~ the quest takes a new path…

Wow! It is exactly three months since my last post and I am still unwell. Since then I continued to cough endlessly and therefore have had a variety of tests. Most valuable seemed to be the CT scan which identified a 7x8cm mass in my left lung. This explains the chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. In summary I have now had 5 chest x-rays, multiple blood tests, 2 ECG’s, been tested for TB (the result was negative), 2 CT scans and the latest a fine needle lung biopsy while in a CT scanning machine. 

There is one thing I have consistently commented about since I began to feel unwell in January and that was the spot of pain in my chest. This pain was stronger in the beginning and over the Easter weekend it had released its grip, a little. When the mass was identified it explained why I have this spot of pain as it is pressing on the chest wall. 

Flying home was a little nerve-racking, especially since there is no direct way to get to Saskatoon. I have to say the staff at Air Canada were kind and attentive to make sure I was okay while flying. I returned home with all my Italian medical documents and scans on disk ready to see my doctor. More x-rays and blood tests, it feels strange not taking a friend along to interpret/translate. 

Last week I had an appointment with a respiratory specialist. She reviewed the CT scan with contrast and the various x-rays and consulted with another specialist. Then we sat down to chat. The usual questions, family history, work history, and previous health issues, then onto describing the current health issue. I found it interesting that she asked me three times in this line of questioning if my family lived nearby. Nearly 2 hours had passed when we arrived at the time to discuss what she believes is the issue. I knew I was present in the room as words such as biopsy, lymphoma, lung cancer and treatment plan hung in the air and didn’t seem to penetrate my mind. This was so surreal. I felt like a character in a book or movie being in this room hearing this news, thinking is this really happening? it’s just a cough. The doctor could tell that I was a little too calm  for just having had this particular conversation. She asked if there was someone I could spend the rest of the day with, I looked at her quizzically. She continued to say that this was a lot of information we discussed and it would be good for me to be with someone. Then reality hit. I became a puddle. After I left the doctor’s office I stopped for the blood tests she requested and then slowly walked to my car in a zombie like state. 

Once I reached the car, I sent a few text messages then drove to the pharmacy. The pharmacist said something about the prescription, I remember looking at him and saying I don’t have a cold, call the doctor if you have questions. I arrived at my house still stunned, did my best to collect myself and called my parents, my mom took the news well as she was expecting something since I had been coughing for so long. A few friends came to my house that day. It was a day of shock and emotion. 

As I continued to share this news with friends and family, the response has been wonderful, kind words and offers of help. When people see me they are surprised and often comment that I look good. I laugh and say what did you expect? They expect me to be frail and thin. Nope, I am my usually smiley and jolly self. It is interesting that people seem to believe that you have to look poorly to be unwell. Not so at all. I move a little slower and speak a little softer since I struggle to get enough air to talk as much as I would really like to, but that’s about all that is different. haha

I have made a promise to myself, and I ask my friends and family to do the same…No internet searches for any information regarding my illness and treatment. Promise!  I have doctors to ask questions of and I will ask as things progress. Currently I don’t really know what lymphoma is and that is ok. When a diagnosis is confirmed I will ask questions. For now my energy is better focused on eating well and resting. 

Friends are great. A group did the spring yard cleaning and planted flowers, shrubs and my vegetable garden last Saturday. It was nice to see everyone. An afternoon of activity like that wears me out, even though I was just walking around and talking. I fell asleep that evening at 6pm and stayed in bed all day Sunday. This is my pattern, one day of activity will mean two days of rest to recover. This is something that is difficult for others to understand.

Being unwell is strange. Every day people ask the question, How are you feeling?… I feel good, with the exception of pressure/pain in my chest and the challenges I have with breathing. This is how I have felt for months. I have learned to respect my physical limits. I am happy and do what I can within my physical limits. If I feel tired, I rest. Thankfully I now have medicine to quell the cough. This is a blessing. My body has been so tired from coughing daily for months. This helps me sleep and being rested helps me to maintain a positive attitude. 

Two days ago I had a biopsy. The doctor chose the least invasive method, a fine needle lung biopsy performed by an interventional radiologist while the patient is in a CT scan machine. This procedure is pretty cool. I was not sedated which I was a little unsure about. The worst part was the needle for the freezing into basically the centre of my chest. Ouch!!!! I asked if I could swear because it was wildly painful. After the freezing set in no problem. The doctor asked how squeamish I was and I said don’t tell me anything you are doing, talk to me about something else. So we talked about my time in Italy. Before I knew it the procedure was done and I had 4 hours to relax, since I was not allowed to move for that period of time. Nurses were checking on me regularly as I read a book and had a few naps. 

Recovery has been a little painful after this biopsy. Every way I move I can feel a pull in my chest. I think this mass did not appreciate being disturbed. It will heal. 

Now the waiting for results, apparently these take 5-10 business days. So two weeks. After being ill for months now, two weeks will pass quickly. Hopefully then we know what we are dealing with and can make a treatment plan. 

My new physical limitations are a little frustrating, it is the little things around the house that I can’t do that irritate me. Such as taking out the garbage and recycling, the bins are too heavy for me to take to the curb. At 4:30 this morning I remembered it is garbage collection day, so as I sit here typing I am listening for my neighbour to take his bin out so I can ask him to take mine out as well. Mowing the lawn, making a bed, even laundry is more physical than I had realized before. I have taken up ironing, the linens in the guest bedroom look fantastic. haha  This is where I cannot get stuck on being proud or stubborn and must ask for help.  

Food is another interesting aspect. One of the first things people offer is to make food. Interesting since food is associated with comfort. While wanting to eat healthy I realize there is no single plan that appeals to me, so I am going to take the parts I believe are beneficial and create a hybrid eating plan for myself. I’ll share my eating plan as things progress as well. 

The challenges of communication. I am very fortunate to have so many people who care about me and send me well wishes.  I want to keep friends and family informed yet I do not want to be sending and responding to messages all day long. While talking in general tires me. Please have patience since I may not respond quickly or forget to respond at all.  

I sparkle on…one day at a time.         🙂 

My love of food and my occasional rant about food…

I have always been a little more adventurous with food than most. I keep the lactose to a minimum, have eaten gluten free and red meat free for a few years, experimented with the raw food concept and done a whole lot of juicing. I can also add many detox adventures to my quest to eat healthy at any cost.

Having personally experienced many different dietary concepts, I am ever curious about food. In fact when I travel one of my favourite things to do is go to grocery stores to see what interesting foods are available in different places. Many factors contribute to the selection at the grocery store, geographic location, weather, cultural norms, and dietary customs. Not to mention crazy food trends.

Since living in Italy, food products available in my city are disappointing. I will never understand why we think we need the mass quantities…of everything! This is when I reach my soapbox moment and miss the simple life in Italy. Seeing people shop daily for food and having only a small apartment and small refrigerator to store food. Now I read food labels with new perspective. A bag of flour here in Canada has so many ingredients on the label I swear my Italian is better than trying to pronounce all those long names of preservatives! UGH! This drives me crazy! We are our own worst enemy here in North America with our love of mass quantities and the I’m so busy badge of honour.

This spring I enjoyed a lovely vacation in California visiting friends I met while on a cooking vacation in Italy. One morning as we are driving to pick strawberries and talking about my time in Italy and food, I get on my soapbox with my usual rant about food and preservatives! This can be quite an amusing conversation at times. Phil says we are taking a detour to the bookstore, he knows of a book about food I am sure to enjoy. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan enters my life.

Simply put, the book explores the food chain to learn where our food comes from, both the commercially produced side and the old fashioned way. The commercial side are the things nobody really wants know about the food we eat. The old fashioned way was a walk down memory lane for me, cows grazing on the pasture, chickens wandering around and the farm dog overseeing it all.

As a kid I spent the summer months on the farm with my aunt experiencing the simple life first hand. I was a messy haired little tomboy who made sure to leave instructions not to go to the chicken coop without me in the morning! I did not want to miss out on the fun! The author’s description of the eggmobile is much like the fun I had as a kid. Every morning my aunt and I would let the chickens out and use sticks to turn over the cow patties and watch and listen to the chickens going crazy with delight indulging on all the fat worms wriggling under the cow patties! To a five year old kid who loved bugs this was awesome! Not sure who enjoyed the excitement more, the chickens or me?

Life was simple. Making food from scratch was how we were raised. Funny fact about me, my first dining experience was when I was thirteen years old, dining is an exaggeration since it was only a pizza restaurant. That year I also learned what a grilled cheese sandwich was, from the kids I babysat. This may explain a few things about my views on food.

The chapter about hunting made me smile. My dad always seemed to be hunting or fishing depending on the season. Fall hunting was my favourite, sure there was the occasional carcass of some animal hanging in the garage, but it was more about the food dad created. Wild meat was a part of life for us, deer sausage that my dad made was the best! I can still see the silver grey meat grinder secured to the white table and smell the spices and fresh meat being ground together to make the sausage. Next would come the smoke house which dad would set up on the driveway. Walking home from school in the fall, the smell of the smoke and fat drippings from homemade deer sausage being cooked filled the air! This was special, dad’s homemade deer sausage was one of our family favourites. Add mom’s homemade perogies, freshly baked buns and poppy seed chiffon cake and we were all happy! Makes me hungry just thinking about it!!

I often say grocery stores would go out of business if more people ate the way I do. I look into people’s carts in line at the cashier and inwardly shake my head at all the packaged foods they buy. Doesn’t anybody take the time to cook anymore? I mean really cook not pour the contents of a box or a can into a pot and add water?!? So funny, the topic of food always brings out my soapbox rants.

I am grateful for an upbringing that has taught me to appreciate the simple things in life. I enjoy growing a garden, cooking food from scratch and taking time for the little things that make me smile.

Thanks to my friend Phil for introducing me to a book that I truly enjoyed reading. I appreciate the effort the author put into his research and how well he described his experiences. I smiled and laughed out loud many times as the five year old in me continues to walk around the farm seeing cows in the pasture on my way to feed the chickens. 🙂

Ciao ciao