The C Word – Part 4
So, I was released from the hospital smack into the biggest heatwave BC had ever seen. Perfect. I’d heard it was coming while I was in the hospital so I’d tracked down a small air conditioning unit at a nearby Best Buy and had Doug pick it up when he came to get me. He got it (and me) home, and proceeded to engineer it into the bedroom by using a big sheet of corrugated plastic fitted into the sliding door track with a hole cut out at the bottom for the AC. So, I spent the first week of my convalescence at home curled up with Doug and the cats in the blessedly cool cave of our bedroom. I’d purchased a rolling cart to place next to the bed so I could reach everything I needed access to: water, food, notebooks, phone, knitting… I had everything I needed. Chalk one up to my inner girl scout! In a way, the heatwave was good in the sense that it gave me no choice but to rest and heal without trying to get back to my regular routine quite yet.
I knew I’d gotten malnourished in the hospital, so now I was trying to make up for it at home by getting back to my super-amazing-supplement-filled smoothies every morning and my delicious and nutritious homemade meals. I’m one of those people who isn’t in the habit of weighing myself. I haven’t ever owned a scale of my own. And at the doctor’s office, I always look away when they weigh me, asking not to be told the number. I have two different sizes of the same pair of pants that tell me where I am on my personal weight spectrum, and that’s all I really need. During the lockdown, I gained a little weight, just like most people did. But when I started working part time at my friend’s candy shop (standing up and doing physical work rather than sitting on my butt at my computer at home) I started to shape up a bit again, except for a few areas that all women deal with as we age. So when I felt well enough to look at myself in the mirror without my nightie on, I was shocked. Lo and behold – my CoVid back-fat had VANISHED! Gee, thanks, C word!
What some people don’t realize about colon cancer surgery is that they can’t just go into the colon and remove the tumor, oh no! They have to cut out a section of the colon larger than the tumor and then stitch it back up again. So, you’re basically re-training your digestive system to work normally again as you heal. For exercise, I walked back and forth several times a day from the kitchen to my balcony garden, filling my small watering can each time and making sure my flowers didn’t get singed and crispy in the heat. My thrilling daily outing was my trip to the wound care clinic. Doug worked out his schedule so he could drive me. My friend Shanti graciously had made several meals for us to reheat and brought them over, so I didn’t need to think about cooking for several days. My friend Matt brought us vegan ice cream and smoked maple salmon, which we also devoured during the heat wave. After about a week and the heat wave broke, I started feeling like I could putter around a bit more and began getting back to basic cooking, with Doug still picking up the groceries for us. I finally felt a bit more HUMAN with some of my independence returning. But it would still be a while before I was back in full force.
Every day, I went for a ride in the car as Doug took me to the wound care clinic to have my wound cleaned and re-dressed. They measured it at my first visit. The direct depth was 2 centimeters while on an angle at 11 o’clock the wound was a whopping 4 centimeters deep. The idea was that they would keep cleaning and re-dressing the wound, keeping it open with anti-microbial gauze packing until it healed from the inside out. Doug was allowed to be there for my first visit. I didn’t want to look at my wound so I kept my head turned away. But Doug was fascinated. He was shining his phone flashlight down into my gaping wound and inspecting it. What is it with guys and holes, anyway? One day I made the mistake of accidentally looking down at my belly as they were dressing it, then I couldn’t get the image out of my head. It was like a gory second belly button. I thought, how in hell is that ever going to heal on its own? Aren’t they going to throw a couple stitches or staples in there? But no, they told me, it had to heal on its own. I was eating extra protein, taking collagen and zinc to help the healing process go faster but it still seemed like it was taking FOREVER, and meanwhile the outdoor pool across the street from our place was just TAUNTING me every day I rode by. Swimming is another one of my greatest pleasures. And when I say swimming, I usually mean playing around in the water: floating, diving, treading water, you get it. It’s just so therapeutic. All your troubles just seem to melt away when you’re floating.
On July 2nd, they sent me to Vancouver for a PET scan. This was for the oncologist so they could see how all my systems were functioning before making my chemo treatment plan. I’d already had CT scans and MRI’s, but this one was a little different. They inject a radioactive solution into your vein and leave you there for 45 minutes while it makes its way throughout your body. They covered me with warm blankets, I put meditation music on my headphones and took a little nap. Then they took me into another room, put me on a machine similar to a CT scan and take a succession of images. My surgeon saw the images and said there was nothing new to be concerned about there. Whew! I also got the pathology report back from my left ovary removal. I’d asked them to perform the SEEFIM protocol on it since I have a history of genetic ovarian cancer and carry the BRCA2 genetic mutation, as my mom did. The SEEFIM protocol takes samples from all through the ovary and Fallopian tubes to check for any cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, rather than just one cross-section. And lo and behold, there was nothing. All clear! My big fear that things had begun in my ovaries was GREATLY assuaged. Now I just needed to focus on the next steps and the actual healing tasks at hand.
As my wound started to heal faster, I got stronger and was able to be more active. The depth measurements got smaller and smaller, and so did the bandages! I went for nature walks, easy bike rides and even started resuming a little yoga. I did a couple singing telegrams and visited with friends. I resumed doing most of the grocery shopping, using a wheeled cart to transport the groceries upstairs. I was able to sit at the computer, finally, so I could get back to some work. After a month without work, I was starting to stress out over finances, even though I knew that healing was my primary job.
On Wednesday July 14, I had my consultation with an oncologist at the BC Cancer Centre. I got to ask my oncologist all the questions I’d researched. I found out I’d be given two chemo drugs intravenously, and one would be oral, in pill form which I’d be taking at home. I’d done so much research on how to support my system through the chemo process, and ways to support my system in general. I gave a list to my oncologist of all the natural supplements I’ve been taking: marine collagen, cod liver oil, milk thistle, probiotics, zinc, magnesium, turkey tail, chaga, reishi, lions mane and cordyceps mushroom – he said all were fine. I also will be taking oil of oregano and berberine throughout my treatments, and cannabis therapies. Hey, it’s legal in Canada now, I may as well reap the benefits! I take phoenix tears at night to kick the cancer and help me sleep, and I plan to toke up before and after every chemo treatment. It’s known to be better medicine than pharmaceutical anti-nausea drugs for most people, and without all the big-pharma side effects. It just makes more sense to NOT to clog up my system with a bunch of drugs to combat the side effects, when I could be using something natural. And I bought crystallized ginger to munch on. Of course, I filled the prescriptions to have on hand, but my hope was to avoid depending on the pharmaceutical meds.
My first chemo treatment was scheduled for Tuesday July 27. Again, I’d been mentally and physically prepping myself, but the unknown always holds some element of fear. Especially to we Scorpios who desperately prefer routine to change. I tried to stay away from reading or listening to others’ experiences with chemo, as I knew everyone is different and I didn’t want to have preconceived ideas of how my body might respond. But still, hearing the date of my first treatment felt like a death knell.