Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cancer Road Trip #2 - Bone Marrow Biopsy

WARNING! Partial nudity and gross medical procedures shown below!

Went for my bone marrow biopsy today. The purpose of this test is to determine if the cancer has spread to my marrow. Let's hope not.

(Top Left) You can see the bullseye, in the upper left quadrant of my right butt cheek.
(Top Right) Then, in addition to the morphine and lorazepam that's made me feel drunk, I get shot up with some lidocaine for local freezing.
(Middle Left) See the long drill in Dr. Herst's hand? That's about to go into my pelvis.
(Middle Right) Here's the drill, buried up to the hilt in my ass.
(Bottom Left) And this is what they got out.
(Bottom Right) This about sums up how it feels.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Muscle ups!

Today's workout: 30 Muscle ups for time: 11:50!

Working nights at the NBFD now. Rest day tomorrow for the biopsy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lunch with my parents

Woke up too early. I need more sleep if I'm to be a good cancer patient. Said 'bye' to Anna's mom and was off to Mount Sinai for the 2nd sperm banking appointment. Just in case....

After that I drove from Toronto to Peterborough for lunch with my parents. I hadn't seen them since my diagnosis. It was nice to be with them, if only for an hour. I think I was able to rub off some of my optimism and strength on Mom, she said she needed that. I'd rather be me through this whole process than anyone else, Anna or my mom especially, because they don't feel the positive energy I have inside. They just have to believe that I will beat this, while I can know it.

Left home and drove to North Bay, feeling my neck much of the way. I have a hematoma under the surgery scar, which has become smaller and more lump-like in the last few days. I'm wondering now if it's just a hematoma, or if removing one lump has simply made more room for the next to thrive. Every little headache, chest pain, belly grumble, or sore throat is now a potential symptom. My throat is quite sore, but just in the one spot, on the left side. Is that from all the yelling I did over the weekend, or is it another node?

Mad and sad

So - today is not a great day for me. I am sad and soggy and feeling really down. It has been such a hard year for us. I still know Bob will be fine...
I think things got a chance to sink in a little deeper having the weekend away. I am very grateful that I had a great weekend with great friends doing things that filled my soul!
Bob and I are so lucky in so many ways and this all so sucks! I am so sad. We had such a different picture of this winter would hold... And now we know it will be a hard winter. I am mad at the world. Why Bob?!? Why us?!?! It was a rough year before the C word...
It is so hard to watch someone I love so much have to face this (even though he is being SO AMAZINGLY positive about it). I am afraid of what the winter will bring. I am afraid I won't know what to do or how to help. I know I can only be me. I know there are a lot of things I can do and skills that I have that will be great in this kind of journey. I know a new and even stronger me will emerge to deal with this. Sometimes I am tired of discovering newer and stronger versions of me. I like being strong, but I also need to be able to be vulnerable, to be able to fall apart. I know that there is value and strength in vulnerability. I have some leadership training info about that somewhere...maybe that is part of my lesson in this. Being able to be strong and vulnerable.
It seems too weird that Bob is comforting me right now. He tells me that we have cancer. I guess that means that he gets to take care of me sometimes too and when we both need taking care of we call on the tons of friends and family who have offered help. I know I need to take care of myself to be able to be strong for him. I guess today that looks like crying a lot. There has been so much grief in my heart this year. There is more now. I guess I'll just let it out - it certainly can't do any good if I leave it in there...
I feel so mad and sad and writing this has helped... and now I just feel tired.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fran, am I sore

Finished up the CrossFit certification today. What a wonderful group of people. And what an incredible soreness I feel in my thighs! We must have done hundreds of squats, with near-perfect form. Now I can barely walk down the stairs. In the photo above, I'm in the front row, 2nd from the right.

Today's workout:

3 rounds for time
21-15-9 reps 95# thrusters and pullups

My time: 5:48 (but I had to scale the thrusters to 65# in the middle of the set of 15, I just couldn't lift that much one more time.

Evening was spent chatting with Anna's mom (I was staying at her house in Toronto), and reading some of the pile of material the Cancer Centre has given me. Funny how a week ago I had a completely different "To Do" list. I can barely remember now what was on it, it's become irrelevant. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about cancer, lymphoma, and chemotherapy now, while avoiding the dog's breakfast of information on the internet. I have enough printed material from reputable sources right now without surfing aimlessly for who-knows-what online.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fight Gone Bad

I'm in Toronto this weekend for a CrossFit certification seminar. I hope to have some photos up tomorrow. For those of you new to me and/or this blog, CrossFit is the fitness program I follow. It involves, "constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity," (IIRC from today's class). Basically very intense workouts. I plan to keep this up through chemo. Of course, I won't be doing it at the same level of intensity that I am now, but that's the beauty of CF. As Coach Glassman says, "The needs of our grandmothers and Olympic athletes differ by degree, not kind." In other words, functional fitness is just as important for the elderly as it is for a firefighter. If you doubt this, take a tour through a retirement home sometime.

So I said to the Coach today, "Thanks for inventing CrossFit, it's changed my life. And about a year from now, I'll come up to you again and tell you that CrossFit SAVED my life."

I've been reading a book called Cancer Fitness, by Anna Schwartz. I've learned that exercising through chemo or radiation helps reduce fatigue, decrease bone density loss and functional ability loss, alleviate anxiety and depression, and improve sleep, self-esteem, and body image. This is true whether you are a fitness buff like me or whether you've never exercised before. Some people have called me inspirational for committing to maintaining some sort of fitness program through my illness. I think the true inspiration would be the person who BEGINS a fitness program (even if that is "only" walking around the hospital for 10 minutes a day).

Anyway, today's workout at the seminar was Fight Gone Bad:

3 rounds for points:
1 minute 12# 10' wall ball shots
1 minute 75# sumo deadlift high pull
1 minute 24" box jumps
1 minute 75# push press
1 minute on Concept II rower
1 minute rest

Count one point per repetion, except in the rower, where you count calories burned. My score was 254.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Aline and me (and Michael)

Today's CrossFit workout: Michael (3x 800 m run, 50 situps, 50 back extensions)

22:12 (A PR, beating the old time of 24:51!)

As promised, here is the photo of Aline the intuitive healer, and me.

Trust, Love and Joy

After our long day yesterday we were both glad to have healing sessions booked with Aline. Bob will be posting a picture of her soon. She is a fabulous healer who does massage, energy work and so much more! I have been seeing her periodically for several years and LOVE to lie on her table.
It was just what I needed today. I felt calm and at peace. I know Bob is going to be fine. I know we are going to get through this together. With trust, love and joy.

Trust that we will be fine and Bob will recover well. Trust that this year and this journey are making us stronger and better as people and as partners to each other. Trust that there is enough - and thank you all for helping prove that to us - we see and hear more and more abundance of love and support each day. Thank you so much! In a world where I think we are taught to focus on lack, this in itself is a huge thing for me to see so powerfully demonstrated. I can slide into feelings of lack too easily. Thank you again!

Love. The love that Bob and I have for each other....deepened through the challenges of this year already and deepening even more through this new journey we find ourselves on. The love we feel and hear and receive with open arms and hearts from all those reaching out to us. The love we both have for being alive! Love of this beautiful place we live and the beauty of each day. Love for ourselves. Loving Bob. Loving and being in awe of the fabulous way he is embracing this journey with such strength and openness. Taking care of each other. Being strong for each other. Love in vulnerability and strength.

Joy. Feeling joy at being alive. Remembering that joy can be so simple. One of the things I love about Bob and I is how much we love to laugh together. Simple silly things are joyful. Just being together - joyful. Enjoying the moments that seem crisper now that the word cancer is part of our lives. Interesting. Sometimes I wonder where joy is in my life and it seems to me now that it is all over the place if I stop to notice it! So far Bob and I have actually been laughing a lot through this process. There have been tears, but also a LOT of laughter. Joy in each other. HOORAY!

Bob and I head off in different directions this weekend - to do things we both adore with people we are so looking forward to being with. It will be great to share all the fun we've had on Monday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Our first cancer road-trip!

We spent today at the NorthEast Regional Cancer Centre in Sudbury. What an amazing place! Everyone is so friendly and it is a beautiful facility. We were shepherded through the confusing building, reception, and registration by yellow-coated volunteers to our first appointment with the chemotherapy oncologist. Dr. Herst is quietly competent while our Primary Nurse, Donna, is a blast! She is warm and funny and took lots of time make be sure we understood everything. Drs Herst and Donna explained to us two treatment options, the first being 3 courses of chemo (1 day every 3 weeks) followed by a month of radiation (15 minutes per day, five days a week). The second option is 6-8 courses of chemo and no radiation, taking a total of 4-6 months.

They booked a bone marrow sampling for Hallowe'en, and another CT Scan and a gallium scan sometime soon. These tests will allow them to stage the cancer and choose the appropriate chemo drugs. It looks like either way chemo will begin sometime mid- to late-November, depending on the test appointment dates.

We need to choose either North Bay or New Liskeard as our primary chemo site, and will have to go to Sudbury for certain appointments. Donna says we'll be going up and down the highway like a yo-yo. We have until after the second round of chemo to decide which treatment option we want to pursue.

After lunch we met the radiation oncologist. Dr. Bowen explained to us some of the pros and cons and side effects of radiation and answered a few questions that remained from the morning. Dr. Bowen is outgoing and her nurse is quiet--the opposite of quiet Dr. Herst and crazy Donna. Finally, it was blood tests and then a social visit to Estelle, the lovely receptionist who got us in so quickly! She was very pleased to have us come say hi!

Our brains are fried with all the information and choices and reading. We also haven't been getting quite as much sleep as we need. We went to Chapters with plans to pick out a bunch of books but couldn't see straight, so had tea instead. We are now on our way home, typing this update in the car. Hooray for laptops!

We know we are doing well because we were still able to make jokes and laugh through the day. (Bob looks in those funny gowns.) We are looking forward to a good sleep and massages tomorrow morning from Aline the therapeutic healer from Haileybury. We'll be posting updates etc to the blog at

Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts today, Love Anna & Bob

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Posted by Anna

Friday October 19, 10:30 am our world changed forever. The doctors office called and asked where Bob was. I said away, but they kept asking. I finally asked them if it was about the results and the next thing I know I am talking to the doctor himself. He called Bob at the WMA conference and I found out the details a few hours later. That few hours was terrible. The day and a half until I saw Bob was terrible, though very good friends spent the night and next day with me.
It was SO good to see Bob that night!
We have been spending a lot of time together researching and making appointments, calling family and friends...
We are in a void - we know he has B-cell lymphoma, but we don't know what that means in terms of treatment. Tomorrow we will know.
Bob is being SO positive and optimistic. It is truly amazing.
Tomorrow we will know more.
We have spent so much time in limbo this year. It has been a truly challenging year of waiting and not knowing and false starts with 2 miscarriages and the house.
I am looking forward to knowing more tomorrow...
I know we can do this together. This year has already made us stronger and this will make us stronger yet.

Oncology consultations tomorrow

Tomorrow Anna and I make the two hour drive to the Sudbury Regional Cancer Centre. I imagine we'll get pretty used to that drive over the next few months. We spent the afternoon on the phone, setting up appointments with a radiation oncologist and a chemotherapy oncologist, as well as two at the Mount Sinai Hospital oncological fertility centre in Toronto. (I have to make a few 'donations' this weekend to make sure we have a supply of sperm should mine get zapped by whatever treatments I decide to pursue.) Also went to see my NP, who helped me go over the last few years of medical records, looking for anything pertinent that I should take tomorrow. Word has now spread across the North Bay Fire Dept, so I've got 83 more people behind me. They're great, the offers of support and encouragement have been uplifting.

After all that I knew I had to do my workout. Didn't find anything recent on CrossFit that I could do in my jungle gym, so I made up a workout:

5 rounds for time:
400 m run
6 ring dips
9 pullups


Towards the fourth round I started feeling that familiar bloating in my stomach. It feels like I've drunk too much water and now it's sloshing around. But that's not what it is, it's something to do with my cancer, I know it. That's been my main symptom so far, gastro upset, loose stools, and gas, far more constant than usual.

I hope to publish my FitDay account soon. I plan to have both my workouts and my diet posted so that people can follow my progress over the next few months.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We're going to beat this

Seems like I spent the day talking on the phone. Told my mom. She was in shock for the first 10 minutes and cried for the last 5. Told my brother, my sister, my former paramedic partner, and a few others. In the evening, it was people calling us. Anna's friend Tammy, who fought off Hodgkins and now has a baby boy. My friends Caity and Adam. Adam fought off leukemia two years ago in an epic battle that is detailed on his blog Caity and Adam's Webpage. Now they have three little girls, the twins Ara and Kayla (born just before Adam's most aggressive treatments started), and Addison (born yesterday). Can't wait for the pictures. After talking with Adam for a few minutes, he said, "You're going into this with the best attitude. I'm not even going to worry about you anymore.


Breakfast: 1 c. steel cut oats, 1 c. egg whites + 1 egg omelette fried in olive oil, licorice tea
1st lunch: 1 scoop Vega powder in water
2nd lunch: chicken thigh, 3 artichoke hearts, 1 apple, green tea
Dinner: chicken fingers breaded with almond and spelt flour, leafy
vegetables, mushrooms, and zucchini sauteed in oil, rooibos tea
Evening snack: oats, spelt, flax, sunflower seeds, cranberries with hemp milk and hemp oil
(Plus my usual cocktail of vitamins, probiotics, enzymes, and fish oil.)


Fran 4:03 (21-15-9 50# thrusters and pullups)

(Adam also told me, "You do Crossfit. You're going to kick cancer's butt!")

The long drive home

A fourteen hour drive from Wisconsin to Temagami gives you lots of time to mull things over. Here's me on the shores of Lake Superior, on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

One of the best days of my life

Today was one of the best days of my life. October 19, 2007. Almost three weeks past my 33rd birthday. I spent it in Wisconsin, far from where I live in Temagami, Ontario. A cold, rainy October day, with wet oak leaves plastered to the ground. Big drops of water dropping from the pines, down the back of my neck, reminding me that I'm alive. Why was today wonderful? I spent the day with people I love, doing what we love. We spent the day together, learning about a shared passion (wilderness medicine). After that, five of us went for a run through the woods by a nearby lake. Someplace I'd never been before, which is always the best place to go for a run. There were deer in the woods, we saw their white tails in the distance. Amazing dinner, breaded pickerel with a juicy delicious orange for desert. Then, yes, a night of revelry. Einar's dried cod and Icelandic schnapps, Ann's Wisconsin cheese curds, and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, brewed in Cleveland. Silly pictures of me and Becca, good talks with with Mike and Cabot and Tara and Jeff and Gabe and many more. I went to bed at 2, but couldn't sleep, the day was so good. I couldn't close my eyes, so here I am typing this to you at 3 am.

Today is the day I found out I have cancer.

Already I've learned so much.

I've learned I don't have to be afraid to say what needs to be said, just say it. Cabot says that's balls. I don't think it's balls, it's doing what needs to be done, even if that's scary. I learned that raindrops keep falling on your head to remind you that you're alive and that that is wonderful. I learned that there really is beauty in the small things, mist on the lake. I learned that I have what it takes. I really didn't know that before. I learned that my WMA friends, even though I don't know most of them terribly well, are the most wonderful friends ever. That must mean that all my other friends, the ones I've actually known for a few years, must be out-of-this-world wondeful. I can't wait to see them again, the guys at the fire department, the girls from Guelph. Not to mention Anna, the most wonderful woman in the world.

Yes, today is the most wonderful day in my life, so far. Today, after 33 years, I learned that I'm alive.