I Can’t Believe I Have Stage Four Cancer

I can’t believe I have stage four cancer.

I just can’t believe I have stage four cancer.

I really cannot believe I have stage four cancer.

This is a thought that pops into my head on occasion, just when I’m doing something perfectly normal like getting dressed, tying my shoes, making coffee. The thought enters my mind and makes me stop short. It makes me shake my head and feel like I have been transported into another person’s body, someone who would get cancer, not me. I think, Oh yeah, I’m fucked. I let my body become irreparably diseased and now I have to pay the price. My body will never be the same. I will never be cured. The most I can hope for is maintenance. Keeping the cancer tamped down with chemotherapy so I can live more years. It’s my only choice.

Me and my port-a-cath

The reality that I’m in a world of hurt doesn’t obsess me. I try to compartmentalize it as much as possible.

Every two weeks, I dutifully march down three blocks to the BC Cancer Agency to get my dose of Oxliplatin, 5-Fluorouracil, Folinic Acid, and Bevacizumab. The nurses there are lovely and concerned, especially when I start barfing, which I’ve done in three out of the seven treatments I’ve had. I’m convinced the nausea comes because I haven’t taken the fourth anti-nausea pill early enough. When I barf the nurses scurry around, accessing Gravetol IV’s, taking my vitals, calling in a doctor to check me out. I can tell they feel they’ve let me down somehow. I feel like I’ve let them down by succumbing to nausea.

They finish the session by hooking me up to an infuser bottle full of Bevacizumab, and they tape all kinds of tubes and connectors to my chest, next to my port-a-cath, or port. The port is a small cylindrical device implanted under my skin with a catheter connected to a jugular vein next to my heart. It works like an IV, but gets the drugs into my system more quickly. And the nurses don’t have to stick my arm every time. They just puncture the skin over the port and go to it. After the main event is over the port is connected to the infuser bottle, which delivers more of the same drugs for the next 48 hours. Then, I return to BCAA to have it removed, which takes about 10 minutes. 

I then spend the following two weeks absorbing these poisons into my system. This absorbsion comes with a host of symptoms starting with what I call tingle fingers, better known as peripheral neuropathy. My fingers go numb and tingly with the first whiff of cold. Sometimes they act paralyzed and I can’t even button my jeans after peeing. I used a hot pad to pull things from the freezer or to pour from a cold bottle. Then there’s a day of fatigue. My poops stay solid for a few day and then diarrhea sets in. Along the way my system gets unsettled and digestion becomes a concern. There have been times I swear my intestines are like a washing machine on spin cycle. Roiling, churning, flushing and cramping become the norm, making this the part I hate most. I don’t get queasy, per se; I just get a shitty feeling that makes me want to lie down and not get up. 

The second week, prior to the next treatment, is usually much better, and my poops get more solid. When I have good, well-formed poops, Billy is the first to know. For a while he wanted to check them out. And just when I’m feeling somewhat normal, the cycle starts again. Chemo, bottle, feel like shit, feel better, and…repeat.

I ask myself, how long can I do this? How long will I have to endure chemo in order to live longer? And, will chemo ever really end for me?

I can’t believe I have stage four cancer.

One thing chemo really puts a damper on is travel. I can only be away for nine or ten days at a time. So I worry how will I ever be able to spend summers at our farm? How can I go to Europe between treatments? And what about living in Forestville? I don’t have a medical plan in the states. If we were to spend any length of time in DC, will I be able to travel to Ontario to get treated. This is a plan I have to ask my new oncologist, the one taking over for my old oncologist who is now on maternity leave.

Before my diagnosis, Bill and I were planning to be traveling between Oliver BC and Forestville, and to the farm and DC. Occasionally, overseas. But all that is impossible now. We are selling the house in Oliver. Living for any length of time in Forestville is like a dream to me now. The farm and DC are possible only if I get a intra-province clinical allowance, because they are so far away I would not want to limit my stays to ten days. 

So, basically I’m fucked. 

I can’t plan much of anything. My future holds no assurances. I can’t believe I have stage four cancer.

What are the upsides to having cancer? All the love you get from friends and family. Everything you might have done to piss someone off is forgiven. People look at you with knowing expressions and ask how you’re feeling. I have cancer, pity me.

On the downside, nothing else about me is interesting. No one cares to hear about my writing or my web design business. They just want to speak of chemo symptoms and the cannabis oils that are helping me. I’m no long Mari Kane, the moderately talented writer and web designer. Now I’m Mari Kane the colon cancer patient. It’s so depressing.

But this is my life now. 

I can’t believe I have stage four cancer.

Leave a Reply