Update: December 10th, 2016 ~ My One-Year Cancer Diagnoses “Anniversary”

You know how in the movies, when someone learns they have cancer for the first time, they’re usually sitting in a doctors office discussing the results of a recent biopsy when they hear “those three words”: you have cancer…?

Well, it didn’t happen to me like that.

One year ago today, I learned that I had cancer – but no medical professional has ever straight up said it to me. I was wide awake when they performed my first colonoscopy (a sigmoidoscopy, to be precise) and I will never forget the look on everyone’s face when they saw what they saw. I knew immediately that they regretted giving me the option to watch. I remember asking, when I saw the tumor on the massive flat-screen directly beside my face, “what’s that?”, and how the room fell silent. I’ll never forget how the answer to that question was simply, “yep, that’s what’s bleeding”. I’ll never forget watching that little tiny little fine-toothed creature tear biopsy samples away from me; and I’ll never forget how, when the technician or nurse or doctor or whoever it was performing the procedure, said to me: “Branden, I’ll be right back so we can have a little chat, okay?”

My version of a doctor telling me “you have cancer” was a combination of that woman saying, “This is very concerning – it looks cancerous to me”, numerous doctors asking me to recount my memory of what I understood might be happening, and then a nervous intern mumbling under his breath that the biopsies came back positive for carcinoma several days later. The entire diagnostic process, from sigmoidoscopy to full colonoscopy CT to MRI, I had been admitted to the hospital, and didn’t leave for eleven days. It took about this amount of time for my official diagnoses to come together, and for my “care” to be “transferred” to the GI team (who were responsible for diagnosing me) to Dr. Buie and his surgical team (who were responsible for my surgery & recovery from surgery). It was tough, because I didn’t check in to emergency at Foothills because I was experiencing anything that made me feel sick – I felt totally normal. But for ten days, I was hooked up to IV fluids and getting bloodwork taken every night at 3 am, simply waiting for the process of a diagnoses to come together. And through all of this, not once did I ever hear, from anybody, “you have cancer”.

I feel like there are so many small details I didn’t have the time or energy or wherewithal to explain to anybody while I was experiencing it all. It was a very, “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” typed sort of situation – there wasn’t much time to prepare, if you know what I’m saying. It all happened so fast. As I look back on my experiences throughout the year, I can recall them with much more clarity and understanding. The time I spent undergoing chemotherapy prior to my surgery (they call this neoadjuvent treatment), from January to March, was the happiest and the best I have felt in my entire life. When I look back at how much everyone around me contributed financially so that I was able to focus on my treatment as well as work integratively with a naturopathic oncologist (even with all of my conventional oncologists kicking and screaming about it), I actually don’t know what I would have done without that support. I honestly don’t believe I would have achieved the results I did without the support of everything that Dr. Matt Pyatt (my naturopathic doctor) helped me with while I was hooked up to chemo. It’s not like I have anything to compare my experience to, except for other people’s stories, but while I was undergoing chemotherapy, I experienced more energy and more of a sense of overall well-being and purpose than I ever had in my entire life. I attribute that about 25% to not having to work, and 75% to everything I did with Dr. Pyatt and the staff at his clinic – I would recommend it to absolutely anyone who decides to go forward with conventional treatment, regardless of how much or in how many ways your oncologist tries to scare you out of it. If your oncologist isn’t receptive to your desire to craft an integrative treatment plan for yourself – fire them. I did. They don’t want you anyway.

My surgery is an entirely different story. Since my Dad had been diagnosed with the same cancer earlier in the year, and had underwent the same surgery several months prior, I had witnessed first-hand how quickly he recovered. And since my body’s response to neo-adjuvent treatment was so extreme, Dr. Buie was able to perform my surgery laproscopically, which is far less invasive and comes with a shorter recovery period. But things went wrong. Things went terribly, terribly wrong. A three-to-five day recovery period in the hospital turned out to be six weeks in total, with about a month’s worth of care from a nurse who came directly to my living room to check up on me & change bandages and dressings once I was discharged. In my whole thirty years of life on earth, that was the singular hardest thing I have ever experienced – it was the darkest place I have ever been. I swear, the depths to which I was witness to while I was in that place are depths in which the Devil himself resides. But God is there too. I learned that.

I didn’t want to see a single soul while I was there – or, more accurately, I didn’t want a single soul to see me, aside from my immediate family and Tristan. I declined visits from friends, and even fought against visits from Tristan’s family. I was too tired. I was too fucking messed up! …and looking back, I have to thank those people who came anyway… I have to thank those people who found a way to figure out where I was, and stopped by without notice. I have to thank those people who knew me saying no was bullshit, because even though I knew what I wanted at the time, I had very little idea how much I needed that presence. Someone I met on Facebook who had also been experiencing something similar managed to find out where I was, brought me flowers, and validated my struggle. He was there for less than five minutes, and I will never forget his kindness. Thank-you to those who not only offered their support in so many different ways, but pushed back when they felt me pushing them away. Thank-you to those who came to sit by my side, whether it was for five minutes or every single day while I was there.

I’m fully recovered, now – I’ve been fully recovered for about four months now. It took me about four months from my original surgery to feel normal again, and it’s been eight months total since I took the blow. I did mention this in my original update, but I did end up having to come out of surgery with a stoma (a loop ileostomy). I’ve gotten pretty pro at living with this thing, and most of the time I don’t mind it at all. However, we are still waiting for this perforation to heal completely before Dr. Buie can perform a reversal surgery. We thought I might be ready by the end of this month, but a recent test showed that there is still a bit of an internal leak (although compared to the original imaging I had done when I was in the hospital, things are healing – just slowly). My next follow-up appointment with Dr. Buie is scheduled for the end of January, where we will re-assess and probably book another test to check on my progress.

As far as “the cancer” goes, I know a lot of people are interested to know if I’m “cancer-free” or “in remission” after this whole ordeal. Since I was in the hospital for so long recovering from surgery, too much time had passed for any adjuvant (post-op) treatment to have any “benefits” – or, for it to do far more harm than “good”. My original oncologist had moved to Vancouver, or Edmonton, or somewhere (nobody at the hospital could seem to come up with a common answer), so I had a new oncologist to follow-up with once I was out of the hospital. It was her suggestion that we do NOT go forward with any additional treatment, although I was prepared to politely decline anyway. Regardless, it was a relief. Instead, I have been put on a “high observation” schedule, which means a follow-up appointment with the same nurse once every 4-6 months, accompanied by bloodwork, as well as a CT scan once every 8-12 months or so, for around the next 2 years. After that, if nothing comes up, the frequency of my follow up visits, bloodwork, and CT scans will decrease, until we hit 5 years. Once 5 years has passed, according to the cancer industry, I can consider myself “cancer-free”. I think this is only because cancer research doesn’t follow anybody after 5 years, and so all of the statistics are based on this 5-year survival rate. I believe I am cancer-free at the moment, although it gets complicated saying that because we all have cancer cells in our bodies – however, I believe I am tumor-free, and that my immune system’s got a handle on it. I’ll do my very best to support my body and work with it to help me stay tumor-free, not just up until the 5-year point (which doesn’t carry much meaning for me), but for the rest of my life. I have a supplementation routine that I am very proud of and take very seriously – I’ve been thinking about writing a post just going through all of that alone.

So, other than being under high observation and waiting patiently to undergo a reversal surgery, I am simply working to pay the bills & trying to come up with a plan for the future (it will most definitely involve going back to school in some way, shape, or form). Unlike a lot of cancer “survivor” stories I have read or heard of, “the answer” hasn’t magically appeared for me – I still haven’t realized my true purpose or reason for my life on earth. I’ve learned a fuck ton of other things, but nothing magically became crystal clear. I was in the zone while I was undergoing treatment – I wish I could still feel that way, but it feels like it was such a luxury, not having to work. Now that I’ve both experienced how bad things can get, and now that I’ve healed (physically) from it, it’s back to what feels like a never-ending grind to make ends meet, with precious little moments scattered in-between to keep me going. I have a lot to work through, emotionally – psychologically. I think I harbor a minor bit of PTSD from the things I went through while I was hospitalized. I kept my surgery bracelet and when I came across it recently, a lot of emotions bubbled to the surface. I cry at the drop of a hat all the time now – everything is sad. There are some deep-seated emotions regarding a variety of things that need to be worked through, I just don’t know where to start or how to do it.

One big change that has happened is that we did finally move from our basement apartment (which was located, strangely enough, within sight of my hospital room and made the most perfect basecamp for my family while I was there) to a bright, new, modern, upper-level apartment in Bowness. I am grateful to our old place for what it was able to provide for us at the time, but I am beyond relieved to live in an area where I don’t have to see the hospital every time I walk the dogs.

The purpose of writing this update was, first and foremost, to update everyone who was even aware what was going on with me, and especially those who contributed to my GoFundMe campaign. But my other big reason for writing this update was so that I could finally close it, and send out a final thank-you to everyone who contributed. I never really understoof these GoFundMe campaigns when I saw them popping up for other people, but now I realize what an unbelievable platform it is to make crowdfunding so accessible. I especially want to say thank-you to those who donated more than once – it was so unexpected to see some of the names I saw popping up on this campaign, but even more unexpected to see them repeating themselves. You have all made an unbelievable difference regarding my experience with cancer, and quite possibly my life.

I don’t have many pictures to share, but I do have this one-and-only photo of me and my colorectal surgeon, Dr. Donald Buie, from before he operated on my bowels. He called me this morning – I’ve never spoken to him on the phone before, as he is very difficult to even book a hot minute with outside of regularly scheduled follow-ups. I had to pull teeth to get that phonecall, and it took six weeks – funny how it landed on today, of all days. I told him what day it was, and he validated how far I had come in a year. That felt good, being acknowledged for that, by him.


Anyway, I hope you all have a peaceful, non-chaotic,  beautiful, sparkly Christmas filled with an abundance of food, love, laughter, joy, gratitude, and inspiration. 2016 has equally been the best and the most challenging year thus far for me, and my healing will continue into 2017 and beyond.

Thank you so much for your continued love and support!

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Limiting Beliefs & the Purpose of This Blog

I’ve always been a perfectionist. This is why I struggled so much harder than I had to when I was in University – everything had to be perfect, including my knowledge of stuff and things. When I didn’t “get it”, or when I didn’t understand how to do it, it would literally feel like I was probably going to die… or at least that I’d rather be dead than suffer with the belief that I was stupid, slow, or incapable. I hear so much about “limiting beliefs” in the yoga and self-help community; about identifying them, overcoming them, and as a result, living your best life. I think the process of identifying my limiting beliefs is almost as hard as overcoming them, but reflecting back on my experience in University, I recognize quite a few that I would like to work with; most notably, the idea I just mentioned regarding my lack of confidence in believing I am capable of learning something new and challenging, and the accompanying belief that I am on my own and that nobody is there to help me.

I remember a particular university course that sent me over the edge. It was actually the course that made me decide to quit school altogether (for the time being); an introductory course to geography. I enrolled in this course because I thought I would learn about the lay of the land. I thought it might relate to the study of animals in the sense that I would learn about the different types of habitats and ecosystems that animals lived in, and the different parts of the world those habitats and ecosystems existed… but it wasn’t about those things at all. It was about, like… drones, and modern mapping technology, and how temperature works and stuff. There were mathematical equations, and questions involving physics, and all of this stuff I had never heard of before in my life. During every lecture, I didn’t even know how to take notes, this stuff was so over my head! I had been out of high school for over a decade at the time, and although I did do some high school upgrading a few years prior, I had only completed English and Social Studies for admission to the faculty of arts to study communication… I wasn’t mentally prepared for university-level science and math courses! So I’d be sitting at my desk with a hot tea in a travel mug sitting in front of me, my MacBook open, a new Microsoft Word document pulled up on the screen, that little cursor just blinking, taunting me to write something, anything… and I’d have my scarf wrapped around my entire face, and I would literally be hyperventilating, boiling hot tears running down my cheeks, choking back the urge to break down into a full-blown sobbing, blubbering mess. There was a mathematical equation on the overhead projector that related to… something I can’t even remember. And this prof kept saying, “This is easy you guys!!! This is simple highschool mathematics. This is so, so EASY!!!” …and I remember feeling resentment towards this guy for not taking into consideration that not everyone in that lecture theatre was fresh out of grade 12 diploma exams – that this might be very old knowledge for some of us.

The part that contributed to these limiting beliefs that were now creepy-crawling to the forefront of my consciousness were the students that actively engaged in the lecture, both answering and asking questions that gave me the impression these people were aspiring Geographers with nothing but geography on the brain. Every single time these people raised their hands or opened their mouths, I silently whispered “go and fuck yourself” under my big huge scarf, wishing they would just curb their enthusiasm for like a minute. It’s funny, though, because those few select people, maybe 2 or 3 out of a couple hundred, seemed to speak for the entire class; I mean, to me, at the time, I believed they represented everyone present, as if I was psychologically underdeveloped child in a room full of professional geographers at some kind of industry meeting overseas. I don’t know. But you know what I realize now? The other 98% of the class were most likely just as dumbfounded as I was, they just didn’t feel the urge to fall into a full-blown anxiety attack in a dark, isolated corner somewhere in the classroom, fully believing one hundred percent that the end was nigh. I don’t know what their secret was then, and I still don’t know what it is now. How did everyone else who was just as confused as I was not run for the hills in order to escape their impending doom over the course of the entire semester? How did they continue showing up, even if they didn’t understand a word? How did they make it to the end?

Those smarty-pants who wouldn’t shut up in class made me feel so inferior. They made me feel so genuinely stupid, unprepared, and under-qualified to even be a part of this particular student body. I was convinced it was a mistake that I was even able to successfully enroll myself to be a part of this class and learn this material. And then one day, three weeks into the semester, I snapped. I left the lecture hall and remember bumbling through the crowd on campus wondering why the fuck nobody else was kicking and screaming. The shit storm happening between my ears and inside my skull had the effect of physically debilitating my body to understand direction. I found myself in a random study cubicle, desperately researching the repercussions of withdrawing from all of my courses and going home to writhe in agony on the couch.

I wrote an e-mail to my geography prof. I told him that the material he was teaching was scaring the living fuck out of me. I let him know that I was a mature student, and that I hadn’t studied or practiced math or science in over a decade. I explained how I felt I didn’t have the necessary prerequisites to successfully complete the course, and asked for his advice. He wrote back shortly after, first to complement me on my writing skills, and second, to tell me to take a breath and calm down. I think he told me that I was taking everything way too seriously, and that I was absolutely capable of successfully completing the course. He told me the math and physics parts of his lectures roused panic in many other students, as well. He told me he would help me through it. But even after all of that reassurance, I was still convinced I wasn’t smart enough to make it out alive. I ended up withdrawing from all of my courses and driving to see a walk-in clinic that same day. I explained to some random doctor that I had recently weaned myself off of my antidepressants (which I had been on for almost as long as I had been out of high school), had just experienced a severe and prolonged anxiety attack on campus, and needed both a) a new prescription, and b) a doctor’s note explaining how the withdrawal from my studies was due to medical concerns so as to save my transcript and my rapport with the government student loans system. I was provided with both plus a prescription for some good ‘ol Ativan. Shortly after, I returned to the job that drove me to pursue post secondary education in the first place in order to find more meaning in, and passion for, what I was contributing to the world. Things went back to the way they were before.

And guess what? During what would have been finals week for that same semester, I was diagnosed with cancer, and the whole cancer “journey” brings me to today, right here, right now, recovering from a second, unexpected surgery. And so I have come to believe the following.


…anyway. Back to those complicated and sometimes elusive “limiting beliefs” of mine. During the course of my university studies, I full-on believed I was incapable of being a successful student. I fully believed that I was unable to complete anything at all. I believed I was stupid, I believed I couldn’t understand anything, and I believed I was alone. Nothing anybody said – professors, advisors, friends, family, my partner – could have convinced me otherwise. It was, and continues to be, all in my head – I know that these rock-solid beliefs are the result of my ego’s vice-like grip on my psyche. Of course, I am none of these things. Of course I am capable of being a successful student. Of course I am able to complete projects and assignments (and complete them well). Of course I can come to understand new things, and of course I’m not alone. The most ridiculous thing is, is that time and time again, when I did manage to make it through to the end of a paper I had to write or a presentation I had to prepare and deliver, I came out of it all with praise and A’s. I even had one TA and prof approach me for permission to use my paper as an example for future students. Even more baffling is when I came across an old essay I wrote for a women’s studies class – an essay I remember crying, and crying, and crying over – and thinking it was a rogue piece of academic research I had downloaded from the U of C library website and forgotten to delete… my jaw hit the floor and stayed there once I realized that I had created the thing. Although everyone in my life saw it with crystal clarity, I truly hadn’t realized what I was capable of creating while going through it… I was only capable of believing what I could not create. And that limiting belief put me through so much unnecessary grief. Every moment of my experience on campus was a continual mantra of “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” …and although that belief led me to (temporarily) give up in the end, I always came through with something I had no idea I had the capacity to create.

So, my point in writing any of this actually relates back to this blog. I’ve wanted to start, contribute to, and maintain a blog for a really long time, but I never knew where to begin (I still don’t), and I had so many doubts, concerns, and insecurities about having one (I still do). Most blogs I’ve seen have a theme, or a purpose, or are branded in a way that has some kind of continuity; you know, crafts, or entertainment, or food. Well my life’s one big fuckin’ mess. I’m still so confused about what my identity is – and from that stems my insecurity about what kind of knowledge I even have to offer the world. I’ve experienced so much in regards to the cancer experience, but in all honesty, I don’t want that to be a part of my identity. I don’t want to launch a cancer blog and create a community around people who have experienced what it’s like. I’m okay with being open and honest about what I’m going through, but I don’t want it to become my life – I do, eventually, want to let it go and put it behind me. I’m not inspired to write or talk about it over and over and over again. I am traumatized from everything I have experienced. and moving on from this is going to take me a lifetime. “Moving on” from cancer doesn’t necessarily mean bypassing, ignoring, or dismissing the life lessons learned from it all… I just can’t imagine logging onto WordPress every day to write about and discuss a topic that I one day hope to put far, far behind me.

And then there’s me as a piercer, which has just as much to do with me as a person as waiting tables to get through school does to someone else. I pierce so that I don’t have to wait tables. I don’t hate piercing, but it is so, so far from my soul calling that I sometimes get completely lost in the abyss.

So what else is there? Aside from what I do from work, and the fact that I’m currently going through the motions of having been diagnosed with cancer, what else defines my identity? What else do I even have enough knowledge about or experience with that would validate and support an entire blog dedicated to it? The only thing I can think of is my constant effort to develop and refine my identity in the first place – some kind of chronological documentation of the choices I make, the realizations I make, the experiences I have, and the things I learn as life goes on. You know, and in that sense, maybe I can capture a couple of things that could serve as proof of personal growth or change. Maybe my shit storm of a life, paired with my haphazard attempts to find a clearing, could inspire someone else, or at the very least, be publicly available for some form of entertainment. Or like, I don’t know. I just want to transparently share my life experience, no matter how erratic or random it might be. And you know what else I want to do? I want to publicly, and loudly, state my truth, and then fucking stand in it. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that in entirety quite yet – which is interesting, because I can fully recognize that holding certain things back makes it painfully obvious that I am dancing with fear. There are things I am struggling with that I fear if I was truthful about would negatively affect my life, which is so ironic because these things are the very things I know are negatively affecting my life to begin with. These things… are the very same things I want to write about overcoming, but I feel like I can’t write about them in the first place. What the eff? What’s the deal?

So where does this leave this blog? I think it leaves it as a work in progress. I think a super random collection of posts that have no theme, rhyme, or reason perfectly reflects my life at the moment. I’m all over the place. I have no solid identity, I haven’t found my passion (okay, I’m pretty sure I have, but I’ll write about that another time) – let’s just say I haven’t found a way to embody it. At the same time, though, I feel like I have several passions that aren’t really connected, which is part of my struggle. I am interested in just about as many things as I’m not interested in at all. And that makes it so difficult to start a blog with a theme. If this blog were to have a theme, it would simply be a collection of random experiences derived from certain choices I made for whatever reason, and stories of what I learned from them. Like… basically a diary of how I currently live my life, what I do and don’t like about it, and the ways in which I attempt to understand and cultivate an inspired, passionate way of living day-to-day.

So anyways. Here is where I’m at today.

I woke up at 7 am to Jonas coughing and retching and swallowing non-stop in my face (he essentially sleeps wrapped around my head like a scarf or something). I dislike days where I wake up to doggie problems. He’s asleep and snoring now, so I’ll just pretend that everything is fine until it isn’t.

I love getting the dogs’ food ready in the fridge before I go to bed. That way, I can feed them as quickly as possible in the morning, because they are rabid beasts when it comes to breakfast and suppertime. Jonas actually starts foaming at the mouth as he waits. While they’re eating, I pull back the kitchen window curtains for some light and open the kitchen door to the backyard, so that when they’re finished, they can waddle up the steps to go peepee poopoo. While they’re barking their asses off at nothing, waking up our entire block, I’m boiling water for coffee, I’m preparing my supplements and medication, and I’m writing a to-do list in my head.

Here’s what I wish my morning looked like instead. I wish I woke up at 5:30 or 6, because early mornings inspire the fuck outta me. I wish I fed the dogs and let them outside to terrorize the neighborhood even earlier. I wish I drank a tall glass of lemon water, and then I wish I lit a candle and sat down on a meditation cushion in my living room for twenty minutes, followed by a quick written reflection in my journal. Then, I wish I whisked up a steaming hot thermos of matcha, leashed up the dogs, and went for a long, cool, refreshing walk before the majority of the rest of the city got out of bed. Once I got home, I wish I worked out or went to yoga (neither of which I can do right now), showered, and got ready for the day. Boom. I wish, I wish, I wish.

My to-do list today includes things like cleaning the microwave and compiling a collection of clothing to drop off at a consignment store. Purging. Going through random items that are taking up space and really trying to understand why I’m holding onto it. Cleaning and organizing my nightmare of a second bedroom. Walking the dogs, doing the dishes, finishing laundry, reading my book, responding to e-mails and messages, watching Netflix, blah blah blah. There is a job opening at the Calgary Zoo for a zookeeper position. My Dad had put me in touch with a very important contact at the zoo who I had been in touch with regarding employment there, but at the time, there was nothing available. I might make a cup of tea and set that in motion later. What a day, what a day.

I’m off to see the wizard!

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Currently reading:


…I do not know why.

Currently watching:



The last movie I watched:


…I have no fucking idea why. I don’t like these kinds of movies. I lost interest halfway through and started wandering around the house, but I’m still going to say I’ve seen it. And for some reason, I’ll probably still watch the other two.

Currently on my mind:

  • Having this drain in my ass cheek removed and the ridiculous amount of discomfort I will be relieved from when it happens.
  • Jonas and whatever it is about his throat that is bothering him.
  • The green juice I made that is sitting nice and cold for me in a mason jar in the fridge.
  • Where and how to find interesting and relevant podcasts to listen to and learn from.
  • Beginning the process of upgrading my high school math and science through BVC, once again.
  • Doing some old-person exercises and stretches in my living room later this afternoon.



Complications, Emergency Surgery & My 27-day Hospital Stay Nightmare

*deepest of sighs* …let me start with this quote by this person I have never heard of before named Ijeoma Umebinyuo, I guess. I found it on Pinterest and it makes me bawl.

healing comes in waves

and maybe today

the wave hits the rocks

and that’s ok,

that’s ok, darling

you are still healing

you are still healing.

I think the last status update I posted on Facebook was in regards to the fact that I had just rode my bike in the sunshine to the Lazy Loaf in Parkdale with Tristan. Hopping on that thing and cruising through my neighborhood on one of the first few really nice days of spring, less than two weeks after having undergone major bowel surgery, was pretty cathartic to say the least.

The last photo I posted on Instagram was the cutest picture of Jonas lying in his favorite spot on the couch. I was relaxing there with him, basking in the gratitude of being home, feeling stronger and stronger every day.

The last thing I did before the shit hit the “fan” was go to one of Tristan’s slow pitch games. We drove there together, I set up a blanket on the grass, I drank one singular organic hemp beer (delicious, and the first alcoholic beverage I had consumed in a very long time), and I brought my coloring books and pencil crayons. Chloe came with me. I got to see some of Tristan’s co-workers who have been asking after me. The sun was shining, and it felt… normal.

Afterwards, I drove way down south to pick up a care package put together by one of Peggy’s friends, and I was actually kind of surprised by how well I felt. I remember thinking that this woman was probably wondering how in need of a “care package” I actually was. When she asked how I was feeling, I remember telling her that it was my best day yet, and that I felt amazing. I was moving normally, and felt strong. And capable. And able-bodied.

When I got home, I put the items in this care package away in the fridge and elsewhere, and made some tea. That’s when it happened. I don’t know how to describe how it felt, but it was instantaneous, and the feeling shot up straight from my lower right pelvis, up the entire right side of my body, and down my arm. I collapsed to the floor. I started to rock back and forth while the panic built up inside of my head. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t fathom the idea of going back to the hospital. It was too awful. Tristan had gone out after his slow pitch game anyway, and nobody would have been able to drive me there. So, instead, I waited for it to pass, and while it never did, it did subside enough for me to reach for a couple of T3’s and crawl into bed.

The entire next day, I stayed in bed, still waiting for the pain to go away, but it didn’t. I kept popping T3’s and forcing myself to go to sleep. The following afternoon, I started throwing up, consistently, and I knew I had to go to emergency. My Mom came over and we actually walked up the hill together so that we didn’t have to pay for parking (how wrong is that?). Once I got to emergency, I was in pretty rough shape – nearly on all fours on the hospital floor, moaning, groaning, writhing in pain, making frequent trips to the bathroom to puke. They put me in a bed right away and and gave me intervenous fentanyl. Fucking fentanyl! I quote, from Wikipedia: Fentanyl is approximately 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and roughly 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade (100% pure) heroin. Fuck.

I was quickly sent down for a CT scan – the first of many – and it was decided, almost immediately, that I would be sent into the OR for an emergency surgical procedure called an “abdominal washout”. The recently re-sected portion of my colon had blown apart. Totally perforated – sending all of it’s contents, along with gas and air, floating around my system. A possibility of the risk for sepsis; a risk my surgeon had explained to me during one of my pre-op meetings with him.

So, down the rabbit hole I went. My surgeon was actually at a function that evening, a retirement party for a colleague, but after being paged and told what was going on, he came swooping in. I was admitted for surgery at 12:30 am with my Mom and Tristan by my side to bid me farewell. I don’t remember much of what happened after I was wheeled back to my unit several hours later.

In fact, it’s hard for me to recall much of what happened during the next 27 days I was in the hospital. It’s even harder for me to try and explain what I do recall. I don’t know if it’s worth the remembering to try and document what I experienced, here on the internet. I was taken to parts of my psyche I never knew existed. It was the singular darkest, most frightening journey of my life. I spent the entire time screaming at the top of my lungs, silently and not-so-silently. Take the most debilitating emotional pain, and the absolute worst physical pain, blend ’em up in a Vitamix ~ and voila, there you have what I went through for the entire month of June.

I’m home now, and this is something I’ve realized. When I “announce” that I have been discharged from the hospital, I think a lot of people assume that I am healed – that a person isn’t discharged from the hospital until they are strong and healthy enough to resume their normal life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Waking up every day, and every seemingly insignificant task throughout the day, takes a tremendous amount of effort. There is an excruciating amount of pain involved. All of the things I used to be able to do, don’t exist anymore (not right now, anyway). Try not being able to walk your dogs, or wash your dishes, or cook your own food. Try barely being able to physically move your body from the bed, or the couch. Try not being able to shower, or dress yourself, or bend over to pick something up off the ground. And on top of all of those things, try having to be responsible for the maintenance hospital property spilling from your body – I have a massive drain coming out of my backside that is attempting to keep the area of infection in my bowels free from contamination as my body heals this perforation. I have to flush, irrigate, and aspirate this drain with syringes full of saline. I have to change the bandages and monitor the site. And additionally? I have an ileostomy bag now, which, although (hopefully) temporary, I have to learn to live with and maintain for possibly the rest of this year.

I feel… robbed. I grieve HARD for my life pre-surgery; I grieve for my body and the way it felt and worked before I was cut open and fucked around with. It was so strong, so willing, and so able. And now, it’s so weak, so fragile, and in so much pain. I cry constantly, all the time, at everything. It’s uncomfortable and very painful to lie down and rest, and it’s beyond exhausting to move. I can’t catch a break. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how else to explain it so that anybody will understand how genuinely hard I am struggling to get through each day, but it’s not my responsibility to try and make people understand. It is what it is.

Throughout the pain and discomfort, I am reading The Hobbit and The Alchemist, and re-watching Breaking Bad. I bumble around the house intermittently and try to put things in their place – everything is a disaster, because I can’t keep up with housework or organizing anything.

I forgot to mention that while I was in the hospital, my Nursing Assistant, who changes my bedding, scooped up all of my dirty sheets and blankets while I was in the bathroom and sent them down the laundry chute, along with my fucking iPhone which was wrapped up inside them. The hospital’s laundry gets processed in Edmonton. I watched my phone sit at the Foothills hospital for close to a day using Find my iPhone, and then watched it drive away in the morning before losing service. They couldn’t retrieve it because of like, biohazard reasons. It’s gone for good now. Which, in the end, actually doesn’t matter, because I had to cancel my cell service regardless, seeing as how I couldn’t afford to pay anything anyway.

Tristan and I are struggling financially more than we’ve ever experienced. I am hoping to be back doing some kind of work in the next 4-6 weeks, if all goes well, but we are falling behind in ways that are going to take us a very long time to make up for. If it weren’t for the small handful of amazing people who are cooking heat-and-serve meals for us and filling our freezer, Tristan and I would be headed to the food bank. It’s pretty scary, actually.

So, I’m firing up the old Go Fund Me again. You have no idea how sick I am of asking for help. If this second surgery had never happened, I would have been back working by now, moving forward, but that’s not the case. The original money I raised on Go Fund Me was to pay for my naturopathic cancer treatments while I was undergoing chemotherapy, which I was able to achieve (thank god). Now, I’m just asking for a little more to help me get through this last, final stretch – to pay my utilities, to buy some shampoo, to pick up some almond milk and bread, feed the dogs. It’s almost over, everyone – I’ll be back up on my feet soon, able to provide for myself and be financially independent. But it’s just not possible right now, not with this drain coming out of my right ass cheek and the fact I can’t walk with my back straight. I just need to pull through this next little while, somehow. I feel like such a mooch, but I don’t know what else to do.

Anyway, here are some photos – because what’s a whiney, moochey blog post without photos?

Tristan and I trying to get some sun and fresh air.
Trying to keep is casual.
Cool cloths, warm blankets… hospital protocol.
Attempting to shave my legs while sitting on a chair. This took me about 45 minutes.
Combing my hair after a shower in the hospital bathroom. Also took me about 45 minutes.
We snuck little Archie in for a visit.


The nurses loved him, but “the boss” wasn’t allowed to find out…
Photo on 2016-06-21 at 11.16 PM
Here’s a picture of me crying.
Photo on 2016-06-22 at 12.31 PM #2
Here is a picture of me in pain.
Photo on 2016-06-22 at 11.23 PM
Here is a picture of me refusing to get into my hospital bed, and instead, sitting on the floor.
Photo on 2016-06-23 at 9.13 AM #2
My depressing home for 27 days.
Photo on 2016-06-24 at 12.48 PM
I did a lot of coloring.
Photo on 2016-06-25 at 5.06 PM #2
Agony. When will it be over?
Signing my discharge papers the afternoon I finally got to go home.
Eating Indian food at home from Skip The Dishes, a gift from an amazing human being.

…well, that’s about all I’ve got. Today, with Tristan’s help, my major goals are to do the dishes, walk the dogs, pick up some milk, and give the dogs a bath. Considering how slowly I move, this will take me the entire day.

The link to my GoFundMe account can be found here. I’m serious – 50 cents would help. I don’t know how else to ask or say thank-you.

Have a good day everyone.



Harvie Heights/Canmore Spring

Good morning, everyone. 🙂

Today marks 2 weeks + 1 day post-op. Something big happened today: for the first time, I was able to roll out of bed at 7:55 and take the dogs for a walk at the park across the street! Up until today, no longer being able to sleep in bed meant slowly making my way to the couch to lay down, read a book, watch Netflix, and fall back asleep for a nap. So this is good news! To wake up and feel like I can function and accomplish things straight away instead of having to write off the first half of the morning feels really good. Go me! #onehundredemoji

Okay, so before I went in for surgery I actually went and did something really cool with my friends. I made a really big effort to make this happen before I knew I wouldn’t have the physical strength to do it anymore, and it was so totally worth it. I drafted a post about the experience, and wanted to post it now, because it was just so awesome. Enjoy!


May 7th, 2016

It’s time to sit my butt down and write about this.

So, I’d say probably over the past year or so, I’ve seen photos and videos of people clutching huge glass carboys while filling them up with this miscellaneous water coming from a random pipe that seemed to be tapped into the side of an arbitrary hill. I never paid too much attention, because I was like, that seems like so much work, and who cares? It’s just water. But then, over time, I slowly started to connect what these people were doing to the type of people that were doing it. Only then, did it start to pique my interest…

A couple of weeks ago, a darling friend of mine made the trip to my place with a friend of his, and the three of us spent the afternoon doing something I’ve been wanting to do so super badly: Brewing. Dandelion. Mead. It was literally one of the cutest, most adorable things I have ever spent my time doing; we talked and laughed under the sun while plucking dandelion flowers from my front lawn, filling up baskets and bowls and admiring how soft and fluffy it felt to press down on what we had gathered with our bare hands. Don was teaching us – he brought all of the things, and dropped all of the knowledge – most of which he described as “arbitrary”, which was hard for me accept because I am SUCH a “follow the recipe” kind of person, both in cooking, and sometimes in life (something to ponder, for sure…)

The reason I bring this up is because the first thing Don showed us was how to boil honey in order to bring any impurities to the surface. He had brought a tub of honey, and two 1-gallon glass jugs full of spring water. He taught us that the kind of water you use to brew mead or beer (or anything, really) was of utmost importance – and that spring water was the only way to go. When he said this, it reminded me of the many times I had seen or come across images, media, and information about people “harvesting” spring water from those seemingly indiscriminate taps. He told me that he had made the trip down to Canmore with some friends to collect this water himself. This magical-sounding source of spring water in Canmore – I had heard of it before. Both the idea of this place in the mountains, and the act of collecting water there, seemed to be coming closer and closer to the forefront of my consciousness. I must go there… I whispered to myself silently, whilst staring off into space with a dreamy gaze. HAHA.

Alright, but seriously. I had to fucking go there. And it seems simple enough, right? Gather the vessels, make the trip. But as with anything I am pursuing for the first time, I had a million logistics my detail-oriented brain wanted answers to before I could make a move – where do I procure enough carboys to make the trip worthwhile? How do I find this fucking elusive place? Is is actually safe, or is Don plotting to kill me? What’s the deal?! …so, as any professional knowledge-seeker would do, I spent some time with Google to find the answers.

The process of clarifying my understanding of what this whole “harvesting spring water” thing actually meant took way longer than I expected, and was far more frustrating and confusing than it should have been. I came across this website called Find a Spring, which is where I found this video:

(Disclaimer: K. I don’t know who this Daniel Vitalis guy is, but he’s got two fucking solid blackwork sleeves and I am in complete and total love with him. I trust him whole-heartedly. Be mine.)

The video above vibed with me instantly – sold. So totally sold. So I used the website’s “Locate a Spring” thingamajig and searched for the spring closest to me in Harvie Heights. The directions seemed simple enough; I grew up in Canmore, and knew exactly how to get to where this website was telling me to go. I asked a girlfriend of mine if her and her son would be interested in joining me for the adventure on Mother’s Day, and she said *yes*. Tristan, to my surprise, said yes too – I say “to my surprise” because Amy and I had planned to be on the road by 7:30 am, and early mornings make Tristan sad. Don graciously lent us five huge carboys, and we were set to go.

On Sunday, the four of us were on the road by 8:30 instead, and once we got there, spent close to an hour searching the wrong part of the woods near Harvie Heights. It just seemed too difficult for how easy the directions sounded on Find a Spring. It’s ten in the morning and here I am with spiders in my hair frantically calling Don for help – he wasn’t answering, so after re-reading the information a couple of dozen times, I finally realized that we had taken the wrong exit. We backtracked a slight ways down the road, and the site itself couldn’t have been more obvious; there was a patch of grass that bore serious signs of wear-and-tear from vehicles making a spring water pitstop, and there was water trickling down the rubble pathway emerging from the trees. A few steps up and around the corner, and boom – it looked so familiar from everything I had seen online!


We definitely weren’t the only ones there ~ several joggers and typical hyper-active Canmore/triathlete-looking mountain-hobbit folk (lol) came in and out consistently to fill up their water bottles. Amy, Tristan and I carried up the carboys from the van, and started filling up 🙂




Yeah, that was a lot of media. Cool. We didn’t have lids or caps or corks or stoppers of any kind for these carboys, so we loaded them up in the back of the van and covered them with Ziplock bags and elastics because that’s how we do.

I’ve been using this water for everything. I fill up my water bottle with it, I cook with it, I use it in the kettle when I’m brewing or decocting tea. It’s the water I used when I made my first batch of bone broth last night. I gave some to the dogs – they’re obsessed. I fed some to my wheatgrass trays – I swear to you, they grew twice as tall over night. It’s amazing. And to be honest, I’m actually quite surprised how quickly I’m burning through these carboys – I’ve already used half of what we bottled, and it’s only been four days!

I wish I could bring an entire carboy up with me to the hospital to use during my hospital stay this week – maybe I’ll pour some into mason jars and bring some with me that way. Fresh. Super fresh.


If anyone wants to carpool down together sometime this spring/summer/whenever – get at yo girl!!!

Ok byeeeeeeeeeeeee!



Hospital Recap & Update from Home

Good morning, everyone. 🙂

I just went through my Facebook feed and deleted all of the posts/updates I shared while I was in the hospital. I was thinking of doing the same on my Instagram, but I haven’t decided. Looking back on the whole debacle makes me feel sick all over again. I had so many people reaching out to me in so many different ways, through so many different platforms, and since I barely had the energy or whereabouts to lift my phone up from the bedside table for more than a couple of seconds (if at all), I figured the best way to keep everybody in the know was to write these long, gross updates accompanied by bland, repetitive, sickly hospital-bed photos of myself or of my room. Yuck.

This is the first photo my Mom took of me when I was wheeled in from the recovery room. It looks as though I am clutching a Styrofoam cup of ice chips even though I am obviously sleeping. This trend continued for the duration of my stay.
The first selfie I took after I woke up from surgery.
When the drainage tube was still inside my stomach. #sickemoji
This was taken the day I thought I was going to be discharged, before I spiked a fever and learned I had E. Coli.
…and here I am, still waiting to go home a couple of days later.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I’m totally PTSD about it, but I’ll give you the drive-by version: I have been to hell and back. If I had known that my experience in the hospital would have went the way it did, a person would have had a very hard time convincing me to show up for the surgery at all. I woke up with a catheter coming out of my vagina and a drainage tube coming out of the right side of my abdomen. For several days straight, I suffered from a type of all-consuming nausea I will never be able to describe – I was pretty close to having a tube put up my nostril and fed down my throat to evacuate the residual contents of my stomach. There were points that were so low, for me, that I was psychologically convinced that I might die.

I debated sharing this photo, but in the end, decided, fuck it. This is what I looked like for about 4 or 5 days straight. Thanks, mom.
This is also what I looked like for the majority of my stay – cold towels and hot blankets. They were, once again, trying to find a vein for an IV here.

So, as it turns out, the catheter helped me contract a strain of E. Coli about five days in, which brought me even further down the rabbit hole; at this point, the only thing I could think of that brought any sense of comfort was the reality of a God/ess, asking that He/She make it stop, in whatever way that meant.

I had my very own pee-hat! When my brother, sister, and I drove to Vernon to surprise my Dad in the hospital after his surgery, we walked passed a patient who was wearing one of these on his head.
Justin brings a little laughter to the table. I had to wear these every night to prevent blood from clotting in my legs.

I have officially experienced a new level of suffering that I didn’t know existed before, and I feel a tiny bit “broken open”. There wasn’t a single person in my ward that didn’t feel or experience the same things I went through these past two weeks. The few times I was able to get myself up and walking, I witnessed so much pain, and so much suffering around me, that I can officially consider myself traumatized.

Saying goodnight to everyone and having the nurses “tuck me in” was always pretty hard.

On one of my harder days (as each day was either slightly or dramatically different than the last), Tristan tempted me to get out of bed and make the trek down 10 stories to see Jonas and Chloe, whom he was walking up the hospital hill with to say hello. I hadn’t seen them in a week. It was unknown, at this point, if I could walk more than 15 seconds without projectile vomiting stomach acid, but those pugs… I would assume their driving power is similar to that of someone’s children, although the only difference is, is that children can be brought up to visit you. These kids I had to work for. And as painfully crippled as I looked, and felt, I unplugged my IV pole and began to granny-shuffle myself, hunchback and all, down the artificially-lit linoleum hallway to the elevators. Once I made it down to the main floor, I wandered towards the main entrance, and sat down in the lobby to wait. I was in an excruciating amount of pain. It was then that some guy, a very sickly looking middle-aged guy, ambled toward me with his walker and oxygen-tank of sorts, and sat himself down while moaning and groaning.

“It hurts,” he said.

“I know,” I said.

“Did you just have a baby?” he said.

“I wish,” I said.

“Probably would have been less painful,” he said.

He explained how he had colon cancer. I explained how I had the same thing. He explained how this was his fifth colon surgery, and that, this time, they were taking a graft from his leg and using it to reconstruct his bowels. I shuddered at the thought of having to come back for additional surgeries.

A few moments of silence passed before he asked me if I wanted some of his frappuccino from Good Earth, holding the dreadful plastic cup out in my direction.

“Oh, no thank you,” I said. “It has too much sugar.”

He chortled.

“Well shit,” he said. “I put five extra sugars in this one!”

The day I got discharged, I saw this same man outside in the rain, smoking cigarettes.

Anyway, shortly after the sugar interaction, Jonas and Chloe appeared right outside of the sliding glass doors. I slowly clambered out and made my way towards a bench; one that was under a tree so that it wasn’t wet. I was in so much pain and discomfort that I couldn’t concentrate. I had pushed myself passed my limit and I was not feeling good about it. However, this was my first time outside in a week, and it was raining – my favorite. Jonas and Chloe were happy to see me for a hot minute, maybe, and then got distracted by all of the action happening around them. I had to cut it short and I told Tristan I needed to make it back up to the 10th floor before I passed out or something. With great effort, I found myself back in bed, huddled under my blankets, pressing the call button for my nurse to bring me a couple of percocets, stat.


The patient across from me is Italian and owns a pizza restaurant on 17th avenue. He has a host of other health issues alongside recovering from a bowel resection, which was painful to both listen to and watch. His family is massive and exuberant, with throngs of them visiting at a time in a non-stop cycle, which sounds wonderful, but was very hard to deal with as a roommate. The food they ate together as a family, from the time the sun rose to the time the sun set, was unbelievable. It’s no wonder this poor guy has diabetes. It’s no wonder this poor guy was in for a bowel resection. When he was discharged, the number of take-out boxes the janitor had to throw away was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. How he was able to eat like this, I have no idea. The only thing I could stomach for over a week was a half a jar of baby food.

Surprisingly good.

The gentleman across from me and myself ended up bonding slightly over time. Him and his family carried a healthy skepticism of the hospital business. He experienced the same debilitating nausea that I did, although I was a few days ahead of him, recovery-wise. He ended up getting discharged a couple of days before me in the end, and on that day, his wife came to pick him up. When she was saying goodbye to me, she told me she hoped I was out of there soon. She said, “I was just telling my husband – that first steak and beer sure is going to taste good after being in this place!”

Steak. And. Beer.

After surgery for colon cancer.

…WHAT IS GOING ON??? I don’t want this to sound like I’m simply judging these people for doing the things I saw and saying the things I heard, but doesn’t anybody understand that a doctor CANNOT cure cancer? That you cannot continue with the same life patterns and habits that led to the manifestation of this disease in the first place?

When I was in Canmore for a psychology sesh a few months back, I popped into a metaphysical store and found a greeting card with a quote by Rumi on the front. I framed it and it sits on my bedside table. It reads,

Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before.

I think a lot of people have this understanding of “healing” as being this challenge or battle they need to get through so as to return to their idea of normalcy as soon as possible – the way things were before the obstacle presented itself in their lives. As if the idea of “healing” is just a temporary setback or challenge that must be overcome and defeated in order to keep moving forward in the same direction. Now, I know not everybody thinks this way – but I saw it a lot in the hospital. No, you do not eat processed corned beef in between your insulin shots following major bowel surgery. No, you do not go home from a colon resection and enjoy a beer and a steak. No, you do not spend your fifth visit to the hospital drinking frappuccinos with 5 added sugar packets and smoking cigarettes. You just don’t.

Anyway, those were my observations… and I’d never been so inspired to get my ass home so as to start the real healing process.

The first day I made it outside the hospital doors without my IV pole. This was the evening before I was discharged, I think. I was walking my Mom to the parkade. It was raining and the magic of sensory deprivation almost knocked me to my feet.

I was discharged early Sunday morning. Tristan drove up the hill and helped me pack up the remainder of my things. When we got home, he went straight back to bed – I was sick of bed! I didn’t want to go back to bed for as long as my body could handle it. While Tristan slept, I practiced walking around the house, re-acquainting myself with its layout. I slowly started unpacking my bags, one singular item at a time, placing it carefully and mindfully back where it belonged. I can’t remember everything I did that first day, but I do remember realizing how much I missed being able to lay out fully on a hard surface to stretch, or rock, or sway. Those hospital beds try way too hard to be comfortable. They’re always micro-adjusting, filling up with air and deflating. A solid, static, open space to starfish feels amazing. The ability to crack open a door or window for some fresh air feels amazing. Being left alone, not poked and prodded by nurses and blood lab techs every day on the regs, feels amazing. The peace and quiet is amazing (sans Jonas, his supersonic hearing, and the subsequent barking at what appears to be, quite literally, nothing.)

Today is day 4. Last night was the most comfortable sleep I’ve had so far. Today, I’m picking up itty bitty tasks and working on them slowly – organizing a filing cabinet, writing a couple of thank-you cards. Coloring? Maybe. A hot shower… definitely. Sitting in the backyard with Archie while he eats grass and I soak up some vitamin D like an upturned mushroom. A single cup of coffee in the AM; endless cups of tea for the rest of the day. Water water water. This is how I do.

Wounded. About 12 days post-op.
These steri-strips will stay on for about a month.

A mind-blowingly phenomenal friend and healer came over yesterday to sit on the couch with me. She made me an essential oil mist to lift my spirits. She also brought me a piece of artwork that her magical little son created during his yoga class that morning. He also  brought me a teddy bear, but accidentally took it home with him when they left (…OR WAS IT ACCIDENTAL?!). This friend of mine studies TCM, and gifted me two types of dried roots  which, when decocted together, create a recipe that… does something fun to my blood. Haha. TCM is absolutely unreal – those who study it have my full respect. This friend of mine has become such a precious resource of support, love, and encouragement to me, that I can’t figure out a way to express my gratitude for her existence in any tangible way. Which is okay, because I know she can feel it.

Another friend of mine, who I hold very very close to my heart, came by yesterday with a full pot of soup and a bag full of amazing things to put in said soup. She also brought me a necklace, and a card, and some really beautiful flowers. I was in a pretty bad way when she showed up, and was barely able to function, but I’m going to make up for my low energy and what felt like lack of gratitude the second I get a chance. Without that soup in the fridge, I’d be eating cauliflower and hummus all day. My girl. ❤

So, it feels better to be home… what the hospital environment had to offer was definitely tapped out. It takes an excruciating amount of effort to shower and get dressed, and I haven’t even attempted trying to do anything with my hair. Most of my physical effort is put into trying to develop spidey-senses for when I need to run to the bathroom.

I’ll update a little more in a few days if there is anything worth sharing. Thank you for your love. ❤


Instagram: @grittygracious

Twitter: @grittygracious


Surgery Update & Details

Okay, okay. Alright. Hello.

So, there were a few different ways I could have done this. I wanted to update those who were interested with the latest details of my upcoming (and long-awaited) bowel surgery, and rather than

a) posting an update on GoFundMe (which I may do in addition to this blog post);

b) writing a group e-mail to the small handful of people I have e-mail addresses for;

c) posting a status update hoping it reaches the right people at the right time; or

d) texting & messaging people individually to let them know what the deal was…

…I decided to write this. For everybody – for anybody who cares to know. Be prepared – this post is going to contain a lot of VERY intimate butt, poop, and sphincter talk!

My surgery with Dr. Buie is scheduled for this Thursday, May 12. The actual title of the procedure is called a “laparoscopic low-anterior resection, with possible stoma”. I am having my rectum removed (which is actually just the name for the lowest part of your colon), and my colon resected. My admission time is 5:15 am ~ it will be a wake-up-and-go typed sort of situation, and will probably look and sound something like this (WILLY NILLY):

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours at Foothills “running errands”. I picked up my “bowel prep medication”, Pico-Salax, an “oral purgative” – it’s an orange flavored powder that heats up the water you dissolve it in. Wtf? It was an over-the-counter thing, and it wasn’t covered. I didn’t like that.

Afterwards, I wandered over to the medical day care unit, and had my port flushed. This is where they “click me in” and flush the device implanted in my chest with saline and air, to make sure it’s not filled up or clogged with junk. This is what it looks like when they do that:

Then, I found my way to the hospital laboratory, where I got some bloodwork done. They slapped a yellow waterproof bracelet on my right wrist that has to stay on for an entire month. The information on it tells whoever needs to know what type of blood I need in the case of an emergency blood transfusion.

Today, I met with an ET nurse. An ET nurse is an Enterostomal Therapy Nurse, who is a nurse with advanced and specialized knowledge and clinical skills in wound, ostomy and continence care. We sat down in her office, and talked about everything ostomy-related, since there is a slight chance that I might wake up with a shit bag attached to my abdomen. She made me sit, and lay down, and move my body in all of these different ways in order to mark where the most appropriate place would be to create a stoma on my tumtum.

Photo on 2016-05-10 at 2.26 PM #2

So, here’s what I learned today. An ileostomy is when a stoma is created with your small intestine. It can be considered temporary, and it can be reversed. It’s purpose would be to stop my shit from passing through my recently resected colon, allowing it to heal without any unnecessary trauma or additional risks.

A colostomy, on the other hand, is when a stoma is created with your large intestine. A colostomy is usually permanent, and can be created when a person has undergone a surgery that has resulted in the loss of the proper functioning of their frigging sphincter – i.e., when a person’s tumor is located so low down in the colon, that surgery involves fucking with your asshole muscles. Yep. I really want to laugh, because that’s how I’ve been dealing with everything thus far, but I feel like laughing, internet-styles, would be really disrespectful to anybody who lives with a colostomy bag, or knows and cares for someone who does. So I will do my best to refrain. *stifled snicker*

Okay, so, the information I’ve gathered so far – from dozens, and dozens, and dozens of people carrying dozens, and dozens, and dozens of different professional titles – is that the size and location of the tumor located in my sigmoid colon makes it so that my surgery will be able to be performed without having to cross that particular “surgical boundary”, meaning it is not likely that I will need to live with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. AND, since my body’s response to the neo-adjuvent treatment I completed over the past several months was so extreme, I’m hoping that the chances I will wake up with an ileostomy bag will be even lower.

Dr. Buie wanted me to meet with this ET nurse to have the proper markings put in place on my stomach, just in case he needs to create a stoma – that is, depending on how he feels about the colon resection itself. In the end, it’s up to him, and the assessment of his own handiwork. My naturopath brought up a good point during a meeting with him a few weeks ago – he said to wake up with an ileostomy bag would be a relief, as it would take away any chance of the resection busting open and any sort of fecal matter drifting into my body – hello, sepsis. Hello, additional emergency surgery. However, waking up without one would also be a huge relief. Having this ileostomy “temporarily”, in cancer-care speak, means I would be living with this contraption attached to my body for about a year before it could be reversed – not because my colon wouldn’t be fully healed before that, but because since “they” are too busy creating stomas for other cancer patients, reversing mine would be considered a relatively low-priority procedure. Cool. Cool cool cool cool cool cool cool cool cool.


If you’re confused about wtf a “stoma” is, and if you don’t have a super weak stomach, Google it. It’s basically creating an external butthole on your stomach. In a sense, I will be slightly disappointed if I don’t wake up with a butthole on my stomach – I’m alright with temporarily adding that to my list of hilarious experiences in this life (once again, I’m so sorry if you have one or know someone who has one of these things and doesn’t find it funny. I kind of do. For me. Personally.)

Alright – so, shit bags aside: today, Tuesday, is my last day to eat anything. I have until midnight to put anything in my mouth that isn’t a “clear fluid”. I’m not entirely concerned about this, since I spent three months practicing something called “insulin potentiated chemotherapy”, where I fasted for 24-48 hours prior to chemo infusion, which is when I would binge on refined white sugar to increase the efficacy of “treatment” (this was suggested to me by my naturopathic oncologist). I think it worked! Starting tomorrow, I will be drinking nothing but clear fluids. Here is a handy list of allowed items printed on the pamphlet included with my laxative:

  • Plain water
  • Fruit juices without pulp, such as grape juice, filtered apple juice, and cranberry juice
  • Soup stock (bouillon or consommé)
  • Clear sodas, such as ginger ale and Sprite
  • Gelatin (Jell-O)
  • Popsicles that do not have bits of fruit or fruit pulp in them
  • Tea or coffee with no cream or milk added
  • Sports drinks such as Gatorade
  • Padialyte or Gastrolyte
  • Kool-Aid

Unfortunately, a lot of those things have a disgusting amount of refined white sugar or super ugly synthetic sugar substitutes in them, so here is a modified list of things *I* will be ingesting (obvs the misc. chunk of citrine is SUPES important):


  • Fresh spring water I harvested with my own two paws in Canmore this past weekend (I’ll be writing a little blog about this soon)
  • Rich, nutrient-dense, organic, home-made, grass-fed/finished bone broth that has been simmered in my kitchen for a long, slow, delicious 18 hours
  • Organic apple juice – juiced by moi
  • Organic coconut water not from concentrate
  • Organic TeaPops popsicles
  • Home-made “Jell-O” made with Vital Proteins pasture-raised beef gelatin (thank you, Light Cellar, for existing) ~ this is a new project for me, and I will be reporting back with how the experiment went
  • Various “safe”/basic herbal teas, since the peeps at the hospital don’t want me drinking any kind of “mischievous” herbal concoctions… so unfortunately, my beloved chaga mushroom and hand-harvested dirty dandelion root tea are off the menu for now.

Tomorrow is also the day I start purging my bowels. There are two packages of this laxative I am expected to take – one between 8 and 10 am, and the other between 4 and 6 pm. I will not be leaving the house as I will probably have to poop every five seconds (Lacey and Amanda – prepare yourselves). The day of surgery, I have to be sure to drink 2 cups of juice exactly three hours before my admission time: “cranberry cocktail”, or apple. Obviously, because I will always be this way, I will be juicing luscious organic apples myself at home and will enjoy it the same way someone who loves dessert would enjoy creme brule or cheesecake.

Tristan, his mom Peggy, and my Mom will be meeting at our place Thursday morning. From here, we will walk up the hill to the hospital (for those of you that don’t know, Tristan and I live about a 7 minute walk downhill from the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. I’ve always thought about how weird it was that we found this place before I was diagnosed, as I had no idea I would be spending so much time there!). From my experience with my port surgery, I will have to get nude (not a problem, obviously); slip on a super sexy hospital gown and cap and booties; remove all of my jewelry; and take an idiotic selfie or ten in the mirror. Then, I stick my personal belongings in a locker, and walk myself into the operating room to meet my maker. It’s very much like in the movies. It’s slightly terrifying.

I’ve never had anesthesia before. I’m kind of excited. It’s weird to me how this procedure, of which there seem to be many “unknowns”, will be over in what’s going to feel like the blink of an eye. The surgery itself should take Dr. Booboo (yeah, we’ve been calling him Dr. Booboo since the moment I met him last December, because we had been forced to meet SO many people and their minions that it was absolutely impossible to remember everyone’s name and what their role was). Anyway… it should take him anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours – afterwards, I will be in a recovery ward for another 1-2 hours while I “wake up”. From there, I will be wheeled by a porter to my hospital room, where, hopefully, everyone will be waiting for me. I hope I’m super high and say really funny things. Speaking of porters, here is a video I took of my hospital “ride” after I had my port inserted. It kind of feels like being in a video game.

I should be in the hospital for about five to ten days. I have a slight amount of PTSD from my unexpected (and totally unnecessary) ten-day hospital stay last December, so I’m trying to do my best to prepare in order to make it as stress-free as possible. When I head down there to be admitted on Thursday morning, I have been instructed to bring only the necessities – my identification, my medication, my glasses, my fuzzy leopard-print house coat that I bought in Portland a few summers ago, etc. After I have been moved to my hospital room, I can have more of my personal items brought to me – meaning, a large suitcase full of tea, bone broth, filtered water, home made almond milk, manuka honey, all of my crystals, my salt lamp & LED candles for ambiance, my favorite blanket, all of my my books, all of my movies, my laptop, my portable battery pack, my camera, my coloring books, my journals, my lip balms and body lotions, etc, etc, etc… those of you who know me well will be able to picture exactly how this hospital room is going to look: a fucking new age witchcraft gongshow.

Once I am discharged and get to go home, my involvement in “the system” is far from over. Four weeks post-op, I have a meeting with my oncologist to go over the results of my pathology report – aka, the information they gathered after putting the tissue they removed during surgery under a microscope and learning how “differentiated” these cancer cells really are. This is what is going to determine whether or not Dr. Easaw recommends additional, adjuvent treatment – ie., chemotherapy. I’m not entirely certain what I will decide, as it is up to me in the end, but I’m trying not to think about this conversation too much right now. I’ve learned it’s more emotionally manageable to take things step-by-step, and that step hasn’t arrived yet.

A common question I keep getting from people is if, after surgery, all of this will be “over”. The answer, unfortunately, is that none of this will be “over” for at least five years.  After any adjuvent treatment has been completed (hypothetically), and my (hypothetical) ileostomy has been reversed – I will be required to participate in yearly diagnostic imaging (ie, CT scans and bloodwork) to monitor the possible progression, or the possible remission, of cancer cells in my body. After five-years of no additional or suspicious cancer growth, I can officially be considered “cancer-free” and “a survivor” (by life insurance standards, anyway). Side note – I’m sure many people might consider themselves “cancer-free” or “a survivor” by different means of time measurement or imaging. And that’s fine too.

Another common question I keep hearing is in regards to what is expected of everyone while I am going through all of this – or, “what can I do to help?”. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to just SAY what I need, as doing so seems to be far more helpful than it is considered a burden to people who are interested in being supportive. It’s like, knowing someone or being connected to someone who is going through something like this makes a large majority of people really uncomfortable, and they seem to be looking for direction all the time, or instructions, on what to do, and where to be, and how to act or behave. Sometimes I can get super frustrated with this, before I remember that this whole thing is not only challenging for me, but difficult for those around me in the sense that they are learning how to cope with it as well, in a much different way than I am – as a support person. Earlier this month I got myself into a huge motherfucking pickle when I had a little freakout regarding everybody asking me the question, “So how are you feeling?” as the opener for every conversation ever – but I’ve come to realize that these people are only offering what they think and feel is the most supportive and compassionate way to offer support. So for those of you who are wondering what you CAN do to help, or for those of you who were totally scarred by my aggressive failed attempt at trying to communicate my emotional needs as a human living with cancer, there are two things:

1) Food/Bone Broth

I don’t know how to start expanding on this topic without sounding like a stuck-up little twat, but this is the most IMPORTANT thing to me, ever. Ever. EVER. Although I learned that the hospital’s vegetarian menu is five thousand million times better than their standard omnivores menu, I will be depending on friends and loved ones to bring me so much food. For the first few days, the hospital will only be offering me conventional salt-and-MSG-laden chicken or beef stock; as I mentioned earlier, I have a gigantic pot of bone broth simmering on the stove that I intend to let go for the next 18 hours before adding a shit ton of sea veg and portioning it into mason jars. Any other bone broth recipes would be graciously accepted; Kelowna’s Boned Broth Company makes little cardboard containers of beef and chicken broth that can be found in the freezer at Community. Osso Bueno is a local company that makes both beef and chicken broth and sells it in glass mason jars in the freezer at Amaranth on 4th Street SW. There are tons of recipes for soups made with bone broth out there on the interwebs – I will take any and all of it. When it comes to other food, we can chat directly regarding the nit-picky details so you can judge me in private 😉

2) Jonas/Chloe/Archibald

Ah, yes – I will need as many people as possible to feed, love, walk, kiss, shmooze, and snuggle the pugs, as well as pay some attention to our hilarious and amazing hairless guinea pig, Archie. If you are willing and/or able to give some love to my babies while I am away from them and act as a correspondent from my home base at the bottom of the hill regarding their welfare… let me know and I’ll give you the details. 😉


Alright everyone, this post is a little bit ridiculous – just my style. Please get in touch – I have a gigantic external battery pack so that I can charge my phone nearly endless amounts of times from my hospital bed without moving, so please please text me and I will respond with disgusting post-op selfies. Visits are welcome; beautiful flowers are welcome (how about dem lilacs, eh?!) ~ blaaahhhh blah blah.

For closure, here is a video I took of Kioja at the Calgary Zoo last week holding her little baby girl – Kimani, Tulia, or Maisha (you can vote on which name you like best here).



P.S. In case you needed a visual of what I look like right this second while chugging back this laxative from a mason jar, I’ve got you covered:

Photo on 2016-05-11 at 6.19 PM.jpg