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Blogging through cancer

This is the one post I’d written in my head hundreds of times, but never published until today — World Cancer Day. I’ve recently faced and conquered blood cancer, and here’s my story.

During the past year leading up to treatment, I did have my share of anxiety-ridden moments, such as the days leading up to the first round of chemo (taken in pill form for my particular brand of cancer), and then the night before my first IV infusion, a monoclonal antibody named Rituximab, meant to work together with Fludarabine.

Blogging through cancer Blogging through cancer Blogging through cancer

And I’m also thinking back to my first infusion, when things went pretty horribly after I reacted to the first bump up of dosage, and spent eight hours at the BC Cancer Centre in order to finish the bag of Rituximab.

So what did I do all those months before, during, and after treatment? I kept life as normal as possible (with the exception of travel – that one had to wait it out for awhile). Events came and went, I stayed strong going to the gym, writing kept me focused on the present, and on the afternoons where a little nap felt welcome, I closed the laptop and went to lie down.

Blogging through cancer Blogging through cancer

Shutting down and balancing the numerous events around town and stories that were spinning inside my brain with rest was the key to keeping my energy balance throughout the past nine months. Saying no to several more events became necessary.

Let’s backtrack even further: how did I know I even had Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)? About five years ago, I was given a particular drug to treat a small, entirely unrelated health issue. When I noticed a severe allergic reaction to that medication, my husband and I went to hospital to have it investigated. I was given Benadryl and the reaction went away a couple of days later. Our family doctor however requested that I go in for a blood test for reassurance.

That first blood test came back with a red flag, prompting a more thorough blood test. And that more detailed result one showed the first signs of CLL. I was also told that I’d probably had it in my system for at least seven years.

I was assigned to a hematologist, and then a second one (both have since retired). As CLL is a slow-growing cancer of the white blood cells, it’s basically monitored through periodic blood tests. In the winter of 2012, the rate of doubling of the cells was at the point where treatment was discussed, and in summer of 2013, I began six months of chemotherapy.

Blogging through cancer
[My first infusion, the one that would go wrong after 45 minutes due to allergic reaction]

This all has a happy outcome. I am now in remission and have kept spirits up all the way through. And this fall, I will be walking with a white lantern as a SURVIVOR in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada Light the Night Walk (I’d been invited to participate last October, but my mind wasn’t ready to be part of something I was working through, even though the fundraising would have been welcome).

UPDATE: My CLL is no longer considered in remission and we’re going through options now to discuss an upcoming second course of treatment. I remain hopeful yet realize that this is an indolent disease that needs a stronger kick in the butt. I will not let it define me, nor keep me from enjoying a healthy, happy, and balanced quality of life.

Ariane 2015
[February 2015, Vancouver]

UPDATE #2: I’m currently on daily medication to keep CLL in remission. I started a new drug in November 2014. My energy is great and my body is used to the drug (I did have mild side effects for the first few weeks and have to watch what I eat as heartburn is a common side effect I’ve unfortunately experienced).

I haven’t any way to end this story in particular, other than to advise everyone to get their blood checked regularly, as well as to raise awareness for cancer and the wonderful world of modern medicine with the technology to make it possible to live many, many years beyond the disease.

And as for that FUCK CANCER saying? I don’t buy it. We could also say FUCK heart disease or FUCK diabetes. We’re all prone to disease, and cancer is just an easy one to get angry at, simply because we can’t pin down what exactly causes particular cells to clock in and get going about their business (other than smoking). I’ve taken a good look at my health and diet, and have learned to say no and to step away from excess.

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22 Comments

  • Comment by Sean Neild — February 4, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story Ariane, cancer has effected so many people we know and love and I’m glad you made it through your journey. I hope sharing your experience reaches people going through the same thing. Were all glad your here!!!!!!!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 4, 2014 @ 12:11 pm

    I’d wanted to share this with you all for weeks and weeks, but just wanted to wait until I was ready. Today seemed like the appropriate day to open up. Thanks for your kind words! xo

  • Comment by mari kane — February 4, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

    Wow, Ariane, I feel terrible that I didn’t know this! My sister had leukemia and I know how much fun it’s not. Thank you for sharing this. I am rooting for you.

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 4, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

    Hi Mari,
    I just wanted to keep things quiet until ready to share. This story’s been edited over and over until I felt it was just *right* to share with the world! I hope it hasn’t brought up any sad memories for you, and out of curiosity, what kind of leukemia did your sister have? Hugs to you and your family xo

  • Comment by Jeanette — February 4, 2014 @ 12:57 pm

    Ariane, so glad you’re doing better! Sending you much love and healing from Paris!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 4, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

    Thanks, Jeanette!!

  • Comment by Jay — February 4, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story Ariane!
    Even though you only posted it now, I hope the numerous times you’ve probably written and rewritten it were a help in your journey. I’m sure it will be an example to others to maintain a positive outlook on their own challenges.
    Glad you’re now in remission and we can look forward to more fun events together! x

  • Comment by Stephanie — February 4, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

    Hey my friend, as always inspired writing and perfectly timed. You know how I feel, your strength and support means tons to us all. Glad you shared your experience with us. Hugs and smiles!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 4, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

    Thanks, Jay! It was the longest ‘draft’ mode post to date 🙂 Hope to cross paths again soon!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 4, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

    Stephanie, I am so in awe of the support I’ve been receiving today. With a few more follow-up tests scheduled for this month, I can (almost) finally put this chapter of my life behind me! Cheers to getting healthy xo

  • Comment by Jessica Adamson — February 4, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

    Ariane! I’m glad you’re doing better now! I hadn’t realized when we spoke that you had already started treatment way back when. Even more amazed that you tricked through Fringe and all you had going on during that time. You’re a brilliant woman and I’m quite happy to see you doing so well! <3

  • Comment by Adrian | THE FOOD GAYS — February 4, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

    I am so proud of you for sharing such a personal and inspiring post. I am happy to have gotten to know you over this last year.

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 4, 2014 @ 11:14 pm

    Hi Jessica,
    Yep. Was on it the week before Fringe started. It was all about timing, and knowing what my energy level would be like in the weeks following. Luckily by September, I already knew the score, so getting in a few shows would be possible by that second week.

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 4, 2014 @ 11:15 pm

    Adrian,
    You’re so sweet! And thanks for the kind words on my post. Hope for more adventures now that my system is stronger xo

  • Comment by Joy — February 5, 2014 @ 11:11 am

    Ariane, I never would have thought you were going through this last year the few times we saw each other. Thanks for sharing and opening up. You’re a strong woman! I’ve had a few other friends who were diagnosed last year so it is a humbling experience to give support and be a cheerleader (I play the easy part), knowing that they all just try to go through life one day at a time, through doctors appointments, treatments, pain, etc. I’m glad you’re in remission and I hope you continue to be healthy and strong.

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 5, 2014 @ 11:19 am

    Hi Joy,
    Thanks for your comment. Yep, it’s been hard keeping it under wraps at times, but I felt it was best to just move forward and focus on the writing and being engaged rather than to allow the energy expended on talking about it to drain my recovery. I guess everyone experiences their own journey and outlook on going through this. Now I’m just one more person you can cheer on! xo

  • Comment by Ally — February 6, 2014 @ 4:10 am

    Inspirational.

    Best wishes to you and Ad from the guys in the UK x

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 6, 2014 @ 9:09 am

    Thanks for reading, Ally! Right back ‘atcha! xo

  • Comment by Sheryl — February 6, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story with us Ariane. It sounds as if you have got through some very difficult times and are now coming out the other end of the treatment and recovery process. I wish you and Ad all the best for the time ahead. The Light the Night Walk sounds great and something to look forward to doing this year in the fall.
    Love and hugs to both of you,
    Sheryl xxx

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 6, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

    Thanks for your love and support, Sheryl! I am so happy to hopefully have this behind me for a long time to come. It really puts things into perspective. xo

  • Comment by Josh Rimer — February 6, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

    Wow, great post Ariane – so glad you’re doing well now and good luck with the walk!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — February 6, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

    Thanks, Josh! I’d wanted to say something the last time I saw you, but wanted to put this behind me a bit first 🙂

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