It has been a while since my last blog, it took longer than I thought to find the words and the courage to write this. There was a lot of procrastinating, I mean I worked really hard to find anything else to do than write this. But I knew that I wanted to write it. It can be so difficult to find the words when you are dealing with such a personal and emotional subject. One that changed your life completely for good and for bad, and still affects your life in big and small ways.
The good stuff, I can confidently say I learned so much about myself that year and since, and it made me so much stronger. The bad stuff well, we all learn lessons from the bad stuff as well, and we all have our mountains to climb. This story is mine.
Let’s first go back to the beginning. It was about a week and a half after my 30th birthday (December 2009). While some people dread turning 30, I was actually looking forward to it. I looked at it as a reset. I had just spent the last year or so in therapy dealing with my eating disorder and other stuff that came my way in my 20s. While I was successful and had accomplished a lot in the last decade, I also spent a lot of time partying, finding myself, crying over guys, and a whole lot of other stuff that I was ready to close the chapter on. Little did I know I was about to embark on one of the hardest years of my life.
It was like any other day; I stopped on the way to work to get something to eat, got to work and started checking in with my team. It was about an hour or so after I arrived that I started to not feel well. At first, I chalked it up to what I had eaten, but as the minutes ticked by and I just kept feeling worse, I knew something was wrong. I was in so much pain. I could barely talk, let alone drive myself anywhere, so my team called one of my best friends. Luckily, she was on her way back to her office from a meeting and was able to pick me up. We were going to try to get into a doctor, but when we couldn’t get ahold of them, and I was feeling even worse, we went to the emergency room. Thankfully, there was no wait and they got me in right away and on some pretty amazing drugs. I thought I was all better and started making calls to work to ensure that everything was covered. I had no idea what was wrong, but I was feeling better. They started running tests. They couldn’t quite figure out what it was. When they finally did a scan, they saw something in my abdomen and called in a surgeon. I was going to have surgery that night. I was feeling too good from the drugs to fully grasp everything, but I do remember having to sign a waiver saying they could do a hysterectomy depending on what they saw. In my non-lucid state, I will say that I was most concerned with the scar and where it was going to be. When I saw the surgeon before my surgery he assured me he would keep it low and go horizontally instead of vertically, which I was told would be an option. I promptly told him that he was my new best friend.
After surgery, I found out they did not have to do a hysterectomy but did have to remove one of my ovaries. There wasn’t much else said, at least not to me. I would find out more at my follow up visit once my test results were in. Many months later I found out that he had told my mom and my friends after the surgery that it did not look good and that he was 95% sure it was Ovarian Cancer. They were understandably upset and unsure if they should tell me. I am so thankful they did not, since we found out a couple weeks later that I actually had Advanced Borderline Ovarian Cancer, while still scary, not as bad as Ovarian Cancer.
After hearing my diagnosis, the treatment options were limited. It was basically only to get a hysterectomy. Which for most people who are diagnosed with Advanced Borderline Ovarian Cancer, that is fine. They are typically older and have had kids. But I was not in that group. I had just turned 30 and didn’t have kids. That is what second opinions are for. So off to UC Irvine for my second opinion with the doctor most familiar with this. He said it is very slow growing and I could hold off on the hysterectomy. I was thrilled. To know that I could potentially still have kids biologically was exciting. I just had to stay up on my doctor appointments and tests to watch it. So that is just what I did.
In the meantime, I was going to be as proactive and aggressive as possible in my pursuit to have a child. I set up an appointment with a fertility doctor to look into my options. Especially since I had just had this surgery and only had one ovary left. I still remember going in for all the tests, some of them worse than others, and especially going back for the results. I went by myself, which was not the smartest of ideas, but I was used to doing most things on my own. It was just a follow up appointment where I thought I would be told I could do artificial insemination and bam, motherhood here I come. That, however, was not what happened. He told me that the one fallopian tube with my remaining ovary was blocked and artificial insemination was not an option. I was crushed, I mean ugly crying in his office, crushed. He told me I did have other options, like freezing my eggs, or doing IVF; but it was all so expensive and certainly not a guarantee. I left the office, had my pity party, and then brushed myself off a couple days later and decided to wait it out and see what happened.
The best laid plans, right. Well come that June, I went in for one of my scans and follow up appointments. My oncologist did not like what he saw. I was scheduled for an exploratory surgery so he could get a better look. Compared to my first surgery this one was a breeze, in and out in a day and back to work on Monday. I waited for the results, which were not the best. I had to go back in for another laparoscopic surgery where he would “clean up,” for lack of a better phrase, my remaining ovary and uterus.
Now you know life, when it rains, it pours. It was around this time that my dad was put into hospice and passed away. When I said it was a doozy of a year, I meant it. While I was dealing with the fact that I would not be able to have my own biological children, I was also dealing with the grief of losing my dad rather suddenly. While he had cancer, we all thought he was on the upswing of it and getting better. So when I got the call that he was being put in hospice, it was shocking and devastating.
Once back from where my dad lived, we scheduled my surgery. It was another easy surgery. However, afterward the doctor told me there was no more waiting, it was time to get the hysterectomy. I was devastated.
It was in the three months between getting the news and actually getting the surgery that were the worst, I have to say. The impending surgery and what it meant was hard to deal with. Thank God I was still in therapy. It felt like I was making the decision to not have kids, even though it was my body forcing the decision. I put it off as long as I could. It was supposed to be in November, then I won a trip, so it got pushed to December 1, 2010, almost 1-year after my first surgery. I was back in the hospital to be sliced open again and have a full hysterectomy. I was in the hospital for 5-days and all seemed good (as good as it could be). I was out for less than 24-hours when the pain got too much to handle, and was back in the hospital again in the worst pain I had ever experienced, worse than the year prior, and this time, the drugs did not touch it. I ended up with a bad infection, had to have a drain put in and IV antibiotics for another week. I spent my 31st birthday in the hospital, I was not a happy camper.
I will say that once I did finally have the surgery there was a little bit of peace, in that there was no turning back. That is not to say that it is not a struggle. It is just to say that the turmoil I was going through leading up to the surgery subsided, and now it was just dealing with life moving forward.
And I have lived. I have traveled more, moved to places I have wanted to move, and done the things I have wanted to do. I have always been a person that has gone after what I wanted, but many times this was in the form of my career and what I thought I should be doing. After the passing of my dad and having this surgery I really started to do the fun things I said I would do, but didn’t because life got in the way.
That’s not to say that it’s been all sunshine and roses. Dealing with not being able to be pregnant and have a biological child is something that I grieve and have to deal with. Most days I don’t think about it, but when I do, it does make me sad. I had always been someone who knew they wanted kids, even if it was on my own. I have to say that the anniversary of my hysterectomy is the most difficult time as the feelings always come rushing back. Like I said, they are always there, but the anniversary of it just seems to hit me a bit harder, like my subconscious and body know. My mood is different, and I can feel it. Sometimes it takes a day or two to realize why my mood is off, and then it hits me.
While I know I have options, but let me tell you, they are not options that are easy and most are costly. I understand that motherhood isn’t, but it is also a blessing, and being pregnant is not something I will ever experience. I know I can adopt and foster, and those are things I have looked into, they are not in the cards at the moment. I hope one day they will be.
While I know that this seems like such a sad story, I find comfort in writing it. It is my story. I am able to find the brighter side of things most days. Everyone has a story and so many of us hide them or from them for fear of what others will think. I know I have done that many times. I am working every day to worry less about what others think about me and instead work on how I think about and treat myself.
In going through this experience, I have learned a few things along the way that I want to share with you -
People show up. My friends and family showed up for me. They were there in the hospital, when I got out of the hospital, and ever since. If you don’t have people showing up for you, find new people, they are out there.
You have this one life to live, there are no do overs or Mulligans. So live it, go after what you want and dream big. Even if you fail, it is the experience that will be worth it, plus you won’t know if you can succeed without doing it and putting forth the effort.
Its ok to be sad and mad, just don’t let sad and mad take over. Give yourself the time and space you need to heal from a situation, but it should not take over your life.
Being vulnerable is hard, but so worth it. It is hard for me to write this, but worth it. I enjoy sharing my story and if someone can relate to it and feel just a little bit better, or not so alone than it was worth it. So share your story.
Which brings me to this, you are not alone. While everyone's story is unique, there are people out there that can relate to what you are going through. Having someone that can relate can be so healing.
Everyone’s story is different, you cannot compare your story to someone else's. While the grass may look greener…it may just be painted.
Finally, MY STORY IS NOT OVER and neither is yours.