"You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have"
Cancer, I know it well. I have had tumors surgically removed. They gutted me like a fish. I had a complete hysterectomy and an appendectomy. They removed my omentum. They removed tumors from my colon and my diaphragm.
I survived against the odds. I was told that I had a 40% chance of surviving. I was told that as soon as I could, I needed to get myself up out of the bed and walk. So I did. I dragged myself and my IV pole, with my bags filled with fluid dripping into my arm, down the hall and around the nurses desk, lap after slow lap, with someone by my side in case I collapsed.
I was bloated and heavy from edema from the waist down from lying in bed, while at the same time being nothing but skin and bones up top. My five feet five inch frame had dropped from 115 pounds to ninety five pounds in a matter of days. I was not allowed to eat for the first three days, and my body was quickly burning through it's supplies trying to heal itself.
Four days after my surgery I was released and sent home with my abdomen stapled shut from the tip of my sternum to my pubic bone. I was sent home with ten days worth of medicine that I had to shoot by needle into the flesh of my slack scrawny thighs to prevent blood clots. I was shown how to care for my wound, and told to watch for signs of infection. I would start chemo as soon as I healed.
Cancer, I know it well. I have had chemotherapy twice now. I have lost my hair- all of it. Not even an eyelash was spared. I didn't really care. It was no time to be vain. I looked as bad as I felt. I have lost my ability to taste food. I have had painful neuropathy in my hands that woke me up at night. I have had mouth sores which made it impossible for me to eat, even liquids sipped cautiously through a straw caused terrible pain. Talking was also painful, except when I could get the sound out through my clenched teeth without moving my tongue. Which is nearly impossible. My cognitive functions became impaired, and the steroids I had to take turned me into an emotional maniac, and prevented me from sleeping.
I live alone, and it was the dead of winter. I didn't have a car at the time, so I took taxis, or walked when I had the strength. At times I ordered chinese food to be delivered when that's all I could manage. People helped, and probably would have helped more if I had asked, but I am independent, and I felt I was managing. I find it hard to ask for help, so I actually prefer struggling on my own. I tend to turn people away.
Seven months after this all started, when I finished with chemo, I was in remission. My blood work (CA125) was below the normal mark, which is 32. It was at 4000 when I was diagnosed! After a few months of being drug free, I felt better than I had in years, but then that feeling went away. The cancer was back, and it had metastasized to my liver. I was (am) now at stage 4. So, just five months after my first chemotherapy ended, I was again on the fast track to an early death. I was right back on the same road.... In spite of this I decided to delay chemo for a while. I was still feeling relatively well. I was still working and traveling. I had just spent a few weeks in Paris and the French Riviera. I wasn't ready to ruin what quality of life I still had. Every successive blood test showed that the cancer was growing rapidly, and I lived everyday with the decision of- is this the day I should start chemo. Will tomorrow be too late.
When I started chemo this second time my blood CA125 was at 800. The chemo brought it down at an astounding rate. After only two rounds of chemotherapy it was down to a jaw dropping 50! Yay! it worked. Two more rounds brought it down to 12, a comfortable spot well within the normal range of 0-32. Okay, another chance to live! I have now enjoyed two months of remission. I will be tested again at the end of December. If my blood CA125 level has risen, I will again have to decide if I want to do chemo.
Ovarian cancer is treated as a chronic disease. Even though it has one of the highest fatality rates, and is not curable, there are drugs, chemotherapy drugs available to prolong your life. And as long as they keep working, you keep living, until they destroy your body so much that they kill you, or they just stop working and the cancer kills you. What a choice!
By now I know cancer very well, I have lived it, I have researched it, and I have talked with so many people who have it, or who know someone who has it. I am so grateful for all the stories I have heard. I have learned so much, and gained so much strength from them.
So, that's my story. I hope no one misunderstands my motive, and thinks I would accept their sympathy here. Congratulations would be accepted though. I wrote this simply because I wanted to share it. This is my life. This is what I have to share. And if it makes even one person with cancer feel less alone for having read it, I would be very pleased.
Cancer is not a death sentence. Cancer is a challenge. I choose to meet the challenge everyday.
If anyone would like to write to me and share their story, or ask me any questions, you could use the comment box on this blog, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening