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Meet NickytheCanuck

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Join us in getting to know NickytheCanuck  as she talks about walking along side of her husband, and their journey with advanced melanoma.

I have been a caregiver to Steven for over 35 years now (he still has difficulty using the stove).  My regular caregiving certainly shifted just before Christmas in 2018.  He’d been undergoing treatment for a couple of years for what the doctors believed was a vascular malformation (benign tumor).  He had undergone a major facial surgery where they believed they had got it all, but it had quickly grown back, and a follow-up surgery was performed only nine months later in November of 2018.  After a few weeks of recovering well from this very difficult surgery, my father had taken Steven to the hospital to have his incision checked.  They strangely waited well beyond their appointment time to see the doctor. By the time they were called, the waiting room was completely empty.  His surgeon then told Steven and my Dad the shocking news; the biopsy was positive for cancer (melanoma).  Both Steven and my father thought they had heard her wrong. Up to this point the word cancer had never been uttered.


I drove home from work that day and saw my Dad’s car in the driveway and instinctively knew something wasn’t right.  I ran into the house and one look at their faces told me something was terribly wrong.  Steven said let’s go upstairs and I just starting repeating, “what is it? what is it?” My Dad said go upstairs.  Steven took me upstairs and shared his gut punch.  It was cancer.  I remember that day only in pieces.  I remember laying on the kitchen rug in a ball sobbing.  I remember the shock and fear on Steven’s face.  I remember the heartbreak.  We’ve grown so much since that day.

Steven’s been through immunotherapy which needed to stop due to toxicity issues; he lost all the skin on the palms of his hands and soles of his feet, his thyroid conked out and he was experiencing debilitating nerve pain.  After his 14 of 26 treatments, his oncologist insisted they take a one month break from treatment. After restarting the treatment, they immediately were forced to stop, it was not safe to proceed. The oncologist advised a switch to radiation, even though it was a long shot for success. Steven underwent 20 sessions of radiation which resulted in severe facial burns to his skin and the inside of his mouth. Just as the radiation was completed, the Covid-19 Pandemic overtook us all. Steven took most of 2020 to recover from the side effects of his treatments. The amazing team at the hospital had done all they could and it was suggested that we transition to another hospital. 

Steven continued to recover and was even able to slowly return to his job in early 2021. Even though he found it very difficult, he was in a happier place again. We found him a life coach to deal solely with the challenges of returning to work.  She was an invaluable resource!  Sadly, this peace of mind was short lived as the hospital team identified a problem with the MRI. By late June we were preparing for the most aggressive surgery they could perform to give him the best shot to silence the beast.  We planned for the best and were prepared for the worst while nervously awaiting the pathology report.

After eight grueling days in hospital and only a month from surgery we learned that the margins did not come back clean.  His condition is disappointingly now deemed palliative.  So now we are learning to live with this wait; as the oncologist told us, it’s not “if” the tumor returns but “when”. 

Steven’s most recent CT scan reported a new suspected melanoma tumor in his hip that a biopsy revealed as negative. For the very first time a test came back with a negative result!  We were able to close out this month with fantastic news, which was much cause for celebration!  We inevitably will be dealing with monthly scan-anxiety but he’s still healing, and we keep reminding ourselves that he does not currently have a tumor.

We choose to treat this as our journey. I haven’t lived the physical pain Steven has had to endure, but I have walked every mile of it with him.   

We’ve both learned so much over the past few years.  He would have told you he was a lover not a fighter, an artist and a friend.  He has displayed a strength and perseverance we didn’t know existed within him. His friends and family have all had authentic conversations with him and know how they have enriched and brought love and joy to his life.  I have always been the girl who didn’t like to make waves and may have swallowed a comment for fear of upsetting someone or saying the wrong thing.  I now take the time to tell people what I need, what doesn’t help and how to best support me.  I also take all the time a situation needs to ensure that when someone needs a moment of empathy, they have my full attention and support.  It is very important to me to pass along the life lessons and support we’ve received to those who may also need a helping hand.

At work I’ve always set myself up to do the hard stuff first and then the balance of my to do list is easy.  I think that has been a useful personality trait for all this cancer “stuff”.  We dealt with some of the hardest questions and conversations first so that they are no longer an elephant in the room.  It’s easier for us to sit back and enjoy our days when there is nothing unsaid.  We take the time to say the good stuff and tackle the tough conversations; stop and hug when we’re passing one another in the house; enjoy the colour on the trees; enjoy some amazing ice cream.  We find much joy in the little stuff.

I’ve always been that girl that could do it all by myself.  I could handle most of my problems with little to no help from anyone.  Well for one of the first times in my life, I could not remotely deal with this on my own.  We needed our village for emotional support, appointments and treatments, food, tears, love, and laughter and to help lift us from a funk.  They pick us up, share our adventures and keep us grounded.  I knew I loved my family and our friends, but this has taught me the importance of letting people know how much they enrich our lives and make it so much better for being in their company.  I have also learned to recognize who can deal with this journey and who cannot.  We share lite with those that can’t and share the struggles with those that can.  I ask the question and support their response.  It is important for me to recognize that everyone is dealing with their own personal strife and not everyone has the room to deal with the cancer portion of our lives.  Doesn’t mean we don’t love spending time with them, but we don’t share our burden.  We also tell people to share with us.  We continue to ensure we are providing support as well as receiving it.

Our mental health caregivers have also been incredible.  We would not be as healthy mentally without them.  We are now also working with a grief counsellor who is helping us with this most recent transition.  It’s been helpful to develop our coping skills. 

My work family has also been an amazing area of support.  They have allowed me the space to be quiet, or sad and I am fortunate that I can rearrange my schedule so I can be there when Steven needs me. I’ve found my transparency has helped them support me in the best way possible.  Allowing me the time.

We also have the unfailing love of our two fur babies Ellie and Sadie.  They keep watch over Steven and ensure we get outdoors to enjoy life beyond these walls. 
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And Steven.  Well, I knew I loved him from the moment I met him at 17 years old.  I have known him as a young man, a father, a musician, and an artist.  A woodcarver, an uncle, a Mr. Fixit and a friend.  We call his journey, The Seven Faces of Steven.  His face has changed several times over the past few years, but in my eyes it has only gotten better.  When people say you love someone so much your heart hurts, that’s me.  I love every new Steven a little more than the one before.  I know the journey he has had to overcome for each and everyone of those new faces. My own real-life Superman!

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You’ll oftentimes find us in our backyard cottage in front of the fire or on our front porch.  It is here we talk about where life’s adventures will be taking us next.  I enjoy cross stitching, reading and I’m even trying my hand at quilting.

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And now the world is opening up again and we are resuming our travels.  We’ve been fortunate to travel lots through Europe and India, Egypt and down South.  We are dipping our toes back in with a trip to St. Lucia to enjoy the people, the sights, and the smells.  There is nothing we enjoy more than hearing new voices and sharing the experience of life in a different part of the world.

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This is one of my favorite sketches by Steven.  Oh, the places we’ll go!

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And to all of you here at Cancer Connection, an extra special thank you for being an integral part of our village.  It is so incredibly calming to have a place to land where people just know exactly what to say, no matter the circumstance.  It’s my first read every morning and the thought and care is always so uplifting and kind.  Your grace in sharing experiences and helping to address issues and concerns is invaluable and such an important part of our journey. 

So, to all of you a heartfelt thank you in helping us to get here and for all the care and support we’ll need as we continue along the cancer highway.

Happy travels, Nicky

Thank you for sharing Steven and your story with us Nicky.

 




Comments

Wow, NickytheCanuck‍, Steve and you have been through a lot of pain and suffering. Thank you for sharing your beautiful love story life with us and it is such a pleasure getting to know you both more. I’m so glad you are both here with us as you go through those hard times. It makes me happy to see him feeling much better and that you finally got some good news! Hope you share some of your travel photos here too. Have a wonderful trip you guys,❤️🙋💐
  • Posted Sun 07 Nov 2021 09:08 PM EST
NickytheCanuck
Thank you for sharing. True love birds. You're lucky to have one another. Post a pic from your next adventure!
Hugs.
  • Posted Fri 05 Nov 2021 02:04 AM EDT
Absolutely! We’re both so much looking forward to no dishes, laundry or chores for a week! It’s the joy in the little things 🤣
  • Posted Fri 05 Nov 2021 03:06 AM EDT
Thanks for sharing your story with us NickytheCanuck‍ . Amazing grace and strength. I'm finding as the site grows, I don't have time for all the posts anymore but when I see your name, I make a point of reading knowing that you will have some gem to share with us.
  • Posted Wed 03 Nov 2021 05:49 PM EDT
Thank you for your kind words. I only hope to help and support others as much as they have lifted me 💛
  • Posted Thu 04 Nov 2021 11:57 AM EDT
Thank you for sharing your ups and downs and the love that shines through!
A wonderful and inspiring story🤗
  • Posted Wed 03 Nov 2021 04:23 PM EDT
Thanks 💛
  • Posted Thu 04 Nov 2021 11:57 AM EDT
Thank you, NickytheCanuck‍ , for a beautifully written compilation of your life with Steve, Ellie, and Sadie. It is clear you and Steven have a true life-long love story going on and on and on.....beyond the beautiful blue Caribbean waters and further.
You are so brave in your battles and expressions of appreciation for life and each other, regardless of the ups and/or downs. It makes me so grateful for the people on this website, people and loved ones in my circle, and my miraculous life of physical and mental survival. You have much to share.
And, I request you open a Victoria branch of Nick 'n Nudge Travel Agency!

  • Posted Tue 02 Nov 2021 08:55 PM EDT
Absolutely a Victoria branch, thanks so much for your kind words 💛
  • Posted Wed 03 Nov 2021 11:54 AM EDT

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