Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ode to My Cancer Companions

Ever since I can remember, animals have played a hefty role in my life. From dogs, goats, pigs, cows and horses, my sister and I grew up surrounded by the animal kingdom. We spent our weekends and summers on the back of our horses with our herd of dogs and my cousin's pig 'Amos' trailing behind us. We frequently ate our lunch in the saddle, glided through creeks on horseback in the summertime and showed sheep and pigs at all of our local fairs. My sister always wanted to be a vet and our collective dream was to live in a big house on a ranch with our cousin Marion and raise a ton of animals. And although that's not how things turned out, animals still continue to play an essential part of our lives.

Fast-forward 5 decades and I find myself for the first time in more than 20 years, without a single animal in my life. Our dog and my cancer companion Romeo passed away at 14, a week before Christmas last year and our 15 year old cat Katsu passed just a mere few days ago. Absolutely a difficult and emotional pill to swallow.

Among the scientific data out there advocating for animal therapy for cancer patients, I definitely experienced the benefits of our furry friends throughout my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I personally experienced the loyalty of our sweet little doggy who was by my side every step of the way. From laying in his crate next to the bed for hours at a time, to escorting me throughout the house and going down the stairs step-by-step at my snail's pace, Romeo was there for me literally and emotionally. Once, when I was by myself and had to crawl my way to the bathroom, he ushered me inch by inch as I made my way across the floor. And when I went bald, both Romeo and Katsu stared at me like I was an alien, but eventually, settled into my new look, pre/post treatment routine and days of illness.

Post treatment, Katsu couldn't seem to cuddle close enough to me giving me the unconditional love and devotion that animals crave. Romeo seemed to worry if I sneezed or groaned in any atypical way. So my point is that animal companionship during a catastrophic illness is such a gift and I can't express enough, the gratitude that dwells deep within my heart for such authentic amour.

So a final WOOF, MEOW and bow to my amazing cancer buddies who championed around me during the fight of my life. I hope they felt at least a fraction of my love and gratitude in return. Now go run through the meadows of the Rainbow Bridge.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why I Keep Blogging!

I've been telling myself for over a year that I would stop this blog and close down the 'Cancer Shop' the day I finished treatment. But, the closer that date came, the further I moved away from that initial decision to stop. And as many things do, I've come to realize that this blog seems to have taken an energy all its own and I've now concluded that CCBB has become less about me and more about a cause bigger than myself. So, in an effort to pay it forward, have an impact on other's lives and continue my own healing and the process of reclaiming my life and myself,  I know it's time to let Cancer Cancer bo-Bancer continue to breathe in the blogosphere. So, thanks for your continued support and stay tuned, my work is not yet done here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Cost of Cancer!

Today was one of those days where the 'other side of cancer' (the financial side) really hit me as I reflected back a year ago when I was spending most of my days in bed in between chemo treatments, nausea and sleep. A time when the only vision I had was one of getting through my days one hour at a time, being able to eat more than 3 bites of mashed potatoes for dinner and figuring out a new remedy for that damn nausea.

Fast forward a year and you would have found me not in bed, but briskly walking through our house with boxes, odds and ends in my hands, directing friends between rooms and loading our belongings into the moving van and car over the past few weeks. I knew these days were coming and I somehow managed to hold it together just long enough to get through the scurry of people and boxes that were loaded into the van and taken to our new home - storage unit #888. The reality of the 'why' behind the move would swirl through my heart and mind, but frankly, I have been starting to feel a sense of financial relief.

So this is it, the cost of cancer. And no matter what your political views and opinions are about our nation's current state of health care, all I can think of is that I made it. I'm alive. The medical bills have piled up, the credit card companies are calling several times a day (from Florida & Texas to be exact!), the anesthesiology bills are still outstanding but honestly, I'm just grateful to be here.

Don't get me wrong - tears have been shed (many tears!) with my new reality of having to move out of our home, putting our belongings into storage and moving into my mom's house in order to afford our lives. But it became necessary. Not exactly what I envisioned at my age. I am an educated person, I have 3 degrees, a state license in Speech & Language Pathology and a national certification. My entrepreneurial spirit has always driven me to new heights, hence the 'major medical' health insurance coverage I have instead of full, fancy employee coverage. I don't regret my professional choices or the $800/month that we pay for 25%-50% medical coverage. My plastic surgeon didn't take insurance like all of the others but I'm forever thankful to him (just paid him off last month!) and for my new healthy girls. I have written grants and worked from bed falling asleep with my laptop on my legs, but I still managed to work, secure a grant and bring in some additional income in the midst of meds and nausea. Hil had to compromise her work and income as well in order to take care of me in the way I needed and the way she wanted.

BUT (yes, here it comes) - I'M ALIVE! I kicked cancer's a$$ - 3 TIMES!! I'm alive to write this post. I'm alive to pack boxes and move out of my house. I'm alive to call the anesthesiologist back to see if they'll work with me on my debt. Most of all, I'm beyond grateful that I have my health, I'm in remission, I have great friends and family, we have my mom's house and many new roofs over our heads to stay in and some much needed time to decompress and digest the past 18 months. AND, I have Hil. I have everything I need.

So, I leave you with what I hear my mom's voice saying repeatedly in my head these past few weeks, Is it that things are falling apart or falling into place?

I'd like to think that they're falling into place. Because even though the cost of cancer is huge, having my life and my health back, is priceless.