Sunday, 8 January 2012

January 8, 2012 Take 2

Well after many phone calls, I can continue....

On Friday, November 25, 2011 I went for my throat ultrasound and chest x-ray.  I did see something on the screen of the ultrasound but, of course, not knowing what I'm looking at, I just assumed it was the "thing" I was feeling.  After the ultrasound, I went for the chest x-ray.

Then came the waiting and a weekend with my husband watching our son curling and then a dinner out.  All the while, we were thinking "Did I have lung cancer?  Am I dying?"  My father died of lung cancer.  It was my turn on Sunday, November 27 to "do" the coffee hour after church.  This was my first Sunday of sitting in the congregation and not singing in the choir.  It was very difficult to field the questions from friends in the choir and congregation who were wondering why I wasn't singing in the choir.  I was able to handle all the questions.  What got to me emotionally were the comments "We really missed hearing your voice and seeing you in the choir".  When my minister came by with her coffee in hand and said the exact words, my eyes welled up.  I became speechless and was obviously in distress.  My minister offered to meet with me right then, but I couldn't because I had to clean up and get on my way as I also was scheduled to serve snack for 25 youngsters at my daughter's curling club.  I got through my day.

The next while until December 5 was a terribly long wait for my husband and I.  Our children had no clue of what was going on.  They thought I had the phone on call forward to my cellphone because I was being a strict mother and punishing them and checking up on them.  I actually was waiting to get results from the tests and a referral to a "throat specialist".  My husband and I had many morbid conversations where we talked about funerals and all sorts of odd and wonderful things during this time.  The blood test results came in around November 30 and they were negative/normal.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011, I received a call from my doctor with a referral to the next doctor.  When I asked what kind of doctor, I was told an oncologist/cancer specialist for a consultation.  I hung up and called my husband and gave him the info.  After I hung up from speaking to my husband, my hands were shaking.  I had to pull myself together and then teach a full afternoon of piano lessons as if nothing was wrong.  My throat was scratchy and sore, my neck was achy and I was struggling to act normal.

Friday, December 2, I had my chest CT scan done.  Monday, December 5 I went to my family doctor again for my regularly scheduled physical appointment.  My husband came with me and the appointment became a follow up appointment with good news that the chest CT scan appeared clear.  It was confirmed.  I did not have lung cancer or thyroid cancer!!!  Woo Hoo!!!!  But.....I did appear to have lymphoma and he wanted me to have an abdominal CT scan.  All I could think was "What's lymphoma?"  We went home and googled lymphoma.  Seeing all the information out there, I realized that I could not look this information up until I knew what kind of lymphoma I had.  I was back to waiting until Monday, December 12 to see the new doctor for a consultation.

In the meantime, on Saturday, December 10, I had to act totally normal at a Christmas party.  Friends and acquaintances would ask "How are you?"  "Are you all ready for Christmas?"  I wanted to scream "I'M NOT OK!!  I HAVE CANCER!!  I'M NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS!!!"  But instead I acted normal and answered as I normally would.  I also received my appointment for my abdominal CT scan which was for Friday, December 16 at 1:45 p.m.

On Monday, December 12 I met the "new" doctor for the consultation.  He checked me over and looked at the CT scan of my chest and my throat.  He showed me the mass at the base of my neck.  He poked and prodded me and then announced that it seemed to be just in the neck.  He did a needle biopsy of the lymph node in my neck at that point.  He told me he would get the results either Wednesday or Thursday but that he would be out of the office.  He asked me to come back on Friday, December 16 at 11:45 a.m. to be the last patient seen in the morning clinic to discuss the results and perhaps fill out forms for surgical biopsy.  I remember him saying "Bring your husband".

Friday, December 16 came and my husband and I sat in the waiting room watching all the other patients being called in.  I was getting more nervous especially once it was down to 2 other patients before me.  Finally our turn came and we found out the results.  Yes, I had lymphoma cancer.  This kind of cancer is very curable.  If there is a cancer to get, this is the one.  There needed to be a surgical biopsy done of the lymph node in my neck so they could determine the kind of lymphoma which would then determine the treatment plan.  We filled in all the necessary paperwork to be put on standby for the Operating Room on Monday, December 19.  It was now between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m.  My husband went back to work, I went to the lab for more blood work to be done in preparation for the surgical biopsy.  After the blood was taken from me, I then had 1/2 hour to wait to have my abdominal CT scan done.  By the end of the day on Dec. 16, I had 2 sore arms from blood work and CT scan dye insertion needles.  I was starting to think I looked like a drug addict with all the needle marks.

The weekend went by and we filled our time watching our son curl competitively and also watching high end curling live at the local large arena.  Monday morning (December 19) around 11 in the morning we got the call we were waiting anxiously for.  "Come immediately to KGH for your surgical biopsy operation."  Into the car my husband and I went.  He dropped me off and then went to park the car.  I made my way to Same Day Admissions.  As I waited in the waiting room for my turn to be admitted, my oncologist came through and saw me.  He came directly over and initialled the sight where surgery was to happen.  I said "You mean I'm not special enough to receive a full signature?"  He smiled and we enjoyed a little bit of humour in a difficult situation.  I was whisked through admissions and all the preliminary things very quickly.  My husband hadn't even arrived yet from parking the car.  All went well and we were back home by 4 p.m.  Lessons were cancelled for that night.  I taught Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday December 21 in preparation for the students to put on a small recital on Thursday, December 22.  In all this I had to act normal and pretend nothing was wrong...that my hoarseness was just a cold and wish my students and their families a Merry Christmas and I would see them in the New Year.  I knew I was not going to see them in the New Year.  I just knew it.  Friday, December 23, I received a phone call that I had an appointment at the Cancer Centre to see my new oncologist who is a lymphoma specialist.  I would receive the results of the surgical biopsy at that time as well as the results of the abdominal CT scan.

We went into Christmas feeling somewhat upbeat about how quickly the health care system worked with me.  I was feeling very thankful for my family doctor and how quickly he moved on getting tests and referrals done.  Being it was Christmas and the Advent Season, I also was able to draw links between my situation and Advent.  The first week of Advent was Sunday, November 27.  We lit the first candle of the Advent wreath.  This candle signifies "Hope".  Hope that it wasn't lung cancer.  The second week of Advent was Sunday, December 4.  We lit the second candle of the Advent wreath which signifies "Peace"  For me, the connection of peace of mind.  As the results came in that week, I had a feeling of peace.  The third week of Advent was Sunday, December 11.  We lit the third candle of the Advent wreath which signifies "Joy".  This was a real challenge to find joy in the midst of my medical crisis.  Eventually the joy became the joy of family and friends who started to recognize something was terribly wrong and were giving me some spiritual, emotional and physical comfort.  The fourth week of Advent was December 18.  The fourth candle represents "Love".  At this point, my extended family knew I had lymphoma cancer and I was beginning to feel the love across the miles as we don't have family nearby.  My father-in-law was visiting and I definitely felt his love and support.  Friends were offering support from many miles away on both sides of the country.

Christmas came and I was surrounded by my in-laws and their love and support.  At this point, I was very tired and fatigued not just from the cancer but also from the surgical biopsy earlier in the week.  My family all stepped up and took over.  They made the birthday luncheon for my daughter who turned 14.  They made the turkey dinner.  They did the clean up.  They did everything.  It was such a blessing and truly was a wonderful Christmas with the meaning of family and love being in the forefront.

Waiting for January 4 to come along was a very long wait.  I couldn't make any arrangements for my future such as what to do with all my students.  I just had to sit and wait.  I didn't have a lot of energy.  By Tuesday, January 3, I was antsy.  I couldn't focus on any kind of activity.  Finally.....Wednesday January 4 was here!!  I got to meet my new oncologist.  He told me that I have Non-Hodgkins Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.  I would have to do chemotherapy.  I also had to have a bone marrow biopsy done as well as a piece of my hip bone taken out to test just to make sure cancer is not in any of those places.  That is an uncomfortable procedure.  All our questions were answered and we will see the doctor again on Wednesday, January 11.  He is hoping we can start chemo as early as Thursday, January 12, 2012 or later at soon as the nurse can get me booked in.

I've spent Thursday, January 5 and Friday, January 6 contacting other piano teachers and parents of my students to give them the news that I will not be teaching in the next 6 months.  My emotions have been swinging from shock, to anger, to grief, to fear, to being overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends.  I'm amazed at the amount of people who are offering to help us out.

I received a prayer shawl from the church where I grew up in Kitchener.  This is a shawl that is crocheted with prayers offered up before it was started to prayers offered up in every single stitch.  When I have it on me (as sometimes I feel the cold when I'm fatigued), I feel surrounded by the love of family, friends and God.

So now we're up to date on where I'm at.  I'm tired. It's 10:19 p.m. on Sunday, January 8.  I'll sign off.  Tomorrow I meet with a friend who is taking over some students for me.  We'll meet for tea.


  1. I love you very much Cathy. You are surrounded by love and prayers. Can't wait to see you on Friday.
    Thanks for creating this blog. I will definitely be reading it whenever you post.
    Sisters are FOREVER

  2. My dearest Cathy, So sorry to hear that you have been going through such difficult times. My positive thoughts and prayers are with you my friend. Thank you for sharing your journey through this blog. You are one special lady and so his your family! FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE will get you through this!

    Your friend Madeleine (10 year survivor)
    p.s. I still buy green bananas :)

    1. Thank you Maddie!! FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE is what I will be relying on and referring to when I feel down. What is the significance of green bananas?