Life often throws one a curveball. That is exactly what happened to me and my family on May 5, 2011.
I had not been feeling well for several months early in 2011: fatigue, low appetite, bloated stomach and pain in my left side. I ended up with bronchitis and was put on an antibiotic. Shortly after being exposed to strep, I was given another antibiotic.
By March I was not better. So my internist started me on a string of blood tests, thinking I had an intestinal problem. By May, we still had no answers. On May 5, I woke up in great pain. My husband brought me to the emergency room, hoping to finally find out what was wrong. Hours later, after a CT scan, the doctor came in with surreal news: ovarian cancer.
My husband and I sat there, shocked. I was not a likely candidate for ovarian cancer. I did not have any of the likely factors. It could not be true.
I was admitted to the oncology floor and was told I would be put in touch with an oncologist the next day.
I truly believe my guardian angel was delivered me to in the form of my gynecologic oncologist the next morning. He was completely booked but agreed to see me between other patients. Looking over my CT scan and my CA-125 results (which was only at 59), he wasn’t convinced I had cancer. So we decided to do exploratory surgery and find out for sure.
On May 17, 2011, the worst was confirmed. I did indeed have ovarian cancer, stage IIIC. My doctor did a complete debulking hysterectomy and put in an IP port which was to be part of my chemotherapy treatment. An IV would be put in later. He told my family he had good and bad news. The bad was that I had ovarian cancer; the good was that I was in the top 20% of successful debulking surgeries. But chemo would still be necessary.
Three weeks later I started chemo. As part of a study I qualified for, I had six cycles of Carbo/Taxol with 22 Avastin treatments added over a 15 month period. This was the hardest time of my life. Sick from surgery and then having poison put in me was not easy. I lost 28 pounds in three to four weeks. Hair loss was the least of my side effects. I developed an infection on my entire scalp that looked like acne; it was so painful I could not put my head on a pillow for two weeks. And I had all the other typical problems. Avastin brought all sorts of other issues: high blood pressure, arthritis, risk of kidney and colon problems to name a few. Eventually, I got back to “normal.”
As of 2019, I am nearly 8 years NED (no evidence of disease), with no recurrences.
I have learned a lot about myself through this journey. I thought a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence, but instead, it is a reawakening. I take pleasure in things I once took for granted. My family has always been a priority, but now we are even stronger together. Instead of putting off things, we are proactive. Vacations, spending time with my five grandchildren and more time at the lake now fill my life. And the new friends I have made because of it are truly gifts… thank you, Chemo Chicks!
I would not wish ovarian cancer on anyone. It is what you do with your life after that that defines you as a person. I will not let it direct my life, but rather enrich it with my newfound strength.
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