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Stories of Inspiration

Put On A Happy Face

By August 20, 2021June 1st, 2023No Comments

As far back as I can remember I always had some gynecological issues. Bleeding between periods, fibroids, and ovarian cysts. Throughout the years I had numerous surgeries to combat these things and was on medication, which to my dismay put on extra pounds.

In 2019 I was still actively teaching first grade. I taught for 26 years, and I was looking forward to at least two more years till retirement. Needless to say, I retired earlier than that. Covid 19 came around. Schools closed and were put on remote learning. It was so difficult for me as I learned all the new ways of navigating the computer to teach my students. It was the hardest thing in the world for me. Then towards the end of March, I had gotten covid myself. I was sick and kept calling my doctor, telling her how my temperature wouldn’t go down. I thankfully did not end up in the hospital, and many weeks went by, and I finally recovered.

Thankfully, I was still able to teach remotely without taking off for being sick. Additionally, covid somehow created inflammation in my stomach that caused me once again to call my doctor. This time she told me to come in. She examined me and said she didn’t see why a 61-year-old woman would have pain by her ovaries. To be on the safe side, she ordered a sonogram.

The sonogram showed masses by my ovaries. I was referred to a GYN surgeon who specialized in robotic surgery. He wasn’t even going to give me a CT scan, and I insisted because I assumed it was vital for him to see what was there. He said it was up to me because there would have been a camera on this robotic arm. When I told my son, he said, “Oh no, you are going to Memorial Sloan Kettering.”

I am sure that many wonderful hospitals handle cancer, but this is one of the best here in NY. I was so glad to have been able to get an appointment. A CT scan was done right away, and the next week, May 13, 2020, the day before my birthday, I went in for debulking surgery. It turned out I had stage 4b serous ovarian cancer. Not only did I have a hysterectomy, but my spleen, appendix, parts of my intestines, and lining of my stomach were taken out by the surgeon as well.

When I woke up, metal staples went from under my ribcage down to my crotch. Tubes were sticking out on both sides of my body, and I was told 28 lymph nodes were removed. I was in the hospital for five days, and due to covid, no one could visit. It was just as well cause when I’m not feeling well, and I just don’t want to be bothered or seen by anyone.

The nurses were so attentive, and the doctors that came in were terrific. I had the best care there that I could ever imagine. But they did say to me to try and get up, walk around the hallway. I am so glad that I listened to them. My right lung was partially collapsed due to an inserted tube, but I still managed to walk around that hallway. Soon I was zooming past the nurse’s station.

My son stayed with me when I got home to help me out. My sister, who lived in the next building, came over frequently to help me with laundry and cleaning. I was and am grateful to them both. I went through my chemo treatment of taxol and carbo, and now I am in partial remission taking Zejula (niraparib), a PARP inhibitor. I went through some rough spots until getting the proper dosage of zejula. However, this therapy so far is holding any cancer from growing.

Yes, my hair fell out, and I have three wigs. Now my hair is back, curly and gray, not straight and bottle brown as before, but it’s back. And what else is back is my smile. Through this all, I smiled. I saw the nurses, and I smiled, the doctors and I smiled, my son and my sister and I smiled. I smiled because I felt loved and cared for, and I am feeling good now.

I’m not perfect like I felt before, I have my days, but I’m doing great. I did retire, not only because of cancer, but the covid also made me nervous about going back to teaching. However, every day I wake up and hear the birds outside my window, I am grateful for the day, and I put on a happy face. If there is one thing that I learned from all of this, most healing comes from how you deal with things. I’m not saying I’m perfect. In fact, my sister will attest to that, but if you think positive and act positive, then positive things seem to come out of it. Things happen. It happened to me, but I’m moving on. I am not going back to work. However, I am volunteering in October to tutor young students in schools for reading and math. To help them catch up on what they lost during the pandemic. One thing I will do when I see these children is smile. Try it; it’s contagious. Wishing all of you all the best.

Erica Weissman

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