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Meet Cathy

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It's hard to believe that it's October and Fall is offically here! With the new month we have a new member to meet. We're pleased to introduce you to Cathy.


Hi my name is Cathy, I’m 47 years old, and I have stage IV colon cancer.  I’m known on the Cancer Connection website as Lady C.  My husband bought me one square foot of land in Scotland as a joke present one Christmas, which earned me the title, Lady Catherine of Kincavel, so his nickname for me since then has always been Lady C.
 
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           Our Wedding in Belize 2008

I live in a quaint little village called Great Village, in Nova Scotia with my husband (Pete), and my mother (Christine), who lives in an extension that has been added onto our house.  I sometimes refer to Mom’s house as a ‘granny flat’, but she’s not too keen on that description…haha!  Pete and I don’t have any children – well except for all of our animals. 
 
Pete and I met in the UK, in 2003, while I was living and working there.  In 2008 we got married, and decided to move back to Canada that same year. 
 
We have a small hobby farm and keep sheep and chickens (for eggs) year round.  We also raise seasonally: meat chickens, turkeys, and for the first time this year, pigs.  There is something we both find really rewarding about raising our own meat and eggs, not to mention the taste…OMG the taste is out of this world!  
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Me, Loving Food as usual
  This Spring I also converted an old chicken coop into a greenhouse, and tried my hand at growing various peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and potatoes.  I’ve never been very good at looking after a vegetable garden, but I’ve had quite a lot of success with the greenhouse, so am planning on continuing to plant various things over the winter.  Hopefully my success with that will continue.  There’s nothing better than freshly picked vegetables! 
 
You can probably tell by now, that I love food! 

 Our favourite animal on the farm is our German Shepherd, Waldo, or as I like to call him, Cutie Pie.  I often think he’s my guardian angel, as every night he comes to check on me when I’m in bed, before he lays down next to me on his bed, to go to sleep.  
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Waldo (a.k.a. Cutie Pie) celebrating Canada Day

My husband works full time as a computer programmer, and I do my best to look after the farm.   I worked many years as an application developer/project manager; but for the past couple of years, my responsibility has mainly been looking after the farm and working on house renovations both here and on a rental property we have.  I love doing renovations, and building things.
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A few of the animals

In April 2014, I noticed a bit of blood in my stool.  I didn’t wait; I booked in to see my doctor right away.  The doctor asked about other symptoms (small black stool, abdominal pains, etc), none of which I had.  It was just the blood, so he treated me for the most common cause, which was internal hemorrhoids.  I was told if that didn’t clear up, I should go back to see him right away. 
 
The prescription had worked (or so I thought).  I didn’t have any more blood in my stool, until the summer of that same year.  However, this time it was different.  Not only did I have blood, but I also had the small black stool that was described to me, and was getting abdominal cramps.  So back to the doctor I went.  I was referred for a colonoscopy, and was told I could wait approximately 3 months to have that done.  It was explained to me that they worked on a triage system, so my doctor couldn’t say for sure how long my wait would be.  Turned out my wait would end up being 5 months.
 
Even though when I looked up the symptoms on the internet, everything pointed to colon cancer, I didn’t think that could possibly be my situation.  In my head (being very unfamiliar with colon cancer), I thought colon cancer only affected seniors.  At the time of my colonoscopy, I was only 46. 
 
The surgeon sat down with my husband and I, and said unfortunately I had colon cancer, and that the tumour was large enough that he couldn’t get around it to complete the colonoscopy.  My husband and I were both in shock, and just basically said “OK, where do we go from here?”, not really knowing what to say.  The shock wore off on the way home, and I had to get Pete to pull the truck over as I thought I was going to vomit.  The thought of having cancer, suddenly made me feel really sick.
 
From there everything went very quickly, lots of tests:  x-rays, blood work, ECG, a CT scan, and a barium enema (now that is a test I don’t want to repeat in a hurry!); and 2 weeks later, in February 2015, I had a laparoscopic colon resection to remove the tumour.  The surgery was very successful.
 
The pre-surgery tests showed that I also had a few spots on my lungs, but they were small, so I’d have to have another CT scan in 3 months.  If they had increased in size, it would be confirmed, that the cancer had spread to my lungs.  In May, that turned out to be the case.  So just like that, I went from stage II to stage IV.  I didn’t feel physically sick that time; I don’t know what I felt – empty and in disbelief I guess. 
 
Right after that appointment was when we picked up our new puppy, Waldo, so I guess in a way, he was my silver lining on a very dark day.
 
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Waldo just after bringing him home
Everything moved very quickly.  I was fitted with a port-a-cath and started chemotherapy about a week or so later.  That treatment lasted for 9 months before I was given my first break. 
 
The chemo treatment I was on (5FU) worked very well and even got rid of all of the spots on my lungs at one point.  But I have since had some re-growth, so I will be starting chemo again towards the end of next month.
 
My journey to this point has been an emotional rollercoaster to say the least.  The best way I can think to describe it, is when you find out you have stage IV cancer, and your future is uncertain, you kind of grieve for yourself.  You think about everything you’ve done in your life, and all the wonderful people you’ve met along the way; and you think about the most favourite times of your life.  I’ve had some pretty amazing times; and I hope I’m around to have many more.   

You also think about all the things that you may no longer be around for, like sitting on the stoop with my husband when we’re both old and wrinkly, enjoying a drink, and watching the world go by.
 
Even though it’s been just over a year and a half since my diagnosis, it’s still a struggle at times.  I don’t know if I’ll ever just accept that my life will likely be cut short.  I hope I can find some sort of balance, where I’m dealing with the cancer, but not letting it consume my mind.  Some days I don’t even think about my cancer now, so I think I’m on the right path.  Talking about it helps me deal with it.
 
One of the other main things that has helped me to cope is keeping busy.  Even when I’m on chemo and having a day, or days, when I don’t have any energy, I try and make myself do at least one thing.  It can just be something really minor, like even walking out to the mailbox to collect the mail, or doing the dishes, a bit of laundry, or doing a hobby.  I find even the smallest thing makes me feel a bit better and during the times I do feel good and have the strength, I usually work on house renovations.  With our house, renovations are never ending!  I like the days when I have the energy to do the things I used to do.
 
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Proud new owners of our farmhouse
 
Since my diagnosis, I’ve gone back to some hobbies that I had when I was young, like knitting and sewing; and I’ve picked up a few new hobbies:  felting, weaving, and oil painting.  I find it quite therapeutic, so I would definitely recommend a hobby.  I like to take knitting with me to my chemo sessions – it helps the time pass quickly and I’m doing something productive.  I also have some adult colouring books which I’ve coloured in, both during chemo, and also during a hospital stay.  Colouring makes me feel like a kid again!
 
One thing I would definitely advise against is reading too much on the internet about statistics.  They are just that, statistics.  Every single person’s situation is unique to them, so I don’t think a number comes close to covering every case.  And every time my mind sucks me into looking at the statistics for my type of cancer, it makes me feel very depressed.  So it’s best to stay away from doing that (at least in my opinion).

 
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I don’t think I could have coped as well as I have without the amazing support of Pete, who takes care of me and all the animals when I can’t, while still working full time. 
 
He stays positive during the times that I’m not feeling positive, and always has something encouraging to say.  I can’t imagine having gone on this journey without him. 

Also, my family, friends and my healthcare team have all been amazing!  My friends and family are always offering to help out and my mother faithfully drives me to chemo, and comes with me for the disconnect two days later.  We usually have a sushi lunch as a treat after my disconnect.  Getting through each chemo session deserves a treat! 
 
Everyone’s love and continued support means the world to me! 
 
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My family and friends helping to bring the hay in when I wasn't able to
 
 




Comments

Thanks for sharing your journey, you did an amazing job of it. I to have colon cancer stage 2and am presently going through chemo and find the mental struggle worse than the treatment. I feel very lucky that like you I have the support of family and friends who keep me busy and up in spirits. My sister is my biggest supporter as we are also best friends, totally connected and she has joined me in my journey, taking me to appointments, chemo and out on the town. You are very strong, very positive sounding so hope your journey turns out better than you ever thought could happen.
  • Posted Fri 21 Apr 2017 10:53 AM EDT
JDD
Am sitting here in tears............I am JDD and just joined this site a few days ago........I have been to hell and back in the last 3 years....I am 59 years old..male...............have CLL and 2 types of skin cancer.........been in remission for 19 monthes now for the CLL and had 2 tumours removed from under my scalp......been with my girlfriend for 32 years now........raised 3 kids.....do not ever give up on yourself Cathy.....pray everyday.............you will be ok....Pete you are an angel in disguise......take care......I have said a prayer for u both....
  • Posted Tue 29 Nov 2016 02:34 AM EST
Thank you for you kind words JDD. So sorry to hear about your diagnosis, I can't imagine how difficult it must be dealing with different types of cancers. You must be a very strong individual, and it sounds like you have a great family to support you. 19 months in remission - that is wonderful - I hope and pray that continues long into the future for you.

Since I wrote this, I was told at my last update that I could have another 3 months off of chemo since the spots on my lungs were growing so slowly - that was certainly a welcome turn of events. Now I can enjoy Christmas with my family and friends - treatment free. :-)

I'm feeling stronger, and a more accepting of my situation every day. I am very lucky to have the support of Pete. I will never give up on myself.

Thanks again for you kind words and prayers. Best wishes to you.
  • Posted Thu 01 Dec 2016 05:31 AM EST
Lady C thank you for sharing your journey. I would love to see a picture of Waldo.
  • Posted Tue 08 Nov 2016 10:00 PM EST
Thank you for sharing your story Cathy. Colour away!
  • Posted Tue 11 Oct 2016 11:17 PM EDT
Thank you Jorola. That's a very cute dog in your profile picture! :-)
  • Posted Wed 12 Oct 2016 08:42 AM EDT

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