How One Word Changed My Life

Well, here I am, all alone at home. Jonathan isn’t here tonight. I had to take him to the ER. It’s a situation that could be the difference between life and death if left unattended.

It’s been a crazy whirlwind these last six months.

I remember the day that started it all. It was a Saturday afternoon in late July. I sat with Jonathan in the waiting area of the Vancouver General Hospital ER while we waited for hours, changing sitting positions what must have been hundreds of times in a vain effort to make those vinyl waiting chairs with the hard wooden armrests the slightest bit more comfortable. Leaving the hospital with more questions than answers only to come back the following weekend to do more of the same except the second time it was during the night and into the following morning. I think we spent a total of 24 hours in ER that week. And yet after all the poking, prodding, samples, scans, questions, referrals to different doctors, examinations, and endless waiting, we still had no idea what was going on. Perhaps a few hints, but nothing conclusive. The next few weeks were a blur of more tests and retests and a lot of questioning and “what if’s” on our part.

Finally, just before the end of the summer, we received the verdict: Jonathan has cancer.

Cancer. The one word I never wanted to hear. The one word that changed everything.

This has been very hard for me to openly admit, and up until now I have only told a handful of people outside of my immediate family and closest friends.

We had considered the possibility of cancer throughout the weeks leading up to this point, but actually hearing the words confirming my worst fear rocked my world. I had just recently lost my grandma to cancer and cancer has touched Jonathan’s family in a big way. How do you deal with this? Where do you begin to comprehend this kind of news?

Earlier last year Jonathan celebrated his thirtieth birthday. This was supposed to be a great time in his life. The start of a new decade, a new chapter in the adventure that is life. Instead we were hit right in the middle of the face with a big life-changer and lots of questions. What was going to happen next? How do we face this? What does our future look like? What does Jonathan’s future look like? Why is this happening to us, to Jonathan, and why now? It was as if a switch was flipped and everything that had happened up until that moment disappeared. All that we could see was a very foggy, unknown future. It was scary.

Once the diagnosis was in further tests were ordered and within a couple of weeks Jonathan underwent surgery to remove the tumour. The surgery left him bedridden for almost three weeks, the first of which I was luckily off work so I could be with him at home to take care of him and keep him company. After surgery, it was back to the waiting game. Study of the tumour would determine what type of cancer it was and what needed to happen next. Two weeks later we received some good news and some bad news. The good news, under the circumstances, was that the surgery was a success and the type of cancer that Jonathan has responds very well to treatment should treatment be necessary. The bad news was that there were some signs the cancer had spread but at that stage further monitoring was necessary to determine if treatment was the way to go.

October, November, and December went by with appointments throughout where the doctors ran more tests to see if anything had changed since surgery. Nothing had. We thought maybe we were in the clear and treatment wouldn’t be necessary. After all, even though the waiting was making us crazy and impatient, inconclusive meant no change and aside from not knowing inconclusive is still slightly better than a firm answer pointing toward treatment. Of course inconclusive also meant further monitoring of the situation to see if anything would change. Finally, in the second week of January, we received our answer: the cancer had spread and treatment was the only option.

Now I don’t know about you, but we are very lucky to live in Canada and receive the health care we do. From the beginning up to this point the BC Cancer Agency and all the doctors and nurses working there have been excellent. They put priority on Jonathan’s situation and made things happen. Once it was one hundred percent confirmed that treatment was necessary they told Jonathan that he would begin the following Monday. Overall, they have treated his situation with respect and urgency, all while treating Jonathan himself with the care he needs in a very kind and compassionate manner.

So on February 2nd, 2015 I walked through the doors of the BC Cancer Agency with Jonathan to begin the first of three cycles of chemotherapy. Each cycle is three weeks long. The first week Jonathan goes there each day for about four hours. The second and third weeks are more manageable with only one day of treatment for one hour. This Monday will be the beginning of the second cycle so his treatment is one-third complete. Fortunately, Jonathan’s oncologist refers to the treatment as more of a cure than a treatment because, while cancer is an aggressive disease, given the kind of cancer he has combined with how far medicine has come since the eighties, this treatment is more aggressive than the cancer itself. So we are trying to remain as optimistic as possible with that in mind.

Still aggressive treatment is just that, aggressive. In addition to working on getting rid of the cancer cells the treatment has turned on Jonathan too. He has been left to endure the last few weeks and the coming weeks in a very unwell state. Exhaustion, nausea, sensory changes, and not to mention the huge emotional toll. Just last weekend I finally had to cave in and shave Jonathan’s head because his hair was coming out in handfuls. Everywhere he goes, everything he touches, has to be followed up with a hand-washing ritual only a germophobe would consider. And tonight, the big trip to the ER to get Jonathan pumped full of antibiotics because he was running a fever which indicates infection, but due to the chemo his body doesn’t have the means to fight off the infection on its own and if an infection is left alone Jonathan could get very sick even to the point of it being deadly. But through all of this we are managing, and Jonathan has been dealing with this much better than I expected he would and definitely much better than I know I would be if I was in his shoes.

Unfortunately, life often decides to deal you a difficult hand right in the middle of your big plans. We’ve had to put our plans for a tropical getaway wedding on hold until further notice. We’ve had to stop our house-hunting that was in progress until further notice. Instead we’ve been focusing more on the fulfilment we receive from our relationships with each other and the people close to us. It’s these relationships that have helped Jonathan get through this difficult time and have helped me stay strong so I can be strong for him.

Going to the chemo room each week with Jonathan has been interesting. I see people there who are at all stages of their treatment and from all stages of life. Middle-aged women, elderly men, some who’ve just come from work, some who are the kind of optimist that can’t be shaken by anything, some who are so beaten down by their situation, some patients who are just beginning their road to recovery, and some who have the sad understanding that the treatment is just to tide them over until the end and they’re not going to make it. And then in walks Jonathan. A young man who appears healthy on the outside and clearly looks as though he doesn’t belong there. Someone whose biggest concerns in life should be bills, career, and where to go out for dinner next weekend instead of steroid drips, medication schedules, whether or not he’s hydrated enough for them to find a vein successfully, and consciously keeping himself away from places where he could pick up an infection. Nevertheless Jonathan sits back good-naturedly as they insert yet another needle into his veins. He is so used to the procedures by now. The nurses fawn over him and he eagerly laps up all of the attention. At least he is able to find some small joy in this.

I don’t know why this happened. I don’t know why Jonathan got cancer and why our lives had to be turned upside down like this. I don’t know why life chose for us to have to all of a sudden navigate through this. The only thing I know is that we are getting through it together and I know we will both be stronger because of it. Jonathan is strong and he is going to fight this with all he has and kick it to the curb. I am determined to stick by his side the whole way, keeping him strong, so that once it’s all over we can go back and remove the pause we put on our adventure through life and make it an even more full, exciting, and meaningful experience. Believe me, there’s been a lot of time for thinking and talking and our list of awesome things we want to do has grown. Things can only go up from here.

Jonathan has started a journal detailing his day-to-day experience as he undergoes chemotherapy. You can follow it here.

Birthday+Christmas wants

’tis the season to be selfish, fa la la la la, la la la laaaaaaaa

Nerdy stuff:
-build my own nerdy charm bracelet (I like the leather wrap bracelet with the companion cube, 8-bit heart, TriForce, Lego brick, science flask, beer, puzzle piece, periodic AU, and Wheatley personality core charms best)
-Portal 2 coasters
-
Portal companion cube for me to love and squeeze and NOT incinerate
-Lego!!!
-several thousand piece puzzle (specifically Game of Thrones: Westeros 4D puzzle)

Video games:
-Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
-Tomb Raider (PS4)
-LEGO The Hobbit (PS4)
-Yoshi’s New Island (3DS)
-Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)
-Phoenix Wright: Ace Attourney – Dual Destinies (3DS)
-Professor Layton: The Azran Legacy (3DS)
-Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attourney (3DS)
-Bravely Default (3DS)

Books:
-C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia in one large storybook form
-the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, in a nicely bound volume
-The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
-Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
-The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
-The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom
-Deception Point by Dan Brown
-Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Clothing & related items:
-casual shoes and flats (size 7 or 7 1/2…depends)
-semi-dressy, medium-sized purse (something that can be dressed up and down and isn’t too huge as I don’t like large purses)
-semi-dressy light coat (springtime/fall warmth level, preferably made from some kind of cloth fabric, waist length, again something that can be dressed up and down)

Unreasonable requests:
-MacBook Pro, built to my specs (~$4,000)
-PS4
-iPhone 6

Other miscellany:
-among other pieces that I really love by this artist: this one, this one, and this one. Available on Granville Island or by direct order from the artist :D
-Blu-ray box set of all the 007 movies
-Cards Against Humanity, plus (in?)appropriate expansion packs
-Munchkin card game (starter game, not the expansions)

This list is mostly for my mom.

But if any of you happen upon it and it results in gift-giving, more power to ya!

You know the drill: my birthday is almost a week away, and then shortly after comes Christmas. Here’s a little help with the “what to get Rachelle?” dilemma.

Nerdy stuff:
-Portal 2 coasters
-this geeky, sciencey shirt of awesomeness
-Portal companion cube for me to love and squeeze and NOT incinerate
-Portal earrings
-Lego!!! (hint: I really like the Sydney opera house or the really big bridge one, if you’re a big spender. Think $300-400 :P)
-several thousand piece puzzle (like 7000-10000 and beyond)

Video games:
-Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
-Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (DS) this game probably has to be ordered on eBay from a UK seller.
-Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS)
-The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
-Tomb Raider (PS3, the newest one)
-Pokémon X (3DS)
-Castlevania: Mirror of Fate (3DS)

Books:
-C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series in one large storybook form, preferrably with gold leaf edging, ribbon bookmark, and hand drawn pictures throughout

Kitchen gadgets:
-a traditional bamboo matcha whisk + spoon and a really nice stone matcha bowl to mix in
-bowls like this (at least 4)
-cast iron skillets that can go in the oven (ie: no wooden handle), a small one (got the big one last year!)
-the classic whistling teakettle by Le Creuset in Carribean blue. The reason being, my gas range heats my current kettle, which doesn’t have a rubber handle, so hot that I can’t touch the handle without burning my hands off. This kettle is really cute and has a rubber handle too!
-really nice salt & pepper grinders (not electric)

Clothing & related items:
-really fuzzy onesie pajamas. With feet. And a butt flap. And maybe a hood. (Hint: there’s a new store in Guildford mall that sells them. And I saw some cute ones at Bluenotes)
-boots
-flats (take me shopping, I’m picky!)

Other miscellany:
-a really nice yet compact easel
-among other pieces that I really love by this artist: this one, this one, and this one. Available on Granville Island or by direct order from the artist :D
-a portable mini book light/reading light for reading at night or in the dark
-boxed Blu-ray set of all the 007 movies
-Cards Against Humanity, plus (in?)appropriate expansion packs. I’ll invite you over to play…!
-and if even this list can’t stimulate you to be creative with a gift, I do accept cash, in any denomination, but bigger is always better!

Let the gifting begin!

Goodbye

The past month has been an emotional one. There was shock, anger, anxiety, stress, hatred, reflection. Now there is just a constant feeling of sadness that lingers over every day. It’s draining. It dulls the rest of my senses. I don’t know how to deal with it. I wish I could just turn it off and make it disappear. I’ve always done it that way. Running and hiding from things so you don’t have to deal with them. Because, eventually, everything takes care of itself, right? This chapter of life will wrap itself up for me and I can just sit back and watch, right?

But, I’m starting to wonder if this time the only solution is to face it head-on. Fight through. Ask the difficult questions, find the even more difficult answers. Learn things about life, deal with them, learn about yourself. After all, isn’t this what life’s all about–experiencing things and learning from them? Taking the bad and reworking it until there’s only good left? Actually putting an effort?

Through all this pain I have learned a lot. I have learned a lot about certain people in my life, that they are more than I ever conceived they could be. I have learned the true value of friendship, family, and love. I have learned about sacrifice, time, and influence. And I have had to adjust some of my own personal views on these things based on what I have seen. I have learned that some of the clichés in life really are true, that “life’s too short” and “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”. I have been broken down, but I’m trying to allow myself to be rebuilt. And that rebuilding will be reinforced with the love of my family, the realisation of how much people mean to me, and the choice to live my life differently so that I can be everything he didn’t get the chance to be and so I can maybe help prevent something similar from happening in the future.

We are forever changed. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. For now, I don’t know when it’ll get easier. But it has to. Eventually. Don’t run from this. Embrace it. Learn. Grow. Remain together; because at the end of the day the two constants that always remain are family and love.

Hugs and strength. I miss him so much.

Jez

This post is dedicated to a beautiful life. My cousin, Jez.
February 25, 1990 ~ June 13, 2013

————————

We run, faces to the wind,
It’ll get easier when you breathe it in.
Fall, gently give in,
Swallowin’ the air and rain on skin.

Hurts will come undone,
All that we’ll become -
Rise and fall behind,
Weightless in rewind.

Materialism: It’s that time of year again!

It may seem a bit selfish, but I was told that the birthday/Christmas gift list I made last year was very helpful, because apparently people don’t know what to get me. And it didn’t hurt that I got 90% of the items that were on the list. So, here it is again: the great and wonderful list of things I want, now sorted for even greater ease!

Nerdy stuff:
-Portal 2 coasters
-this geeky sciencey shirt of awesomeness
-Portal companion cube for me to love and squeeze and NOT incinerate
-Portal earrings
-Lego!!! (hint: there is an AWESOME Lego store in Oakridge mall, and I really like the England-esque set)
-several thousand piece puzzle (like 7000-10000 and beyond) which you can buy at this store in Central City mall that sells all kinds of card games and board games

Video games:
-Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
-Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS) or any other Professor Layton game except Professor Layton and the Last Spectre
-Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)
-Need For Speed Most Wanted (PS3)
-Crush 3D (3DS)
-Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (DS) this game probably has to be ordered on eBay from a UK seller.
-Myst (3DS)
-Journey (PS3)
-Sonic Generations (PS3)

Books:
-C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series in one large storybook form, preferrably with gold leaf edging, ribbon bookmark, and hand drawn pictures on every few pages
-“The Casual Vacancy” – J. K. Rowling
-“Wild” – Cheryl Strayed
-“The Time Keeper” – Mitch Albom
-“Where We Belong” – Emily Giffin (paperback)
-“The Hobbit” – J. R. R. Tolkien (I do particularly like this cover of the book)

Kitchen gadgets:
-a traditional matcha whisk + spoon and a really nice stone matcha bowl to mix in
-bowls like this (at least 4)
-a couple of these really cute owl tea cups to match my owl teapot
-cast iron skillets that can go in the oven (ie: no wooden handle), a small one and a big one
-the classic whistling teakettle by Le Creuset in Carribean blue. The reason being, my gas range heats my current kettle, which doesn’t have a rubber handle, so hot that I can’t touch the handle without burning my hands off. This kettle is really cute and has a rubber handle too!
-this butter dish, also by Le Creuset and also in Carribean blue.
-a really good, non-manual, high-powered milk frother. Mine doesn’t really froth so much as whisk…
-really nice salt & pepper grinders

Other miscellany:
-a tin of Forever Nuts from DavidsTea
-a really nice yet compact easel
-an external hard drive that is at least 1TB
-among other pieces that I really love by this artist: this one, this one, and this one. Available on Granville island or by direct order from the artist :D
-really cozy & comfy slippers for around the house (emphasis on cozy, and extra emphasis on comfy, my feet get sore after standing on wood floors all day!)
-I left my glass tea tumbler behind when I moved *sadness*. But then I discovered this beautiful glass tea tumbler from Teavana! It would make a suitable replacement.
-a portable mini book light/reading light for reading at night or in the dark
-onesie pajamas. With feet. And a butt flap. And maybe a hood.
-and if even this list can’t stimulate you to be creative with a gift, I do accept cash, in any denomination, but bigger is always better!

Let the gifting begin!

Give and ye shall receive (much gratitude from me, that is)

My birthday is a mere 4 weeks away from today. So with that in mind, I give you my birthday wishlist:

-a really nice mortar & pestle thanks mom (bday)
-mandolin (the one for slicing food really thin, not the instrument) thanks mom (bday)
-Portal 2 coasters
-this geeky sciencey shirt of awesomeness
-Portal companion cube for me to love and squeeze and NOT incinerate
-Portal 2 (PS3) merry Christmas to me from Sammi <3
-The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) with compatible Wii-mote we bought it! & Jonathan hates it :P
-Need for Speed: The Run (PS3) both my mom and Jonathan’s mom & sister got me a copy of this for Christmas…great minds! Gonna exchange one, possibly for Skyward Sword :D
-cast iron skillet (small one and big one)
-“Sisterhood Everlasting” by Ann Brashares thx Jo :) (xmas)
-3DS + games (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 3D Land) thanks Jonathan, you spoil me! (bday)
-Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
-Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES) birthday gift to myself :D
-the new Lights album Sammi spoils me :) she also took me to see Lights before my birthday and went mug painting with me
-manual pasta maker thanks mom, yet again. I’ll have to cook you guys up some fabulous food soon (bday)
-C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series in one large storybook form, preferrably with gold leaf edging, ribbon bookmark, and hand drawn pictures on every few pages
-immersion blender thanks to Dani, Kevin, Sam, and Alex for yet another awesome gift (bday)
-Lego!!! (hint: new store in Guildford mall downstairs across from Starbucks & Below the Belt)
-several thousand piece puzzle (like 7000-10000 and beyond) which you can buy at this store in Central City mall that sells all kinds of card games and board games
-a really nice yet compact easel
-cozy PJs (like, COZY. I get cold easily, especially at night) Zack got me the softest, coziest, Mickey Mouse PJs ever!!!! yay (xmas)
-a traditional matcha whisk + spoon. if you’re feeling particularly gifty you can throw in a tin of some good quality unsweetened matcha too :)
-the complete plays of William Shakespeare (ideally a very nice and expensive complete WORKS, if you love me), either in one nicely bound volume or in a set, each individually bound probably my favourite gift, a three volume set of the complete works of Shakespeare, with printing press style text and illustrations every few pages. I am in love. Thanks mom & dad!! (xmas)
-Apple Magic Mouse the scroll ball on my 2007 Magic Mouse no longer scrolls down :( I caved in and bought a new one as the old one was beyond frustrating!
-mini muffin pans again, thx mom :) (xmas)
-cash

If you don’t find the opportunity to purchase one or more of these items for my birthday, not to fret, Christmas conveniently comes just over a month after my birthday.

Commence appropriate procurement and showering-upons of birthday gifts!

Update: I am spoiled. Also, even though Christmas & my birthday have both come and gone, please feel free to finish this list up :P

Free money anyone? Not for long.

<rant>

So, I open my mail and gratefully pull out my $182.50 quarterly HST credit from our lovely government. Fondly, I think of how this is going to be one of the last few cheques of this nature that I will receive. Soon it’s going to go back to GST and PST credits.

I’d like to point out the following:

HST credit: $182.50 x 4 = $730/year in free money

GST credit (how it was before HST): $67.50 x 4 = $270
+
PST credit (how it was before HST): $75 annually
= $345/year in free money

Notice how the HST credit is more than twice the GST & PST credits. Oh and, the amount you receive varies per person. Some people receive twice what I receive quarterly. Think of all the free money!

Now, let’s think about this for a minute. First, I’d like to point out that in order to receive the tax credits from the government you have to make LESS than a certain amount of money each year, ie. come from the poorer demographic. Now. Who are usually the type of people to be mad at the government, always nit-picking on the way the government does or doesn’t run things, always complaining about taxing, blah blah blah? Usually the people who are less informed, have nothing better to do, make less money, in other words the people who come from the poorer demographic. (Not trying to be disrespectful, I know there are some well-informed people out there who care about our country and the well-being of its citizens).

I know there are other facets and pros/cons to how HST and GST/PST work. But for my rant I don’t have the energy to get into those. I’d like to thank all the uninformed idiots who blindly voted the HST out. In the end you were just screwing yourselves. You’re in the poorer demographic, and really, unless you have 72034 credit cards you’re not really gonna spend more than $730 worth of tax in a year. $730 in tax is approximately $6000 in taxable goods and services each year (not including food). That’s a lot of stuff for a poor person to justify buying in a year. I know I spent less than $6000 on taxable goods and services last year, so the $730 from the government MORE than made up for all the tax I spent. And if you do have 72034 credit cards your debt should be more of a concern to you than how the government chooses to tax us. Oh and another thing, if you’re spending more than $730 worth of tax in a year and are in the poorer demographic then you’re probably forever gonna be in that demographic (ever want to move up in society?). So you just screwed yourself out of more free money from the government. I thought you guys liked handouts? Hmm…

And I don’t even want to get started on how the whole ballot was worded for the HST. It was designed to confuse people and get them to accidentally vote the wrong way. My boyfriend checked the wrong box because it was worded weird and confusing and thus wrecked his ballot, discounting himself from the vote. I wonder how many other people did that.

Also, it may seem like a better idea to not have the HST, but think of the deficit that was created by cutting out that tax system. Now the government is just going to have to think up a new system of taxing somewhere else to make up for that deficit. And who’s gonna get angry about it and put up signs and petitions to get rid of that tax? All the same people who voted out the HST in the first place. Nice move.

I’m just a bit irked at the way this country is run sometimes and how the stupid idiots who live in it are never satisfied unless there’s some sort of handout or immediate fix for a problem. They’re never thinking about the consequences or long-term effects of anything. And somehow these same stupid idiots get away with everything, whether it be this issue or anything else (think “justice” system, among other things).

Anyway. That’s all I have to say. I’m off to put my cheque into the bank.

</rant>

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.