Me again, I am glad you’re back! I promised to talk about the miriad of programs that exist in this great Province of Alberta, that aim to help people that have been diagnosed with cancer.
For me, the information started flowing the day of my diagnosis at my family doctor’s office. The nurse, Reena, who I have known since she was a toddler, printed some material from a ‘site’, called uptodate.com specifically looking at the adjuvant therapy for HER2 positive information, and printed several pages for me. Also, at my request, she printed all of my test results going back to my first blood work. I was just a new patient of a couple of months and feel rather lucky that I chose to change doctors, to be closer to home was my thinking, but it lead to an earlier mammogram, which may have saved my life. I only just remembered that I said I would email Reena to let her know how I was doing as following that fateful day, I haven’t been back to their clinic. I will return after I am no longer receiving chemo and I am ‘handed back’ to my family doctor.
My care was taken over by the CBCP(Comprehensive Breast Care Program). This program does so much to guide a patient through all the steps of treatment whether it be biopsies, referral for surgery, chemotherapy and so on. I presume the CBCP also referred me to the Patient Navigator Program. They are found at many hospitals that deal with cancer therapy. It is important to note that I didn’t need to ask for this help at all. They found me, likely referred by my family doctor.
With everything still seeming quite over-whelming, I doubt I would have sought out help and support for myself. I think I would feel far more vulnerable without those supports in place, that are anchoring me.
“We interrupt this program for a word from our sponsor”…not really, but I couldn’t resist that phrase to interject with something that is off topic. Yesterday, July 5th/18, I went to an occupational therapist for help with my surgery site. I will talk more about this and the reason for it, in another post. This trip gave me pause when it comes to the prevalence of breast cancer. First, after a few minutes chatting, the OT told me that she was in treatment as well. I knew she had a modified work schedule due to health problems but never guessed that it would be the same disease. I feel very sorry about that but it was an opportunity to share our individual journeys for the same disease. Following my session I went to a drugstore and while at the checkout, which was not terribly busy, I was inspired to tell the lady in front of me that she had awesome hair, just lovely blonde/gray curls. I said that if my hair came back curly I hoped it would look like hers. That started the conversation…she said her sister had been treated for breast cancer also and talked about her hair regrowth and then the clerk said that she also had BC and her hair came in curly but as it grew longer had straightened (she hasn’t cut it since and it was 10 years ago). Hence, my need to blog about this and how it is shocking to me. We need to find out why the rate of this cancer is so high.
Back to topic with some websites. The main site that will take you to other links more specific to your needs is simply cancer.ca, so if you don’t know where to start, that is it. If you need to connect and chat with other cancer patients do try cancerconnection.ca. I visited a ‘sanctuary’, if you will, that is only a couple of years old called Wellspring Edmonton, wellspringedmonton.ca. It is a gathering place where you can take part is a wide variety of activities, discover a new hobby, learn useful strategies in dealing with cancer and much more. This place is fantastic! It is largely ran by volunteers, that have been touched by cancer plus trained professionals. It is funded by donations and grants and all of their programs are free for people under-going or have under-went cancer treatment.
Then there is Sorrentino’s Compassion House, compassionhouse.org, What a jewel this is! A place to stay while receiving treatment, if you live more than 50 kms away from the city, with only a nominal fee. I plan to stay there with my gal pal for 2 nights during my next cycle, which I was scheduled for at the ‘Cross’, this time, as it is time for my heart test again. This is to make sure that the herceptin is not affecting how my heart is pumping, as it has been known to do.
Speaking of the ‘herceptin’, the miracle drug for women with an HER2+ diagnosis, one of my chemo nurses told me of a book, that I plan to read at some point, called “The Emporer of All Malidies”, written by the doctor who made the discovery of this very effective treatment. All I can say is thank you to him for his fortitude and passion as without it, a lot of women like me would be facing a much less optimistic outcome.
Another resource is, and I will stop soon so you will go and discover and not have to spend your life here in my blog, is Alberta Aids to Daily Living. This resource is not dedicated solely to cancer but offers specialized devices and equipment for many health needs, temporary or not. They have a breast prosthesis program which is offered through various venders. I have not looked into it yet but may if I feel I need something more than a ‘fluffy’ or my newest addition, the awesome ‘knitted knocker’, made for me with loving hands and really is the most comfy falsie that I have.
I will now list off some of my more frequently used publications, that are readily available at the health facilities you will visit;
Breast Cancer and You
Coping When You Have Cancer
Understanding Treatment for Breast Cancer
Your Guide to the Cross Cancer Institute
Living With Cancer
Living Your Best During Systemic Treatment
I hope that this blog post has been helpful. It helps me to feel like I might be able to help my friends or friends of friends, and so on, through their journey. I feel we need to share our stories, even though you may have your own need for privacy, which I get, as I felt it too in the beginning. It is good to talk and receive support from people who wouldn’t be in your nucleous of [family plus a few others]. You get used to people asking you how you are doing and even appreciate it. It is no longer an “I hear you are not well” and “is it true?”, but a “wow, you look great”(even if you don’t feel all that great) it is good to hear and great to know that they know and act their natural way under the circumstances. Once I knew of one or two people whom I hadn’t personally told, that knew and mentioned it, I felt I wanted to get my story out on my terms with accurate information, and not leave those people wondering or making their own assumptions. There are so many different diagnoses with breast cancer with very different prognoses. Thankfully, the majority can be cured or at least managed for many years. Your life is no longer over. On that note, don’t forget about donating as the need for the many services that are there for us, need constant support. Research is on-going too, which is why I am able to enjoy a normal life during treatment. Cancer is not over and until it is, we need to keep up the fight. Enjoy your life and health today and always!