Author Archives: Susan

Scanxiety

Today, a plane will take off in Toronto carrying radioactive isotopes destined for Saint John, New Brunswick.

At the same time, I will be in the car with my dad heading for the same destination.

Once we both arrive, the isotopes will be injected into my veins. I’ll sit in a dark room for close to an hour as they spread through my body. Nothing to read or do, as a stimulated brain can create a false image.

I’ll then lay on a PET scanning machine and move in and out of it slowly for around 30 minutes.

The radioactive isotopes will react with the sugar in my body so areas where there is metabolic activity will light up in an image. Any spots that light up are considered to be actively cancerous and growing.

Source: CENTRE JEAN PERRIN, ISM/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Last time I had a PET scan, in July 2011, I had a spot light up just above my heart. Cancer wrapped around the superior vena cava that pumps blood into my heart. Another spot was located under my right arm and removed in surgery shortly after.

Today, after six months of chemotherapy, I am desperately hoping there are no bright spots on that image. That would mean I am cancer-free and require no more treatment. If there is still evidence of activity, my doctors may decide on 4+ weeks of radiation, which would consist of direct a ray of radiation to my chest for 10 minutes, 5 days a week. Then there’s a possibility that it could be worse…

I have always been optimistic about this cancer thing, but I enter today’s scan considerably less optimistic. I recently noticed I still have visible veins on the left side of my chest. Previously, those colourful veins were a sign that the cancer was squeezing around that big vein that goes into my heart and restricting blood flow. I’m scared that is happening again.

I likely won’t get the results today. I meet with my oncologist tomorrow and then my radiologist on Friday. That means I should know the results of the scan tomorrow, then what the remainder of my treatment plan is by Friday. Hopefully.

The last five weeks since finishing chemo have been a little snippet of what going back to my “normal” life could be like. I am ready to go back to work, get a place of my own, travel, and spend more time with friends. Having to get radiation will likely put all of that on hold and have me feeling sick again. I’ve been preparing myself for radiation ever since my diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready or willing. I would love so much to get news that this is all over starting today. But I’m uncharacteristically pessimistic about this one.

As a result, I am graciously collecting well wishes, good vibes, prayers, and healing chants from all my internet friends. You know where to send them. Thank you. I’ll let you know the results as soon as I know!

Eleventy Eleven

Tamzin has tagged me to 1) provide 11 things about myself and 2) answer 11 questions she made up for me. I don’t usually do these things (even though I love reading facts about other people) but I figured it might be fun since I’ve gotten a lot of new readers over the course of my cancer treatment. I’m not all about cancer all the time!

11 Things

1. I collect elephant figurines. I’ve got dozens of elephant trinkets from all around the world.

2. I know how to Highland dance. My older sisters were more competitive with it but I still remember the basic steps. I remember using metre sticks to practice the sword dance and wearing rubber bands at the top of my knee socks to prevent them from falling down while I jumped up and down.

3. I love the smell of second hand smoke. I smoked for six years and quit purely for health and vanity reasons. I never turned into one of those ex-smokers who wrinkle their nose at how “gross” it is. That’s why I haven’t touched a cigarette since I quit, because I could probably easily become a smoker again.

4. The first dog I ever owned was named Prudence. I believe she was a shephard/beagle mix. She died near Parlee Beach after choking on a shell.

5. I didn’t get my license until I was 22. I failed my beginners written exam when I was 16 and never bothered with it again until my boyfriend in university insisted that he teach me.

My first car - a 1993 Dodge Shadow. Bought in 2008.

6. Speaking of cars, I dream of owning a Vespa someday.

7. The only reason why I learned how to play harmonica was so I could play this song:

8. The first recipe I ever tried was stuffed tomatoes from Jamie Oliver’s old show The Naked Chef. I was 13. I turned out awful.

9. Even though I’m not sure if I’ll even ever have children, I love picking out names for these fictional children of mine. Right now my favourite girl’s name in Rosalie while my current boy’s name is Simon.

10. I really dislike horror movies. I claim it’s because they typically have bad plots, but it’s mostly because I don’t like being scared. Although, I do kind of love Evil Dead.

11. I spend a lot of time going between really wanting a tattoo, and wanting to keep my body tattoo-free. Currently, I am in a wanting a tattoo phase. The main thing that keeps me from ultimately getting one is that I’m cheap.

11 Questions

1. What is your favorite Pop song?

I don’t listen to a lot of pop, how about some Britpop?

2. What is your first ever memory?

Bothering my sisters while they were playing a board game in the basement. I was 2 or 3 years old and they were yelling at me to go away because I was knocking around the pieces.

3. What food are you most addicted to?

Peanut butter. It was the only restricted food I had while on chemo that I just couldn’t 100% give up. Chocolate and cheese were easier to resist!

4. The best place you have visited?

Banff, Alberta. I feel like I should say one of the cool European places I’ve been to, but Banff is beautiful without all the manmade stuff. I’m not much of a city person and when it comes to the great outdoors, Banff is wonderful.

5. The book you’re currently reading?

I haven’t read a book since… October? I usually read a book every couple weeks, but I have a hard time concentrating on and retaining information these days thanks to chemo brain.

6. A life goal you have yet to achieve?

Make homemade croissants.

7. Smoothie or Juice?

Neither.

8. Favorite App?

Instagram!! I’m balancesusan on there.

9. What did you want to be when you were little?

Veterinarian. I’ve always loved animals.

10. Top ten fruit and veg?

Apples, oranges, grapes, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, blueberries, artichoke hearts, potatoes, mangoes.

11. Favorite way to drink coffee?

Black and strong. There is a joke about men in there somewhere.

26 Years

I kind of forgot to mention it on the blog, but yesterday was my birthday! Thank you to everyone who took the time to message me good wishes, but don’t feel bad if you missed it!

I actually never throw myself birthday parties because I hate being the centre of attention. Yes, I realize the hypocrisy of that because I write a blog centred around myself. I just prefer not to see the eyes looking at me. Also, if we’re being really truthful here, I have a small fear that if I were to throw a party no one would show up.

Instead, I spent January 23rd my favourite way – low key with just a few good people.

That included a lunch out with friends. We checked out a newer gastro pub in Moncton called the Tide & Boar. Apparently they have famous poutine made with boar meat, but I didn’t want to fill myself up for the day at noon.

I instead ordered haddock breaded in panko and parmesan with a fennel coleslaw (that had amazing fried capers) and a house salad with roast veggies and granola. I can’t wait to come back and try out the rest of their unique menu!

The girls got me flowers among other things! So sweet. I’m not a girly-girl on many levels, but I love getting flowers.

One thing I wanted to do on my birthday that was a non-negotiable was take my dog for a walk.

I’d say 37% of the reason why I got a dog was just so I would have something to walk! Buster and I did our usual 3-mile route. It’s always one of my favourite parts of the day.

And then what’s a birthday without my MOM? Who would tell me the story of my birth for the 26th time? She said she’d make me anything I wanted for dinner and now that my food restrictions are over the first thing I requested was CHEESE. Since it’s not the best idea to eat a pound of old cheddar with a fork, we decided on a lasagna instead.

My mom’s lasagna is the best! This time around she used kamut noodes, bison meat, and packed it full of veggies. With a Greek salad (my favourite) on the side.

But the cake? Making that was entirely up to me. Making my own cake every year is one of my favourite traditions! Here’s what I made in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

I’m not a fan of traditional cakes, I always go for something a little different. This year it was chocolate chip cookie cake.

I used this recipe to make the cake. I even screwed up the directions and it still turned out great.

I went to make little decorations on top with vanilla bean buttercream frosting, and the ziploc bag I was piping out of exploded all over the cake!! So full-on icing it was.

Guess I should buy a proper piping bag with some of my birthday money.

Chocolate chip cookies are hands down my favourite dessert, so this was an easy sell. I actually liked the thin layer of icing and the cake is choc full of chocolate chips.

Dinner was followed by plenty of talking, yelling, and laughing with my family. All while the dogs played and played and played.

Buster and my mom’s new puppy already love each other.

Overall, it was the best kind of day I could ask for. My energy levels are still low so I took care not to cram too much in. Instead I’ll do other bits of celebrating throughout the week. It’s funny, because usually I turn a year older and am amazed by how time passes and how I’m suddenly so old. Not this year. Having cancer made me realize just how young I really am. 26 years is just a fraction of the life I hope to live.

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