October 20, 2015 was a day that has forever changed my life and my perspective on life. So, I thought I would share my story and journey with you (I will try to keep it as short as possible). That was the day that I was told I had ovarian cancer. I was a 33 year-old wife and mama of 4 kiddos (ages 6, 5, 2, and 1 at the time) and full-time Hospice nurse. Just 6 days prior I was lying in bed and felt a hard lump in my belly. I instantly felt that something was wrong. I went to see my OB/GYN the next day. She did an ultrasound and scheduled me for tumor markers (blood work) and a MRI. That appointment and ultrasound were on a Wednesday, blood work on Friday, MRI on Monday and a phone call Monday night from her saying don’t eat or drink anything after midnight because you are having surgery in the morning… You have cancer. My tumor markers were sky high and I had a huge tumor on my left ovary. The tumor marker was specific for germ cell ovarian cancer and more specifically Endodermal Sinus Tumor (or Yoke Sac). My world was completely shaken and turned upside down. I don’t think I can pin point any single emotion because I am sure that I felt them all that night.
The next morning, I got a call from the doctor telling me when to be at the hospital for surgery. I packed my kids bags and we were on our way. I met my amazing surgeon (for the first time) and he let us know that with the amount of fluid around the tumor and the level of tumor marker that it was highly likely that it had spread but he needed to get in there and see the severity. I gave him permission to do and take what he needed. My husband and I felt this amazing calmness that day as I lay there in the hospital gown getting prepped for the surgery. We know that it was a reassurance from our Heavenly Father that all would be well and an answer to all the wonderful prayers being sent up for us. They rolled me into surgery and the next thing I knew I was waking up to an incredible heaviness in my abdomen and as I came to my senses I recognized the nurse (Grace is her name which seems fitting) in the recovery room as a former colleague. This was the beginning of so many of what I call Tender Mercies through my journey.
It turned out that a miracle had occurred. When Dr. Rose took that 10cm tumor out along with my left ovary and fallopian tube everything else was negative for malignant cells. The other tender mercy was that I had developed an umbilical hernia and some pretty stretched out skin from my 4 pregnancies and during the surgery he was able to repair the hernia and remove that skin. I totally got a tummy tuck (I did lose my belly button in the process but that thing was pretty much nonexistent after 4 kids)!!
My amazing family and friends swooped in and took care of me, my family, and my house while I recovered. Since this type of cancer can be aggressive, I still had to be scheduled for 3-week long rounds of chemotherapy over 9 weeks. I met the kindest woman that became my oncologist and was scheduled for all the prepatory appointments for the next journey. The first being with an ENT because one of the chemo drugs can cause hearing loss. He walked in the room after my hearing test and as he read my chart he told me through tears in his eyes that he knew what I was going through because he had been through melanoma. Another tender mercy! The comfort and compassion that I felt was reassuring and heartwarming. Next up, my port placement. For the non-medical folks, this is an implanted device in my chest that chemotherapy is given to allow it to be dumped into a large vein. The nurse walked in the room with just stubble on her head. She proceeded to tell me that she had recently wrapped up chemotherapy for colon cancer. She shared with me what losing her hair was like for her and her children. I was really worried about losing my hair and how that would affect my children so you can only imagine the comfort and connection that I felt to this kind nurse who was willing to share some of her journey with me.
Chemotherapy arrived and it was truly as unpleasant as you can imagine! My first day of chemo was about 9 hours! It was a very long day but I did get to spend that whole day with my mom and I came home to a spotless house (tender mercy). After the first round, I ended up in the hospital (same floor that I had worked on for 5 years) with really low blood counts and my incision from surgery had become infected. They decided to stop one of the drugs but this meant that I would have to have an extra round of chemotherapy. I met some incredible nurses that were so caring and thoughtful and other incredible people that were in similar situations as myself through these rounds. Every round of chemo seemed to affect me differently and this was all during the holiday season (the first was the week before Thanksgiving and the last was the week of my birthday in January).
Throughout all this time, I had friends and family coming in and cleaning my house, doing the laundry, helping with my kids, and cooking us dinners. I seriously didn’t have to prepare a meal the entire time! The last round really wore me down and I ended up in the hospital again with low counts (like non-existent) and the incision became even more infected but the end was in sight and I just had to recover! I did recover and once all those chemicals were out of my system, my body was able to heal quickly. My husband made my dream come true of being a stay at home mom shortly after and I resigned as a nurse (after almost 15 years)!!
I can say without a doubt that Heavenly Father was with me through my entire journey and that he sent me so many tender mercies through wonderful people to comfort me and help me through my adversity. I am grateful for the all that we endured. It strengthened my testimony of my Heavenly Father and it proved to me what I can endure. It was difficult to rely on others so heavily but I also have a greater testimony of love and service.
I have made changes to my diet and lifestyle through his inspiration and you will see that as I share recipes and thoughts and such. So, today is 2 YEARS!!! Why is that such a big deal?? Well my cancer’s reoccurrence dramatically decreases after 2 years so I have good reason to celebrate as I honestly do EVERYDAY of my life! So hug those you love and don’t take life for granted because it’s a gift! Treat your body with kindness and take care of it because we only have one body and one life!