Four Life Altering Words

I’ve been sitting on some not great news for over a month now and not knowing what to do with it. I’ve told family and close friends, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted or even how to tell my extended network of friends on Facebook. But by not doing so, I felt like I was withholding something that has or will soon come to define me. Four life altering words that are almost as hard to write as they are to say: I have ovarian cancer.

I was diagnosed a week before Thanksgiving. I’d been struggling what I thought were symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease for months, and they had grown increasingly difficult to treat with multiple handfuls of Tums throughout the day and night. I now know all the things I was experiencing–heartburn, upset stomach, difficulty eating, nausea, vomiting, bloating, loss of appetite, fatigue–taken together are symptoms of ovarian cancer. But it wasn’t until they began to  persist, and when normal interventions didn’t help that I took them seriously enough to make an appointment with my GP. And even then I thought I just needed a prescription for acid reflux. I was wrong. Test results showed something entirely different.

So here I am several weeks, many tests and a diagnostic surgery later waiting to learn when I’ll begin chemo–within the next 2 weeks is what they’re saying. The diagnostic surgery indicated the best course of action would be 3 chemo treatments over a 9 week period, surgery, and then a repeat of the chemo.

In the past several weeks I’ve moved from deer in the headlights denial to a desire to get started with treatment. I’m frightened, and I’m worried, and I still find it difficult to wrap my head around this reality. There’s no history of cancer in my family, so I never imagined I would hear the words: you have cancer. Now that I have, I’m not sure how to proceed other than to take the pragmatic course and prepare as much as I can for what my immediate future holds.

Yesterday I had my hair cut really short so there is less of it to fall out when that process begins. Thus far, that’s been one of the most difficult things to accept. Cultural scripts are tough to escape. I’m hoping to have the new do hang in there long enough to get used to it!

I’m sharing this information now because I feel the need to express myself, my fear and my determination. And I know I will need the support of my family and friends, those here and those in cyberspace, and my sense of humor to get through this. I have always been an extrovert. I like people and from daily living to my profession, my life is mostly talking to people.

I’m trying to keep a brave face and have fun with the hand I’ve been dealt. My friend Sharon gave me a card that perfectly sums up how I feel:

IMG_4675

The unknown is the hardest, but I have an excellent gynecological oncologist and a great team working with her. She’s optimistic, and while there are no guarantees, she feels confident that I’ll leave treatment in remission and will stay so for a good many years. I’m counting on that and entering the New Year with her optimism, my determination, and the love and support of family and friends. And let’s not forgot the Princess Pooch who has wrapped up her months of chemo and is doing well. She’s my role model.

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4 Responses to Four Life Altering Words

  1. Love to you Katherine and set your sights on kicking cancer’s butt to the moon! I’ll kick with ya!

  2. Doc says:

    Beautifully written. You are so strong.

  3. Katherine H says:

    I certainly have days during which I’m not so strong, but I know I need to marshal my strength to get through this

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