6. “Complete Remission”

I often hear that “Knowledge is power!” and in some ways it can be. Three months ago, I had no idea what a lymph node was or had any understanding of Lymphoma. I could probably teach an anatomy course on it now haha. The Dr. that treated me initially treated me for allergies and asthma, but it wasn’t until I started doing my own research that I basically self diagnosed myself with Lymphoma. With tools such as Google, information is available to us like never before. This is where I realized too much research and knowledge isn’t power at all, but can actually be a weakness. I’ve read so many trials and studies on patients with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the success rate of the chemo I am doing, that I knew the importance of being in complete or at least partial remission after two months. This kept me awake in fear the few nights before my scan. I was crying and praying, every pain in my body set off a terrifying fear that maybe the cancer isn’t gone at all.

I am a firm believer that God gives us what we need to get through the hard times, many times I’ve talked about the peace that God has given me whether His plan for me is life or death. But in other ways, He has been there in ways that I can’t just say it is a coincidence. Let me explain, on the day I got the confirmed diagnoses, my girlfriend flew in later that night. There was no way we could have planned these things to happen on the same day. I totally was able to push the sadness aside, and hangout with her and enjoy those days. During my first chemo treatment, my Brother Luke, his wife Beth and their daughter Brielle, who live in BC were there to comfort me. There have been many examples of how God has been showing up for me and proving He is with me along this unfamiliar path. Even though it seemed the chemo was doing its work in my body there was the anxiety that I felt thinking “What if it’s not working?” Monday, Nov. 27th came and I drove to Saskatoon alone for my pet scan to see how I was responding to treatment. I just was alone my thoughts and anxieties, I would go to the hospital for my scan and then drive home alone all the while worrying about the results. I was praying that God would be with me or show me that I am not alone in this. Then a short while later I received a call from my girlfriend Mandi. She lives 7 hours north of Edmonton in a small town called La Crete, so it’s a big deal whenever we get to see each other. While I was going for my scan, she was going to be driving to Edmonton then fly the next day to visit me in Regina. Instead, God had different plans. The roads were bad going to Edmonton and we were worried if she would be able to come at all. But as she was about to leave she got news that her Cousin who flies small airplanes for work, was actually flying to Edmonton that day and she would be able to fly with him to Edmonton!  Wow, she didn’t have to drive on the snowy roads and would arrive in Edmonton. But after talking more with the pilot, she found out that he also had to fly to Regina that same day! I didn’t worry once about the scan after that, instead, by the time I got home from Saskatoon Mandi was there waiting for me! God knew what would encourage me that day and take my mind off the scan and worrying about the results.

The day was finally here when I found out the results of my scan, and the anxiety came back. I laid back on the bed in the office waiting for the Dr. to come in and give me the news. I’ve never felt so nervous in my life. She walked in, sat down and said “I have a good news, you are in complete remission.” She also said that I have had “remarkable response to treatment.” I have to complete the rest of the treatment, which is another few months of chemo but the end is in sight. This nightmare has an ending and in March I will be there. We did a lot of celebrating that day and calling my family with those results was a lot more fun than the news I was delivering only a couple of months ago.  Although it feels good to be free, my life is forever changed. I promise to not take my days or health for granted, each day can be my last and I understand that. I pray that more people can see as humans, the lack of control we really have. I may have a clear scan but a drunk driver could kill me tomorrow as I drive to the gym. Forever I am on this earth, I will keep trusting God and understand that even if one day this cancer comes back and kills me, that He is good and His ways are better than my own. For now, I thank Him for healing me. I thank Him for giving knowledge to doctors and nurses that can give me chemo to save my life. Most importantly I thank God that even though I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, He loved and valued me enough that He was glad to do it. This video does a better job explaining the lack of control we as humans really have, but in some ways it also frees you up…

Much love,

Carson

 

 

 

5. So Will I

Here are some answers to some frequently received questions I get:

Q: How many chemo treatments do you have?

A: This is still up in the air because they do 4 treatments then a PET scan to see how my body is responding. If the scan is negative (no cancer), they will do 2-4 more treatments to ensure all traces of cancer are killed. If the scan is still positive, they may do up to 8 more treatments for a total of 12. There is also other stronger chemos, radiation and transplants that can be done to get me to the point of remission if needed.

Q: What has been the best part about chemo/cancer?

A: LOL nobody has actually asked this but I gotta say the anti nausea stuff they give you makes you hungry 24/7 and I never get full so I can finally put on the weight I’ve been trying to for all this time. Also, my mom is a great cook and my dad is great at picking up pizza so I’m super blessed haha. The doctor was laughing today when she saw I was 71 kg (156 lbs) at the start of treatment and now I am 80 kg (176 lbs), but she said I’m still skinny and I hate that word, so I guess I’m going to keep eating.

Q: Am I working during this time?

A: Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a great job working at Sasktel as a programmer. My benefits have allowed me time off while still getting paid most of my wage which is a huge blessing to me as I can focus on giving cancer this L instead of focusing on work.

Q: What are the chemo side effects like? How do you still have hair?

A: Fortunately for me, my side effects have been very minimal so far compared to most people but I’ve heard from a lot of people the 3rd treatment is by far the worst one. I receive treatments on Thursdays. The first few days are good but by Sunday night continuing on until noon Wednesday I feel like I have been hit by a truck. My whole body aches and I feel so tired. Most people would say “just sleep it off” the problem is, they give you steroids that keep you laying awake all night. I also get peripheral neuropathy which makes my feet cold and my fingertips feel numb. Now for my hair, it hasn’t fallen out and they say some lucky people just thin or don’t lose any, it’s about time my luck changes aha.

Q: What’s the hardest part about dealing with cancer?

A: The hardest part for me is that you can never turn your brain off. It’s always thinking or worrying. I can read 100 positive stories about people being cancer free for 5 years or 30 years but then read one negative story about someone who died. Instead of focusing on the fact that this cancer is highly curable, my brain sticks with the negative story. The negative story keeps me up at night, or reminds me I can’t be smiling and quickly brings my mood back down again. My mind craves to be told from my cancer doctor that I won’t be one of the negative stories. I want my doctor to say with 100 percent confidence, I’ll be okay. But they can’t do it, because even though over 90 percent of people with my diagnoses are cancer free in 5 years, there’s still a chance of being in that 10 percent.

So as you can see, putting my faith and mind in thinking I’ll forsure be healthy again is dangerous. That’s why (even though it’s so hard some days) I need to not put my faith in living forever on this earth but placing my faith in the One who can give me eternal life in Heaven. It’s so easy to forget or lose sight of that, a huge help to me has been the song called “So Will I” by Hillsong (link at the bottom). The lyrics say that “All nature and science follow the sound of Jesus’ voice.” Amazing! Every insect on earth doesn’t move unless He allows it, every cancer cell dies or grows by His touch, every morning the sun rises as He commands it to do, so if all of creation still obeys God then so will I. These following lyrics really are powerful to me and a great perspective through this cancer…

 

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If You left the grave behind You so will I

Those words have so much power and give Christians the courage and strength to know the creator of all things holds your bad situation in His hands. This for me gives me peace knowing I don’t have to worry about being a negative story because the grave will be left behind. I’ll be in a place where sadness, pain, worry, injustice, cancer and sin are no more. But until that day, just like all of creation does, I will worship and praise my creator and thank the Lord for breath in my lungs for as long as I have it.

Much love,

Carson Fontaine

 

 

4. Humbled

Yesterday as I walked into my second chemotherapy treatment, I told myself to be strong! Call me L’oreal for kids because there will be no more tears aha. I walked in and a nurse directed me to my new spot which was located in the far back corner. Again, all the eyes that were heavily focused on the local newspaper or on their knitting, quickly glared up toward me as I sat down in my chemo spot. Emotion (but no tears) ran through me again as I was by far the youngest person there and started feeling sorry for myself. What did I do wrong to deserve this? Did I eat something bad? Was I mean to someone and this is just karma? Why me? I’m too young for this. As I sat in my chair, I quickly checked my text messages and as I was doing that I heard the patter of small footsteps. I (just like the older chemo patients) quickly glanced up to see who it was. Standing there was a young girl who was maybe 2 years old. She was completely bald with a scar on the side of her head. She then approached me, and started playing with the knee rips in my jeans that my dad always makes such clever jokes about *eye roll*. I looked down at her and asked her for a high five, she then smiled and hit my hand. After that, she left dancing and laughing as her parents playfully chased her back to the pediatric side of the room. This brought me to tears and humbled me, I was feeling sorry for myself because I’m young and don’t deserve this. But what really did that 2 year old do to deserve cancer? She may have not fully understood what was going on, but she had a terrible disease and yet she lived with joy in the moment. I realize cancer doesn’t discriminate or only attack at certain ages, no, it comes after babies, or teenagers and it hits professional athletes on the most strict of diets. Although there may be many theories on why or what caused this cancer, even the doctors gave suggestions but they don’t know the cause for sure. I may never know why I have developed cancer cells at such a young age but I do know that God through His word promises that He is in control of every day of my life. He even knows every hair on my head! Although, it won’t be that hard for Him to keep track of my hair in the coming days as I have been told I will lose what I have left! Haha

I’m so humbled to know of all the people who have reached out and told me they are praying or supporting me in all this. I don’t care if you are a total stranger or my best friend every word of encouragement means the world. Let me share a few stories. First, if you know me you knew that I loved my hair and shaving it off was going to be such a daunting task. I was angry about doing it one night, then I heard our doorbell. There stood my Uncle Murray and Brother Jordan. They came over completely bald! They were bald before me and that filled me with confidence that I would be alright. These two text me almost every day to see how I am doing and if they can help in anyway. Another story, as I shared about in my last blog, my 3 other brothers and one of my best friends Brock shaved their heads as well! Then there is another friend named Andrew who has shaved his head also. I’ve been so blessed by his company. He has went hat shopping with me, we have ordered food, watched movies and have had many good talks. I’ve also been blessed by my girlfriend Mandi, I know this has been hard on her but she loves to still come visit me even though I might not be 100 percent. She understands that we have to have more casual dates like Mario Kart or helplessly trying to get me to retain my piano skills that I lost way back in grade 7. In a time like this, you really see how many incredible and selfless people there still are in this world. For example, there are people sending me cards with money to buy new hats, or meeting people in chemo like the lady named Marilyn who said she would be praying for me. There have been people who I have never met reaching out to me. Then there is my neighbor who is willing to answer any questions I have as she is 6 years free from the same cancer, it is so great to have all this encouragement! There’s so many more people I could name but I will end with thanking my parents, let me explain further onto why. When you are on chemo they give you drugs to stop the nausea, those drugs make me VERY hungry. Like all I think about is food. We went for breakfast yesterday and I ordered 2 meals and ate them both. I’ve gained 14 pounds in the last 14 days, and I hope to gain at least 10 more. People may think gaining weight is a bad thing but for me after losing so much weight from the cancer, this is a very good thing. Unfortunately, my dad is going to have to start working double time and my mom is already looking into houses closer to the grocery store aha, just kidding. But honestly, they have been everything to me in this; whether it’s feeding me food constantly, feeding me spiritually with biblical truths, filling my prescriptions or already planning the celebration trip to Mexico for the much anticipated days of being told I am cancer free! (Side note: All the cancer symptoms that I have had for the past 5 months have disappeared. Cough, night sweats, chest pain, shortness of breath. My mom mentioned that I even walk faster haha) I am praying these symptoms never return and my next PET scan comes back clear!

I titled this blog “Humbled” because that’s often where I am left. This week I didn’t have any supernatural times where Jesus showed Himself to me. If I am honest, I’m reading my bible through Leviticus lately and it’s a struggle. How does this apply to me and my disease? But yet as I sit here writing this blog, I am left humbled because I realize how Jesus gives me everything I need, in His perfect timing. The young girl with cancer filled me with a new perspective and joy in a hard time. Then there is how God provided during chemo to sit me next to a Christian lady who encouraged me and prayed for me. He has blessed me with an army of support and has filled me with the peace knowing that through life or death, there is victory through what Jesus did on the cross. To end, I’d like to finish off with a quote by Dwight L. Moody, I changed it a bit with my information.

“Someday you will read in the papers that Carson Fontaine is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I was born of the flesh in 1994, I was born of the spirit in 1999. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit shall live forever.”

Much love,

Carson

3. This shouldn’t be me…

Last week, as I walked into the Allan Blair Cancer Center, tears rushed down my face as I told the receptionist that I was here for my first chemo treatment. I was weighed, measured and then a nurse walked me to where I would receive my treatment. As I sat down, about a half dozen elderly people were in the area across from where I was sitting. I felt their stares radiate off me as I began to cry even more. The nurse told me this is a normal reaction as she handed me a box of kleenex, I slowly gained my composure. She explained to me how the injection works and handed me the remote to the TV, but I wanted to tell her how healthy I was. I wanted to say, ‘I don’t smoke, I workout and stay in good shape, I’m probably 4 times younger than the lady you just finished helping out in the chemo chair next to me… this shouldn’t be me!’ But there I was, sitting there for the next five hours with an IV in my arm.

You can probably already tell, I care about what people think. I hate being the center of attention. After my treatment I headed straight for the barber shop and got my head shaved bald. So now my lack of hair is just another way to get those curious looks. My four brothers shaved their heads with me! All five of us, with shiny bald heads walked around the mall and suddenly I didn’t feel as weird or outcasted. I felt a giant boost of confidence. Brothers have the strangest relationship, we don’t say we love each other or hug all the time. But if anything came to attack me, I know I have 4 brothers standing beside me to fight with me. I believe my parents will smile knowing that all those years of my brothers and I fighting against each other was preparing us for the day where we could all fight this disease together. Cancer doesn’t stand a chance.

But even though I have an army with me battling, the side effects still took a big toll on me. I’ve never been so tired in my life, I have sores that make even eating more difficult, I have pains all over my body, my night sweats continue. Even while typing this my fingertips hurt from the peripheral neuropathy that is another side effect. How can I take four more months of this? I wish I could say I prayed and everything was better. I wish I could say Jesus came and took the pain away immediately, but He didn’t. I just laid on my couch crippled in fear, wondering if healing is part of His plan for me at all. But still, regardless if healing comes or not… I feel peace and even while lying in pain, I know Jesus will use this for His good.

Today has been a better day, I feel much more like myself and the side effects seem to have gone away for the time being. But anxiety loomed over my head in a major way as I had a meeting with an ENT doctor (Ears, Nose, Throat) today. They mentioned they saw  inflammation in my mouth in my PET scan that led them to calling me in for a test. After receiving some freezing a scope was placed inside my nose and as they looked -it revealed that everything looks normal. I looked at my mom and said “Finally some good news”. Another bit of good news is that today I weighed in 6 pounds heavier than this time last week, which after losing 20+ lbs in the last few months is a very good sign. I hope to have many more moments like today where I leave the cancer center with tears of happiness rather than tears of sorrow.

You may be wondering why I’m so open and vulnerable when it comes to my blog. Sometimes I wonder that too. I’m starting to see that sometimes us a Christians get so lost in God’s good gifts that we forget the best gift. We plead for health, or an easy life or a high paying job, which are great things, but we easily forget that everyone can receive the ultimate gift. The gift of actually receiving Jesus as Saviour and the promise of eternal life.  Those other gifts are given to some, but Jesus has died for all and has given a way for all to be with a Him in heaven one day. I believe my goal through this blog is to show even in the darkest of days, we as Christians can be a light to others. I love everyone taking the time to read this and when you love someone, you want to give them a good gift. My gift to you is this, take some time and search out Jesus for yourself, read the bible and pray that Jesus will show Himself to you. I believe He will just like He did to me many years ago. There is an old saying but something I think about a lot, “People don’t die for something they know is a lie”. Unfortunately, through this disease there is a potential I may die, but I’m confident that Jesus died for your sins and wants a relationship with you. Jesus has defeated death, death is dead!

Much love,

Carson

 

2. “No”

On Thursday morning, I go for my first chemo treatment. This chemo is called AVBD which is the most common Hodgkin’s Lymphoma treatment. Instead of dancing around the house doing the Y-M-C-A dance, I dance around doing the A-V-B-D dance, hopefully those drugs will work their magic aha. The treatments take about 5 hours and are every 2 weeks for about the next 4 months. In the meantime, I have to drive to Saskatoon for a PET scan so they can see exactly where the cancer has spread. It’s known to be in my chest and a little bit in my neck, but I’m praying it hasn’t spread anywhere else.

Although this has been the worst month of my life, I am thankful for some of the lessons I have already started to learn. First, the world doesn’t revolve around Carson. The day I got diagnosed I went to a movie with my friend. Everyone seemed to be happy, laughing and having a good time, don’t they know I could die? I didn’t get to skip to the front of the line or get to pay a reduced price because I was sick, the world goes on. It may sound silly to read, but I bet anyone who has gone through something traumatic can relate to this.

The second lesson is the biggest cliche ever, but maybe now I understand why it’s a cliche. Learn to value the small things. Before I got sick, I hated Monday. I’d wake up early, go to work and then after work, go to the gym and lift weights. This was such a struggle for me but I can’t explain how excited I am to one day be able to do that again. Another thing I hate doing every morning is doing my hair, in about 24 hours I am about to shave my head completely bald. I will learn to not complain about bad hair days after this experience.

The final thing this has made me realize and be thankful for is having my mother stay at home. In this secular culture, it is often looked down upon and extremely undervalued. Women are expected to get a career and kids are sent to day cares. Many amazing mothers work full time and I’m not trying to diminish them through this, but rather be thankful that my dad has been blessed through his hard work that my mom can be at home during the day. She was at home my whole life, but it took the words “You have cancer” from the Doctor for me to finally appreciate her job on a whole new level. My mom has been there for me in the times when I’m crying in fear or when I need to be pushed to eat more food to ensure I don’t lose anymore weight. She washes my bed when this cancer gives me uncontrollable, drenching night sweats, and prays and speaks truth to me when Satan tries to tell me lies. She has bought me new hats to cover my bald head and laughed with me when the clerk asked “Preparing for winter?” Ugh, not quite aha. If I was at home alone all day, doing nothing, I can’t imagine the attack I would feel and the loneliness that would surround me but my mom has been a best friend to me in this time and I am thankful for her like I never have been before.

In this time, I’ve prayed constantly to God to just remove this cancer from my body. He has the power to do that, so why not? Everyday I’ve prayed for that and so far the answer has been “No”. I still feel the large lump in my chest, I still cough every morning and I still have night sweats. But I’ve also prayed for peace and joy, and I know Jesus has given me that.  Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me who are all weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  In a new way His presence has been felt in my life, and although I hate going through this suffering and pain, it has taught me to lean on Jesus in a new way and for that I am thankful. Still, in my head I think and I pray “God if you just cleared my chest of this cancer and showed the Doctors a crazy miracle, wouldn’t that be a great way I can share of your love?” So far the answer is still “No”. See the thing we as humans don’t understand is that God has a plan far greater than we can see, and we may never even see the plan in this lifetime but I assure you there is a plan. Let’s look to the cross, can you imagine how Jesus’ disciples and family were feeling watching their innocent, perfect Lord getting beat and eventually nailed to a cross?  I imagine they were praying close to how I am today, “God if you just changed your plan and had Jesus come down from that tree and save himself, wouldn’t that be a great way to show off your power and convert these people to you?” But the answer in the same way was “No”. See those followers and disciples of Jesus, were likely praying that Jesus would save himself and show all those watching, “Wow he really is God”. But it wasn’t until 3 days later, when Jesus rose from the grave that they realized their plan was much smaller. Their plan was to redeem a few bystanders, while Jesus’ plan was to redeem the world. The “No” now gives each person a chance to have a relationship with a perfect God, and I realize that when God says “No” to my plan, that He has a better plan in store.

Much love,

Carson

 

 

1. Death is dead

This probably seems like such an odd name for a blog, but this motto is something that gives me hope and peace even while going through the hardest days of my life. This theme comes from a Ravi Zacharias video, where he talks about a man named Lazarus. If you don’t know, Lazarus was dead for four days… but in came Jesus. He spoke, and the dead man arose. From this point on, how would you scare a man like Lazarus? If you threatened to kill Lazarus, he would laugh in your face. You can’t scare someone with death who knows what is on the other side.

This is how I plan to live through this cancer diagnoses, because through the word and the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am promised eternal life with a perfect God. I know I’m going to die. Potentially from this cancer, or if it’s Gods will I could even live to 105 like my great grandpa did. The point is everyone is faced with the same question in their short life on earth, “Where do I go when I die?” I have no doubt in my mind where I am going. If you aren’t a Christian and are reading this, you might think I sound insane. But I pray you will take the bible and seek out Jesus, I have confidence He will show himself to you the same way He did to me. This

Well, that’ll be all for my first blog post. As you can tell I don’t have the writing gene that my great uncle Erwin Lutzer possesses but then again, he doesn’t have these basketball skills, so I guess it all evens out. If you see my brothers, ask them how they let a sick boy with cancer inflamed lungs absolutely destroy them in a game of basketball. Hit the gym fellas!

Much love,

Carson