The Big C

A journey through Stage Four Cancer

Can I catch a break, puhlease?


             I am waiting for the results on a biopsy on my tumor, and while I’m waiting, I’m having a break from chemotherapy and you would think, a break from thinking about cancer.

             Uh, no.  That is not what is happening.

          First, I need to have my port needle changed every week.  This week, the port decided to be troublesome and my home nurse couldn’t insert a new needle, even though she tried, twice.  Off to the Cancer Center 60 miles away to get the achey area poked with a needle, one more time.

           The next day, my husband had to set up my home hydration.

          The day after that, I had to call the Cancer Center to have a prescription filled.  There was a problem with the size of the pill.  The one they ordered is too big for me to swallow, even if it is snapped in half.  I’d have to take too many of the pill in the size I can handle, every day.  The answer is a vile tasting liquid.  Three phone calls to get this settled.

          Friday, I got a sore throat and I began to worry.  Is this sore throat going to turn into pneumonia and a trip into the hospital?  Can it be just a cold?  Please?  (and it was.)

           So you see, there hasn’t been a break from cancer, but it gets worse.  Have you noticed the American Cancer Society Commercials with Ricky Martin beating on a tom tom?  Or the pink ribbon labels on yoghurt?  Or the almost constant commercials for the Susan Kommen Walk for the cure?  Or the Cancer Treatment Centers?  Or that now it seems like every hospital in my television viewing area  has a Cancer Center?

I turn on the television to relax and get bombarded with reminders of cancer.

Can I catch a little break here, please?


The Carnivorous Parakeet

        As you may or  may not have noticed, I am blogging backwards.  A whole lot of things happened from when I lost my hair in February until now, but I didn’t get a chance to blog about it.  So without further ado, I will start to blog about the “Blue Bird of Happiness” that came to be known as “The Carnivorous Parakeet.”

 My birthday is in the beginning of spring, and the beginning of spring wasn’t all that promising this year.  Snow continued to fall and collect.  The weather was cold and damp and the world was an unpleasant shade of brown.

And every living thing seemed to have left my yard; no raucous crows, no bothersome squirrels, nothing.

“Ah.”  I would say to my saintly husband.  “I miss the birds and all their trilling and chirping!   They make the world seem so much brighter.  You can’t feel down with birds in your yard!”

And one day, near my birthday, my husband came home with a blue parakeet inside of a cockatoo’s cage.

“Here’s your blue bird of happiness for your birthday!” he told me with a smile.

At first, I enjoyed the bird, who I named Mozart, antics.  He used his beak continuously as a hand and he was very interesting to watch.  My mistake came when I watched videos on YouTube on how to finger train your parakeet. 

The parakeets on YouTube were simply wonderful.  They hopped on their owner’s fingers without a second thought. One would stand on a perch and watch his owner while he worked on his laptop.  Another parakeet had his own play pen made of lightweight rope, wooden ladders and perches.  He would play in the playpen, and then hop happily onto his owners finger when it was time to return to his cage.

The one thing they didn’t do was bite.

I was lucky too.  The stripes that went right down to Mozart’s beak indicated that he was still a baby and would be easy to train.

My husband bought home a package of ropes of millet, a parakeet’s favorite treat.  With very little effort, Mozart was greedily eating the millet that was offered him.  He’d even hop on my finger to get closer to the millet.  After a few days of this, the YouTube guru’s said I should be able to lightly stroke Mozart. 

Mozart responded by chomping my finger and then maniacaly flapping to another perch as though the hounds of hell were behind him.

I was encouraged to continue with the millet for a few more days, and try again.  Except in my condition, I have to avoid the possibility of breaking my skin.  My children stepped in for me to continue Mozart’s training.

Instead of getting friendlier, Mozart began to bite harder, eventually breaking the skin on my son’s finger.  And he began to make louder and louder screeching.

Finally, no one wanted to try to finger train Mozart anymore.

Mozart stopped his loud screeching and began to trill happily.    He loves getting new toys, especially bells and is very entertaining to watch.

I think we’ve come to an understanding.


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Reaction to Chemo

Tuesday I had chemo again, and this time I had a really strong reaction to it.  They had to stop the chemo, and give me drugs to counter act it.  Today is Friday, and I am only just feeling like I am recovering.

But the good news is that if my tumor doesn’t have a mutant gene, there might be a non-chemo therapy that we can use.  The side affect is a rash, and may-be acne.  Hey, I escaped acne as a teen, so, why not?

Anyway, if you could say a prayer for me?

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The Aunt Alice Award

Some people are truly angels walking this earth, case in point is my cousin Alice.  She is six months older than I am, and my life long friend.  When I think back on happy memories, like long summer vacations, she’s always there among them.

She is a sweet person who always looks out for other people’s feelings.  She is kind and considerate and she knows when someone could use a lift.

I was so lucky, because she and her husband Steve came from miles away to visit me this weekend.  But she did more than just visit, she bought with her everything that we could need for our supper together, from the drinks and tableware, to dessert and even her homemade spaghetti salad – which was delicious and I ate too much of  it!

I was sick on my 50th birthday, so unknown to me, Alice also bought everything with her for a birthday surprise, including a tiara for my knit cap covered head!  She asked if I minded if Steve took a few pictures, and I was so happy that I actually didn’t mind posing with my pink capped little head! 

God bless Alice!


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2.5 years left

   Have you ever over reacted to something and wondered why?  When this happens to me, I know that there is something nagging at my subconscious and I meticulously go over my life to find out what the real issue is.

This time, it was a call from my oncologists office telling me that my platelets were too low for me to have chemo on Monday.  I felt so doomed, I dissolved into tears.  I could only imagine the tumor inside of me celebrating, partying even, without the white knights of my chemo to fight it and keep it in check.

But that wasn’t it, not really.  One missed session of chemo isn’t that big a deal, at least I don’t think so.

So what was eating me?

Then I realised that the 6 that represents June was the half way point in my five year survival. 

I don’t have 5 years left.   Somehow, someway, without me even noticing, half of my life term had disappeared.  I am at the very pinnacle of the survival mountain, and now my journey leads me down the other side, to the grave.

What had happened to the 2.5 years before the half way point?  On reflection, only a year was spent cancer free.  The other 1.5 years has been spent getting chemo, radiation or recovering from operations.  No wonder I hadn’t noticed!

I’m tired, but the chemo has taken care of the hip pain that made it so hard to walk.  My hair is growing back now, faster and faster it seems.

You could almost mistake me for healthy!

I’m working harder at fully extricating myself from people who only seem to want to hurt me or malign me personally.  The people who love me are working harder and harder to stay in contact with me by phone calls and home visits.  Prayers are pouring in for me.

I can believe that I’m going to be cured.  But if I’m not?  I’ve lived every day with the people I love, giving them as much of me as I can.  And there will be no regrets.