I’ve been a very bad monkey! I haven’t updated here since March, when I was recovering from my cancer surgery. Wait until you hear why.
I use comedy to help me through life. I tend to not take myself or life too seriously, as it all seems over serious to start with. If that makes any sense. But you can see for yourself how I handle hard things, by how I wrote about my cancer diagnosis and treatment in this blog.
But what has happened this year has made it pretty hard to laugh, or even smile. So, warning… this thing is going to get tragic for a bit now.
In April of this year, my beautiful partner, Carol, began having more difficulty with the effects from her recurrence of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Carol had been originally diagnosed in 2006, had 6 weeks of extensive radiation in the spring of 2007, and was diagnosed with a recurrence of the tumour in the original site, in the summer of 2012. She underwent surgery that fall, suffered mightily from side effects of the surgery and then underwent what radiation treatment was available to her without causing too much damage. ACC is a recurrent cancer. We knew it would come back, but it can take decades and sometimes people can live with it. Her prognosis was always poorer than mine, but we always held out hope she would dodge the bullet. Her attitude was great, she did her best to educate herself and make lifestyle changes and she strengthened her spiritual beliefs.
But the radiation treatments in the spring of 2013 only caused more side effects and struggles and when she began having balance issues we knew that was game changer. She hung in as long as she could, and then one day told me she felt she needed more care. We saw the doctor, he admitted her to hospital and they did a CT scan of her head again. This time the scan showed the tumour very aggressively growing. Suddenly the jokes of bad monkeys we had both been making about our own cancers seemed like a poor joke. These were deadly monkeys, evil monkeys. And they were out of control and the doctors out of options.
Still we held out hope she could find a new normal and manage ok.
A week into her hospital stay, I was visiting her when I suddenly felt my ears plug up, my head and shoulders felt heavy and I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. I thought it was an anxiety attack, as I had earlier been told by Carol’s oncologist that her time might be limited.
Then my vision became slightly blurred, my speech slurred and I could not control my extremities properly. The idea I might be having a stroke crossed my mind, but seemed too ludicrous. One of those “can’t happen to me! not now!” things. Carol kept asking me if she should push the nurse’s button but I kept wanting it not to be happening. When I realized I could not move, and the symptons were getting worse quickly I told her to call the nurses. They rushed me to ER and diagnosed me with a stroke. I was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in the nearby city.
The whole time I kept trying to tell them I had to go back to be with my dying partner. They made it clear I wasn’t in a much different space.
I suffered a basilar thrombosis stroke that the neurosurgeon who treated me that night said could have been “catastrophic” to me. They were sure that if I survived the night I would be left with permanent damage, but apparently I got very very lucky. The blood clot that had stopped the flow of blood to my brain broke enough that not only did I have all my functions back within 24 hours, I seem to have no lasting long term effects. I am more sensitive to loud noises and bright light, and for some reason I am now a morning person instead of a night owl as I have been my whole life.
They kept me a week in ICU, on IV bloodthinners and heart medications as they determined that the clot did not come from my leg surgery site, the most likely scenario, but rather because my heart has a poor ejection fraction, and does not pump enough blood back out. That could cause pooling in the heart chamber, leading to a clot, and the stress of my life probably helped kick that clot into my bloodstream.
Just a reminder folks… STRESS KILLS. Do not underestimate the effect it has on you. It’s like the sneaky thief who steals into the zoo and opens the cage for the bad monkeys to run riot. And they will.
I was able to recover enough to be with my partner in her final weeks. She was moved into hospice care in May and passed away in June, a week after her birthday, with me holding her hand. It was as horrible as it sounds, although I am grateful it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. She did suffer some but not as badly as they warned me she could. It broke my already wounded heart though.
So I have been trying to recover and find myself again. It’s been very hard because Carol was not only my partner but my best friend in all things. I have no immediate family where I live, and my friends have done their best but everyone has their own things to deal with. I have never lived alone as an adult so this is new for me.
And I have no idea where my health is at. I am on heart medications of all sorts, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, blood thinners, statins. I was taken off my HRT. I am off work, so I have lost all my anchors and truly am trying to find my way back to life again. Some days I feel stronger and determined. Other days I am just fatigued and feel defeated. I feel like I was hit by that frickin banana truck… driven by crazy monkeys, not just bad monkeys.
The good news is my leg has healed better than I expected. I have quite a bit of strength back in it now, thanks in large part to the physiotherapist my insurance company connected me with. They also helped me with a gym pass and I’ve been working hard to strengthen the leg again there, and to try and get some of my strength and stamina back. That’s a harder fight, esp the stamina. I do well and then seem to fade for awhile. I have more testing of the heart and the artery later this month so hopefully we can get some better answers. I sometimes feel like I danced away from the bad monkeys of cancer only to get smucked by something much larger and more dangerous.
The MRI I had done of the leg in August showed no new bad monkeys so that is a good thing.
What’s funny is how quickly this cancer became a little thing to me. Perhaps one day it won’t be again – they don’t know a lot about Fibromyxoid Sarcoma but some of the things I have read suggested it has a propensity to come back later. I try not to believe that as I feel that can invite it.
But I am trying hard now not to invite my own demise. It’s hard because I feel so empty and wounded inside. So utterly devastated. Carol and I were together 30 years. Her passing has left a huge hole in my life, in my soul. And I’m sure one gets a kind of PTSD from going through something like that with a loved one. I was her only person. It was just her and I. I am grateful I was able to be with her through her journey.
Creatively I feel dead inside but maybe this blog will help me get my mojo back. I need to because one needs to WANT to live to survive bad monkeys, evil monkeys or crazy monkeys. I intend to do just that and to kick their asses. It’s the least I can do after what they did to me and my beautiful Carolka. ❤