But as the year of 2019 progressed so quickly I started to believe that I may see the year of 2020 and come this September I may see myself turning 50.
You see, I was only 43 when I was diagnosed and the first oncologist predicted that I would live 1-3 years at the most. The prognosis was bleak. I want to share with you my journey thus far in a brief way today. It has been a miraculous roller coaster and I am grateful to still be here for the ride!
After finding another Oncologist who had a more positive attitude my family and I moved forward and decided to fight this cancer with everything we had in us. My community of friends, relatives, and fellow yogis came out of the woodwork with support. Tons of prayers and good vibes were sent my way and practical help like grocery and food gift cards flooded my mailbox. After my surgery people signed up to bring my family food and we felt surrounded by love. After all the chemotherapy was over I finally got a remission and slowly fought to regain my physical strength on my yoga mat and soon I physically felt almost back to my pre cancer self. In some ways I felt stronger than before. I had lived and kicked cancers butt. I was a survivor!
Then the cancer came back a mere 11 months later and I reached out to my community with the sad news that I would have to fight again. Summer of 2016 brought another surgery and eight more months of chemotherapy returned me to a second remission but this time I was unable to rebuild my body to its pre cancer strength and instead I developed lymphedema that changed my life forever. I was thankful to get a second remission and to be alive but my psyche took a huge hit. The side effects from the second surgery and the mounting levels of chemotherapy my body had endured changed me and I was never going to recover completely this time. I struggled with depression and anxiety and began to withdraw socially a bit; climbing into a shell of worry about the future. I knew that my journey with the cancer would never be over because I was now considered "recurrent" and I knew it was a matter of time until the cancer came back again. Within the year the cancer did return and we had some serious decisions to make about how to try and kill it again. I could not get a third surgery because of too much damage from surgery one and two. My husband and I travelled to Boston to seek treatment but I did not qualify for their clinical trial. I began taking different medications and immunotherapy hoping that these non chemotherapy agents would kill the cancer for me with minimal further damage to my body and mind.
After two years of trying without chemotherapy to kill the cancer it became clear that I must return to the chemo chair and hope for a third remission. Three major cancer centers with the best oncologists on my case had informed us that a third remission was unlikely and that I would most likely have to take chemotherapy for the rest of my life. Around this time I passed my five year survival mark and felt that my time on earth was growing short. I began to seriously get my affairs in order. It was a dark time for me walking the path with cancer. My hope was not as high as I went back into chemotherapy for eight more grueling months not expecting to ever be cancer free again.
After eight cycles of chemo they scanned me and to my utter shock it seemed that the cancer was once again in a remission!!!
I was mentally planning on quitting chemo and letting nature take its course before I had that scan because I could not endure anymore chemotherapy. Instead, I was told that I didn't need anymore chemo at this time and we decided to start a new medicine that is a biologic called Avastin. It is supposed to cut off the blood supply to any tumors that try to grow back and it is not as harsh on the body as chemotherapy. I was also informed that this medicine is the last of the medicines that I haven't tried yet and if and when it stops working we will be back in the position of trying again for a fourth remission. Mentally, that is overwhelming for me to think about so I have decided to stay in the present moment and enjoy this miraculous third remission while I have it!
I am choosing to live each day with hope and to enjoy the time I have now instead of worrying about what I may have to fight in the future.
The last few months of 2019 were living the first few months of my sixth year with ovarian cancer. It has been a difficult year for me as I witnessed so many online support group friends pass away from this disease. I have been dealing with feelings of survivors guilt now and I have decided to reenter counseling to take care of my mental health. In the ovarian cancer world I am considered a long time survivor and it is such a weird feeling.
As 2020 starts I am hopeful to survive another year and enjoy my 50th birthday in September which coincides with my 7th year cancerversary. I feel like I have two birthdays sometimes. I have my belly button birthday of when I was born from my mother and I have the cancer anniversary that marks the day my life changed forever. For me, life is now the experience of the great unknown. We can all agree that none of us know when our last day on earth will be. Yet there is something very surreal about knowing with a good amount of certainty how you will die and to know that your life will be much shorter than you had expected.
As we begin this new decade I encourage you all to truly live in the present moment. I feel like I say this a lot to people and I know that I do. But it is the best advice I can give because I have learned that you can't change the past nor can you change the future. Every moment of worry is a moment you will never get back and a moment that you have wasted your energy on something you have no control over anyways. BE HERE NOW!
Happy New Year to you all and welcome to the Roaring Twenties!