Today I was thinking that it's been a little over a year since my life got turned upside down on the February day I went to see my dermatologist and found out in the same appointment that I probably had an infected knee replacement joint and cancer.
Initially we were thinking that all three surgeries - two knee replacements on the same knee and surgery to remove the skin cancer and lymph nodes would be over with by the end of summer 2012. The first step was removing the infected knee joint. That happened April 23rd 2012 in London. Four weeks later still on crutches and a pic line to clear up the infection, right on schedule I had the cancer removed in a surgery called a vulvectomy in Hamilton.
Maybe on May 23, the anniversary of the vulvectomy I will post all the wonderful cards that you awesome people made for me. Definitely worth a review!
Healing from a vulvectomy is like healing from a weed whacker/Lawnmower accident to a very delicate area of your body. And that's all I'll say about that.
It took over six weeks but when Karen and I went back to the Hamilton cancer centre we were told that one of the lymph nodes that was removed was cancerous and the bottom kind of dropped out of my world. This meant that any number of lymph nodes could already be affected as well as other major organs.
That's when the schedule for the next knee surgery to put in a new joint was put on hold. I needed to have radiation and that took quite a while to get in place.
I was nervous because I was given an abundance of information about how awful the radiation was going to be. But I found my pirate shirt with it's orange stripes and silly tassels that for some reason made me laugh and gave me courage all at the same time.
I gathered my pirate paraphernalia and got ready to face it.
Radiation. What a word. For many cancer patients it is the milder treatment to chemo. However in my case the goal was to totally eradicate the skin in the affected area. Burn it off. The technician's words to me were, "We are going to hurt you very badly." He was a man of his word.
Those five weeks of my life are mercifully kind of a blur to me now. The vulvectomy while painful was just not on the same level. And as I've said a knee replacement is a walk in the park on a sunny day with unicorns compared to radiation of this kind. Stick your hand (only not your hand) on a hot burner and then go back the next day for more and you'll come closer to the idea. Don't forget to say thank you because these people are helping to save your life.
But really what is the point of dwelling on the pain. Life is still there to be enjoyed. That is the whole point of all of this.
And finally the day came when it was time to celebrate the end of radiation.
I walked in to the restaurant and was surprised when the floor shook with the roar of people that I loved, there to celebrate one of the most important things that I have ever done.
On March 28th 2013 it was time for my final knee replacement. It feels fantastic and I can put my full weight on it already. It's a keeper.
I was able to go swimming after only four weeks and in the pool last night I said to my niece, "Pretty sure that's it, no more timeouts from swimming from now on."
"No more surgeries she asked?"
And now after today with the good news from the doctors and all clear from the CT scan I can say with confidence - no more surgeries. Full steam ahead!
My sister and me after the good news.
If I start thanking people I will be here all night. I am grateful to God for sustaining me and I do want to thank all of my brothers and sisters for their amazing support and that most definitely and assuredly includes in laws.
I think I would be remiss though if I did not thank these three people in particular for sharing a heart and giving me a reason every day to stand up and keep going.