“I’m a youth worker, and I eat like a teenager most days”…that was the go-to reasoning for my weight gain.
I found out in March 2019 that my increasing pant size wasn’t from too much pizza at the teen group but instead was from a large mass growing in my abdomen.
I will always remember the gynecological oncologist asking THE QUESTION, “Has anyone told you how big this is?”
No one had. All I knew at that point was it was large and seemed very concerning to the medical professionals who had helped get me to that office to await the answer to THE QUESTION and many more. It was a mass that had caused a weird pain in my back and side, almost a dull ache. I had endometriosis and previous kidney stone issues, so I credited the feeling to one of those. I waved off my gradually decreasing range of motion, sure that it was probably due to being over 40 and out of shape.
More than once, I have heard my doctors say that women especially have an uncanny ability to justify pain to keep going. But when ache gave way to increasing pressure, I made my way to a local walk-in clinic. I didn’t have insurance or a family doctor, but when the clinic staff called the next day and urged me to get to a primary care physician, they had phone numbers ready for local offices that could help.
I didn’t know what we were dealing with, but I knew when I picked up the test result CD that the nurse who handed it to me put her hand on my shoulder in reassurance which was welcomed but seemed odd for just delivering a disc. A CT scan was next, and the techs at the hospital said 24-48 hours for results…when I was contacted in 2 hours by my new primary care physician on her day off, I began to understand the seriousness of the steps ahead. When she scheduled me to see an oncologist at “the other” large hospital, not in her network because she believed they could help me, the red flags were at full staff.
This brings us back to THE QUESTION, which was answered with a question: “Do you know how big a full-size basketball is?”
After that, many of the steps are a blur because they happened quickly, but they happened with precision as my new team of med professionals mapped out the best plan for my situation.
Two years later after:
-a hysterectomy, a 12lb mass removal, removal of my lymph nodes, an ovarian cancer stage 2 diagnosis, six rounds of chemo, a positive test for the BRCA 2 genetic mutation, and a double mastectomy- I am not quite 100%, but I am so grateful for any percentage I can get!
The combination of prayers and swears amongst my community of friends and family, along with the incredible work of medical professionals who dedicate their lives to knowing how to salvage ours, has made me a survivor. Ironically, all of these events have also removed what I initially thought was the cause (pizza and fast food) from my eatable foods lists. It turns out teen group can still happen!
As I look back, there are moments that I can recall when it seems my body was screaming at me to get to a doctor.
I had a lot of very plausible reasons for not making that appointment:
Previous medical issues.
Poor eating habits.
No exercise regimen.
Being at “that age.”
While I was justifying my wait,
Cancer was gaining weight.
None of these reasons were worth the wait.
None of these reasons were worth the weight.
“Sometimes, on this journey, we have to “do it afraid,” but we don’t have to live in fear. May we remember the hope that is found in our spirituality and our connectedness with one another.” Liz Hobb is an ovarian cancer survivor and the director of a youth access center in Indiana.