Cancer Journal

February 4

God is teaching me much, and walking through it with me, sending me messages of hope, strength, and appreciation of my abundant blessings. I’m learning about how sick the treatment can make you, how supportive your loved ones can be, how blessed I am to have the comforts of a good home, a good job, and excellent insurance. Not everyone has all these things and I can truly say how very hard that pulls at my heart. 

The poison that drips into my veins for 3 days, that seeks out the cancer cells, also kills good cells. The ‘cocktail’ of drugs as they call it, causes strange and awful side effects. Nausea and vomiting that can’t be eliminated even with all the anti-nausea meds they give you, fatigue that makes you want to lay down and nap on the spot, rolling waves of abdominal pain, cold neuropathies in your hands, feet, and throat of all places. These neuropathies cause a painful pins and needles sensation in your fingertips if you touch something cold, and in your feet if you walk on a cold floor. Wearing oven mitts or gloves to take something out of the fridge is a must! If you take a breath of cold air your throat spasms in pain and you have to make sure your mouth and nose are covered to warm the air that you breathe. So many details that you just don’t consider unless you go through this process. The strangest sensation I’ve experienced so far is my bones feeling like they are frozen. I can feel the flesh around them being warmer than them and the actual bones feel like ice. SO very weird. You know the expression, “I feel cold to the bone.”? Well this is the opposite. Your bones are like ice suspended in a glass of water, chilling the rest of you down. Burrowing into a pile of blankets with a hot rice bag helps eventually. This set of what I’ve come to call the “uglies”, so far, lasts about 3 days for me. But I’m only two treatments in and I’ve been told the effects are cumulative. Geez.

Then an unexpected thing happened. I woke in the night after I had been disconnected from my second treatment with severe right arm pain. I thought I had slept on it wrong and spent the next few days wondering why it wasn’t getting any better. Upon calling my doctor’s office, I was scheduled for an ultrasound of the arm and it was discovered to have extensive DVT, blocking one of the veins. Off to the emergency room I went, where I was assessed and admitted for three days to get IV blood thinner and more testing. Turned out my lungs had a bunch of blood clots in them too and my port tube had moved out of the vein, into a smaller vein and could no longer be used.  So another surgery was had to replace the port with a new one. Now I’m on blood thinner pills for the foreseeable future (and maybe forever). Now I deal with the effects of that. Short of breath with any exertion. Even taking a shower is tiring. This will improve as the clots dissolve, but they leave scars behind, so I’ll never be 100% again where that’s concerned. More uglies. But I’m blessed with an excellent team of medical professionals who are thorough and treat things quickly. And they have great compassion. Thank you Lord for these people who take care of me.

There is no slowing down with this process though, no taking a break to rest and heal, and the very next week I kept my scheduled appointment for treatment number three. But wait, my white cell and neutrophils levels were much too low to have treatment. Another setback. But also a much needed rest. A double-edged sword as you don’t want to take too long between treatments if they are to be successful. With white cells being so low, you can’t fight off germs and recover like you normally would. You have to be very careful not to get sick or you could end up in the hospital getting IV antibiotics. Guess what? My husband just came down with a nasty head cold. Now we are masking in the house, avoiding each other, sanitizing, and sleeping in separate bedrooms. Ayiyi. It’s just one thing after another.

I’m learning so many things, and some of them are admittedly difficult for me. Accepting help. Boy that’s a hard one. I’ve always been the one to help others and find solutions to their issues. I’m the problem solver, the one who powers through every situation. Now I have a long string of problem after problem of my own and have to accept the help that is extended to me. I’ve cultivated gratitude and graciousness as I appreciate the help so very much.

I’ve learned to savor every moment of feeling relatively good. How often do we stop and consider the fact that we feel good? It’s just something we take for granted until we get sick or hurt. Then we may appreciate it for a short time as we heal, but we fall back into our normal and it’s lost from view again. 

Another thing I’m discovering is I’m not as strong as I thought I was. People tell me I am, but I think that’s just an effort to shore me up. There are days during the worst of the uglies that I wish I could close my eyes, sleep, and not wake up to this. Or I wish for a miracle, or perhaps think about not continuing treatment and just living life as comfortably as I can until it takes over and my end comes. There are so many different paths my thoughts take, and so many more paths not explored yet I’m sure. But all of us who go this must share the same thought explorations. How can we not? This takes over your whole life and every tiny facet must be looked at and considered. Then the uglies recede and I vow to be strong again, if not for myself, then at least for my loved ones who feel helpless as they watch me go through this, knowing they can’t do anything to make it better. I keep my deep thoughts hidden from them, they are mine alone to bear, and I’m strong enough for that.

Dear Lord, thank you for the abundant blessings you shower on me. Thank you for the lessons I’m learning. Thank you for walking with me and giving me the strength to get through. Thank you for the love and compassion of the people surrounding me. Thank you for the beauty of this world.

Blessings on you Lord. Amen.


It’s always been cold and unfriendly to me. Well, maybe not always. I remember snow-blown days of youth, several layers of clothes, two or three pairs of Gram’s hand-knit mittens, and a hand-knit hat pulled low to the eyebrows. Walking through the neighborhood with the snow swirling all around. Or sliding down the hill next to the house, stopping just short of the road where the snow was plowed up high. There was a steep incline on the other side of the house that was perfect for jumping off into mid-air and turning a flip, before landing with a poof in a deep snowdrift. A brief moment of weightless adrenaline. Then laying there for another snapshot in time, flat on my back, arms spread wide to the overcast sky, grinning. Floundering out of the soft snow, climbing back up to do it again. Sweet youth.

Ice cakes formed in the harbor and piled up on the shore. Huge, enticing, translucent light-filled aqua. A mystery that needed to be explored, but was forbidden. The heart pounding fear of sliding off of one into the smoking-cold sea kept us at bay. It meant instant death. Looking and imagining was all we needed. Winters were much colder then than they are now. Those big ice cakes no longer pile up on the shore, just small ones that are gone within a few days. Smoke on the water happens only briefly each season now. I remember long winters of a smoky harbor and ice cakes that formed in the water halfway to Greenings Island. My Mum shared memories of when the harbor froze solid and the men used to drive their trucks on it all the way across. It’s scary to think of as we struggle with climate change and all the changes that are coming with it.

Now for many years, winter means unbearable cold and stiffness in my body. Cold that touches my hands brings instant pain. My feet, layered in wool socks and heavy boots, still get cold quickly and have even more intense pain. When I was a young woman I would stick my bare foot out the front door into the first new snowfall, and take a picture of it, pink toenails on the white background. These days I shy away from the outside in winter and at the same time, remember the exuberance of youth and know that I’m missing so much. I push my limits with the technology of “hot hands” and “toasty toes” warmers that fit into gloves and stick to the bottoms of socks. But it isn’t enough. The wind pushes needles of cold through the fabric of my clothes, and down my neck. How does it do that when I’m wrapped so well, with so many layers?

This pain from cold brings its own blessings as it makes me realize all of the relationships around it. I appreciate the wood fire more, the shelter of the ice shack when fishing, the warmth of rum and good friends after a long snowmobile ride. I look at snapshots of us on the trail, smiling in the scenery, and can smell the fresh cold air. I wonder how many hundreds of pairs of wool mittens Gram made; her love for children woven into each stitch.

I still enjoy the quiet and solitude of a walk in the woods amid fresh and falling snow, surrounded by silence and steaming breath. Seeing fresh animal tracks in the snow and wondering how far ahead of me it is. I love the wonder that God gives us with the pure whiteness swirling around, falling from a grey and white sky, or the sun glistening on the new snow in blinding exquisiteness. 

You see, even pain brings a new perception if you look for God around the edges. I’ve found that He has always wrapped my pain with blessings, when I’ve taken the time to look.   👩🏻‍💻