Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017.... the fun year continues...

To those who don't know as of yet, over the past few months, the symptoms of my cancer have gotten worse. I scheduled some rush MRI's with one of my oncologists as I wanted to see if I freaking out for no good reason, or was I right in thinking that something was different. To make a long story short, the cancer has combined with my spine at the brain stem and has metastasized at my lower back. The doctor had given me about 4-5 months to live. It has put our lives in a bit of a tail spin to say the least. 

Now of course this isn't the best news one could hear from one's doctor but we are taking it in stride. Today I start radiation to those troublesome areas to extend my life. I believe that I will have 5 treatments, as they are treating two places once again. I get a shiny new mask, my third, and some snazzy new tatts from this. Time will tell if it all worked out or not, but I haven't handled it normally yet so I don't expect any different.  

I do ask for a little space over the next little while, as I don't want Cavell or  myself overwhelmed with messages to return. Know that if we do receive messages, we may not reply, at least for a while, but that doesn't mean we didn't read your message and appreciate the thought. 

It may sound a bit crass but look at what we are facing here. I shall keep the social media world in the loop with regards to my progress but again please listen to our wishes. 

Thanks again and we shall be in touch.

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017... the ride continues.....

As some of you may know, 2017 hasn’t been the best year for the Mason/Smith household. As per my blog earlier, you’ve learned of the good and majority bad that this year has put on us. This little blurb will explain how wonderful this year has been over the past month and a half.

After a good report on my liver/lymph nodes toward the end of February, I trip to the emergency room showed I had a potential brain bleed where I had my surgery in January. For this, I was taken off my routine of daily blood thinners to slow down any possible bleeding from said cut. The beginning of March, I start to think I am coming down with a cold which turns out to be pneumonia. After three trips to my family doctor, which included about seven hours of waiting for him, a bottle of antibiotics/puffers and two cancelled events for my birthday, I was declared by him that my sickness was gone. Little did I know that the next day would be the kicker.

March 23, I asked Cavell to come home early as I thought that I did too much that day and I beat myself out. By the time she got home, I could barely breathe, ended up in an ambulance (my first time in one, cross that off the bucket list) and shipped to respiratory emergency. There the head doctor on call said that I had a blood clot right at the top of my lungs which was causing me the distress and difficulty in breathing. Meanwhile this whole time I had a mask on giving me oxygen. So besides the potential brain bleed that I had, the clot had to be taken care of. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. The resident doctor came in to discuss the situation for us and he was young with a calming voice but tact, which was his downfall. He said to me that the there was one of two things that could happen, though Cavell and I already made the decision. One, that we could take care of the blood clot and not worry about the brain bleed which would mean I could pass away or two, that we could take care of the bleed and leave the clot which would result in me possibly passing away. Cavell and I were shocked that he was allowed to speak with patients seeing how bad he was at talking to them, the last thing I was thinking about was “passing away.” He then continued on asking me when my diagnosis was, I was like 2011, he then asked how long the doctor gave me. Again, we were floored. A friend of mine who taught that course would roll over in his bed if he had heard of the insensitive remarks of the resident. Cavell told me after he left that if he came back into the room, she would vehemently ask to speak with someone else.

From there was a trip to ICU, where I had to wear a full, eye/mouth shield to get my oxygen up for a day and be on the gas for at least another few days. This was with me overcoming my fear of bedpans very quickly to say the least. I was in this place for four days until my levels of oxygen was high enough that I could go to a ward room which I could work on my amounts of O2. Meanwhile my sister and her boyfriend came down, again, which was her second trip home from BC this year. The hoot that was before me were my roommates, who I was 20 years younger than all, gave me enough ammunition for another blog or two. Oh, and I had to cancel a trip with my buddies which was planned way in advance as I couldn't fly of course. Poor Cavell spent a long time on the phone with West Jet cancelling my trip before it happened, even though I had insurance put one. The patience on that one!

All that being said, I was told by my regular and radiation oncologists, that one of my lymph nodes in my chest has potentially moved into my lung and caused my difficulty breathing and that there was two spots in my head that were the same size of the original spot back on June had showed up on my MRI. This meant that I had to get a stronger dose of radiation for my chest AND my head at the same time so a fitting for another mask and re-marking of my chest was inevitable. Luckily the marks of my chest were fine but I needed another mask.

On  April 6th, I was allowed to go home. Cavell, my sister and me where glad the hospital stay was over. I start radiation this afternoon which hopefully will take care of the largeness of the cancer in my head as well as the lymph node in my chest. Having both the same session will be new to me but hey, who else could take it all.

Special thanks to those who kept it quiet on social media the past few weeks, thanks to the visits, food and presents that accompanied that long stay at the HSC. I am the picture of "Men's Health" by the way, if that picture was crooked. :) 

Friday, February 24, 2017

2017…. What a start to a year….

Well, to get in the Coles notes version of my 2017 so far, my mother passed away due to an unexpected illness on January 3rd in which we buried her on the 9th, for which still throws me for a loop when you see a person that often especially after the past six years and the special person isn't there anymore. The 9th a friend of ours passed away from a terminal battle with cancer, on the 10th a goodtime friend who was down for Mom’s funeral fell down some stairs and broke his heal and femur. My sister, her boyfriend and the family friend had a literal up and down with the airplane to Halifax and Toronto in which after the parts were needed in NS and they scrapped the plane in TO, which made for one long day to get them back to British Columbia. Then came the MRI which was supposed to be a breeze on January 15th which turned out they picked out three spots of potential cancerous tissue for which I was scheduled to go back under the knife on January 24th. Ah the fun times of such an awesome year.

Today is February 24, the brain surgery was a success and I can almost drive and lift over five pounds again which is a sigh of relief. A lot of people don’t know or realize that anyone who has any major surgery has to wait an additional four to six weeks of not being able to lift or drive or even bend over whom had a craniotomy. Luckily, the nurse who I saw when I was discharged, which in fact was sent home after a measly five days after my surgery as there was no room at the Inn, I only have to wait a month to get back into the swing of things once again and believe you me, it can’t get here quick enough. I’ve had enough Netflix and not being able to do hardly anything but have slowly snuck some things in to save my sanity. I do have to go back to get a MRI done next month to see how the surgery went but that’s the least of my worries.

My CT results which I got this week was finally good, the only report I was scared of. Everything is stable as of now and the last TACE procedure that I had back in November has actually shrunk down the cancer in my liver which is a definite bonus. This means no more surgery for me at the moment which is a fine relief to both Cavell and I.

I’d like to thank those who made it out to see me this past month, whether it be via text, Facebook message or visit as it kept me in the loop and always helps knowing that people do have your back when you’re stuck with a crappy disease. It also was dawned on me that I could complain about having cancer and go through the repeated surgeries that I tend to go through (at the moment there is five major surgeries, three port surgeries, three TACE procedures, multiple CT and MRI’s, over 50 rounds of chemo and 20 rounds of radiation) but that’s not my style. :) I believe that everything happens for a reason and for some profound lucky reason I was given this, not by choice mind you but to offer the ‘out’ that people may need that I can provide.

It’s been a while since I posted anything to either website recently, YACC or my blog, as I was lucky enough to have writer’s block along with not giving a care in the world about writing which was a curse and bonus.  Yes of course you need to take some time off and rehash some of the things that have come to light recently but it wasn’t good in a way as it hampered me in sharing some of my stories. I promise to the lucky viewers that it shouldn’t take me this long again to write something as worse comes to worse, I have a good few recipes. :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Living It Up Young with Cancer and Hospital Roommates

Well, I for one have had my fair share of hospital roommates over the past five years. Not always is a young cancer patient able to get a private room, let alone a room where one is not freaking out over what’s happening to them at their age, of all things.  Major surgery is not the easiest procedure for one to experience but, as survivors, it’s something that we sometimes have to go through on a regular basis unfortunately. I have had four major surgeries over these past five years as a young adult, and have experienced many “memorable” roommates so I figured what better way to share some of these stories with you than through this blog. Please keep in mind that my stories are not meant to be offensive or disregarding the health issues of others, just expressing my experiences from my point of view.

Story 1: First diagnosis and the guy with the bad appendix

I was first diagnosed when I was 32 years old and, before I even had a biopsy done, the doctor told me 9 chances out of 10 it was cancer. I was going to have a colostomy, which may possibly be reversed down the road, but my life at that moment was never going to be the same again. So here I was, a young guy with a new odd life situation, and looking over at me was a much older man who had feeding tubes coming out of him all over the place, a guy to the left of me that had part of his leg amputated, and then an empty bed. This empty bed is where the lovely 20 year old with appendicitis came in. Oh my god, the world was over for the poor young gentleman. Heaven forbid that anyone else around him had a dire circumstance. On the day of his surgery, right after he has his surgery and he had awoken, he demanded to go out for a smoke. The nurse stressed how important it was for him to stay in his room and not tear his stitches, but no, he had to go. He ended up forcing his way out of the room to get a lovely puff of his cigarette, despite all warnings. Luckily enough for him, nothing happened, but the disregard this guy had for his well-being, and for being so persistent to have that cigarette, was definitely extreme. So for the next few days he recovered, while the rest of us wondered what his problem was because he never realized how lucky he really was to simply have his appendix removed and be done with it. I should mention that they also took my appendix while they were in there anyway, because hey, why not? :)

Story 2: The guy with the Popsicle

During my lung surgery back in 2013, there was an older gentleman, I’m guessing around 50+ at the time who made quite the impression on me and all the nurses on the ward for the week stay that I had. Besides the constant ripping out of his IV’s in the middle of the night, flinging of ‘waste’ at all hours, he had made my stay in the lovely hospital quite a difficult one. There was one day that he was slightly agitated with all of his family there at the time, and was demanding a specific treat. “I want a GREEN PINEAPPLE POPSICLE!” he bellowed over and over again. Oh he had his heart set on such an item yet, as one knows, there is no such thing as a ‘green pineapple’ Popsicle. So this set his family scrambling for some type of frozen treat that they could get the guy in order to calm him down. Finally they ended up with something; thank the lord that put his mind at ease, for a little while anyway. :)

Story 3: The “Mom” guy

My first TACE procedure was different than anything else I’ve been through to say the least. I was on an actual “Cancer” ward but was 15-20 years younger than anyone in the room I was sharing. There was one guy who I never saw, but heard all the time. I will have to assume the gentleman was quite old, yet everyone, no matter their gender, was “Mom.” He called out for his mother at every opportunity, it didn’t matter what time of day or who it was, he repeatedly said, “Mom, help me” over and over throughout the days and nights. For some reason, he wasn’t able to understand that he could push his buzzer to get a nurse to help him, so I took it upon myself to do all the pushing for him. Nurses would come to me and I’d just point in his direction and they would know to go over to see him. One day when he was in his ‘help me’ mode, he wanted a drink. So of course I buzzed the nurse and she came in. He said, “Mom, I needs a drink.” So of course the nurse obliged and brought him some water. “Oh this drink is some pissy,” he said…. I can’t go drinking such a pissy drink, Mom.” To the mainlanders out there, a “pissy” drink is one that is somewhat warm, and he didn’t want any part of such a drink. Oh, he caused some fuss over such as ‘pissy’ drink for a few hours to say the least.

Story 4: The Odd guy who came in.

Last, but not least, is the story from just a few weeks ago. After my craniotomy, I was placed into a private room which is standard for anyone going through such a procedure. I was in my bed one evening and my girlfriend, Cavell, was sitting next to me in the chair when a gentleman patient, sporting his pajamas, opened my door and popped his head in. He asked where his brother was, and I explained to him that I have been in here for the past three days and that he must be mistaken. Upon that, he waltzed in, styrofoam glass full of ice in hand. He asked me what my name was and what my surname was, which threw me for a loop at first.  Then he filled up his glass from the sink in my room and looked out the window, pausing for a few awkward moments. “Some lights”, he said, to which I replied, “yeah, either ambulances or police out there.” Then he took a swig out of his cup and looked again and said, “The red lights came from behind me pretty quick, they never told me how fast I was going and I never asked.” He took another swig of his drink, poured it out in my sink, laid his cup on the counter and left. Cavell and I looked at each other having no clue what was on the go. It turns out that this guy was a wanderer, and had been in other rooms as well. The nurse told me that if he decided to come in again, that I should buzz them. All that kept going through my mind was that I might wake up in the middle of the night with this dude staring down at me, asking if I knew where his brother was…  *Shudders*

Hospital stays are never easy. From the diagnosis, to the trauma of the surgery, and recovery, it can take a toll on one for sure. Having some of these experiences over the years has made my stays quite interesting to say the least. Sure, cancer isn’t the coolest or funniest thing to have surgery for, but it can certainly make for some interesting stories to say the least.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cancer and Fear.

For anyone who has had cancer or is metastatic like me, life isn’t normal by any stretch. There are many facets of life that happen through it all but fear is a big part.

There is a fear of re-occurrence or fear of it showing up in a different place. Anytime one feels something odd, a pain, or a period of discomfort, there is a thought in our minds that cancer has come back or in a different place this time. Of course, nine chances out of ten, it isn’t the dreaded C-word that is causing it, but that notion that there is a potential for it is always there. It’s something that we have to live with; besides the disease that fear of not knowing is always an issue. I’m not an exception to the rule, but I’m one of the few that can put it in the back of one’s mind and leave it there. It doesn’t bother me constantly that I’m metastatic, it’s just one of the things in life that I live with every day that is my new normal. In order to be ‘clear,’ you need to be free of the disease for at least seven years. Of course that means repeated tests, scans and lord knows what else over that time that ‘scanxiety’ kicks in. To those who aren’t familiar with that word, it’s the uneasiness for ones scans after cancer treatment. It’s a word that we become all too familiar with sadly but it’s a thing, trust me on that, especially now I’m on the ‘wait and see’ approach.

There isn’t a feeling you can associate with it in the world then when the doctor tells you that the cancer has come back.  It’s one of those things you have in the back of your mind at all times but wishful thinking that it’s not it. I remember the day that the doctor told me that the cancer was back and wasn’t going anywhere. Hit me like a ton of bricks but then I recomposed myself, pushed it into the back of my mind and seen what was our next step. Again, I’m an odd bird when it comes to these types of situations. It’s not the easiest feeling to have but it’s one that we may have to face some day. Cancer can be a sneaky thing from time to time, believe you me. :)

It’s not just health with respect to fear and scaniexty, there’s finances, work, caregivers/supporters, and the list goes on. Everything seems to jump out at you at once. Sure, people without the disease have to worry about some of those things too, but when your health is compromised, it makes all of them a little more immediate. The last thing that we want to have to worry about is other things when our health is on the line.

Everyone has fears, it’s inevitable, it’s just how we deal with them is the main thing. Whether it’s like me and stick them in the back of one’s head or having to get someone to help them immediately. Deal with them the best that you can and get back to most important part, healing.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Recipe: Parmeasan-Herb Baked Salmon

Parmesan-Herb Baked Salmon

  • 1 salmon filet, about 2 pounds, left whole (or just buy 2 small fillets of your own personal size)
Parmesan Herb Crust:
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley (I tend to use the fresh one pre-chopped up in a tube)
  • 2/3 cup chopped Parmesan cheese
  • Preheat oven to 425ยบ F. Put parchment paper down on your baking sheet (easier for clean-up).
  • Place salmon, skin side down, onto said baking sheet. Cover salmon with another piece of parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove top piece of parchment paper. Top with garlic, Parmesan, and parsley mixture. Return to oven uncovered and allow to bake for another 10-12 minutes until cooked thoroughly. The Parmesan cheese should have melted and lightly browned.
  • Allow to rest about 5 minutes and serve.
We tend to either have a fresh chopped salad, quinoa or sweet potatoes as a side.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Time flies during summer......

Hello All,

I find it quite hard to believe it's over six weeks since my surgery. I am now able to lift over five pounds again which is more of a relief than anything. 5 pounds is nothing so not being able to lift that for a month and a half is quite the pain to say the least, less than the operation. I had to get Cavell to buy me a small bottle of laundry detergent as I couldn't lift the Costco size bottle that we had so I felt that at least I was doing something. :)

Now that being said, 10 rounds of radiation are now done and I still am not being allowed to drive for another 6-8 weeks, until a follow-up scan has been completed. University days, no license for me and didn't mind it at all but now, having poor Cavell shuttling me around all summer is a bitch, not that I need to go anywhere in particular but having to ask someone all the time can get tedious. I know she doesn't mind at all but still. Some of the simple things now I can walk to Sobeys if needed and actually carry items home. Can't go there for under five pounds worth of stuff, what would I get? Just cheese? :)

I see the oncologist next week. First time I have seen him since my diagnosis. Rumor has it that I may go back on the penitumatab chemo I was on last fall but primarily it will to be to see what the next course of action is. I do enjoy not having to the Clinic every two weeks but if I have to, it's definitely better than the alternative. 

The month of July/beginning of August flew by. I got to see some friends I haven't seen in a while, went to that awesome cabin, celebrated the missus' birthday, got to share my story with Brews and Bowls and stuffed myself, over and over again. The summer hasn't 'exactly' went according to plan to say the least. Cancer has a way to throw a wrench into things but it doesn't mean that it has to control you either. Life is what you make of it so for the last few weeks of summer remember that. 

Hope everyone has a great day!