How to cope learning you have a brain tumour

It was Saturday night and I was getting ready to go out. I was feeling a little worn out and tired. I broke the vegan diet for the first time in over a year. I ate a spanakopita for lunch. It was delicious. I headed out to milestones with an old high school friend who I had reconnected with earlier in the year. I’m really fucking thankful for this friendship because my friend is one rad chick.

She cabbed us all the way downtown where we had dinner. I drank two bellinis and we talked well past 10pm. The plan was a night where we could go out and just forget about all the shit. We hit the first bar and had a drink there. Then headed to the next bar where we stayed most of the night. Drink after drink, I felt the alcohol flowing through my veins.

The night went on and we danced, and drank and everything felt so fucking normal. I felt like I was a normal 22 year old with no care in the world. Other than trying to get a cab to get my drunk ass home.

It was a good night. A really, really good night.

When I woke up there wasn’t a hangover which was surprising. I felt pretty normal, my liver didn’t feel like it was failing. But I was overcome with this feeling that even though the night before was awesome, it didn’t change anything. It didn’t change the fact that my cancer has now spread.

This week I learned my melanoma was now in my brain. My fucking brain. That’s some hard shit. You think your day is bad? Try finding out cancer is in your brain. Where is the guide book on how to cope with learning that kind of information? To learn your cancer is most likely getting resistant to the drugs. To learn you’ve exhausted your last treatment option. To listen to your doctor choose his words carefully in regards to how much longer you’ll stay on treatment for. It went from maybe years to maybe months. To go through your bedroom looking at your ski gear wondering if you’ll ever use it again. How do you fucking cope.

Here’s how I’m coping.

I drank. A lot. When I got that call I went straight to the bar. Got a double rum and coke, sat there and sobbed. I was pretty sure I was having the roughest day there. Not only that, but my friend died that morning too. It’s like when it rains, it pours.

I ate a spanakopita and fettuccine Alfredo. Yup. I ate the cheese. Did it taste good? Fuck yeah it tasted good. Am I staying vegan? Yup, I’m absolutely staying vegan. Actually, it felt good to get that out of my system to learn that I actually love being vegan. And that no taste pleasure is worth the life of someone else. Am I a hypocrite for saying that now? Yeah, a little, but fuck, I’m trying to cope.

I cried. A lot. Because how do you not cry when your whole life is now on another level of uncertainty. It’s fucking scary. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to lose control of my Brain. I don’t want to look sick. But truth is, all of those things may happen. And I have no control.

I went climbing. Because I can almost guarantee you any ex gymnast will love rock climbing. This was actually my healthiest most beneficial outlet to cope with this news.

I leaned on my people for support. I have a fucking rad group of friends here for me. Friends and family. The people who sit and cry with you because they know no amount of “positive thoughts” change how shitty the situation is. Without these people I would not be me. I would not be coping at all. I wouldn’t have made it this far. You all know who you are. Thank you. Fucking thank you.

Lastly, I’m honouring my pain, but I’m not staying there. I did what I needed to do to just cope. But now, I move forward. We deal with whatever is next. And I’m not here to dwell on what was, it’s time to just be with what is. And this is what it is.

Reflection is powerful. And reflecting on the last 9 months I am so proud that I don’t regret anything I did. I lived exactly how I wanted to. That’s powerful. To look back and not have changed a thing. Something to be grateful for.

I have people in my life who go above and beyond on many many occasions. I always sit wondering what I did to deserve such absolute love and kindness. It’s mind blowing. I am so full of gratitude for all these awesome people in my life. I am so damn lucky.

There is no handbook when life hands you a hurricane. Not just rain, but a hurricane. And I just did what I needed to do for me. And if that was treating my liver with poison and eating the cheese than dammit that’s what it is. Sometimes I think the universe tests us just to make sure we are committed. I’m here to say I’m fucking committed. Committed to living my life the best way I can with any cards I’m given.

And if that means brain metastases than bring it on. It’s not game over until I’m dead. And I’m planning on making my days count until then.

Lots of love,

Tam

Tired is an Understatement

I am tired. This is a phrase that I use way too often. My grandparents call me “Mrs. Tired”. I think as long as I can remember this was always my response to anyone asking “how are you?”, My answer was either “I’m fine”, or “I’m tired”. You know what? Tired actually is an understatement. I am fucking exhausted. Emotionally and physically drained. I am not sure how I am making it through each day. It’s a motion of getting out of bed, doing my day and going back to sleep. And somehow having a smile on my face and looking “great” as people like to tell me.

I wish there was a handbook on how to deal with life. How to face the challenges it brings. How to overcome the suffering. It’s really hard sometimes. My head gets into a dark places. And although I live day to day, I have a hard time looking at any kind of future. Because how do you plan for a future that probably won’t be there?

I had a friend pass away at the end of April. She was the first person I really lost to cancer. Since then I haven’t been feeling the same. I think of her a lot. Multiple times every single day. The kindness that poured out of her. That’s all I ever thought every time we talked. That she was so kind and thoughtful. And to watch someone so alive just be gone was very, very hard for me to comprehend. And I don’t think I ever will.

So here I am trying to figure out what the point of all of this is? The point of the suffering, the pain? Or the point of the amazing moments that life also brings. What is the point of all of this? I don’t know what I’m here to do. I don’t know what I’m here to contribute and I sure as hell don’t know when all this is supposed to be over. I don’t know if the choices I am making right now are the right or wrong decisions. I have an extremely hard time pacing myself because I feel a time clock ticking beside me. And everyday I am here is a gift. I don’t want to regret anything.

But I find it challenging living in this “Social Media” era because I see this world that is filled with ad’s, propaganda and a timeline that everyone shows their ideal selves. Not the life they actually live, just a life that they want everyone to think they live. And truthfully it fuck’s with me a lot. Because I sit here and compare, and wish that I was going somewhere warm, or graduating university, or partying. I think to myself how sad my life is. Not to mistake that with I’m sad (because for the most part, I’m not) but fuck, I’m 22 with cancer. Stage 4 cancer at that. Every decision I make has to be 10x more meaningful because I actually really do understand life is short. I can’t sit around and be unhappy, or unsatisfied or bored. I fill my schedule up with things that keep me occupied and things that make me happy. And I’m trying so desperately to make the right choices. But there isn’t a handbook for what choices are right and what choices are wrong.

So I’m here to say that I’m trying my best. I’m doing the best I can with the cards I was given. I’m doing the best I can with the circumstances I’m under. For the most part I’m proud to say I live the life I want to live. But sometimes I’m not sure if I got it right. Or if the decisions I’m making are the right ones.

But for now I am taking a break. I’m giving myself a rest from the madness that is social media. I’m taking this month to focus on me. To love me, and to take care of me. Because at the end of the day that’s all we have. Just ourselves. And if we can’t look after ourselves and give ourselves the energy we require, how can we give it to anyone else?

So with that I will see you soon.

Love,

Tam

420 Marks One Year

Today marks one year since I started treatment. I’ll start with that. Holy shit a whole year. On April 19th, 2018 I endured the worst day of my life. You know how something goes wrong in the day and someone takes your parking spot. Or Starbucks ran out of the blonde roast that you had been craving it all morning? And we blurt out “this is the worst day of my life!”. Well I can assure you April 19th really was the worst day of my life. 

Rewind to last year. I had told a lot of people I had scans coming up in mid April. Even told them the day the scans were happening. And I even told people the morning of the 19th I was to find out results. I was pretty positive scans would be clear, my cancer was still microscopically in my neck, and I would start treatment, and the cancer would be gone forever. 

Walking into the BC Cancer Agency was no different than it had been before. I checked in, walked through the little hallway on the second floor and took my seat in the waiting area. I can’t quite remember if it was crowded or not. I can’t remember how long I waited before being called in. I can’t remember what pod they brought me into or the room number, but if you brought me to the building right now I could show you. I could lead you to that room without being able to give you real directions to get there. I can remember sitting down on a black chair with my mom sitting to the left of me. And I remember staring at the door in the examination room waiting for my doctor to come in and grace me with some good news. 

Right before my doctor walked in I received a phone call. It was the Cancer Agency. I answered and they informed me my treatment would start the next day. I remember this so vividly because the 19th was a Thursday. And Friday was the 20th otherwise known as 420. I was originally supposed to be starting treatment the following Monday but they moved it up. After hanging up the phone I remember thinking how nice it was for them to move me up! Getting to start this treatment right away. 

Then she walked in. She was in a dress. Always dressed looking professional but approachable. And I asked how she was and she said alright. But I could tell what she was about to tell me would change my life forever. And it did. We made small talk before she finally says that the PET scan showed something. And I proceeded with “what did it show”? She said I had spots in the lymph nodes in my neck, armpit, groin, I had spots in my liver and on my bones. I was absolutely shocked. And from that moment it was a blur. I remember her examining me on the bed. I remember telling my mom to leave and go for a walk and come back. I remember telling my doctor that I could probably still compete. And I remember leaving the appointment and saying I hope she has a good rest of her day. 

But when I left that building I felt the storm coming in and the cloud was right above my head. It drove all the way home with me. Two phone calls were made in the car. One to my friend, and one to my counsellor who guided me through how the next couple days were going to unfold. She told me I was in a state of trauma. I remember saying” I have stage 4 cancer”. Something I do remember my doctor didn’t actually tell me. I think she knew she didn’t need to tell me, that I already knew. 

I remember wondering when I’ll die. I thought I might not have that much time. I remember wondering how I was to tell Jamie. He was working and I didn’t want him to rush home. But I also didn’t want to keep it from him. I remember deleting every app off my phone when I returned home. Deleting every message that came in. And then I called Jamie. He came home and I spent the rest of the day with him. I stayed the night at his house and the next morning we drove to BC Cancer to receive my first infusion of the immunotherapy treatment I was to receive. 

Floor 6 in the BC Cancer agency Vancouver centre is the chemo floor. I hadn’t been up there to that point so I didn’t know what to expect. But as I got up and went to check in I was beyond terrified of what was to come. I sat down in the main waiting area which is filled with windows that look out to some of the best views Vancouver has to offer. There are books all around, a coffee station and this table with a half done puzzle people must work on throughout their day on the floor. It’s built by many hands of people who have all been touched by cancer. I sat and cried, and cried, and cried. I was really scared.

When I was finally called in I walked into my room which was empty when I got there. The rooms are filled with 4 chairs. I got my choice. I sat on the right side of the room by the window so I could look out. It was a nice day actually, I wore a red body suit, jeans and I brought a sweater because I knew the building would probably be chilly. It was a short sleeve cat sweater that I ended up just wearing on top of the body suit. I wore makeup that day because I thought if I looked my best that it would make me feel ready to conquer this treatment. Truthfully if you ever go for chemo wear sweats, a comfy shirt and leave the makeup at home. I cried it off by the time we left anyway. I also was stuck because I couldn’t pull down my body suit because of the IV in my arm. Talk about a hard time going to the bathroom. The outfit was a total disaster. 

As the nurse explained to me my drugs, side effects and what I should expect over the next couple days I was ready for the day to be over. She wrapped a hot cloth on my right hand and waited for my veins to get nice and juicy. She inserted the IV into my arm and suddenly the drugs started flowing. And they did so for the next 3 hours. Although it could have been 4. It was a long day. My oncologist at the time paid me a visit early on into the infusion, and I could tell by the look on her face she wished she hadn’t delivered that news the day before. She wanted to know how I was holding up and truthfully I didn’t really know at the time. I had no idea what my future looked like, and for the first time death was knocking at my door and I knew it was him. 

A year later I share this story with you. With whoever is reading this. I wonder if you know your worst day. And if you do, what do you remember? I share these vivid memories in my head of these moments. And yet some of it is a complete blur. But as I sit here one year later, I wish I could tell that girl that even though I know you’re scared, you’re going to figure it out. It’s gonna be really hard. You’re gonna dig really deep. You’re going to share parts of yourself with strangers that you never thought you could. You’re going to learn what a badass you are. How tough you are. How much you are loved. You will meet people who will change your life for the better. And I would tell her the worst part is over. Thus far nothing has been as hard as hearing that life changing news. That you can’t change that you have metastatic cancer. You will never change that. But you can choose how you deal with your struggles, you can choose who you tell your story to, and you are in charge of your own happiness and joy. Life did not deal you a good hand, it gave you cards that are unfair in every aspect. But you choose how you can play them and that’s what’s important. 

I am so proud of myself over the last year. I made it to a year. Time is so precious and I do not take it for granted. I have been blessed with the most amazing group of friends and family. I am loved by more people than I ever imagined possible. And to me those are the parts of my life that I choose to focus on. Of course I have my days, cancer does that to you. But I am choosing happiness and that’s what matters. Nothing else. 

So as you read this I hope that you can choose the same. No matter the circumstances, no matter the struggles, dig deep because you’re in charge of how you choose to deal with whatever life throws at you. Your reaction is yours and that’s what you can own. I send you all love and strength through whatever it is that has made things hard. But nothing worth having will ever come easy, remember that. 

So much love to you on April 20th. I’m a year into treatment and just so damn proud of myself. 

That’s all, thanks for the read,

Tam 

A Post to Ponder 🤔

Cancer at 22 is not ideal. Well cancer at any age isn’t ideal. But at 22, what the fuck. I wake up some mornings so tired my eyes are literally glued shut wondering how I’m going to get out of bed. It’s a strange feeling knowing that cancer has taken up a huge part of my life and always will.

Social media makes me crazy. It’s like this wonderful tool to get and stay connected to people, yet I find myself depressed as fuck after spending a solid amount of time on instagram looking at what everyone is up to. I understand we portray our ideal selves, but knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

I have splurges of inspiration to get a post out, or to talk more about what’s going on. Or to try and get another video edited, but recently a lot of those splurges are stopped by feeling so damn shitty. It’s like I wish I could get more of my shit together just to function like a normal person. Although when I say “normal” I’m not sure what I’m referring to anymore. Maybe the young adult who has a university degree. Who goes out and networks or parties on weekends to show up to their 9-5 hungover Monday morning, blabbing about who they hooked up with. I’m not really sure that’s even the normal I want anymore. I guess I just wish I could get out of bed not struggling to find a reason to. Because right now I’m lost. I have no idea what I want anymore, no idea where my purpose lies. That’s a shitty feeling if you ask me.

I recently just got out of the hospital due to a bacterial infection in my blood. If I’m being honest it was pretty serious. I like to play stuff off like it’s whatever but I was really sick once admitted. Fevers of over 39 degrees and I could hardly eat or keep anything down. When the fevers were in full swing I was shaking feeling so incredibly cold. After around 5 days of IV antibiotics I felt like I had turned a corner (thank god). But when I was first admitted I was afraid maybe I wasn’t going to be leaving. I kept thinking “bacterial blood infection was not how things were supposed to end”. I kept thinking I had more to do, I needed more time. I wonder if I will always feel that way.

I am almost a year out from my stage 4 diagnosis. I’ve been living as a stage 4 patient for a whole fucking year. Part of me is thinking how far I have come in a year and the other half is thinking it’s almost like a countdown. Like I have one year down how many more do I have left? Sounds morbid but that’s how I feel. Also I have been feeling super weird the last couple weeks and I’m not sure if it has to do with my 17 day hospital visit or because it’s around the 1 year mark to my stage 4 diagnosis. I feel like I am wasting time by not getting stuff done. It’s like I’m in this ultimate prison which is my body, it can’t decide what the hell its doing.

I think writing is helpful because I am not forced to be anyone but my true self. I come as I am, feel how I feel and share what I want to share. Nobody is telling me how to be. That is helpful in trying to figure out your shit. And that is what I’m trying to do. But in me saying that I think we all are trying to figure out our shit. We all are confused, and lost, and lonely and sitting on social media feeling fucking depressed that our lives aren’t as good as Joe Blow on the internet. But for some reason we can’t stop. I can’t stop. It’s like this fomo (fear of missing out). Like you don’t know what’s going on if you aren’t online. And that is true, most information we receive about people or things are through the internet. Like this post, you wouldn’t have found it unless you have me on facebook or instagram. So I’m trying to figure out how we do this dance with social media without letting it make our feet hurt.

So that is that. I have been vegan for a whole year, that date came and went about a week ago. Now my 1 year for my stage 4 diagnosis is coming and I’m not sure how to process that or how to figure out what that truly means. But as I continue to sit here and think, I think its a celebration that I have had this year. And that hopefully I’ll have another. I count my blessings each day because what else can you do when a huge chunk of your life is filled with uncertainty and with fear.

Anyway’s something to ponder if you read this post, just know you’re not alone in whatever the hell is going on.

Love always,

Tam

My Forward Experience

I never knew Chris. I hope he’s okay I am talking about him even if our paths never directly crossed. But I feel it almost necessary to bring him into this because in an extremely strange way I felt him with me. He almost made it known he had some part of this trip to Russia.

That’s right, I said Russia. This post will be lengthy, and it will also probably make you cry. I hope you shed more joyful tears than sad tears.

It all started at the end of September/ beginning of October. I received a call from one of the counsellors at Callanish. Her name is Danielle. Let me add she’s the first person I talked to there when I was initially diagnosed. Desperately searching for someone to talk to. Someone who could understand what it means to hear the words “you have cancer”. It’s one of the worst phrases you can hear in your life. But Danielle has been there from the beginning helping guide me on a healing path that had nothing to do with my physical illness.

I started attending group therapy for young adults with cancer at the end of last year. One day a month I look forward to sitting in a circle usually crying about how shitty things have been. How my life was a train wreck. How I was losing everything I loved about life. How my face was deformed. How my cancer had spread. How my life was probably being cut short. I find this place to be one of the most settling spaces I’ve ever entered. There is something really special about the space at Callanish. Being there has changed me. For the better might I add.

Through group I have managed to find a little community of people who I so desperately was looking for. Who understood. Who could sit there and laugh when you made a morbid joke that is apparently not funny to everyone.

Through attending this group I found out about the retreats they offer. I so recommend you watch a glimpse of what I experienced at retreat. The film is called “I’m still here”. It was a life changing experience. We also dove even deeper than what you see on the video. The women I attended with, we are all bonded. Bonded like sisters.

Through this retreat I learned a lot about my own journey. And the importance of community. More importantly the gymnastics community I thought I lost. The most heartbreaking part of my story was my loss of sport. It may seem odd to people that’s what I am most sad about. But sport was my life. I wasn’t ready to retire. I had no plans to retire anytime soon. But obviously life took a sudden turn and all of a sudden the choice was no longer mine. Please hold that in your own heart. That life can take those turns that you’re not ready for. So when you find yourself in a moment where you feel happy, hold onto it. But remember that happiness is your choice, not a destination.

Danielle called me and said that she had just talked to a women named Claire. Claire is the president of the Forward Foundation. What the Forward Foundation does is provide experiences of a lifetime to young adults 18-39 with an advanced illness. Danielle from what I understood talked to her a little bit about the cancer community. Claire mentioned they were looking for someone to be gifted the first experience before they would be opening up applications at the end of 2018.

Danielle said I was the first person to pop up in her mind. That she thought of me when Claire described what they did and who they provided it for. I was extremely humbled that she thought of me. The cancer community at Callanish is amazing. There are amazing women and men that Danielle knows. And for her to think of me was so touching. As I drove home on the phone with her I didn’t really know what to think. I had this kind of weird sense of that I didn’t need it. It could be used for someone else.

She emailed me the application and told me to think on it. Which I did. Nothing came to mind. I’m not the Disney girl, or one for an epic Caribbean vacation. It would drive me fucking crazy to watch my family or friends tan their skin. The irony of that situation is outrageous. The thing with the application is that it is so open. And that they want you to base your experience around connection and community.

So as I kept pondering and thinking, I thought of gymnastics. What a fucking blow it was to have Worlds taken from me last year. A year I could really confidently say I was in the group of girls who could potentially medal. Nothing is guaranteed but that was my goal. And then fucking cancer happened.

So it basically hit me as I was in my bed and I thought “oh my god I want to go to Worlds”. It seemed like an insane idea. The logistics of a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia would be complicated. But I also had this weird sense of I think this is what I am supposed to do. I felt this need to be there. It was a gut feeling. And the Forward Foundation are exactly the people who could make it happen for me.

So I wrote the application that night and emailed it off to Claire. OH and wrote Pam’s name down as the person to join me without even asking her. Pretty bold eh?

The thing is if I were to do this, Pam was the only one who I was willing to do it with. She’s seen it all and been there through it all. Christ, she was my babysitter once when I was 12. She was the first person to congratulate me when I came second at World Games. She was also one of the first people I called when I was diagnosed. She’s been there with me through it ALL. And my gut said Pam, and I sent it off without even asking her.

The next morning I called her and said something along the lines of “I don’t know if you’ll be up for this, but”, and then told her what I wanted to do. She said “Tamara, of course I’ll come to Russia with you”. Which I also knew she would say. So Pam it was, and my Russian “vacation” was accepted and we now had basically 3 weeks to get a Visa and everything booked. And we did. And we were off to Russia.

I was fucking excited. I had this sick feeling in my stomach that I really hoped everyone wouldn’t judge me for going. I wanted it to be extremely clear I wasn’t there to distract the team that I knew I wasn’t on. I just simply wanted to watch and be around my community in that setting one last time.

After I arrived in Edmonton there would be a layover where Pam and I would unite before starting our journey to Russia. She sat me down and told me that she was gonna film a lot of stuff going on during the week. Might I add Pam is an amazing photographer? Like amazing. I always thought she should go into photography. She sat me down and asked me how I was feeling and I’m not really sure what I replied. Then she says “so I want you to know they have asked you to hold the flag for Canada at the opening ceremonies”. I was stunned and basically burst into tears. All I could think of was why? Like why do they want me to hold it? It was an honour I had had before, but never with a reaction like this. I was so fucking honoured they wanted me to do that. That I got that privilege of representing Canada like that. It was something I was so happy about. Happy and humbled by.

As we walked to the gate there was an announcement that our plane had mechanical errors and we would be delayed. I didn’t stress at first because I knew we had a couple of hours in Amsterdam before our flight to St. Petersburg. So we decided to sit down at the bar before the flight and ran into one of the girls who would be competing’s mom. Her name was Angela. God bless Angela, she really changed and made our trip so much more than it was supposed to be. She also got to experience the events with us that were about to unfold.

We ended up being delayed 3 hours. We made up an hour in the air and therefore were late arriving to Amsterdam by two hours. Now Angela asked on the flight about our connecting plane. They said to go to the gate. So once we were off, we ran. And we made it! Unfortunately when they scanned our ticket they advised us that they had already rebooked us as they thought we wouldn’t make it. So we ended up being stuck in Amsterdam that night and weren’t able to leave for Russia till the next morning. What a disaster, but being stuck in Amsterdam is definitely not the worst thing. Did I mention it was my 22nd birthday that day too?

The next day we departed for Stockholm. Once in Stockholm we had another delay (shorter this time) before leaving for St. Petersburg. You think this is a long journey for just anyone, imagine me who was already concerned about travelling with cancer to be stuck in this situation. Fucking sucked.

But we arrived. We got to the hotel, where team Canada and a couple other teams were staying as well. And we went to our room to try to decompress. Pam informed me that we would be having a team dinner that night with team Canada. I thought that was so kind of them to include us. I know Pam and The Forward Foundation had been in touch with everyone about us coming and it had seemed they were happy we were there. This was really helpful for me because I stressed how my presence would affect the team.

As we sat in the room before going down I was starting to feel how big the magnitude of me being there was. As much as I had been so excited and it was this thing we planned to do, it was another thing to be sitting there being in Russia. And I just started sobbing. It was probably a mixture of many emotions as well as being extremely over tired. But this emotion was sadness. I was so fucking sad that I was about to walk downstairs under the circumstances I am in. That the last time I walked down for dinner with a Worlds team, I was competing. With leg muscles and with no care in the world other than my competition. And I was about to walk down and see the same team a year after being diagnosed with cancer. Cancer which has spread throughout my body and had been a huge reason I look as skinny as I do now. I think I’m afraid I’m going to look sick. I was afraid that this image of me as an athlete would now be clouded by the fact I was a cancer patient. It was really heartbreaking for me. And I was really petrified to go down there.

So Pam and I sat and cried together. And Pam had a nervous vibe to her as well. That was the first time I remembered that this was going to be really hard for her too. To be with the same team she travelled on for years. Pam was also an accomplished double mini trampolinist. But it would also be hard to watch me go through this experience.

So we went down together and walked into the dinner hall. Everyone was standing with shirts that said “we jump for Tamara” with the forward foundation logo on the front of it. The entire Canadian Worlds team was wearing this shirt and burst into a happy birthday song. And I just cried. Again. It’s a common theme among these kinds of gestures. How else do you react? But I was so overwhelmed. Rosie had asked me in September if the t-shirt “I jump for Tamara” was okay. I said absolutely, but had assumed they would have one made and people would sign it. I never imagined that the whole team would wear it. Never imagined that they would have done that for me. I just wanted to be there. That was above and beyond. It’s hard to put into words what that moment was like. But it was joyful and there was so much strength in that room of just support and love. It was incredible.

That was the first time I felt Chris was there. When I saw the forward logo he came right into my head. I had this extremely strange ah ha moment from him. I never met Chris, but I imagine he would have laughed hugged me and been like “Tamara, this is your community and of course they love you”. I felt this moment and soaked it in like a sponge. It was one of the most amazing things that has ever been done for me.

It was overwhelming hugging people and trying to say hello. I didn’t get to nearly everyone. It was a big moment. And it was really special.

The next day we had opening ceremonies. Which I was one of the flag bearers for along with another Canadian athlete. I really took in that moment as well. To be out on the floor again. Everything rushed back to me. The feeling of competition, and the feeling of invincibility. You really do feel invincible while being out there. It’s a rush unlike anything else. You could say I was addicted to that rush of competition. But it was special to stand there for Canada. I held the flag for my first worlds and now at my last. It all came full circle.

That day was the start of worlds. I wondered how I would feel actually being there. How I would feel knowing I couldn’t compete. How I would feel watching my teammates. If I would feel jealous, or unhappy or like I wasn’t meant to be there. I had a lot of fears surrounding all the uncertainty that the week presented. Because I was there in a different role. As someone who had cancer, and no longer an athlete. It’s unreal that’s what the reality is. Because I did not feel like a cancer patient once this week. Not one time.

This day I got to watch two of my favourite people compete at World Championships. One being Cat who despite so many odds competed at her first Worlds. Cat took a 5 year break from power tumbling. And came back and made the team to compete in St. Petersburg. It was such a cool moment that I got to watch this happen for her. She had worked so hard and was so deserving of being there.

And then I got to see Ryan compete who is basically my BFF within the sport. He took a break from double mini to basically kill it all year making Worlds for the second time. I felt like a proud sister watching, and I know the competition didn’t go as he planned, but despite the results, I was so honoured to watch.

As the week went on, the smiles and hugs and love I received not only from my Canadian teammates but also my international friends was indescribable. Every single person I talked to couldn’t express enough how happy they were to see me. It made me feel so good. I was so incredibly happy to be there and I was really taken aback that people felt the same by me being there.

I believed I would have many awkward conversations, that people would treat me different, or look at me different. And I was incredibly surprised that was not the case. I built it up so hard in my head that nobody would see me for me anymore. That the cancer would be in the way. And it just wasn’t the case. Everyone treated me so normal. I felt normal. And I hadn’t felt that normalcy since my diagnosis. It had been a long time.

On day two of competition was the women’s double mini competition. That was my event. And I was most nervous to watch this event because I was scared I would feel envy or sadness or jealousy that I wasn’t out there. That it should have been me competing trying to make the final. That I should have had a place on that team.

Another surprise was I felt none of that. I watched in total awe of the Canadian women. A team I hoped I would be the veteran of one day. And that I would help lead the next generation into their new role of seniors. A role I never felt like I got to be in. But as I watched each one of them with so much pride that they were the new generation of double mini trampolinists, I felt no sadness. Only joy in the achievements they accomplished. Two made finals, both being their first worlds. An accomplishment that hasn’t been done since 2013. I couldn’t wait to hug each one of them and tell them how happy I was for them. How proud I was. I can’t express what an honour it was to watch not only them but every single person out on the floor. It was an absolute privilege.

That night was the new event of “Team All- Round Finals”. I had no idea what to think. I took over Gymnastics Canada’s Instagram, and got to kind of broadcast the event in my own way. What a fun night it was cheering for Canada. Such a unique event and it was amazing to watch everyone come together. Canada won bronze. Again, I was just so honoured to have watched it. Such a privilege.

The rest of the week consisted of trying to find vegan food. Which wasn’t awfully hard, but Pam helped me a lot. She always made sure I had taken my meds, which I had, made sure I had drank enough and made sure my energy was up. She took very good care of me.

By day three of the competition I was reminded that I had cancer. I was so tired. The initial adrenaline and excitement now wore off. My extreme fatigue is also due to the fact I am currently on treatment. A fact people forget a lot, and I forget. It totally fucks with my system. I am a lot more tired than everyone else. A fact that is normal for me now. And going to the gym would have been too much for my system to handle. So instead Pam, Angela and I went on a tour of St. Petersburg. It was amazing. The city is so much better than I remember. Not sure if ten years did the trick or what, but it was phenomenal. But I stayed back from the venue and made sure to get my sleep. It was needed.

Day 4 of the competition (the last day) would be bitter-sweet for me. I knew the meet was coming to a close. The event would be wrapped up that night with an athletes banquet which we were given tickets for. Which was amazing because I was not expecting to go, but really hoping to go. So I felt very lucky that we were able to participate. But the last day of finals was so damn exciting. I was able to make the Instagram story for Gymnastics Canada again. I watched two Canadian women rock the double mini finals. I watched my teammate Sam hit an amazing semi finals routine which landed her just outside of finals. A routine I hope she is as proud of as I am. I’ve watched Sam almost believe she isn’t as good as the other girls, and the truth is she’s playing the game with the best in the world. And she is one of the best in the world.

I watched my British friend Luke achieve his dream of making a world final. One of the best world finals I have ever witnessed. And he made that final so exceptional to watch. He has really inspired me through his own perseverance. After not making the Olympic team in 2016 I can’t even imagine how devastated he was. But he came back stronger and better and is one of the best men’s trampolinists in the world. Something very few people can say. It was my privilege to watch that come true for him.

And finally I watched Rosie win her second individual world title. Named the best female trampolinist… again. There is something about watching her that is so absolutely incredible. Her athletic talent and pursuit is unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed. And it’s even more spectacular watching in person. After it was official she won we watched her receive her gold medal and Pam and I went down to the mixed zone to meet her for pictures and for me to Instagram a story for Gymnastics Canada. For someone who has won many titles you can tell it doesn’t get old for her. She was so absolutely excited to have won, and couldn’t believe it! The thing about Rosie is as great as an athlete as she is, she is probably an even better person. So much of the surprises that were done for me during the week she played a huge hand in. When I asked her how it felt she said it hadn’t hit her yet and that she was “pretty stoked”. The video I took cut out before she finished but she said “but I’m more stoked you’re here”. I’ve always loved her. Admired her. It’s been an inspiration to watch her athletic career up close and personal. But for someone who just won a gold medal to say that to me was really special. She’s one of the most selfless and humble people I’ve ever met. And in my opinion the best trampolinist that has ever graced the sport. And I feel really blessed I can call her a friend.

That leads me to the next time Chris was there. We got back to the hotel that night after an exciting final. Pam and I started packing and getting ready. Pam said they had a team meeting at 8:30 that we had to go to. So I didn’t finish my makeup and we headed down with Pam’s camera. I wasn’t really sure why we had to go, but I maybe figured that they would thank me for coming and spending the week. So we got off the elevator on the third floor and the whole team was dressed up ready for a night of partying. They said that they had a special presentation and Rosie came to the front. And then she called me up. I was really confused as to what was going on now because I had been the flag bearer, and they had surprised me with the shirts. So I was really confused what was about to happen.

As Rosie talked and I listened she explained that not just her but everyone on the team hoped that after the week that I knew that I was just as much apart of the team as they were. Saying the trampoline community was always with me. I just kept thinking why was she holding a medal box in her hand and flowers. I was thinking she was going to bring them down to the banquet but thought that also seemed strange. She kept speaking and I kept listening and finally she said that they had decided to award me with a medal from the team event.

That I was apart of that team and they wanted me to know that. So here Rosie hands me a bronze medal from the first ever All-Round Team Final and the flowers that were won. I cried a couple of tears and kind of just thanked everyone for the amazing week. That they had gone above and beyond any expectations I had. This was the most insane surprise of the trip. As the meeting ended and everyone headed down, Pam and I had to finish getting ready. Thank god I didn’t finish my makeup yet because as soon as the elevator doors closed, I started bawling.

I had to stop in the hallway to contain myself. I couldn’t stop. I could not believe that the team would even think to do that for me. As we entered our room Pam explained a little more.

She said that it was a collective team decision and that everyone who had competed in the All-Round Team event had to agree they would do that. But it was Rosie that sacrificed the medal she earned to give to me. Pam said they felt that if I was competing this year that I would have been one of the 9 in that team event. It was the most overwhelming feeling. But in that moment Chris came to mind. Like he was there in that moment.

What I hadn’t realized during this week was quite simple. I went into the week with my own personal agenda. For closure. For a chance to say goodbye. For hopefully laughter and a great time with people I don’t get to see unless we are at trampoline competitions. What I didn’t realize until that night was that my presence there affected this team about as much as they affected me. What it meant to the team having me be there cheering them on. I never had considered that it was going to affect them in such a positive way. That me being there made them think that I was deserving of a medal that they earned, not me. Yet they felt I deserved it as much as they did. It was absolutely mind-blowing to have received that medal. The medal is beautiful but the gesture and thought behind it means everything to me. In that moment I realized this idea of community I had thought I lost was not lost at all. If anything I was just as much apart of the community as I had ever been before, and probably even more so. It was this amazing point of being proved wrong. And I think that is what this trip was all about. That moment made me understand why it was me. Why I had this opportunity to come to Worlds. Why I felt so compelled to have felt the need to be there. Because I was completely wrong. I had not lost my community at all. It was only the opposite. And I also realized I didn’t need to say goodbye. That I didn’t need closure, but a reminder that everyone is still with me. Still cheering for me. And in some strange way I think Chris had a lot to do with it. I can’t explain it, but I felt it.

That night I walked into the banquet with seriously everyone telling me how stunning and hot I looked. It was one of the biggest confident boosts I have ever received. I felt so good, I looked so good and I enjoyed every moment of the night. Getting pictures with everyone, having lots of tears shed (not just from me), and dancing. Just dancing brings so much life into you. I went over to talk to Curt who had been my coach for the last 4 years, and he just said that in my own way, this was what I was meant to do. That this experience was so me. And I resonated with how he explained that to me.

I was given an experience of my choosing. I could have picked anything. Literally anything. But in my own way I picked what was most meaningful for me. And it was to be at Worlds one last time. And it was one of the most rich experiences I have ever had. It was more meaningful than any past competitions I have ever attended. It was something I truly did for myself and needed for me. What I learned in the process is the impact it had on everyone around me. That me just being me is enough to affect others in such a way I never imagined possible. Every single person who made this experience what it was I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was so truly beautiful and amazing. It wasn’t as hard as I had thought, and it was also not about letting me mourn my loss for gymnastics either. It showed me that I have every fucking person in my corner. That I have every fucking person fighting with me, thinking of me, and when it came down to it standing up for me. The fact of the matter is that community is never lost. It may take a different form but it is never lost. And it was a valuable lesson I learned. I was dead ass wrong that I lost my community. They are here and they jumped for me.

I want to sincerely thank the Forward Foundation for making this happen. I felt Chris with me. And for those who read this whole post, this was Chris’s vision. This was his creation of the Forward Foundation. He wanted young adults with advanced ilness to have a meaningful experience. And he worked his way into my life somehow. He needed to teach and show me that my community was not lost. And I don’t know how he did it, but he did. To Claire, Chrissy and the whole board who I was lucky enough to have met at the first ever Cayford Gala, thank you. Chris built something special, and you guys are here to follow it through. And you will change lives by providing experiences like you did for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I feel like the most loved and supported person on the planet, and it’s a pretty spectacular feeling.

Until next time,

Love,

Tam

My Bucket

I am feeling more full. Not only is my tummy nice and full (thank god my appetite has come back for now), but so is my emotional bucket. A term my counsellor uses to navigate how my emotional state is. The more I make time for myself and filling my life with experiences and connection the more full my bucket gets. And the more time I spend feeling sorry for myself and depressed about the cancer the bucket seems to be more empty. Funny how that works eh?

Life is a really weird thing. When I look around I see people always moving. Sometimes I wonder where they are going. Are they going to see family? are they going to work? Are they heading to a coffee shop for a date? Did their relationship just end? Do they have someone waiting for them when they get home? Everyone has this story that is unknown. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

I just arrived back home on Friday from a trip to Kingston. This was the first time I’ve travelled since I went to Spain last October. I was really nervous heading to another city with this cancer. Being on ANOTHER new treatment, it’s unpredictable how my body will react. So I was quite anxious.

But the purpose of this trip was to visit my good friend Brett. Dennis Openlander and myself decided we would head to Kingston. With the help of Brett’s sister, we were able to pull of surprising him. Brett knew Dennis was coming but didn’t know I was coming. And it was epic. He was shocked. His family’s said they have never seen Brett so shocked in his life. So I felt we pulled off a good surprise.

The week was filled with LOTS of laughter. I mean lots. I truthfully believe laughter is the best medicine. With Brett becoming a quadriplegic after a trampoline accident and my cancer diagnosis, we have grown very close over the mass amounts of suffering and loss we have both been forced to face. But seeing each other and being together this week brought so much joy to my life. Brett is one of the kindest, most courageous and absolutely one of the most generous people I have the pleasure of knowing. He is so incredibly selfless, always thinking of others before himself. He gives me a lot of strength unknowingly. And I know in some ways I do the same for him. Although we live completely different lives our worlds were both turned upside down in a blink of an eye. Suffering comes in all shapes and forms. From personal experience the best people I have ever met have suffered the most. It changes people. It makes them realize what is important. It’s a breath of fresh air to be with people who just fucking get it. Absolutely no bullshit. What you see is what you get.

I am really thankful to have him in my life. I am so grateful I was able to travel out to Kingston and surprise him. Having my health hold up enough for me to travel and be quite independent is something I do not take for granted. Unwanted trips to the ER happen more than I’d like. And right now I would just like some fucking stability. Just a little peace. That’s all I am asking for. In the coming months I’m hoping to be travelling a little more with the people I love. That includes friends and family. Connection is very important to me. It’s what fills my bucket. It’s what makes life worth living.

I want everyone to appreciate the people who are around you. People are important. But make sure they are the right people. Would they stand by you if something terrible happened to you? Are they the ones you lean on for support if things aren’t okay? Or do you hide your problems from them? It’s a valid thing you should think about. Surrounding yourself with people who lift you up is extremely important. This is a lesson I’ve been lucky enough to learn. I am grateful I have these people around me in my life. The ones who will drop everything and come on a trip with you. Or the ones who drop everything to come see you. Who make fucking time for you. The ones you can have a hard conversation with and are there to listen to you cry. Those are the people who you need to be around. And of course these are the people who deserve to share life with you when it’s at its best. Fuck, I am so lucky I have so many of these people. So lucky.

Don’t take time for granted. Go travel when you can. In my case, I may be one day to sick to travel. And I never want to regret that I never took the opportunity to do so when I could. So that’s what my plan is. To fucking fill my bucket with happiness, laughter and full of living. Because to be alive is the best thing.

Thank you to the Babcock’s for an extremely wonderful week. A week full of kindness and love and non stop fucking laughter. I am so absolutely full.

Until next time,

Lots of love,

Tam

A thank you isn’t big enough

I walked the Terry Fox run today. Only 3km in the pouring rain. What else is new in Vancouver? But this was the first time I had a real connection to the run. A really personal connection. What Terry did was fucking insane. He obviously had the biggest heart, and the strongest mind of anyone who ever lived. I wish I had met him. He is one of my biggest inspirations. An ordinary guy with an extraordinary dream. As I did this run today it got my mind going about my own journey with cancer.

The last couple weeks I’ve been so overwhelmed with support, it’s taken me a minute to try and process it all. My dear friend Brett Babcock set up a go fund me campaign for me. Brett never told me he was going to do this as he knew I would say no. It’s really hard asking for help, even when you need it the most.

When I was diagnosed my real focus was what can I do for this community? I knew that it was going to be a tough journey. Very tough. And when I was diagnosed I reached out to BC Cancer for counselling support. Support that is available for all cancer patients and their families here in BC. If you or a family member have been diagnosed, you can go for counselling free of charge. This is something maybe not everyone knows.

Through my counsellor I found a young adults support circle at The Callanish Society. This has been one of the biggest saviours for me in my cancer journey. I look forward to this circle every month. A chance to sit, listen and speak. Well, more like vent for me. But I am able to express my feelings to people who get it. They have only two rules. One, you do not have to share. And two, you do not interrupt when someone else is speaking. This group has taught me compassion, and the skill of listening. I am so grateful to have Callanish in my life, and anyone in Vancouver struggling with cancer, I highly recommend them. They also run retreats for all cancer patients. I was lucky enough to go on a young adults one this summer, and as I said in my last blog post, it changed my life.

After figuring out my mental health, I wanted to figure out how I can help. As I embarked on surgery after surgery, trying to get on treatment, I started to realize that cancer was bigger than me. That cancer takes the lives of so many people every year. It impacts So. Many. People. Getting diagnosed with cancer was a really small piece in the big picture. And I started to understand all of this.

The thing about the cancer I have is that it can be prevented. Unfortunately for me I was unlucky and the sun wasn’t the reason melanoma showed up in my life. But for 90% of people who get diagnosed, UV exposure was probably the reason why. So I thought why do we not know this? Why is this not common knowledge? Why does society believe you need a tan to be healthy and beautiful? So I wanted to educate. To let people know that my story doesn’t have to be your story. That the decisions you make today will impact you later in life. And you can start today by making the right choice to be smart in the sun.

Then I wanted to help. And luckily for me Jamie’s sister wanted to help too. She told me about the Workout to Conquer Cancer. A month long fundraiser for cancer research and care here in BC. And I was all in and together we raised $4,630. I was so proud to be able to give back to a system that is supporting me. I always say you’re not a cancer patient until one day you are. You don’t need cancer research until one day you do. I was so taken aback at people’s support and donations it really touched my heart. And it felt so damn good to generate something amazing from the worst thing that has happened in my life.

After this fundraiser I realized that this is only the beginning. That cancer research needs to continue until the cure is found. Until someone like me won’t be petrified of a stage 4 diagnosis. That cancer won’t be a scary word we are afraid of. Until the day comes that people will reminisce on the time where cancer was deadly, but fortunately it’s not anymore. Will it happen in my lifetime? Will it happen hundreds of years from now? The clock is ticking for millions of people who are hoping this cure will take place soon. Dammit, I am one of those people.

But with my diagnosis I have had lots taken from me. I am unable to work with the disease progression that has occurred. I had my health taken, my sport taken. My carefree attitude taken. I’ve lost time. Time that has been spent in bed, at the hospital, in the doctors office, in an operating room. I had my smile taken, the feeling on the left side of my face taken. I had it all fucking taken. I am not bitter about this anymore because I know I am not the only cancer patient with things that have been taken. I cry and think of others I have met along the way. The things they had taken make my losses seem minuscule in comparison. Not that cancer is about comparison but damn, I am not the only one. I know I am a small piece of this whole cancer puzzle. But I often think about what can I do to help. How can my story make a difference.

Tonight I sit here in absolute awe of what sharing my story has created. I never asked for cancer. Unfortunately it just happened. But how I choose to deal with cancer has made an impact I am really proud of. I choose to share because I believe it’s important. I believe with awareness we can reduce the amount of melanoma cases here in this country. And I will continue to advocate not only for melanoma, but for cancer research.

As I have shared, you have all listened. You have supported me personally and through BC Cancer. You have taken the financial burden off of me through the transition of stopping work. It has been the hardest thing that has happened. I am unable to support myself financially due to my illness. You guys have lifted me up when I was extremely down. I was probably at one of the lowest moments I have faced through this journey. And you have lifted me up. There are no words to express my gratitude for the gift you all have given me. I am accepting with open arms and it’s been a really hard thing to do. You always think someone else needs it more, or it could go to help others. But being the one who needs it has been a really hard thing to accept and face. I am so grateful for this go fund me page. You all have given me this gift and a thank you doesn’t do it justice. I am beyond humbled at everyone’s support. Thank you for being there to listen to my message and support me through this really tough time.

As I end this blog post I want to let each reader know you have touched me in ways that are indescribable. Helped me in ways I cannot put into words. I have felt love that I didn’t know existed and I want to thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart.

Cancer has been the worst, but the love it has brought into my life has been the absolute best.

Happy mid September,

Lots of love,

Tam

I just needed a breather

It’s 1:30am and I am looking at old videos of me competing. Such a weird thing to look back on videos just a couple years ago to last year. I kind of looked pissed off when I land even if it was a good routine. I wish I could tell that girl to lighten up. And that being the best doesn’t define her.

As I was in whistler this weekend watching all the pros compete at crankworx, it brought me right back to being at a gymnastics competition. The adrenaline these guys feel, the sadness when they don’t complete a run, and the rush you get when you do. The community these guys belonged to and the fans they had waiting for them at the bottom of the mountain.

Not that I had any fans, but I miss it. I miss it a lot. To be apart of a community I was involved with for so long is something that I’ve missed so deeply. It’s been so hard coming to terms that it’s gone. Not that the people are gone, but the competing and being out on the floor part is gone. I was so lucky this summer to have gone on a healing retreat and got to deal with stuff I’ve never been able to deal with before. And gymnastics was a big loss I had to face and deal with. The experience was really hard, and at times I didn’t want to share, didn’t want to push myself, but I knew I had to. That if there was ever a time to heal it was then. And the experience changed my life.

I feel really proud to say I excelled at what I did. I never used to feel like that before. I used to think I could always improve something, and my routines were never good enough. But tonight as I browsed through the videos, there was no picking them apart. I simply watched in awe finding it hard to believe that it was me on the screen.

Even though I’ve had cancer for less than a year, I swear it feels like it’s been 5 years. Like I’ve had it forever. And I’m not sure why that is, but it’s just thing constant feeling of when the fuck can I catch a break. The old me is so in the past. She’s this sensational athlete that I didn’t even recognize when I was her. How strange eh? I realize the things I did were really impressive and I couldn’t even recognize it while it was happening.

This summer has been a really rough one. I needed a break from updating, a break from social media, I just needed a break. The tumours down my spine are causing me hell. Some days are better than others, but walking long distances and standing for long periods of time are unthinkable. Just the thought of jumping on a trampoline makes my skin crawl, my back would have none of that.

I’ve lost just about 15 pounds since the beginning of the summer. Weighing around the same amount I was in grade 10. Not intentionally, my muscles are shredding away. My appetite is so low I struggle to eat full meals. Trying so many different things to help, but for now I’m still struggling.

I had to stop working. Unfortunately with my back I can’t stand or walk around for a shift. Never thought my back would be the reason I’d have to stop working for now. I had radiation done in the middle of the summer to help, and I finally had my 4th double infusion of treatment.

So what now? Well my scans I had done reveal more disease progression. A significant amount that my doctor doesn’t feel comfortable leaving me on the immunotherapy I was on. So I’m switching treatments. I’ll be on pills that target the BRAF mutation that the melanoma I have carries. I almost called it my melanoma but to be frank it doesn’t belong to me, it’s an unwelcome visitor. Was a real bummer to learn the treatment hasn’t caused any good reaction. Because as I sat and visualized every day for less disease, it was growing.

And now I’m trying to figure out how to just live. How to stop acting like my life is so much worse than everyone else’s. Because it’s not. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. I’ve been so damn fortune to be able to purse the sport I love, and to meet the people I have in my life. To be shown so much kindness and support from everyone. I am so damn lucky. I also have friends who fly across the country to see me. Who set up photo shoots so we have those memories forever. How did I get so lucky to have these people in my life?

My life is different. And as I go through this transition between trying to let go of what was to what is, there are good and bad days. It’s hard to figure out who you are. I always defined myself as an athlete. My whole life I was an athlete. Now am I the girl with cancer? Is that how you describe me to someone who doesn’t know me? Such a weird thing. Do people think I’m an inspiration just because I’m dealing with something everyone is afraid of? Will I be remembered in gymnastics? Or will I be the girl who got cancer just as I started to make a name for myself. An unfortunate set of circumstances that will make everyone forget?

I have so many questions that just can’t be answered. I’m trying to let more love into my life, and show more love as well. To meet someone before I judge them. Will my willingness to be open about my struggle with cancer and all things real be admired? Have I inspired someone to go after what they want, or go into a certain career? Have I helped others recognize the importance of sun safety? I don’t know. I hope it’s made an impact for someone, and maybe helped someone else know they aren’t alone. That what they feel is real as well. Sometimes I think I’m crazy for thinking things I do. But that’s why I share because deep down we are all dealing with our own shit. And it sucks.

I always keep things 100, and things are okay right now. Wishing I could eat just a little more food! Thank you to everyone who has sent me messages and prayers, you all truly make my day! Means a whole lot!

I hope to post soon, hopefully these new drugs will kick cancers ass. 👊🏼

Lots of love,

Tam

Patience is virtue

My body hates me right now. I keep thinking this treatment is either saving my life, or it’s killing me. Can’t decide what one yet.

The last three weeks have been hell. Week one I had a “hepatitis” episode where my liver got inflamed from the drugs. Fever, cold sweats, no appetite, trips in and out of the hospital. It was awful. Not to mention I had a CT scan done that showed disease progression. Now the drugs I’m on work long term, and can take months to show any kind of progress. My oncologist is adamant that bigger spots probably mean inflammation within the tumours. So she says it doesn’t mean the treatment isn’t working, it means the drugs are starting to cause some chaos within the tumours. So hopefully the spots will start to shrink within the next couple months. That is the goal. And with these side effects I’m having, the drugs are sure doing something.

Week two my fever eventually broke and I started to feel much better. I had lost a little over 10 pound purely from not eating. Not a diet I would suggest. And my liver levels are still elevated to this day, but I was doing better. Work on the other hand nearly killed me. I had a really rough couple shifts wondering if I’d get through the weekend.

Week three I’m sick again. Head cold with a cough and chest pain sent me back to the ER. Not sure what’s causing the chest pain but I’m just about at my breaking point here.

Our Canadian Nationals just happened this weekend and while I was following along as much as I could bear, it struck me with complete sadness I wasn’t there. It’s unfair that I didn’t choose to not be there, cancer chose it for me. What the fuck is that right? It’s a shitty feeling, a really shitty feeling.

I was honoured to have received the athlete of the year award. It was surprising because despite how successful last year was, cancer took over and let me forget. Cancer was bigger than the accomplishments I had achieved which is such a shame in itself. Surgery after surgery had me question what in the fuck was going on. And then they tell me it had spread. And now when I jump on a trampoline I worry about the holes along my spine hoping my back doesn’t break. Now nobody has given me the “you can’t jump anymore” speech, the spots are still quite small. But it’s something I have to think about when I have pain. I assume it’s from the cancer or these powerful drugs that are working throughout my body.

My treatment has been delayed twice because of liver levels. Not sure how or when they will stabilize. Hoping they do soon so they can give me the last double infusion I’m supposed to get before just being on the single drug. I’ve been getting blood work done every three days which makes bruising on my veins look a lot worse than it is. Mind you it’s my fault because I never press on the area long enough. Who’s got the time?

As I’m sitting here finally having the energy to write this I’m wondering when my body will feel normal again. Will it ever feel normal again? I had a friend the other day who hadn’t seen me in a while say I look like I just came home from the dentist. Saying my face looked numb when I talked. I have seen a lot of improvement and it made my heart sad to hear that. Brought back all the self consciousness I had worked so hard to overcome.

Cancer fucking sucks. Weeks like I’ve had make it all the worse. I don’t feel like myself. I feel like a bitter and ugly version of myself. Full of negativity, doubt and unkind words to those who love me. It’s hard to be upbeat when you feel like shit.

Anyway I’m still here, kicking it at home, haven’t been out of the house for a little while so if anything crazy is going on in the world I’d love to know!

I hope everyone has had a kick ass start to your summer at whatever damn music festival you are dressing so ridiculously for! Wishing I could be there too. Patience is virtue I guess.

Lots of love,

Tam

Pity Party

I am not sure how I’m supposed to pick up where I left off. After October 13th, 2017 my life changed forever. There is absolutely no turning back. I am not the same girl I was before being diagnosed and it sadness me deeply.

Living with uncertainty is scary and can seem pointless. I have days where I plan my future and have days where I think what is the point? Cancer is deeply traumatic. I get triggered by random things like watching an episode of TV and cancer is a topic that comes up. It’s something I do to distract myself yet it always comes full circle.

I’ve been in this self pity party of why me. This kind of thing happens to other people, not me. And somehow I’m living with this disease that kills so many people every year. I’m wondering what I did in my life to deserve it. Was I unkind? Did the times I got burnt ignorantly lead to this diagnosis? Was it the dead animals I ate my whole life that could have caused this? It’s times like these that make it really hard to believe in a god. Why would god give people cancer?

I find myself pulling away. I don’t leave my house a whole ton unless I am at work or at Jamie’s house. I am so thankful to have him. By the end of the day I am usually to tired to do anything anyway. I sit and think a lot. Think about death, about what people will say about me when I’m gone, who will show up to my funeral. This dark stuff nobody talks about. This constant and very close relationship with dying that has me utterly terrified. Terrified of the unknown.

I like to cry as well. All I want is to live a long and happy life. I am 21 and have been through more than most people at my age. A father in prison, money struggles and cancer. In high school I was depressed. When I look back there is no other way to explain the way I felt but depression. I thought it was never going to end, that I would never be accepted and finally I graduated and got to experience the light at the end of the tunnel.

I went on and got to travel, got to compete for my country and finally see what life is all about. And then cancer. Out of the blue, and no reason other than being unlucky. So again I ask, why me?

I have realized my life is different. I am different. When I jump on a trampoline I have unexplainable pain that I assume is caused by cancer. By little holes around my body in my bones. By masses in my liver and lymph nodes. I am jealous of everyone out on the floor. Jealous of others injuries because at least they can heal. Annoyed that I am talked about by people who don’t know me. And frustrated I can’t be there to cheer anyone on and enjoy going away on a trip. Cancer took that from me and it fucking sucks. I am really to young for this shit. And all I want to do is compete again, and have some kind of purpose. Some way to make an impact on something. So how do you move forward?

I decided I should go back to school in September. Something I have yet to do since graduating in 2014. I want to go into Social Work. Maybe make a difference for someone who is also going through a hard time. I want to travel. To save up some money (or just max out my credit card) and leave.

Although I think about death I think a lot more about life. About what kind of life I want to live. I love day dreaming about my life. About ending up NED (no evidence of disease) one day and then having a family. Having a house with Jamie and getting married. I think about helping others go through a hard time and be able to say you will get through it because I did. I may die at an old age. I believe in “The Secret”. If I believe this story enough it will be mine 😉. That’s all I’m aiming for here. The beautiful part about life is that we ALL live with uncertainty but most of us are just so unaware. I had someone tell me once that the moment we are born we have this relationship with death. But we forget about this because we are just so excited to be alive. When something traumatic happens that threatens your life and that relationship shows up front and centre. It’s crazy because it was there all along but you never needed a reason to acknowledge it was there.

The transition to life while living with cancer is the fucking hardest thing I have ever had to do. To live with uncertainty that is so in your face is so fucking hard. To be at an age where this doesn’t happen a lot. To have nobody to relate to… it sucks.

So as I end this post I want to say that this was my way of letting go of everything cancer has taken from me. To let go of the self pity party. To let you all know what this is actually like. I don’t get an escape, I get to think about it 24/7… even while I dream sometimes. It took away the way I used to carelessly look at the world. How ignorant I was, to having a real life problem show up knocking at my front door. Some people will never have this knock or know what it’s like to have cancer. Will never take you seriously when you tell them a tan can ruin your life. Some people just won’t care when you warn them and it sucks to watch. More than anything I don’t want anyone else to get this knock because I will understand what they are about to go though.

And it fucking sucks.

But here is to letting go of all of the bullshit. All of the things in life that aren’t fair. Letting go of the things we can’t control and taking control of the things we can. Cancer has NOT stolen my light, it stole half my smile but not the meaning behind it. Cancer won’t take away the fighter that has always been inside of me and those are the things I am grateful for.

So fuck cancer and the bullshit it creates, but I thank it for making me stronger than I ever knew was possible.

Lots of love,

Tam