape in his hands.  Before I knew it, my mouth was taped!  Yes, I so deserved it!  Now I try to be humble and grateful – difficult.  It’s cleaned by a homecare nurse with saline once a week.  I should have it out on Wednesday after my final chemo.

It took me more than a week to feel more energetic.  I’m sure it’s a combination of everything.  I had my check-up with my surgeon, Sarah.  She said I am doing really well and I should continue to do so.  I asked her what kind of symptoms I would have if IT comes back some day.  Sarah said that they would be similar to what I already had – so, while they were vague symptoms, I am positive I will know.  But, I don’t expect IT to come back.  Also I will have regular blood tests, CT scans, check-ups.

My sisters have started on Adele’s shakes!    http://adele-engel.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/    They figure if I could do so well with chemo then the shakes will also help them be healthier.

We’re heading to Vancouver tomorrow – chemo on Wednesday.  I need to write out some questions for Sasha…..I’m looking forward to ‘being done’.

Love Susie

March 4, 2012

I’m winning!

 GoGo dancing at my 50th

   I’ll jump right into the good news first and work back over the last 2 weeks.  My CA125 is now 20! which is well within the normal range of <35.  Dr. Sasha said I have aced all my exams!  I sure needed some good news.  I was worried that all the recent stress was going to affect my numbers.  Even though I’ve had good news and I am really happy with my results, I feel melancholy.  Add that to some new challenges and a tougher recovery from chemo on the 14th.

Our Westjet flight to London was cancelled.  We found out at check-in on Friday morning.  This caused me to have a complete breakdown……tears and more tears…..right there in front of everybody.  I’ve never done that before.  I was asked to go over to a Westjet seating area reserved for the handicapped and those having meltdowns.  There was nothing to be done…..it was a safety issue with the plane.  We ended up flying direct to Toronto and then took a ‘third world bus’ to London – a 2 hour plus ride.  It was exhausting.  We got in at 8:30 – my nephew, Greg and his girlfriend Heather picked us up.  We shared their dinner and then off to bed for me.  We were on our own which was great for me.

Dad’s memorial was the next morning at 11 am.  My sisters and Dad’s wife, Orpha did a terrific job of organizing it.  It was surreal to arrive at the United church where we went to when we were little.  I was last there 36 years ago for Dad and Orpha’s wedding.  The 5 girls got up and read a ‘history of Dad’, 3 of the grandchildren told some quirky stories …. he was such a character!  Dad’s brother, Arlen and his wife came from New Orleans and he told a great story of when they took a steamer from Brazil to Nova Scotia via New York when they were 15 and 17 ….. quite an adventure!  A friend of Cathy’s sang Amazing Grace and My Way – beautiful.  He got his Dixieland band too!  The minister asked everyone to meditate by picturing yourself a the top of Grouse Mountain (Dad’s company did the night lights years ago) or any ski mountain, feel the power of the sun, the electricity, the fresh air and then go for it!  It was really touching and fitting.

Then it was triangle sandwiches in the church basement…..we should have had a receiving line so that we could have spoken with everyone….Susan Suhr – an old friend from school was there with her husband and another guy…..she kept looking at me with that look people get…..‘don’t you know who this is? You know the eyes raised, smile, head cocked towards the person in question!  It turned out to be my ex-husband!  I really didn’t recognize him…..it’s been 37 years after all.  I sent him off to see my sisters and told Sue I thought we’d aged better….of course that’s without mentioning that I’m currently bald!  Then I asked Roland if he wanted to meet my ex.  He said, “why bother after all these years!”  So he didn’t.  The ex thought that was funny.  It was nice of him to come…..Dad had gone to his Dad’s….there were other high school people there for my sisters.

We flew back on Monday morning (2 days in London)  Our friend, Pascal was in Vancouver so he drove me back to Whistler and Roland stayed to teach his classes.  Picture this……me getting into an Element full of food for Pascal’s restaurant, Le Gros that smells like a CIGAR SHOP!  Oh my god!  Roland knew I wasn’t happy but Pascal said with his very French accent…..‘but I put ze ozonator in for cinq heures!  Eet is not so good?”  So we drove back with the window down…..he has a heart of gold - so for once I zipped it.  It took me more than a week to recover from the trip and that chemo session.  :)

I’ll fill you in on the rest in the next instalment.  One more chemo to go!

Thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts during this tough time.

Love Susie

I’m going to miss you Dad.

Dad & Orpha – Summer 2010

Can I say that life isn’t fair sometimes?  My Dad died unexpectedly of a stroke on January 23.  He was healthy and robust right to the end – a young 81.  I am devastated and so is the rest of my family.  Most of you know how proud I was of him and his wife Orpha.  They were so active and fun – they even went Ziptrekking in Whistler – I was too chicken!

Roland and I will be flying to London, Ontario on Friday and coming back on Monday because Roland has to work.  I will be wearing a respirator mask to keep the germs away.  We are planning a nice celebration of his life – everyone is encouraged to wear bright colors – as you can see from the above photo he loved bright much to our embarassment in our younger years!  We will also have a Dixieland band playing “When the Saints go marching in”.  Dad loved the idea of a New Orlean’s/Brazilian carnival style celebration!

Roland with his Dad & Mom

Roland just got back from France on Sunday – his mother also passed away – although not as unexpectedly. She was 84 and had been in the hospital for 8 weeks with a few different illnesses. In the end she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. How ironic, no?

I am recovering nicely from the surgery – the incision is healing up nicely and I can walk a lot faster now! Not as tired as I was. While Roland was away, my sister Karen came for a visit from Ontario – I was lucky she was here. She came up to Whistler and was a huge help. She had to bring in the wood, (already chopped thank heavens!) shovel the snow, carry groceries etc. etc. Oh and it was -20 C ……..and since we were mostly home we burned through the huge stack Roland had left for me in no time. I wish I had taken a photo of Karen bringing in the wood! She’s smaller than me. We had a good time until we found out about Dad on Thursday night. Then it was good to at least be together. Then we drove down to Vancouver in a pretty good snow storm on Sunday night. At least her rental car had snow tires.

Monday I had the blood work done. CA125 was 41 – close enough to the last count. Chemo # 4 on Tuesday with Karen – all went well until the last 1/2 hour when they gave me the Carboplatin – for some reason it started burning and stinging and my arm started hurting……not nice. I will likely have to have a PICC line put in for the last two now – seems my veins aren’t co-operating. I have also been giving myself daily blood thinner shots …. This is really testing me! I hate medical stuff. I’m just waiting now to go to a friend who is a retired surgical nurse to get my Neulasta (bone marrow booster) shot. Lots of bruises!

The pathology report came back showing that the cancer started in my fallopian tubes which is now thought to be the primary location for Ovarian Cancer. So it is not really Primary Peritoneal Cancer even though it had spread through the peritoneal cavity. The surgical team at VGH was very instrumental in discovering that the Fallopian tubes were the culprit in spreading it. So now when women have hysterectomies the tubes will come out and they can still leave the ovaries in. This will cut O.C. by 30 to 50% they say. When I had my hysterectomy in 2000 they didn’t know……

I think that is all I can muster for today.  I need to get through the next few days and hope that I don’t have any side effects from this round of chemo.

Take a moment and tell your parents you love them.  Actually tell everybody you love them, if you do!

Love Susie

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