Sarah (now age 20) and Rachel (18 this month) recently told me that they were unaware of what was happening when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 7-years-later. They were young and confused. I wish I had done a better job giving them age appropriate information. As I think of what I truly want them to know today, this is where I landed. Girls, this is for you:
“We are going to treat it like we can cure it!" These were the encouraging words my doctor and Gynecological Oncologist gave to my then husband, Ryan, and my best friend Paula immediately following my surgery. MMMT cancer (Triple M T for those of us who know the slang), has an overall poor prognosis…98% fatal. While medical journals are difficult to read, I understood that this type of tumor is a “collision” of different types of cancers that melt together to create an unstoppable team - dead set on taking over your body.
Triple M T was no match for the “collision” of friends and family I had on my body’s side. Even before my first trip to my primary care physician, my friends were bugging the crap out of me. Kim said: “your ankles are swollen during yoga.” Stacie said: “How can you be too full for lunch after drinking hot cider?” Roz said: “It’s not normal to have diarrhea after every meal.” Jen said: “You are too skinny.” Paula said: “Go see your doctor and let her be the judge.” So I did, and the first thing she said was“you look terrible” and spent the next two months trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Ovarian Cancer is a tricky little devil. The symptoms are innocuous. You don’t really know you have it until after surgery.
My Gynecological Oncologist had to hold my tumor in his hands before it could be diagnosed.
I woke up after surgery to Paula and Ryan hovered over me. “Do I have cancer?” “Yes, yes you do.”
Two chances to live out of 100 were not good odds. And yet, in those next months and ensuing seven-years I have felt I have won despite the odds. You see, life instead of death isn’t the only way you win. The melting together of my daughters, my husband, family, friends, physicians, nurses, colleagues, fellow students, church members, my pets and a very special photographer, created a net of support that would see me through regardless of the ultimate outcome.
The odds are stacked against us in life due to many crises that occur. Job loss, relationships and paths that we want so badly that just don’t work out, separation of friends, break ups of family, disruption in churches, loss of home, death of loved ones…..list goes on and on. In some way we are all fighting the odds.
For me, I have found that surrounding myself with groups and individuals who are honest about whom they are and allow me into their struggles, is my best defense against the odds. The melting together of people who I love and love me allows me to hold on to the "two chances out of 100." Screw the collision of melting tumors. Girls, if you have support and love from people who really know you, and want to fight in the trenches with you, and you for them….you increase your odds for a great life filled with adventure and happiness.