Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Run Lola Run

Starting the 12-month countdown. As of January 2015, I’ll have 12 more treatments left of what has seemed like an endless battle. While things should be getting easier, as this final 12 month stage of chemo is less intense, in a truthful simplification, it’s actually been quite the opposite.  

         1)      The effects of the steroids that I take once a month (turning me into a raging, munchie-consuming maniac) accumulate with each dose; meaning each time I ferry back to Vctoria after receiving treatment, the effects of the steroids are more intensified and my meal purchases from Triple O’s are consequently increased more in size – but as always, I view my food cravings as positives.

         2)      The more normalized and routine my life becomes, the harder it is to accept that I am still in the midst of treatment. Each month I come home for my dose of chemo-cocktail, a sense of unease reminds me that “moving on” and “University Life” are mere distractions from a fight that is still very real – void of reassurance.  

In Film class we were asked to analyze Lola Rent – A film about a young girl named Lola who is given 20 minutes to save her boyfriend’s life; when she fails at doing so, she’s able to turn back the clock and try again. The film speaks a larger message – that of time and its limitations. Lola corrects her mistakes with each re-attempt until she’s able to complete her mission, reflecting on how each minor decision we make in life can greatly affect the overall outcome. It’s tough to reflect on a life that you want nothing more than to forget about – to analyse events you wish you could simply erase from your memory. But without looking back and learning from our past, how else are we supposed to grow? I’ve realized that reflection is necessary for acceptance, and in turn, optimism - especially when I’ve got another tough year ahead. And like Lola, I’m hoping that with each month of treatment, I can better learn from the one before. While I don’t have the supernatural ability to turn back time, I’ve got 12-months to learn how to better accept the hardships that come before reaching the finish-line and ways to make this home stretch a little easier.

Lola Rent (Run Lola Run) is a stellar German film that I recommend everyone watch – especially if you’re so inclined to consider new philosophies in life … it ignites some profound thought.
Some positive thoughts, how I plan on staying optimistic during the upcoming year:

         1)      Surrounding myself with awesome people – very easy to do in university. Shout-out to Bryan Froh, one of the best guys out there, who although I haven’t seen in months, still manages to consistently make me smile.

         2)      Surround myself with awesome food – this is a universal tactic, effective even if you’re not on 60mg of prednisone. People underestimate the power of good food: the most convenient source of satisfied happiness.

         3)       Surround myself with movies – for obvious reasons.
Time is a limitation so when life is hard or days are unhappy, there should be nothing more important than pursuing positivity.
With a 12 month countdown to a clean bill of health (knock on wood), I’ll be doing my best to forget that the effects of these treatments will accumulate and I’ll remind myself of little things that will keep me going like a. it’s Christmas in 2 days b. it’s my birthday in 2 days and c. I’ll be feasting on a non-campus, home-cooked family dinner in 2 days. I’ve come too far to lose optimism now.
Forcing myself to reflect in order to look on the bright side, learning from Lola, and as always, breeding optimism,

-          Serena Bonneville :)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Life at a distance, but all the same

Progression is a loaded word; from birth to death, we’re barraged with a series of endeavours that Life throws at us, and our progression through each one delineates our path. As we progress and transition through each occasion in life, we tell ourselves that the past is in the past and that’s where it should stay. Moving on from the breaking of a relationship, evolving and growing as we develop new connections. Affairs come and go and as we adapt to new experiences, we just as quickly accept the dissolution of the ones prior.

This was always my outlook on things, especially transitioning from phase to phase of chemo treatment; putting the pain and discomfort behind me as I got prepared for whatever was set to come next. Similarly, moving to Victoria, resuming my studies, and adapting to a new experience, I convinced myself to loosen the once tight grip I held on memories of my past. But as I progress through this new, assumed chapter, I catch myself being reminded; being momentarily transported back to times that I’ve tried so hard to move away from. In one way or another, we’re all taken back to our past experiences, temporarily transported to a static moment in time. But for me, I’m taking back to a moment that sickens me, and where the knowing of progression that used to be so comforting, is non-existence.

Monthly ferry rides home for treatment, binge eating and face puffiness from steroids, make it difficult to maintain ignorance of my past. I’m reminded that one can’t ever really move on from something as consuming as cancer, regardless of where they stand in or after treatment.
I’m beginning to realize that my diagnosis is something that is not just a part of my life, but just simply, a part of me. As I accept this, I can better find ways to try and turn these reminders of the past into positive things.
Even though it is so easy to adapt to this new, University Life, which seems so distant from my life as a cancer patient, I have to remember that that time in my life has shaped who I am now, and continues to do so. Those experiences (which I’ll strive to look at from a positive perspective) will always be present through my redefined attempts at progression.  

ON A HAPPIER NOTE, loving this new chapter of my life, regardless of the occasional blast from the past. I plan to find ways to weave my diagnosis into my new life in Victoria, maybe infiltrate this new community with some fresh positivity, and as always, breed some optimism.  

- Serena Bonneville

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Mind and Body

Never have I been able to feel the progression of my own strength; but after losing, what feels like, every muscle in my body, working out has become much more rewarding. With the combination of being on maintenance and having an abundance of free time, I've been able to establish a full workout schedule; I feel like Million Dollar Baby (minus an incentivising Clint Eastwood figure) 

As I spend my summer days 'training,' I can feel this desolate body creeping closer to revival; undergoing major reconstruction. I'm having to remind myself that while feeling better, I am still undergoing treatment. (As intensiveness as it is) Either way, whipping this body into shape will be a lengthy commitment seeings how my muscles have become accustomed to minimal movement this past year; accustomed to a temporary existence based solely for biological fighting purposes; as if like a test subject that if dare to fail, would shut down completely.

But while my body is jumping back to normal, my mind has also begun to settle back into routine; recognizing more trivial obstacles in life like the transition to university and future decision-making. Most days I forget about my diagnosis all together, but my monthly hospital visits remind me that I still have a year and a half left to go.

Feeling stronger every day and continuing to breed optimism, despite the lack of Clint Eastwood's motivation,

- Serena Bonneville :)


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Continuing down my path

-         Cancer was somewhat responsible for having ruined my experience of a ‘traditional grad year.’ They always say that the ending of this year is like the ending of a chapter in your life, and graduation is the start of a new one... I’m not the philosophical type but here’s an example, said by someone else who clearly is: 

“close the door to the past, Open the door to future, step on through and start your new chapter in your life.”

-          Well, this analogy isn’t so true with me. I suppose it’s because my chapter ended a little earlier than everyone else’s. Forced to accept a matured perspective on life – apologies for using that phrase so often- But from the moment I was diagnosed, my life has been revolving around my health and that final finish date: January 29th, 2016. After my diagnosis, I made a promise with myself to never look back. Never imagine what could have been or what might have been during my ‘grad year.’ I was put on a new path and my only choice was to follow it through till’ the end. So yesterday at graduation, while everyone was celebrating closing one chapter and starting another, my personal focus was much different. I was celebrating how far down I’ve come on this diverged path. While everyone celebrated their accomplishment of graduating, I was celebrating the current success of my treatment. Graduating was but a mere bunny hill on this new path, a path that started way back in October.

-           I couldn’t have been happier to celebrate with my grad class and my amazing teachers this weekend, as it was the most fun that I had had in a long time. Although it was clear, as we all tossed our hats in the air, that my reasons for celebrating stemmed far astray from everyone else’s, much like the path in which I continue to trek down.
I am now a proud Southridge graduate. As I got ready for the formal grad dinner dance on Sunday, I decided to also be a proud Cancer fighter. 

"No matter what you decide to do in life, always follow through on your actions with confidence." 

I’m not sure where this quote came from ... but I do know that it had a presence in my mind while I decided how to do my hair for grad. (Or how to not do my hair.)

I have just started maintenance a couple weeks ago, a phase in which so far is my absolute favorite (seeings how it is the last.) and as my hair has started to grow back, I’m hardly on any drugs, the timing for grad couldn't have been better. Although I still have a year and a half left on this path, I continue to breed optimism knowing that I have graduated with the utmost support of everyone within the Southridge community. I can’t imagine what my ‘grad year’ would have been like at any other school and I know that graduation wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing teachers that I have had the pleasure of connecting with on such a personal and emotional level.

In spite of everything I’ve been through, leaving Southridge may be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,

But as always, I will continue to breed optimism,

     -          Serena Bonneville (Southridge Alum) 

Sunday, 25 May 2014


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As I creep closer to this seemingly illusive ‘Maintenance’ mark, I find myself growing more and more impatient. In my mind I’ve already started to act like I’m in recovery so as to prepare myself. But no matter what mental circumstance I put myself in, I am still days away from starting maintenance. In fact, that ‘finish’ date may even move further away.

Finishing up this phase of ‘inter-maintenance’ has been quite easy. Most drugs I’ve taken before and so my body recognises them and almost has a higher tolerance to them. Funny; how nice it would be if our bodies held this same reaction to the cancer cells. How much easier it would be if the more cancer cells attacked you, the bigger tolerance your body could build against them. How miraculous it’d be if after being attacked so many times by cancer, your body could simply recognise the foreign organisms and eventually resist their attacks. It’d be just as common as building our tolerance to alcohol. “Man, she can really hold her cancer eh?”

Stopping that train of thought before it runs too far ... But I have been quite lucky this phase with no seriously bad symptoms. The only problem I’ve had was catching a virus a couple days ago. It’s been pretty brutal fighting it off (I just feel like I’ve come down with a very bad cold). The biggest issue with this is that my ‘maintenance’ mark or ‘mid-finish line’ might have to be pushed back a bit, because I can’t start the next year and half phase unless my body and counts are back to “normal.”
Either way, I am doing everything I can to push through this virus and reach that beautiful ‘mid-finish line.’ I can almost hear it calling my name.

Breeding Optimism and impatiently waiting,

-          Serena Bonneville :)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Good Old David Fincher

You always have a prospect that by your grade 12 year, after graduation, you’d have acquired a certain development of skills, established all your passions and founded talents that would set the stage for your future after high-school.
Up till the beginning of this year, I was beyond satisfied with this expectation. With plans to play varsity, beat the odds to study business, independently set out to build new experiences, while maintaining long lasting relationships along the way, everything I’d worked towards was about to pay off... But things change.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything, that we’re free to do anything.” – Tyler Durden

I certainly haven’t lost everything... but at this age, lifestyle changes are harder to accept, even if the losses are minimal. And although I can’t entirely familiarize myself with Tyler Durden, I feel as if my series of physical, mental and emotional losses have slowly amended my previous set plans for the future; I certainly don’t feel free to do anything, but my losses have helped to create a clean slate where I can develop new skills, re-establish passions, feel more free to do anything knowing I don’t have much more to lose.  
I don’t plan on blowing up financial sky-scrapers like Mr. Durden, but I do intend to accomplish more than I had planned, before I began to lose what I had.  

“God Damn! We just had a near-life experience, fellas.” – Tyler Durden

Remembering the inspiration of Fight Club, Grinding through my last intenseive phase before maintenance, continuing to breed optimism,

-          Serena Bonneville J

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Fight

Yesterday a fellow teen cancer patient at BC Children’s Hospital passed away. Remembering that death is quite common, I struggled to justify why this had hit me so hard. It wasn’t because she was diagnosed with a cancerous disease like myself and had taken similar drugs, or that she had spent her last days in the hospital where I was only a few floors below her.

I met her for the first time a couple of weeks ago at a teen-oncology-group meeting, although we didn’t talk much. I’d say she looked sick at the time but then again, so did everyone. It wasn’t until today that I realised how much we had in common. She was from Richmond, BC and was only a year older than me. She had an older brother, off at university. The toughest thing to see were photos of her in her soccer uniform, before she was diagnosed; Photos with her teammates, her friends, holding medals and trophies. I thought of myself and realised that our connection grew far past just our common diagnosis, but our lives and similarities before all the obscurities was what brought on emotion.   

Regardless of how it ends, a life spent fighting cancer really sucks; but it makes life spent before the fight all the more meaningful. Every happy moment magnified, every grudge forgotten and the love, unconditional.

Breeding optimism for the ones who have lost the fight against cancer or who have lost a loved one because of it,

- Serena Bonneville :)

Saturday, 22 February 2014


Well things have gotten slightly better as I slowly grasp a hold on this deadening nausea. I go back to the hospital on Wednesday to receive the high concentrated drug for the third time. (3/4) One more visit to go for this phase... Even though it’s gotten easier, I still cannot wait for this phase to be done with! I have started limiting my meals to food specific to helping nausea and vomiting: lots of fruits, smoothies, salads and crackers. I don’t have much of an appetite anyway so when I do eat something, I make sure it’s nutritional.

Recently, I find that most of my time is consumed by University applications ... my god they’re lengthy. I am not sure if any of you cancer patients out there have applied during their time of treatment, but I find it quite the challenge to explain my situation. I mean, how do you elucidate this kind of lifestyle change? I always fall short with these essays. All they want to hear is that I am more than a number, a well-rounded, leading student. So my feeble attempt to show them that usually ends with me posting the hyperlink to my blog because at the end of the day, if they really want to know what kind of student I am, they can read my last few posts and conclude that I am simply an optimist.

Breeding optimism,

-      -        Serena Bonneville J

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Tired of Being Sick and Sick of Being Tired

Well I’ve been wanting, for quite some time now, to post another update... but to be honest the days have been rough and the nights have been long. In a nutshell, the past couple weeks have been spent battling through uncontrollable nausea, persisting fatigue ... and a couple other not-so-fun side effects that I’ll leave unmentioned (chemo patients and survivors can understand.)

But rather than go deeper in detail of an evident low point that I seemed to have hit .. I’d rather fill you in on some startling positives. I received my completion date for my entire treatment! As of January 29th, 2016, I will have finished maintenance-also I will have turned 19-so looking forward to that date... I’ve also sent out applications to some universities, having that hopeful ambition for post-secondary education.
I am set to start maintenance by late May, early June so looks like I’ll be feeling great just in time for grad!... and exams. In my current phase, I’m scheduled for 4 – 5 day hospital admissions on IV drugs with about two weeks off in between. With one under my belt, I’m set to go in for admission again tomorrow.

Those long days in the hospital, I recognise in my mind as hibernation: one where I come out feeling renewed ... feeling better. But of course, as expected, it’s the aftershock of this drug that has really hit me the hardest. I haven’t been at school too much; the unexpected vomiting limits my daily expenditures. And you could imagine how the ‘fatigue’ would put a strain on my  social activities – If you were one to brand me as ‘Lazy-who-stays-in-bed-all-day-watching-movies’ before, you really don’t even want to see me now. But every time I spontaneously fall into a light nap at 4 in the afternoon, I can always picture my life playing out like a movie ... all my pain being miraculously sucked away like in the Green Mile. But then I’d wake up, and realise that this fight against cancer isn’t going to end with some mysterious miracle. It is going to end, hopefully by the assessed date, through the process of taking in a combination of powerful drugs. It’ll end by me battling each symptom; realising that daily nausea and morning vomiting is just part of a phase; accepting that frequent blood tests are necessary and migraines are expected. But when you’re sick, you fight through it all, because you have to; because when you reach the end, it won’t be a miracle, it will be a triumph.

Although I wouldn't say no to a miracle visit from John Coffey to cure me right up...

Looking forward to clearing this phase! Special shout-out to Suzanne, one of my favorite nurse’s, for helping me manage, not just the physical challenges of treatment, but the mental ones as well (also for scoring me concert tickets to Imagine Dragons.) – Suzanne, you are the best and I’m sure every other patient of yours would agree.

Breeding optimism and watching movies as always,

- Serena Bonneville :)

Friday, 10 January 2014

Blood as Red as Wine

Every time I visit the hospital, whether it’s for a transfusion or a chemo-cocktail, I usually get a blood test as well – blood counts reveal a lot about how well my body is reacting to the treatment. They also determine whether I need a transfusion or if I’m ready for the next stage.

Well, last week my oncologist received some interesting news from my blood counts.
As it is the holidays, my family loves to celebrate in the form of dinner parties. These can sometimes get a little crazy, like most dinner parties do. Being of Italian descent, it’s quite normal with these occasions for the kids to enjoy a glass or two of wine with the usual over-satisfying meal. However, it is not quite normal to be going for routine blood tests, like I did the next morning.

For the first time my oncologist had discovered some odd liver functions from my blood counts ...
Even after reassuring her that I did not in fact go on a bender that week, my nurses and physicians in the oncology unit still continue to make fun of me.
God knows how fast gossip spreads at hospitals, it’s worse than high schools. Of course, they’re just relieved that this was a result of wine as opposed to some bodily medical reaction ... All in all, it’s going to be a while before I indulge again at one of our crazy family dinner parties.

On a more serious note, I’ve been drug free for almost two weeks now as I head into the next phase: (Interim-Maintenance). At this rate, I am set to finish around mid-May yay!
 It’s exciting to see the finish line getting closer, but having to say goodbye to the staff at Childrens will be difficult. They continue to build, not just professional, but personal connections with their patients. Oddly enough, it’s what has made me feel so comfortable spending most of my days there. Even after I’ve moved on, I do intend to maintain my relationship with the staff and the hospital whether it’s through volunteer or just friendly visits J.

Hoping this liver function ordeal doesn’t sever any relationships or tarnish my reputation at the hospital..

Breeding optimism thanks to the amazing and personable staff at Children’s

-       -     Serena Bonneville