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Friday, 6 November 2015

Kim's Year in Review

Wow.  A year already.  One year ago today we found out Colin had cancer.  My chest still gets tight thinking about it.   

I still remember my last moment of innocence.  Colin was leaving for the hospital (for the second time) with his stomachache and I didn’t give him a kiss because I was angry it took him so long to go to the hospital.   

He called from the hospital and said it was probably diverticulitis.  I googled.   

You all know what happened after that. 

The month and a half after Colin’s cancer diagnosis, waiting for Colin to heal from surgery and for his appointment at Cross Cancer Institute, was the longest time of my life.  When I went in for a doctor’s appointment with my 4th pregnancy at almost 18 weeks and found out that there was no heartbeat, I sat in the waiting room for an hour, watching the second hand on the clock.  Waiting for the ultrasound tech to call me in to confirm what I already knew.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Last November and December was like reliving that moment.  Only it went on and on and on. 

I don’t know how I would have kept functioning through that time if it wasn’t for the kids.  I had to get out of bed.  I had to go through the motions every day.  I took care of them.   

I felt dead inside.   

My dreams, our dreams, growing old in rocking chairs together, watching the grandkids…. Gone.  

Old friends, new friends.  Everyone wanted to help.  There were a few shoulders I cried on.  A few friends who kept me grounded, who I know that will be there for me until they are hauled kicking and screaming from this planetI’ll never find the words to thank them enough, but I know they’ll read this.  And they know me.  So they’ll know everything my heart says that I don’t know how to put in to words. 

And then we met with that first oncologist  Neither Colin nor I wanted to accept what she said.  So we tried another doctor.  A better doctor.  He gave us hope.  There might not be forever, but at least there’d be a tomorrow. 

As the months passed, I stopped mourning what wasn’t going to be.  I stopped being angry about the future that had presented itself.  The kids and I planted flowers and bulbs and we had the most amazing flowerbed that has ever existed in front of this house.  We planted fruit bushes and rose bushes and trees.  And as everything sprang to life, I started living again.   

The kids and I walked every day.  We’ve been to every park within a 5 kilometer radius.  We had many double cookie days – we’d go to Save-On for one free cookie and then go to Sobey’s for a second free cookie.   

The kids and I talk about life and the future…. And we cry together and we’re scared together, but I always tell them that we have daddy right now.  And right now daddy is doing fine and as long as he keeps doing fine we’re going to have him for a really long time.   

I’ve gone back to school to get a degree in Elementary Education.  I figured that the odds say that I’m going to be a single mom with 4 kids one day, so I had better get myself in a position where I can align my schedule with theirs.  3 weeks off a year won’t cut it.  Hopefully that’s a concern that never comes to fruition, but by this point we all know that the future is unpredictable.  I took one class in May.  May was rough.  Colin was pretty sick but fortunately my mom and dad were able to help out and I got one class over with. 

I’m taking three more classes right now.  Colin’s been doing great for the last three months and my mom and dad help out on chemo and blood work days.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love school.  This degree is no different.  I love thinking about things beyond diapers and groceries.  I think it’s great for the kids to see me working on school, plus I’m going to be able to help the kids with their math homework since math is a whole lot different than it was when I was in school.  I’m worried that by the time I finish this degree a school board will take one look at the old lady that marches in and they won’t have room for me, but who knows. 

It’s easier if I don’t think long term.  NOBODY knows what’ll happen long term.  Not to me, not to Colin, not to yourself.  When I get overwhelmed, I listen to this.  https://youtu.be/2Kuj-PGC8rE.  I think it might be about being in a gang or something like that, but like the song says: “Ain’t nobody gonna die today.  Save that trouble for another day.”  When tomorrow gets to be too much, I focus on today. 

We’re all here.  We’re all happy.  We’re relatively healthy.  I’ll take another 20 years of this.  Colin just has to keep on keeping on.  Ánimo, right? 

Cancerversary



It's hard to believe a year ago today I heard the words "you have cancer" for the first time. As I laid in that hospital bed recovering from abdominal surgery I had no idea what this would mean for me.



The past year has been an amazing roller coaster ride with some amazing experiences mixed in with some awful lows but one thing has never changed. I will not give up easy. 

Kim and I are still forever grateful to everyone that came and supported us at the event put on by Brett and Amie Babkirk. What an amazing evening. The money raised was so critical to Kim and I getting our life together as she went back to school and I faced my future with uncertainty. But possibly more important was the show of support we received from friends and family. We have never felt more loved. I received messages from coworkers and former students from every year I've taught. 

One of the first things I did was a symbolic gesture that I wouldn't be held prisoner by this awful disease. I booked a trip to San Francisco and scheduled an Alcatraz swim crossing. I had completed this swim as part of a triathlon in 2010 and wanted to show myself I could still do it.


Another thing I did which I thought was important was to get a tattoo that said "Ánimo." For those that haven't heard or read my Ánimo story it's got its own link on the top of my webpage and I would encourage you to read it. It's pretty funny if I must say so myself. But the key is that Ánimo just means keep going.



Travel was a huge theme this year. I was in a bit of a panic mode as I was completely unsure of how my cancer might progress and I wanted to make sure I kept moving. I vowed early on that I would be a positive force in the face of cancer. I didn't want to let it take me down. I wanted to prove to people that you can continue to live a meaningful life despite a stage IV diagnosis.

In case you're unaware stage IV means that it will never be gone. I will never be declared cured. This is a lot to deal with emotionally. My future is a minefield of potential setbacks and anxiety as I wait for my latest test results. 

I decided I would create the #Cancercanthackett tour to try and publicize my efforts. This was a combination of racing and distributing information about early screening and prevention. This effort lead me to some really amazing people. 

I began to solicit sponsors for my tour and some amazing companies were eager to jump on board. The best part of this was that it was all companies whose products I was using before do I didn't feel guilty promoting their products. Coloplast, KPMG, Sugoi, Hoka One One, Aquasphere, and recently Quintana Roo have sponsored me and I couldn't be more pleased. 

One of the best experiences that came from this was the opportunity to speak at the Coloplast national sales meeting in Toronto. I got to give the patients a voice about what life is like with an ostomy. As a bonus I had never been to Toronto so I used it as an opportunity to do some cool things I'd always wanted to do. See a Blue Jays game at home and go up the CN Tower. I didn't realize they had created a new thrill ride type adventure where you hang off the side of the tower. As it worked out I was there for the home opener and after a bit of a hassle getting in I got to see my Jays live for the first time. 


It hasn't always been great being off work. If you talk to a teacher more often than not they will tell you within a short period of time what they do for a living. This is because being a teacher isn't just a job, it's a part of you. It's been hard being out of the classroom but there has been a few awesome benefits. I've been able to travel on seat sales which almost never happens for teachers because our holidays are in high season. 

The best getaway was to Maui, Hawaii. A Westjet sale popped up on Facebook and I couldn't believe it. $89 one way! I jumped on it and actually booked it without telling Kim. Kim had always wanted to go to Hawaii and this was the perfect opportunity. We got away and it was absolutely magical. 


I have been asked a few times to speak and tell my story and the most moving time was the opening ceremonies for the Alberta Ride to Conquer Cancer. This two day cycling event was an amazing chance to talk to survivors and be surrounded by positivity while proving to myself and others that I could still handle endurance events.  


Another amazing experience this year was my selection as a Colondar model. This is a group of 12 people under 50 who have been diagnosed with colon cancer. But it wasn't just a bunch of cancer patients; every one of these people had a great story and was doing something to spread hope and awareness. Although we were only together a few short days we quickly became as tight as brothers and sisters .



I had a rough summer with my liver acting up. For some reason it kept developing "sludge" and blocking the main drain out of my liver. This lead to me becoming jaundiced which made me  INCREDIBLY itchy, to the point that I couldn't sleep some nights. To open this up I was given 2 ERCPs. This is when a camera is sent down your throat and the doctor opens up your liver. I had 2 stents put in to keep it open and my awesome liver Doctor put me on a pill that has kept me clear. 

My racing was not what I had hoped it would be this year. I attempted 3 Ironman races and didn't manage to complete one yet. This is a burr in my side and a huge disappointment. I feel a bit of a failure in my efforts as my entire goal was to show I could keep going despite my condition. However, I got to meet some cool people through racing. Stewart and I became buddies over Twitter and he was gracious enough to allow me to stay with his family while in Muskoka. Here I met my little buddy Logan and I was extremely honoured last week when he named me his hero for a school project. This was incredibly rewarding and really made me smile.

I get a chance to break this streak on November 15th and really am eager to get this one in the books. 

As an update, my two tumors in my liver have remained stable over this year and this is a very positive sign moving forward. At some point my oncologist expects it to start progressing and we will take it in stride but for now it's just more of the same. 

Here's to another year!