Finding Beauty in the Ordinary
Let me Be Brave by artist, teacher, writer & photographer, Barbara Burns
PictureBarbara Burns and her pre-chemo haircut
I don’t have cancer. The surgeon was able to remove the cancer and my lymph nodes showed that the cancer did not travel to the rest of my body. Needless to say, “Phew” and “Thank you” were cried.

Two days after surgery, on June 11th, I had internal bleeding. Recovery was then beyond slow and hard. The internal bleeding, and subsequent continual build up of fluid at the site, put me in survival mode (i.e. not healing, swelling, pain, immobility, unable to rest et al). The site was drained three times.

In addition to all of this, there were constant medical appointments (in the city and in town), and emergency room visits.  Emotionally, mentally and physically I was tapped out. It was a very rough month.

Because of my ‘high grade’ tumour (it likes to spread and grow fast), its invasive qualities (it loves to spread), it is a ‘triple positive’ tumour (it likes to feed off of estrogen, progesterone and HER2 protein), and the issue of the growth on my spine (i.e. nerve problems from the hips and down), the oncologist (Dr. Joy!!!!....I love his name!!!!) has created a treatment plan for my body. The focus of the treatment is to make sure the cancer is completely removed from my entire body and that the tumour doesn’t grow back again (and it won’t!!!).

Most of you are in the summer vacation mode, for me it is the season of treatment. Chemotherapy starts this Friday (12:25 pm MST, July 24th), and my hair is cut to prepare myself for the physical and mental loss of it. (Side note: Thank you Kendra for coming with me, and thank you Jenny, at Raw Beauty, for your kindness and scissor support.)  The chemo will be through intravenous and is a special cocktail to work with the growth on my back (i.e. not to cause more problems with it). I will have chemo, 4 times, every three weeks at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. After this, I will have radiation on the site where the tumour was removed. Radiation will be everyday for three weeks. At the same time, I will start another drug that will be given to me intravenously every three weeks for a year. The reason for this extra drug is because of the HER2 Protein I have in my body. Only 15% of breast cancer patients have the HER2 protein and they find that this intravenous drug, for a year, works well at keeping it at bay. And finally, I will begin a drug (pill form!!!!) that I will be on for 5 years to keep the cancer at bay.

Today my dad is travelling, from Medicine Hat, to visit.  His visits are always short and sweet (2-3 days at the most!) as I think he likes his own surroundings and bed. I am grateful for this act of love to come and see me before my therapy begins. As I prepared for his visit, I also prepared high protein meals for the following weeks after chemo, as well as my chemo treatment bag (i.e. fluffy magazines to read, headphones for my iPhone, snacks and to follow some throw up bags and etc.). This visit, I will put him to work! We will create some yummy soups for me to eat/sip this weekend and next week. And, we may even pick some of the raspberries that are calling from the backyard, as they are red, ripe and ready. We’ll also go grocery shopping for post-chemo food (i.e. jello, popsicles, ginger ale, pudding, prune juice, skim milk powder (to add more protein) and etc.).

I usually like my guests to come and relax at my home. But my body has taught me recently, that I cannot get everything done. I have learned that I need to ask for help and to let things slide. The house is not as clean as I would like it to be and meals will be simpler. However, this is the first trip dad has taken since mom’s passing. So, in honour of my mom, I did make a coconut pudding and strawberry shortcake icing for the cupcakes. By doing this, it will seem like mom is with dad on this trip.

I’m ready to start. I’m ready to take the next steps towards health and healing. So ready that God(dess)/the Universe/Great Spirit, via Lisa at Alberta Teachers’ Benefits, interrupted this blog sharing, through a phone call, to initiate my long-term disability file. I find myself tentative as I don’t know what to expect (despite all that I’ve read and asked), but I know the army behind me (!!!) has buoyed me and helped me find my feet again (via texts, food, emails, gifts, trips to appointments, letters and more).

So with that said, please keep this nervous girl in your thought/prayers and candles lit, this Friday as I begin my new journey of ensuring cancer is a thing in my past. I have witnessed and felt the power of your love; I am so grateful and blessed.