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Learning to live with chronic pain

Reaching toward the phone on my bedside table—a halfhearted effort to silence my alarm before it riles the cats further—I am reminded that today will be another spent in pain and discomfort.

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My Experience

Radiation in the mix

I was going to expound on how today’s oncology appointment was one of the most important of my journey so far, but I realized...

One night in cancerland

I can feel the cool breeze from the oscillating fan perched atop my dresser passing back and forth across my body. It feels as if I've stepped into a cool room after being outside on a hot day, the artificial wind kissing my damp skin. I'm having night sweats. Again.

The annexation of my liver

Friday morning I met with my oncologist to discuss the results of some scans that took place the previous evening. I have a recurrence of colon cancer in my liver.

See Spot. Run.

“You’ve done this before?,” asks the CT Technologist. I nod, making a classic white-people-making-eye-contact-by-mistake face. You know the one: The spiel begins. “So, you...

Semicolon

It's been 365 days since a surgical resident stood over my masked up face awkwardly holding cutting instruments. Here's how things are going a year later.

Happy Cancerversary to Me

An entire year has elapsed since I was diagnosed with colon cancer. The cancer experience is esoteric in nature. Only so much can be conveyed through storytelling and art, but I will do my best to share why this day is not a joyous one for me.

2022: A Year in Review

With 2022 coming to a close, I'm feeling reflective. It's difficult to paint a picture of the year's ups and downs. I can only liken the year to a sine wave; my level of enjoyment rising and crashing as the complexities of cancer ebbed and flowed. The frequency shifting—sometimes hourly—as the year progressed. But life itself tends to be unpredictable, anyways, doesn't it?

No Evidence of Disease

For my 35th birthday, the Ontario healthcare system gifted me an oncology appointment: my first since finishing chemotherapy less than a month ago. I officially received word that I'm in the NED stage of my my cancer treatment. No evidence of disease.

The Pressure of Survivorship

Heading into survivorship is an interesting thing. It marks the end of treatment. yes, but it comes with some new pressures. When your job through treatment is to focus on getting better, what do you do when there's nothing left to be done?

Twelve Rounds Down

Finally, I'm done. One surgery and twelve gruelling chemotherapy sessions later, I'm sitting at the end of my treatment path. Well, I will be when I have my take home infuser disconnected on Sunday.

Ramblings from a Chemo Session

Sitting in the chemotherapy unit, I can't help but look around at the different people who find themselves in such a terrible place. Here, under the glow of mismatched fluorescent lights, between the clinical, beige walls of the hospital, people are fighting for their lives.

The Five Tiers of Hope

One of the quick lessons that you learn when you're diagnosed with cancer is just how important it is to hold hope as you navigate the gauntlet of tests, scans, and treatments. For those living with cancer, hope is a concept that can change rapidly and unexpectedly. When cancer becomes metastatic, hope looks a lot different than it does with less advanced cancers.

It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

I'm marching toward the last of my planned chemotherapy treatments, carefully counting the days until I no longer feel like trash due to the wonderful, awful drugs being pumped into my veins every two weeks. It's hard to believe that, in eight months minus one day, I'll have been diagnosed, had surgery, and completed my planned treatments.

Lessons from Cancerland

When I was attending the Gathering of Wolves, I really wanted to learn more about what people experience so that I can include some of the thinking in my advocacy work, which is quickly becoming more than supporting and engaging with people on social media. For this piece, I've also drawn from conversations I've had with people in support groups and on social media. I'm not going to attribute the lessons to specific people out of privacy and respect, but I do think a lot of these are valuable to share.

Meat Sleeve Betrayal

I'll let you in on a secret that nobody tells you when you're diagnosed with cancer: you feel like you lose your body autonomy. If you want to be treated, anyways. That's not to say there's no choice in the matter. You can proceed with treatment, which means consenting to an array of testing, needles, surgeries, and drugs being thrown at you. Alternately, you can do nothing and allow your body to be overrun with disease.

What Does Chemotherapy Feel Like? Pt. 2

Many of the folks in the cancer community have told me that the third time is when you find out how chemotherapy will really go. The reason being that the drugs build up over time. Anyone who takes long-term prescriptions will be able to relate. You take your drugs daily and build a maintenance level—an amount of the drug persists in your system—in order to receive the benefits.

What Does Chemotherapy Feel Like? Pt. 1

Receiving chemotherapy for the first time is exhausting. The buildup to the day, with the associated tests, appointments, and procedures, leaves treatment day as the final boss in a weeklong gauntlet of physical and mental torment.

A Liminal Space

It's been tough to provide an update because, in truth, nothing much has changed. I'm supposed to start treatment this week.