Archive | July 2012

In memory of …….

News that my friend’s daughter passed away after a long battle with cancer saddened me immensely yesterday. She was a young and brave warrior: now a beautiful angel free of pain and suffering. My heart goes out to her parents and family  who are left with the void but I know that  they will be celebrating her wonderful life and courage.

I ask myself if one can prepare for this eventuality – the loss of a loved one. After much soul searching I realise that there is a law of nature that makes death acceptable:  the oldest should die first as they are seen to be the weakest and the ‘survival of the fittest’ rings true in this scenario. But here this is not the case;  a young woman has been stripped of her life.

Part of me feels almost guilty to still be here battling on ….but I know this is just madness talking. It is during these times that I question the existence of a higher power or a God of any sort -  but then I look around and realise how much of life is unfair. …..Suddenly it dawns on me that I am drifiting back to old patterns of behaviour and only seeing the negative when I should be grateful for all the positive elements in my own personal life.  Unfortunately, these are the small things we take for granted each day: waking up to the light filtering through a blind;  the heat of the sun on bare skin: the sound of rain dancing on a window pane ; the touch of a loved one and the smiles of strangers.

In my personal  journey and sharing those of others with terminal illnesses, it appears that our greatest fear is not death itself, but the pain of those we leave behind. I often think about my death and indeed it is the thought of my son….. alone… that causes my eyes to well with tears.

But just for today I am here –  today I am healthy  -  using this as a trampoline , I can continue to live and love. Today I am grateful for life.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”   Richard Bach,

This entry was posted on July 31, 2012. 3 Comments

Out of the tunnel…..

I haven’t been well enough to blog during my stay in hospital but am now back home and enjoying every minute of my recovery. The sun has reappeared from its hiding place and for me signifies the new light in my life …. that I am once again ‘technically ‘ free of cancer as they have removed not only the 3 cancerous nodes but another 12 surrounding to ensure a clear margin. It wasn’t what had been discussed, but it was what the surgeon did; When asked why, I merely got the reply that it was what they thought was best ! Well, I don’t even want to go there ……..

I tend to get on with things in a pragmatic fashion and although the stay in hospital was not without its small dramas,  all proceeded well.

As I lay in my ‘up and down’ bed pressing the various controls to find a comfortable position, I found many opportunities to reflect on different things.  I realised that whilst they say that teaching is a true vocation (one that I have enjoyed for the last 10 years )  I  believe that ‘ nurses’ are surely  angels in disguise and should be given wings. Based in a Cancer hospital, one thing became evident quite quickly  : that people around me were extremely unwell  and the thought did cross my mind that many were dying. This was a place that I really didn’t want to return to ……..

The whole experience was made bearable  due to the presence of the nurses : very special men and women  arriving  to work their shifts  Yes, they handed out the ‘drugs’ that numbed the unrelenting pain but they also dished out understanding and smiles that got me through each day and night – not an easy task.  I tried to switch of my senses and not hear the moans  of other patients  fighting the battle, but found myself often thinking of the return of the dreaded beast and an eventual painful, physical decline and  ultimate death. But there was always a face, a voice to distract  me from this downward spiral into depression and anxiety. For this I am eternally grateful to all the staff at Granard House, Royal Marsden 3rd floor.  My admiration and respect goes to all of you!

Back in the comfort of my own home,  I am learning to plan for an uncertain future and realise that nothing in life is ‘secure’ . I am adjusting to a life that won’t ever be the same but could indeed be better if I allow myself to accept this cancer as a ‘messenger’ not a disease. Of course there is a shadow that lurks in the darkness but if I follow the light, I will be okay.

And now we wait…… appointments with radiotherapist and pathology reports next week.

Happiness is like a butterfly.
The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
It comes and sits softly on your shoulder.
 - Henry David Thoreau

This entry was posted on July 24, 2012. 6 Comments

Reflections…….

 

Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back from the  mirror…. Looking at my reflection I see a strong,  positive and self assured woman …..  but more than often my thoughts take me to very negative places where I dwell in self -pity quite contentedly and become oblivious to the world and the feelings of  others. This for me is my ‘natural state of being’;  it has been since I was a small child, where I developed  the tendency to ‘isolate’ as a coping mechanism  to counteract  the feelings of  not belonging.

What we demonstrate to the outer world is not necessarily what we really feel and believe inside. I am convinced  that to assist  recovery from any  ‘cancer’ ( using whatever route we decide)  we really need to believe  that we CAN heal. It is so easy for the sub conscious to play mind games and allow seeds of doubt to grow: we research and look at statistics, we see only people that are dying from cancer and not those that are living.  It is a downward spiral.  Instead we must change our way of thinking and tend to our spiritual beings which can often be overshadowed and buried in the frenzy of modern living.

My love and prayers go to all you out there that are on a similar journey and to the loved ones that are travelling with you.

xx

 

 

This entry was posted on July 18, 2012. 5 Comments

Decisions, decisions….

Life at the moment seems to be series of waiting rooms and doctor’s appointments to get second opinions on the best way to proceed Making important decisions has never been one of my strong points –  Perhaps this stems from ‘fear’ of making the wrong decision and being in some way judged. Anyway, I thank my son who actually ‘listens’ more attentively than I do; is certainly more rational and therefore able to look at the pros and cons of each proposed surgery/treatment.

It has been decided to operate to remove the mass of the tumour and the surrounding nodes in order to get a clear margin ( this means where there appears to be no evidence of further metastasis).  CLEAR MARGIN  - this is one area where surgical opinion differs. One surgeon wants to remove a ‘box’ area around the tumour together with the muscle : (    the other surgeon wants to remove  the whole chain of nodes down my neck and across the clavicle cutting into the muscle and removing what he deems necessary. My oncologist  convinces me that his surgeon is the best but likes ‘big’ operations  however,  he will speak to him and ‘reign’ him in a little. Excuse me, this is my neck we are talking about …. the anatomical part of my body that bears the weight of my super brain!

We have finally decided on the surgeon but  it is necessary to speak with him BEFORE the ‘cut’ and establish exactly what he intends to do. During the surgery will he stick to the plan  and remove only what has been agreed ?  Who is going to control what happens in the operating theatre ? I have been advised to write my wishes on the anesthetic form.

And so operation is scheduled for Thursday – I am feeling relieved but at the same time nervous and apprehensive for the reasons above. I am not worried about the scarring as much as the loss of muscle tissue inhibiting movement and causing ongoing pain and discomfort.  It is impossible to know how my body will react to the surgery and I have to accept this and stay as healthy as possible to aid my recovery.

This cancer is a journey but I am learning so much and finding the courage to make long awaited changes in my life. In a funny, surreal way  I feel at peace with myself for the first time.

Thank you all for your prayers and making me realise that I am not alone.  x

Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant.  ~Anthony Robbins

For my son….

 

To my son

Starting this blog was a way to keep a diary of events and to help anyone else suffering from this dreadful disease called breast cancer.  It was a way to unload my feelings and thoughts ; sometimes negative, sometimes positive.  This time round you are onboard and closely travelling with me on this journey; I am not sure if there is a destination as that indicates a time  we will arrive – this is a never ending journey that we have embarked on together and will be part of our lives from now on.

I would like to say ‘I am sorry’  because you are still young, life is beautiful and in some way I feel guilty of having stripped you of that carefree existence……….. I would like to say ‘ It’ll  be okay’ to try and protect you …… but I don’t posess that celestial power……..Most of all I want to say how proud I am that you are my son. Your maturity and strength in handling this new diagnosis. But , it is much, much more…… I want you to know that you are a remarkable young man: intelligent, sensitive and I love you so much: You are the most important  gift that life has given me and you need to always cherish that thought.

The first time round I felt alone and had to be strong for the both of us, for the whole family trying again to prove that I could do it. I think back and now admit that I was terrified, but taking caring of you was my driving force. We are back there again,  but now I have you with me and that makes this whole process so much easier. To be able to share my fears and moments of doubt with you , makes each day special.

To hear the words ‘Mum, I will be alright, no matter what happens,’  has given me a sense of relief that only a parent could feel. There will be times when perhaps words may seem difficult, but those moments of silence that we share can only cement our strong bond.  A bond that will exist forever.

I love you

Mum  xxx

This entry was posted on July 12, 2012. 4 Comments

Never stop believing……

I knew the results of the PET scan were ready and the night before I prayed once again for strength to face whatever the news might be …..but a quiet moment of reflection made me feel so self-centered and self -pitying. I need to constantly remind myself of reality:  the injustices and horrendous suffering all around me; that every story has real people and emotions. These thoughts  help give me a truer perspective on my life, not allowing myself to be be sucked  into this black tunnel of cancer. It is an alluring hole where one can bury themselves alive before the grim reaper’s final calls are heard

My son Alex and a dear friend accompanied me to the hospital. As I sat in the familiar place, in the familiar room, I looked at the consultant and for split second expected the worst. His face was sullen and inexpressive, then the words ……’ there is no evidence of active disease anywhere else other than the neck.’ A rush of heat filled my body.

He continued to read the radiologist’s report from the computer screen …..It appears that the radiologist who wrote the report had made, what he described as a ‘human error’,  by omitting a simple word NO. This meant that it  read …. Focal lesions seen on Right lung Instead of NO focal lesions on R lung.  Lesions can be synonymous with ‘tumours’ . I couldn’t believe that such a basic, life changing error could exist in a professional medical report. Now it has me wondering and doubting the results all over again…… just my manic mind playing games as usual.

This means that the recurrence appears to be isolated in the neck nodes above my collar bone, Whilst this is obviously not good news, the fact that it has not spread anywhere else makes the prognosis better and my time on mother earth significantly longer.

I seem to always prepare myself for the worst news so that I appear to be handling the situation; constantly trying to prove myself and expecting an accolade of some description. This behaviour clearly stems from deep insecurities that I have carried with me for most of my life: low self esteem and fear that constantly pervades my innermost thoughts.

Thank you to for keeping me in your hearts and prayers………  I understand the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that many of you may feel, but reading my blog and commenting helps me so much….. just knowing that you are all out there in cyberspace.

 

Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.
Epictetus (50-120) Greek philosopher.

Cherish your loved ones……

Image

Hello everyone, my name is Alex Corona and I am Carrina’s son.

I have put off posting on the website because I didn’t want it to be an empty gesture (mums been asking  me to post!) I wanted to do it when I had something to say and when I felt it was the right time.

I want to tell you all about Carrina and maybe provide some help, not only for those people suffering with cancer but those dealing with a loved one who is affected by it. As my Mum has told you, this is our second time round dealing with this and yes it is upsetting; Yes, it is frustrating and above all… it is frightening.

To be faced with the mortality of a loved one is heart- wrenching. My Mum is an amazing woman and I think the world of her, Its always been me and her against the world. I love my other family members, My Grandma is incredibly important to me, in fact in general, I think family is sacred and held above all in regard; family does not have to be tied to blood relations, I consider my closest friends as my family. So, to be reminded of how easily I could lose that, is just plain terrifying. I’m not sure how other feel, but I always thought my Mum was invincible. When you are young you look to your parents and loved ones as the stability in your life. It is only as I grew older and matured that I realised how much is sacrificed and how much anxiety is dealt with as a parent.

I respect my Mum immensely for everything she has done; she raised me almost by herself, my Dad wasn’t around but we had the support of my grandmother and grandpa. She has been through a lot in her life, and she has made her fair share of mistakes as we all have, but she has also accomplished much and more; she is smart, talented and funny and without her I would not be who I am today. Although this news has been hard, it seems unfair, I think if there is one thing I can take from this unfortunate event is that we are closer than ever. Sometimes in life we let things that are in the scheme of things unimportant, take presidency over our loved ones. Arguments about such menial things become exaggerated to the point of collapsing relationships. I have learnt to let go of these things… It isn’t easy, but with something like this….it’s the little things that make a big difference.

When I first found out about the cancer coming back, I was at university, and it hit me like a brick wall. I couldn’t believe it, I wouldn’t believe it, we had been through so much only for it to come back. Usually I consider myself to be a very level headed, positive logical person, but finding out this news broke every one of my barriers I had built. The stage of unknowing is the hardest but it is also the most crucial stage. If you give into self pity and anger, resentment all of these negative feelings, it will drag you down and your loved ones with it. So I called my mum and we talked about it, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. We talked about mortality and the possibility of death, that she wouldn’t be there for my graduation and more and I decided right then and there, I would not let it defeat us. We are a unit and together we would get through this. And so, since that day, I have made an effort to know everything I can and to be with her every step of the way.

It is very hard to understand the feelings that someone with cancer is going through and at times, I feel very alienated and resentful, but then I take a step back and stop thinking about myself and just try and listen. Its not easy to talk about these things, its even harder to listen without your own opinions butting in. When I say listening, I don’t just mean what they are saying, I mean truly listening to their very feelings. Once I did this, I was able to understand more of what my mum was going through, her hopes, her fears, her anxieties and I accepted everyone of them. I stopped making unneeded comments because of my own opinions and just listened.

I think I will leave it there for today and post some more tomorrow, I wanted it to be a surprise for Mum. I will let her tell you today’s news and maybe comment later.

To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow our mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.
— Peter Senge

This entry was posted on July 10, 2012. 9 Comments

Angels….

So many thoughts eating away at my mind have made it difficult to write on my blog. On Friday last week, I faced the fear and lay in the tunnel of the PET scan.  I was accompanied by a very special friend who is travelling with me on this journey; a person who is not afraid to share with me both the uplifting and disheartening pieces of news as they come. Together with Alex, my only son, we are on a winding road that sometimes  takes us back to the same place but will soon seem more direct

I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible throughout the hour that I remained immobile in the spaceship. I tried a new technique to help me meditate (  explained by my yoga teacher). I concentrated on the sounds around me: the whirring of the machine; the droning of the air conditioning and finally on my own breath as I emptied my thoughts and drifted off to sleep. When I awoke, there were only a few minutes left and I had no recollection of any dreams …… I was peaceful.

Well, that was over and done with!! All I had to do now was await the results … we will know these tomorrow morning.

A beautiful young woman  told me this weekend that she believed in ‘angels’ . For me, this conjured up images of unfurling feathery white, wings ready to embrace and protect me, clearly influenced by  the existing representations of angels in literature and art. The word also associates itself with music and song –  Jack Johnson. Robbie Williams…… songs that I have listened to over and over again.

Sharing this with a dear friend,  I realised that everyone has their own idea of what an ‘angel’ is.  People that walk the earth next to us everyday: helping us, listening to us. We often coin the phrase, ‘Youre an angel, thank you’ or  ‘ I must have a guardian angel somewhere’  Sometimes we think of people we have lost becoming angels and waiting in heaven to welcome us when the time comes. This can often comfort and help the greiving process …… the mere idea that in some form, they are still with you.

I want to believe that I  have angels hovering around me in any form they wish to take. In these difficult and trying times, the mere thought alleviates some of the fear and loneliness that I experience every day.

Yes, indeed, I could easily welcome an angel into my life now !!

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth 
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.

~John Milton, Paradise Lost

This entry was posted on July 9, 2012. 2 Comments

Facing fear……

Appointment with oncologist for second opinion was educational and in some ways uplifting. Firstly, it was lovely to be in front of a  female doctor as I seem to have been surrounded by the male gender which under normal circumstances, is not such a bad thing!  Secondly, she had read all of my notes prior to entering her office and not as we discussed my case.

I felt extremely at ease with her and not ‘rushed’ as I normally experience when  visiting my other consultant at the Marsden. All large corporations/businesses have ‘communication’ problems and this is certainly true of large, specialist centres of medical excellence. At this point in my journey, I really need the relationship with my oncologist to be cemented in trust and transparency:

The second biopsy confirms Her2 status, Grade 3 and negative and Eg positive 5/8  for those breast cancer readers. Oncologist also informs me that this means that in all probablity, the hormone treatment ( Letrozole) that I  have currently switched to from Tamoxifen, will not hold back the cancer as the node in my neck is already quite large ( 3-4cm)  and there are smaller ones in the area. Unfortunately, this reduces some treatment options.

Throughout my ongoing research on breast cancer ( and indeed cancer in general) It was revealed to me from a conventional medical view point, that the immune system does not actually recognise and destroy breast cancer cells. It does, however, recognise certain cancers such as that of the kidney.  It is beneficial to remain as healthy as possible but apparently, the health of your immune system will not  bear any weighting on the prognosis/outcome of the cancer.

Whilst this makes sense to my scientific mind, my now more developed spiritual side poses a number of questions.

- stories of cancers going into spontaneous remission

- cancers ( tumors)  disappearing or shrinking

- the role of the mind, stress and trauma

I will therefore continue to read and research as I do strongly believe that cancer is more than a physical manifestation of a tumour

Returning to the present situation: It is recommended I have a PET scan –  an injection of a radioactive glucose is given and cells that are using the glucose at a faster rate are deemed to be ‘cancerous’.  In laymans’s terms, this type of scan will show up a cancerous ‘cell’ before it has become large enough as a tumour to be detected by CT scans.  This  will  inform the surgeon of how many nodes to remove from my neck rather than taking the whole lot!!

BUT and there is always a but…………… it would also potentially show up other cancerous cells in the body : (  This is what I don’t think I can cope with. Having already been through the agony of waiting for results, the sheer thought of repeating the process is indescribable.  It is known as the ‘ostrich effect’, my desire to bury my head in the sand and ignore the reality of what I have going on in my body. I have cancer and that is a fact – it is now no longer confined to my breast but it has metastasised and that is a fact. Treatment involving  surgery and radiation are now becoming a fast approaching fact.

Negative thoughts again  - ‘How long do I really have?’  ‘ I am actually going to die of this’ ………… and my impending doom is on the doorstep of my mind.   I must continue to believe that I can help myself to recover; that no two cancers are identical; that statistics are just averages and outliers do exist as do  miracles.

I am brought back to what can only be the grim reality of life: As I sit here writing,  a friend’s daughter is embracing her last few months of life with her parents : a young woman  in her early twenties battling a voracious cancer since her teens with courage and dignity. This puts my life into perspective and makes me once again realise how lucky I really am.

We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
Martin Luther King. Jr
This entry was posted on July 3, 2012. 3 Comments