First, I am one of the very few lucky women whose diagnosis of ovarian cancer came early – Stage 1C. Very early, but not enough to avoid chemo.
This is my story with ovarian cancer and I share it in hopes of helping someone that experiences similar emotions, not necessarily the same diagnosis or situation.
Maybe it’s just the chili talkin’…..
One morning in November 2014 the three of us, me, my husband Jimmy and our adorable Westie, Maggie woke up to a big snowstorm. Ugh. “It will be a rough drive this morning” I thought as I got out of bed and into the shower.
As I was toweling off, I doubled over in excruciating pain in my lower right abdomen. I thought I was having an appendicitis attack. It was awful. We decided that a trip to the ER was in order, so off we went about twenty minutes later.
The pain had begun to ease up a bit by that time and we almost turned around to go home joking that maybe it was just Jimmy’s chili from the night before giving me gas pains. Thankfully, we kept going to find out that I had, what they thought was, a fibroid tumor on my right ovary.
Doctors are human, too…but still…
At the hospital, they told me to follow-up with my gynecologist immediately and they gave me the ultrasound report, both written and a disk, which I was to give to my own doctor.
Since I pestered the doctor’s office relentlessly, they finally scheduled an appointment for me the next day. When the doctor came in, she said that she hadn´t been able to read the disk, because they didn’t have the software to access it. Then she informed me, impatiently and condescendingly:
“Nancy, Fibroids rarely turn into cancer – but if it makes you feel any better we can schedule a follow-up ultrasound in a couple of months.”
A follow-up ultrasound was scheduled for January 2, 2015. When I got the call from my doctor the following Wednesday, she told me I had a “mass” on my right ovary that could well be ovarian cancer and she was referring me to a gynecological oncologist.
“Wait, what? I thought it was just a fibroid – I thought those didn’t turn into cancer!”
Well, we don’t know for sure, but since I don’t operate any longer, this is the best route for you to take.
That doctor didn’t have an opening for eight agonizing days. When I finally did get in to see him, they told me that he would perform a complete hysterectomy, robotically, and would simultaneously do a biopsy on the tumor while I was still on the table to determine if any further surgery would be necessary.
Hurry Up and Wait…and Pray…
They scheduled my surgery for February 2nd, my 58th birthday. Eighteen days of my imagination running wild. Trying to carry on normally at work and trying to stay upbeat for my husband. If I thought the eight days waiting for that appointment was agonizing, I had a whole new experience waiting for surgery.
That was agonizing.
I remember one day, one moment, that I was overcome with fear. Coming down the stairs in our house, I was completely overwhelmed with fear.
That´s when I stopped and asked God to remove it – “Please remove all of this fear – I can’t do it.” By the time I hit the bottom of the staircase it was gone. GONE. I was fine after that. A bit nervous for the surgery, but not that overwhelming, gut wrenching, fear.
February 2nd came and for the first time in my life I wasn’t delighted with the gift I´d received, an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Early Stage 1C, but cancer, nonetheless.
My doctor told me I was going to have to have chemo. “We’ll talk about that” I said.
He looked at me like I’d told him he had two heads. I said that I had no intention of going through chemo, that a friend of mine had died as she finished her treatment and that my Mom went through it and I just wasn’t going to do it. I was adamant.
And then, for some reason – I knew that it would be irresponsible not to go through it. And so, I did.
I won’t kid you; the first round was very scary. I cried as I told my nurse about my friend who had died. She reassured me that I was in good hands. Jimmy was with me the entire time. I didn’t have any problems. Life went on. I did get really fatigued though.
The Universe loves a good joke….
Of course, I´d originally planned to have chemo on Wednesday, work Thursday and Friday, feel like shit on Saturday and Sunday and be back at work on Monday, thank you very much.
You know how they say, “If you want to make the Universe (or God) laugh, make plans?” – well that’s exactly what happened.
I never did make it back to work the day after, or even the Monday after, but a week from Monday after. Ten days off after each round of chemo. My employer and my bosses were very understanding and just kept telling me to just take care of myself.
Each round, the fatigue got worse, because the insomnia got worse. I couldn’t sleep for a couple of days after each round. That was the worst of it though.
I didn’t get sick – I used motion sickness patches which did the trick for me. Luckily, I didn’t get any of the other side effects, either…except for losing my hair, everywhere.
I lost my hair, but I gained my inner strength
This is the story of my experience, strength and hope. I survived, I continue to survive and not only that…
I’m the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance. This organization raises awareness of the symptoms of this killer disease.
I am delighted to give back to them for all the incredible work they do and for the wonderful support they gave me when I was diagnosed.
I’ve just retired from my corporate day job and am now a full-time Life Coach. This wouldn’t have happened without a cancer diagnosis. I most likely would have remained satisfied with the status quo.
Going through a life changing event like this changed my perspective on life. I wanted to do something more meaningful to me. I’m passionate about what I do. I want to share my story to help other women understand that a diagnosis, a divorce, a job loss or the death of a loved one doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of the world.
It can be the start of a whole new world, a new adventure, a new life like it has been for me.