Sunday, September 16, 2012

Too Much

Ever feel like there is just so much happening you can't quite figure out what you are supposed to be doing? Where to go and when? What to ignore so you can focus on the important? Confused by random events? Not even able to make sense of the happenings around you? Wondering if you have forgotten something? Or what day of the week it even is? (Or who you even are!? hehe...) This is me right now. And for that, I warn you that this is gonna be a random all-over-the-map kind of post. I will most definitely be jumping around quite a bit!

There were just a lot of things to take in last week. A lot of bazaar encounters. New things to get used to. Adjustments to living quarters. People being blunt and inconsiderate. These days were just weird. I wish I could blame it on a full moon but I think we are passed that point.

My new home ain't fun
So I had a new home this week. And I think I'm gonna just come right out and say it now… STAYING AT THE CANCER LODGE SUUUCCCKKED.

No, I am not a fan of staying at the Jean C Barber Lodge in Vancouver. Being away from Mike and my own space was hard for me. Being on my own while I am going through daily treatment is not something I am used to either…even if it is just a quick radiation appointment, it still feels odd to be going solo to these appointments. But I knew all along it would be this way. I'm a strong girl! I can handle it! But it still took some getting used to.

At the lodge I shared a room with someone who didn't speak english very well and was often very confused. I felt really bad for her for that reason but also because she was going through chemo and radiation at the same time. I'm not even sure she knew when to take her anti-nausea pills. Every night she was sick and although I was empathetic towards her situation, I was not getting much sleep due to her frequent trips to the bathroom.

I knew after that first rough night that this was going to be an "interesting" stay at the lodge. Ahhh the lodge…the crazy crazy lodge… Sign in. Sign out. Don't forget your key fob. Don't leave the building without writing down where you're going. Designated TVs for designated programs. Don't remove the newspapers from the common room. Sign in. Sign out. No guests in the rooms! No shoes in the listening room! Don't take food out of the dining room. Don't miss breakfast because it's done by 8:20am. Don't take dishes from the kitchen to your room! Sign out!!

The first few days at the lodge I felt like being there was a punishment… like I was an orphaned prisoner among the sick. Being surrounded by people more than double my age was a bit isolating. I felt so alone and like I was living in a care home for the elderly. There was freedom and yet there wasn't. I guess that's what happens when you live out of town and are a young person dealing with cancer recovery. You don't always fit in.

The food was way below my standard of what I consider healthy… even though I had checked off vegetarian upon registration there was very little I could eat and they are clearly more concerned about cost than people's health (not surprising I guess and good thing I wasn't being picking and asking for vegan cause I wouldn't be getting it). The pork dinners, beef based soups, white sugar, splenda, diet pops, white rice, creepy sugar filled dessert thing is just so not OK to me. It was not AS bad as hospital food but pretty close. And they don't even have a proper recycling set up there! Not up with the times! And forget having a good night sleep… the bed was super uncomfortable… the little twin mattress and my vomiting roomie kept me awake a lot in the nights. So by the time Friday came around I was completely exhausted.

Tanis and I 
Luckily there were a few things that made staying at the Cancer Lodge not completely miserable… My two best friends Shannon and Tanis came to visit me… I have quite a few other opportunities to hang out with friends I haven't seen in awhile planned… Whole Foods is close by… There's a piano on the 2nd floor… I attended relaxation and healing touch therapy sessions (both free)… Inspire Health is walking distance… I will be able to go to ReThink Breast Cancer's Live Laugh Learn held at Lululemon… and the lodge is kitty corner from the cancer agency. A 10 second walk across the street for my daily radiation appointments.

So even though I stick out like a sore thumb, get strange curious looks from the majority of the older guests staying there, being at the lodge does have some benefits. I am trying to see some good in the whole experience even though I really wish I was able to be home during this. But I'm trying to make the most of being at that location even if it does mean I am away from Mike and my own bed. And I am really trying not to think of it as part of a twisted punishment for getting cancer.

"This isn't a punishment for getting cancer. Cancer is our punishment for getting cancer!" …said by a fellow young breast cancer friend. Thanks M! xo

I think because I am overly tired my mind is not all there. I'm not thinking straight and I am sensitive to my surroundings. The effects of radiation should not be causing any exhaustion just yet but it seems that the combination of being in Vancouver, the daily appointments, lack of sleep due to puking noises and being out of my comfort zone have made me pretty bagged lately.

Radiation Fashion Show in my sweet moo moo
Getting lined up for treatment
The radiation itself has been fine for the most part. The main portion of the appointment is just the radiation techs lining me up to the machine. Day 1 was the easiest cause I had my Dad and Mike there waiting for me outside so I was more comforted. Day 2 was kinda brutal because they couldn't seem to get me lined up to where they needed me. They told me that they wanted to give me the best possible treatment but that they were unable to get me set up properly in line with the films. I could tell they were getting impatient because they were 45 minutes behind schedule… Meanwhile my neck and arms were killing me because they had to remain above my head the entire time. I was so cramped up that I think it was making it more difficult for them to find the correct alignment. When they had to call in one of the radiation planning consultants for help I began to get really edgy. They even asked to make sure I was actually in fact Ashley Doyle. They thought maybe they were looking at the wrong chest at one point because the tiny freckle sized tattoos on my body were so far off from the pictures they had in the machine. I was seriously so frustrated and had to try very hard to not just jump up yelling "NEVERMIND! Screw this! I don't want to go through with it all anymore." But finally after the main consultant guy realigned me they were able to get the treatment done.

Dad, Mike and I after the first radiation
After that appointment I felt really upset…worried that the treatments were all going to be that way…worried that they were settling for "close enough" and that perhaps it was going to be that painful and long each time. I was mad that I wouldn't have Mike there for me right after to comfort me and console me. I got back to my room at the lodge and cried after realizing that my appointment had gone over the lodge lunch time period and I had missed getting in on the caesar salad they were offering. (The one thing on the menu I could eat that day!) It was just one of those days.

The rest of the radiation treatments in the week went fine. I am now less nervous about having to hold my breath when they radiate. In order to avoid beaming radiation at my heart, ribs and more of my lungs they have me breath in and push my chest out as far as I can while holding my breath for roughly 25-30 seconds. There is a little box that they put on my chest that acts as a signal should I drop too low. Even though they are watching very closely, I can't help but feel a little anxious every time they tell me to breath deep and hold. The red light goes on and I can hear the machine make a noise as I stare up at a spot of metal on the machine and think of one of these two things…

1. Somewhere in my future I am running into the ocean on a warm sandy beach with Mike
2. The machine is blasting any little cancer cells that might be hunkering down in my chest wall still

Thinking one of those thoughts usually helps me forget how long I am actually holding my breath and by the time my face goes red they tell me to relax over the intercom, I breathe out and I am done for the day.

Our old hood in Kits
One week done. 23 left to go. I'll be done by October 19… seems so far away… so much time in the city… so little time here at home. Up until this cancer stuff started Vancouver used to feel like home still to me when I would go back. Even though we have lived on the Sunshine Coast for the last 4 years, I always would get a little happy about being back in the city… a little nostalgic when we'd walk around in our old neighbourhood. But I have realized that that feeling is good for one day only now. Since trips into Vancouver mean cancer related appointments, things have changed. After one day I am now done.

And so I guess that is partly why I didn't really know what to do with myself in my spare time there this week… I just wanted to be home in-between radiation treatments… my energy was low… I didn't feel like walking to the water… I wasn't in the mood for window shopping… there was nowhere I needed to go that I usually can't get to on the Coast… I made many trips down to the grocery store to kill time… read my book outside the cancer research building… played piano when I got bored at the lodge… walked aimlessly down West Broadway…

I think I just felt lost there this week. I know I am full on whining, but it was just a really lonely few days of adapting to my new space and routine.

I also don't feel like myself lately… I think that would be because I have caught a cold (I blame that on city air) as well as the fact that I have been wearing my new brunette wig Harlow. I don't look like me! I feel like I am walking around as someone else. I confuse people I know with my wig which amuses me. And pleasantly have strangers and other cancer patients at the lodge fooled that it's my real hair. (Which is great!) But it still feels like I am some kind of impostor. It's like I am not Ashley these days.

Whether it's the new moon. The city. Or that the Fall Equinox is nearing… Or maybe it is just the fact that I haven't been off the Coast in awhile… Odd stuff happened this week. I know it has nothing to do with the fact that I have been wearing the wig… but I started feeling different because of it…suspicious of it… like going brunette was making me see differently… like a magic cloak revealing a different world… attracting weirdness… allowing for more randomness to occur… attracting strange encounters… people and things just seemed abnormal.

Every day was just off…

  • My Inspire Health membership was questioned when I tried getting my discount at a health food store. 
  • An appointment I had was cancelled without me knowing until I showed up.
  • I learned that you can get a ticket or a fine if you put money in a parking meter that isn't your own. How dare we do random acts of kindness!
  • I had a maintenance man at the lodge try to have a conversation with me through the bathroom door early in the morning while I was peeing. (creepy! and wrong!)
  • I found myself taking care of my sick roommate at the lodge because I didn't think she knew what to do to prevent dehydration. 
  • No smoking signs outside the cancer agency are all ignored. (seriously, next week I am gonna lose it on the next person I see doing this)
  • I witnessed a group of people outside the cancer agency yell at a lady after she accidentally bumped the car ahead of her while parking. 
  • An grumpy man flipped the bird to a women I saw in radiation when she tried leaving her parking spot and came close to hitting the man's beat-up Mazda. Three girls sitting beside me eating lunch gawked and spoke rudely about how bitchy the women had been when she tried explaining to the owner of the Mazda that she was going through difficult times. 
  • A total stranger told me that self-abuse was what caused my cancer. With Mike by my side I was blatantly then hit on by the same random guy whose last name was the name of one of my wigs. 
  • I had a bald lady with a designer bag tell me she had cancer while begging for change and holding a cigarette. 
  • Finding out that I was supposed to have a counselling session set up at the cancer agency a long time ago but it was never done and so I never knew it was even offered.
  • People jump in front of other people in line ups everywhere! 
  • I listened to a woman go off about how horribly awful it was that she hadn't had a manicure or pedicure in over a month. 

And then two cool things towards the end of my first week of radiation / city / lodge prison popped up:

  • After missing the ferry by 7 cars I sat next to Astrologer Georgia Nichols at a restaurant in Horseshoe Bay. 
  • I had flowers left at my door from people I don't even know. 

Even more strangeness!
I know a lot of that could be perceived as normal. It's the city. It's life. It's people. But to me, in my imbalanced fog of adaptation, it just felt like a weird few days…  I felt like I was transported into another land over there…Amongst a different species of people.  I was in the presence of constant random behaviour. I overheard weird things! Saw a lot of rudeness and selfish acts. I think I'm too exhausted to really make sense of what kind of week that was or why I am even obsessing over it. Maybe it's because of my lack of sleep that I think I had that kind of week in the first place. Whatever it was it just felt like I was living in a different world. The Harlow wig was like my own version of Dorothy's ruby slippers. And I just wanted to get back home.

Finally when I got into my own bed Friday night I felt peaceful for the first time all week. And I slept for 14 hours straight. Much needed Zzzzzeds.

And although I have a 2 day break from treatment and city life… the weekend is, as they always say, too short. It has been filled with catch-up emails, Mike working on the perimeter drain of the house, laundry, tidying up, a quick trip to the beach, birthday dinner for my Dad (Happy Birthday D & UB) and reorganizing my bag to leave again.

Back to the land of lodge tomorrow...


  1. Hello my dear friend! I am so sorry to hear about your first week. Ugh. It doesn't sound like paradise but I hope you're able to make the best out of it. Perhaps a slow start, but I'm sure it'll be October 19 before you know! You'll be home with Mike celebrating!

    I still think the wig looks pretty on you! But after trying a few myself I can understand how you're feeling. It feels different, it doesn't feel you. This too, is temporarily.

    So I wish you all the best this week! May it be better than last week!


    1. Thanks for your message Ciel... I am just trying to make the best of the situation now...

      I hope the beginning of your radiation goes well. I look forward to seeing your wig once you get it. Loved the Marilyn Monroe style self-portrait!


  2. I hope your week has started off better than last week. It stinks toconstantly have to adapt to a new 'normal' with each new treatment. I really hope this week goes much better for you. Hang in there!

    1. Thanks so much! It is tough to adapt to each new chapter of this crazy the time one thing ends another thing is starting before we have a chance to catch our breath.

      So far I am hanging in there this week! xo