Some Cancer Questions Answered

I thought it would be nice to cover some “frequently asked questions” I’ve been getting from people since this whole cancer nightmare began. I’ve been on the receiving end of SO much information, I really only share bits and pieces on my blog. But I realize that leaves some holes in the story. If you have any questions you’d like added, let me know and I can do a post like this again.

About all the needles

I’ve mentioned several times that I am often poked for blood work and scans. Most cancer patients have a PICC line or portacath which is a little piece on the outside of your skin that connects to a vein under your skin. It’s sort of like a one-stop-shop for blood taking and injecting medicines without having to get 8 different needles injected into your skin each day.

I can’t explain exactly why I don’t have one of these yet, seeing as I have been receiving needles so frequently. But from what I understand, it has something to do with the blood thinner I am on (heparin). The blood thinner runs through an IV in one arm at all times, and blood has to be drawn from the other arm. I’m on this specific type of thinner because it has a short half life, meaning they can stop it and I’d be safe for operation 90 minutes later. Whereas an oral thinner stays in my blood for 24 hours. My doctors are waiting until all the tests are done and everything is figured out until they put me on a more stable thinner.

Being hooked up to an IV and pushing around an IV tree all the time sucks. But I am quite proud of the IV clothing I fashioned this weekend.


Before I was stuck in those godawful hospital robes because the way they go on doesn’t interfere with an IV line. Instead, I cut the straps on a few tank-tops and sewed in clips. That way I can unclip them, put the shirt on over my feet and clip up while keeping the line completely free. I should totally market these.

The benefits of social healthcare

It is true, because I am Canadian everything so far has been completely free. The tests, the hospital bed, even the crappy hospital food.

Now, I am not well-versed in the Canadian medicare system (which I’m sure will soon change) but I am not fully covered for everything under Canada’s system. I’m not under private insurance with my new job yet, which means things like certain drugs aren’t covered. I will have to wait until I know exactly what kind of treatment I am getting, but there will likely be some out-of-pocket expenses with that, such as paying for anti-nausea medications.

Treatment expectations

I’m waiting until I get a full diagnosis to fully explain what lymphoma is (apart from cancer of the lymph nodes). But the large mass in my chest can’t be operated on. It’s not a big lumpy tumour like a lot of people associate cancer with. The only way to get rid of it will be to shrink it with chemo, then zap it with radiation. I have no idea how often I’ll be going to chemo, or how potent my treatment will be, until the diagnosis comes. So it’s hard to predict how long it will take, how sick it will make me, etc.

Food restrictions

Previous to this whole experience, I never knew that some people getting cancer treatment can’t eat certain kinds of foods. The most common being a ban on fruits and vegetables because certain kinds of chemo make a person very sensitive to pesticides. Because I haven’t started treatment yet, I currently have no food restrictions. But the hospital will provide a special oncology nutritionist when the time comes. Please pray that I am allowed to eat produce. And that the smell of peanut butter doesn’t make me sick.

A lot of people are telling me now is not the time to be stingy with my food. That doesn’t mean I can go hog wild with cake, but that my body needs calories and nutrients for the upcoming fight.

To me, that means Big Marc burgers.


My favourite veggie burger in the whole universe. My sisters and I got a take out order from Calactus here in Moncton and gobbled it up in my hospital room. It felt weird eating the burger out of a cardboard container and not in a brightly decorated hippie restaurant. But it’s taste was just as good.


I honestly have no idea what this burger is made out of, but I suspect rice and TVP. Seasoned close to what a falafel tastes like, and topped with a mustardy tofu cream dressing.


Yup, all in the name of fighting cancer. I swear.

As a side note, I just want to show off my flowers.


They are taking over the window sill in my hospital room and they are all absolutely gorgeous! I can always hear people walking by my room and commenting on them. I hear this one was the talk of the nurses lunch room:


A family friend brought in this multicoloured rose, isn’t it unreal? Well, actually it’s totally real. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I think it had different dyes injected into the bottom of the stem. However, I’m no botonist.


Have a great Sunday! I may pop in again to say hi before my surgery tomorrow. As for today, it’s a sunny day and I intend to get outside. IV and all!

Posted on July 3, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. THanks for sharing. I like the hospital clothes you’ve fashioned, very stylish :)

  2. I love that you have redesigned your hospital clothes! It has to feel so much nicer than to be robed in those ugly gowns all day. And that rose is gorgeous! So unique!

  3. That is quite a spread of beautiful flowers, you are loved:)
    My mom had her cancerous mass in her stomach, she had me feel it, but she also couldn’t have it removed by cutting it out. It reduced almost completely by the time she was done with her radiation. All that was left was 2 small bits of scar tissue deep in her belly.
    That Big Marc Burger looks and sounds amazing, I love falafel.
    Good luck with your surgery Susan.

  4. Good idea on the hospital clothes! It seems so strange that clothes would make a huge difference- but I would feel WAY better in clothes vs a hospital gown.

    I kind of want to come to Moncton to eat that burger…

  5. That flower is stunning!!!

    I’ll be shipping off your package in the morning.

  6. Wow, that rose is amazing! Enjoy your fresh air today :)

  7. I think you’re smart to take the “eat what your body wants” advice. You’ll need the calories and the nutrients. Re: pesticides, couldn’t you eat organic produce? Or are the allowable “natural” pesticides on organics just as bad? Anyway, my thoughts are with you.

    • That’s a really good question, and one I plan to ask! I’m not sure if something labelled “organic” actually meets all the standards of cleanliness for a patient with a really low immune system. I’ll let you know when I find out!

  8. Wow, that’s all interesting, thank you for doing this!

    That flower is sooo beautiful! I’m grateful that you have so many people that love you hanging around ;) I’m sure that makes this all a bit easier!

    Hope you get to enjoy the sunshine today!!

  9. I think that in addition to being sensitive to pesticides, the reason for no produce is just b/c of bacteria. With a lowered immune system, your body can’t fight off what most people can. And it’s really only for raw stuff. Get your fill of sushi now!!!!

    Thinking of you all the time. LOVE your tank tops! So clever & makes you not feel “like a patient” huggggs!

  10. You are smart making that tank top. You should market it!

    I had no idea about the produce thing. Interesting! I saw someone else ask about organic, but I wonder if it has more to do with the way our bodies digest raw fruit and veggies. I know I can’t eat them when I’m having GI issues because my body gets too weak to handle the bacteria. It’s weird.

    That veggie burger looks great! Hooray for delicious food! Thinking of you all the time.

  11. Your flowers are gorgeous and that rose – incredible!!

    Enjoy the sunshine!!

  12. wow that flower is beautiful! I am so impressed with all the quality posts you have put up. I am learning so much and it is very insightful!

  13. What a beautiful rose! I hope your surgery goes well pretty lady x x

  14. I hate that all this is too familar too me. Except for the Canadian healthcare system. I thought my dad would be on that special diet but his oncologist surprisingly just told him to eat what he could tolerate. But during chemo, he barely tolerated water (don’t worry, its very different kind of chemo he had than the one you might get). Anyhow, I’m thinking of you everyday and even my dad started reading your blog! You have a little cheer team in LA for you!

    Crossing my fingers for the surgery.

  15. I just stumbled across your blog a few days ago, but ive been thinking about you constantly since then. A few months ago, I ended up in the hospital-very suddenly. I was diagnosed with Guillain barre syndrome, but only had to stay for a week. It was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me and my heart goes out to you in your situation. One day, you think you’re super healthy and strong, and the next you don’t know if you’ll ever run or workout again. I just want you to know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  16. I really want to hear the results to everything. I am praying for you!

  17. Breastfeeding mamas would LOVE your tanks. I think it’s a million dollar idea. :)

    That rose is amazing. Never seen anything like it, and I want your roasted potatoes. Gosh, those look good.

    Again, thinking of you Susan, and I hope all goes well with your surgery.

  18. That rose is so cool. Good luck with your surgery, I’ll be thinking of you.

  19. What a beautiful mutli- colored rose! I have never seen one of them before.

  20. I am just catching up now but had to pause mid way through to say I was almost like OMG – We sent her a fruit arrangement ~ Phew!!! So glad you were able to eat it…..That veggie burger looks awesome and Jay totally wants that rainbow flower, I am sure ;)

    Take care….always thinking of you!

    Danica & Jay

  21. I didn’t even know that such a thing as an oncology nutritionist existed. Ha!

    Love your tank redesign. :D

  22. Michael Sandalis


    Heard your story through a co-worker who follows your blog (@smcbeath). I am a bit of a vet of the whole cancer bit. Last week was 6 years (from diagnosis) of NHL stage-4a B-Cell. 4 emergency surgeries and 8 rounds of chemo later (all within 10mos).

    All you need to know is it can be fought and its well worth the fight (which I see you have the right attitude). Any questions fire away!

    I am now living in Moncton (originally Halifax) with my family and am present on the 6th floor at least monthly and a patient of Dr. Rubin.

    Take care,


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