Looking For A Sign

A lot of people obsess over the future. The “what ifs.” They go over all possible outcomes of any circumstance they may come across. Fearing the worst, of course.

I don’t. When I lay awake at night, before the sleeping pills kick in, it’s these things that keep me awake:

After three days spent in bed, 10 days of a straight fever and the remnants of a sore throat and sinus infection, I was feeling pretty lousy.

-Jan 16, 2011

The doctors tell me the mass in my chest could have started growing six months ago, and my brain is determined to pinpoint when that exact moment was. I’ve been going over incidents and scenarios from over the last year, asking myself, “Were there any signs I had cancer then?”

In January, after coming home for Christmas, I was just walloped with illness. Namely, a 102F fever that lasted 10 days. Not normal. I remember looking up my symptoms on the internet and seeing a fever is often the sign of your body fighting off an infection, or worst case scenario, cancer. I clearly disregarded the cancer thing because that was such a silly notion for me, the healthy personal trainer, to have cancer. So I chalked it up to a sinus infection and figured lots of rest would help me get rid of it.

But really, a 10-day fever is not normal. And there were other symptoms. I felt crappy a lot. I always had dull headaches and would often get feverish chills without the fever temperature. After I broke my arm and had reconstructive surgery in February, any symptom I had was blamed on that.

I told myself the surgery was the reason why I still didn’t have the stamina to run like I used to. I was going 12 minute miles when I used to run 9, and I thought it was just taking me longer than normal to recover from surgery. But looking back, what if it was the large mass in my chest slowing me down?

Even after moving home, I still got fever symptoms every night. I had a gnarly chest cough come and go. Overall, looking back, I haven’t been feeling in my best health since before November 2010. But the symptoms were so minor, I thought I was just tired or overworked. Or the Toronto subway was making me sick over and over. Now I wonder, was it all the cancer??

I know it’s not good to dwell in the past, but it has given me something to think about apart from my looming diagnosis at the start of the week. I had my chest biopsy on Thursday, and then pictures of my stomach, pelvis, brain, and heart were taken on Friday. No tests this weekend, thank god, I needed the break from being poked and prodded and feel a lot better because of it. Instead, I’ve rested up, took my first shower, ate some good food my family brought me, and best of all visited with people I love.

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I am still on bed rest because of the blood clots in my neck. They’re only giving me a little bit of thinner until they know what kind of chemo I’m starting on later next week. I’m getting my bone marrow test on Monday and being sent for a PET scan in Saint John Monday or Tuesday. And of course, biopsy results one of those days. Right now I’m living in a sort of ignorant bliss. I’ve told myself that I simply have a large disease that’s just going to be really crappy and time consuming to get rid of. But who knows what the biopsy holds.

Don’t expect me to blog every day or at a strict time. If I don’t blog, it’s likely because I’m busy with tests, visiting with people, or just tired and resting, which is more important. I’ll keep you updated if anything noteworthy happens.

And please, if you’re experiencing mild symptoms, write them all down, keep a journal, and don’t brush them off just because you think you’re a healthy person. If it wasn’t for my mom forcing me to a doctor, I’d still be going to the gym every day with what I thought was a kink in my neck.

Thanks again for all he messages and prayers xo

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Posted on June 26, 2011, in Health and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. Good advice. You never really know. Good luck this week.

  2. “If it wasn’t for my mom forcing me to a doctor, I’d still be going to the gym every day with what I thought was a kink in my neck.”–

    Shudder to think of the possibilities of that choice. Thank god your mom forced you and thank god you listened! Many people dont listen to their own symptoms or to others who are urging them to have a look-see into the symptoms. They just keep on doing their thing and never look deeper.

    Susan, I can only imagine what you’re going through. And as you said, ever since your hand/arm accident every last thing was dismissed/blamed/brushed off on that.

    Blogging..cant believe anyone in their right mind would ever think to question a woman with limited use of one arm and cancer’s blogging schedule or lack there of. Sheesh :)

    xoxo

    • Haha, I’m more worried about getting phone calls from concerned family members wondering why the hell I didn’t blog one day :P Sometimes no news is good news!

  3. Good morning Susan. I have been reading your blog for about a year now (but have never commented), and have enjoyed following your journey from NB, to Toronto and back. I was shocked to read about the events of the past several days and your recent hospitalization…please know that I am thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way. I truly enjoy your blog because of your positive and seemingly energetic approach to things, and I am sure these strengths will prove very useful in the coming weeks. I am originally from NB and currently live in NS and work as a physiotherapist, so your patient perspective with your recovery from your elbow fracture is interesting and enlightening to me. Keep that elbow moving while you are in hospital! Take advantage of the support from your family during your treatment! A good friend of mine and I often genuinely tell each other “you are truly amazing….I don’t know how you do it!” and it brings comfort knowing someone is rooting for you! We are heading to a friend’s cottage (the Smith’s) in Amherst Shore area and I was surprised to see your picture last year of your family cottage as theirs is close by…so maybe our paths will cross someday. Take care, stay strong and remember YOU are truly amazing, I don’t know how you do it!

    • Oh Amherst Shore!!! That is my happy place. I really hope I am able to make it this summer. Unfortunately, my elbow surgery has been put off until the cancer is completely gone. But I certainly plan on keeping up with physio once they stop poking needles in the crick of my left arm. I’m determined not to lose any of the progress I’ve made on it!

  4. I’m so sorry to learn of your diagnosis, and I wish you the best during this challenging week (and weeks) ahead.

  5. reneeandsteve@eastlink.ca

    Hey girlie, just checking in on you.

  6. Life is truly bizarre.Reading your blog has proven that-
    we just can’t take our health for granted(but of course we all do,
    until something comes along to jolt us).

    I can’t pinpoint why exactly ,but I feel very strong vibes
    of you travelling slowly but surely back to the very best of health.Perhaps it is
    the obvious warmth and love we can sense/see from your family,friends and strangers,or maybe your sensible nature and go-getter attitude
    in life ,or maybe it is just intuition?
    However I am sure it is sometimes a tad annoying for us folks to always say chin up, you are strong and will be fine.We mean the very best by this,but until one is in your exact shoes we cannot even imagine what you are going through.
    It is very inspiring to read from cancer survivers and their relatives,and love hearing about those who have gone on to have healthy babies etc!

    So many of us have you in our thoughts and I certainly like the thought
    of all these wishes and prayers being sent your way-hope this helps
    in any way it can.Blessings!

  7. I can only imagine what kind of thoughts are running through your head. The advice you give about going to the doctor is advice that people really need to listen to. I go to the doctor for every little thing. He’s great because he never makes me feel silly for coming in because I “just wasn’t feeling right”. A lot of my friends and co workers will let things go and I’m always the one pushing them to go to the doctor. There’s not harm of going and finding out nothing is wrong, but if something is wrong then it’s better to catch it early. Now I’m going to push even harder. I’m so sorry for what you are going through.

  8. Susan, I am going to bookmark this post and go back to it whenever I feel like I can’t shake a cold or an infection…or that I’m just a little too tired. (or if someone I know is feeling the same way) This will be the reminder I need to go to the doctor- just in case.

    Not that you ever want to be the example of “what if’ or “just in case”- but thank you for saying something about it.

    • Yes, I forgot to mention that if you’re having mild symptoms it doesn’t mean you automatically have cancer. But you could be sicker than you think. Anything could happen, we’re not invincible!

  9. This is such an important message, Susan! I think so many of us always push off the “little” symptoms and wait until the little things add up and manifests into something else. I’ll for sure take your advice and listen to when my body is feeling “off.”

  10. I think that you should mention your January experience to your oncologist and see what he says. I would also be ruminating about things as you are doing. You’ll be having lots of hours to think about things and yes, there is not much point in thinking of what’s to come, so that leaves either what is happening now or what has happened.

    I remember being concerned about your neck when you mentioned it had swollen, but I didn’t want to bug you about it after I had already nagged you once :-). Then I was sooooooo relieved when your mom just made the appt. Sooooo relieved. Like I was relieved when Mama B had her 2nd opinion and subsequent surgery.

    Good call about telling people that you’re not going to blog on any regular basis- the last thing you need right now is blogging pressure! The blog should be here for YOU- for your happiness and release and also to disperse info. But no pressure!

    Hugs and more hugs. I think you should make lots of messes so that the cute male orderlies have to come around more often :-)

  11. Oh Susan, I’m thinking about you everyday. Even my dad has you in his thoughts.
    I too try to think about all those signs and symptoms my dad had before he was diagnosed with his brain cancer. There was the hemorrhage, memory loss, extreme fatigue…i tear up just thinking about how the cancer was growing the whole time. And when my mom had breast cancer in her lung, she kept having terrible cough that didn’t go away. I’m sorry to bring up my parents, cause this is really all about you, but it’s just I’m all too familiar with the cancer process.

    And that being said, I spoke to my dad’s friend, a former cardiologist and now oncologist, and he said he had a few patients with similar situations and some even younger than you and they are all totally fine now. I have no doubt you will beat that sucker. And again, here if you need anything. Vent, cry, laugh (I’m good at that one), etc.

    • Apparently the peak ages of Hodgkins are 18-35, I’m hearing so many stories from people now about those who beat it and are fine years down the road. It’s uplifting.

      About the symptoms, I just keep telling myself that there were no symptoms that would have required a scan of my chest until the pain in my neck. It’s not like the doctor would have ordered a full body CT for a fever. Cancer reveals itself when it wants to, my sign was definitely the clot.

      • Since I’ve been reading your blog from way before January, I really dont think you could have caught this any earlier than you did. You did the right thing and thank goodness it didn’t spread! I read you tweet this morning about that and took a big deep breath. Cancer indeed doesn’t always reveal itself so quickly and happens rather spontaneously regarless of past health history.

        Crossing my legs, fingers, and paws for the pathology on the biopsy!

  12. I have been a bit out of the loop and just read the last 5 posts of yours. I don’t know what to say except I’m thinking about you and wishing you the best possible outcome. xo

  13. “I’ve told myself that I simply have a large disease that’s just going to be really crappy and time consuming to get rid of”. This is the most positive way you can view things at this point, and I think it shows how strong you are mentally to choose these thoughts over a more harmful mindset. You are blowing me away with your strength right now. Look at everything you have accomplished since you started this blog (and probably before that, but I didn’t “know” you then haha!). This is without a doubt your biggest challenge yet, but I know if anyone is going to put up a fight it’s you.

    And God bless your mother and the rest of your family!

  14. You’ve been in my thoughts, even though I don’t know you and have never read your blog before I heard of your diagnosis. It’s funny how, it’s human nature to always wonder “what if” about anything, because we have to have a reason for everything. I think your positive attitude is the best thing right now, and I’m totally confident you’re going to beat this crappy disease. Hugs! :)

  15. This is a wonderful post and you have such amazing optimism. I am looking forward to seeing you kick whatever “pain in the neck” kind of disease this is with strength, and optimism. You go girl!

  16. These are the exact same symptoms that my mom’s best friend had for months too, before being diagnosed with lymphoma. You are right – they are such minor things that we would all pass off, but the body really is trying to tell us something. As a positive, my mom’s best friend is 100% cancer free and was within a matter of months (maybe even weeks?) Thinking and praying for you everyday.

  17. Holy shit. That all makes sense. I remember how crappy you were feeling prior to breaking your elbow. And of course anything after your injury was blamed on the recovery process. Crazy crazy. I’m real glad you caught this. Thank goodness for your mom! Love you lady. To the moon and back.

  18. stuffedsillysarah

    Oh wow, sorry to hear your news but so thought provoking to read; really puts life in perspective. I had multiple blood clots in my lungs last year and I know how hard I found just that to deal with… You are a very strong and obviously much loved woman. My thoughts (and google reader) are with you x x

  19. I found your blog through Julie at Wearing Mascara and my heart is just breaking for you. Keep your chin up, stay strong and I promise you and your family will be in my prayers.

  20. Susan,

    I found your blog through the twitter of another blogger (can’t remember who). I am so sorry you have to go through this. I recently went to a doctor for a condition I had for awhile, brushing the symptoms off as ‘stress’ or ‘fatigue’ and in turn was diagnosed with a degenerative auto-immune system disease. I keep thinking, what if I had gone in earlier. But I know I can’t think that way. Life is like quicksand in that regard, you have to judge your next step based on what is present, not what is gone.

    Anyway, I’ll be thinking of you and “following” your story. Good luck with your tests.

    -M

  21. I am praying for you girl, and please don’t hesitate to message me any time. Heck, email me and I will give you my cell number if you need to really talk to someone!

  22. proudpatriot07

    I’ve read your blog before but stumbled in a few days and read your posts. Keeping you in my prayers and thoughts. Good luck with all these tests!

    A.L.

  23. I’ve been thinking of you constantly, in a non-creepy way. I think you *might* be my oldest internet friend–almost 3 years now, I think! I remember when you started Trying for a Tri, and I was like, “whoa, she is so much cooler and more interesting than I am.” And then I shipped you Luna bars. And here we are now. Ahh, the memories.

    Anyway. Big hugs. And lots o’ Fluff.

    • Bahaha, when you stared your blog, I thought you were way cooler than me :P When all this crap is over we are totally hanging out for real sometime, we’ll figure it out!

  24. Thanks for sharing your journey with us Susan. Yeah, a 10-day fever is not normal, but I never would have thought it was cancer either. Thanks for the reminder to listen to our bodies. It’s so easy to brush everything off as no big deal, but that’s not always the case.

    Thinking of you all the time. :)

  25. See what Brie wrote. I second that. It’s crazy to care so much about someone you’re never met but hello, you’ve been in my life for years (again, in a non creepy way). I have like 3 blog friends these days but I am proud to call you one of them and I’ve always believed in quality over quantity in friends anyway. I’m thinking about you, my dear.

  26. This was my first time reading your blog in a couple days, and I was shocked to hear the news.

    My boyfriend had Hodgkin’s five years ago at 14. It was scary, but he was better within a year. It hasn’t come back, and statistics say that it won’t. He’s now going into the Navy to become a fighter pilot.

    I wish you the best of luck, and I think you have a lot going for you here. Statistics, support, age.

    You’ll be in my prayers. :)

  27. thank you for being so honest, direct and informative here!
    i haven’t comented jet and hope you will get better soon!
    i wish you all the strenght and support you need and lots and lots of positivity!
    i’ll continue sending positiv thoughts and energy your way and keep you in my mind!
    you are an incredible person and inspire me in more than one way!
    <3

  28. You’re so brave!

  29. Ah the powers of hindsight! I guarantee you that any one of us would have also glazed over the “cancer” part of causes for a fever because no one ever thinks it will happen to them!

    Hope you are feeling well today. Yay for a break from test & the good news about your recent scans :-)

  30. Ah the powers of hindsight! I guarantee you that any one of us would have also glazed over the “cancer” part of causes for a fever because no one ever thinks it will happen to them!

    Hope you are feeling well today. Yay for the good news about your recent scans :-)

  31. Karen Strickland

    Hi Susan,

    Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you – hope your tests this week go well. Sending every possible feel good vibe your way!

  32. greensandjeans

    Talk about a monday morning quarterback moment. So many positive thoughts and lots of love heading your way!

  33. You’re right Susan, you WILL get through this!! I hope all goes well with the tests, and even though I can’t be there to physically visit, I’m there in spirit!! *Hugs*

  34. Before reading this post I sometimes felt silly for going to the doctor so often when other people would just wait things out. This post highlights why it’s better to err on the safe side and get things that don’t feel right checked out! It’s scary to think of you at the gym with that “kink”. Thank God you got it checked and therefore got diagnosed early!

  35. I feel silly for how often I go to the doctor. 90% of the time my instincts are right and so I don’t feel silly (thankfully it’s all minor stuff). I know my body pretty well and can tell when something is “not right.” But at the same time we have to live our lives too and not worry about every ache and pain. It’s hard to find that balance.

    I had the same thinking as you when I felt the lump in my breast a few years ago. I wondered how long it was there. I asked my doctor if it could have been there for years but because I was obese I never felt it. He said that was possible. That was terrifying. Like what if I had never lost 100 pounds and didn’t feel the lump? And it was cancer? I never would have known!

    When I read your news my first thought was: WHAT? Why? She’s so young. She’s so healthy. She eats healthy. She’s a personal trainer! WTF? Bottom line: Cancer doesn’t discriminate. That’s a hard pill to swallow!

  36. Your story makes me happy – at how wonderful and strong of a person you seem to be. And sad – at how you have to go through this and how we all put off medical issues. But I agree with Lisa – it’s hard because we get a lot of random small problems, that are often times nothing. So, realizing ‘hey, it’s time to go’ isn’t always as easy as it seems in retrospect.

    Yeah, I need to start tracking my head pains… I will. Thank you for the reminder. And I’ll go see a doctor about them if they continue frequently. Or maybe just at all.

    Keep up the positivity and stay strong. <3

  37. I will be thinking of you and I know you will come through this you are a strong woman.

  38. Started reading your blog several months ago when I was looking for some good home workouts. You have some wonderful workouts posted. Thanks for those. I was shocked to stop by your blog today and read your news. You don’t know me obviously, but my thoughts and prayers will be with you, all the way from Houston, Texas. Keep us posted and take care. It looks like you have a lot of people that love you dearly!

  39. Dear Susan,
    I just caught up on your posts and am so sorry to read about what you’re going through. My heart flies up to you from Virginia. Your positivity given the circumstances is remarkable. xoxo

  40. Wow. I am just catching up on what has happened to you in the past few days…I had been following you on Twitter but had not read your blog yet, and then with the flurry of tweets on this and Melissa’s blog, I just had to read and respond. My heart goes out to you so incredibly much. I am so sorry you are going through this. I wish there were words I could say, any of us could say, but all there is is faith. You are so strong and your outlook is so positive. You will be in my prayers.

  41. I guess I fall into that category of people who don’t actually know you, but heard about what you are going through (in my case, it was through Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point). I am currently almost 3 years in remission from ovarian cancer, and I can very much relate to a lot of the things you are going through (not the least of which is the constant balancing act between staying positive and falling into the ‘why me/what did I do to deserve this mindset.’ And while I know this sounds weird coming from a complete stranger, please let me know if you need anything at all — sometimes there is an odd amount of solace to be found in strangers who personally understand.

  42. This post is unbelievable. Thank you for sharing your story so openly and honestly. You will be in my prayers.

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