No glowing effects, no lasting redness, moving forward with life altering changes
It has been 8 weeks today, when I last had my radiation treatment at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. I had spent six weeks, undergoing 30 radiation treatments, from January 20th to March 2nd. I had treatments five days a week, and then had a ride with the Canadian Cancer Society driver who would pick me up after my last treatment on the Friday morning and take me home for the weekend. Then a driver would pick me up at home and take me to Toronto on the Monday morning to repeat that cycle. Six weeks. Same routine. Same treatment. Same process. The only thing that changed over time was the side effects of the radiation, the radiation burn on my chest, the increased tiredness and lethargy, and the inability to adequately sleep the amount of hours your body needs to replenish itself.
They were not kidding… the side effects were worse after the last treatment
The physician who last saw me, reminded me that the side effects would continue to increase in degree and intensity, with each radiation treatment building up on the impact of the side effects of the previous treatment a week before. In other words I would not know how this last treatment would feel, compounded on all the previous days, until 10 days after that last treatment. Talk about a weighty thing to process in your mind and to absorb in your physical and emotional being. I did not realize how intense this actually was until a month after the last treatment.
The importance of recovery time for your body and spirit
I realized how important it was as an outpatient, to come home and step away from the intense radiation therapy, and just spend a couple of days in the safe haven of my home, to be with my wife and visit with my children, and share meals with them, and play some games, and go to our church gathering on the Sunday. Just being able to get back to some sense of regular routine was so emotionally and spiritually uplifting and necessary, that I quite frankly do not know how people do it without these kinds of supports in their lives. Both my family, and extended family, my friends and my church community, have been instrumental in my healing journey and ongoing recovery.
Post radiation healing and recovery
I remember coming home on March 2nd. It was a cool and blustery day, and we came down the highway 401, and turned up at Guelph. There were two other passengers with me that day, and they were going home to Guelph too. So we took them home to Guelph via highway 6 north. When we dropped them off we headed down highway 7 toward Kitchener Waterloo. I was excited to be going home. I was thankful to the core of my being. God has been with me all the way through. He has been with me, even before I was born. But the awareness of God being present, in all my encounters, my challenges, my struggles, and all the various people I met, from the health care professionals, to all the volunteers, the patients and patient families, have all contributed to the ongoing healing journey. I have met some wonderful people along the way, and for that I am eternally thankful for having met them, and shared in their own healing journey, as much as they have shared in my own healing journey.
I got home and I needed to rest. .My work benefits were short term benefits that would last just around the five months timetable. I was off for six weeks and I would move from my STD(short term disability benefits) to my LTD (long term disability) benefits. The physicians and the insurance and my work HR representative all worked with me to make sure nothing ran out and that everything was looked after. They all said the same thing, “Take care of yourself, get your rest, let your body heal up and recover, and come back to work when you are ready.” I even had my oncologist from Toronto contact me to make sure that the six weeks recovery time was enough time for me. I had antsy feet and really wanted to get back to work. But I did not count on the tiredness to really hit me as hard as it did.
The tiredness hit me probably as hard as it could. There would be days where I would sleep for over 12 hours. There were other days were I would sleep on and off for a couple of hours at a time, and wake up all restless and unable to get back to sleep. I would eventually be exhausted and just fall back to sleep. There were days, where I would walk the dog and walk around the block and feel great, and a few hours later, I would collapse on the couch from sheer exhaustion. I realized that I needed to listen to my body and not push it too much. Just go with it, and let the body heal up and take it all as easy as possible.
Occupied with eating, resting, having friends visit, praying and hoping to get back to work
My daily routine was as routine as it could be. I would wake up and have breakfast with Lori and visit with her until she had to leave for work. I would walk the dog, as far as I could, sometimes it was just to the corner and back, sometimes it was around the block, and sometimes it was a good 1 kilometer walk. It all varied, and it really did not matter. I just wanted to be able to move and take advantage of it when I could.
I have had friends come to the house to visit while recovering at home, and some weeks it was up to three friends coming by and I would get excited and get tired very quickly. But the visits were great in building up my emotional and spiritual well being and I really appreciated how they came to visit me and to spend quality time with me. Our friendships grew over that time, and I value these friends even more than I did before. To know that you are loved and cared for is the greatest feeling in the world.
I tried to write but the tiredness did not do me well in letting me write. I would grow tired of even forming my thoughts and I would just put it off. I could easily do a short Facebook or Twitter update, but my blogging suffered from the impact of the tiredness from the radiation side effects. I ended up praying more and reading in short bursts. I could meditate and reflect a bit, and it got to be longer and longer in time span as the time between the last treatment to the present grew longer apart. I could feel the energy level returning and I could spend more time in reading, writing and meditating and praying.
A week after getting home I tried to reach one of our local naturopaths. He was booked solid for a month. So it took me until the first week of April to get in for a full consult and start a plan for my ongoing recovery, and a cancer prevention plan geared toward changing my lifestyle, diet, and routine, in order to minimize the risk of recurrence of the cancer that attacked my body. Currently I am under a regimen of new supplements and minerals that deal with cancer and blood sugar because of the Type 2 diabetes that I wrestle with, and I am on a ketogenic organic diet. I have begun a 12 week vitamin C IV therapy, and am entering week 2 of that protocol. Things are going well.
I got back to work on 12 April, 2016. I came to work the week before, just to check in and visit with my management team and get reacquainted with all the changes since I left on 13 November 2015. I have been working everyday all day, five days a week, without issues. My work has been great in being flexible to make up the hours I need, so that I can go to the naturopathic clinic on Friday afternoons for my IV’s. I am in a great situation and I am very blessed to be supported by my employer in this way.
Living one day at a time and learning to understand my body
This whole experience, which initially began on 9 April 2015, when my wife initially discovered the small lump on my right breast, this has all been a life changing encounter and process. It has changed me forever.
Some of the changes are:
- Ridding the house of all toxins, from daily cleaning cleansers, to personal hygiene soaps and creams, as well all the toxic plastic plates, dishes, and such that we have in the house. We have eliminated all the toxins that compromise on our overall health, and especially the use of plastics that create estrogen that ends up causing cancers in men and women.
- Change in diet. Lori and I are organic now. So it is more expensive and it is healthier and yes, we very much feel the difference from the food we eat each day. We do add some organic chicken and beef once or twice a week. We make soups and chili. We make a variety of salads with lots of good fats (avocados) and omega 3, flax and olive oils, all of which are organic.
- Change in supplements and minerals. We have changed to an organic and better brand of the various vitamins and supplements we are using. We have noted a real difference in the taste and quality. Again this costs money, but you cannot put a price on your health.
- Change in routine. I needed to exercise more. I use a glider at home, and I walk around the neighbourhood. I do a 2 km walk. I also every couple of days do a 5 km walk. I am looking forward to riding my bike. When I use the glider, I put my MacBook Pro on my desk, and I glide while watching shows I have missed like Game of Thrones, The Americans, and the occasional film or documentary. It always helps me to exercise. I find that the exercise works better if I do it in the morning and evening, but it doesn’t always happen that way. I at least get to walk a couple of Km walking from my bus stop to work and bus stop to my home.
- Change in sleep. I used to stay up late and have a short sleep. It would affect me all day. Now I go to bed early, between 9 and 10 pm. I am getting up now before 5 am, usually around 4:45 am, in order to make my large salad, make my salad dressing, make my lunch, exercise and wash up, and get ready for work, and spend quality time with Lori, which means, talking and sharing breakfast together, reading the Bible, praying, and having the Eucharist together. This is what I can a great start to my day.
- Change in hot drinks. I am no longer drinking coffee. Lori has switched to a fair trade organic roast for her 1 morning coffee. Me I am on green teas all day long, between five and six green teas.
- More rigid monitoring of my blood sugars and moods. I am keeping a log of what I eat and the time of day, and what my blood sugar is at that time. It is really helping me to understand how my body works, and I need to see how it all fit together and affected me.
I am going to keep going and keep improving wherever I can. I want to minimize the risk of cancer returning and attacking my body. I have a wonderful relationship with God, and an equally great relationship with my wife and my children. I have wonderful friends. I work for a great company and work with some gifted, talented, and exceptional people. I belong to a great Christian community. I am more blessed than I can even begin to describe and articulate. I am truly blessed. I pray and hope that your own healing journey is as blessed as mine has been and is in this ongoing journey with God and with man. There is no anxiety too great. God is greater still, and I cast all of my cares upon Him for He cares for me. I also know He cares for you. I hope that in your life journey you make all the right choices for you and your family. Your health is in your hands.
~ Sam Buick