Since my diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer following surgery on April 8th I have had a growing sense of the need to share a warning for women in my life to be checked regularly for ovarian cancer. The problem with that is that the symptoms could be one of a million different things making them easy to “write off” by a doctor and their patient. I understand doctors not wanting to be too aggressive with diagnosing patients. But there has to be a line somewhere in the sand that a doctor has to not allow a patients symptoms get too far away without testing them for something like Ovarian Cancer. Those symptoms will be the topic of today’s blog post. If you suffer from them please plead with your doctor to check you out more closely.
Ovarian Cancer is called the “Whisper Killer” because the symptoms are so mild and easily excused for other illnesses that it isn’t usually discovered until it is too late for successful treatment. Each year there are approximately 22,000 women diagnosed with Ovarian cancer and 15,000 women will die from it. Those are not odds that I as a patient am ok with. I am not ok with those odds for any of the women in my circle of friends or family. The longer I sit back in my chemo chair and thank the Lord that my cancer was found so early the longer I stop and think about my friends and wonder if the aches and pains they feel could possibly be Ovarian Cancer too.
First I will list the symptoms and then briefly talk about them and explain how they relate to me and perhaps you.
- Abdominal, pelvic, or lower back pain
- Nausea, lack of appetite, or feeling full quickly
- Bloating or intestinal gas
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or increased frequency)
- Unexplained changes in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Ongoing decreased energy level
As you may remember I also have Fibromyalgia. All of those symptoms above can EASILY be explained as being Fibro related. I have had Fibro for 19+ years. And I have had all of those symptoms! I have taken a different medication for each one trying to treat each of them. Some of them helped for a period of time and some of them didn’t. How many of those symptoms would you say you are currently dealing with right now? Has your doctor ever once said to you “maybe we should do an ultrasound to check things out”? He’s probably just grabbed his prescription pad and written a script for 30 pills of so and so and rushed out of the room to his next patient. You wouldn’t have known the difference because who even thinks about Ovarian Cancer. Since you have now read this….YOU HAVE!!!! The next time you go to the doctor you will have been informed and can add O.C. to your list of things to discuss with him/her. Somebody has to start talking about it. I am 46 years old and it never came up in ANY of my doctor’s appointments so that is why I am equipping you with the knowledge. Now one of the two of you in that examining room WILL have the information and it CAN be discussed.
There is one other symptom that I wanted to spend just a few minutes on that was a big sign for me that I ignored. It fits into all of the categories above. I always had very painful menstrual cycles. The symptoms of my period included all of the symptoms above. From the very beginning my period would put me in bed for a number of days each month. The cramps were very painful. I was always trying to find some kind of medicine that would relieve them but nothing would relieve them. Ron had been begging me for over a year to talk to my primary doctor. But I assured him that I had been at this period thing for 33 years and periods hurt. That’s what they do. I accept it. It makes me miserable but it’ll be over in a few days and I’ll be fine. So ignored him. As a result of my stubbornness I was 3 years behind on my regular physical. What I discovered as a result of my doctor performing a total hysterectomy was that I had endometriosis and that the cancer had started growing in it. No wonder I was so miserable. I wish I had listened. I wish I had stayed current with my physicals. I wish I knew a lot more about my body than I did. Who knows how long I had endured endometriosis? I could have had it years just sitting there making me miserable. If I had stopped putting it off and admitted my weakness I may have saved my body from this cancer fight.
Ovarian Cancer is the whisper killer. The tests necessary to discover it are very specific tests that are done examining the ovaries. Unless you are looking for it you will not find it. So pay attention to your body, write down everything and demand your doctor checks you over. Don’t let it whisper in your life. You may not have a chance to whisper back.
It’s been so long since I’ve written. I know it’s been a long wait. This cancer process is a draining process. Mostly I try to not to think about it. Some days it makes itself known to me in spite of whether I want to think about it or not.
I am thankful I had the port put in though. That was so convenient. They didn’t have to search for a vein in my pitiful arms. I never imagined I would ever need a port. But I’m glad that I got one. The surgeon who put it in was very nice. I went back to Baptist Hospital where I had my original surgery in April. He kept them from having to do a whole bunch of tests they had to do for pre-op because I had just had them done the previous month. That was so nice. I was in and out. It was great. The anesthesiologists are the greatest. Because I have the hardest veins to deal with ever I usually get right by those IV techs and get straight to the anesthesiologists. If the IV techs stick you once and have a hard time getting a vein then they have to give it up to the next level, which in my case was always the doctor. And he was always a perfect stick. SUCCESS!! But I’m very glad we don’t have that ordeal that every time.
My first chemo was on Wednesday May 22. It was a long day. I was so scared of what would happen. I’d never been in that situation before. So I was more afraid of what came after the chemo than the actual chemo. I had been with dad a number of times for his chemo. You sit down, they hook you up, he goes to sleep, the chemo stops, he wakes up, they unhook him and he goes home. I figure I can handle that. I knew chemo treated people differently so I wasn’t sure how it would treat me after the fact. To be worse no one could sit in the room with me. I was especially panicked because Ron couldn’t be in there. I’ve really come to depend on him to be right beside me. But they said I could go out and visit with him by the elevators as long as I was feeling ok. So Ron and the kids brought me. When I got there I realized how cold I was. I didn’t mention it. But Lauren mentioned it and asked if I wanted a blanket. Thinking she had brought one I said yes. Little did I know that she and Michael went all the way back home (about 20 minutes) to get me one and brought it back to me. That made me want to cry. I was already an emotional wreck. I wasn’t used to my kids being so gentle and selfless with me. We met at the elevators so I could get it from them. My heart was soft toward them already. It grows moreso every day. Chemo that day took 6 hours. I talked to all of the ladies around me about their experiences. It was a great day of bonding. That’s another reason why they don’t allow family members in with us. They want all of us patients to meet and bond together. I fully understand that now. It was a moving experience. I bonded with them. I’m not sure how many of them will be there when I go back. But I will start all over again. Cancer brings us together but our fight binds us.
The days after chemo are as bad as everyone says they are. I was hoping to have the Stokes gene when it came to chemo. I was hoping to not get sick – got sick as a dog. My fibromyalgia made it all worse. I hurt everywhere worse than any other flare I’ve ever had. My hair fell out. None of it was pleasant. But the truth is that NOW I know what to expect. I no longer have that fear of the unknown. I know what the unknown is. That helps my spirits in a terrific way actually. Before I started chemo I was scared of what was gonna happen. Now I know and I know I can live through it. It’s not my dad’s chemo unfortunately. It’s mine and I know what is entails.
So right now I am on a plane beginning our adventure to London. When Dr. Wheelock first mentioned I would have to have surgery way back on April 12 I told him that we had a trip to London planned for June that I have been looking forward to for a year. I made him promise on that day, before the scalpel ever touched my skin, that we would work this trip into the schedule. He said he would. Later on after surgery when we decided that chemo was going to be necessary I reminded him of that promise. We agreed that he would get in one chemo treatment before the trip and that I could certainly go. Originally the trip was going to be for 3 weeks. The first 10 days would be a PhD trip for Ron’s class at Dallas Baptist University. Then the rest of the time would be our own personal trip. We decided it would be better to take the personal trip out of it and just go on the school trip so I could get back to resume chemo as soon as possible.
So my instructions are to get home on Sunday June 30 and on Monday July 1 at 8:00 a.m. I call Dr. Wheelock’s office and let them know I’m ready to get back on the wagon. Starting that week I will resume chemo once a week every three weeks for 15 weeks. It’ll be rough but God says I can do anything with Him by my side. So that’s what we’re gonna do. God and I are gonna be going to chemo, meet new women, be an encourager and I will be a witness for Him. That’s what I’m called to do. Cancer is my calling. My life was dedicated as a child to His care and His service. This is part of that service. Not everything in His walk is sunshine and roses. Sometimes It involves some thorns. You can’t have beautiful healthy roses without a few thorns. So for now I’m the thorn. In a few weeks I will be a beautiful bright healthy rose.
As I sit here ready to update this long abandoned blog I am 3 days away from my first chemo treatment. I never imagined I would ever be one who ever needed chemo but here I am. I have had quite the battle in the last 5 weeks. It’s not the battle I thought I would have. It’s not the summer I imagined it would be. But it is the one that I have been dealt and the one that lies before me.
On April 8th I went to my primary doctor for a long overdue check up. I decided in March that I wanted a particular medicine for some fungus that I had on my toes but my doctor’s office said I would have to come in for a check up to have the blood work done because it had been 3 years since my last check up. I know it was overdue and I knew that I needed to go in but I just didn’t. So I set the appointment for April 8. While my doctor was pokin’ and proddin’ she made a gasp when she pressed on my stomach. She said my uterus felt the size of a five month pregnant uterus. I assured her quite emphatically that I was NOT pregnant. So she sent me for an ultrasound. That was a Monday. That afternoon I was called to go back Wednesday morning for CT Scan with contrast (they wanted it on Tuesday but my insurance wanted to cause problems – you know how that is). That evening Ron and I were on our way out to dinner with our best friends because the day happened to be my birthday when my phone rang. I answered it. It was my doctor who told me I had a tumor on my ovary. She was sending me to a Gynecological Oncologist. My appointment with him was 7:30 the next morning. Oh and Happy Birthday. The next morning I saw Dr. Wheelock where he told me that I have Ovarian Cancer. He assured me that on Monday morning we were gonna get it out and get it GONE!
The word “cancer” scared me. How did cancer get inside of me? What was I supposed to do with that? I’ve been battling cancer with my dad for 3 1/2 years. I didn’t know how to fight it from this side of the battle. I think I went into a shut down mode for a long time. People said they were praying for me. I was mostly numb. People took my numbness as a positive attitude. As I look back on those first couple of weeks I think I was honestly just floating outside of myself watching it all. The final word has come in that it is cancer and that I will be having chemo. I have settled into myself. I have felt the fear settle in. I am afraid. I cling to the Lord who promises never to leave me or forsake me. He has a plan. I don’t know what it is. I don’t have a clue. I cling to Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you future and a hope.” Beth Moore says it best and is my motto in this cancer battle along with that verse. She says “As we seek to know God’s will and go where He sends, he doesn’t just wait for us at our next stop. He travels every mile right beside us.” So wherever I go and whatever path I take God and I will be walking hand in hand.