Many of you are completely caught off guard by this post. I’ve seen the reaction multiple times – you’re sitting there with your mouth wide open, your hand possibly covering it as you stare in shock and possibly start to tear up/cry. And my first response back is “I’m okay, I’m going to be okay…I have to be, I don’t have a choice”. And most days, I am okay. I have an early stage of Ovarian Cancer and had a focused form of Endometrial Cancer as well (the Endometrial Cancer was a surprise we weren’t anticipating), and I’m lucky to be with a team of 8 wonderful doctors at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis.
To date I’d shared the news with a small group of family and friends in order to allow myself time to focus on my children and me – I’ve been through a lot in the last 7 weeks and needed some time. My first priority was to make sure Olivia and Jaxson adjusted to our new found state of living for the time being, and that they understood as much as they can for their ages. Next was getting through my first round of treatment, which I started 2 weeks ago tomorrow.
The easiest way to go through the hundreds of questions I get when people find out is a quick Q&A, so here we go:
You have Ovarian Cancer??: Yes, I have Ovarian Cancer, at age 36. No, there aren’t many of us running around in my age bracket with this awful disease. And although I’m not regularly asked, the look on one’s face is enough…the prognosis is positive, as is my outlook, but I have a long road ahead of me.
How are the children, do they know?: They are doing remarkably well for what we’ve been through. Yes, they are aware that I have cancer. If there was a way I could have kept it from them I probably would have, but that wasn’t an option. Being that I was in and out of the hospital 3 times in the month of January, they were beginning to worry, plus the treatments would make me lose my hair and I wasn’t really sure how you explain that without giving them the truth.
Jaxson can only focus on my “haircut” and “new hair” (that’s what he calls my wig). And Olivia asks really informed questions for a 7 year old. For instance: “Mommy will I get sick too?” Me: “No honey, you can’t catch cancer.” O: “No, I mean when I’m your age, am I going to get sick just like you?” After quickly trying to rack my brain for what to say I told her the truth. “I’m working with the doctors to try and figure that all out. I’m hopeful that that will not be the case and you’ll be just fine.”
Are you Scared?: The answer is without a doubt, HELL YES, I’M SCARED! The “c” word in and of itself is scary enough, add ovarian in front of it and it’s a whole new ballgame! Some say I’m really brave and handling this very well…I’m not brave, I’m just doing what needs to be done, the most graceful way I know possible. And some days that may mean I come across as a sailor who curses too much, but ends everything with “but I know it could be worse, so I’m okay”
Did you have any signs?: Yes, almost all of them, but I didn’t recognize them. The one thing you have to understand is that they mask themselves as other things. I blamed work, things going on in my personal life, the upcoming holidays, etc.
What are the signs you might ask – loss of appetite/feeling full quickly when eating, loss of weight, exhaustion, heartburn, bloating (didn’t have this one), frequent urge to urinate and a couple others. The recommendation I will make to everyone is do yourself a favor, if you have any symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks, go to the doctor just to verify what you think in your head (mine was telling me stress) is actually what’s going on. Clearly, I did not, so I’m not one to talk on putting things off – ha!
Do you have to have Chemo?: Yes, I have 6 treatments, every 3 weeks. They last 6 hours each time. For those who have received chemotherapy, the next question is what drugs – Taxol and Carboplatin – they’re hitting me pretty hard since I’m young and can recover better than older patients (average age for Ovarian Cancer is 61).
What about radiation?: Not at this time
How are you feeling?: As of today, pretty decent. I’m at the midway point between treatments and am able to get a good chunk of things accomplished. The number of “good days” will dwindle as the treatments go on and my “dip days” will increase in duration, so I’m trying to do what I can, when I can right now.
You had a party to shave your head?: Yup, sure did! I haven’t had much of a say in any of this, so when it came to when my hair would fall out I wanted to make the choice as to when it went, not taking a shower one morning and seeing it falling out in clumps on the floor. I also wanted the children to play a part and have our friends and family around that were close enough to participate. This was a way for me to have a voice – I’ll introduce my “Home Team” tomorrow — it was a really nice time!
Now that that’s done, you’re probably wondering why a blog. Why not? There are a little over 22,000 new diagnosis each year (makes up less than 2% of all cancers diagnosed annually), and each year a little over 14,000 lose their battle to the disease (5 year average survival rate of all stages combined is 46.2%). Most people don’t event know what to look for and those in their 30’s don’t have it on their radar as a possibility. So, why wouldn’t I write about my experience if it couldn’t help another young woman in the same situation. Why not try to raise awareness?
To start I’ll catch up on what’s happened to date, introduce you to my wonderful team of nurses and doctors…I have a lot of them (!) …and include some fun along the way! Be prepared, I have big things in store for Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in September an I’m going to need all hands on deck for support!