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The Cancer Journey: Blessed to Bless

Reposted from denisetam.webs.com September 25, 2012 Leave it to me to set up a to do list for my time of recovery at home. Being the planner and organizer that I am I've woken up each morning this week with a list of things (stored in my head) to do. You'll be relieved to know that my to do's were not anything close to my previous lists that may have included organizing a party for a friend, finishing a sales analysis report for work or picking up some last minute groceries for a new recipe, all before meeting up with a friend for dinner.

Though my list during my first week home has been simple tasks like eating more, eating something other than bread or drinking one more cup of liquid a day, it was just as mentally and physically demanding. Standing long enough to take a shower and even sitting long enough to finish a meal (which takes a lot longer now that i enjoy food much less and also chew much slower) required so much of the little energy I had. These simple, mundane actions that I never even acknowledged as tasks  became not only tasks but goals.

Today I'm writing with much more energy and a proud achiever of many of my goals which went from eating three meals a day to incorporating healthier (though admittedly less tasty) foods and health supplements into my meals. Some went from keeping down my dinner to cooking dinner for my parents and myself; and to some people's disappointment going from reading my emails to responding to emails and even writing up some simple reports for work- Don't worry work is more of a past time than actual work.

Showering and food have been my biggest hurdles. Now that I have a Hickman line in me, or in simpler terms, now that I have tubes coming out of me and an opening where it comes out of to take care of, showering has become a huge hassle. The prep and clean up time to take a shower is longer than the shower itself and my first shower back home exhausted me to the point where I was weak in my knees and had to lie down. Cleaning the wounds and the opening is another chore that takes a lot of time and patience and my first experience left me dizzy and nauseous, perhaps from the sight of the wounds and the stitches or perhaps from being overwhelmed by the 20 plus steps you must follow to clean the wounds. Infection is my worst enemy at the moment and the tubes and wounds need to be cleaned following the strictest hygienic rules. A nurse also needs to come once a week to flush and pump the tubes to prevent it from clogging and fortunately she will also help with the outward cleaning as well.

Food on the other hand is a different kind of challenge. Part of the challenges are mental and part of it is physical. There are foods (both scent and taste) that remind me of the hospital and there are foods that I've been eating for 20 odd years of my life that just does not settle well with my stomach (like tomato sauce in spaghetti, but not tomato sauce on pizza, weird right?). Then there's the loss of my taste buds and the metallic taste in my mouth (by the way these are all side effects from the chemo) that turns once loved and even coveted foods like figs or nuts that I could never have just one of, into mediocre foods that no longer brought joy to my stomach and my soul. Now I fully understand the notion behind comfort food or how cinnamon always reminds me of Thanksgiving and Christmas back in Canada. I wish I could explain how my apples and pasta sauces taste. They definitely don't taste better, if anything blander, but it's not so much the taste but the difference in what your mind expects it to be and what your tongue tastes it to be that makes it difficult to swallow. This I know will come back in time and I'm sure thankful for that; so don't worry all you foodie friends, I'll be back trying that new restaurant or recipe with you in no time

Other (known) side effects I'm experiencing are ringing in my ears, difficulty sleeping, loss of hair (I've decided to shave my head) and numbness in my right chin down to my neck (this is from the biopsy surgery where I think they ended up clipping part of my nerves, so unfortunately this is permanent).

Still I love where life has taken me. And it's been the love I've been so blessed to receive and experience that keeps me inspired. I've received so much love, undeserving love, overwhelming love, indescribable love, from family, friends, the church community, strangers and most of all from the author of love itself, God. I realize that I'm fortunate to have so much love in my life and realize that many live a love-less life, not out of their own choice but simply because it's how the cards were dealt. I'm thankful that my soul is filled with love and joy and hope that it can overflow to others that I encounter each day.

I return back to see Prof Kwong on the 26th (tmw) for blood tests and discussion about my next chemo. I'm not looking forward to being down again from chemo and can only place my hope in His love and mercy for me that never runs dry.

P.S Wen Ying finished another round of chemo, she was feeling really tired and weak with typical side effects of nausea and loss of appetite. She has recently begun to eat again as brothers and sisters have been so gracious in making, buying and delivering her favorite comfort foods for her. She begins chemo again either on Friday or Saturday and she remains in good spirits.

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