Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Emotional Rollercoaster

Another Guest Blog.  Enjoy
So today has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster...for the first time in a long time! I decided last night that I was going to move my blog over to blogger.com. In the process I decided that I was going to read all of my previous posts, and kind of look at how I had changed from the beginning of treatment to the end.

So with that said I realized one thing...that I always acted like there was nothing really wrong, like nothing could get me down, and that cancer was not a big deal.

Chemotherapy kicked my ass, I want to get that out there right now. I acted like it was no big deal, and that is the actual attitude I had because if I let it get to me then I would have never made it through it all as well as I did. While reading my blog I took a step back and tried to pretend that I was just some other person reading my blog. It was a strange experience because there were some things that I read where I thought that I should be more open about what I was really feeling, and then there were others where I read it and thought to myself that I should have not said what I said. Though I guess I would not be who I am if I hadn't just typed what I was thinking like I did.

I have to say for any person that is going through chemo or radiation, or treatment for any illness or disease...write a blog, it has proven to be very therapeutic in my case. Now that I am reading through it I mean I am realizing that there are a lot of underlying tones and themes to some of the things I said that I never notice before. Which I won't go into, I will let you read them for yourself!

Anyway, back to how it made me feel today. It made me really feel like a survivor! The complications I had, the way I felt during treatment, and the people I met and the things that I went through with them all. I have never felt more like a survivor in my life. I mean going through all of the cancer treatments I also had my other previous issues like having heart disease, a pacemaker, and having cancer before. Cancer really took the front position though, I mean it was during all of this that I decided I wanted to start an organization to raise awareness about cancer, and during this was when I realized that I wanted to write a book on my life starting with my cancer and the retouching on all my other life experiences.

As much as I hate to say this, I hate to admit that cancer has changed me for the better. I would love to say that I changed myself for the better, but it was really a damn disease that changed me as a person. Though I guess that tough situations end up being the things that changed people for the better or worse, and luckily mine changed me for the better.

It also changed the way I wear my hair haha! Before I was all for growing my hair out, but now that I have gone through the process of losing my hair and my beard, I decided that I should keep shaving my head (though I haven't cut it in 2 or 3 weeks now). Soon I will start shaving my head again, but my beard shall stay. Always appreciate your hair whether you have a lot or a little, because once you lose it you will never be the same!

This is all for now my friends!

Until next time,

-The Tech
About the author:
Hey readers, my name is Andrew Gemmell, and I am a 24 year old heart disease, stroke, and two time cancer survivor! I have been in and out of the hospital my whole life for mostly cardiac surgeries and procedures like pacemaker implants! Though more recently I have been having my latest life battles with cancer. On March 26th 2008 I was diagnosed the first time with a Stage 1 Testicular Seminoma and simply had to have surgery to remove the mass. No other treatment was needed at the time, but on October 16th, 2009 I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. This time the doctors found a Stage 3 Seminoma on my Para-Aortic Lymph Node in my abdomen. So the doctors put me through chemo and of course I barreled through it and came out healthy and with a much better attitude than I have ever had. Now that it is all over I am starting an organization and campaign called "Protect Your Pair" in which I want to raise awareness and offer support to cancer survivors and their families! Like I said, my attitude now is much better than ever before, and I am ready to fight with everyone that has been affected by cancer to try and make things better!
To contact Andrew: drew@protectyourpair.org

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons Learned


I am done with treatment, well for the most part.  I take a pill everyday, not so bad compared to the chemo I took for 5 months.   

I have met many great people online, and through my podcast, many survivors who are going thru the same type of treatment I did.  I wish I had known about facebook and twitter during my treatment.  I think I would have had an easier time with it.  Yes I did have a positive mental attitude, but some days it was hard to keep that up.  It is hard when you are in the thick of it, that anyone could possibly feel as low or as tired or as shitty as you do.  Trying to explain it to someone who hasn't been there like a caregiver or friend or loved one seems ridiculous "They don't have cancer, how the fuck are they going to know how I feel??!!!"

Talking about it or being upset or bringing it up would just make me feel like my friends were thinking  "God there's cancer girl upset again."  As crazy as that sounds that is what I would think.  I know that was not the case, but in the moment, that is what I felt.

Now I see a friend of mine,  who I met on facebook, start herceptin.  She was nervous about it because of all of the side effects she had.  She had a rougher go of it then I did, she seemed to have a lot more side effects than me.  I kind of feel a little guilty, yes survivors guilt, that she has had more side effects than me.  I wish I could take those side effects away from her, so she could have more energy to spend time with her kids.  

We were talking about people calling us inspirational, as survivors we have heard these words tossed about.  Inspirational, brave

I don't see these words relating to me at all. 

I was told I had cancer

I was told what my options were

I wanted to live

Did I have a choice?  I guess I did.  I could have not fought cancer. That isn't my style.  I enjoy a good debate.  Hell, sometimes I will argue just to argue.  I wont back down from a fight.  


Nope.  Just me...

Mel is the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen Live Monday~Friday 10am-noon eastern standard time on wmktthetalkstation.com

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on Empoweradio.com available on demand and on itunes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I still have side effects related to cancer.  Just another reminder of the cancer I had.

"Well you are cured now aren't you?"   Is something I hear often. Really? Last I checked there was no cure for any cancer.  No I am not cured.  I am in remission, in 2012 I will be considered cancer free, that will have been 5 years since diagnosis.  I am not cured.  The day there is a cure for my cancer, or any cancer for that matter I will be celebrating.

It seems that people assume that when you are done with cancer treatment you are done with cancer. 
That isn't always the case.  Side effects can linger for months even years after treatment. 

"Well you are done with treatment you are fine now aren't you?"

For the most part I would say yes.  But that is not always the case.

Those of us who have these side effects get used to them.  I have had side effects last longer than treatment.  My neuropathy for example lasted for 20 months, treatment for 14.  Every so often I feel a twinge in my foot.  

Hot flashes are another side effect I have.  I am not going through menopause, it is a side effect of tamoxifen, a cancer fighting drug I am taking until 2013.  I kind of wish I was going through menopause.  I never really wanted to have kids, as a matter of fact when the oncologist said the chemo might put me into early menopause I actually said  SWEET!   I am sure that was not the reaction my oncologist was expecting.

Trying to adjust to this "new normal" has been difficult.  Survivorship has been difficult. It takes a while to get back to how you felt before, or even close to how you felt.

Depression is a struggle for me.  Cancer makes sense to me, in a way, there is a tumor, you remove it, cancer's gone.  Depression, oh well its the serotonin and norepinephrine, in your brain, its a chemical imbalance, it might go away it might not.  Anti depressants work for me.  Its not something you can just "get over."  Some people have it, some people don't.  One of the list of the many side effects on the menu.  Still wishing I could have picked and choosed my side effects.

Because of cancer I am in debt, not as bad as some, worse than others.  Another reason for my depression. 

"Well there is nothing you can do about it so don't worry about it."  is what people tell me.  Ok those damn debt collectors who call expecting something, when I have nothing to give them.  Easier said than done.  When the blinking light on the answering machine reminds me that So and so called from some collection agency and they want their money.  "I want to give you your money I don't have it/"  "Can't you just make a small payment."   Wow what a great idea, I never thought about that.  I am actually being sued by a credit card company for 1400 dollars.   I owe the hospital ten times that amount, they aren't suing me.  

What's in your wallet?  

Uh not much....

Mel is the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen Live Monday-Friday 10am-noon on wmktthetalkstation.com

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on Empoweradio.com  Available on demand now and on itunes

Friday, April 9, 2010

You get what you pay for, Part Two

Author's note:  This is just my recent experience with therapy.  I am not putting down any form of therapy or if you or your doctor feel it is necessary.  I am just relaying my experiences with one  therapist.

I thought that I would try group therapy.  Not the in person kind. I thought I would try an online support group.  So I found one online, signed up for it, and had pretty good luck for a while.

The  best thing about the online support group is that you are in your comfort zone, you can pick a time that is convienient to you and get a variety of different cancer survivors from all over the country, even the world.  It is amazing what other peoples take on your situation can be.

I had a bit of good luck with my online therapy experience for a while.  Like I said before, its hard for me to open up, and once I put something out there, its like a balloon floating up to the sky, its out, you can't get it back.

I shared something personal with the group.  I know I have a hard time trusting people.  Yep, something I am working on, not an easy thing to overcome.

I recall there was one day everyone was late.  Server issues, I don't recall the problem.  I was sitting (virtually) in a room for 20 minutes or so until someone came in.  I believe it was the therapist.  The rest of the group came in late as well.  I didn't really participate at all, just stewing in the corner like a mad child.

Ok I admit that was not the best thing to do emotionally, but when I get upset I shut down.

The therapist was upset that I wasn't participating.  She said it was disrupting the group.  I told her if we were a "live" group I probably would have done the same thing, or would it have been better if I left the chat room for the night.  I honestly don't recall her answer.

That was disruptive so I had to talk to her privately before one of our group chats.

Kind of like being called to the emotional principal's office.

She said that kind of behavior needed to stop.  It was disrupting the group etc.  I was being too sarcastic (which is one of my defense mechanisms, humor, any one who knows me knows that)  I said ok fine something to that effect

The next week went fine.

The following week however, I said something sarcastic.

I dont' recall exactly what the therapist said, but I said "Wow, that's your advice as a therapist?"

You can imagine how that went over.

So I get an email from the therapist basically saying that I am too angry, sarcastic and reactive and I was not being supportive enough for the group effort.

So I got kicked out...

Of  a support group.

Not very supportive if you ask me

and once again I say

See, you get what you pay for...

Mel is the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show. Listen live Monday-Friday 10am-noon eastern standard time on wmktthetalkstation.com

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on Empoweradio.com. Available on demand now and also available on itunes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You get what you pay for Part One...

Author's note:  This is just my recent experience with therapy.  I am not putting down any form of therapy or if you or your doctor feel it is necessary.  I am just relaying my experiences with one  therapist.

Before cancer I thought I could handle anything.  I am a pretty strong willed individual.  I don't back down from a fight, and truth be told I can be argumentative too ( I know its pretty shocking to most who know me.)  Cancer, depression, chemo and the side effects those really got to me.  I like using the hockey analogy, its like when another player taunts you and gets in your head. All you can focus on in that taunt, that player, not the game, not where you are supposed to be on the ice, nothing.

So I thought to myself.  Ok, I know I am not supposed to feel this way.  I am done with treatment, I am back to work, but it is after all called the "new normal"  something that you are not prepared for, or well at least I wasn't. 

I decided to see a therapist one on one.  It worked for a while. I told her I am not an easy patient.  Some things are hard for me to talk about.  I told her sometimes you might have to literally pry it out of me like the jaws of life.

She wanted me to journal everyday.  Ok, so what if I have nothing to write about?  I blog here when the mood strikes, I am not a write on command type of person.  Ok I tried.  Got a notebook.  I don't like writing in a notebook, can I write on my computer, its easier for me.  She said something about the brain going to the hand and some subconcious something blah blah. 

Well I asked her, when I am done writing are you going to read it next time I am here?

 No its for you.

Dude, seriously I thought, I know how fucked up and depressed I feel, you sure you don't want to take a peek?  As if writing down my thoughts would miraculously make me feel better and have the sunshine and puppies moment.

She didn't want to see it.


She didn't like the thought of prying my thoughts out of me, although that is what I needed. 

She told me she worked with teenagers with emotional problems when I had first met her, so I thought ok, that is helpful since I try to share my feelings but like I said, its hard sometimes and there is that jaws of life analogy again.

She told me that I could call her after hours at home if need be.  I said I don't really like to rely on that, people have their own lives, I don't like to pry.  She insisted.

So I called her on two seperate occasions.

Now being a therapist and knowing that the emotional shit doesn't always happen between the usual 9 to 5 office hours you think she would have taught her kids how to take a message.


I got pissed at her about that and all I got was basically an oh well kind of response.

The second time I called she was having some kind of family dispute and had to call me back.  Now for both situations I wasn't at the end of my rope, but could you imagine if I was?  Uh, I am sorry, I am dealing with my child, sorry that you are having an emotional meltdown, hang on I will call you right back.

Once again I got pissed at her.  Once again it was an oh well kind of response.

At some point during my therapy sessions with her she thought it would be therapeautic if I finger painted.

You read that right.

Fucking Fingerpainting

Sure, a depressed almost 40 adult dealing with cancer and survivorship for the first time and you want me to break out the fingerpaints and that would help me cope???!!!! 


At one point I imagined smearing that paint on her face thinking, yeah, you are right, I feel better now!!!

Her job was probably going to get downsized so she told me that she would remain my therapist and we would figure out where we could continue our sessions.

That was not the case. She told me that, basically I wasn't following much of the direction that she had given me in therapy (Ok lets stop there.  You think that if all you have is a couple of things in your therapy bag of tricks that you might, oh I don't know, ask colleagues, go online.  There is a wealth of information out there.  I know I seek it out.) and that her position will no longer be funded so I should seek help elsewhere.

Obviously getting dumped by your therapist isn't easy, but she was free, a service of a local organization. 

So see, you get what you pay for.

Mel is the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen live Monday-Friday 10am-noon eastern standard time on wmktthetalkstation.com

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on Empoweradio.com.  Available on demand now and also available on itunes.