Just because I have a terminal illness…

Doesn’t mean I’m terminally ill, confused? I was too.

I still might be, but I think it’s time someone explained what it is to have a terminal rare disease.

With rare disease day approaching, I’d like to do my part in educating about this rare terminal illness I LIVE with everyday.

When I received my grim diagnosis of metastatic pheochromocytoma, it followed with “you have 1-5 years to live”. I was sentenced to death, and given a time frame to live my life. It’s haunted me ever since. It’s shaped how I perceive my world and how I went about living in it.

It didn’t have to be this way…

Delivering a diagnosis should be one of the most sensitive topics there ever is in a career. It should explain the illness you’re facing, and explain how to live with it.

Just because I’m terminally ill doesn’t mean I have to die…

It can take years upon years to die, a terminal illness means you will EVENTUALLY die of that illness, but no one should be signing your death certificate.

Just because I’m terminally ill doesn’t change the standard of care, I want to live. I deserve every treatment, every intervention, every respect that someone else with a chronic condition or just a condition gets.

I’m still living, and should be treated that way.

Just because I’m terminally ill, shouldn’t mean I’m given palliative care to help me die.

It means I should be given palliative care options to help me live, to extend my life, to improve my quality of life.

Just because I’m terminally ill, doesn’t mean I don’t have a beautiful life ahead of me.

It just looks and feels different than yours, but it’s still worth living.

When I was given my grim diagnosis, it’s all I could think about. Everyday, dying. My time was ticking. My rights were being taken away as a normal patient.

Just because I’m terminally ill, doesn’t mean I should sign a DNR to get treatment

Yes, this is illegal. But it didn’t stop the hospitals around me from withdrawing treatment, and making me too scared to call an ambulance when in an emergency because I thought they’d kill me.

Just because I’m terminally ill, shouldn’t mean I had to move three hours away to be close to a hospital who gets this.

It’s so important to have proper, quality, care. Doctors who understand what a terminal illness is, that are willing and excited to treat your rare disease with the respect it deserves. Ready to give you the respect you deserve.

Just because I’m terminally ill doesn’t mean I should have no dignity…

When I was “dying”, I lost my dignity last. I held onto it for quite some time, but eventually it went away. It was the hardest thing to lose, it shouldn’t have happened, but it did. It didn’t have to be this way.

I don’t consider myself dying anymore, I consider myself someone who’s living with a terminal illness.

I consider myself someone who will eventually succumb to this disease, but not for a very long time.

I consider myself someone who’s fought hard and long enough to share this information with you all.

I consider myself someone who can help change the way terminal illness is perceived.

If you receive that grim diagnosis, please, please, don’t give up. There ARE treatments that work.

There IS a way to be stable.

Quality of life CAN be different.

You need support, in all forms, you need palliative care, (proper care), you need a team of doctors who listen and respect you. Most of all.. you need hope. That’s what this gives you, your hope to hold onto and never let go.

Happy rare disease day my fellow warriors,

It’s been a hell of a ride.

Pheo VS Fabulous

The Mighty Article

Yesterday I shared a very personal blog that I felt could relate to a lot of people going through similar times.

Not even necessarily sick people, just people who have had fading relationships for multiple reasons after changes in their lives.

It seems it was really relatable because The Mighty approached me to publish my article!

If you missed it, here is the link !

Please take the time to read and share, maybe it can help someone more than you know.

Pheo VS Fabulous 💖

“Couple speaking out after psychologist coaches husband to try and kill terminally ill wife”

https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/mobile/couple-alleges-psychologist-tried-to-talk-husband-into-killing-terminally-ill-wife-1.4667916

CTV news tonight @ 6

If ever there were a time to watch the news, tonight is the night. I will be on CTV news tonight at 6 with Emily Campbell discussing one of my most difficult events that happened to us so far.

It’s been a hard day, please support and tune in to see another part of what we as the terminally ill go through.

Once it’s aired , as it’s net cancer November… SHARE! Please share the story everywhere possible!!!

It will be my first time seeing it at 6 too, so I’ll be with all of you, hopefully you’ll be with me too ❤️🙏🏼

It’s CTV Montreal EST, I’ll also share the story here afterwards online, or watch it on https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/mobile/video?clipId=434385

Zebra or Unicorn 🦄

If you have been in the “rare disease” world with us, you may wonder what the reference is to the zebra.

When you hear hoofbeats, we are trained to think horses, not zebras … 🦓

This means that in a world full of thinkers where the first answer is always to rule out the “obvious” answers first, us “rare” zebras often get misdiagnosed because it’s just too bizarre or too complex to possibly be real. Right? Wrong. We are real, we are rare, but we’re there.

NOW, imagine living in a world where you’ve only JUST started to find ways of settling in becoming a zebra, but now….. you’ve become even more confusing that even that doesn’t fit – Shall we say….. exhausted? Now you must be a unicorn 🦄

As much as I LOVE unicorns, it’s not something I wish to be health wise. However, we don’t always get what we wish for…

Or else I wouldn’t be a continuous medical mystery. A zebra, a unicorn, stomping my hooves as loudly as I can to no avail… A very complicated, extremely complex little unicorn. So desperate to be figured out but constantly misheard, misunderstood, and continuously misdiagnosed.

I was able to begin discussing this journey when I began to regain my mental stamina a few days ago here, thanks to my amazing specialists who are working towards figuring out what I am now referring to as my puzzle 🧩

With so many pieces (symptoms), and crisis’ happening – it’s proved difficult to sort out another compounding diagnosis when already living with such a rare disease.

Does that excuse make it okay for our hooves to be ignored? No. It clouds what is potentially a more potent and dangerous lurking enemy. So, what does one do? Well I’m not going to lie. It’s been a hell of a ride, it’s been isolating, I’ve felt ways I can’t begin or want to describe right now, but what I’m here to say right NOW is that we are still fighting. 

I’ve said it now and I’ll say it again, if you don’t fight for yourself… who’s going to fight for you?

It’s the unfortunate truth.

This is your life. It’s yours to save.

We have come to realize this through a series of challenges I’d prefer to have not had to endure, but change is the only constant so we are now looking ahead to the journey we are choosing to see as a positive one. Because that’s how you get through this, often we talk about ‘fighting it’ but we don’t talk about how to beat it. 

We have to, because to us we see it as an opportunity FOR change, for answers. We just want answers. No matter what they are. Going back to basics and feeling helpless is certainly not the answer.

Going backwards when you have already been robbed of the ability to move forwards is one of the most helpless feelings to have in the world.

We are coming on 3 weeks in the hospital, with the help of my incredible team I am functioning at a much more tolerable level so far – so that I can actually do plenty of testing in order to get these answers. This journey is tough, but we are fighting our hearts out. I hope you will be alongside with us, because I have a feeling we might just need that little extra bit of prayer and pixie dust

🌎✨🌈

Remember that gold standard Gallium-68 super amazing impossible-to-get fancy scan I got in order to get accepted to this clinical trial a while back? Well…

My amazing husband Doctor cupcakes was able to get me in AGAIN directly from the hospital on a day pass to get that super amazing scan today. What would normally take 4-6 weeks, took 48 hours, so a huge huge huge thank you to everyone in Sherbrooke, QC. You guys truly were my angels and we are so grateful for everything you did for my situation. Thank you for understanding and extreme considerations 😭😷

My heart is so full of gratitude, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share that.

Here’s a little glimpse of our radioactive day pass mission, a day in the life of a hospitalized unicorn 🦄 😂

https://youtu.be/AHerMoNa9AY

Pheo VS Fabulous

XOX

I will try & update as much as I can, (on my good days) 😘

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Create your own Fabulous

Instead of running around for last minute gifts, decorating the tree, attending fabulous parties…

The tradition we have manufactured the last three years is driving through snow storms hours away, telling each other everything will be okay, waiting for treatments that will dominate the rest of our year to come… and hoping the magic of Christmas will just somehow make everything better.

Each year I watch the first snow and it’s my symbol of hope…

I imagine that snow falling on me and just washing away everything I’ve been through in the previous year, starting anew.

Each year I wait for Christmas to allow those new beginnings; a new chance for me to heal, be in less pain, for my husband to suffer a little less.

…Back to reality

Like clockwork, my cancer always progresses to its worst state in the months following up to the end of the year, until I can’t take it anymore, and we are forced to take action. Most likely because I’ve done treatment all year long, and it’s my body’s way of saying enough is enough … or hey, why did we stop?

Either way

All of the tests, pain, investigations, right before Christmas.

“Do I really have to travel now? we’re days away!”
“We also need to know what’s wrong with you, and we’re not taking any chances, your condition has been too bad lately”
“I know. It’s just so frustrating how this happens every year”

True. I’ve felt awful as of late. Actually, Awful can’t sum up how I’ve felt.

This year is a little different…

I’ve done a year of (P.R.R.T) treatment that’s made my cancer worse.

That was a hard one. ⬅️

This IS the time to go and figure out what to do, where to go from here, there could be NO options for me, but I simply don’t believe in that 💫🙃

…There’s so many quotes out there

“Create your own happiness”

“Be your own sunshine”…

Well, I say Create your own Fabulous.

There’s ALWAYS something else, the question that always remains… are YOU willing to fight?

The answer is always yes.

The days leading up to my appointment…

I made a choice; my body had been fighting me hard, new chest pains, breathing trouble, my tumors alternating between pain crisis and adrenaline outbursts every hour.

….I was done

Which led me to my choice, do I abandon who I am, use the one opportunity I have to leave my house in weeks and go out looking as shitty as I FEEL?

Why should my outside match my insides?

Do I say F you Pheo and try and feel like my normal self as much as I know how? As much as every part of my body is telling me I can’t, what’s the point, just go like you are, it doesn’t matter.

The ‘normal’ me that brightens up those cold white walls, the me that regardless of the dark cold stormy weather, I bring that sunshine, the me that laughs off anything because I’m ready for everything?!

THAT is MY cancer.

Being prepared for just about anything..

Being fabulous despite the odds

I created.my own.fabulous

Why?

Because morale is everything.

Cancer is still going to be there despite the way I look, but it makes me FEEL a heck of a lot better when I don’t look like I have cancer 💋

So the next time you’re dreading those cold white walls surrounding you, you’re anxious for that inevitable news, you don’t want to get that scan…

  • Don’t take that extra hour of sleep
  • put on that darker shade of lipstick
  • curl your hair
  • throw on a bit of mascara
  • gurrrl contour and bake that face if you feel up to it

Go all out! 😂✨💖

I didn’t forget about my guys!
  • Give yourself a nice shave
  • wear that new dress shirt you were saving
  • gel your hair
  • put on a light (hospital friendly) cologne 😅

Do whatever it is that makes YOU have a bit of extra confidence & less sicky feeling 😉😷❤️

Most importantly, remember….

“Fabulous is your light, your smile, your energy, your positivity, your willfulness, your vitality, passion, excitement, beauty, laugh, and how you share it!” – Pheo VS Fabulous

Are you guys following my new FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM?! 🙏🏼💖✨💄➡️👤 FB: Link ➡️📸 Insta: Link @mirandasimard

Merry Christmas my loves ❤️

It can only get better…

WELL I CERTAINLY HOPE SO.

I keep being told it will be worse before there’s a chance of it getting better… I’ve had quite a bit of proof of the first portion of this statement, now I will have to practice my patience and good faith for the second.

MIBG, NOT my favorite treatment.

So far we have not gotten along so well you could say… I’ve been meaning to update everyone since my last appointment and share what I know so far. Except I really haven’t been well, and I had a pretty big dose of reality lately.

As much as I like to share when things are on a positive note … Well, the reality is, living with this disease is often dark and all consuming – although I AM bright and try to find the good in everything despite this constant torment, there are times when I must be candid and speak through my pain and suffering. I’ve actually been telling myself, “I’ll wait until I feel better to update, I’ll wait until I have something good to share” until I realized… That isn’t how MY life works, I wish I had the luxury of blocking out all of the bad and fast forward until I had something good to hear, or skip over all of the parts where I suffer and wait until I feel better…

I also know that nobody else expects that of me, so here I am, sharing the in between with you, I may even throw in an f bomb if you’re lucky. That’s how angry my pheos are, yes I’m blaming any profanity on the tumors, they’re really being assholes. MIBG has got them all kinds of angry… Let me just tell you. Ok, where do I start?

So it’s been 22 days since I had MIBG radioactive iodine injected into my blood stream, 22 days of radioactive pheo cancer hell, 22 days of worsening symptoms, and every day is a new adventure. Rather than get better, I get worse. See how fun that is? I thought the idea was that you get better as the days went on, most people do, NOPE. My symptoms get stronger, more aggressive each day, it’s super awesome. I like the spontaneity and danger of it all I guess, who wants to wake up and be normal for a day? How boring. (I would also like to be excused from any and all sarcasm, I’m going to blame the excess of Catecholamines (adrenaline) being made by my angry tumors, thereby making me very sarcastic… I think too much epinephrine and norepinephrine makes people very sarcastic) Science. YES! Science.

We went to my last appointment with some expectations and no expectations: I’ll explain.

Some expectations meaning… We thought we were going in to do a day of tests, and meet with my pheo Doctor, and have an idea of how the treatment was working so far. Since I was doing another MIBG scan, 2 week blood work, we were under the impression that we would be seeing how the treatment was taking.

What I meant about having no expectations? Well, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so when nuclear medicine told me I would be having a MIBG scan 2 weeks after my treatment to see how I was doing, I didn’t want to get too excited about results, so I remained neutral, and said to myself “I’m going to go in with no expectations, that way I can’t be disappointed”

It was the first time I had left the house since treatment, it was an incredibly hard day. We drove out normal 3 hours to the hospital. The scan was long, painful, with the way I feel it’s so hard to do just about anything…Being scanned for 2 hours is not ideal, Laying with my arms above my head for 52 of those minutes isn’t at the top of my list. Then I gave blood, and then I waited to see my doctor to discuss the results of my blood, and maybe the scan.

We then saw my doctor, and at this point we realized there was a misunderstanding, the scan wasn’t being done to see how the treatment was working. It was actually being done to take advantage of how much MIBG radiation was in my body, and the MIBG scan was being done at this time to find any MORE cancer that’s potentially in my body that otherwise would not be picked up normally in regular circumstances with trace amounts of MIBG. NOT what I was expecting…. Good thing I had no expectations LOL. We went from thinking we would hear how the treatment was working, to hearing they were looking for MORE cancer.. So, not in any rush for those results. Moving on!

So once we got that misunderstanding out of the way, we then of course asked when it would be that we would find out if the treatment was working or not, since it was clearly not now. It turns out it won’t be for a while, it’s a long process, a few months. We will revisit this in a couple months, maybe at that point we will start having an idea if the treatment is lessening the output of adrenaline the tumors are having.

The main priority over the next few months is just constant monitoring of all of the other complications that could potentially happen from the treatment itself, and making sure my bone marrow doesn’t deplete, I don’t get any infections, my tumors don’t kill me from all the adrenaline they are producing, and we control all of the worsening symptoms and side effects being caused. Easy peasy.

It’s a long process, I will be feeling like this for a long while. I knew that, but it’s hard to know what to expect until you’re in the situation. Surgeries are the most difficult things I’ve had to endure, but I’ve known what to expect once they’re done, this is so different, because not only is every day a surprise … I also can’t know if it’s even worth doing in the end.

It seems like every couple days we are increasing all of my medications to try and control my vitals, to keep me out of the hospital, and despite these efforts… They’re still out of control. I literally have left the house once since I have been back, the stairs are a danger zone, getting up too quickly is a danger, going to the bathroom is a danger, showering is a HUGE danger, breathing too hard is a danger.
It’s not as if I am doing anything at all to provoke these episodes, I cannot cut down my activity level any further… Existing is and breathing is all that is left lol. When you are told to stop showering, because it is a danger to your health, it is quite frustrating.

I can be sitting in bed doing nothing at all, and when these new “MIBG spikes” is what I’m calling them – happen, it feels like my heart is being dredged in cement suddenly, and it takes everything it has to beat… It hurts so much, each beat is accompanied by a very unique pain, and my head is filled with pressure, so much that my eyes feel like they’re going to pop out of my face, my chest is filled with pain, and it feels like I am having a heart attack. This lasts for a few minutes, and then I’m so very fatigued… And nauseous, I feel I could sleep forever. Except then I am plagued with insomnia later at night. I’ve had plenty of pheo attacks, I still do, except this is above and beyond those, it’s the effect of my blood pressure sky rocketing while my tumors release a dangerous amount of catecholamines from the MIBG treatment. The problem is that … my medication continues to be increased, which should lower this, except this continues to actually go higher and higher, NOT supposed to happen. So I will continue to do nothing, relax, and just endure this vicious assault MIBG has on my body, because what choice do I have? It’s scary knowing that every time this happens, thinking about the damage it has on my body, I try not to think about those parts, I try to remain naive to that, you can only do that for so long though.

I will continue to be closely monitored, AND I decided while writing this…. The good I am taking out of this so far, is … My bone marrow is good so far!!! (YAY) for strong marrow results, that’s good right? SEE, I knew I’d find a positive in there, f*ck you pheo. I also found an f bomb, HA. I will continue to go every 2 weeks to do blood, make sure I’m alive, check my cell counts, make sure my thyroid is functioning… And all of these other great and scary things. SO MANY COMPLICATED FUN PUZZLES! So….. Let’s hope I can stay out of the hospital between then, yes?! Today was A SUPER CLOSE CALL, crisis level was high in the Simard house, Doctor Serge to the rescue as usual, formally known from now on as doctor cupcakes (lol) – when in doubt… Just prescribe cupcakes. Words to live by

Hm what else…. Oh! The taste of eating batteries has calmed down a bit also, that has been a welcome change! It’s not quite as strong. Yes yes more good news! See, as I continue, I find more good. So yes even though the adrenaline, heart, blood pressure, vital elevation attack side of things are worsening …. The taste of batteries has decreased and my blood work was okay so far, SOOOOO there’s a bit of a bright side. Now we just have to make it through the next 6 months or so of this, and we are smooth sailing.

The last time I put on makeup was Christmas, a random thought I know, but it is strange not physically being able to do anything.. Especially things that were once just an everyday routine for me, now they are a “luxury” Now since I am barely allowed to shower – or closely monitored when doing so because it is my most dangerous activity, (you should see the calories my Fitbit claims I burn just by breathing) 😂 I’m gonna get really crazy and say… I really would love to be able to be normal and plan a vacation, or EVEN just go out for dinner one night, or actually just do anything at all.. At this point I’d like to just be able to walk up or down the stairs without my body imploding. I would like to be able to go a day without my body attacking itself while doing nothing. So I will say this, I’d like to be able to soon be well enough to just .. Have a day where I can feel good enough to just leave the house, change my surroundings, and feel like my normal fabulous self for even just a few hours. This is me being realistic with my expectations, I will find a way to be FAB… I always do 😉💋

Day 22, I pray this disease will become a little more manageable – because nobody should have to fight this hard.

I promise to update as my body allows, but for now…. It is tired xox

Pheo VS Fabulous