First, let me say that I am so thankful and grateful to God for each and every day. Next, I am honored to be able to tell you my story. It starts with an office visit to my new OB/GYN doctor, as I had a horrible pain that had been in my side for several years. I thought it was from fibroids (self-diagnosed). But after two visits, she informed me that I needed a total hysterectomy. I argued with her, saying, “Oh no, I don’t want those hot flashes and a low libido” along with other horror stories I’d heard. She looked at me sternly and said, “First of all, you’re not having any more kids, your eggs aren’t going to do it. They’re dried up and you can’t use your ovaries and you’re too old.”
I was taken aback, but she was the doctor and I really did like her, so I consented. On the day of the surgery that was supposed to last, at the most 2 to 2-1/2 hours but ended up lasting 6 hours, I awoke to her sitting on my bed holding my hand saying the surgery went well, but that she found cancer in my right ovary. I guess it was the meds, because I didn’t get upset. I just said, “Cancer, huh?”
Then, she introduced me to this little robust looking doctor whom she said was my Oncologist, Dr. Goldberg. He smiled, introduced himself and said, “Yes, we found cancer and we had to do a lot of extensive cutting, but we think we got all we saw. He told me that I was very fortunate. I said to him, “No, I’m blessed.” He looked at me as if I didn’t get the gist of what he was saying. He proceeded to say, “Anyway, you’ll have to take chemo, but no radiation,” Then he said, “Of course, you’ll lose your hair.” Then I became upset, and then he said, “It’s hair, it’ll grow back,” and that I would start chemo one month from that day, March 10, 2010.
I stayed in the hospital for four days, then went home with a stapled stomach, but I didn’t follow the “blow through the tube and get the air out of your lungs directions”, so I ended up going back to the hospital two days later and was told I had pneumonia. They kept me only two days, then sent me back home. Two days after I went home, I leaned over reaching for toilet paper and busted the surgery area in two different places. I immediately went back to the hospital and had to be reopened. My doctor couldn’t come to the hospital, so her partner did, and she wanted to do the repairing surgery in the office. However, my doctor said no, and while they were preparing me for the second surgery to be re-stapled, they ran x-rays and found that a pus pocket had formed on my right side where the bad ovary had been. I was told by the nurses later that this could have caused an infection and killed me.
The next day, I had a severe burning under my right breast where the antibiotics had burned my skin. Two days later, on Easter Sunday, the day before I was scheduled to go home, I came back to my hospital room from visiting with family in the family room, only to find red biohazard paper covering my room door. The doctor rushed to me, very upset, saying I had contracted MRSA. They then called in the CDC, and the nurse who was to start the antibiotic informed me that they were putting in a PIC line and that it would hurt. Let’s just say, she didn’t lie.
The pain was worse than having a child. Five holes put in my arm, then a tube running from my arm into my chest. I was told, “You’re still going home tomorrow, but you’ll go to the CDC first to be taught how to put in the antibiotic, Vancomycin, and flush.” My oncologist informed me that I would still start my chemo on April 10, 2010. I was released from the hospital, went to CDC, and then home. My husband tried at first to change my surgical bandages, but when I had pinched him very hard one day, (due to him being heavy-handed) we thought it was best to have my sister come and she did it faithfully, twice a day.
My chemo started on April 10, 2010, with more needles, bloodwork, and infusion for the chemo. I had my two sisters-in-law and a friend who sat with me all six hours, through each treatment, while I slept. While the chemo drugs, Carboplatin and Taxitol, never made me sick, by the third day of each treatment, my bones felt like I’d been beaten with a baseball bat.
After the second treatment, my hair started falling out. I remember my friend (who was going through stage 4 breast cancer) told me “You’re a walk in the park. When you get the worst headache you’ve ever had, it will be time to shave your head, get you some makeup and earrings and rock that bald head.” And believe me, though I was traumatized by the hair falling out, I really got used to the bald head. I bought me a platinum blonde wig and knew I was the stuff. Of course, all the hair left and some of the weight did too.
One day about two weeks after the second treatment, I was extremely tired so I stayed in bed all day. But when I went to go to the bathroom, I fainted. My husband rushed me to the hospital and we found out my PIC line had clogged, so they had to remove it. More pain. I stayed at the hospital from midnight until 7 am and was released only to have my release papers say I was there for vomiting. Yeah, I never vomited once during the whole experience.
I was blessed to only have three chemo treatments total, and though the hair and weight left, they both returned. The hair was two different textures and was salt and pepper colored. My husband asked me to please dye it soon because I was starting to look like my brother, Gerald. The weight came back slowly.
Though I know I was blessed, I remembered something my home health nurse told me. If I have faith in God, my family, and my doctors, I would make it through. She was right. I am living proof that it’s a mind thing, but above all, I know it was God and the love of family and friends. I try to encourage women to make sure they get their pap smears done (although no pap test can tell you if you have ovarian cancer) and follow up with their health. Because I had the symptoms, a very bloated stomach, severe backaches, and was tired all the time, I never thought of going to the doctor about it. On my paternal side of the family, my grandmother and second cousins’ sisters died from ovarian cancer. I have encouraged my two daughters and sister to get tested (BRCA test).
I am, today, eight years and eight months cancer free. At my last checkup, my CA125 was an 11. I know that I was told that it can come back and that I have a 50% greater chance of getting breast cancer, but those words and that thinking is not in my head. I stay positive and am involved in several cancer support groups, a civic club, my church, and life in general. I try to live it to the fullest every day. I thank you for your time and attention.