One morning in September 2020, I woke up, and while stretching, I noticed a bulge next to the left side of my belly button. My first thought was, “Am I constipated?” I decided to drink tea to help with my digestion. A couple of days passed, and the bulge was still there. I decided to have an appointment with my primary care physician. A few days later, after the checkup, my PCP confirmed that I had a mass in my abdominal area. She ordered an intravaginal and an abdominal scan. To my surprise, I ended up having two masses, one in each ovary. I named them my “ugly twins,” and they were 10.5 and 11.5 cm, respectively.
Three days later, my doctor called me and told me that I would be referred to a gynecologic oncologist. Unfortunately, the referral was sent to the wrong place. Although this was distressful at the time, I am thankful because it led to me making an appointment with my current gynecologist oncologist, Dr. Dana Chase, MD, FACOG. I must add that finding the right doctor was crucial in helping me feel confident about the procedure, treatment, and decision-making process. It is important to find a doctor who is knowledgeable and trustworthy and cares for their patients. I knew since the beginning that I was in amazing hands.
I went into the surgery unsure if I would have my ovaries removed or if I was going to have a full hysterectomy. Trusting God and my doctor’s knowledge, I put my faith in them to do the best for me. I came out of surgery with a total hysterectomy. Naively, I thought that after my surgery, I would just recover and go back to my normal lifestyle of hiking, eating healthy, and working. When I had my follow-up appointment, I received the news that I was Stage 2A and that I needed chemotherapy. I was thankful that I was able to find it that soon. However, I was surprised that what I thought was going to be one phase of treatment turned into a two-phase process. Furthermore, my DNA exam showed that I had the homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) mutation.
Now, I am done with my six rounds of chemotherapy and very thankful that I did not have any severe side effects. From my personal experience, I felt that my healthy diet and lifestyle habits helped me enormously during my treatment.
What has helped me through this experience are what I called my core pillars: faith, thankfulness, positivity, laughter, and humor.
My faith helped me not to be afraid of whatever happened in the process. So, I do my part here, but I cannot change what has been planned for me.
I have practiced thankfulness for a long time. I found myself saying thanks for the simplest things, like my bed, my healthy legs that allow me to hike, or when I was given the ovarian cancer diagnosis. I was thankful for the opportunity to get treatment.
Positivity has helped me to find beautiful moments during my treatment. I heard many times that attitude helps with the process and recovery. I also believe seeing me with a positive attitude has helped my family and close friends through this process as well.
I often laugh at myself, like when I do or say something silly. I laugh when my oldest calls me Mr. Clean; or when my youngest son gently slaps the back of my bald head and calls me baldy.
I know today that these daily practices have been helpful in a period that can be very challenging.
I appreciate what this process has taught me, like learning that it is ok to let people help me. I have always been the independent type. I usually think, “I don’t need help. I can do it.” It was very important to learn the significance of advocating for myself. I also had the opportunity to meet many amazing ladies during my infusion days. I would listen to their stories and many times bring positivity to them in moments when they were feeling down.
It was very helpful being surrounded by my husband, my two sons, and my close friends. Everyone was very supportive, and I received many calls, texts, and visits.
I recently received a call from Dr. Chase informing me that my PET scan was good. She reminded me that I was lucky to have caught the cancer at such an early stage. I cannot describe the excitement that I felt. I am NED (no evidence of disease) since my last chemotherapy on April 13th, 2021.
From here, I intend to keep enjoying my family, friends, and the adventures and experiences that life brings. To live in the moment and appreciating that I am here today. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my story and to hopefully help other women through my writing. I hope sharing my story will help other women going through similar experiences.