I am an Ovarian Cancer survivor.
Like many other people, my life drastically changed in ways I could never have envisioned when I was diagnosed with cancer.
In August of 2015, I was just living life. I was truly blessed with my wonderful husband Dave, and our only son Joshua. Josh had just started his senior year in high school and I had recently accepted a new job. I felt it was a good time to transition back to work since our son was going away to college the following fall. What appeared to be a wonderful job opportunity soon transitioned to become a very stressful situation – day in and day out. The company and its inner workings were not what they appeared to be, and I was now unsure if I really wanted to make this my place for a new career. It was the first time in my life that I felt the stress to be so overwhelming that it was impossible to have it leave my system. Even at night, it was still there.
After two months of ongoing stress, my lower back began to bother me as did my lower pelvis. I needed to go to the bathroom all day and all night long. I decided to make an appointment with a chiropractor. I really felt I needed an adjustment and hoped that this would take care of my problem. I went several times over the following three weeks, and each time my back felt slightly better… but, then it would worsen again. “Okay, “I thought”, I must have some type of UTI or kidney infection”, but the urinalysis proved to be negative. At this point, I told my husband that I was going to quit my job. The stress was just not worth it, and it seemed to be taking a toll on my health.
I then did some research online, and I remember getting up from my desk, walking into my husband’s office and saying, “I think I have ovarian cancer”. He looked at me and calmly said, “Then you better call your gynecologist.” I was fortunate to get the next available appointment on Monday, December 14, 2015 and then the ball began to roll, picking up steam very quickly.
After an internal examination my gynecologist concluded that this pelvic exam was quite different than my annual appointment just a few months earlier. “Definitely something is not right,” she said. “We are scheduling a sonogram and trans-vaginal sonogram immediately.” I went directly to have the sonograms and was told I had a mass on my right ovary, and it was very likely not benign.
Fortunately, my dear friend who works in the healthcare industry was able to get an appointment for me at Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh that Wednesday, December 16th the day before our son turned 18. So many emotions were flowing. At that point, I knew I had a mass on my right ovary, but I did not know until my complete hysterectomy on January 19, 2016 that it was cancerous. Thankfully, the cancer was caught early and contained in my right ovary (Stage 1a). However, since my surgeon had to cut it away from the pelvic wall, he re-staged it to a 2b.
Once I had my diagnosis and the reality was upon me, I realized I had a lot of decisions to make. Should I be part of a new research study? Is the study in my best interest? What can I take to make my body withstand the chemo better? What should my diet be to tackle cancer? What I soon realized was that although my doctors were wonderful, they were not trained to provide me with any type of holistic guidance to complement their traditional care. I turned to local cancer centers to seek out support groups, but they also did not have the type of resources to help me like I envisioned.
At this critical time, I had friends and family in my life providing nutrition and supplementation suggestions. I had my brother and sister-in-law introduce me to PEMF (pulsed electro-magnetic field) therapy to make my body strong. I learned from others about the best resources for clean food eating. A new acquaintance taught me about meditation and other techniques to tap into my spirit. I listened …and I researched ….and then decided on the steps I was going to take in conjunction with my doctor’s chemotherapy recomendation in order to be as healthy as possible.
Throughout the next 5 ½ months my husband and I drove to Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh for my weekly treatments….18 weeks in all. Every 3rd week, I’d actually get two chemotherapy drugs – one in my IV port and one in my IP port. Each week I gathered all of my ‘must haves’ – my journal, my little ‘lucky’ trinkets, my folder for bloodwork, my notebook for questions, my inspirational book, etc. You see, when faced with such a health challenge, the overwhelming feeling of ‘powerless-ness’ is very real and one longs for organization, education, and inspiration. I walked in with a positive outlook armed with my husband, God’s love & strength, full of faith & gratitude, and as much grace as I could muster. I ate only clean foods, stayed away from sugar, took supplements to support my body, and used a PEMF mat. I felt wonderful each week, looking forward to each treatment as I smiled for the camera and counted down the weeks. The weeks passed by, then the months, then it was finally Tuesday, July 19, 2016 – my LAST treatment! I proudly rang the bell signaling the final treatment, hugged my wonderful nurse Annette and left hand-in-hand with my soulmate. I could not have done it without my husband’s unwavering support when, I am sure, it wasn’t easy for him. He managed to put on a beautiful, calming smile and encouraged me daily.
Throughout those months, I was taking lots of notes and “collecting my dots” until it became apparent how I was going to “connect” them all. It was honestly like a sign from God and my sweet father in heaven. I could just hear my dad saying to God, “You have to get her attention. She’s not doing what her destiny is calling her to do.” Through my journey I had become empowered in ways I could never have imagined. I was able to face cancer and come out STRONGER than I was before cancer. I felt compelled to share my journey and my learning with other cancer patients because I knew, firsthand, the importance of having these resources brought together.