Moving On?

ImageOn Saturday, I did the Power is Teal walk.  It was a 5K to raise money for ovarian cancer research.  I walked every single step of that entire path with one of my bestest buds, Denise, who came all the way from Maryland to walk it with me.  My family wasn’t with me, but Denise was.  And so was the lovely lady in this photo.  This is Sharon and she was my lifeline at the OPCC while I was in chemo.  While I didn’t have her for every infusion, she was there for the majority of them.  Most importantly, she was there for the first and the last.  I went in with her and I came out with her.  I refer to her as my “angel in blue” since she wears navy scrubs at work.  She is the sweetest, gentlest, kindest, most loving kick-butt nurse I’ve ever met.  I know God hand picked her to oversee my care.  I never worry when Sharon’s around.

After the walk, the three of us were talking.  Sharon asked me what was next.  I’d beaten ovarian cancer into remission.  I’d met my first goal of walking a 5K (and my feet are still numb from the experience).  I had the opportunity to meet those that have walked the path before me and are thriving 2, 3, 5, 10, 15 years later.  I won 4 UC football tickets with paid parking.  All in all, a great day.

Now, I reflect on what’s next. I’ve said in the past that remission is far harder than cancer, at least psychologically.  When you are in treatment, you know where the enemy is and you are working to throw everything at it to send it packing.  Once it leaves, you always wonder if it will rear its ugly head again.  Every three months, I get the labs.  Every 6 months I get the scans.  Every 3 months, I see my oncologist on pins and needles.  Did the tumor marker stay the same?  Did my scan show something ugly?  Am I okay?  Statistically, the answers should always point to yes.  My oncologist is a perfectionist and rightly so.  He spent 5-1/2 hours cleaning every last cancer cell from my body.  He looked me in the eye and told me on more than one occasion that he was positive he’d “gotten it all.”  I follow his diet and try to exercise.  I attempt to get the sleep I need.  I am working toward finding some type of inner equilibrium to keep my life balanced.  I try to find joy in all things.  But that little voice hangs in the background taunting me,  keeping me from fully engaging in my life.

I have finally gotten to the point where I don’t see myself as an active patient in the mirror.  I finally have enough hair that it looks like I keep it short.  The only reminder is that I keep it my natural color.  I’m too scared to color it.  Hair color can cause cancer on some microscopic scale so I avoid it even though I hate the fact that it makes me look like I’ll be 60 next year instead of 50.  I’m just not ready to take that miniscule risk.  I do like the curls.  Wash and go is great.

What will it take for me to move on?  Another monumental life event?  I certainly hope not.  I had enough of those last year to last a lifetime.  No, I think it will be those gentle nudges I receive.  Like the thrill of completing a 5K, it will be the small goals I set and complete.  I am working hard to lose the weight I had before my surgery.  I am back down to my pre-surgery weight.  Yes, you read that right.  Despite having 10+ pounds of tumors and fibroids removed, I gained weight (thank you steroids).  And I learned that the theory that you’ll lose weight during chemo is pretty much that – a theory.  Most people have to take so many steroids that even if they don’t eat they still maintain or even gain weight.  Add that to the instant menopause and chemo (thank you twice Dr. Pavelka), it’s practically impossible to lose weight.  Yet, I’ve had 2 pounds budge off this month.  Boy, this is gonna’ take a while.  But I digress.

The gentle nudges.  For those of you who’ve been gently nudging me to turn the blog into a book, I have heard you.  I am working toward creating a devotional book.  My hope is that by processing through the past year I can move on with my life and get into what’s waiting behind Curtain Number 2.  I have a lot I want to accomplish, but fear has held me back from some things.  But God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear and while being scared can be a healthy thing, it isn’t doing me any good right now.

So I’m slowly packing up the past year and checking Map Quest for my next destination.  I still plan to learn life’s many lessons, but I hope they are a lot more fun!

Reflections

Yesterday I celebrated my 49th birthday.  There was a time when I would cringe at the thought of being 49, despite the fact that I have a couple of friends who have crossed over the half century mark.  As with many birthdays, I reflected on the past year.  What a ride it’s been!  Last year I didn’t enjoy my birthday.  I’d just found out about the mass on my ovary and, despite being 7 weeks from confirmed diagnosis, I knew I had ovarian cancer.  I was worried and obsessing over everything.  I analyzed every pain and twitch.  I poured over research and websites.  I stopped living and started planning for what I thought would be the end of things.  The picture above shows me on my birthday last year.  My husband told me that I looked sick last year.  He said I look “healthy and vibrant” this year.  Good thing, since that’s how I feel.

I am amazed at what I’ve been through in the past year and have managed to not only survive, but thrive!  My life is a testimony to what God can do when you reach the end of your rope and have only Him to hang onto.  It’s a living example of what it means to be surrounded by people (who are too innumerable to mention) who refuse to allow you to give up even when you want to give up yourself.

In the last year I have learned that I can survive major surgery, a life threatening blood clot, chemotherapy, self injections of blood thinners, more blood tests that I thought were possible, a port insertion, too many trips to doctors to count and more scans than a body should have to endure while homeschooling two boys, keeping the house of a semblance of a schedule and continuing to write.  I have learned that chemo is a double edged sword.  While it saves your life, it takes your memory.  It kills the cancer and numbs your hands and feet.  And I will find out today just how much damage it did to my eyes (I have floaters which appeared when chemo started and are getting worse).  I have done all this while wrestling with the effects of instant menopause without the benefit of being able to have any hormones to help with the adjustment.

I am a warrior in teal.  I want to make teal as prominent as pink.  I posted on FB that since it’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, I was going to try to wear teal every day (today, my only teal is my wrist band, all my teal clothes are in the wash).  I wear it for those who walked before me and paved the way and for those who will inevitably come behind me.  I wear it for my oncologist, his incredible staff and the nurses and aides at the OPCC at Good Sam who saved my life.  I wear it because my Dad would wear it and say no one else’s daughter should ever have to go through what my daughter went through.  I wear it to show my mom that I’m just as stubborn as she is and that I got my strength to endure from her.  I wear it to honor my husband who had to walk a path that no partner should ever have to walk, but did so with the strength and courage to carry both of us.  I wear it for the two boys I am proud to call my sons, who were forced to grow up in ways that young children shouldn’t have to, but did so without complaint.  I wear it for my friends who called, brought meals, sent cards, took care of children, sat with me, cried with me and prayed for my family.  Their presence in my life cannot be defined.

I wear teal because God has a mission for me that I need to grab hold of and claim.  I wear teal because I survived.  I don’t know what the future holds.  Life is so fragile and never goes according to plan, no matter how much we put toward that goal.  Keeping God in the midst of chaos is what anchored me to life.

As I look forward, I still face monthly blood work for Coumadin.  I face quarterly CA125 testing and exams and semi-annual CT’s.  And yes, I do get concerned.  I will become apprehensive before seeing my oncologist knowing that despite the odds, I still might have to face the Beast again.  I look forward to entering a clinical trial for my oncologist in hopes that I can help him determine ways to beat back the Beast.  And I will wear teal for my visits.

So as I reflect on my 48th year and look forward to number 49, I will wear teal and smile.  I have been through so much and come out stronger for it.  I wear teal as a reminder and to show I am better for my experience.  And, I look good in it.