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Radiating Hope

By May 14, 2021May 13th, 2024No Comments

Though I was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer in August of 2018, I believe my journey with ovarian cancer began when I tested positive for the BRCA 1 genetic mutation in 2015. Learning then that I was high risk for certain cancers, ovarian being one, shook my world upside down and inside out.

When a genetic counselor sat down with me to tell me I should consider having a preventative partial hysterectomy (oophorectomy which is the removal of ovaries) in order to reduce my risk of ovarian cancer, I remember leaving her office not able to breathe. A partial hysterectomy is scary for any woman but for someone who has always wanted children but was as single as they come, the news was crushing. Instead, I agreed to begin 6-month screenings and bloodwork as ovarian cancer surveillance. I had made the decision to commit to this type of screening with the intention of going through with the partial hysterectomy when I turned 40 or shortly after, with the hope of one day being able to conceive and experience pregnancy before needing to do so. I was able to freeze some eggs at the age of 36 in case my plans of waiting until 40 didn’t go my way.

In August of 2018, just 4 months after my routine surveillance, I began noticing that there were sharp pains in my pelvic area but didn’t think much of it. I had just topped taking birth control pills so I figured that my body was just readjusting itself. From one day to the next, I noticed that the sharp pains had moved to my abdomen as well and I knew something wasn’t right. I called my oncologist during a family vacation and asked to be seen. By the time I went in for an ultrasound and bloodwork, my body had begun bloating and it was painful to urinate. The routine ultrasound didn’t pick anything up, but gratefully a CT scan was ordered which eventually confirmed that I had an ovarian cancer tumor on my uterus that had metastasized to my abdomen in various areas.

To say that the cancer diagnosis was hell is an understatement. It wasn’t just cancer. I was, by then 38 years old, still childless. I hadn’t been blessed with a family of my own yet. It was like facing two different tidal waves at the same time. A life-threatening disease coupled with the news that I would need a full hysterectomy in order to save my life. There was a saving grace to know that I have some eggs frozen but for someone who’s dream has always been to be a mother, that didn’t help much. Yes, I know that adoption was a choice, surrogacy as well, but those are band-aids to wounds that cut deep into a woman’s entire being. These body parts that were meant to create and carry life had instead turned on me and were creating and spreading death instead!

But what I’ve learned throughout my journey with cancer is that no matter how scary this thing is, I will choose to not let it win! Where it has tried to destroy my physical body, my body proved that its resiliency is far stronger than I had ever imagined. Where it tried to steal my hope, God actually used it to destroy hopelessness and fuel the strongest hope I have ever had! Where it has tried to make me feel alone, it brought a support system that I will be forever grateful for!

I underwent 3 months of chemotherapy, 1 debunking, and partial hysterectomy, followed by 3 more months of chemotherapy. My oncologist knew of my desire to have a family and I told him on the day of surgery that if he opened me up and saw that my uterus was clean, I wanted to keep it and if there was any remnant of the tumor on it to remove it. He suggested a full hysterectomy but allowed me to make my own decisions. It was months of praying and following my gut in making such a decision but one that I am happy with. I know others don’t understand my decision but it is one that I believe to be an answered prayer. And one that has brought me peace of mind and soul.

I was declared N.E.D for approximately 6 months, and hate to say that the cancer returned in March of this year. So, yeah, I’m back in the fight as I type this. I have my moments of fear and doubt which is normal, but overall I have a foundation of faith and hope that this isn’t the end. There’s a lot of life left to live and I plan on living it out to the fullest extent possible!

Rae Ann Reyna

Rae Ann Reyna lives in San Antonio, TX, and is a lover of all things green and sunshine! She has created the social media platforms, Rae of Hope, on IG (@rae.of.hope1), and FB (@raeofhope1) as a way to spread HOPE to anyone who is searching for it!

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