Wendy’s voice was filled with emotion when she said, “My life with cancer has changed 100% since I’ve been been involved in InspireHealth. Now, I have a quality of life back that was completely gone.”
As an occupational therapist, Wendy was a fit and healthy person living in Courtenay, BC, and not at all prone to illness. But on a sunny August day, while out boating with her husband Rick, she started feeling an unusual pain in her abdomen. Over the next couple of hours, it kept getting worse so the couple decided to head back to Campbell River to the Emergency ward. Wendy was examined, given a CT scan and then was admitted.
After four days in the hospital, she received the news – she had colon cancer and her doctor suspected it had spread into her liver. She later found out that the full diagnosis was stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.
It was a Thursday. Wendy recalls feeling shocked and in a blurr. She felt as though her mind went out of her body. Surreal is the word she used to describe it. But soon her practical side kicked in, perhaps it was survival mode, and she started planning what had to be done, what steps to take. Her first thoughts were concern for her son who was twelve at the time. Selflessly, she felt she would handle whatever happened and that her husband too would cope, but she felt worried to think of her son without a mother.
The following Monday, she had surgery. Unfortunately, the tumour could not be fully removed; and five out six lymph nodes were affected, as well as her liver. After a week in hospital, Wendy was referred to the BC Cancer Agency for further treatment and sent home. Her husband, Rick, supported her throughout and while he was stressed, he stayed very positive. Her son was scared, but was somehow managing to cope.
But Wendy got very sick – the cancer seemed to progress very fast. Her oncologist arranged for chemotherapy but before treatment started, she landed back in the hospital, extremely ill and with a high fever of unknown origin. She was put onto antibiotics. Chemo cannot be administered if the patient has a fever. Her state of health was becoming dire. She had lost about 30 pounds and had gone from an extremely fit person to being very deconditioned. This went on for about a month until one day her oncologist gave her a choice, go home and live out what time she had in peace, or start the battle. Wendy wanted to fight it with all she had. Her son was always in her mind.
In November, she started chemotherapy and had treatment every fourteen days. Her quality of life during that time was very poor. After treatment day, she needed about ten days to recover during which time she was barely functional. For four days, she would start to feel better, but then would be back in for treatment. Between treatments she was regularly in the emergency ward for one reason or another. This very difficult cycle went on until February.
One day, realizing she was on a dangerous downward spiral, Wendy decided she had to do something for herself. She thought perhaps if should could mentally grab onto a goal, it might help her continue her fight. So, she set a goal to go skiing, a sport she loves to enjoy with her family, at least once before the end of the season.
Then Wendy asked one of her nurses who said that she had heard other patients speak highly of it. The next day – again, great timing – the nurse presented Wendy with a flyer about the pilot for new InspireHealth ONLINE Program which she had just received that day! Wendy signed up right away.
She can’t say enough about how her life changed after that. She kept her goal in mind while she participated in the online webinars and had telephone consultations with a physician, a nutritionist and a counsellor. She loved being able to attend the webinars from her home – even if she was having a difficult day from chemo treatment, she could sit in bed with her laptop and connect to be part of it. Being able to have medical care by phone was perfect for her and she felt it was not less effective than in person. She also took part in the online support groups, and got to know others who were facing some of the same challenges.
The information she got from the nutritionist had the biggest impact on her life. She learned how to change her diet to help support her health while in treatment and help strengthen her body overall.
For Wendy, the online program was “an absolute perfect match, and I would choose it even if I lived in Vancouver or Victoria near an InspireHealth centre”
Wendy feels it is so important to have InspireHealth services available. She wants everyone to know about it. She is so happy to have learned what she could do for herself and how to give her body what it needs in order to heal and to manage the chemo treatments.
After Wendy adopted some of the recommendations, she gained enough strength, that she not only reached her goal, she skied seven times plus took a ski trip before the end of the season!
Wendy still has many tumors, but they are suppressed, not growing. She still takes treatment, but now, she is down only a few days and then has nine days of really good quality. Her attitude has shifted from “having cancer” to “living with cancer”. She has accepted her new normal and learned to squeeze every bit of joy out of her good days, and there are many good days. She feels empowered and strong again.
She wants to tell everyone with a cancer diagnosis to contact InspireHealth and to take a walk every day! No matter how bad she felt, she got out everyday. Get out and get your endoporphins flowing.
And the icing on the cake – she recently went to Disneyland with her family and kept up with everybody without any problem. Only months before she would never imagined that as possible.
“It is incredible to feel like I can have an impact on my own health again. And I learned that from InspireHealth,” says Wendy.
For more information about the InspireHealth ONLINE program, click here.
– as told to Shelley Ross, Communication Manager, InspireHealth
Images of Courtenay. British Columbia by B.Chow, Flickr Creative Commons