My Last Day At The Tom Baker Cancer Centre Is Bittersweet
I started this journey in September 2010. 6 and a half years later,my last day at the Tom Baker cancer centre is bittersweet. Well, more sweet than bitter, obviously. I noticed an abnormally large lump in my left axilla (armpit, in non medical terms) and presented it to my family doctor for investigation. She sent me for an ultrasound and a fine needle biopsy, which came back negative.
Since the lump wasn’t getting bigger and didn’t cause me any pain or other symptoms, we decided to watch it over the next year and revisit it at that time. Flash forward 1 year and huh, that lump is still in my armpit. Back to the doctor I went.
1 year into owning this bulging lump I was back at the diagnostic centre for more ultrasounds, another fine needle biopsy and a referral to see a doctor at the Breast Health Clinic. Fun fact. Did you know that breast tissue goes all the way into your armpit?
Dr. Mew at the Breast Health Clinic decided that she wanted a core biopsy. Just imagine, that a ‘fine needle’ biopsy uses a teeny tiny needle, now imagine what you think they use for a core biopsy? FML
Oddly enough she was insistent that regardless of the result of the core biopsy, she wanted to take out the lump to biopsy it. Yeah, that’s right. Surgery and removal of the big lump to send it away for testing. And low and behold, the core biopsy too came back negative. Yay!
So for those keeping score, that’s 2 ultrasounds and 3 biopsies all with negative results.
Surgery was rather urgently booked for September 2, 2011 (long weekend) despite all the negative results. And then I waited.
September 14, 2011 we went to see Dr. Mew to get the results from the lump biopsy (surgery). I wasn’t worried or nervous. All the other tests came back negative, so would this one. I got this.
“I wish I had better news for you. You have lymphoma.”
She kept talking but I was too busy imploding. It was like slow motion. I was smiling and then I was crying. I was crying and then I was sobbing. I was sobbing and then I was numb. I don’t know what she said to me after that.
I looked back at my icalendar for this period of time in my life and it was filled with normal activities, school events, kids sleepover, birthday parties and treatments.
12:30pm drop twins to pre-school (bring cheese & crackers for class party)
1:15pm cancer treatment #2
3:30pm pick up twins from pre-school
4:00pm pick up B & S from elementary school bus
7:30pm Alberta Ballet tickets
Talk about multi-tasking. Don’t get me wrong. Even I have to remind myself that despite what my calendar would suggest, I was no hero. I was no warrior. I was sad and depressed and scared and barely functioning as a human being. But without my normal life ‘stuff’ I would not have survived any of it. I needed to know that life continues on so I could continue on.
I keep telling myself, “I can and I will”
20 treatments of pin point laser guided radiation treatments for nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma later and a second PET scan to confirm it was all gone and BOOM…
February 10, 2012 my oncologists deemed me CANCER FREE!
The rest of my visits to the cancer clinic went from every 3 months to every 6 months, back to every 3 months when they thought the cancer came back in my neck (false alarm), which brings me to this very day, my last day.
June 9, 2017 is my last visit to see my oncologist team, Dr. Carolyn Owen and Dr. Alexander Balogh. I admit, it’s bittersweet. The obvious sweetness is that I never want to set foot in that place ever again. EVER. The bitter is harder to explain. One of the biggest fears with having cancer is having cancer ‘again’. A reoccurrence could happen and once I’m discharged from the cancer centre, no one is checking me. No one is making me fill out those symptom questionnaires. No one is feeling my lymphocytes for abnormal lumps. No one is taking my blood to check for cancer markers. I will be shutting off a certain level of security that has served as an early detection system and that is hard to let go of.
I’ve been cancer free for over 4 years, you guys!
My cancer journey is about to end. I was lucky. I was cured. I know there are many more out there who are still on their journey, who are just starting their journey or who’s journey ended before they were ready. No matter where you are in your journey, know this…
Your life doesn’t end with the words, “you have cancer”. Keep going. Keep your calendar filled.
Even though my cancer journey is ending, my story will live on and hopefully help just one person through their journey.
Thank you to all of you who supported me along the way. XO