It’s March 20, 2012 and I am waiting in the office of Amy Mulder for a consultation on how to help my post-menopausal symptoms. Lately, I have noticed bloating and painful intercourse. After a yeast infection at the end of February, I mentioned my difficulties to my doctor’s PA who suggested I meet with Amy. Even though I had a pelvic exam, no red flags were evident, just some discomfort, so the appointment was set and I was told I would have an ultrasound.
I was expecting an ultrasound like the one I had when I was pregnant 31 years ago, but I was surprised when it turned out to be a transvaginal ultrasound. It was different than I expected, but not horrible. Luckily, I had brought a book along because I was in the office waiting for the results for over 45 minutes. Finally, in walks my OBGYN, April Whitfield, who explains that she felt it was better for her, rather than Amy, to let me know that my left ovary was huge, almost 10 cm. My response: “how concerned should I be? I have had cysts on my left ovary before.” Then she proceeds to tell me there is a concern because my right ovary is about the size of a lemon, and that “they” will take good care of me.
I insisted on seeing the best woman specialist around and was referred to an OBGYN/Oncologist, named Laura Williams, out of Nashville, TN. On March 27, 2012 I had major surgery to remove all my reproductive organs, plus my omentum, appendix, and part of my spleen. I had stage 3C serous cancer. I was in the hospital 7 days and my scar is hideous. When I was stapled shut at the end of surgery, my belly button was covered over with what I describe as a “blob of flesh.” I need a belly button reconstruction because I developed yeast under the flesh that covers my previous “inny” belly button, so now I have an “inny” and an “outty.”
My first chemo treatment took place on April 30, 2012 at Dr. Williams’ office. I was supposed to return the next day for a Neulasta shot, but because I also have multiple sclerosis, I refused to take the injection. All of my contacts on a Facebook support group, along with my dear friend, Sharon Valentine Rex, advised or complained of the bone pain from that medication. As a result of my decision, my second chemo was postponed when my blood cell count was too low. I just had a feeling the Neulasta was a deal breaker, and I had to listen to my heart. Thankfully, I found an oncologist in Murfreesboro, TN, named John Barton, who worked diligently with me to have my last 5 treatments without needing the Neulasta shot.
The surgery was definitely the hardest part of this journey. From the beginning, though, I knew I would kick cancer’s you-know-what. I am a new grandma to Charlie who was born in Grand Rapids, MI on Dec. 5, 2011.
When our Pastor of Congregational Care from First United Methodist Church, Thad Austin, came to visit me at Baptist Hospital, I told him what prayers I needed. Thanks to all of the prayers from my church family and all of my friends, I am in remission. I reached out for help from people who knew the effects of chemo and learned how to deal with the brutal treatment necessary to beat the beast. Thankfully, the chemo was not as bad as I expected, mainly because I took supplements before and after, like L-Glutamine and Alpha Lipoic Acid, and drank lots of carrot juice and coconut water. A positive attitude is a must. I made up a song once I learned my CA 125 was normal in July. My husband, Frank, and I sing it while we ride our tandem bike. Imagine the tune from “The Wizard of Oz” about the wicked witch being dead. Instead, we sing “Ding, dong the cancer’s gone, the cancer’s gone . . .” while we ride our bike.
Through this experience, I learned to believe in the power of prayer, and to trust my instincts. Without a doubt, I have the best family and friends anyone could hope or wish for. This picture of me was taken on my 60th birthday on June 23 (I had chemo #3 the day before). I am wearing a wig as my last chemo was on Aug 24, 2012. My hair is growing back slowly, and I have a lot more silver than before. Interestingly, my twin sister, Marlene (who has Down’s syndrome), has no silver hair at all. Marlene has lived with my husband and me for 14 years and without Frank’s help, I never could have been able to care for her, as well as myself, over the last six months.
We have moved back up to Michigan to be close to family, and are awaiting the birth of another grandson who is due on Feb. 24, 2013. Our daughter decided to have a baby when she heard of my prognosis. She lives in Albuquerque, NM so I am looking forward to spending my winter there with Marlene.
Cancer can’t keep me down, and I pray I never need chemo again.
The mission of the HERA Ovarian Cancer Foundation is to eliminate ovarian cancer by promoting Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness.
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