On September 3, 2011 I was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. I had emergency surgery and the tumor was removed but it has spread to my liver. I wear an ostomy bag now.
In October 2011, I will begin chemo to beat back the tumor in my liver. I am getting stronger each day and trying to stay positive. I am unable to work. I have applied for Medicaid but that will only cover a fraction of my bills.
I am calling out now, not only for your continued good wishes and thoughts but for financial help. If you can help in any way, please help me fight and win my battle. No donation is too big or too small. With the love and support of those around me, I know, together, we can win this.
Please keep the love flowing in your thoughts for me. I can feel it helping to carry me on this journey. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I'm also very pleased to announce that friend and artist DTM has offered all proceeds from his posters and book sales to benefit GO THE CATHERINE.
I'm a huge fan of his work and grateful for this generous offer. Take a look and maybe buy some great art for your walls. It is for a good cause.
Thanks for listening and viewing!

Cambodia posters available at:

CHURNING THE SEA OF MILK books available at:

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday And The Emergency Room

I hate the hospital. I hate the cancer. I hate what is happening in my life. There. I said it. These past few weeks I have felt depressed and discouraged and really on the down low side of things. Lower than low. Beyond low. Maybe it has to do with it being the darkest days of the year, which are behind us now or that my self-pity and wallowing got a bit out of control. Or because I am so frightened. I am so furious, wailing over the unfairness of it. I know life isn't fair and you play the hand you got dealt the best you can and all that fuckery, but this really is unfair. It sucks. I'm only 42. And I allowed these thoughts to get the best of me.
I've retreated from almost all of my friends and became this thing, a shell that just lays around trying to escape reality by reading (a book, sometimes two a day) and puffing the occasional hit on a pipe. Which helps with those delightful little cat naps on the couch. I am going to make an honest effort to reach back to those of you who I've had on ignore. I'll try to start answering the phone when you call. I really do love and appreciate how many folks have me close in their hearts, I just haven't been showing you. I've been having a difficult time reaching for your hands.
Good. That bit is out of the way.
The upper abdominal/back pain started Thursday afternoon. I always wait a day with stuff like this, foolishly hoping the burning, sharp, searing pain would just disappear : poof! out of existence! Come Friday morning, the pain (a solid 9 on the 1-10 pain scale) hadn't gone away (DUH!) and I knew, cause this has happened before, that my doctors would send me to the ER. Which they did.
My Ma brings me to St. Peter's about 11am. I wait for 3 hours in the waiting room, crying and moaning in pain before I am given a bed. In the hallway. In a very, very busy ER. It was nuts in there. Traffic accidents, demented seniors, drunk idiots. Once I was in bed, they started an IV and hydromorphone and Atavan were injected and I was really high and the pain was finally gone.
They order a CT scan. For 7pm that evening. 4 hours from now. Sigh. It's the only way they can peek inside and see what might be causing the pain. Finally, after more drugs, they wheel me down to radiation and perform the scan.
I am wheeled back to the ER hallway. At 10-1030pm the doctor comes over with the results.
They are not good.
'Your scan turned up nothing but the existing things you already have going on. But it did show some new lesions on your liver and what may be a spot on your lung. We're going to keep you, at least overnight so we can manage your pain."
I am sobbing at this point. The doctor says he's really sorry. I cry. I bawl. I hyper-ventilate. Inconsolable and still manage to run my mouth.
"It's spread. The cancer has spread. I want to go home. I don't want to stay here. I don't want to die and I'm dying. I'm dying. I want to go home. I'm afraid. I want this to stop. I don't want to live anymore. I hate my life. I can't do this anymore. I don't want to do this anymore. I want to die. I hate it. I hate it. I ha-ha-ha-hate it."
Yeah. Lost my shit big time. A very nice nurse gave me more drugs. I calmed down. Finally, about one in the morning, they wheeled me up to my room. I knew my next pain dose was around 230am so I stayed awake, knowing the pain meds would help me sleep. Which they did, at 3am. I fell into a wonderful, comfortable sleep until a nurse enters my room at 4am.
Wakes me up.
To do a blood draw.
I was angry. 'It's 4 in the morning, this is totally ridiculous, you just woke me up and I am refusing the blood draw. I'm sleeping. Please leave my room."
She did. I fall back asleep.
An hour later, another nurse enters the room, needing to switch out IV poles or whatever it was she was doing. Waking me up.
I didn't say anything nice to her either.
Did I mention, besides my exhaustively draining emotional meltdown in the ER, I had only had about 6 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours? I don't play well with others when I am tired and scared and distraught.
An hour later, some tool comes in with a tray and starts making lots of noise, waking me up. I say "What the hell are you doing?"
"It's your breakfast."
"Well, I am sleeping, you woke me up and I don't want breakfast. Get it out of here. Please leave my room. Get out."
It's now about 7am and I am enraged. I start to cry. A nurse comes in to ask what is wrong and I tell her I keep being awakened by stupid people and I want to be left alone to sleep.
I slam the door behind her. After making a Do Not Disturb sign I taped to the door.
I go back to bed. My parents come by about 1030am and I start to cry AGAIN! and unload what went on that morning. A good rant, with lots of swear words and mean, hateful comments finished off with my declaration : "I want to go home. I can't get any rest here. I'm exhausted and I'm scared and I'm angry and I don't want to do this anymore. They didn't find the cause of my pain, they didn't order additional tests and I can manage it at home because I have the pills."
I paged a nurse and told her she needed to take my IV out. She said it was needed to give me my pain meds. I said "No, it isn't. I can take them orally. I am leaving."
She took the IV out. I start gathering my things and walking down the hallway to the elevator. Walking by the nurse station, the nurse who took my IV out asks where I am going.
"I am going home. I'm done. Had it. Hate it here. Leaving."
"But I need you to sign this," waving a form. "Nope. I'm done. Just put down I left AMA." (Against Medical Advice)
I waited for the elevator and my Dad took me home. My Ma had left after my out-burst. Can't say I blame her, I can't help it, I swear like a sailor. It offends her.
I'm home now. With pain control, my Mac and a heating pad. It's been a tough couple days.
Glad to be leaving them behind in 2011.
Happy 2012 Everyone!

ps- I have an oncology appointment on Wednesday the 4th where I will get another opinion on yesterday's CT scan. Fingers crossed that the radiologist at St. Peter's made an error reading it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

So Many Tests...

Last Friday (why does shit always happen on Friday?) I started having terrible, sharp, burning pain in my upper left quadrant, right under my ribs, like a stitch in my side. It hurt to move, it hurt to breathe. I call up Dr. Judy (the office I used to work at) and they tell me to come right over. Sigh. Judy pokes and prods and sends me for an x-ray and ultrasound to rule out pneumonia, pleurisy, something to do with my spleen and just to get a look there. They showed everything was normal. A good thing is that my lungs are clear. The next place my cancer would show up would be in my lungs, then my brain.
I don't even like to write that, feels like bad karma. I will write that the tumors are shrinking and the cancer is being beaten into remission. That will balance it out.
I come home and am just laying down for a nap when the phone rings. It's Judy who says she has set up a VQ scan (some kind of nuclear medicine test) and she really thinks I should go ("If it was me, I'd go" she said) because she wants to rule out a pulmonary embolism. Well, shit. That's serious, but I am only 42!
It's off to St Peters Hospital Nuclear Medicine Department where I inhale a mixture of something radioactive and oxygen and get injected with radioactive dye and get rolled into a big imaging machine.
Luckily, the test ruled out a pulmonary embolism and I was sent home. Comforted somewhat that everything life threatening was ruled out but without a diagnosis for what was causing my pain.
I took pain pills to get me through the past few days and the pain has gone away. I think I pulled or strained a muscle there, though I haven't exerted myself in months. Maybe I just slept all twisted in a Ambien induced stupor.
Today I started Round 5 of chemo. Almost halfway there. Except for my lips feeling full of Novocaine and some tingling fingertips when they are exposed to the cold, I feel pretty good. There is protein in my urine (Avastin can wreck havoc on the kidneys) so I am doing a 24 hour urine test. That's when I collect all of my pee in 24 hours and put it in a big orange Hazmet comtainer that is kept in the fridge. Don't mistake it for lemonade, Dan!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WOW! Anarchy Does Another Great Thing!

Some friends of mine got together and organized a fund-raising calendar for me.  I am floored and moved and so immensely grateful for their hard work and long hours spent organizing and producing this.  I can't thank them enough.   There isn't a word to express the amount of gratitude I feel in my heart.  
Below is taken from the front page of Sailing Anarchy.  Order yours today!

"We’re proud to announce that as of today, the highly anticipated Women Of Sailing Anarchy 2012 Calendar is now on sale! More than six years in the making, this glossy 12-month calendar features 13 female SA’ers willing to bare it all in order to raise money for Catherine Connolly (a/k/a mainsheetgirl) in her fight with cancer.
We said they were willing to bare it all - but they didn’t: In fact, the photographers and models who volunteered their time and humility for this great cause created tasteful, fun, and sexy images from around the world, without taking their clothes (entirely) off.
Thanks to a great deal from Tepel Brother Printing, and Mer and Clean volunteering a bunch of time to design and ship these beautiful calendars, a huge chunk of the paltry $29.95 you spend on this calendar will go directly into Catherine’s battle fund, so order early, order a few of them, and enjoy what we hope will become another great Sailing Anarchy tradition (though we hope for a less hurtful cause next time). You can read Catherine’s story here, read the making of’ thread here.
Orders taken this week should be delivered to US addresses by Christmas. Overseas orders will require 3-4 weeks. Thank you!"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

I've finished Round 4.  I never ever have to go through Round 4 of chemo again.  I am 1/3 of the way through my chemo.  My blood counts continue to stay elevated, which means my body is producing red blood cells and my immune system is pretty strong because my white blood cell count is good.  My iron levels shot way up,  anemic no more!  I am still very exhausted though. 
The bad news is that my weight is down to 95 pounds.  I've always been thin but this is a bit ridiculous. I'm eating (my favorite lately is a butter, honey and peanut butter sandwich) but don't seem to be gaining any weight.   I have started to develop Raynaud's Phenomenon in my hands because of the drug Oxaliplatin.  Basically my hands are very very very sensitive to the cold and become numb and hurt and my fingers freeze up for a few minutes.  I can't move them and they look like claws.   I wear gloves to get things out of the fridge and reaching into the freezer is a big no go.  As is eating or drinking anything that is not room temperature.  It is a temporary reaction,  only lasting for a few minutes at a time for the first 7 or 8 days of my chemo treatment.   But it hurts and renders my hands useless so it is a bit of a pain in the ass.  I am also taking Avastin which gives me lots of bloody noses, also not the greatest thing but I'll take a bloody nose over constant vomiting in terms of side effects.
I will be having a CT scan after Round 6 of chemo, which is slated for December 28th.  This scan will tell us if the tumors are shrinking.  I try not to think about what will happen if they aren't shrinking.  I just can't worry about it, what will happen is what will happen. 
In the meantime, I use lots of positive affirmations when I talk to myself : "My body is strong.  I am healthy"  "The medicine is making me heal" "My liver is healthy".... and I continue to get reminders from folks all over the world that I am in their thoughts and hearts and that helps me stay positive also.