Two Years Post Invasion

While making my boys a follow-up appointment at Children’s this morning, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why the date made me nervous.  Then I remembered, “Oh crap, it was that day 2 years ago when ‘the mass’ was found.”  I love that term, “the mass.”  It makes my cancer sound like some sort of nebulous blob that could be just about anything when it was really a “malignant neoplasm of the left ovary” (the technical term for my ovarian cancer tumor).  I’m really not sure which term is worse since I have an intense dislike of both.  Being a writer, I suppose, makes me prefer the “malignant neoplasm of the left ovary” since it is simple and completely explains what it was.

I have said that I knew my NMLO (my shorthand for the mass) was cancer as soon as it was found.  I was never in denial about my cancer.  I was, however, in denial about needing surgery.  Funny how the hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) scared me worse than having cancer.  I was TERRIFIED of general anesthesia.  I was sure I was going to die from it.  Now I realize I should have been much more scared of the pulmonary embolism that nearly killed me after surgery and the chemotherapy that was to follow.  I suppose that I had accepted the fact I had cancer, but dealing with a total loss of control while under anesthesia was more than my little brain could handle.  In fact, the Monday before my surgery, I practically begged my friend Kelley to agree to homeschool my boys if I died.  Fortunately, Kelley is levelheaded and, at that point at least, was not as close a friend as she’s become now.  Her levelheadedness, prayers and constant texts of Bible verses kept me sane.  Sanity now tends to come and go.

While some people have asked why I thought I got cancer, I’ve realized the question is “Why didn’t I get it sooner?”  With all the fertility drugs, stress, lack of exercise, lousy diet and later in life use of birth control pills (to regulate my cycles), I should have been sick a lot earlier than I was.  Actually I was sick before I got diagnosed, but no one listened.  Now, I have this insane need to be constantly reassured that how my body feels is, in fact, normal after having had cancer.

Normal, however, is a relative term.  Aside from my oft referenced neuropathy in my hands and feet, I have intermittent bone pain (thanks to the carboplatin which caused heavy metal damage to the bones), lymphedema that causes swelling in my legs and ankles (thanks to the removal of 36 lymph nodes during my debulking surgery), hydronephrosis which is a fancy way of saying that my kidney doesn’t drain completely into the ureter (thank you chemo), clotting issues (from the pulmonary embolism), eye problems (again thank you chemo) and a whole host of other things that are too minimal or insignificant to mention.  Oh, and let’s not forget the ever present chemo brain.

I really thought that I wouldn’t be writing a laundry list like this until I was at least 75.  Who’d of thought I’d be writing it 25 years early (okay a bit more than 25 years.  The big 5-0 doesn’t come until next month).  I forget that this is due to the fact that I was a “young” cancer patient in terms of ovarian cancer.  Most ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed in their 60’s.  Such are the joys and trials of being an overachiever.

Actually, I’ve spent a great deal of the last two years beating myself up for falling victim to cancer.  If only I’d stayed at a healthy weight.  What if I hadn’t been so bent on getting pregnant?  What did my husband and sons do to deserve a wife and mom who is no longer all together?  The last one weighs heavy because cancer tears you completely apart.  You stop being who you were and become this person who wears the mask of living happily in remission while living in your own private hell of what ifs.  Personally I’d rather be the blissfully unaware as I was two years ago than the teeth on edge, acutely aware individual I am now.

And I’m not saying this for sympathy.  Please don’t remark how good I look or how strong I am.  This is my reality.  Some people dislike this reality and just want to think that once you’re done with treatment you’re done.  You’re not.  You’re NEVER DONE.  If I’m blessed to be able to be 25 years cancer free, I still won’t be done.  And I’m smart enough to know that ovarian cancer is definitely a numbers game.  It’s one of those cancers that your survival percentage doesn’t continue to climb as you continue.  It kind of levels off at 10 years with a 35-40% chance of lasting another 5 years without an incident, then it hangs at 25% for another 5 years and declines from there.  I’m not a gambler, but I realize that the odds are not in my favor.

Being a realist has nothing to do with my faith.  My faith carried and continues to carry me through life.  I truly believed God would heal me from my cancer and He did.  He just didn’t do it the way I wanted Him to, but He was faithful.  He will continue to be faithful to me.  I just don’t harbor any illusions.  Cancer’s part of our world and I live in it.  I know that my next life will be cancer free and that’s enough.

So with yet another CT looming in the future, another 3 month lab test and pelvic exam, and my 50th birthday looming on the horizon, I’ve come to terms with what ovarian cancer is.  It’s an invasion.  It invades your life, turns it upside down and leaves destruction and confusion in its wake.  It also lets you know who really loves you, who’s there for you, who loves your children like you do and who will just hold you and let you cry.  The invasion is terrifying, the war is brutal and the aftermath is traumatic.  But I’m still standing and that’s a good thing.

 

 

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Dress Rehearsal

I have decided that my life before cancer was simply a dress rehearsal.  And I went through a lot of “stuff” before cancer. I think it’s the “stuff” that gives you the strength to fight cancer.  If you haven’t had a lot of “stuff,” you might not have the tools to really fight well.

When I graduated from college, all my friends were getting married so, of course, I wanted to get married too.  I hated being the third wheel.  Fortunately, one of my best friends got divorced during this time, but she ended up going to law school so I didn’t see her that often.  So I started dating a guy who was wrong for me on so many levels that I could write about it for YEARS and still not complete the explanation (my “sister” Sue can, however, give you the synopsis of why this guy was such a bad choice in 30 words or less).  If I hadn’t had that experience, I could never appreciate what a great guy I married.  And, despite his few flaws, he is absolutely perfect for me.  There is no way my ex-idiot, I mean fiancé, would have or could have stood by me through anything.

John and I have faced unemployment, financial distress, and infertility.  I’d have to say that the financial and infertility issues are a toss up.  Both are long term battles that suck you dry.  Both take an incredible commitment to stay together and work through it.  And both need to not place blame on the other.  We are stronger for being together through it.

Of course, infertility had its silver lining.  I have two incredibly handsome, funny, talented and amazing boys that lived in foreign countries that God gave us to raise.  Traveling to a foreign country is not for the faint of heart.  Three weeks in Russia, while amazing, took its toll on us.  And after two failed adoption attempts, the four days in Guatemala, while incredible, were hard on Kyle and my mom, especially since my dad had only been gone 5 months when we left and we were all acutely aware that Braeden would never get to meet his Papaw.  Reflecting back, however, John and I have decided that Braeden has, in fact, met his Papaw as he seems to be channeling him in a regular basis now.  They are random comments that my dad would have made and I marvel at how Braeden gets his wish to “meet” his grandpa.

Losing both our fathers within 3 years gave both of us a glimpse of the struggle at the end of life.  We put our intentions in place and have medical power of attorney’s and living wills.  And in 2012, we both had to have the talk about “if something happens to me, you WILL honor my wishes.”  John faced a potentially life threatening neurological incident that turned out to be something congenital.  It was, to that point, the roughest 6 weeks of my life.  While I had faced the death of my father and father-in-law, I never expected to face the prospect of being a widow at 47.  I am proud of the way John handled the entire experience (me, not so much.  I was pretty selfish with my prayers).  And it helped us learn why John’s short term memory is not as sharp as we thought it should be. 

Six weeks after that, the mass was found on my left ovary.  I KNEW it was cancer and even told John.  I hadn’t had any tests yet, but I just knew.  Being the incredible husband he is, he went through the entire spiel about not knowing anything and it’s probably nothing since that’s what the doctor says, yada, yada, yada.  But I knew.  Six weeks later, after nearly dying after surgery, I had to tell my husband I had cancer.  He missed the doctor because he had to take the kids to our homeschool co-op that day and was a little late.  I don’t think I will EVER forget the look on his face.  I don’t even know how to describe it.  For a brief moment, I had to be the strong one while he had to face the prospect of a life without a wife.  When I think back on this, I cry.  We’d had so many rugs pulled out from under us and landed on our feet.  This time, we landed smack on our butts and it hurt.

Once I was home, we laid out our action plan.  I would go to chemo and he would work something out with his boss so he could be with me.  We embarked on the longest, hardest journey of our lives and marriage – chemotherapy.  Lots of couples divorce during cancer treatment.  Spouses can’t handle it.  My husband shaved my head, cleaned the house, took care of the kids, held me when I cried and kept his vow of “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.”  We definitely had the worse and sickness thing nailed during those 5 months.

Looking back, neither one of us could have come out on the other side of my battle without having been through all those smaller battles that seemed insurmountable at the time.  Had I not battled infertility and being told “No you can’t have children,” would I have developed the determination to fight and prove my doctors wrong.  Had I not dated an idiot, I would not have had to fortitude to know how to advocate for myself.  Had I not had the experience of losing my dad, I would not have learned how to fight.  Being a mom gave me the will to fight for my kids.  Being married gave me a partner to join me in battle.  Being a daughter of the one true King gave the hope that it was all in His hands.

My life to that point was a dress rehearsal for survival.  This experience has added another dimension to who I am.  Just like the experiences prior to this, ovarian cancer does not define me, but it helps shape the person I am becoming. 

No one jumps up and down and begs for cancer (if they do, they are truly more idiotic than my ex).  It happens, just like that stuff in the other more common phrase.  It’s a monster that takes far too many warriors in the battle for life.  I am thankful that I get to fight another day – every day.  Perhaps that’s the lesson from this battle.  Life makes you a better person.  You can face it head on or let it run over you.  My dress rehearsal taught me to always face life head on.  I wonder what challenges are next?

 

Helpful Hints

After my last post, my friend Caren asked me to post about what things are helpful to a cancer patient. After reading the feedback from the last post, I am doing so now. There are a number of things that cancer patients, especially those going through chemo and have children, find helpful and appreciate during our journey.

1. Be specific. Instead of saying “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” make a specific inquiry. Asking “When would be a good day to bring you dinner?” is much better. So is “I would love to watch your children while you go to see your doctor. When is your next appointment?” I know I personally am so overwhelmed by what I’m not getting done, so if someone puts a general inquiry out there I’ll tell them I’ll get back to them simply because I’m too overwhelmed to decide what’s important. By giving me a specific request for help that requires more than a yes or no answer, I can provide a response that is specific to me and the person offering help. The best question I ever got came from a homeschool mom I know whose husband is a pastor. She offered to have the youth group come and help us for a Saturday by spring cleaning. I will NEVER turn down an opportunity for someone to clean my house. I can’t stand the smell of most cleaners right now (they make me extremely nauseous) so that will be a huge help. My friends Kelley, Sue and Karena are always looking for opportunities to watch my sons. My friend Cathy always asks if I need a friend to go to my lab appointments. Cancer patients need help and we don’t want to bother people. By making a specific offer, you allow the patient to tell you what they need.

2. Send a card or e-mail. My friend Denise B. knows how to make me smile. A couple of times a month she sends me a handmade card (she loves to make cards and one day I’m going to have her show me how). They always come when I’m feeling especially low and they always cheer me up. She also asks about bringing us dinner. My Facebook friend Lisa, who survived ovarian cancer, messages me a couple of times a week to check in. She knows I may not be up to responding, but she sends me a quote or picture or just a heart with the word HUG to let me know she’s thinking about me. My BFF Sue posts inspirational posts on my FB wall. These acts don’t take more than a minute to do, but they mean so much to someone who is stuck in the house because they feel lousy post chemo treatment or, as in my case, stuck because my neutrophils (white blood cells that fight infection) are so low I can’t leave the house because I could get very sick.

3. Pray for us. I’ll be honest, there are times when, as I’ve told my friend Cathy (another cancer survivor), that I feel like a piece of gum that God scraped off the bottom of his shoe and tossed aside. Now, I know that’s not true. I have a very vivid image in my head that I lean on based on the Footprints story. Jesus and I are walking on the beach and right now we’re just sitting watching the waves because, quite frankly, that’s about all I can handle. He reaches over and squeezes my hand or give me a hug, but we rarely speak. We don’t have to. He knows how I feel and that there are times when I just can’t pray. The prayers of others have lifted me out of the dumps more times than I can count. You don’t even have to let someone know. As Nike says, “Just do it!”

4. Pray for our husbands or wives and children. As my friend Cathy tells me, husbands get our tears and fears. I can put a happy face on when I go out or when people bring us a meal, but he sees me during and after chemo when my body aches so bad and I’m so nauseous that moving in bed is a monumental effort. At this point, he is definitely being supportive husband as well as taking on the duties of both parents. He cooks, cleans, shops and is a caretaker, which is not a normal role for men. In many ways, his role in treatment is so much more difficult than my own. My children are young, but they know that Mom needs to nap and has a tough time doing the things she used to do. And they are tired of it. As much as I need prayer, they need it just as much, if not more. Family is my number two reason for going through the hell of chemo (not wanting to die is number one). I need them to be tough right now. It’s especially difficult for one of my sons who’s a control freak. He can’t control cancer and it drives him nuts. As a result, he controls everything else in our house which drives the rest of us crazy. Praying for our families is as important as praying for the patient.

5. Ask how we’re feeling. Now I need to put a caveat on this one: if you don’t really want to know or expect a blanket, I’m fine, don’t ask. I will tell people I’m very tired, been nauseous or that I’m feeling pretty good. If I say I’m tired, it’s fine to say “I hope you get some much needed rest soon.” If I’m feeling good, you can say “You look like you’re feeling better today.” I have no clue how to respond to someone who’s nauseous. My husband has resorted to saying, “Is it time for an Ativan?” which is the only anti-nausea medicine that works for me. My mom asks if I have enough 7-Up.

I can’t begin to count the number of people who have offered specific things or gone out of their way to try to make this journey easier for us. And they have, without knowing it, done these exact things. The most difficult thing I’ve learned is to accept help from others. I love to cook and it’s hard for me to accept a meal. I’ve always taken care of my kids and it’s tough for me to let others drive them places without feeling like I’m imposing. My friend Kelley tells me that’s what the body of Christ is supposed to do, take care of each other. And the body that surrounds my family is a living, breathing example of Jesus’ ministry in action.

For those of you who’ve stepped out and helped John, Kyle, Braeden and I, we cannot begin to thank you enough. You have helped us through a journey that we never wanted to take, but has shown us the kindness of both friends and strangers that we can never repay. Thank you and God bless!

What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient

Let me preface this by saying, I am not pointing to a specific person or event. People have commented on how I put a face on this awful disease and I appreciate that. This post is not meant to keep anyone from making conversation. What I want it to do is make people think before they say something. I’ve said some things I wish I could take back now because I realize just how (okay, chemo brain is setting in and I can’t think of the right word now) they were what I thought I should say rather than what the person needed to hear. This is not an attack, more of a suggestion.

I have been doing a lot of research about cancer, mostly because I’m stuck in the house and if I bake anymore goodies I will probably be the first person in history to actually gain weight while undergoing chemotherapy. I’ve seen how to cope, how to be a good caregiver, how to care for yourself, what to eat, survivor stories and the list goes on. What I’ve not seen in any great detail is what NOT to say to someone with cancer. Yes, there are some things that cancer patients would rather not hear, at least in my opinion. I did run this list past my friends Cathy and Lisa who are both cancer survivors, and they are generally in agreement with me.

1. “You look good.” Okay, this is a compliment and, yes, it’s nice to hear. However, there are many times when we are just putting on our happy face so others don’t feel uncomfortable. And sometimes I feel like people are saying, “You look good – for someone with cancer.” I know I look very different. My eyebrows are very thin, my eyelashes look like they’ve been parted in preparation for braiding. My face is very pale, unless I’ve just completed chemo, then I look perpetually flushed. I bought my wig before the chemo really kicked in, so now the hair color is too dark for my pale face. Sorry folks, I don’t look good. I just don’t look as bad as you thought I would.

2. “You’re so brave.” No, I’m not. I’m scared to death. I have the cancer monster sitting on my shoulder all the time and he chants in my ear “What if it doesn’t work? Your numbers are too high. You won’t see your boys get married.” However, I have two young sons who can’t afford to have a Mom show fear because they are scared enough as it is. My husband is now our sole provider and is often doing the work for two around the house so being scared around him is rarely on option. I hide it from my mom (or at least I did, the cat’s out of the bag now). So while I may crack jokes, find the bright spots in chemo (no shaving my legs for the time being) and smile, inside I am terrified that I am not going to beat the monster. And the monster knows it.

3. “Only ___ treatments until you’re done. Isn’t that great!” Yeah, I have ___ number of times to experience nausea, body aches, headaches, light sensitivity and wonder just how much more neuropathy my hands and feet will have to endure. I don’t focus on how many treatments are left, despite what I say. I focus on how I’m going to get through the next day, or on a bad day, hour.

4. “Spring will be here soon and you’ll be done.” Yes, spring will come with all its new beginnings. Even the cancer monster can’t stop that. As I said previously, I can’t even think past tomorrow. John is trying to plan an anniversary get-away for us in May. He doesn’t understand I can’t think that far ahead. I can’t imagine a life without it revolving around lab tests, doctor visits and chemotherapy because that IS my life right now. I know I should look forward to the future, but I can’t. It’s too hard. What if I don’t get better, then what will spring bring? I go through the motions, but it’s just too hard to think that far ahead.

5. “You’ll beat this and be fine.” This is the one I really hate. Aside from my friends Cathy and Lisa, I immediately tune out anyone else who says it, even my mom and husband. I don’t care that your friend’s cousin, the cashier at the grocery or the person in the other cubicle at work beat ovarian cancer. Statistics don’t lie. Statistically speaking at some point this disease will kill me. Granted it could be 40 years from now, but it probably will. Even my oncologist, who is an excellent doctor and does some cutting edge research, says there are no guarantees. Yes, some of this is the cancer monster talking, but it’s also the reality I face. And I will never “be fine.” I will forever be dogged by ovarian cancer. I will put it on every medical questionnaire I ever answer. My labs will always be done in the Outpatient Cancer Center at the hospital. I will always bear the scar of my Port-a-Cath and hysterectomy. While I may forget for an hour, day or even longer, I will never actually beat it. To beat it means it won’t come back and that may or may not be the case. Cathy and Lisa have every right to tell me this. They face the same future I do. And I value those words coming from them. They get it. My niece Brittany, unfortunately, gets it too. She just completed radiation for thyroid cancer. Unless you’ve had cancer, you don’t get it.

None of this is meant to be mean. I know people mean well and just don’t know what to say so they say these things. And that’s okay. But please remember that is always okay to say, “I don’t know what to say,” because most of the time I don’t know what to say either.

Life’s A Beach

Yesterday I spent a wonderful afternoon feeling nearly normal.  I had the opportunity to go out for lunch with my husband, do some shopping, then get a peppermint hot chocolate at Starbucks.  Before October 17, 2012, we did this at least once a month.  Now it’s a major production and I’m not talking about getting a sitter.  We need to time our dates based on where I am in the chemo cycle.  Actually, yesterday wasn’t a great day since my white count is tanking, but I really needed to get out of the house.  And sometimes sanity has to trump health concerns.  Besides, it gave me an opportunity to wear my new wig.

While we dining at our favorite restaurant, we talked about, what else, my cancer.  It’s an all-consuming topic.  I cannot wait until the day that I can actually go an entire day without thinking about my cancer.  That will be a while.  John wanted to know what it was like for me, aside from the physical challenges of joint pain, neuropathy and nausea (all of which were in the brochure, by the way).  I told him it was a lot like being on a beach.

Imagine you are on your favorite beach in late fall or early spring.  The sky is gray and it’s misty, cold and damp.  Despite the conditions, you are at the beach and you will take a walk on the sand since you are, after all, at the beach, and by golly this is what you do.  Jacket zipped, hat in place, mittens on and shoes tied, you tell your husband/wife/traveling companion that you are taking a walk.  After they point out the obvious bad weather, you reiterate that you are, in fact, at the beach and you did not come all this way to just sit and watch the ocean.  You are going for a walk – period.  After they roll their eyes, you set out, determined to enjoy this walk.

As you set off, you realize the air is much damper and colder than you realize.  It’s like the air is trying to push through your pores, straight to your bones.  You pull up your collar and march onward.  A little wet weather is not going to ruin this walk.  As you walk, you try to remain upbeat and talk to yourself.  However, it’s hard to make sense when your teeth start to chatter.  Pulling the hat down and crossing your arms across your chest for warmth, you pick up the pace to stay warm.  This weather is not going to beat you.  You can hear the surf pounding next to you.  When you pause to look at it, you realize you can’t see it.  They you look toward higher ground and you can’t see that either.  In fact, you can’t see past your own feet.  Like many damp, cold days by the ocean a fog has rolled in and it’s as thick as the proverbial bowl of pea soup.

Fog has this weird way of disorienting you.  Even with GPS and fog lamps, it’s still hard to tell where you are on the road even if you’ve driven the road hundreds of times.  There are no landmarks you can use to orient you.  Basically it’s a leap of faith that you’ll make it to your destination safely.  When John and I were dating, there was a really foggy stretch of I-71 I had to drive between Louisville and Cincinnati.  Even though I drove that stretch every week, I still got disoriented when I couldn’t see more than 3 feet in front of me.  I knew the fog bank was generally 5 miles long, but that was the longest 5 miles I drove.

Back to the beach where you are now standing in a fog disoriented.  You weren’t paying attention to where you were walking because you were making a point.  Are you 500 feet or a half a mile from your starting point?  There is no reference point.  Shivering you realize that while you know you’re on the beach, you’ve got no clue where or how you’ll get back.  You know you need to do a u-turn, but how far do you walk back.  Now a light rain is starting and messing up your footprints, which you had just brilliantly decided to track back to the starting point.  Now you are not only cold, but you’re wet, mad and a bit scared.  You turn around and start walking back trying to figure out where exactly you need to stop.

You try thinking in reverse – what were you thinking as you walked to time the trip back.  The fog is getting thicker and thicker and aside from the sound of the waves you hear nothing to orient you and your visibility is down to zero.  After what seems like an eternity, you hear a song.  It’s a song that means something personal to you.  It’s your song, the one you share with your special someone.  And there is a faint light in the distance.  You slowly make your way toward the sound and light and realize it’s coming from your vacation home.  Your true love is guiding you back.  When you finally reach home, you rush into their arms and realize you are safe.  What’s even better is they don’t give you “I told you so,” or anything else that you probably deserve.  You just get a much-needed “I love you.”

Chemo is like a foggy beach.  You can’t see where you’re going.  You’re stuck on the beach.  If you stop chemo, you’ll be forever in the fog because the monster will definitely be lurking in the fog waiting to grab you.  You know that at some point the fog will break, the sun will shine and you’ll see the sun shining on the waves and you’ll be able to see your path.  Until then, you’re stuck in the uncertainty of side effects, lab numbers, and doctor visits.  You just wait until the fog starts to lift.  And if you’re lucky you have a true love that brings the music and has a light to keep you safe until the sun shines again.

What’s a Trooper?

I did survive my first chemo treatment – side effects and all.  Yes, I am tired.  Yes, I am nauseated.  Yes I am cold and feel like I have the never ending flu.  It stinks, yet through it all I survived.

My mom keeps saying that I’ve been a trooper.  My nephew is a trooper.  He spent a year in Afghanistan praying that his unit would be safe.  My dad and my father-in-law were troopers.  Both served in the US Army and both were in Korea after the war.  Actually, their tours were served one right after the other (I can never remember who was there first though).  So I have a problem with being called a trooper.

My dad was a trooper.  I’ve been thinking alot about him today.  The last 9 years of his life, he battled MRSA, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, a heart attack (in Hawaii no less) and a final battle with MRSA that he lost.  He never met his youngest grandson.  And while I know it, I never got to hear a final “I love you and I’m proud of you.”

So I wonder, would Daddy say I’m a trooper now?  Would he be proud of the way I’m handling this ugly mess of an illness?  The one that causes my husband sleepless nights, my sons an incredbile stress to see a sick mom, my mom hours of worry, and my fear that I will overtax my friends’ invitations to help us out?  Would he say “I’m so very proud of you.  Keep fighting.  You just need to take it  as it comes.” Or would he say, “C’mon daughter.  Step it up.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  It doesn’t do you or anyone else any good.”

I’m thinking he would do a little of both, depending on the situation.  I was very fortunate that I was a stay at home mom or a student for most of my dad’s illness.  I got to spend a lot of time with him once he retired.  We were always close, but got closer.  He was there to support me and give me a lecture when needed.  I will never forget getting home from our flight from Boston with Kyle after leaving Russia.  My mom and my sister-in-law ran to greet John and Kyle, while my daddy ran to meet me.  It was surreal.  He had been waiting so long for a grandson, but his first reaction was to hug me.

So am I a trooper?  I guess it depends who you ask.  Somedays I feel like a trooper, marching along through this journey called ovarian cancer and others I melt into a puddle of tears.  I’ve realized as I’ve written this that there is no normal in my life, there is only right this minute and how I feel.  Right now, I feel like a trooper.

Learning as I Go!

There are few words in the English language that stir human emotion as much as the word “cancer” does.  Nearly everyone has been touched by this sneaky bully in some way.  There are no two words that scare women more than “ovarian cancer.”  It’s a silent killer.  How do I know?  I carried one of those insidious tumors inside my body for months.  On October 17, 2012 the big, bad bully was removed along with 34 lymph nodes, my uterus, cervix, right ovary and part of my peritoneum.  I will have a 12″ reminder of its invasion for the rest of my life.

Now the fun starts!  I am facing a port insertion for chemo on Tuesday and my first chemo treatment on November 9th (one day after my buddy, Coach Cathy, started 5 years ago).  Cancer sucks – no two ways about it.  However, it’s time to take the bad and turn it into good and see how I can find ways to glorify God in the process.

First, I am at stage 1.  Stage 1 is the most curable stage.  Given the size of the mass, it should have been much worse, but only the mass showed cancer.  Two, despite throwing a blood clot during surgery and spending 4 days in ICU, I am still here.  If you’re going to get a pulmonary embolism, having one in the recovery room is the best place to do it.  Three, my mom is an incredibly strong woman.  I knew this after watching her care for my dad for nearly 9 years with all his heart, diabetes and MRSA issues.  My mommy spent 7 nights with me in the hospital so I would always have a second set of ears for those  early morning resident visits and would have a shoulder to cry on during the darkest part of the night when the voices start to scare you.  Only a mom gets those voices.  I get my sons’ voices, and my mom gets mine.  Four, my husband has a job that provides excellent insurance.  All my care for the rest of the year is free since I’ve met my deductible and co-insurance (another ICU benefit).

People have commented on how amazed at how my humor has come back and how I’m up and moving.  I’m a mom.  I have to have humor – it’s a rule.  I also need to be able to move.  I have two boys – one of which does not know the meaning of sit still.  While napping is a necessity, I have learned that a 15 minute power nap is better than a 90 minute snooze.  Sleep is not overrated, just a precious commodity.

While these lessons are important, I’ve learned two things that are more valuable than gold.  I am blessed with a network of friends and prayer warriors that is second to none.  I am still not able to pray much, but am doing the best I can with little “God chats” at night.  So many people have lifted up our family in prayer, it amazes me.  The biggest lesson – despite feeling completely alone, God doesn’t abandon you.  You let go of Him, not the other way around.  May I be able to always hang on tightly.