Monday, June 1, 2015

2 Years, But Whose Counting?

 I don't know about you, but I think I look pretty healthy (and I loved my hair) in May 2013.  Little did I know my life was just about to change. (It's kind of fitting that I just happened to be wearing the Ovarian Cancer color days before being hit with the diagnosis.)

I admit I've had a little anxiety, been a little tearful and maybe just a little nauseated knowing this week marks 2 years since being handed the most deadly diagnosis of all female cancers.  I don't think it was really 1 day, but rather 3; as the doctor appointments and tests started June 3.  I was actually given the diagnosis and test results on June 4.  I met with the GYN Oncologist and had surgery on June 5 2013.  My life changed in a way I never imagined.  In a matter of moments the dream of bearing a child was taken from me, I was given the label Cancer Patient (and now a Cancer Survivor) and I was no longer the independent person that I have always been, but having to rely on others to do practically everything for me.  I definitely didn't choose this battle, but the fighter in me definitely came out when it was time to fight.  Do you know that I fought for 9 little people ages 6 years to 8 months?  Those sweet nieces and nephews of mine were my number 1 reason to fight.  I didn't want to be the Aunt who was dead that they visited once or twice a year at the cemetery.  I wanted them to know me, to know of the love I have for each of them and I wanted to watch them grow up to become warriors in the fight for good.  Through this experience, these kids learned that Heavenly Father answers their prayers. 
My first meeting with my GYN Oncologist was very grim.  I don't remember much of what she said in that visit, but I shall never forget her saying that I had a 30-50 percent chance of being alive in 3-5 years.  That was like a death sentence.  I know this little body has more than 3-5 years left in her.  My chemo Oncologist gave me a 60 percent chance of being alive in 3-5 years.  Dr. Dan told me that if I get to 5 years I'm cured.  So even though it's been 2 years since my diagnosis, it's really only been 19 months since I've been in remission, but whose counting?  I'm looking forward to that 5 year mark for sure. 

Part of me feels like 2 years ago was forever and the other part feels like it was just a few months ago.  I literally went through 15 days of misery in the hospital where I couldn't even pull myself up in bed without the help of my amazing nurses, I couldn't shower without an entourage of people helping me (talk about love from my cousin Callie) and I couldn't eat anything except for Popsicles and ice chips.  But the worst part was having an NG tube not once but twice and for 5 days each time; oh and lest we forget the dreaded ileostomy bag AKA Hank.  GRRRR. That blasted thing was most unpleasant for 7 months.

At least my toenails always looked nice thanks to my cousin's and friend's painting skills.
My mom, Aunt Thalia and my Sister Tenielle hardly left my side for 15 days.  I hope to never know how exhausting it is as a care giver, but I'm grateful for these three and all the time they spent sitting in a hospital room, walking the halls with me and reading me cards from all the mail I received (I love mail so that part was my favorite).

It was then onto 4 months of chemo with its harsh side effect's, but all along there were so many people praying for me and my family, bringing in meals, sending cards, well wishes and gifts.  I had such an amazing support system all of who had great faith that I could conquer this giant.  I know that Heavenly Father heard each prayer said in my behalf, I felt their love and His love as I endured day after day.
I've noticed over the past few months that my scars which were once bright and ugly have faded and don't seem to be staring back at me in the mirror as much as they once did, but then maybe I've just come to accept that they are part of who I am now.  I love what Stephanie Nelson says about scars, 

"Your scars tell a story...Although they may not make you feel attractive, 
they are a witness to a miracle, that God blessed you to live, 
and that you have accomplished very difficult things."

She couldn't have said it better.  My scars remind me every single day that I am a miracle!  God blessed me with endurance, hope and faith on my toughest days when I felt I couldn't withstand one more IP chemo treatment or its side effects of bone ripping pain.  He answered my heartfelt prayers said while I layed flat on my back in bed, covered with blankets to keep me warm on Summer days, when I wished I was out at the pool basking in the sun.  A friend from church brought me this super warm blanket and told me she felt funny for bringing me a warm blanket in the middle of the Summer, but what she didn't realize is that I was freezing all the time and that blanket kept me warm, until of course when the hot flashes would seize upon me and I'd kick the covers off.
Nightly (and sometimes during the day, but mostly at night), my cheeks were often covered with tears as I tried to understand why I was given this trial.  It was one of the most difficult tests I have ever been given, but Christ and Heavenly Father gave me the power and the ability to pass this test. I'm sure that before coming to Earth I had a personal interview with my Heavenly Father and in it I signed a sacred contract with Him accepting the challenges that I would face and that would be for my own good so that I could reach my best potential.  I imagine as He was about to send me on my Earthly Mission that His final instructions went something like, "It won't be easy, but you are a strong spirit and you have an army who will help you along the way."  I know that the challenges and tests I have been given are meant for me to grow and improve and that I have the power to do just that.  I'm the author of my own story and I know that Heavenly Father can and does help me through my toughest times.
(You can't really tell in these pictures but I was totally crying or had been.)
I always knew what was around the corner, because really it couldn't get any worse.  Dr. P told me after I got out of the hospital that chemo would be easy compared to the 15 days of pure hell in the hospital.  He was right. The little fighter in me knew that eventually things would get brighter and oh how bright they are, especially when it's 107 here in Phoenix.

"Our journey through life has periods of both good times and bad. Each presents different challenges. How we learn to adjust to the changes which come along depends on the foundation on which we build." L. Tom Perry. 
I was able to conquer this Galiath because of the foundation that I had built my life on previous to my diagnosis, which consisted of Jesus Christ, my relationships with family and friends and having a positive, winning attitude.  It did help that I took nurse Marybeth's advice which went something like this:
And if I was tired after I got ready for the day it was okay to take a nap, which I didn't frequently do, because I'm not about to waste a day sleeping.  I had things to accomplish, even if it just meant getting my toenails painted by a devoted friend (every week, true love for sure) or making cupcakes for someones birthday.
Oh and did I mention how crazy it was to lose every single piece of hair on my body?  Parts of it was nice, I won't lie, like not having to shave for almost a year; even still most of my leg hair has stayed away, kind of a nice benefit.  But now having to grow out my hair on my head hasn't been the most joyous experience.  At least I have hair now and yes it is curlier and only takes 5 minutes to style, but a girls about her hair you know.
When I was given the diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer I vowed that I would be an advocate for this silent killer, but I often feel that I'm not doing enough.  I'm grateful for the groups that I've become involved with, but know I can do more.  I'm determined to give at least a few extra hours in each month so that I can be a voice for a disease that is not spoken of as much as it should.  Did you know that 1 in every 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, but only 1 in 70 are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I'm hoping that someday teal is recognized as the color for OVC just as much as pink is recognized as the color for Breast Cancer.

Will you help me this month by sharing with at least 5 people your experience that you have had with me as we have traveled this course together over the last 2 years?  Because you all know we went through this together.  Will you also talk about the symptoms of OVC:
I also had horrible back pain and frequent bowel movements (maybe TMI, but it's true).

And while your at it advocating for such a great cause, you might as well go ahead and


  1. Love this blog!! I wrote two of your quotes for my journal!! Your such a quote gal!! Your beautiful inside and out and have a depth you would never have without this experience!!