Tuesday 31 May 2016

We're Only Human.

I sit in the stillness of my home, looking around at what we've created for ourselves so far in our young lives. I feel pride. I feel love. I feel joy and comfort. But I also feel anger and a sense of being incomplete. There's a sense of time running out and it lingers in the air in our home, follows me like a shadow. It comes with a feeling of urgency, to do everything I ever wanted to do and do it fast. To create the life I wanted for my children, learn everything I wanted to learn, see everything I wanted to see, make a difference in the world. They're the things that people dedicate their whole, long lives to achieving and I feel I need to complete these things now, before time slips away from me. So far this life I've shaped for myself since I became an adult, is full of everything I ever wanted. Our home is a source of love and support for one another. We work together as a family and that's all I ever wanted. The last thing I want to do is disrupt the very core of our lives with this illness that came unwanted, vicious and unforgiving. No one deserves cancer. Not just the people who physically have it but the people around them, as well.

It doesn't matter how hard you try to stay positive. When you are living with advanced cancer, there will always be tumultuous emotions weighing you down. 

I went to my pain and symptom management appointment the other day and we discussed my latest scan which was taken a couple weeks ago. Not only is it a clear scan but the cancer that was visible in my neck has completely disappeared. I admit I've shed more than a couple tears in relief and joy at this news. The difficult part is being told this cancer is so advanced that it will come back. That it isn't curable. The happiness I feel at knowing the cancer has disappeared is forever shadowed by the fact that it will still ultimately be what takes me from my children and husband. Like my oncologist said, it won't be next month or even next year. It may not be for a few years. But it will drastically shorten my life and they are almost certain of it. How can a life that is full of so many good things, a life that is depended on by little children, be cut short. No, it doesn't seem fair. I know I could beat the odds. We hear of it happening all the time. But I'm also realistic. And 25/40 lymph nodes is a lot. They want to call it stage 4 and metastatic because of that silly little node doing it's job all the way up in my neck. That's a long way from my stomach. I know my chances are slim of living past the next five years. But I know... I know I was meant to do some really great things in my life. I know I was meant to be a mom. I know I was meant to help people and make a difference. I know I wasn't meant to die young. And this is where the anger comes from. Not knowing what's going to happen. I'm gradually learning to be comfortable with uncertainty, but it's not something you learn overnight. But either way,  I don't want to spend my time being angry and bitter- who does? So I need to acknowledge it, honor it, and move forward. No matter how difficult that is. So here I am, acknowledging it, drinking my coffee and listening to Dora in the living room, wishing I could go back to the trivial little problems I had before I knew I had cancer. Those problems seemed like everything at the time but now seem like nothing.

People say to live life fully in the moment, especially when you have a life threatening illness. Until you have a life threatening illness though, it's very easy to say that. I fully and truly each day try to live by those words though. I wake up every morning thinking of things I'm grateful for and I look at my children and my husband like never before. I stare at them longer, I hug them longer, I tell them I love them more often. I think many times everyday how I will live a long happy life and I will get to snuggle with my grandchildren and even my great grandchildren. It WILL happen, I tell myself. I think of how there's this fundamental idea that our thoughts affect our physical well being. That we can move into perfect health, body and mind, we can heal our sick bodies, help our immune system repair itself and fight like never before the cancer that has invaded our bodies. But it is not easy to stay positive day in and day out. In fact the negative emotions, the sadness, the fear, they never fully go away. We learn to live with those emotions. We cope in healthy ways hopefully, we go to therapy or write in a journal. But they don't just go away. I try to focus on the fact I feel strong and healthy and not like someone who has cancer at all. I walk everyday and listen to my music very loud. Upbeat music that makes me envision myself exploring different parts of the world with Aaron, going on some wild adventure, or doing something fun with the kids. Music that makes me want to shout the lyrics and dance until my legs give out. I go out of my way to occupy myself in a way that I don't think about cancer at all. I feel normal in those moments and I try to make as many of those moments as possible. So I try to embrace life now, cancer and all, but it's not easy and I fail horribly sometimes.

The other night I cried. And Aaron sat with me and just let me cry. It was almost Audrey's 1st birthday and as happy as I felt for that day coming up, I also felt so angry. It turned my stomach to think of leaving her before she would even remember who I was. She's only one years old and I have a foreseeable death sentence. Fuck cancer! The more I cried, the angrier I felt. I screamed, threw my glass, it broke, and I sat on the floor in our room and cried some more. Thankfully the kids didn't wake up. At that moment all I felt was self pity and pity for Aaron and the kids that they have to deal with this too. After a few moments the tears dried up and I felt like I could breathe again. Aaron, sitting on the floor with me, joked how it was too bad I couldn't somehow mutate and become invincible so my body would be cured of cancer, kind of like Deadpool. But without all the torturing, of course. And besides, who doesn't want super powers? It broke the heavy atmosphere. We picked up broken glass and although feeling foolish for losing my cool like that, I now felt relieved. Relieved of the heavy emotions I had been at war with all day long while trying to plan a birthday party for a little girl. Moments like that are inevitable, I think. All we can do is get through it and get up and move forward the best we can.

As for today, the sun is shining and the wind is gentle. Down by the water we collected sea shells and watched little baby crabs dart in and out of rocks. Tristan held his arms out to the ocean, clearly amazed by the vastness of it. I saw this and appreciated his wonderment. And I thought about how much I love life. I love it and I'm not hateful that I have cancer. I still struggle with the anger, but I'm not hateful. I love living and I love feeling alive, not just breathing, but truly alive. The feeling I get when I'm in nature or when the kids and I are having a laughing fit. That type of alive. Cancer doesn't stop me from living life. It has created a shadow that hangs over us and has made me truly understand what disappointment is, but it has not and will not take away my love of life. In this process I'm learning just how important relationships are. We need to let go of the toxic ones, repair the ones that are worth saving, and love and appreciate the good ones. Don't wait until you're ill to really see the people around you. Don't wait to get to know them, don't wait to see their young wonder at the world, and don't wait to tell them you love them or show them you appreciate them. Don't let others negativity wear you down or put up with toxic behaviour. 
I'm learning to really open my eyes. Seek out the simple and beautiful things you might normally not notice. The trees swaying in the wind or the shape of the clouds. It's fucking hard to be positive all the time. So don't. But don't let life and meaningful relationships slip through your fingers. It is so very important. For me, that's letting cancer win. These things take a lot of courage and bravery and I'm not saying I've perfected it by any means. Not even close. But I'm working on it. It's a steep learning process.

So where do we go from here? This journey is an unstable road full of twists and turns that is incredibly hard to navigate at times. I know for myself and my family, we need to take a deep breathe and keep trudging forward. We rely on those willing to help along the way and fill our hearts with gratitude and love whenever possible. I'm not always strong and I'm not always positive. Some days I'm down right scared and some days I'm very angry. But we keep trudging forward, hoping for new treatment options and renewed strength.
Some days all I want to do is listen to my very loud music and dream of wonderful things, like grandbabies and old age. That's okay too! Plus, I never have to go very far for a hug or a good, soul warming snuggle. These are things cancer can never take away.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

To Be a Caregiver. Our Super Heroes in Disguise.

Sometimes we have to acknowledge the heroes in our lives. And sometimes our heroes aren't always seen as such. Sometimes they just seem like regular people doing regular things to those peering in at our lives from the outside. These heroes I'm referring to are our caregivers, our co-survivors, the people who take care of us when we are sick from chemo or to weak to walk from surgery or too down and overwhelmed to get showered and dressed. They hold us, they listen to us, they let us lean on them hard, all the while dealing with their own problems and worries. They can be our spouses, parents, siblings, children, doctor, social worker, friend... They can be anybody. And I know from my own experience how vital they are and how my caregiver has helped me cope and grow as a person.

Now a cancer diagnosis has a way of taking over major parts of your life in the beginning, just like the rogue cells themselves trying to take over the healthy ones. We don't want it to take over, but once you hear those 3 cold words, it's inevitable. At least for a little while and for some, much longer. So far in my experience as a young adult, we go from having the illusion that time is on our side. We're trying to get our careers off the ground, saving for a home, watching our small children grow... I think for everyone, no matter the age, we feel time is abundant and even if we logically know anything can happen to anyone, it's incredibly difficult to fathom illness getting in the way of plans and ambitions. We go from that, to suddenly staring our own mortality in the face, our eyes on the clock of life, feeling like it's ticking down faster than we want it to. And even though a cancer diagnosis doesn't automatically mean death (let me repeat that: cancer DOES NOT mean death!) there's a dreaded feeling that comes with it; the feeling of simply not knowing what's going to happen to you now. It's some heavy emotional baggage to wear on your shoulders.

Well our caregivers absorb all of that. We lean on them harder than anyone else when we feel like life is out of control. And they let us, without judgement, with nothing but love and commitment to always being there for us. From their point of view, they are watching someone they care deeply about struggle with their health. I can only imagine the feelings of helplessness are overwhelming. When you care so much about a person you just want to be able to take away their pain, make them whole and healthy and happy. But unfortunately, when someone has cancer or another serious illness, it's not that simple. There is no magic wand to wave to make them all better. So a caregiver puts on their super hero cape and steps up big in any other way they can; in any way they have control over. They hold us while we vomit, wipe our tears away, listen to our fears, talk to our doctors, advocate for our health, make sure we're eating well, make us laugh, remind us to live in the moment... hug us and love us unconditionally. They might suppress their own feelings of fear and sadness to be there for the person they love, summoning up a strength bigger than themselves to be able to take on the survivor's pain and their own. And even others around them, such as children. They do this while continuing to work, clean, run errands, cook, raise their babies, doing all of the "normal" life stuff that doesn't just stop when you get sick. Our caregivers, our co-survivors- they are truly our super heroes and we do not know what we would do without them.

Life has a way of testing us, I believe. In many different ways. And I can only speak to my own experience, ofcourse. When we were recently told my cancer is highly unlikely to be cured and I might only have 2-5 years before I succumb to it, we were devastated. We had been using the word, "curative" to propel us forward. From the beginning we were told the main objective was to cure. After finding out the cancer had not only spread to 26 lymph nodes, but to lymph nodes far away in my neck, the objective has more become about how to increase my quality of life, not quantity. At 27 years old, with 3 small children- this is hard to truly accept at this point. But it's our reality as a family. Before my husband reaches the age of 35, he might be a widow. My children may not have a mother. It's a surreal situation but one that could happen, nonetheless. That being said, this is how I believe life tests our very strengths. I as a survivor, and my husband as a caregiver. My caregiver won't let me fall apart and he won't let himself fall apart. Even though we live with the fact my time *could* be running out much sooner than we would like, we are choosing to live our lives with love and positivity. We choose to look at the fact that people beat the odds all the time and the fact that I'm young and otherwise healthy, works greatly in our favour. We look at the fact I'm responding very well to treatment. We choose to believe I'm not going anywhere for a very, very long time!
If I didn't have my caregiver (my super hero!) close by my side at this point in my life, I do not know how I would be handling this situation. And it's because of this situation we are realizing just how strong we are. We are realizing that there is so much more to life than we previously thought. Doing what makes us happy and what is best for our children is what we now focus on. We breathe more deeply and tell eachother how much we love one another more often. We are learning to appreciate the things we might not of before, the stuff that makes us human. The temper tantrums and sibling rivalries. The mild annoyances of one another. We are learning the importance of forgiveness. I credit alot of what I have learned to my caregiver, my co-survivor, my super hero. I probably wouldn't of grown so much as a person without his guidance.

As survivors we need to reach out. We need that caregiver to lean on and we need the support of others. And just as importantly, caregivers need support as well. They need to connect with others who get what they are going through and what they deal with on a daily basis. Thankfully, there are many wonderful online communities to reach out to in our time of need.
Facingcancer.ca is one great site dedicated to helping survivors and their caregivers cope. There are forums to ask questions, blogs, and a wealth of information on the newest cancer treatments and programs. They also have a list of other support groups people can access.
For adults ages 18-39, there is Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC). They have valuable resources to help survivors and their caregivers and connect you with thousands of others who "get it." Their site is youngadultcancer.ca.
For stomach cancer specifically, a new support group has been started in Toronto, Ontario called My Gut Feeling. They offer amazing support to those affected in anyway by stomach cancer. This is so important because there is very little out there in terms of support and research for stomach cancer. My Gut Feeling offers support groups once a month that you can attend from anywhere, in person or virtually, where they discuss educational topics and ofcourse, the emotional aspects of a stomach cancer diagnosis.
For further stomach cancer support there is also a fantastic organization called Debbie's Dream Foundation.

If there's any advice I can give to anyone going through a cancer diagnosis, it's to hug your super hero. Appreciate them and all they do for us. If you have little support, I strongly encourage you reach out to a support group or online community. You will find people who understand what you're going through and people who will help you.
Practice gratitude in whatever ways you can and feel comfortable with. There is no wrong way, even if others have trouble seeing it. And don't forget to breathe.

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Nobody Said It Would Be Easy.

The first time I heard I had to have a gastrectomy, I was skeptical. Never being seriously ill before it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that I would have to have my stomach removed. I didn't really believe it would happen at the time.
*Remove my stomach? Yeah, right. Can they even do that? This guy is nuts.* Just some of the thoughts that went through my head that day.
But of course eventually I realized that it was inevitable and yes, they can definitely remove your entire stomach just fine and send you on your (not so) merry way. I slowly came out of my fog of denial and took comfort in the fact that at least it wouldn't be happening for about 3 months.

As we all know, when you have cancer a lot of the time a major surgery is involved. And it doesn't matter what type of surgery- they're all a big deal and they all come with a mess of emotions: fear, anticipation, anxiety, curiosity, HOPE, relief... You have your clinical where you're prepped for what life will be like when you wake up. The funny thing is nothing can really prepare you for it. It doesn't matter how many times your doctor talks to you about it or what you read about it, mentally it's one of the most difficult adjustments in these crazy cancer journeys. We're cut open and rearranged, pieces of us taken away, and closed back up. Then we're sent home to learn our bodies all over again, all the while struggling to be the same person we were before.

I had a thoracic surgeon who was a little on the blunt side, but overall nice. I had been warned from the beginning by many people that surgeons are notorious for not having a great bedside manner. So I wasn't expecting to meet my new best friend by any means. Luckily for me I liked him just fine- and he was an excellent surgeon, recommended by many... isn't that what really matters?
In the end we decided a partial gastrectomy was what I would have and more of an esophagectomy. They would leave me with a little bit of stomach which meant adjusting afterwards would be a little bit easier. You know, quality of life and all that.

When the big day came I felt just about every emotion I could possibly feel. I was afraid. Afraid of the pain afterwards, afraid something would go wrong, afraid I simply wouldn't be able to do THIS in all its entirety. I was sad I would be back in the hospital for another 2 weeks or longer, after just getting out. I missed my children so much at that point. Being away from them for a month prior to surgery they had gotten used to me not being around. When I was finally home, they wouldn't come to me when they needed something. My toddler, to young to understand any of this, played strange with me. All very understandable with children but the last thing I wanted was to be away from them again.
Besides fear and sadness, I felt hopeful and even excited to a point. I was hopeful this surgery would mean so much in terms of curative and excited to just get it over with. I was curious about what it would be like with less than half a stomach and how I would adjust, So, completely overwhelmed by these feelings, I said goodbye and let the nurse take me away.

Almost five hours later, I was woken up. I had three chest tubes, an epidural, a feeding tube, bladder catheter, a central line out of my neck, and the most fun of all- a nasogastric tube! A lovely device that goes through the nose, down the throat, and into the stomach to (in my case) remove acid while my insides healed. To have a tube sitting at the back of your throat constantly triggering your gag reflex is not a fun ordeal, to say the least. I had two incisions, a crescent shape one on my back and a long one down my stomach, closed up with staples. Both were painful, of course, but the pain caused by the chest incision was pain I had never dreamt of experiencing. I quickly decided I would rather give birth again than to have to deal with this type of pain. It immobilised me to the point nurses had to move me on sheets and I just simply couldn't move in anyway without excruciating pain. No amount of pain meds seemed to help either. I spent the first few days whining a lot to my nurses and feeling sorry for myself, not even wanting to see Aaron (who never missed a day visiting me!) but as the days passed my mood slowly improved, despite all the tubing, not being able to move, or even take a sip of water. The amount of support and well wishes from friends and family lifted my spirits and reminded me why this was happening. I had an angry tumour that had needed to go and this was an inevitable process. I just had to deal with it whether I wanted to or not. Slowly the tubing was pulled (nothing like pulling a thick tube out of your chest! Warm and slimy are the words I would use to describe it) and I was re-introduced to liquids and soft food (mmm, hospital pudding and egg salad. And so many Ensures... so many) and eventually sent home to be with my family again. And wow, was I so ready to get home. Of course it was hard dealing at home but lots of snuggles and Disney movies in bed with the kids made it much easier cope.

So what's it like to only have a tiny bit of stomach? Well, it's interesting at least! Now I eat 6-8 small meals a day, which is tedious, but gives me the chance to try and munch every 2-3 hours. As a busy mom of 3, this doesn't happen as often as it should. The first month was the most difficult due to dumping syndrome. Undigested food passing too quickly into the intestine causes you to run as fast as possible to the bathroom. It's not easy to absorb nutrients when that's happening so it's a constant struggle that way to heal smoothly and to not lose weight.
You basically learn to eat again. Portion sizes, not drinking while eating, and learning to space your meals accordingly. It's a challenge but it does get easier with time. Three months out of surgery and I can pretty much eat what I like and I've learned to find the humour in it. Eating out is now a lot cheaper for us as I'll usually order off of the kids menu or share with my husband. I still struggle with portion sizes sometimes, but again- it's a learning process. I've stopped losing weight, which is great and I'm always looking for ideas for great little portable snacks. I also discovered only half a glass of wine will get me good and buzzed. I find that amusing and a tad disappointing, haha.
At one point I was mortified at the idea of losing my stomach. Now I see that it isn't all that terrible... Stomachs really are overrated. ;)

One of the things I've learned from this part of my journey is to really be kind to myself. I never thought I would ever experience anything like this and it's absolutely understandable to not feel brave all the time. It's normal to feel angry and to feel scared. It's also expected that you're not always going to adjust as well as you would of hoped. I can't describe the frustration and impatience I felt after 2 months post surgery and I still hardly had the energy to climb the stairs or walk down the road. I felt at that point I should of been much farther ahead than I was. But eventually my strength did come back and I realize now I should of been easier on myself.
You also might hate your scars and hate the way your body feels after going through something so life changing. But that's okay. Time is healing. You will learn to love yourself again. And love so much more and deeper than ever before.
We have really been through so much, physically and mentally, it's amazing how the human body and mind can persevere. I have more respect and love for myself now than I did before and a deeper appreciation for others and their battles. I'm amazed everyday at what others endure and how they cope.

I hope others going through difficult times of their own will read this and know they aren't alone and to not be ashamed of any feelings they have. Embrace it all!  Love yourselves and be proud of yourselves for how far you've come and how far you will go. It's been said over and over by many people- but it does get better.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Love in the Face of Illness.

Let's talk about parenthood and cancer. Although I wanted my next post to be more lighthearted, I feel this topic weighing heavily on me and I'd love to get these thoughts out.
I had my third round of chemo yesterday. I usually go to the cancer clinic alone because it's easier for my husband to watch the kids instead of us finding a sitter. So as I sat there, sipping my tea, and letting this poison course through my body, hopefully kicking cancer cell asses, I found my thoughts turning to my 3 babies and how my family life is today. My kid's names are Phaedra, Tristan, and Audrey. They are beautiful, unique individuals, so very smart and so very kind. And bossy and sassy and so willful (ahem, I mean determined... Is that a nicer way to say willful? Lol). All I ever wanted to be was a mother. I wanted and still do want, to do SO many things, but being a mother was especially important to me. I was a single child as my brother moved out while I was very young, and coming from a dysfunctional home there was nothing I wanted more than to have my own perfect, happy family one day. I wanted my children to have a very close bond and I wanted a husband who treated us gently and with so much love. I wanted all of us to respect one another and to always love and appreciate each other. Well guess what! I got all that. Things of course are not always perfect between us, but man do we love one another.

So it's difficult now, being diagnosed with an advanced cancer. I look at my children and feel paralysed with fear sometimes that I may not get to see them grow up. Get married if they choose, have their own babies if they choose. See what they choose for a career or watch them explore the world. More so than the fear I feel for myself (which is minimal, to be honest- kind of an interesting topic for another time), I fear what kind of emotional trauma would my kids go through losing a parent? Thankfully we know how resilient children are. But it still hurts me to think of them experiencing such a loss, so young.

On the other side, I know there's a chance I might go into remission! And how amazing would that be. But on the off chance if that doesn't happen I am trying so desperately to savour every moment I have with them. We take lots of pictures together and I thought of starting a journal for them, sharing my thoughts and love with them. Words and pictures to always remember me. I feel it shouldn't take a life threatening illness to start savouring the moments with your children, but the reality of it is we all take the little things for granted sometimes. We're all only human. We may lose sight of how precious it is to see a toddler's gentle smile when they find their favourite toy, or how we get frustrated with them for waking up in the middle of the night. Or how comical they can be. My 2 year old son just walked into the wall because he wasn't paying attention and said, "oh- wall...hi." And it made us laugh so hard. I realized our laughter came more from a place of appreciation for our son's goofy personality than the actual act itself.

So yes, it hurts so much. The thought of having to part ways with the babies you nurtured inside of you for 9 months and share a deep part of yourself with. It's difficult wanting nothing more than to play with them and carry them around and be there 100% in mind, body, and spirit. But you can't when you're going through chemotherapy or healing from surgery. Your brain can get so cluttered with appointments, not too mention the nagging fatigue or endless waves of nausea. We are not quite the same as we used to be before cancer came slyly and unsympathetically into our lives. And it effects our parenting to a point. Or this is my experience anyway.

I feel so accomplished in this part of my life. The family I always wanted; a soft spoken home with gentle hands. To leave it anytime soon is devastating. But what I do vow is to try my hardest to be there as fully as possible for my children. And to them I promise to never give up this fight. I am determined to be here for them for a very long time still and they are my will to live. Right now I'm laying in bed listening to them run around like the little crazy people that they are and it's wonderful. Their laughter and noise is beautiful to listen too. Ofcourse soon they'll be up here crawling all over us and demanding dessert right before bed (they already had dessert) and I'll be so looking forward to bedtime for them! Lol.

I know other parents may have similar feelings or thoughts about what it's like to be a parent living with a disease (any disease, not just cancer) and I'd love to hear them. Support is important and simply having an ear to talk to, someone who gets it, can mean all the difference sometimes. Feel free to leave a comment or share your thoughts. <3

"When you moved, I felt squeezed with a wild infatuation and protectiveness.
We are one.
Nothing, not even death, can change that."
Suzanne Finnamore


Monday 8 February 2016

Introduction to a Young Woman with Cancer.

Stomachs are over rated. You can live without one and eventually still enjoy all your favourite foods. You have an excuse to eat 6-8 times a day and doctors will encourage you to get in those calories anyway you can. Even if it's eating nothing but ice cream. Pretty sweet, hey.
I've come to this conclusion because I had most of my stomach removed. A lovely consequence of stomach cancer.
It's quite the thing to hear: "you have stomach cancer". I imagine it's difficult for anyone to hear but it's difficult and mind boggling to hear it at the age of 26. Stomach cancer is notorious for targeting older people. More males than females and more Asians than Caucasians. On top of that, I always considered myself pretty healthy. But we know our little friend cancer doesn't always care how healthy you are. Still. It was shocking. My tumour was creeping up into my oesophagus making it difficult for food and even fluids to pass down and I spent months putting up with the discomfort and pain of food sticking. It didn't help that I was very pregnant and it was assumed by everyone, including me, this was pregnancy related. Nope. It very much was not.

Now I think it's hard to grasp just how serious a situation is when you are not in any way expecting the situation to be that bad. Oh, the radiologist is overreacting when he grabbed my shoulders and gave them a shake."This could be very serious and we need to get you in for an endoscopy right away!" Over reacting. The sweet Dr who did the endoscopy having to wake me up because they needed to switch to a paediatric camera. Then not letting me leave the hospital and scheduling a CT scan. Ah, everyone is over reacting. I'm sure I'm fine! It wasn't until that sweet Dr sat down, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Honey, we found a mass. It's angry and bleeds very easily. Although the biopsies haven't come back yet, I can tell you- you have stomach cancer." Okay, maybe they aren't over reacting. That's when I got teary eyed and the weight of just how serious this situation was settled on my shoulders. So I hugged my husband, phoned my mom, and went home to kiss my 3 children. And I cried all weekend.

Fast forward a bit. After installing a handy port under my collar bone, I went on to do 2 rounds of intense chemotherapy only to become horribly dehydrated because I couldn't even swallow my own saliva. So, we put in a stent. A lovely balloon type of thing, surrounded by metal and wire, to inflate and open up my oesophagus so I could eat. I was actually very excited about this. Not a big deal- just another little sleepy endoscopy to put it in. And to not have to keep spitting every couple of minutes sounded amazing. But unfortunately the pain and discomfort from that was overwhelming. Not too mention throwing up dried blood multiple times a day was mentally discerning. So no more chemo and on to surgery I went! The removal of over half of my stomach and alot of my oesophagus (I keep forgetting to ask how much). It was with that I was able to get the pathology a few weeks later. To our dismay we were told an eight centimetre tumour was removed. Stage 3, T-4, and high grade. 26/40 lymph nodes had cancer. This was the second to worst news we could of received, That being said there was a couple rays of sunlight! My surgeon was able to get clear margins (my oncologist cannot stress the importance of this enough) and as far as we could see, no mets, There was, however, a silly little lymph node in my neck swelling up with cancer, but it has since disappeared with the latest rounds of chemo.

So that brings us to today. So far it has been quite the journey from last July to now. I've gone through things I never imagined I would have to and still have lots ahead of me. I'm adjusting to a new body after a major surgery. I'm dealing with the gross effects of chemotherapy while trying to raise my 3 children. I'm living with the fact that I only have a 20% chance of living past the next 5 years. At 26 years old, with 3 beautiful, amazing children, and their father who I love so much, I'll admit it's a very difficult thing to acknowledge. It pisses me off and makes me sad, especially for my family. There's so much I want to do and see and most importantly, I want to continue on my journey as a mother. There's nothing I want more. So it's very sobering to know I may not make it past 33. BUT! 20% is not 0%. I still very well may walk away from this. And for today, I'm here. I'm alive and I feel great, even despite the chemo. It helps I have an excellent oncologist, Aaron, who is so supportive, the best of friends anyone could ask for, and some wonderful family around me. Right now, I feel content.

But hearing the words, you have cancer, makes you want to vomit. It upsets your stomach and makes it difficult for you to breathe. Your palms get all sweaty and the first thing you think is, am I going to die? Because if you aren't that familiar with cancer (like myself) you immediately associate cancer with death. It's not the case of course, though. Many people survive this disease. And we are advancing every year with ways to treat cancer and even cure some cancers. Unfortunately stomach cancer specifically is particularly aggressive and sneaky. It's often diagnosed in the later stages because people don't think much of some of the very subtle symptoms. Heartburn, indigestion, feeling bloated or crampy... You usually don't experience these things and think, Oh no! I might have stomach cancer! If it wasn't for where my tumour was, causing me so many issues with food and fluids, I might not have been to the Dr for a very long time. So I want to raise awareness about stomach cancer. I want more and more people who are unfortunate enough to end up with this shitty disease to be able to catch it earlier. On top of raising awareness, I want to help people live their best with cancer. To see the bright sides (they are there!) and remain hopeful. But to also embrace the days we don't feel so positive. To know it's okay to scream and cry and swear. But to never give up. I hope by starting this blog people going through similar situations will find comfort in knowing they aren't alone. Especially younger adults.