Update – Guest Blog by Ian

If you are sensitive to graphic descriptions of medical situation’s you may want to skip this post.

I can’t sleep.  Life with metastatic cancer can be scary sometimes.  But I know Anna would want me to write this down and document this journey.  Not just to share with our friends and family, but also for others that are going through this journey so they can learn from our experiences, mistakes, or simply not feel alone.

It is the Easter long weekend and I thought we were getting back to normal.  Anna seemed as though she had begun to process the whole brain metastasis/craniotomy/gamma-knife thing, if that is even really possible.  We decided to get out of the city and head to Collingwood.  Both of us were craving a normal long weekend with the kids, ending in an epic easter egg hunt and over indulgence of chocolate.  Cancer has had a way of stealing these moments from us in the last little while, so we were due for some quality family time.

Earlier this afternoon Anna had a “Grand Mal” or Generalized tonic-clonic seizure.  For anyone who has never witnessed a loved one having a seizure, it is extremely scary.  I thought she was dying in front of me.  This type of seizure is typically characterized by overall unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity.  Our afternoon went from Anna and I listening to a book tape while the kids played together to Anna foaming at the mouth with her eyes rolling into the back of her head.  When I realized she was in a seizure, I immediately pulled her down to the floor and forced her on her side.  I then called 911.  It was difficult to remember our address and explain Anna’s situation, while tending to Anna and distracting the kids from watching.  Her seizure went on for about a minute I think.  Thankfully the paramedic/fire station is located at the end of our street.  Paramedics arrived in about 3 minutes. Post seizure, Anna was confused, unable to speak, understand me, or control her body.  I learned later that this is very typical for this type of seizure and other seizures.

I sent the kids away to play in another room so they didn’t have to watch the three paramedics work on Anna.  I had no idea what was about to happen.  Queue every terrible image you have every watched on ER, Chicago Hope, Grey’s Anatomy, that is what I feared.  It took a little while to get Anna down the stairs, but once she was on her way, I went to check on the kids.  They were sitting in the upstairs bedroom watching Anna get loaded on to the stretcher.  Elliott was explaining to his sister, “When mommy goes inside the ambulance they will turn the lights and siren on and they will take mommy away.  The lights are the best part.”  Seeing Anna have a seizure scared the shit out of me, having our kids watch, broke my heart.  Not fair for a 3 and 5 year old to have to see their mommy this way. Fuck you cancer.

I got the kids organized and we were off to the hospital.  I called a friend to help enlist our support team, even though I had no idea how and what support we needed.  I was in shock.  Probably still in shock.  We arrived to the hospital through the ambulance area and ran in to the three amazing paramedics who looked after Anna.  They walked us in and took us to the waiting room while the nurses got Anna comfortable.  As we parted from the  paramedics, the one who seemed to be in charge told me that Anna was speaking and telling them all about the plans we had for the weekend.  I was relieved.  Speaking was good.

I explained Anna’s disease to the young ER Doctor.  I have gotten good at listing all the surgeries, diagnosis’, metastasis locations, and drugs she has been on or is currently on. I could even remember most of the dates this visit.  They went through the regular tests… EKG, CT Scan, and Blood Tests.  She passed them all with flying colours.  After the ER doctor spoke with the on-call medical oncologist at Princess Margaret, Anna was discharged and told to get home to the city.  She will require some more tests and most importantly a detailed MRI to help determine what exactly is going on.  Just before we were about to leave, the young ER doctor wanted to make sure that we understood Anna can no longer drive.  She will be loosing her license.  We both expected this to happen, but I can tell it hurt Anna deeply.  Her ability to drive represents her independence, her freedom from the house and our neighbourhood.

In some ways we were lucky this happened the way it did.  It could have happened in a couple weeks when we were scheduled to be in the US for a conference, or when Anna was driving, or when Anna was home alone with the kids.

We are back in Toronto tonight.  Everyone is a sleep.  I have set up the easter eggs, chocolate almonds, and treats for the kids when they wake up.  It wasn’t the long weekend we planned, but its the one we got.

19 replies »

  1. You guys are amazing. Thank you for sharing and yes it does help the rest of us regardless of where we are in this journey. To see your strength, composure and the way you both handle this. I hope sleep is not too elusive although I get that too.

  2. Ian,
    You, Anna and your family are in my prayers. I have my own cancer struggles and share your anger at the disease fucking up family plans. Hugs to you all this Easter weekend.
    Joan

  3. So sorry you all had to go through that, I can only imagine how scary that must have been. I hope you manage to still enjoy your easter tomorrow with the kids. Hope you’re all managing okay and sleeping well tonight. Thanks as always for taking the time to update!

  4. Thanks for writing this Ian. I hear you loud and clear when you write: “It wasn’t the long weekend we planned, but it’s the one we got.”

    This I know all too well.

    Shock. Still in shock. Yep. I know that feeling too.

    Pretty fucking terrifying.

    “… the lights are the best part.”

    Oh Ian. This sucks.

  5. This breaks me. I cannot imagine how your feeling and the kids. The strength you have is admirable. I will be thinking of you often.
    PleAse give Anna my love and a hug

  6. Hi Ian and Anna,
    I appreciate that you wrote this post to keep us informed. I am in awe of your ability to write with such clarity and wisdom at such a scary time. Please know you are all in my thoughts.

  7. Thinking of you. You and the family are such an inspiration to many.. Trust the chocolate makes the day a little brighter.. xoxoxo

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. We are so sorry to hear that things have become even more difficult. Our thoughts are with all of you. It seems so serendipitous that you were there when it happened.

  9. Fuck cancer, indeed. I’m so lucky to be getting to know you both. Your strength, positivity, and openness is inspiring. Thinking of you.

  10. Your perspective is so valuable and one we all need to hear. So much of dealing with this is about not getting what you planned. Your family will be in my thoughts. Kathi

  11. Thank you for posting. Please let Anna know I’m thinking about her and I’m sorry she had to go through that.

  12. Ian, what you are going through is so unfair! FUCK CANCER! I hope you ll get to enjoy other moments to their fullest without disruption. I’m proud to have you as a friend and hope the love for life and for each other you both have will prevail. Sending you positive thoughts always.

  13. Ian, how brave of you and Anna to share this with everyone. (I met you guys at the retreat in February with my sister Michele.) I have tears in my eyes and I’m just so angry at cancer too, for what it does to patients AND their families. I actually just signed up to see the documentary “I Am Anna” with Rethink Breast Cancer on April 29, and then I happened to see this post. I have my fingers crossed I will see you both there looking well.

  14. Dear Ian,

    I am reading this with tears in my eyes, especially the part about the children.All this is cruel, just not right and I wish with all my heart that this was not happening to Anna, you and your lovely children. I can’t imagine what words will comfort you. I send Anna, you and the children hugs. Nalini Martin

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