Health and Advocacy Update

First the good news: I haven’t had a scan yet, but based on my perception, the chemo seems to be working! I’m breathing better, coughing less and swallowing a little better. Good news! So very grateful for another extension on life!

I had my third round of chemo on Monday January 11, and brought in one of the amazing white ribbons that Heidi and Pierre Onda from Colorado have been generously making and sending out with love to whoever asks for one. This is an inclusive, unbranded campaign to raise lung cancer awareness, and it goes by the hashtag #TheWhiteRibbonProject. It has a growing presence on social media and at cancer centers across North America.

This exciting campaign is growing, and here’s a video (generously made by Katie Brown of LUNGevity) which gives you a small taste of the number of lung cancer advocates, oncologists, researchers and others who have keenly participated. If you look closely, you may recognise awesome Eastern Ontario advocate Kim MacIntosh near the end, and me with the chemo receptionist at The Ottawa Hospital. That first video got stuffed full of photo’s, so Katie started a second one, and then a third one for Canada, and she keeps adding photo’s as we send them to her! Everyone is welcome to participate!

There I go again: I was supposed to be giving you a health update but got distracted by some of the amazing advocacy work that is going on!

Healthwise, so far I have had several really rough days each three week cycle. I spoke with a nurse to get insight on how to better manage the symptoms. I’ll plan and prepare, and this will help me better cope next cycle. I’ll also keep managing my mindset. I’m grateful for Chris Draft who calls and encourages. He is a tremendous advocacy trainer, and offers helpful wisdom like, “We control what we can control”. He is a strong supporter of so many health advocates worldwide, and we are grateful.

Exciting news: my barium swallow study is scheduled for this afternoon (i.e. Tuesday the 19th)! Ordered back in November, I’m very hopeful that this will answer questions about what is happening when I swallow, and give us good information to help me avoid getting aspiration pneumonia again. I also hope to be able to eat more kinds of foods! I have eaten a LOT of soup since the summer!

I’m back from the hospital, and the study went well. I felt a little nervous beforehand, but very relaxed this afternoon and grateful for the support from my support team of friends and also The Ottawa Hospital team. Emilie, the Speech-Language Pathologist was very kind and knowledgeable. She got me to sample a variety of textures of food and drink with barium added in, then the x-ray machine tracked what happened inside. I didn’t choke on anything. We gained new information which informed us about which further tests need to be ordered. I’m being referred to more specialists, and that support is very welcome. I feel privileged to live so close and be connected to the tremendous resources at The Ottawa Hospital.

Here is my amazing Speech-Language Therapist who ran the test. She was eager to take a picture in support of lung cancer awareness, and very supportive of this person affected by lung cancer. I’m very grateful for our big lung cancer team!

Emilie, The Ottawa Hospital Speech-Language Pathologist

Friends make life better

I’m so grateful for friends! Several of my friends are Speech-Language Pathologists, which means that they are experts who do tremendously important work helping people communicate better. Some S-LP’s are experts in helping people swallow better, and today a swallowing expert colleague of one of my S-LP friends came over to watch me swallow a variety of things and give me information about how to avoid choking or aspiration pneumonia. I learned that while swallowing is something we generally do without much thought, it’s actually quite complex and there are many ways it can potentially go wrong. I’ll need a barium swallow test (which involves ingesting radioactive food & drink, and watching what happens to it) to give us more insight into what exactly is going on when I am swallowing.

Many of these are definitely not on the “easy to swallow” list.

I was very grateful for the swallowing expert who came over today. She taught me about the mechanics of swallowing, and gave me a long list of practical tips to help things go down more easily. I feel more empowered to fuel my body better with less risk.

The very brief summary of the plan is to patiently stick with puréed soup and other soft mushy foods. Definitely worth it if that means avoiding pneumonia!

I’m so very grateful for friends and colleagues of friends!