Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The First Chemotherapy

This is perhaps one of the scariest things to happen for me during cancer treatment. I was to receive "aggressive" chemo.

Not knowing how it will effect your body is extremely stressful. I had five chemo drugs that I was taking (etoposide, vincristin, phosphamide, cylcophosphamide and one other I can't remember the name of). I was given several sheet of side effects with each drug and told I would get some, maybe all but they can't really tell you before hand which is which. I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and needless to say I was not excited about getting these in my body, but I knew if they worked it would be well worth it. That thought got me through most, if not all of the pain of chemo.

The first chemo was quite scary. I would be getting drugs over nine hours for five straight days. Getting the IV needle was not so bad as needles do not really bother me. Some people get a "port" in their chest so they don't need IVs but I was not willing to go into another surgery to get one.

I had some family with me during the first treatment, my doctors were around and my nurses were great. Did not cure the stress though. There was blood tests to monitor me, people taking my temperature. All those things and more. I felt reasonably well after the first day and called my parents to let them know everything went well.

As the days wore on, I began to feel worse. i didn't get nausea very often as the anti-nausea drugs are excellent. As it turns out that was t he least of my concerns. I began to think that if I only got nausea chemo wouldn't be so bad.

I lost the desire to eat, I had to force myself to. Over time my hair fell out, losing my eyebrows and eyelashes made me the most self conscious I have ever been. I had a lot of pain. The chemo drugs I was on caused my blood vessels to scar, something I am not completely healed from, this causes your arms to be very stiff and rigid, some days painful to move.

I got sores in my mouth, some days so painful i could not talk to my wife. Texting became a solution to this problem. I had a lot of pain associated with my GI system. I won't get into the details of that.

The first chemo was the hardest because I did not know what to expect. Afterwards, I won't say it got easier but I knew what to expect. Four days after my mouth would get sores, seven days after my GI track would act up, eight days after I would get neutropenic and a fever and have to go to the hospital for treatment. I knew how long they would last. The blessing in this was that I could prepare myself better as I knew what would happen and at least tell myself when it would end, "you only have to tough it out a few more days".

I had 42 chemo treatments in all over about eight months. Some were worse than others. It was hard on everyone around me I am sure too.

But I told myself they were working, and they did. The research behind it all paid off. I am doing well these days. As awful as it was, it is better than not having done it.

I wouldn't be writing this blog otherwise. So stay strong if you are getting chemo and most importantly (to me) learn how your body responds, let your body dictate what you can do.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Setting Goals

When I was sick, setting goals became a big part of my day to day life.

I started setting goals when I was watching a baseball game of all things and a commentator who had gone through prostate cancer talked about his goal setting during his treatments and it really resonated with me. He talked about setting goals, missing most, but it gave him purpose in his day to day life.

I took this with the best intentions. I decided I needed to set realistic goals, nothing major. Nothing career oriented, because I could not really go to work. But things that were achievable. I am not ashamed to say, I didn't achieve even half of my goals, but regardless I took it in stride.

Some of my goals were very simple. Get out of bed was a good place to start. This was a daily goal. Make it to the kitchen, to the couch, walk around a bit. My oncologist always told me exercise was good and helped with treatment. Even if this was just a placebo effect, I liked to thing that it was actually helping. So when I could I set the goal of walking around the neighborhood. getting around the block once a week was a big achievement for me. It felt good to get outside.

I had some larger, long term goals. Get back to work being one, but that didn't really help. I tired getting to work once a week, but I failed at that pretty regularly.Most of my goals were simple. Play video games for an hour, eat lunch and dinner, read a book, talk to someone, call my parents and wash my dishes/laundry. These all seem like small tasks but when undergoing chemo I simply was too weak or tired or sick many days to achieve any of these things. Losing the ability to take care of yourself is one of the biggest hardships I went through. I didn't want to be a burden to my fiance (she is too nice to ever say I was).

One large goal I had while I was sick was to start raising money for cancer research, in particular the BC Cancer Agency, where I was being treated. A few of my nurses were doing a bike ride called the "Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer" and I decided to start raising money for this event for the coming year. I knew it would be difficult, given that the ride itself was from Vancouver to Seattle.

I set weekly fundraising goals (missed most) but I could do it from home through email. I bought a bike, used it about once a month if I was lucky. This was my routine for about five months. I really wanted to make it to Seattle.

After chemo ended, I started radiation on my hip. It basically made biking impossible but I tried to stay positive with it. As the days passed, and the new year came, I bought a gym membership (that was scary enough in its own right, going to gym looking barely alive).

Training was tough, but maybe through sheer determination, I was able to work towards the ride. It came this past June, and I am happy to say I made it to the finish line (see picture above) after just five months of training after a year of chemo and radiation. This was the biggest goal I achieved. It really outweighed all the ones I missed. I will surely write more on this in future posts as there is so much to discuss! Making it to the finish was a big moment of healing for me, and I am happy to say I am doing it next year too!

Setting goals, small and large, but ones that I felt were achievable, helped me get through a terrible year. I didn't focus on the ones I missed, but I clung to the ones I was able to complete and accomplish. Hopefully goal setting can help you too.

 As common as your goal may start out, they can mean the world to a cancer patient.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Pain means a lot of different things to different people. Cancer changed my view drastically.I never truly knew what pain to me was until I went through cancer, and what it  means to me now.

There was plenty of physical pain. The surgery and the recovery. Radiation and the burns on my skin. Chemotherapy and the hoards of side effects. The day to day physical pain was constant for almost twelve months. I am still amazed I was able to deal with it. The desire to survive got me through it I think. I would be on so many pain killers I would pass out some days from them. I hated the way I looked, I got to the point I couldn't even look in the mirror. I lost a sense of self, I didn't know who I was anymore.

These pains were present for a long time, some still linger.

There is plenty of emotional pain as well. It is draining to go through all the these things and trying to tell yourself it will get better. It is the only thing to get you through some days. It hurts to have your family watch you go through so much, and to be honest I did my best to hide it from everyone around me. A lot of friends stopped talking to me and basically abandoned me. That was a special type of pain, I still have not forgiven most of them for that. On the other side of things, the ones who didn't leave mean so much more to me, especially my family and my wife.

The feeling of isolation is painful. I never felt more alone in my life. I was fortunate that no one I knew very well ever had to go through cancer. However, I had no one to really "share" what I was going through. This is one I still deal with. Not for lack of my friends trying, it is just hard to quantify many of these things when there is no way to describe everything.

I still struggle with fear, something I place in emotional pain. Every ache, bruise, or illness makes me think I may be going back. I am positive with my outlook, the treatment seemed to work, but I don't know if I can ever fully go back. I don't think this is uncommon with cancer survivors. It just becomes something you have to deal with.

All of this pain has changed me. It is a tricky thing, and it is hard to fully explain in such a short space, this is probably something I will revisit often. I think I am a stronger person for it. I don't complain about day to day things anymore, it takes a lot to really set me off with work, I think this is a good thing.

For better or worse, the pain changes you.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


I had never had a major injury before this. No broken bones, no appendicitis, no tonsils removed. Nothing of the like. The idea that I had to get a cancerous tumor cut out of me is not the ideal way to have your first experience.

I was worried about a lot of things. Being put to sleep was maybe my biggest. What if I didn't respond well to the drugs? What if I didn't wake up? What if there is more in there than expected when they get started? What if something goes wrong? What will happen to the people waiting for me when I get done in the operating room? These were just a few things to concern me.

I went through all the pre-surgery checks, my heart raced, they had to give me medication to calm down. And then I left my fiance and walked into a cold room with, of all things Katy Perry's "Firework" playing. I wondered if this would be the last song I heard. I laid down on the table and don't remember anything about the process after that.

I woke up in the recovery room, dazed, and was wheeled to the room I would be staying in for the night. My leg was swollen to twice its normal size, and I couldn't move it. The tumor had been removed, along with a good sized piece of fat and muscle in my leg, and I had a scar about eight inches long with 37 staples holding it together. But I was awake which is all I really cared about. It would be a very long road to being able to walk again. It takes a long time to heal from surgery, but even longer when you are on chemo. It took about a month before my leg had healed enough to get the staples out. One thing about the operation was it removed all the feeling in my right thigh. This was helpful when the staples came out.

I couldn't walk for a few days at all. Couldn't dress myself either. Eventually I could walk with crutches but I was basically dragging my leg. Stairs were miserable. They just became harder as the chemo treatments progressed. In the coming months, I would have two leg infections with two more surgeries to clean it out. I had drainage tubes in my leg for one of these. It was very unpleasant but I got through it. I took some positives from it. I met a lot of great health care workers going to the "wound clinic" daily to get my scar cleaned and re-bandaged every day.

It took what it seems like forever for my leg to heal. It was a constant reminder of what I was going through, and I hated it, but eventually the bandages were no longer needed, and my leg was healed over. I still have a big indentation in my leg where everything was removed, and I still have more recovery to do. But it is getting there.

At the end of the day, i was very lucky. Being able to have an operation on your leg rather than the core of your body is a blessing. I was very fortunate. It was scary, but I got through it by having faith in the doctors and nurses in charge of everything. They made life easier (by no means was it easy). Once my leg healed (about 6 months) I was able to focus on chemo and radiation. Anytime you can check one thing off the list is a big step. This is a very short account and I will post on more details of problems I encountered with surgery in the coming posts.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

How I found Out I had Cancer

Oct. 17, 2012: In early November 2010 I found a lump in my right leg by chance basically. I was only 26. I felt fine, healthy and wasn't really worried. I had just moved to Vancouver from Halifax a few months earlier to start a new job. I was young, excited, and an active guy. I went to see a doctor and although concerned about it, wasn't worried initially.

I went through a series of tests, including an MRI, biopsy, and ultrasound.

Then I sat in a little yellow room at the BCCA (British Columbia Cancer agency). I was scared, nervous, but I couldn't have cancer, I thought I was simply too young and, as mentioned before, I felt fine.

But then, the words came out. "You have cancer". A lot of things happened quickly, and to be honest, I don't really remember most of it. I met immediately with a surgery team, they told me it was a cancer called Ewings Sarcoma. They told me it was curable, and they told me it was the smallest tumor of that type they had ever seen. It didn't mean much at the time. I met more doctors quicker than I ever had before. I still didn't believe it to be honest.

I have never been more scared. It felt like a death sentence. I knew I would have to fight harder than I ever would for anything. I was going to have to leave my job, something I spent my whole life working towards, go through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation at the young age of 26.

As you can tell, this was almost two years ago now. I am at a stage where I am feeling comfortable with discussing my experiences, hopefully this will help people. I want to share so people know what happened, and anyone else out there going through the same thing that they are not alone. I still live with the fear of it coming back as well. d thing. Survivor guilt is a weirAnd finally to share the information and help I received from multiple organizations.

These include the Canadian Cancer Society, BCCA, F--k Cancer ( and the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (

This is just the start today, but keep checking up with me, I am going to post on Wednesdays and Sundays every week. Starting from the beginning all the way to now.

Have a good day and if you want more info right away check out my second site on the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

October 16, 2012: Hey Everyone! I am just getting this site started! Stay tuned for a site dedicated to my battle against cancer, in particular, Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer I beat  in 2011. I will also be posting about cancer awareness, prevention and different organizations that help with the fight against this disease!