8 Years Ago, I Learned What It Means to “Put Your Big Girl Panties” On

It’s my cancerversary. I’m still here. Who da thunk it?!?!

8 years ago today, I chose to have preventive laparoscopic surgery in an effort to reduce my risk of ovarian cancer because I have the BRCA 1 gene mutation which puts me at higher risk for developing both breast and ovarian cancers.

When I woke up from surgery, I was told that I already had ovarian cancer. WTH?!?!

A week later, I had a much bigger surgery – called a tumor debulking – to remove all my lady parts, my appendix, my omentum (basically a fat cap), and numerous tumors. The cancer was then staged at 3C which is advanced or late stage cancer. Well, that truly sucked. Not only did I not know I had ovarian cancer, it was advanced as well. Double suck.

The 5-year survival rate is less than 50% for all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer because some types of ovarian cancer are more aggressive than others. Survival rates also increase when surgery is done by a gynecologic oncologist. They have the additional training needed to remove tumors without rupturing them and they know to look around other organs for additional tumors because ovarian cancer can lurk around in sneaky places. It’s just not like other cancers. It’s a beast for sure.

If the dismal survival statistics were going to apply to me, I wasn’t going to live to see my then-13-year-old son graduate from high school. He’s now a senior in college. 💜💖💓💞

I’m still here because:

1.) I became a knowledgeable patient and learned all I could about my disease. Knowledge is power and it is important to learn all that you can about your own cancer. People who bury their heads in the sand just do not do well.

2.) I participated in several clinical trials, along with traditional chemotherapy, because those were the right choices for me.

3.) I continue to keep my ear to the ground for the latest research.

4.) I have a good network of fellow survivors and advocates to gain information from and ask questions.

5.) I participate as an equal partner in conversations with my gyn onc about my treatment options. (By the way, my current treatment is kicking my butt and has left me with a hairdo that resembles a Q-tip but it seems to be working.)

6.) And I’m also just plain too stubborn to allow cancer to take me yet.

Some things that I have learned while traveling this journey:

  • I have learned to say NO without regrets.
  • I have learned what really matters and not to get upset about things I cannot control.
  • I have learned that my body is stronger than I thought. I have been in treatment off-and-on since diagnosis – more ON than off – and my body is definitely tired.  I would love to have a break from chemo but I am just not able to do that right now.
  • I have learned that it is o.k.  to take a nap in the middle of the day.
  • I have learned to listen to my body and to slow down when I am tired.
  • I have learned how to advocate for the ovarian cancer community in several ways whether it is speaking with my elected officials to ask them to support funding for research and awareness campaigns or whether it is speaking to the newest medical professionals with Survivors Teaching Students® about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer in the hopes that they will remember my story and diagnose women at earlier stages.
  • I have learned that it is o.k. to have fun NOW and not to put off things that I want to see and do.
  • I have learned who my true friends are because a lot of folks take a hike when someone is diagnosed with cancer.  Even more run away when there is a recurrence. My circle of support is small but it is strong.
  • I have learned what it means to put “your big girl panties on” in everyday life.  It means that I keep going and keep showing up for “life” regardless of the cards that I have been dealt.

Know the signs & symptoms to BEAT ovarian cancer:

B – bloating
E – eating & feeling full quickly
A – abdominal pain
T – trouble going to the bathroom or frequent urination

Additional symptoms might also include low back pain & chronic fatigue.

If you or someone you know has symptoms with no definitive diagnosis for the cause of the symptoms – regardless of age!!- please get a referral to a gynecologic oncologist to rule out ovarian cancer.

 

fullsizeoutput_4289

I am honored to be the recipient of the Big Girl Teal Panties this year. For more information, please access the link above in the post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: