Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's My Re-Birthday!

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my Re-Birthday, the day a basketball sized tumor was removed from my abdomen.

Before I went into surgery at 9 am, my surgeon told me it would take about an hour to remove the tumor and if they found cancer, it would be 3+ hours so they could make sure they got it all and clean my organs/lymph nodes.

When I woke up in recovery, the first thing I did was ask the nurse what time it was. She told me it was 12:30.

That's when I knew I had cancer.

To be honest, I pretty much knew before that but I was in denial. Hey, if there's no proof, it might not be cancer, right? But the signs were there...I just ignored them and/or didn't realize they were symptoms of ovarian cancer.

When the surgeon came to see me in recovery and told me that it was probably Stage 1 C, I was relieved. Worried about that C but relieved. It was caught early and he was pretty certain they'd gotten it all and they hadn't seen signs of it in the other organs. I was VERY lucky.

I can't tell you how scared I was that morning of the surgery. I really, really did not want to have it. I was afraid they would open me up and say "Too late". I planned for that possibility. I didn't really tell my family but I had cleaned up my apartment and made notes about things for them. I didn't have a living will but we had talked about what I wanted and they knew I didn't want extraordinary measures. I can't tell you how weird it is to make plans for the possibility you might not be here long.

I had to put on my big girl panties though and just do it. So I had the surgery and it all turned out okay. Though I had a bit of a scare in recovery. Before I woke, I must have had a dream because I "heard" someone ask about me and the nurse replied "She didn't make it." and I was trying to shout "Yes, I did. I'm here!" But no words came out! I think I must have fallen asleep again because the next thing I remember is asking the nurse what time it was and since she responded, I knew I was alive.

Thank God.

I was alive but it took me a while to feel like I was living again, first with the recovery from surgery, and then chemo, and then the recovery from chemo. It was more just existing and trying to get better. But it was that day - September 30, 2013 - when I started the journey back to me.

Today, I celebrated by going for a run and doing speed work (6x400s). I am finally strong enough and running well enough that I can do speed work and it feels wonderful. I feel amazing and I have to say I am really happy right now.
Sure there are things I wish were different or that I didn't have to deal with - like night sweats and hot flashes and a life time of worrying if it will come back. But I have finally put those small (relatively speaking) challenges in a place where I deal with them and move on.
You know, I also had a little bit of survivor's guilt this past year...still do, in fact. Ovarian cancer does not have the best survival rate. I sometimes wonder WHY I was so lucky. A few times I have gone to the doctor or urgent care and the nurse would see that I had ovarian cancer and ask me how I caught it so early. Because it's not usually caught until Stage 3 or 4. And I have to tell them dumb luck. If not for that tumor growing so big, so fast, I wouldn't have caught it so early.
I  also wondered/wonder if I have the right to call myself a survivor because I found out I had cancer AFTER it was gone (for sure anyways). I didn't have to deal with the knowing it was in me and trying to get it out with radiation, chemo, and surgery. It was gone and chemo was a just-in-case because the tumor had burst. In so many ways, I was lucky. I don't know why.
What I do know is that I DID survive and all I can do is live life to the fullest and do what I can to spread the word about Ovarian Cancer and it's symptoms. And hope that's enough.
I am excited to see what my future holds for me now!

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