My day began with a meeting with the guy above... He is my oncologist, Professor Vernon Harvey. (or he became known as "prof.probert" to many of my family and friends. He always wore a bow tie!!
So after a very THOROUGH check up by the dude above........and by thorough....use your imagination, I mean no body part was left untouched!!! eeeek! (this was very scary for a just turned 18yr old good Christian virginal girl!!!!!!!!....but kinda funny thinking about it now)....my mummys hands were being squeezed beyond painful at this stage! And I remember walking very strangely afterwards!!
So, we were settled into the unit for these bad boys:
Carboplatin and Cisplatin.
These were what we were counting on to invade my body and attack any remaining cancer cells. There was a lot of hope/prayer that these were gonna come through for us!
I had to have a combination of the 2 chemo drugs, to enable me the best chance of making a recovery, or at least making remission. They are administered via IV infusion, and take a few hours in the unit. Following that I would be admitted to the oncology ward to be monitored overnight, then free to go in the morning. I would have one treatment every 3 weeks. This was the plan anyway. If I suffered too many complications, then the treatments would be spaced out accordingly.
My Mum and Dad were towers of strength for me. My Mum kept encouraging me not to ask "why me" or go on about "it's not fair" but to grab this thing by the horns, and give it my best shot.
I don't remember saying it to her, but she says I stated boldly ... "Lets do it...what's the worst outcome?? I might die..... Is that bad ?? Nope, because I know where I'm going!" Man...I don't remember saying that, but I feel quite proud of myself to think I had that mentality at that point in the whole saga!! Yay!
Believe me, I had real lows. Times when I would be wide awake at night, thinking about "the worst outcome", and wondering what might be.......... but mostly I was so surrounded by super faithful friends/family that it built me up/encouraged me, and were willing to support me at any time I needed it!
So the dreaded time for Chemo arrives, and suddenly I'm very nervous! My veins suck.......they've always been pretty pooh, but this day they were really misbehaving. Despite numerous soaks in warm water ... lots to drink/being very hydrated, it took 9 attempts (by 2 doctors) and then success thanks to Lisa my awesome nurse. The saline went through, then out came the Chemo......... looking particularly ominous in its black bag (to stop the light from diluting it apparently)... then that slowly dripped through and another saline bag followed.
Like you could never even imagine.
Like you would never ever wish upon anyone............
waves of it.......neverending........horrible.
Admission to the ward was an added nightmare.... can you imagine being a newly diagnosed cancer patient...having your first "taste" of chemo...feeling rugged, trying to be happy that it's your 18th birthday, then being wheeled into a room where several other patients are now gagging and nauseated, and feeling as grosse as yourself?? Wasn't nice!
That night was one of the longest I can remember. I felt quite sorry for myself, sick as a dog, and lonely. I wished I was home in Kaitaia hospital where half the nurses were family or family friends.... I just wanted to go home.
I was so sick that night that they gave me a drug they were only just trialing here in NZ...for nausea, and which they now use all the time ... ondansetron (Zofran). Boy did that take the edge off of the sickness, and I felt semi-normal after that. What I didn't feel "normal" about was having to take big containers wherever I went.... to do the follow up 24hr urine collection.... LOL and having to make excuses about the bags I would have to take with me into the toilets!! haha.
Anyway the chemo went on for 6 treatments, one per month (when I could handle it). The 3rd visit was particularly awful... it was a "mind over matter" thing. And I felt the nausea just by arriving at the oncology unit.... I think it was knowing what was in store...what was coming... yuck.
Most of the time my parents would come with me... Once just my brother and I travelled from Kaitaia to Auckland, had the chemo, the follow ups. And we had some great fun together, driving around Auckland in my awesome candy-apple pink VW convertible... roof down. We were going past western springs and saw that Rod Stewart was playing, tried our luck and got tickets at the gate, and had a great night...... we weren't even Rod Stewart fans until that concert... it was a great night out despite the waves of nausea.... again, almost felt normal!! :)
At other times good friends would come with me... we'd sit and talk, learn encoraging bible verses whilst the chemo did its thing... some days were good....others very long and trying. I was reading my bible one day....asking God to give me a "rhema word"... something I could hold onto during this stinky time... and Psalm 91 really came "alive to me". Yes ... I had read that psalm so many times before...sung it in songs... knew it inside out etc... but it really leapt out at me.......especially the bit in verse 16 that said "with long life I will satisfy him (or her)...and show him my salvation" Yep that was MINE thanks God.... it leapt in my heart, and gave me amazing hope...and encouragement that I could face this thing... I really could!
What blessed me even more was when an amazing woman of God ~ Rere Ewen ~ also from Kaitaia (from the Abundant Life Church), also having chemo/radiation at the same time as me in Auckland, got word to me that she wanted to catch up. So, before I went home I went to see her, and she gave me a card, with this exact word FOR ME.... and with the same verse highlit!! How amazing is God?? And people don't think he's alive and REAL?? For me...this was my lifeline... I had my word .... and now it had been confirmed, by someone I held in high regard, right down to the very verse! Awesomeness.
From that day on, even on the crappy days, I had something to hold onto...a future. :)
Now I have many friends/family who do NOT believe in God, and would say things like... "oh if God cared for you ... you wouldn't be here sick as a dog... going through these operations/trials etc..." but I never once waivered in my trust or faith in God.
Another God moment was the week after I had my operation. I went to a Christian Surfers rally night...and the guest speaker was talking about waves/competitions etc, then out of the blue just stopped and goes.. "there's someone in this side of the room who's just had major operations... who is that?" well...I got pokes and prods from friends..."its you".. "Oh shuddup it's not me"... then he goes... "okay...its a chick... and you've had an operation and just come out of hospital this week... and he started pointing to the 2 areas where I had the tumours removed... " well at this point I was trying to get as close to the floor as possible. no respnse. "okay ... you're waiting to get a cancer result back" it was too much for my cousin she stood and pointed to me and said..."her its her" Thanks a heap Shar! ;) Well I went up for prayer... and he said he saw a "light" and pointed to where my ovary had been removed....
"I don't know what it means" he said.. "but there's an amazing light there!"
We would find out many years from then what "the amazing light" meant, though we didn't have the foggiest idea right then.
There's so much to share............so many little stories from each chemo... each consultation... but I'll just share a few that really mean something to me...and mean something in the bigger picture.
So I endured the chemo treatment... and was warned that they had left my remaining ovary in place... to try and avoid really early menopause etc... but that basically I would be sterile from the chemo that I did have, and that if by any chance I did ever get pregnant, that the risk of having a malformed child, or a child with "problems" was very very high.
To be honest, when they told me all of that...I was only 18, not in any kind of relationship at that point... and just wanting to "live" not really worried about the future, or having children etc.
During the chemo, my Papa was deteriorating and losing his fight with lung cancer, and I had to rush back immediately following a treatment. I had to endure an awful bus trip from Akld to Whangarei, where my brother picked me up and drove like a racing hoon.... that trip was so awful... I don't usually get carsick but boy try chemo, plus awful bus trip...plus the mangamuka gorge when your brother is racing uncontrollably...
I am very thankful however ... that we got home and I got to say goodbye to my Papa, hold him...tell him how much I loved him...and he waited... and 10mins later he passed away......
I got quite unwell during this time, and was advised by hospital staff not to attend my papas funeral, since my immunity was low and we'd be on the marae around lots of people.... Im afraid I didn't listen..there was no way I could not go. He had been there for me... and I wanted to be there with him/whanau...
Anywy....I finally finished Chemo...and went into remission, despite a grim prognosis from oncologists/docs!! Yippee. Some "non believer doctors" even said to us "I would go as far to say that you've had a Miracle!!" and I remember my Mum piping up everytime and yelling "AMEN! we claim it" hahahaha.. (Love you Mumma!)
Anyway, as the years went on however, and my friends started having babies, families, deep within me my heart yearned for that too. I would put it out of my head and thank God that I was actually still alive, and consoled myself with the fact that I could adopt, or just have lots of animals to make up for no kiddies.
The tug never went away...but I never shared it with anyone.... I would pretend that I was okay with the fact that I probably would never be a Mummy to my OWN flesh and blood..... and would shrug off all the baby talk etc. I threw myself into loving my beautiful God daughter ....... I would steal her whenever I could, lavish her with gifts, and I loved her with an amazing love (still do Cally!! still do!!).
Fast forward more years..........Im in a relationship with a really lovely man. I am totally up front with him from day one about the cancer, what's gone on with me... and that having babies probably won't be on the cards. Even though he wants to be a Dad, he's okay with just me.... we're on the same page, and adopt a Rottweiler instead. (Yay Floyd xx)
Imagine our surprise when following a number of weird "symptoms", HUBBY came up with the idea for me to take a pregnancy test. It hadn't even occured to me. I had had the weirdest menstrual cycle since my ordeal...and had been taking the contraceptive pill to help with that, and was on a "break" from it as my blood pressure started to climb a little... but still, I never entertained the idea that I could possibly be pregnant.... however that day, I got a test.
I started to get excited...but didn't want to tell anyone...just my hubby
I took another one...(in case it was wrong)..
POSITIVE.... Okay...enter butterflies and a lil excitement!!
My mum was at a conference in Christchurch...so I text her and told her....but said ...just wait...I wanna be sure...
I went on to take another 2 tests ... all POSITIVE!
Totally over the moon excitement..... we were on cloud 9.............................then I remembered the bit about "malformed" children or "other difficulties" Enter worry and every other negative thought.
My Mum and Dad were so encouraging and their excitement helped to diminish all the fear I was faced with....
(I'll leave it there til next time... ) ;)
PS: Thanks to you all for your awesome lovely and caring comments...they truly feel like nice warm cuddles!! xx