It's been a week or so since the last update and this is what has been happening.
A few days after the surgery, to install the port in Shannon's chest, we had to go in to get the line removed from Shannon's arm. Apparently the doctor who installed the port in her chest was supposed to take care of this, but that's just Shannon's luck. So we went back to the TBCC to get her arm port removed and they were, once again, very easy to deal with and helpful. This time Shannon went to the last treatment room (room A) where we got to meet a new set of nurses. They ensured Shannon that the process would be painless and they were almost right.... that damn tape. The 2 feet of catheter slid out of her arm no problem. The nurse got Dan to double check the number on the end of the line to make sure nothing was left in there... apparently that happens. If anyone is around someone for this process we urge you not to watch.
A combination of the chemo, the surgery, the foreign object now in her chest running up into her neck, and the pharmacy worth of medications beside her bed made for a rough few days for Shannon. There was a lot of time spent in bed. She tried hard and got up and went for her walks when she could, but energy and strength were definitely lacking. Her appetite was non-existant and even water was a tough sell on her.
This all went on for the week until about Saturday where she started to regain some strength, energy and appetite. She would make her way around the house throughout the day and eat meals when it was time. Shannon's father said she looked ten times better than the day he showed up.
Jackie, (Shannon's Dad), had to head home on Monday to take care of Shannon's cat, Betty-Lou. She was adopted by Jackie and Brenda when Shannon headed out west. So that left just Brenda, Shannon, and of course Dan, to take care of things in Calgary. Dan would do a lot of the running around for things Shannon wanted while Brenda looked after things in the house. This includes the regular things like cleaning, cooking, and washing Shannon's hair in the kitchen sink. Even that simple process would exhaust Shannon.
So the three of us packed up on Tuesday morning and headed to an appointment to meet the doctor responsible for her radiation treatments. We were not expecting much from this since the medical oncologist gave us the rundown on what she was facing and what was going to be happening for the next while. Or so we thought. We met with the nurse for the general questions that she gets every time she does anything throughout this process. When did this start, how much weight have you lost, do you have any pain, blah, blah, blah. You think that they would have a file on her somewhere.
He left the room and brought back a young resident and the radiation oncologist. They sat down and went over the same things we had heard before of where the cancer was and what there plan was. Then she asked a question that still baffles us. "Are you numbers people? Do you want to know the stats?"
Our immediate thoughts went to "They usually don't bring that up if they are good odds..."
Once again the great 'deer in the headlight look' from us with our hearts in our throats. The question was out there so of course we said sure. I don't know what we were hoping for... 99.99% chance she would live to 100? That's not what we got. They said Shannon is more likely to die from this than with it. If nothing was done as far as treatment... 6 months. If we go after it aggressively then the average life after diagnosis was 2-3 years. Maybe live 5-10 if she is lucky.
"Is that what the other doctors told you?"
Not even close.
Needless to say, there was a lot of silence in between sobbing for the walk to the car and the ride home. And continued at home.... and continued....
But the fight has to go on, so we got back in the car to go and meet with the liver surgeon at the TBCC for 1 o'clock. We went through the regular routine of checking in and waiting, but this time it was a bit more somber. We had a lot of heavy information sitting on our heads. But even with that load on her mind Shannon kept her head up, hoping for a better afternoon meeting, than the one that happened that morning.
After a long wait we were escorted into an exam room and met with the nurse and Shannon answered the same old questions; When? Weight? Pain? Blah. Then a resident came in and although he had a bit of a battle with english he managed to ask the same questions and explain a bit about her cancer in her liver. And last but not least, the liver surgeon! He walked in and sat down and said in a light hearted way that life sucks for Shannon right now. Not in a way that scared her or upset her, but in an odd way to break the ice? Either way it worked. Shannon smiled with a bit of a laugh and the meeting continued. He was very positive and upbeat and bluntly explained to us what she is dealing with. After the chemo and radiation if there was anything left on her liver he would go in and take it out. If it comes back, he will do it again.
He drew us a crude drawing indicating two spots of cancer on her liver. One small One big. Both on the right side. He ensured they were in very operable areas but they would have to remove half of Shannon's liver. He then educated us on the liver and told us that you can have up to 80% of your liver removed and within 4-8 weeks it will completely grow back! Did you know that? No you didn't you liars. He was confident Shannon would get through all of this. He was exactly the positive uplifting person we needed to talk to after the morning we had.
So with a bit more of a jump in our step we left the room to head home. For some reason Brenda seemed to have a bit more of a jump in her step. As soon as we left the room Brenda turns to us, "Well he was cute." You might want to get back out here, Jackie.
Dan drove the women home and headed straight to the airport to pick up the latest edition to Calgary's Team Shanner. Her sister, Kim. She left her husband and children in Nova Scotia to come help look after her little sister and it is GREATLY appreciated. On the way home, Dan filled Kim in on how the day went. The day of hospitals and airports ended and we went home to retire, and to let it all sink in.
Wednesday was another multi-appointment day at the TBCC. We met with a dietician in the basement of the cancer centre. The atmosphere seems to darken the further you go down in that building. But the dietician was a great resource and we are glad that we had the opportunity to spend time with her. Shannon's weight had gotten down pretty low and the dietician put it into perspective. You don't start eating more, you don't live. She gave her a great outline of foods to eat and foods to avoid. It is completely opposite of the general ideas of healthy eating. Get as many calories into you as possible. Make every mouthful count, she said. Instead of reaching for a piece of lettuce. Get some bacon. Don't eat a banana unless you smother it in chocolate or peanut butter first. It sounds easy...and amazing. But for Shannon and other people going through chemo, it is not.
She asked Shannon to please disregard all of the "allergies" the naturopath had diagnosed her with. Dairy, eggs, corn, and barley were back in the game. If you have ever gone to a naturopath these allergies may sound familiar to you. Very over diagnosed. Lots of people are depriving themselves from very important parts of a diet. You may want a second opinion. From a medical doctor. Don't get us wrong, we encourage a healthy lifestyle, and we understand real allergies are very serious, but we have just developed, a perhaps biased opinion of the over diagnosis of food allergies.
But leaving that room felt good. We had a game plan. We had another bit of arsenal for this fight. Given this new information, and the hour we had before Shannon goes in for her next cycle of chemo, Shannon thought the only logical thing to do was eat. So Shannon and Brenda found a good spot in the little cafeteria, while Kim and Dan went on a food run. Shannon had a simple request, chicken fettuccine alfredo. By the time we got back Shannon was about ready to go in for her treatments, and after a bit of nourishment, away she went.
This was the first time Shannon would have anything hooked up to her new port in her chest so she was, understandably, a bit nervous. A thick needle going through your skin into a rubber silicone plug embedded in your chest, who wouldn't be nervous. But just like they said, with a small push, a bit of a pinch, she was ready to receive her cancer killing chemicals. We luckily had a fair sized area for Shannon's treatments for the four of us, plus one when the nurses were in there. It was 3 and a half hours of sitting and talking and watching the Blue Jays. While Shannon will win her fight , I am afraid the 2013 Jays are done for.
Now we are back at home. Brenda and Kim have been out all day running around getting Shannon an entire new wardrobe and all the accessories she needs. Along with high calorie, high protein foods. They've been gone literally all day. The came back to refuel and then out again. They're great. We love them.
Shannon has her chemo hooked up to her until it runs out at sometime tomorrow evening. She is going through the cramps, exhaustion, aches and pains and all around uncomfortable time that chemo provides her with. But she powers through because she knows it is a means to an end. Every bit of pain is that cancer dying. And the love from friends and family, be it in cards, texts, phone calls, or messages is what gets her through. From donations, to posters, to candy, to cards, to flowers, to hand made, personalized, cancer fighting, quilts, we will never be able to show you how much we appreciate it. But beating this thing will be a good way to start.
"You will never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have"