The C Word – Part 15: Gratitude

The C Word – Part 15

A little more fatigue, a touch of nausea, and that’s a wrap on chemo round eight. Still battling ‘roid rage and still shedding red hairs throughout the house but otherwise, I can’t complain. It seems my side effects have still been quite mild – mitigated by my self-care, nutrition and supplements. I do seem to feel chilly a lot of the time since I’m a bit thin at the moment. My friend Allison gifted me the rechargeable hand-warmer pictured above and it’s my new go-to accessory to keep me cozy!

Feeling strong again, I decided to try to take on more work. “Make hay while the sun shines” as the saying goes. So, I gave my availability to my friend for holiday work at her candy shop and sat down at my sewing station to create my first batch of bra tops for my other friend for her ravewear shop, and then The Rio presented me with a healthy heap of design work to do. OK, I thought, I can do this! That week I also had another singing telegram booked and a full burlesque show to produce & perform for a corporate holiday party. 


Monday, I worked at the candy shop, making hundreds of pre-filled candy bags. I’d forgotten how that work stresses the back of my neck, so I ended up with a nagging headache. The next day I did as much design work for The Rio that I could, squeezed in amidst grocery shopping and other errands. Wednesday morning, I crammed in a bit more Rio work before preparing for the show. We arrived at the venue nice and early and got everything organized. I performed the first number in the first set of the show. During which, I drop elegantly to my knees at one point. And during that elegant drop, I felt something tweak. I was able to get back up gracefully and finish my performance, but afterwards I was limping. I limped through the rest of the evening and soaked in magnesium salt bath as soon as we got home, but in the morning, I still couldn’t put weight on it. There was no way I could drive to my singing telegram, let alone stand there and deliver it. Luckily my friend Bonnie was able to do the telegram, and also luckily, I had a chiropractic appointment scheduled at 11:30 am. I figured she could at least tell me what I’d done to myself! I grabbed one of our rustic walking sticks and hobbled carefully across the street to my chiropractor, looking like Gandalf the Red.

It appears I’d jammed my fibula, and all the muscles and tendons had seized up to hold onto it. She did some adjustments and treated it with a healing laser wand, then taped it. She even let me have her best rainbow tape which she doesn’t offer just ANYone (she works with a lot of kids). I left her office, able to put almost my full foot on the floor, rather than just my heel. She told me the laser would continue to work for about 5 hours. And holy moley, she was right, it felt even better as the day went on. She had me come back the next day for a follow up, and the next morning I could walk completely unaided. I mean, I’m not going to run or dance for a few days, but I’m AGAIN so grateful and impressed by the healers in y life right now. I feel that they all play a different role to support my health, and I have somehow compiled a company of the finest!

Now, normally that graceful move would not have warranted such an injury, but my whole body is going through so much. And the Grastofil injections which stimulate my bones to increase white blood cell production could have been a factor.

On that note, I began stressing out about the cost of the Grastofil. As you may recall, I was expounding upon the efficiency of the Canadian Healthcare System when the Fair Pharmacare Act division contacted me and my extended benefits providers to get the injections covered. These are the injections which boost my immunity by stimulating white blood cell and nutrafil production in the bones. I DID have another series of injections from my naturopath which provided a similar immune response, but It had been prescribed to me back when I’d experienced “neutropenia” or extremely low neutrafil counts. It had been covered for each round, until the last one which was only partially covered because our RX coverage had officially run out for the year. And this is the medication which costs over $1,000 per course. Even here in Canada. I boggle to think of how jacked the cost would be in the US. Well, what they failed to mention is that in order for their program to step in, I needed a special requisition from my oncologist to get that specific medication approved. The gentleman on the phone also informed me that now their office was three months behind in paperwork, and if the medication was not pre-approved and I had to pay for it outright, I would not be reimbursed. Happy holidays.

I was particularly stressed because we had just decided to book a healing sabbatical for me prior to my next surgery, so our pennies were all accounted for.

The next day, Doug was watching one of his astronomy programs and bade me look at the screen. “See that string of lights moving together?” he asked. “Yes” I said. “What do you think that is?” he asked. To which I smartly replied, “Santa and his sleigh, of course.” “No, it’s too early for Santa.” he argued. “No, it’s not” I persisted. “Santa has to take the reindeer out for a few dry runs before the big night! You think those reindeer can just sit around all year fattening up on oats and then just pull it together on the big night? No! They have to train! Work up to it. And now, in the global marketplace in which we live, he might have early deliveries!” We chuckled.

The next day I was working from home with my laptop on the kitchen counter when there was a knock at the door of our condo. Normally an internal knock meant maintenance or other strata business, but this was a UPS delivery-person. Apparently, he was admitted to the building by someone else.  He had an envelope addressed to Kyrst Hogan and Doug Thoms. Warily, I accepted it – was I being served? If so, by whom? I looked at the return address. There was none, save the local UPS depot. The sender was listed as simply, ‘ Santa”.

I opened the UPS mailer carefully and pulled out the contents: one, unsealed Christmas card in a red envelope. No writing on the envelope. The card inside evoked an image of a dog in snow and simply bore the word “Friendship”. Inside the card was cash. A lot of cash. In fact, it held the precise amount of money I had been worrying about the day prior. A true Christmas Miracle. The universe continues to astound me with her magic.

I was agog. Literally sitting there with my jaw slack and my mouth hanging open. I scrutinized the envelope again for any clues, but it seems our Santa does not want to be known. Or… maybe it really IS from Santa. I believe.

I believe in all the little daily miracles in the world, and Santa is one of them. He represents caring, love, and generosity of spirit. All the aspects of humanity which the world could stand a bit more of right now.

A large part of my journey this year has been about learning to accept help, love and the generosity of others into my life. You all have given me so much. When I speak of feeling the protection of your collective love, I am not simply waxing poetic. I truly and tangibly feel it, and that protective love has given me much-needed strength on my journey.

So, this Christmas I thank you all from the depths of my soul. Every virtual hug or smile, heart, gif, meme, note, text or phone call has given me strength. Every kind gift has made me feel so very loved and protected. This battle is hard work, and I’ve been putting in the hours. Being strict and disciplined with myself over my care and nutrition. And it’s working.

I spoke with my oncologist this week and he told me that both he and the liver surgeon are “extremely pleased” with my progress, and that after my liver surgery (still waiting on official date – should be February) I should NOT require any further chemo. Of course he followed with an offhand disclaimer that there are no 100% guarantees of course, but everything looks GOOD. My CEA number continues to drop (last count it was down to 21 and is steadily dropping) which means the cancer’s activity is being arrested. We are shrinking it. All our hard work is paying off.

The other day I drowsily stated, ‘I’m so lucky” to which Doug replied with a mildly sardonic laugh and we recalled comedian Scott Thomson again, talking about his cancer battle when we’d brought him to Vancouver to headline our show, saying, “I’m such a lucky comedian. Life just keeps handing me comedy gold. Gay in the time of AIDS, now Cancer….fuckin’ lucky.”

But I meant it genuinely. I AM lucky. I’ve been able to eek out a living for myself as a performing artist, I have warm clothing to protect me from the elements, we own our sweet little condo home, we have charming and adorable cats to share our love, nourishing food, clean water and good friends. I have a loving and supportive husband who is also my best friend. We get to make music together. We live in one of the most beautiful places on our mother earth and spend much time communing with her. Fortunate. Blessed. Lucky.

I invite you to truly sit down and count your blessings this year. I have, and I am wealthy beyond measure.

Balls. This year has been all about BALLS. Having them, growing BIGGER ones, and, yep, getting kicked in ’em. But I’m a ballsy woman and I shall persevere! So I commemorated the sentiment with this holiday pinup card to commemorate my new scar and my ballsy spirit! Happiest Holiday wishes to you all!

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