Tuesday, June 19, 2018


It's chilling when you decide to take fate in your hands in that way—to be sitting across from the surgeon, making the decision to go ahead with a high-risk surgery to remove the mass once and for all. Kill the mass before it kills me, hopefully survive the surgery and not be killed by the surgery. And this is where I become philosophical about life and death because I'm 42, the meaning of life. I told my friend Karin after making this decision that we all die, and this is just a matter of how we decide to write this story we call our life. I could wait and see and let this mass go and see how it plays out, like all the doctors are telling me to do. But what would that be like, to be anxious all the time, like I've been?

The pathology came back inconclusive, a false negative. The oncologist was unable to get tissue from the lesion, as it's in a difficult spot in the upper lobe of my right lung—which is why it's also in a tricky spot for the surgery because it's also near the main artery. So we still don't know if the lesion is cancerous or not. It has been growing slowly over the last five years, but stable over the last two years. The oncologist and the surgeon advised me to do the good old "watch and wait" game, but after ten years of living in Cancerland, I'm done with that. I'm tired, I'm worn down.

Anton and I listened to the surgeon. He explained the risks, which was like listening to the track of a horror film. He will try to go below the ribs first, using a video camera, minimally invasive, to obtain the mass. However, because the mass is semi-solid and in a difficult location, he might have to make a bigger incision in the ribs, where there could be substantial scarring from the radiation I had as part of my breast cancer treatment. That means that I could bleed a lot from all the blood vessels in that area, and he also has to worry about the main artery that's there. So there will be a vascular surgical team to assist.

The surgery will take place in mid-September, after I take my oldest daughter, Miss Chloe, to LA to see her favourite band BTS with her Ninang Mae. Yes, I am scared. But I am also eternally grateful for my beloved Anton and my children who give me so much love, that I feel so protected and safe. I know I will be fine. I feel supported. I will heal, and I will be better. I have friends who love me and who are rooting for me.

My body might be weak, but my voice is strong. I will continue to speak out and write because my words connect with so many people who feel lost—people like me who are going through their own cancer battles, who are sick, who are abandoned by family, who are isolated, who are battling mental illness, who have experienced trauma, who are searching for their identity, who need support. I'll keep using my voice for those people, and for myself. I started this blog almost 11 years ago to heal, and I'll continue to do so.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Future Perfect Tension

I will have been in remission for ten years in three days by the time April 15th rolls around. Every April 15th since 2009, I've counted this anniversary. I've always marvelled at anniversaries and the comforting illusion they bring in the form of ritual and memory. We honour a particular day, either joyous or tragic or both, to say, basically, that we have survived a whole year of holding space for something profound, something that had altered our core being. Anniversaries are for moments that fundamentally forged our paths in life.

April 15th (and thereabouts)
2008. Bilateral mastectomy and tram-flap.
2009. (Discovery of first husband's infidelity and ensuing separation.)
2010. Birth/death of son Véo.
2011. (Anticipation of birth of daughter Moxie in two weeks.)
2014. (Grieving father's sudden death from cancer.)

This year I turned 42, and I keep jokingly saying that I will discover the meaning of my life, exposing a bit of my nerd side. I also silently have been looking forward to April 15th this year, as it is to be my 10th "cancerversary," as we call it in our young adult cancer community—the anniversary of our remission. But this year, I cannot celebrate in good faith.

For the last few weeks my husband and I have been tested to our very core. Besides counting anniversaries, I've been waking up every morning with another number: the pain scale. My everyday pain has gone to a new level where my baseline is now 7, which for me means that my entire torso hurts, maybe one or two limbs have aches, but I can move about the house and perhaps do a chore or two, and I'm not crying. If I'm at 8-9, mostly everything hurts and feels like I've been beaten up, stabbed, and set on fire, I'm prone to spontaneous crying, and I mostly can't get out of bed. Beyond that, there is no number. So when I get up, I ask myself, what number am I right now?

Then there was that CT scan I had and the words on the results: "This is suspicious for adenocarcinoma." Lung cancer.

After we shook ourselves out of panic for the first few days, we started planning. If this happens, we will do this. Of course, we want nothing to happen, but if it does, then things will move fast, and this is what we will do. Etc. Etc. No time. Time. Time. Time. It is cruel. And then more panic. Because what if I have lung cancer?

Eventually, we settled down. We got the biopsy date. Which was yesterday. I had the biopsy yesterday at the Cancer Agency at 7:45 am. When we began down the curved sidewalk leading to the sliding doors, I began to hyperventilate. I had a PTSD panic attack just from seeing those doors leading into the Cancer Agency. Anton quickly grabbed my arm and position himself between Moxie and me. We couldn't find anyone to take Moxie to school in the morning, so we had to take her with us. I took some deep breaths, and we passed through the doors.

After I was prepped, the doctor came in and talked to me at length. Beyond the obvious "it's either cancer, or it's not," he told me some shocking news. All along, the two lesions in my right lung, where I had had radiation as part of my breast cancer treatment ten years ago, looked like fibrosis, or scarring from the radiation. Fibrosis is not supposed to grow. But because my lesions grew from the last CT scan, it's very worrisome. He told me that he has seen cases where fibrosis turns into cancer, and it's called fibrosarcoma. It's very rare, and only occurs in 1 in 2 million people. But he said that even if the pathology comes back negative, he recommends removal and resection of the lung because he doesn't want to keep exposing me to radiation and giving me biopsies, which is what will have to be done in my case.

Our hope is that the pathology is negative, we remove the mass, and resection—and that next year, we can celebrate the anniversary when I will have kicked cancer's ass yet again.