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

 

 

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