Ovarian Cancer: Making the Best of It
“You didn’t tell me I had the silent killer!” I’ve always had a flare for drama; I think it’s in my blood. Growing up as an only child, I spent countless hours in front of the television and I daydreamed often about what my life would be like if I were on TV. I scanned newspapers and magazines frequently, looking for ad’s promising to turn kids into stars. It took me very little time to realize that in order to be on TV you actually had to have talent.
Tall and lanky through most of my early years and armed with no talent in sight, I quickly shifted gears, the result being a Bachelor of Arts degree in Television and Film and a wonderful nine years at Nickelodeon Networks. My reality up until the moment cancer invaded my world was filled with actors, actresses, celebrities, and shoots. With this backdrop as my reality, my reaction to the news that I had “the silent killer” should come as no surprise to anyone.
I’d only been home from the hospital two days after having had surgery to remove my right ovary and fallopian tube. I was reading a copy of “O” magazine when there it was, right there in black and white, an article about everything you need to know about Ovarian Cancer “The Silent Killer”. What are the chances of that? I had finally focused my attention on something other than obsessing over my newly diagnosed cancer, only to discover that the ability to escape my new journey wasn’t going to be an easy task. Being the consummate drama queen that I am, I stormed into my bedroom, threw my magazine on the bed, and through a stream of tears began yelling at my husband because he didn’t tell me I had the silent killer. Secretly, I think I always wanted to have a moment like that, so I just ran with it. I mean really, how many times in your life does the opportunity to star in your own Lifetime movie present itself?
I certainly wasn’t well versed in everything ovarian cancer, but I had on more than one occasion remembered hearing about the silent killer, so to this day I still don’t know how this detail slipped by me. I spent four days in the hospital and never once did I hear mention of the words ovarian cancer. I guess everyone assumed I knew it was ovarian since my ovary was the real culprit in all of this; who knows, I may have been experiencing what some call “selective amnesia”, which in my opinion is a not so bad approach to living life within the confines of a self made protective bubble.
In October 2007, at the age of thirty-three and three weeks shy of my first wedding anniversary I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I can’t say for sure if I had any symptoms prior to my diagnosis, in fact if it wasn’t for my six-month gyn check-up and a very diligent doctor my cancer may have gone undetected until it was too late, a story similar to that of far too many women. A routine procedure to remove what was thought to be a fibroid quickly evolved into identifying and implementing life saving measures aimed at helping me beat this vicious monster. In what seemed like a matter of minutes my husband went from looking up places for us to spend our first anniversary, to researching all he could about this unwelcome guest setting up residency in our lives.
I try hard to remember what life before cancer was like, yet these days my thoughts are so crowded with worry and fear that the person I was before cancer sometimes gets lost in the mix. I gained thirty-plus pounds while on chemo, my hair’s not as sassy as it used to be, and I’ve been thrown into instant menopause.
So yes, it’s a bit challenging at times to navigate my way back to the women I once was. I worked hard, traveled, enjoyed spending time with family and friends, and most importantly I loved life. There were moments of contention, but none of which I can compare to the force of nature that is cancer. All of the complaining and myriad of hours spent going on and on about the most trivial of situations, now seems like a distant memory.
My story is no different than the stories of millions of people, the only difference is that it’s happening to me. I am no longer a member of the “things like that happen to other people club”, a club that most people take for granted and one of which I use to be a card-carrying member. This is not to say that I haven’t run into my fair share of obstacles in life, we all do, we wouldn’t be living if we didn’t and if we’re not living we’re not growing.
People are often startled at how direct I am about my journey with cancer and my acceptance of the fact that I will never have children of my own. I don’t beat around the bush and I hold nothing back. Revealing and sharing my journey with the entire world is my way of processing, accepting and moving past all that cancer has bestowed upon me. I've noticed how people are reluctant to discuss kids, be it their own or their wish to have one.
And let us not forget that weird-awkward silence which I often refer to as the 'Cricket Effect”. It’s that eerie silence that takes over a room when I tell people that I can't have children. I assume it's because I'm so young, yet sometimes I think it's because they can't imagine how they would deal if faced with the same situation. Whatever the reason, it only makes the situation worse. The last thing I want is I to be handled with kid gloves. No, everyday is not an easy one, but there are many people who are facing far greater challenges and for me that puts everything into perspective.
My decision to have a hysterectomy was as easy as a choice between life and death. While I understand that this is a hard nut to swallow, it's what I live with everyday...something I don't have the privilege of ignoring. As a result of my diagnosis, I went through eight rounds of chemotherapy, lost all of my hair, and had a total hysterectomy. There are days when I still feel like I’m in that TV movie, but mostly I’m just thankful to be here.