Cytostatic chemo and hair loss.

Reading through the paper today, I came across an article about an interesting device that cools the scalp while receiving chemo, with the effect of reducing the amount of hair loss from cytostatic chemo (chemo that inhibits cell growth).
http://www.dignitana.com/scalp_cooling/scalp_cooling_with_the_dignicap.php

The article said that for a lot of patients, losing their hair wasn’t a vanity thing, but a fear of the stigma of looking like a cancer patient, and being able to appear normal can help people get through treatment. I fully understand where this comes from, but at the same time, this product just promotes the stigma and reinforces it. If there was no stigma, then there would be no need to hide from it. When I lost my hair, I rejoiced because I knew that I wouldn’t have to shave for six months, and also I knew that I couldn’t hide from what was happening, and used it to talk to people about my experiences, with the hope of breaking the stigma. I should also add that this approach was what helped me get through treatment, and appreciate that everyone is different.
25 years ago, getting cancer was bad news indeed, mortality rates were much higher, treatment was much more dangerous and it was truly terrifying. Today, with massive advances in cancer research, the treatments are becoming less intrusive, the survival and cure rates are drastically improved and getting better all the time. There are several factors to this improvement, including advances in medicine, and increases in funding, especially from charity. Charity is born from awareness, which cannot be raised if people hide from what is going on.
I urge everyone who is fighting cancer (or any disease, mental illness, addiction etc.) to be open, confront it head on and tell people about your fight, not only will you receive all the support you need, you will be educating people (and cancer does affect the majority of us in one way or another) and reducing the fear and stigma associated with it.

That said, if it’s cold out, then hair is quite useful for keeping your head warm, but so is a fantastic hat collection (I got lots of hat gifts from friends too!)


Teaching Cancer to Cry

Well, it’s been just over 2 years since my last dose of chemo, and life is pretty much normal. Today though, I was sent this story of a New York custom bike builder who is going through a much harder fight than I ever did, but he really does eloquently capture some of the emotions of living with the disease.
http://www.adventure-journal.com/2013/05/the-man-behind-fast-boy-cycles-and-teaching-cancer-to-cry/

Quick edit: 2 videos today, both worth sharing.
http://www.upworthy.com/this-kid-just-died-what-he-left-behind-is-wondtacular-rip?g=2

Maybe it’s my state of mind today, but they really affected me. I’ve always felt like my fight was fairly easy, and seeing these stories reinforces that. A little bit of survivor’s guilt perhaps?


Connections.

One of the things that cancer has done to me, has made me far more aware of the connection that I have with everyone around me. In many cases it has strengthened and reinforced those bonds, and in some cases, it has created new connections with people.
When I was going into treatment, I was scared, not because of any particular reason, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. I had some friends who had experience, some directly, others were indirectly through loved ones. This advice and small amount of knowledge helped me immensely. Since that point, I have made it a point to try and raise awareness about the disease and treatments through candid open conversation, such as I do on this blog.
Shortly after I was given the all clear, I was talking to a friend of my brother, who asked if I would be willing to talk to her friend who was going through her own fight against cancer, I agreed and talked to her a fair bit through online chat. Today, Melissa passed away at a far too young age, and it has saddened me, and made me realise how tenuous life can be. I have may never met her in person, but I have felt a strong connection to her, by sharing my experience with her, I hope that it helped her as much as the sharing has helped me.
Farewell Melissa, you were special to many people, even those you may never have directly met.


One Year!

I went to see the doctor this morning, and everything is still good. No signs of cancer at all. I still feel great, no changes there. What makes this noteworthy though, is that it has been a year since my first post treatment doctor appointment.
Let me say that again, mostly because it feels great to say it: I’ve been cancer free for a year, and I feel great!.


I just had a thought!

On this day last year, it was the lowest point of my last nadir (low point) of my chemo cycle. It was the hardest one to get through as well. This year, things are a lot different. Tomorrow, I head up to Pemberton to race in the marathon cross country mountain bike race, The Nimby Fifty. It will be hot, dusty, gruelling, and will hurt a lot. I’m excited!


Gone but not forgotten.

I’ve been feeling really good lately, totally normal in fact. I think this entire experience has given me much insight into who I am and what I am capable of; I eat better, am more sensible about my exercise, and generally feel great.
The dark cloud of what I have been through still hangs over my head though, and it’s hard to escape.
I’ve been contacted my several people who are starting their own journey through treatments and recovery, and while I can share my experiences with them, hopefully giving them some strength or encouragement, I have recently had a few reminders about the power and tenacity of cancer. I found out today about a co-worker who was just diagnosed, and two people I know have relapsed. The second fight must be so much harder. I know I put a lot of energy into my first fight, and I’m not sure how I would handle it if I had to do it all again. All I can say is each day is a gift, I look for the beauty and happiness in everything around me and enjoy the crap out of it!
I’m really struggling to find the words that properly convey my feelings right now, and I’m failing horribly, but it’s made me realise that there are some truly beautiful things in this world that we all take for granted, and right now, top of the list is my friends. The people around me are really amazing.


I’ve been gone for a while. Oops!

The last month has just flown by. I guess that no news is good news.
A few things of note in the last month, some good, some bad; The bad is that a few people I know have recently been diagnosed with the return of their cancer. The first fight is hard, hopefully they all have the momentum and will to fight even harder this round! I’m really thinking of you through this!

I went to the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival’s FEAT night last week. FEAT (Fascinating Expedition and Adventure Talks) was a series of seven minute talks from athletes who have done extraordinary things such as walked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide trail (Canada to Mexico, solo), hold multiple free diving records, etc. It was fascinating, and there was a recurring theme in all of it, some of these people didn’t realise how incredible some of their stories are, and weren’t fully aware that they had done anything amazing. I read all the comments from people on this blog, and I see the feedback, yet still don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary, I was just surviving and trying to keep the quality of my life up. Today I was contacted today by a friend who put me in touch with someone who had heard about me at the mountain bike night at the VIMFF where I was mentioned as “Cancer Steve”. I kind of love this, people have heard about me, my story is getting out there, and it also allows me to tell my tale and hopefully help people through their own journey by raising some awareness, which is exactly what I wanted to do with this blog. Cancer and their treatments are really scary things, but as with any hardship, you can always find a silver lining. Myself, I’ve found so many amazing things, and the biggest one is how amazing and supportive people can be when you need them the most!