DebbieWinks – Debbie’s Blog from Israel # 7
DebbieWinks — Blog #7 — July, 2023
It was in June 2015 I had come once again to Israel to celebrate our twin daughters’ 25th birthdays. After a long day walking the streets in Tel Aviv, I raised my tired strong legs in the air. This is an exercise I always like to do which improves circulation, combats fatigue and recently I learned it helps with digestion too! During this specific elevation of my tired legs, I noticed a slight asymmetry between the inner calf area below my left knee. The left area of concern was ever so slightly swollen in comparison to the right.
Upon returning to Vancouver in late June I booked an appointment with my GP in Vancouver who was soon to retire. I told her about the dull pain I developed in that area which she attributed to my varicose veins and advised me to wear a below the knee compression sock. In the later part of the fall I noticed that the pain moved down to my left toes. Since at that time I practiced yoga regularly at Semperviva studio in Granville Island (that is no longer in operation) I attributed the pain in my left toes to my yoga teachers that had me doing lots of toe time.
In November of 2015, my husband Yossi noticed a more apparent swelling in the area below my left knee and told me to go the doctor. Since my GP had retired in October, I went to a walk-in clinic located at Cambie and 15th near our apartment. It was an astute locum doctor who urged me to go for an ultrasound of the area. I vividly remember how the ultrasound practitioner spent significant extra time on my left lower knee comparing it many times over to the right. It was then that my gut sensed apprehension and a realization that we could be discovering something not right!
On February 2nd I underwent a very painful biopsy that took sixteen samples from the area of suspicion. My husband Yossi and my dear girlfriend Melody along with my stuffed animal Foxy Lady escorted me to the procedure. My loyal girlfriend Cheryl M had gifted her to me to remind me that I will outfox this!! I was told to rest after the biopsy. Another dear girlfriend of mine, Marcy, spent time with me post biopsy. When the area of the biopsy started to bleed out Marcy with her medical savvy made a phone call to VGH. Instructions were given to apply lots of continued pressure on the area. Foxy lady and Marcy were steadfast by my side!
My comrade Melody thought that teaching me guitar would help my mind rest as we awaited the results from the biopsy for thirteen long days. She came over to teach me some classical Flamenco tunes to which I had aspired to learn. The idea was great, but I could not manage to strum the strings and overcome my learning dyslexia of musical notes. I am sure it was not doable due to a lyrical rendition of nervous mind chatter.
On February 15th, 2016, I was told by my muscular skeletal oncological surgeon (now that is a mouthful of expertise!) that I have cancer. He candidly yet somewhat compassionately delivered the tidings that I have a rare subset of cancers (1%) that fall under the Sarcoma family which has 70 subsets of Sarcoma relatives. (Research does oscillate with the exact number!) Nevertheless what was certain was that mine, was one of the rarer ones ……Clear Cell Sarcoma was sitting at the junction of three soft tissue tendons. This was the reason I that I had pain and eventual swelling around the lower left leg and referred pain to my toes.
I kept on forgetting the name of my special type of cancer and another precious girlfriend Yael said to me to think of the cream for pimples (or zits in vernacular) called ‘Clearasil’! This was one of the funnier moments during the scary time of my initial diagnosis.
A protocol of 25 radiation treatments were to be administered beginning on March 11th and surgery to follow in May 2016. One week before my allotted surgery time I received an upsetting phone call telling me that the surgery date was cancelled at VGH, something that some of you readers might also have experienced. However my gallant surgeon with the onerous description fought hard in obtaining operating hours for me at UBC Hospital in the afternoon of May 17th, 2016.
Did you know that an operation post radiation treatment significantly slows down the healing process? The margins taken were wide and the wound went very deep. Subsequently my left leg was in shock for a long time, and I graduated slowly from wheelchair to walker to a cane. My amazingly devoted sister Nina, a trained physiotherapist came often to help me with exercises and to guide and cheer me on with pain management protocol. I learned to deal with the pain and surrender and to dance with the long recovery process.
And dancing I wanted to do!!!
Another amazing girlfriend of mine, Michal, who took me to Vancouver’s July Folk Festival pushing me from show to show in a Red Cross wheelchair. Unfortunately, I danced a bit too much in a flowing skirt while supported by my cane. I had no bandage over my wound and contracted cellulitis and so experienced an unfortunate set back and landed at VGH emergency with Michal again by my side.
As you are reading this tale, I want you to know that journeying with cancer guided me into an incredible spiritual journey in which my connection with the God of Abraham only strengthened.
This blog tells you about the first of several subsequent surgical encounters I have experienced since 2016.
Holding my hand and telling me that it would be ok were not common utterances I heard from my medical professionals during my many treatments, operations, biopsies, and appointments. It was me myself and I that forged ahead to form a relationship with God and the healing powers I learned to acquire and access.
I practiced lots of deep breathing, praying, smiling a lot, playing scrabble with girlfriends, swimming, eating well and most importantly finding the humor and the dignity in it all. Before starting my radiation treatments I decided on dying the tips of my brown hair red. It was my wonderful girlfriend/hairdresser Faya who did the job at my customized request.
I felt resilient, radiant, and ready for the 25 radiation treatments.
I started my cathartic healing journey by writing poetry. The name of my collection written over these past 7 years is called “Shalom Sarcoma Salaam”.
And I will tell you more about this, in my next blog!
Debbie winks 😊