October 2020 was a month that changed my life forever. I started an exciting new job on October 12th at a company I wanted to really lean into and try to make an impact in the area I work. Getting a chance to lead this type of team with an organization this large was like working in a start-up that was part of something much bigger. I wanted to be my best to prove they hired the right person.
Less than two weeks after starting in role, my mom got diagnosed with stage 4 liver and lung cancer. We were advised that without treatment, we could be looking at 12 months. With treatment, they couldn’t really say as they weren’t certain how quickly it would spread and how effective the treatments would be. But we began the journey. A journey with many ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and a journey without a known end date. This journey has really help me understand and appreciate the word perspective for its true meaning.
Since October 2020, my mom has been fiercely fighting this disease and hasn’t allowed it to slow her down one bit. Countless appointments racked up (40+) throughout the months as she completed two full rounds of radiation. After each round of radiation, they do intensive body scans to determine how well the radiation worked and ensure it was not spreading.
After her first round of radiation, the scans did not look promising. At the time, we consulted with the chemotherapy (chemo) doctor but given her fragility due to horrible rheumatoid arthritis, she was not a good candidate for chemo treatment. The next best option was to the second round of radiation, so it began, and she completed it.
Fast forward to January 2022. The first appointment of the year was to review the findings of the last scan. It wasn’t good news. Although she had been fighting her hardest and bravely got through two rounds of radiation, the cancer was spreading, and scans were now showing new areas of cancer. The cancer spread so much that the doctors didn’t believe a third round of radiation would be the answer as there would be too many “spots” to focus on.
Based on the previous feedback we’ve been given about being too frail for chemo, we felt deflated, exhausted, worried, scared, and depressed.
Upon meeting with the doctors to discuss what next steps in the plan looked like, we had no idea what to expect given what we’ve already been told and have lived through. They referred her back to the chemo doctor to review her file and see if there was a lite option she could consider. Conclusion at the end of that consultation was that she could try a low dose of chemo for six (6) total treatment sessions, scheduled three (3) weeks apart and monitor symptoms. We were hopeful. Now focusing on the positive and what that next step in front of us would bring.
February 2022, the first steps of the chemo plan commenced. Before each chemo treatment, she must go in for an appointment the day before. During this appointment, they do blood work, x-rays then visit the chemo doctor to review how she’s feeling before her next treatment session (usually) the next day. If she feels well enough to proceed, they send 3-4 prescriptions to the pharmacy to be picked up same day. She is provided with a scheduled plan to get the medication started the day before treatment then continue them for a few days after treatment. Mostly to help fight against the intense nausea caused by the treatment.
After treatment session 3/6 was completed, she contracted covid. Luckily, she is vaccinated so her symptoms weren’t extreme and didn’t add too many complications to the chemo side effects she was experiencing. However, you cannot get a chemo treatment when you’re positive for covid and showing active symptoms, so we had to cancel and reschedule the fourth treatment session for when she was feeling better. After isolating for ten days and still testing positive for covid, they advised that if symptoms were not worsening, she can proceed to attend her scheduled appointments.
It’s now Easter weekend 2022 and I sit here in the waiting room at the Canadian Cancer Clinic waiting for her to come out from her 4/6 chemo treatment appointment. From here, we go home and get her comfy and continue to press forward, looking forward to the 5/6 and then the 6/6. Knowing each of those appointments comes with another 1-2 appointments on top of it for pre work or follow-up discussions. It’s a journey, and we just keep looking forward to the next step in better days ahead. Trying to stay as positive as we can knowing that the end-result for someone battling stage 4 cancer that is spreading is going to be tough, no matter what the next steps happens to be.
Facing those inevitable next steps is not easy for anyone. Having a good support system around for the person fighting and those supporting that person is key. My mom is lucky to have such amazing family around her. My family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and brother have been an absolute blessing through this process, and I will forever be grateful for them. It takes a true team effort to help someone through one of the hardest times of their life, and it is not easy on anyone.
Perspective is a word I kept thinking about as I’ve sat here at every appointment at the Canadian Cancer Clinic in London, waiting for my mom to walk down the hall as she’s completed yet another treatment session.
The journey is far from over but as I’ve sat here in the waiting room during her appointments, often in the same seat, all I can think about is the word, “perspective”.
When you spend time at any Cancer Clinic, you see many people come and go and each person has their own unique story. Some young, some old, but all with one thing in common. A will to get better with the hope the medicine provided to them by these top health professionals is going to help them through their journey and get to that next step.
That next step differs from person to person. Is it another radiation treatment appointment? Another chemo treatment appointment? Or have they now completed their treatment and await their next scan to see how effective the medicine has been? Whatever it may be, that next step is always going to be what is to look forward to. Rarely great news for those starting their journey with stage 4 lung and liver cancer but looking ahead and focusing on the positive carries us to that next step. It may be hard to time, but positivity can be derived from that next step and when you find it, it keeps you on your feet and looking ahead. It’s hard as f#ck. It’s not easy.
Since October 2020, I haven’t been the same person either. Watching my mom fight this fight and being part of every step has torn me down to some of the lowest places I’ve ever been. All while starting a new job where I always need to be performing my best. Truth is, I haven’t been able to perform my best. The best I am giving is working (for now) and I’m enjoying it for the most part. When I started, I planned to have so much more mental and emotional energy to pour into it, but life happens. When life happened, I needed to shift my mental and emotional energy quickly to a more important area in life.
I’ve been blessed to work for such a great company. Hired in the middle of a pandemic and two weeks in, hit with this news and quickly understanding how much time I’d need to be taking away from work. Keeping caught up in after-hours and weekends can only be pushed for so long before you get burnt out. That time is here. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m depressed. I’m burnt out. Even though this is where I’m at today, I know I keep needing to look for and lean into that next step. Because after this next step, there will be another next step, and so on and so forth.
Looking ahead with a positive attitude and mindset is a tool that I’ve been using, and it’s gotten me this far, so far. When the next step doesn’t look good, I try to remember that one word I’ve constantly been reminded of during these times, perspective.
There will always be someone out there in this world, on this giant spinning rock we live on that has it worse than me, than you, than us. This doesn’t mean what we’re going through isn’t bad, it’s horrible. We can choose to focus on the large amount of negativity in a situation like this, or flick that switch and try to find the positive, then focus on that towards the next step. Again, it’s hard as hell and easier said than done, for sure.
Why did I write this blog now? I don’t know. As I sat here waiting for her in her appointment, I just started jotting down the experience. Perhaps subconsciously to help remind myself about what we’ve already been through and a check-in as to what’s ahead. Thinking about the “what’s ahead” is sad but it’s good to do so you’re prepared to handle the situation in the best way you can. Maybe writing this will one day help prep someone else if they’re forced to go through this process with a loved one. Maybe I wrote it as a reminder or lesson for my kids to read one day.
I don’t know.
When she completes this round of chemo, who knows what lays ahead?
No one. No one knows.
But what I do know is that if we continue to be mindful of what “perspective” means and focus on what we can do in the situation, that we’ll get to that next step. It’ll be tough, but we’ll get there.
Focus on the positive and F#ck cancer with perspective.
If you’re still reading, thank you for your time and hope this will help remind you of the word perspective next time life comes your way. You’re worth it.