(re)Assess: Good Things Come In 3's!

Today, browsing through home storage and organization books. I read an article called "10 things successful women do" (it was as cheesy as it sounds), but one of the tips were "Make your bed".  It didn't have as much to do with making your bed as much as it had to do with keeping your space clean. A clean space = a stress free mind.

The nice thing about keeping a blog is re-reading old posts and seeing how quickly your attitude, mind frame and opinion can change over such a short period of time. It's like when I look back on my high school journals and have a giggle at how melodramatic I was. I love that I have documented the details of how I've felt: how at times I've been naive, how curious, positive and hopeful I've been (and am). I have a resolution to go back and read my past journals on New Years Day, to remember everything that had happened over the last year and reflect on how I changed and grew from my experiences. It's a cool thing to review the words and thoughts of your past self. I feel like in 3 months I've learned so much. When I wrote my last post, I was still recovering from treatment #4: I hadn't slept in over a week, was suffering from abnormally crazy hot flashes and was definitely feeling down.

I'm at the very end of this treatment - day twenty - and I'm feeling so much better, mentally and physically. Re-reading my last post I felt so sad for myself (ha). It was definitely one of those low moments that everyone warned me about. When you're diagnosed, you generally go for a "Chemo Teach" class at the hospital: they make you sit through a particularly painful and scary slideshow of all of the side effects you may/may not experience, followed by a Q&A with a nurse that works on the chemo floor. They take you for a little tour around the cancer wing and the volunteers show you where you can find warm blankets, orange juice, and how to wheel yourself to the bathrooms. My volunteer pulled me aside while we were on our tour and told me she had gone through chemo herself and now that she's older has decided to volunteer. She she had two piece of advice for me:

1) Take advantage of the good days. There will be good days and there will be some very bad days. When you have a good day, take advantage of it and don't take it for granted. You don't know when your next good day will come again.

2) Go for walks. Get fresh air every day. Even if it's just around the block.

I think this is pretty good advice whether you're going through chemo or not! I was given a lot of advice when this all started, but for some reason, this is what stuck.

I'm getting increasingly tired as the time goes by: I find myself waking up in the morning and after breakfast I'm ready for a nap. Despite this, I do find it so important to get outside at least once a day, no matter how tired I am. It's a brutal cycle: I can't sleep at night, so I sleep during the day, then my nap is pushed later, and by the time night comes... I can't sleep again! I'm trying to break the cycle but for now, it's what works for me. But the walks help for light exercise and to tire me out a bit.

I'm prepping myself for this Tuesday (tomorrow) - treatment 5/6! At the beginning of this week I met with my oncologist, preparing for the worst. For some reason preparing for bad news helps me appreciate good news so much more. If you remember, I hadn't seen any change in my tumour at all the last 2 treatments. I think that contributed to my attitude after the last one: to have your life completely uprooted and to feel like it is for no reason is devastating.

But...guess what? I got some GREAT news this time around! It seems like for me, good things really DO come in 3's. After my first round, I had three pieces of good news. It's the same this time! Here goes:

1) My catscan I had 2 weeks ago on my lungs came back in: it was CLEAR. The cancer has not spread and the spots on my lungs they were concerned about back in November are nothing to worry about.

2) From this catscan, they saw that my lymphnodes are NO longer swollen at all and look like they've returned to normal! This doesn't necessarily mean the cancer is gone (and they will be removed regardless) but it definitely means that the chances of it spreading from there are now next to none.

3)  My tumour shrunk from 8cm to almost 6cm! Considering I started at 10cm...major win! Taxotere is my drug apparently (I told you guys!).

I can't describe how happy I am. Honestly, I'm most relieved about my lung scan coming back clear. It was the elephant in the room: had it spread? It would have changed my entire diagnosis and treatment plan (not to mention my life...). So, this was totally the push I needed to get to the finish line. When you know you're fighting and winning, the fight becomes so much easier.


My eyebrows are holding on strong for now - although I notice when I pluck them, it doesn't hurt at all anymore, they seem to just come right out. My eyelashes on the other hand are becoming sparse. It was recommended that I try out  Thrive Causemetics: an awesome company that designs fake lashes for women going through cancer treatments (or even those that aren't!). Their lashes can be used up to 30 times, and their glue is meant to stick to skin: not lash. This is awesome, as most glue and lashes are meant to adhere to your natural lash line and won't stick when there isn't any hair! I have worn them once and they are beautiful and natural looking. While they are a bit more full then what I normally wear mascara-wise, they are definitely nicer then my natural lashes! (My wig and fake lashes are nicer then my natural ones. Why would I ever want my hair to grow back!?) Bonus: Every time you purchase from them, they donate a pair to a woman going through cancer treatment! :)

Other  then that, I've been keeping busy as usual! Here's a random assortment of pictures I've taken of my "escapades" from the last few weeks (I didn't take any pictures of my cats, or of my naps, but trut me there was a lot of both of those as well):

Jeff and I celebrated our 6th Valentines day together! We had a plan for Jeff to make dinner once he was home from work, but I didn't want there to be any stress. Instead, we walked to Trio, a cozy bar in our area, and had some appetizers and fancy drinks. We chatted and reminisced, trying to remember what we did the previous five Valentine's days. Naturally, we both got each other gifts from Chapters (my cute new scarf with the vintage glasses pattern has been on my wishlist!) and then I cried at my sappy card. Typical. I feel pretty lucky to have him by my side: not only this year when I'm at my worst, but for all the years past and all the years to come.

We got to spend some quality time playing Laser Tag (we were called "those adults in the back" by the facilitator...), and eat some Valentine's inspired cake with the wedding party of our best friends Kris & Graham. Aren't we a snazzy looking group? (Kris and I are in the back there dressed up as the little boy and ET for Halloween...).

So pleased to be spending more time with my cousin and sister! This week we went for lunch and binge watched Ana Faris movies on Netflix.  We have been trying out arm knitting and finger knitting. It's so easy!! You should try it. I have made an infinity scarf in about 45 minutes for $6. Next we're going to try a nice chunky blanket. Like I need another blanket...

I went to a Bachelorette in Montreal!! Seriously. I have had a few people go "!?!?!" about that one. It may SEEM like overdoing it but let me be honest: I was SO ECSTATIC to be doing something normal. I miss partying! That sounds bad, but I can reassure you the drinks were limited and I sanitized my hands more times then is considered normal. We ate and drank and danced and it was a fabulous celebration. I came back tired but so happy. Thank you to Jackie for organizing such a great trip and of course to Katrina for being such an awesomely fun bride.

Skating on the canal with my favorite dude! We were lucky to go on one of the few days that wasn't -40. It's actually shocking that last weekend Ottawa was named the coldest capital in the WORLD.  Let's be honest, we only went for the beavertails. We aren't really the winter type. Unless it involves a beach or backyard and a cooler of cold drinks, I'm not really the "outdoorsy" type either. Regardless, it felt great to get fresh air! I am definitely worse at skating then I remember.


I kept telling Katrina how she must have sub-consciously planned all of her events around my treatments, because not only was I able to attend them all but I felt good! Her wedding was this Saturday, and if anyone tells you that you can not DIY a wedding and have it be beautiful, they are mistaken. Winter weddings are so rare and it was a winter wonderland: complete with blue drinks, a hot chocolate bar and a long fur cape for the bride. I can't wait to see the pictures and video. I was able to make it till the end and we danced all night long. I can't imagine a couple that is more in love or perfect for each other then Katrina & Matt and I was so happy I got to be a part of their celebration! (PS - YES that is my wig in an updo. YES, I consider myself an A+ pro at wig styling now)

Happy colours!

A girlfriend of mine sent me this hilarious article titled "12 Things Never To Say To Someone That Has Cancer". I laughed my head off. Cancer jokes have become frequent in my household and are also extra helpful for persuading people to do things for me. For example: "Jeff...can you PLEASE get me a glass of water? But... I have cancer!!" or when I borrow my sister's clothes... "Lianne, this is my cancer sweater! I wear it when I'm not feeling well!". Who could say no to that? Throw in that C word and you've got it made. Sometimes you have to make light/take advantage of things that suck! ;)

In other cancer-related news (because that's what you come here for, right?!), Krysta Rodriguez - a TV & Broadway star - was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and started a fantastic blog that's in it's baby stages (she just started her chemo), called Chemo Couture. When I read her blog, I feel like a seasoned pro when it comes to treatments now and that is so funny to me. Only a few short months ago, I was finding myself frantically searching "chemo tips", "breast cancer side effects" or "how to keep my hair as long as possible" reading everything there was to know about the fight I was up against. She's only a few posts in, but I relate to her writing and her tone. A lot of what she says really speaks to me. Here's some musings after her first week of chemo:

"Miraculously, a week later I feel almost perfectly normal. It’s an eery and slightly empowering feeling to know you are sick but to feel so normal, like you’re cheating the system. I feel almost guilty about it. During this time I still haven’t shared with everyone that I have cancer. The secret inside is so large but the desire for normalcy is monumentally larger.  I have found that sometimes it just feels good to pretend. One of the first things you realize is that no one wants to tell you their problems or talk about fun frivolities when there’s a cancer elephant in the room. What they don’t know is that I’m the LAST thing I want to talk about! I don’t want something as greedy as this tumor to steal my ability to be a friend, a confidant, a woman. I’m not ready to be known this way."

My sister came over to my place on Sunday and we placed our bets on our favorite Oscar contenders. In reality, we didn't see as many movies as we would have liked and we all ended up guessing. I consider myself an Oscar's buff, and I still can't make educated guesses at categories like Best Short & Foreign Language Film. It's hard enough to get through all the ones nominated for Best Picture!

 It SOMEHOW turned into a 3-way tie between Jeff, Lianne and I which just means we are going to have to use our movie gift card to see a movie altogether. You simply can't fill out the ballots without an appropriate prize to go along with it! (This is one of the few times where my competitive side comes out...). Next year I am making a promise to have a big Oscar party in the theater room in our building. 

I'm going to try and tie things up as it's almost midnight and I've eaten an entire bag of Goldfish crackers so I think it's time for bed. I have an early day at the hospital tomorrow (8AM - don't they know I don't get up before noon?!). I have packed my hospital bag and even made a lunch to bring with me. I have my alarm set for 6. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw that both Jeff and I slept through our alarms last chemo day and were very late. Oops. Hopefully we can pull ourselves together for this round!
I wanted to share that I hit 15, 000 views on my blog this week. Wow. This has been since I published my first post back in the end of November. I disclose this only because I am in awe of the power of the internet and the incredible ways people can connect. At the wedding this weekend, a couple I know came over to me and told me they shared my blog with a family member that was recently diagnosed. She told me that it had helped her learn more about her diagnosis and what she was going to be enduring in the months to come. I remember reading Nalie's blog and being so thankful for her. So thankful to have someone else that I could look to, refer to, use as my guide. I'm scared but elated that I may be that for someone else. What started out as a post to keep my family and friends up to date on my day-to-day has turned into so much more. I definitely don't know 15, 000 people, so to those of you that are reading this that I haven't met personally: Hi! I am so happy you're here. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. I may or may not be able to answer them, but I DO know how nice it feels to have someone that understands what you're going through, and I could be that for you (if you want). Mainly I'm just being selfish because I love making new friends, cancer or not. 

In one month from now I'll be done my treatments and feeling good! In a month it will also be Spring (25 more days!), so when you're trudging to work this week and you think you may have frostbite, keep that tidbit of information in your back pocket.

Until next time



Round 4: They don't give prizes for bravery!

1) Wearing the ice gloves and slippers for 90 full minutes. With only a few breaks of less then a minute between. I couldn't feel my fingertips for 3 days after this. If I can't have my hair I'll do anything to keep my nails! 2) Found this in a February edition magazine. Uh, I think I had that hair colour first, Chanel.

This last week I was sad. And mad.

That's a pretty terrible way to start a blog post. Please don't leave!

I had my treatment last Tuesday. It was a LONG day at the hospital. It started when our alarm didn't go off, and Jeff and I were set into a bag packing frenzy to try and get to the hospital for 8AM. We made it, and ended up waiting until 9:30 to get started. I guess it can be common to have an allergic reaction to Taxotere, so they administer it slowly the first time to ensure you're not allergic. I didn't end up leaving until around 4. In total I was there for a full 8 hours! That feels like a long time when you're chained to a bed and hooked up to an IV. They sent me on my way and told me to expect "flu like symptoms" and for my worst days to likely be Thursday and Friday. I was exhausted, so by the time I came home, Jeff and I hung out and went to bed. I waited for side effects to hit, and none came.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were similar. I was SO careful: I napped a lot (I think this is just because I love naps though, and not from the chemo), and waited for side effects to hit. Nothing came.

You know how every March here in Ottawa, we get that warm day that makes us feel like Spring is around the corner? We start to put away our winter boots, the snow is melting, our hopes are high...and then, inevitably, a snowstorm hits. We all know it's coming, but we indulge ourselves in believing that maybe, maybe this year will be different.

Yeah, that was a lot like chemo #4 for me. By Friday night, I had myself thinking "This Taxotere stuff is a joke!"; that I had escaped this one with NO side effects. On the Friday I even went out into the market and browsed around Rideau. 8 hours in the hospital with multiple bags of drugs flushed into me? No side effects? Really Sam?? What was I thinking.

Around Friday night my neck started to get a little sore. I didn't think much of it. If a sore neck was the only pain I had from this round, I would be a happy girl.

As you can probably guess, on Saturday morning, I woke up and I was sure that I had been in a major car accident. I could. not. move. My neck was stiff, I couldn't move my shoulders, I could barely make it up to go to the bathroom. I winced with every step I took. I still told myself, the pain is better then the foggy nausea I'd experienced with the FEC.

On Sunday I woke up, and was equally as sore as I was Saturday, if not more so. But to add to the mix, the gastro pains I felt were easily one of the most uncomfortable and painful things I've had to experience in my life so far (I can already picture Jeff telling me I'm being overly dramatic: but it's TRUE!). I've been resistant to taking sleeping pills and other stronger drugs prescribed to me, but my grandma sent me a message telling me "They don't give out prizes for bravery", so I kept the extra strength Tylenol going every 4 hours.

The Grammy's were on last Sunday night and I was stoked. I LOVE awards shows. Awards season is my thing. I never miss one. I flip back and forth between every feed of red carpet footage. I hate the mani-cam. I always know all the contenders and have a fairly decent idea of who the "favorites" are. I anxiously await seeing George Clooney at every event. So when I say I actually had to miss them because I was  too sick... as in, I was too sick to EVEN WATCH TV. Come on, watching TV takes no strength at all. That's how you know it was bad.

I yelled to Jeff from my room about how I thought I may be dying, and how I literally thought my stomach may explode like something weird I'd seen in the Walking Dead (new obsession). It was in that moment I started closing my eyes and thinking how there is absolutely no way I can do this again. I can't go through it a second and third time with my next treatment. The sore bones, sore body, puffy face, the intense stomach pains. I don't want to do this anymore. I dreamed up how I would walk into my oncologist office and say I QUIT. I quit this chemo thing. No more for me. I can't do it.

So, this is why I have been sad this last week. Handling your mental health is equally as important as trying to manage your physical health.

I'd lost the fight in that moment. I really did. I started to have a defeatist attitude. I normally comfort myself with strong words: You have been given this battle because you can fight it. You are able to win. You have the strength. You can endure anything. You can and will push through this. The pain is temporary. This will pass. You have your whole future ahead of you. What you go through now is so you can live for years to come. I have never allowed myself to even THINK "I can't do this anymore". I've been sad, afraid, but until then, I've never been beaten down.

I started looking in the mirror and seeing the shell of the human I used to be. I was mad. I was so, so mad. My face was swollen, bloated. I have gained weight since this whole ordeal and my body feels foreign to me now. I have always had a physically demanding job so I've always felt strong. Now, I can barely walk down the road without losing my breath. My body is literally trying to kill me. I don't look like me, I don't feel like me.

I went shopping this week and just got angry there too. Normally I feel happiest when I'm shopping. Instead, I felt angry that everyone else around me seemed to be enjoying their weekend off: they probably had plans to have drinks with friends, get their hair done, and go back to work on Monday feeling refreshed for their work week. I envied their routine.

I went to Chapters Barrhaven and  turned right back around and left. I was just reminded of the work I wasn't doing and the career that wasn't advancing and the skills I wasn't developing.

I started getting mad at any girl that had a cute haircut. I started getting upset at anyone I saw that was running by my apartment, that their bodies were allowing them to stay strong and fit. If you had a life that wasn't mine, I was mad at you. The hardest part is seeing everyone around you move forward as you stay idle. It's a lonely place.

My hot flashes are particularly bad, so recently I've given up sleeping at night. I will stay up until 3-4AM, and then sleep until noon. I started thinking, what's the point. My days aren't valuable anyways. I'm not doing anything. My time doesn't matter. I just want this to be over.

Knowing myself, it may be the exhaustion that had gotten me so down. I tend to be particularly fussy when I'm tired.

Today I went in to my work for what I thought was a disability package (or something of the sorts), and it turned out to be a massive group hug with my team and an overly generous donation they had gathered for me at our work Christmas party. I tend to get all choked up and overwhelmed when these things happen to me and I'm put on the spot, but I was bursting with pride when I saw so many of my favorite people in one place, literally busting their asses to make changes I had set so much of the ground work for before I left. It's so cool to see natural progression, people growing and learning, and for real change to happen.

While I was talking to the group, a girl I didn't recognize was tearing up beside me. I figured she was a new hire. I thought it was strange but nice that she was tearing up as I told the team that I was doing OK. She spoke up a little while later and said "I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 26. If it makes you feel better, it's been 5 years and I've had two children since then".

I couldn't even speak. In this basement, with no more then 20 people, this woman who had happened to volunteer from Belleville on the day I happened to be visiting them, had gone through exactly what I'm going through. She found me later on, and we chatted about my diagnosis and hers and we exchanged e-mail addresses and she gave me her phone number, in case I needed to text someone who might know what I was going through.

Life is crazy. Life is random. Or is it? I don't know anymore. All I know is that when I start to feel particularly low, when those negative thoughts start to overtake my mind, something like this happens to me. Someone, or something, is sent to me to remind me that I'm not alone.

I left my work knowing that it wasn't a coincidence that I had met this girl. It just can't be. Some things can't be explained, and this is one of them. It was snowing tonight and it was beautiful. I haven't considered anything beautiful all week. I was too sad. I was too angry.

 I was eating lunch with a friend this week and we were talking about how some people seem to have it "so good". We talked about envy and how it ties in with anger. It reminded her of this clip above and I had such a laugh. "Just... no one in this car".

I have so many people in my life cheering me on. I am so blessed and lucky to have them all. I just needed that extra reassurance and comfort, that what I'm going through isn't foreign. I keep on learning and re-learning this as I go through this year. I'll probably have to re-learn this lesson another dozen times. Sometimes you get all consumed in your own drama that you forget that everyone else has their own thing going on. Whether it's cancer or not, that girl may have perfect hair but I can bet she doesn't have a perfect life. It probably isn't fair for me to be mad at her.

And for some reason, that makes me feel less lonely. And infinitely better. If you're going to have perfect hair you have to have something else wrong with you. (Kidding.)

So now I guess I can go back to being Sailor Sam again. Like Sailor Moon, but I'm fighting off cancer instead of evil. I need to get myself a cute cape.




(un)Believable: When Fate Steps In (+ all the boring details)

 1) Exploring new coffee shops in Westboro with Jeff 2) Went a little crazy at Micheal's this week. So many coupons! 3 & 4) Dinner with my bestest at Sidedoor on Saturday. 5) Lots of questions about my wig so... here it is! 6) Today!

I figured I would do a really thorough and technical post getting all of my family up to date before I hit up chemo #4.

This chemo is completely different from my first three rounds. This time, they'll administer me Taxotere (or Docetaxol), and Herceptin. Herceptin is a form of chemo with little to no side effects, and is something I'll need to have administered to me for the next year (it only takes about a half hour). This is because I tested triple positive: progesterone, estrogen, and HER2. Herceptin will help me regulate the hormones that I produce and ensure that no more cancer tries to ruin my life in the years to come.

Taxotere is a little more daunting. I'm trying not to panic (yet), as not everyone gets all of the side effects. I did a bad thing though. I searched Taxotere side effects on the internet and found myself lost in a chatroom of women ranting about how Taxotere ruined their lives. I was that person that researched their illness. WHY did I do that? I swear I didn't mean to, and then next thing I knew, I was 5 pages deep into their thread. So... I'm a little bit nervous.

Common Taxotere side effects:

- tingling or loss of feeling in fingertips and toes
- brittle nails and discolouration of nails (sometimes it can cause loss of nails: this is the round where I put my hands and feet in the ice mitts to prevent this)
- dry mouth and mouth sores
- weight gain and bloating
- joint pain and sore bones (Taxotere attacks bone marrow, which means my bones are literally being attacked this time)
- loss of facial hair (eyelashes and eyebrows)

With Taxotere, there is generally little to no nausea, so that's a plus *insert heart eyed emoji here*. I keep saying I would rather be in pain then be nauseous. I say this now... but remind me I said this when I am in extreme pain three days from now, OK?

I also received the results back from my genetics test. As many of you know, I was really nervous for this. It doesn't help that you receive a call from the hospital telling you your results are in, and then giving you a date to receive them a week and a half later. Can we talk about anxiety?

I brought my mom, dad and Jeff to get the results read to me. I was tested for BRCA1, BRCA2, and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are generally associated with breast and ovarian cancer. Li-Fraumeni is to test for mutations in genes that generally align with child cancer. Esentially, based on my age, I am actually almost deemed a "child" still, and because I was diagnosed so young they wanted to ensure that my cancer didn't actually stem from a mutation in a gene that is prevalent among childhood cancer.

To set the scene, there was really no best case scenario here. If I was tested positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2, it would mean that I would likely have developed either breast or ovarian cancer at some point in my lifetime. So, the plus: I would have an answer as to why I got sick to begin with. I could get a double mastectomy and have my ovaries removed and the chances of me getting cancer again would be very slim. If my genes came back positive here, and I decided (and was able) to have my own children, they would have a 50% chance of them also developing breast and ovarian cancer. If the test came back positive, my mom and sister would then have to be tested and if they tested positive, they would likely choose to undergo preventative surgeries as well. We thought this would be unlikely as there is very little cancer in my family, on both mom and dad's side.

If the BRCA1 and BRCA2 test came back negative, it would mean that there is essentially no explanation as to why I got sick. No answer. It could have been "random". It could mean that my cancer lies in another part of my DNA, but we have not funded and done the research to know which genes to look for yet (they keep our blood on file and if any groundbreaking research surfaces, they can re-test my DNA). No answer means that I could be fine. Maybe it is a one off thing. Or, maybe it's not. Maybe my cancer lies in a gene where I am susceptible to multiple kinds of cancer, and we just don't know it yet. The fear of the unknown, not being able to do anything about it: that's scary.

And, the child cancer gene. This is extremely rare, and if it were to come back positive, it would mean that I am extremely susceptible to cancer of the lung, brain, pancreas, etc. The chances of me getting cancer again would be high. I would be screened for this, but this would likely not be my last battle.

So, I went into CHEO where they read you your results, and my geneticist tells me:

Negative. Everything came back negative.

I was relieved. In reality, this is the best case scenario for now. My mom and sister don't have to worry. If I choose to, and am able to have children, I won't have any guilt of passing along the genes. But... Why me? About 80% of genetic tests do come back inconclusive. This is one of the many areas where our money goes when we talk about "cancer research". There is so much unknown when it comes to genetic mutations and cancer. Without any answers, I can only hope I'm the "one off" case.

I had my appointment with my oncologist at the beginning of January to see how I did with round 2. While I am doing well in regards to coping with the chemo, I did not see my tumor shrink at all the second time. While my oncologist was not worried about this, as it can be common, I was really upset. To go through these harsh treatments and see NO result is absolutely defeating. I tried not to dwell on this for too long, and instead prepared better for my next treatment.

Today, I had my oncologist appointment to see how I did with round 3. We spoke about Taxotere and the change of drugs, and when he measured me he did not see any change in the size, yet again. We aren't sure why. I asked if I should be worried: it's hard not to spiral into a panic. He told me there is a chance that what he is feeling may be scar tissue, and the chemo is working better then we can tell. We won't know what's going on in there until I go for my surgery. And, despite the fact that I'm frustrated and exhausted thinking about how I'm not seeing ideal results with my treatments, it's important to go through with it. The smaller I can get this thing, the better it is for my surgeon. The less there is to remove, the better. Some people respond better to some treatments then others, so let's pray that Docetaxol is my drug. I'm relieved I don't have to deal with any more FEC chemo. PTFO to that (#sorrynotsorry).

I haven't talked a lot about my surgeon yet, Dr. Arnaout. I haven't seen her since my birthday when she gave me my diagnosis. I was overwhelmed and wish I could have asked more questions. Instead, Jeff had to explain sorrily why I was crying harder at the fact that I had to leave my job and even harder when I found out I was losing my hair then when she told me I actually had cancer (priorities?...) I'm getting closer to the end now (after tomorrow, I'm over the halfway mark!) and I'll meet with her to discuss my surgery in the coming weeks. At the beginning of January, the Ottawa Citizen posted an incredible article about her. If you want to learn more about the changes she's making to breast health in Ottawa, and why she's my hero, you should definitely read the article.

“I don’t have a husband or children so my focus is my patients. I don’t feel tired or emotionally drained. This hospital and my patients are my life.”

“I asked myself what is my purpose? How can I make a bigger dent in this universe? The first phase of my career was about being the hero and saving lives. Now I ask how can I help more that one person at a time? I believe through research I will have an impact on a mass number of patients.”

Other then that, my hot flashes are out of this world. I can't even believe the intensity of them and that I will not only have to endure this once in my lifetime but TWICE. That barely seems fair. Am I not putting in my good time now?!

Jeff and I were out shopping the other day and I had my big parka on and I got a hot flash in the store. I walked over to him and said, I don't know what to do. I think I'm really sweaty. He looked at me like I was dying. He tried to rush me home. I was so covered in sweat, my jacket was soaked, my hat was drenched, my face was shiny. I had gone grey. I thought I may faint. I took my jacket off and stood in the -30 weather and bounced back to normal. Then I demanded we still go for brunch. Where I proceeded to have 2 more flashes. We also sleep with our window open every single night and we don't have the heat on in our apartment. I'm not even kidding. Seriously, the worst.

I have to say how grateful, overwhelmed and pleased I am with all of the super kind words from my last post. I thought it was really important to shed light on the scary side of all of this. I almost didn't hit publish, it felt too raw, too real. Part of me didn't want to have it out in the open, I wanted to keep it my secret and continue living the way I always have. And now everyone from my work reads my blog and will probably kick me out of my workplace the second the clock hits 2, and I will have to hide in the basement and finish said work, but despite this (ha) and with all of your positive feedback, I definitely feel confident in my decision to hit publish!

Sometimes I wonder why in the heck I've chosen to be so open and candid about my diagnosis and my life. It is very out of character for me. I am actually a very private person (or, I was, at least). This blog sort of just happened.

I cringe sometimes and want to disappear in my apartment for the rest of the year when people weirdly look at me. At a wig salon, my hair falling out, one of the women looked at me with round eyes and said: HOW big is it? Did you find it yourself?

Or, how about this: Could you send us a picture of yourself without any hair? We think it would make for a more compelling story.

These are moments when I wish I had never hit publish at all. I feel like an oddity. But, then there are moments like this one. It is easily my most goosebump-worthy moment to date:

3AM, I'm lying in bed 2 days after having my chemo. I can't sleep. I'm so miserable and uncomfortable and just, blah. Have you ever been so tired you want to cry? Perfect, you get the picture now.

I'm super lonely, feeling like I'm the only one in the world awake, thinking all of those miserable 3AM thoughts, when all of a sudden I hear a ding go off on my phone. Someone else is also awake at 3AM!

"Hey Sam. My aunt gave me a newspaper clipping and it happened to be about you. I just thought I would reach out and see how you were doing. Like you, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 22. I just finished my chemo in December and am starting with radiation. If you ever want to have a coffee or something feel free to message me back. Sometimes it's nice to not feel so alone".

Then I remember why I hit publish. We're never really alone in what we're going through, are we? No situation is really unique to us, no matter how much in that moment it may feel that way. There is someone, somewhere on this planet, that is going through the same thing.

Mine just happened to come to me in the form of a 22 year old girl living in downtown Ottawa at 3AM. Fate?

So, what was once a way for me to keep my friends and family informed on my diagnosis has turned into an extremely therapeutic sense of release for me.

So when you're reading my blog, messaging me and telling me how much you love reading my words, remember that it's actually the other way around: I love writing them.


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