Tag Archives: chemotherapy

J_DuffinJacalyn Duffin is a hematologist and historian who holds the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine at Queen’s University

 

“I want to quit my chemo. I can’t take the nausea. My drug is not available and the other things just don’t work.” It was November 2010 and in front of me sat a 50 year-old widowed mother of two with uncanny, pale green eyes and stage IV cancer; she shook with nerves and defiance. Her support drug was prochlorperazine, which has been around as long as I have. “That’s impossible!” I said and picked up the phone to call her pharmacist. He sounded weary, but politely explained that there was none left in the entire city. “But,” he added, “you can prescribe XXX.” Well, although XXX is fancy, new, and expensive, it did not work for my patient. I smelled a rat.

We quickly discovered that this “shortage” was just one of many that had been increasing ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

In the decade of my 60s I had fantastic opportunities for adventurous challenges. I climbed mountains, bicycled in Europe, swam lakes and seas, and enjoyed week-long hikes. Doors also opened for Masters’ competitions: local summer and winter triathlons, 10 k road races, National Swim Meets and International Dragon Boat races.

All of these challenges demanded physical training and power from my body. During that decade, my athletic participation, and hours in the gym, enabled me to increase my strength and stamina. Through determination and dedication to improve my fitness, my body never let me down. Every year I was curious to see how far I could push my coaches’ training demands, and every year I was thrilled to feel increased strength and to be injury-free. My fitness enhanced my sense of well-being and empowerment.

As a Master’s Athlete, I learned about driving my exhausted body ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

My kind and generous friend, Gary, lives on the bank of the Gatineau River, looking half a kilometre across the water to the rolling Gatineau Hills on the other side. All summer he welcomes me to paddle his boats, especially his Outrigger Canoe (OC). On land, this boat looks cumbersome and awkward, but once launched, its pencil-like hull makes it a sleek and responsive craft. Last July, on the day that I was diagnosed with ‘highly suspicious tumours’, Gary helped me put the OC in the river and I paddled downstream to where the river widens even more, and in the vast solitude of open water and endless sky I wailed and raged at the universe, seeking guidance, grace and the courage to begin the next cancer detour in my life.

Now, nearing the end of February, I am half way through my chemo. The Chemotherapy Treatment Centre at ...continue reading

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Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery and undergoing chemotherapy.

 

For years, I have proudly worn my swim club team T-shirt. The slogan on the front reads:

You don’t stop swimming because you get old,

You get old because you stop swimming!

In early January, as I was pulling into the Ottawa Y parking lot for swim practice, the radio announcer said, “For your morning commute, the time is 6:15, and the temperature is -27.”

I wasn’t alone in the pool that morning – there were 15 of us, and another twenty at the later practice. As usual, we moaned to our coach about a kick-set that is too long, and groaned about too many 100 IMs. But the brief bantering is part of the culture, part of the fun, and the coach takes it with a smile. Four mornings a week, for 22 years, I have been going to the National Capital Region Y Masters Swim Practice to start my day. Some of the swimmers who founded the club 34 years ago are still swimming; others devotees have joined more recently. One is an octogenarian. ...continue reading

Peggy_newPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher - retired after 34 years in the classroom - and an athlete.  She is now recovering from thoracic surgery.

 

Several years ago I was at a café on Bank Street in Ottawa with two friends - Sarah, my long-time neighbour, and Amy, a breast cancer survivor, a ‘Pink Friend’. Our conversation drifted to memories of New Year’s Eve at the Millennium. Sarah reminisced about her New Year’s wedding, at which I was a guest. She remembered glowing candles in the church, twinkling fairy lights, her husband’s tuxedo, and her ball gown. Amy paused for a moment, and then contributed, “I remember that night; that’s the night my hair fell out!” Amy stated the bare fact, leaving the emotional content for me to paint for myself.

The re-telling of this story always produces laughter, although I only tell it in sensitive circumstances. But I remember that conversation for many reasons. I am not a philosopher, and thousands before me have poured their energy into the question of random universal events. But I do wonder if the Universe has a Poker Dealer who randomly flips down cards for the day: today – joy for you, and despair for you! ...continue reading