36 Days Later
Yesterday I was officially discharged from the hospital in Calgary after completing my last day of the first round of treatment.
It’s a milestone in my treatment but there is still so much ahead. In a few weeks, I will undergo another bone marrow biopsy to test how it is responding to the chemo – to see if my white blood cells are developing as they ought to or if there are still some assholes in circulation. If less than 5% of them are assholes, then I will be declared to be in remission. If there are more than that, I don’t know what they call it or what happens as I haven’t wanted to ask those questions. I assume that it means my follow-up treatments will be more difficult. For now, I am choosing to just assume and hope that the worst is behind me.
In the meantime, I have a 3-4 week break from injecting any sort of poison into my veins. I have gone from taking two dozen pills a day to just 4. And, if all goes according to plan, we will soon be leaving Calgary for Lethbridge to resume my treatment there early in the new year. Lethbridge will be our home for as long as this takes to overcome, which will at least be the better part of 2017. This forced settling is of course not our first choice, but so be it, and I am at least very much looking forward to being close to my family (where my mom and my sister and her family live).
Throughout these 36 days of treatment, Pete has referred to me as strong quite often. I have to tell you, I don’t often feel that. I instead have been calling myself a “cancerous lump” who is mostly mute and cries all the time. Since I’ve been on overnight passes from the hospital for the last almost two weeks, I have just shuffled myself from bed to car to hospital bed to car to couch to bed to couch to bed. Some of those days I had debilitating headaches or nausea to deal with, but most others I just assumed my position as a crumpled ball on the corner of the couch, switching between the Food Network and HGTV while I dozed. My energy level increases by day but not by much – the treatment of arsenic zaps most of it.
I’ve turned totally inward. This is the first time I’ve picked up my laptop in over a week and I don’t even know where my phone is right now. And I can’t really explain why I’ve felt this need to disconnect. I think part of it is my tendency to just put-my-head-down-and-get-the-job-done, along with my lack of energy. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit shy and embarrassed by the generosity and love shown from friends, colleagues and readers from across the globe. And that it’s been a bit easier for me to ignore that for awhile; to turn off the constant reminders of I HAVE CANCER and just lose myself in mindless TV.
I feel like this lump is just getting through this disease – nothing more. I am not drop-kicking cancer’s doors down or poised to write any motivational prose on how to deal with it. These past 36 days have featured some of the hardest I’ve ever been through. And also accompanied by a lot more tears than I’ve ever been used to.
I cried at every episode of vomiting. And when I shit myself. I cried when I didn’t have the energy to take a shower or even feed myself ice chips. I cried when my mouth was so full of sores that I couldn’t talk. I cried in the middle of the night when the angle of the plugin lights on my IV stand reminded me of Prague Castle when it’s lit up in the evening.
I cry when I let my thoughts run away from me. As much as I try to stay positive with the knowledge that my prognosis is very good, I am still a human being with a human brain who thinks human thoughts about mortality.
I cry at dumb commercials. I cry nearly every time Pete reaches for my hand or when my mom kisses my forehead. I cried with joy when family members drove hours and hours to see me, and then with frustration when I could barely keep my eyes open for an hour of their time. I cry at every thoughtful card or gift I receive and usually can’t even read them entirely – I have to force Pete to read them to me. I cry thinking about kids who go through this, or single parents, or anyone who may not have the generous support system I do.
I am crying as I write this. I know that being emotional does not mean an absence of fortitude, but I just don’t feel it.
I realize how negative this may read. That was not my intention when I started to write this but these are the words have come out. I will try to end it on a more positive note (I do have positivity inside of me, I promise)!
Yesterday I was in a hospital bed with arsenic on tap, today I slept in. I will continue to get stronger in the coming days as the chemo leaves my body. I bought a kick-ass wig. I get to spend the holidays with my family and not doctors and nurses. I am spoiled and so well taken care of by Pete and my mom who have both been by my side since this started. I have amazing friends who I know are sending me messages daily whether I read them or not.
Everyday, in between the tears and naps, I am so thankful for all that I have.
This lump will get through it.
More on how I got here…
Thank you so much. Unless we’ve gone through it, I don’t think any of us can understand what you’re going through. You don’t need to be positive about it. It fucking sucks. Thank you for your honesty. It allows the rest of us to begin to understand an iota of what you’re going through.
You are strong though. That much I know.
It’s so lovely to hear from you Dalene, you are an amazing brave lady, keep doing what you are doing. Keep strong, we are all rooting for you, sending you a big fat virtual hug from across the pond. lots of love, Laura xxxx
Hey, I can understand everything your saying, I felt like like as well. But it does get better. I’m coming up to 3 years from finishing treatment. Hang in there girl, lots of love xxx
Congrats on making it through this round of treatment. I’ve worked with many cancer patients and you have my respect and sympathy. No need to feel guilty over anything that is personal; survive, then thrive. (And personally I love lumping while watching HGTV and Food Network!) Good luck and Merry Christmas.
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Dalene, You might be a “lump” but you are one special woman on one special journey who I applaud for telling the truth and not trying to ‘pink’ over the reality of what you are experiencing. I don’t know you except through your travel blog, but I love you for being real, for allowing yourself to cry and feel the enormity of what you are dealing with. Yet you still think of innocent children and people without your support group going through the same thing. That is true compassion. Allow those around you to carry positive thoughts and allow yourself to have your negative times. Love from a stranger.
Awwww, Dalene. Further proof that you’re just the best, and it’s evident why so many people from around the world love you. Keep up the raw honesty, and keep as posted as often (or infrequent) as you feel up to it. I hope these next few weeks away from the hospital will be more relaxing and allow you to recharge to some extent.
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Lots of love to you! I’m sorry we couldn’t get together when I was in Calgary, but I just wanted to say you’re on my mind daily and I’m sending all my positive & healing energy to you! xo DD
Oh, Dalene- You are often in my thoughts. Although we’ve never met in person, I feel so connected to your story. I understand that you may not feel brave right now, but every day you find a little hope, you are brave. every time you share this story with us, you are brave. Every time you let others help, you are brave. Sending so much love your way! Have a wonderful holiday season with your family! <3
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Best phrase of the post: “…my prognosis is very good.”
Yeah, this whole thing sucks hind tit. And you’ve every right to cry and wail and stomp and scream and everything else you can think of to rail against it all. That’s good, healthy, cathartic.
And yet, the best phrase of all, “…my prognosis is very good.” I can’t tell you how much I love that!!
Thanks for the update – you’ve been on my mind a lot lately, especially as another friend of mine has just this week, been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Fuck cancer. You got this.
The Food Network and HGTV make perfect sense as a distraction from truly unfathomable crap. I have a feeling that I’d be throwing in the Hallmark Christmas romance movies and lots of Baileys if they let me! I think it is amazing that you just got yourself from thing a to thing b. I will now think of you as a crying Wonder Woman. Big hugs!
Thank you, you beautiful Lump! Tears reading, also! I hope your Christmas is beautiful, and that Santa brings you the best gift ever! Surrender is difficult, but sometimes we must give a little to gain a lot. Merry Christmas! xo
Had no idea you were taking such a ‘bad trip’ in travel terms. Hang in there and know that so many of us are cheering you on!
I don’t think you sound negative, you’re just being honest and very sweet. I admire you for finding the energy to write this post and sharing your experience with all of us. I am following your and Pete’s updates all the times, always too reserved (or shy) to comment, but here I am rooting for you 🙂
Sending you a big hug.
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I’m impressed you even decided to write this at all, though I can also understand wanting to get some of those emotions out. Be as negative as you want – you’re allowed. It makes complete sense to cry – you’re dealing with an enormous weight right now.
I’m so happy that you’re getting a little break, and that it coincides with the holidays. Do whatever you need to to feel ok and to feel all that love from Pete and your family. Have fun with the wigs.
I was sick recently and ended up in the hospital for a few days, twice. Even though I knew my problem wasn’t anywhere as severe as what you’re going through, it does get scary. No matter what, there’s always that knee-jerk reaction where your mind goes to the worst possible scenario, even when your prognosis is good. I think that’s nature, especially when you’re going through hell and it feels like you’re never coming out of it. I think it’s ok to feel that, but then to remind yourself of all the positive things around you and all the experts telling you how well you’re doing and how good your chances are of beating this thing.
Don’t worry about not feeling as strong as everyone says you are. You ARE whether you can see it right now or not. And where you feel weak, you have doctors and family and Pete and friends all around the world who are helping you and sending out positive vibes every single day.
I think I’m just babbling right now, but I want you to know Andy and I think about you every day, and we’re really rooting for you.
It takes a lot of energy and courage to share our personal stories. Thank you for sharing yours so candidly, Dalene. Through the holiday season and all the tears yet to come, I wish you comfort and joy, and above all, the best gift of all, good health. Namaste
If you are a lump, then you are my most favorite lump. 🙂 I’m so happy to hear you’ll get a break and be able to enjoy the holidays with your family. I will keep sending you silly postcards from Ohio.
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I have to respond to this as your message is so true and brings back every memory of my recovery year. I’m a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor. I was so sick and weak I couldn’t stand and recall visits from friends when I’d ask them if i could just close my eyes while they talked. I didn’t have the strength, I thought, to keep on breathing. Prayers from me for your recovery. Although it’s slow it will come, and all you can do is lay there and endure and think the thoughts I know you have running through your mind.
Everyone has their own way of managing through immensely difficult situations like this one, and you’re doing an amazing job! Keep taking care of yourself and never worry about the way you sound to the rest of the world. The most important thing you can do is stay strong and keep fighting just as you are. You have a great support system in place and we are all here for you as well (as much as an online community can be!). Wishing you a speedy recovery and positive results in the near future!
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The best words of advice I got after my cancer diagnosis was to not look too far into the future. One step at a time. Focus on what is right in front of you. When I didn’t do that, I got too close to what I called the abyss, the looming black hole. Sometimes I went into that abyss. It is not a good place.And difficult to crawl out of. It took awhile to recognize when it was getting closer, but when I did, most times I could pull back and not go there.Sometimes I didn’t have the strength to pull back. But I can tell you that it does get easier.
Being brave doesn’t mean you can’t also be afraid. Being brave is moving forward anyway.
My wish for you is most of all your total recovery, but also that you can avoid the abyss as often as possible as you go through this incredibly difficult time. Sending hugs.
Oh Dalene, you are such a positive and strong lady, you will keep kicking this cancer lump in the ass! You & Pete overcame so much before your choice to travel this beautiful world. These 36 days are behind you, and before you know you will be in remission. Then you & Pete will be back out their as your adventures are far from over and your stories will continue. I wish you a speedy recovery & enjoy this time with your mom, sister & family.
Dalene, I just started following your blog this past week, as my husband and I have been considering a lifestyle similar to yours. I received my first email notification today. I must say the content of your blog post was most shocking! I am so sorry for what you are having to endure. Already I feel like I’ve known you for awhile. Please know that you and Pete will be in my prayers for strength and complete healing from the cancer.
Thank you for being an inspiration for me to live life to the fullest.
Stay just the way you are…Dalene. Strong is a state of mind as much as a physical thing and doing something in spite of fear, lethargy, exhaustion or pain is strength. You are stronger just by sharing your story. Thanks for this and hope that you, Pete and your family have a wonderful and special holiday…enjoy your
lumping for awhile….lots of hugs and good energy to you both! ?
A truly beautiful deep and honest post. I went through this with my father who I love dearly. It was the worst year of all our lives but he beat it. He doesn’t look back much or reflect on the dark times. Yet he is a stronger person because of it. Keep writing. Take the time you need to be aware and know that all your readers are thinking of you and wishing you well.
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I had a rather low form of cancer, had reconstructive surgery, but it was not comparable to what you are experiencing. My sister went through chemo also and totally identified with every word of your experience. Being honest and crying are the best things you can do, I think, rather than stuffing it and “putting on a face” to the world. We all appreciate your honesty.
You mentioned that you didn’t want this to read negative…it didn’t at all! I love that you were honest–it’s inspiring! I think of you often and am glad that you are out of the hospital. Wishing you all the best xo
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I don’t think you’re being negative, I think you’re being REAL. What you are going through is REAL HARD. I took care of my mom when she had cancer, and although I was right there, I still can’t know what she went through. (If she were still alive today, she’d be almost 100!) I very well may find out some day though. There aren’t any rules (or at least there shouldn’t be) about how to get through serious illness. You shouldn’t have the burden of being an inspiration, appearing to be brave, being the Great Conqueror or any of that. Get through this experience as you can. I wish for you Healing and Love, as we all do.
Dear Dalene – I only recently stumbled on your Hecktic Blog as it came in a link from NS tourism. My heartfelt thoughts to you as you deal with cancer. And, your blog was not negative at all, it simply showed human emotions of someone dealing with a horrible disease and equally horrible treatment. So, perhaps you are over the worst and will just have to take pampering and love from your family and friends. Take care and rest often.
It’s not a negative post, it’s an honest post. Strong is being honest about your needs, crying when you need to cry, resting when you need to rest. You’ve been dealt a shitty hand and you’re doing the best you can. You don’t need to come out of this any wiser, more positive, etc… For those of us following your journey, there is no expectation, only hope.
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Dalene, my heart goes out to you and Pete, at this very difficult time.
Cancer sucks!!!! Treatment sucks!! But recovery doesn’t, and I know you have better days ahead.
Soon, you will be back on the road, inspiring us with your blog on travel once again.
All the best to you and your family.
I feel for you Dalene. I was recently diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease and statistically have 3-4 years left to live. My sister says that we are all dying from the moment we are born. Our time on earth is limited and we never know when it will be up. At first, I was shocked at my diagnosis. I had this lump in my throat for weeks, but then I remembered a brave colleague who had breast cancer. She chose a positive approach, saying that she was so happy that she would now get a free breast reduction. Hah! So I decided that I was also very fortunate to have a few years to do the things I still wanted to do. Funny how travel becomes less important and family becomes more important at these times. Nevertheless, I am still travelling while I can. I have been following you and Pete for years and you have made a wonderful legacy to world with your website.Should you want more guest posts, I would be delighted to contribute. Stay strong, Shirley
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Being able to put your thoughts down onto the blog in your usual honest and insightful way shows just how STRONG you are, even though you don’t feel that strength in you right now. Your words will be giving others going through treatment encouragement. Yes! Knowing someone else is going through the lows you are will give them hope and a sense of not going through it alone. You have a big love bank behind you from which you can draw strength. Thinking of you. Jan Robinson
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Thinking of you and sending hugs from Houston, Dalene! I’ve been following your posts about what’s going on, and while it has been heartbreaking to see and hear what is happening to you, it is also a HUGE inspiration to see you pushing through with a cheerful attitude and the strength of a superhero. I hope all is well and you are staying warm up there. Looking forward to more updates in the new year — and seeing your journey to conquering that cancer and throwing it out the window once and for all!
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Dalene, I have enjoyed your posts for so long! Thank you for sharing this journey too! We are all sending love and positive thoughts your way! Robin
You can not imagine how much I have been thinking of you since your illness. Actually you guys were always in my sweet memories. I remember the first time we met in thet Green Hostel in Equadorand the dinners we cooked for each other. I was thinking of you during our first housesitting job in Paris during the holiday season. I know how awfull you can feel and you have all the right to feel awful. I have been through cancer with my doughter. Pls tell your mom and yourself that it will all go away. You will never forget about it but the awful feeling will go away.
I hope the best for you and Petewith all my love.
Dalene + Pete,
I haven’t visited your blog recently, although it is truly one of my personal favorites because of your honest and approachable writing style, wonderful photographs, and you guys just keep it real! I visited your blog the other night when I had a little free time, realizing I didn’t know where you were traveling to at the moment… I read this post and a few others detailing your current health issues and I lost it momentarily. But people who are fighting illness don’t need sobbers or ugly-crying, they need a positive, intentional energy. So I am sending lots of that to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your stories.
with <3 and support,
Dalene, Pete is right (of course he is!). You’re one courageous woman. Courage comes from vulnerability and fear, but owning it. I am so happy that you have an incredible support system around you, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to feel the feelings. Cancer sucks. F*ck cancer. Know, however, that by sharing how you truly feel, you’re helping others that are going through it or who are supporting their family or friends going through it. People are reading this and saying “me too”, and there are no two words more powerful.
I’ve never left a comment on a travel blog before (though I read many and plan to have my own one day).
Dalene, you are so incredibly strong. And honest. And inspiring. My mom had cancer (and passed away when it came back a second time) and you remind me of her–I can’t thank you enough for that gift.
May you stay on the up–and up–and up.