A Humorous Look at the Bright Side of Cancer...
And There Is One

deHaan

About Marie de Haan

Marie de Haan—wife, mother of three, piano teacher, songwriter, and writer—was leading an impossibly busy life. All of that changed when she was blindsided by a diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer. She got even busier. From chemotherapy and surgery to battles with the insurance company, tussles with her naturopath over the consumption of sugar to internal debate over whether or not to endure radiation, Cancer Is A Funny Thing details how Marie handled these issues: with humor and grace. And Häagen-Dazs chocolate mint ice cream.

June 21, 2019

Letter #45 To My Benefactor

Dear Benefactor,

It has been a really long time. On March 8, 2018, I promised you that I would go hiking again. Well, I hit a bit of a snag.

Boy-howdy, who am I kidding? It’s been rough.

On April 11, 2018, I ended up in the ER. I had been having sporadic, excruciating pain on the left side of my abdomen for a year and a half. I was sent home with a possible diagnosis of a kidney stone.

I went to several doctors to keep searching for an answer and by June 3, I was diagnosed with celiac sprue. I guess my colon was bleeding, hence my pain. Because of the internal bleeding, I ended up with severe anemia. (The normal range for ferritin is from 10 to 232, and my ferritin was 5.)

Not only did I have severe anemia, I had also gained 40 pounds because I was in so much pain all the time and had not been able to exercise like before.

Last year, on July 1, 2018, I determined to try to go hiking with my family from Ontario, Canada. I settled on Cutthroat Trail which is an easy trail I’ve done before. (I told you all about my first time hiking it in Letter #32 to you.)

About twenty minutes in, I knew I was in trouble. I turned around and bawled my head off for those 20 minutes back to the car, so frustrated with myself. The medical websites weren’t kidding when they said that “anemia causes weakness and fatigue.”

Since that day, I’ve had a mental block about hiking.

I’ve managed to lose 24 pounds and my ferritin level is up. Therefore, I have decided it’s time to get back into hiking. Tomorrow morning, I am going to conquer that Cutthroat Trail. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

Sincerely,

Marie

 

By |June 2019|Letter To My Benefactor|

April 3, 2019

Cancer Survivorship-6

April 3, 2009

April 3, 2019

Today marks the ten-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, the day some strange doctor—not my regular one—told me about ten times in a thick accent, “You have advanced cancer.”

The picture on the left was taken three hours later, right before my family’s scheduled road trip to Angel’s Camp, California.

I thought for sure I would die within six months; maybe with a little luck, I’d make it to Christmastime. God had other plans.

Ten years. I can hardly believe it.

Not only am I alive, I have a good life: a wonderful husband who stuck with me through thick and thin—cancer was definitely one of the thin spots, I must say—and three great children who make me proud on a daily basis.

On top of that, I have countless friends, friends who drove me to my chemotherapy appointments, friends that were there for me when I wanted to quit, friends that were there for me when other situations in my life tried to knock me down.

I’ve been grateful to be part of a church family that has held me up over these past ten years, scraping me off the floor way more than once.

I’m going to continue to live my life, happy and content with every extra day I am given.

 

By |April 2019|Cancer Survivorship & Survivor's Guilt|

January 1, 2019

Dear Fran Drescher #37

December 15, 2018

Dear Fran,

Remember in my last letter to you, I told you about my upcoming nipple surgery?

Well, I ended up getting that nipple on October 1—and four other procedures done—and I must say, it was quite the ordeal. First off, I remember counting back from 100 and the next thing I knew, I thought to myself, “Why is that surgeon sitting on me to work on my boob? Come on, guy, get off me…I can’t breathe when you’re sitting on my chest.”

Suddenly, medical personnel were scrambling, asking me questions and barking out orders: “Get the leads. Can you breathe? Have you had this before? Is the OR ready?”

I could not open my eyes to save my life, or my mouth to speak, but instead felt sticky pieces of tape being applied all over my chest.

All I could do was think, Oh my word, they think I’m having a heart attack.

In fact, Fran, I had had this same feeling before, the previous November when my husband and I went to Maui. The first morning we were there, I couldn’t breathe and I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I knew it wasn’t a panic attack, because I had learned how to conquer those a long time ago.

To make a long story short, I did not have a heart attack on October 1. I do, however, have a new nipple. I will tell you about the other procedures in my next letter to you.

I hope you have a great 2019.

Best friends always,

Marie

By |January 2019|Breast Reconstruction, Dear Fran Drescher|

September 14, 2018

The Journey Project – Phase VI

Photo by Adriana de Haan

On Monday, my to-do list only had one item on it: order a nipple.

Today, my main objective was to mail a copy of my new book to Jonathan Cain, the songwriter for the band Journey. The book is at the post office, ready to leave rainy Washington for sunny California.

I’m still hoping to meet Jonathan in person when we do the Ellen show together.

Wish me luck.

By |September 2018|Hobnobbing With Rock Stars|

September 10, 2018

Dear Fran Drescher #36

Hi Fran,

Yes, yes, it’s been a long time. I’ve been super busy with the wackiest things. For example, this was today’s to-do list:

1. Order nipple
 
Yup. I finally made the plunge (considering the rest of my breast reconstruction was on June 27, 2011 for Pete’s sake) and talked to the plastic surgeon this morning. Surgery is set for October 1.

He asked if I wanted an additional surgery to make both breasts the same size. Hmm. Because I haven’t been through the ringer enough with my eight surgeries—eye correction, 3 C-sections, port in, mastectomy, port out, breast reconstruction—thus far.

Did you ever have surgery for your uterine cancer? I will have to re-read your book and find out.

I hope you are doing well. I will try to be better about keeping in touch. I have so much to tell you.

Best friends always,

Marie
By |September 2018|Breast Reconstruction, Dear Fran Drescher|