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50/50: Seeing My Story On The Big Screen

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I felt very alone. It was a time when literally hundreds of people showed  love and support towards me, and yet I had a hard time finding those who truly understood. I was in the oncology ward with people 2-3 times my age. My family was learning how to deal with the fact that the baby of the family (me) could be the first to go. If there is one word to sum it up, it would be “shock.” From me and everyone around me.

It’s with this that I turned to books and the internet. Not obsessively researching my disease, but rather looking for stories like mine. I stumbled across Young Adult Cancer Canada in my search, and proceeded to read every single one of their survivor profiles. Finally, people like me. People who went through the horror of cancer in the same stage of their lives and lived to tell the tale.

It’s that same organization that sent me, along with other young adult cancer patients and survivors from across Canada, to see the movie 50/50 last night. I’ve been anxiously waiting to see this movie since I heard about it the first week I was admitted to hospital. Finally, I could see my story play out on the big screen.

I’m not going to sit here and give you a critical review of the film, and I’ll try not to reveal any information beyond what’s shown in the trailer. Needless to say, seeing my story on the big screen stirred up a lot of emotions!

First and foremost, I loved that they injected a lot of humour into the film. Cancer is not depressing all the time. In fact, a lot of it is spent laughing at the absurdity of the situation. There were moments in the film where I found myself laughing way louder than anyone else around me. I am definitely one of those people who can find humour in the strangest of situations, and I think anyone in their 20s who finds themselves taking fun drugs for free at the hospital would be able to do the same.

What I thought the film really got right was that getting cancer in your 20s is not all about finding yourself, but more managing the emotions of the people around you. I’ve always wondered if it’s sometimes easier to be the sick one and not the one watching someone you love go through hell. Even though I know everything everyone does is because they love me, it is hard to be selfish when there are so many people around me who need to hear I’m okay. People say they can handle it, but really, they can’t (to no fault of their own).

While I overall enjoyed the movie, there is no way it could have summed up the cancer experience. It hit a lot of the high points but there are SO many points throughout the process, there’s just no way to get them all. On the other hand, it was hard to watch at some points because of how real it was. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone get chemotherapy in a movie. Although I’ve never been offered pot macaroons in the chair, it wasn’t far off from what I go through every other week.

The hardest part however is the surgery scene at the end. My mom, sister, and I were all crying. I think it’s because we are not all that far removed yet from my own surgery three months ago that led to my diagnosis. They removed a lymph node that day, but the back-up plan was to remove a piece of the cancer from around my heart. A much more serious procedure that had my family anxiously waiting while the surgeons worked on me behind the door.

There is no doubt that being the one on the operating table is easier than the one waiting to hear the news. I was so doped up at the time that I couldn’t really understand the emotions around what was going on. So seeing that onscreen struck a bit of a nerve.

Since my diagnosis, I have found tons of young adults with cancer to connect with. Some survivors, others going through treatment like me right now. We talk a lot about how we manage the day-to-day of feeling crappy all the time. The activities we miss. How we deal with our families. I don’t feel as alone, which can sometimes be the hardest part of being so sick at such a young age. The life I was busy living and planning is suddenly put on hold, and the many, many decades I have ahead of me are now filled with a giant question mark. It’s impossible for 50/50 to reflect the whole experience of having cancer in your 20s. But I’m happy that it is showing big audiences that is does happen, that not all of us die, and a lot of us get through it laughing.

Cinq Choses…

…aka “Five Things.” Just trying to make this blog live up to provincial French/English bilingual standards. Har har.

1. Yoga yesterday was fantastic! Thank you for asking (let’s pretend that you did). I haven’t been able to do yoga since before I shattered my elbow in February of this year. I was actually planning on getting back into it the week I was admitted to hospital with cancer. Go figure. After that, I was afraid to do it because of the germ-infested classes and my restricted blood flow. I didn’t want to catch a death cold or pass out.

After a little researching however, I found a very small weekly class with just me and two other people. It’s 30 minutes of “beginner” postures. The only pose I needed an alternative for was downward dog because I can’t straighten or put weight on my left arm. Followed by 15 minutes of guided meditation. A far cry from my favourite 90 minute Ashtanga class in Toronto. But my goal for this class is also a far cry from what my intentions with yoga used to be. It was absolutely perfect for me, I am so happy I found the class!

2. Smoked paprika. I’ve been putting it on everything lately. It adds such a nice, warm, smoky kick. It was one of the stars of my “CSA salad” this week.

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For two servings it contained:

  • 1/4 head shredded red cabbage
  • 3 large shredded carrots
  • 1 shredded green apple
  • 1 ear of corn, sauteed in smoked paprika <–
  • 1/4 large thinly sliced white onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 baked chicken breast, chopped
  • Poppyseed dressing to taste

3. This is a really cute movie!

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I share this because it’s a Canadian movie that I found on Canadian Netflix. And finding good movies on Canadian Netflix can be difficult.

4. Don’t ever put Hemp milk in your coffee.

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Baaaaaad idea. Hemp milk is only good in things that will mask its gross flavour.

5. I am getting a PICC line!! In other words, a “peripherally inserted central catheter” in my arm. It’s a little tube they insert inside one of the main veins in my arm, all the way into my chest. With an attractive tube that hangs out my arm ALL THE TIME like some kind of alien science experiment.

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This is good news because it means no more IVs and needles for chemo and blood tests. They can do everything from the hanging tube, and my veins won’t get burned up from the chemo anymore. It also means my oncologist believes the cancer has shrunk enough that it’s no longer putting too much pressure on my veins.

I’m scheduled to get it put in next Wednesday before my next chemo, provided my tests on Tuesday look okay. Even though this is a good thing, I am irrationally scared for the procedure. It’s done by a radiologist and with a local freezing on the skin. Which doesn’t make sense to me because won’t I feel it going up through my vein?

It sounds a lot like my two needle biopsies which were hands down the worst experiences I had in the hospital. I actually started hyperventilating when I had my bone marrow biopsy despite the anti-anxiety meds, painkillers, and freezing. It just hurt and I was scared, and I freaked out thusly. Why can’t they just put me into a sleepy happy place for all of this stuff?

Anyways! Those are my Cinq Choses for this Friday. I had a more serious post scheduled for today, but my brain needed the break. Maybe I’ll put it up over the weekend. I am doing some cooking, baking, and exploring a farm over these next few days – should be fun. Enjoy yours!

Someone call the wah-bulance

This morning, I woke up with a mission. Beat the heat. It’s going to be HOT around here for the next few days, so outdoor activity will have to be scheduled accordingly.

When my body clock woke me up at 6:30 am, I jumped (okay, stumbled, stepped on a random object, and tripped) out of bed, threw on my running clothes and immediately fuelled up.

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Like my broken thumbnail?

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Iced coffee with almond milk and stevia in an iced beer mug I bought in Jamaica. Noticing the trend yet? :P

Then I strapped on all my gadgets and was off for my planned five kilometres. Not gonna lie, I was (am) sore as hell from weight lifting yesterday. Pounding out a fast 5k so soon after may not have been in my best interest.

Duration: 28:04
Distance: 5.03 km
Avg Pace: 8:59
Avg HR: 162
Max HR: 176

Kinda nice to see that 8 in the pace, even if just barely! I think I started out at maybe a 10:00 and got increasingly faster towards the end. I was surprised by how easy it was to squeeze out a faster speed for those last 2 km. Running really is mental. The only thing holding me back was me thinking that going faster would be too hard. Well, it was hard (when is running ever easy?), but it was bearable and most importantly – fun!

By the bye, I’ve been measuring my runs with the Nike + iPod foot pod and plug-in I bought a while back. I had some difficulties getting it calibrated at first, but now it works great! No complaints thus far :)

I’ve been a hungry beast all day. I don’t know what is up with my body. Getting sick maybe? I’ve been more hungry than usual and I find my body is taking longer to recover between workouts. I don’t like it.

Some other eats from the day included a peach + AB break while preparing my apartment to be shown.

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Mediterranean cottage cheese pita with a plethora of veggies and a cinnamon-doused braeburn.

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Random protein bar bought based solely on name.

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I won’t bother posting the ingredients. Just picture what’s in a KitKat with a bunch whey, soy and egg white protein. 

It was melty… did I mention it’s HOT here?

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It was actually pretty good, for a protein KitKat. The peanut butter was creamy, and the chocolate coating was decent. Not the greatest snack idea on a day when I’m starving though. Wafers = not filling!

Also had a little fat + fibre in hopes of satisfying my belly.

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Wasa fibre rye with PB, lexia raisins and cinnamon. Made the hunger situation better, but not cured.

Spent the afternoon out and about. Picked up some new chain lube for my bike and a sweet new running bra from the Running Room.

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I contemplated doing actual clothes shopping, but the idea of spending my money on workout gear appealed to me more! I can’t wait to try out this bra. It’s got a built-in heart rate sensors.

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Apparently you just clip the transmitter on in the front. I’m sceptical it will actually work. Regardless, it’s still a really nice bra without it.

I also stopped by an Asian grocery that I discovered hidden in our city’s industrial park on my last bike ride. It was huge!!! I was hoping to find some of the coveted kabocha squash, but they don’t carry fresh produce. I did however leave with a few goodies.

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Black sesame seeds, rice paper and agar-agar. I have ideas for the seeds and rice paper, but I have no clue what to do with the agar-agar! Any ideas??

I had an early supper, because I was hungry again.

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Tempeh burger with microwaved sweet potato chips. My apartment is going to be an oven-free zone for the next few days. Seems like our weather only goes in extremes – cold and rainy or scorching hot!

For the record, this is not everything I ate today. There was a breakfast and more snacks in there. I just noticed I talked about being hungry, but looking at the pictures, it doesn’t look like I ate a lot. I did though!

I’m hoping to go for a hill bike ride tomorrow, but if my body doesn’t snap out of whatever is ailing it, I may just skip it. Which sucks, because it’s going to be a rain-free day off for me tomorrow, so it’s perfect for a bike ride! Of course, after tomorrow, it’s going to rain until Sunday, ugh ugh.

Yes, I know, I can hear the wah-bulance from here :P

In case you can’t tell, I’m having a “blah” day. Hopefully tomorrow is better! For the time being, I’m going to go lay in bed, nurse my current tummy ache, and watch Fast Food Nation. I just downloaded legally purchased it and am excited to watch it! I read the book in high school, but I can hardly remember it now. Much of high school is a haze for me :P

How about I end this lame post with a couple more random Q’s. What is one movie you really want to see but haven’t yet? What is one movie you think everyone should see?

Okay, this is totally self-serving, because I think y’all probably have great movie recommendations for me!

Hope you had a great day! :D

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