Friday, October 11, 2013

The Next Step

October is a weird month for me now.

A year ago from this week, I was in the process of confirming what I already knew in my heart - that I had ovarian cancer.  I was getting ultrasounds, blood tests, CTs, and paracentesis.  My husband knew, and I told my boss so that I could explain why I was having to take so much time off all of sudden, but I didn't tell anyone else. 

Those were lonely, scary weeks.  I did my best to go on about my life as usual - I worked, went to football games, had lunch with my friends when I could, but didn't really tell them what was going on with me.  By about the middle of the month or so, I had been formally diagnosed with cancer, although the doctor couldn't tell me definitively it was ovarian until I had surgery.  But I knew. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It's a huge big to-do across the national.  I'm pretty sure we all aware that breast cancer exists, and that it kills a ridiculous amount of women each year.

I knew.

I also knew in my heart I had cancer.  Once I was officially diagnosed, I remember telling my friends.  Telling my sons.  Calling and telling my parents.  Then slowly letting people I work with know what was going on, and trying to get them prepared for my being out for a few weeks.

Each time I hear of a new pink activity, I wonder why there wasn't more awareness around for ovarian cancer.  Why I didn't hear anything about it for the entire month of September - which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  Maybe if I had, I might have gone to the doctor a little earlier.  I don't know - nor will I ever know - if a month made that much difference in my staging.  When I think about when I started getting short of breath, I think it might have.

This year, I made sure the folks in my small community heard about the most basic symptoms of ovarian cancer in September.  And even though it's October, I'll still be stashing symptom cards around town.

As I said previously, we're all pretty aware of breast cancer.  We're aware of how to do breast exams, to get our yearly mammogram after we hit 40.  If all those pink ribbons raised funds towards *research* into a cure and better treatments, I would be happier.  That's what is really needed.  Research. Awareness has been achieved for that type of cancer.  Now the funds need to be funneled towards research - not the foundation's CEO's $700K salary.  Just sayin'.

Because research into any type of cancer can lead to a cure - or treatment - for another type of cancer.  The taxol that I will most likely be starting again next week was discovered while doing breast cancer research.  So let the research abound!  Right now we have a bunch of over-paid polititians holding our government - and many cancer research projects - hostage over political ideology.  I don't care which side you're on - or if you're a middle-of-the-roader as I am.  But it is ridiculous that much needed research is being held up because someone isn't getting their way.  They all need to grow the flock up.

(and that concludes my political rant for the year)(well - at least for now)

Navigating October will be weird this year - as I said - it's the month of my diagnosis and surgery.  I'm flooded with memories of last year every day - made even more surreal as I am recurring this year.  Ascites is beginning to  build up again.  My belly is starting to distend, and be uncomfortable.  I'm short of breath again - not quite as bad as last year, but certainly not the freedom of breath I had even a month ago.  I'm constantly flooded with fear that I will revert to that person who was so ill last November - the one who couldn't go up stairs, or walk very far because she was so weak.  The one who literally had to spend the day after chemo in bed because she was so sick.  I don't want to go there again. 

I was enjoying feeling better, you know?

So far I've managed to keep the anxiety attacks to a manageable level.  I don't have to take anything for them, and other than distracting me from work sometimes, they haven't incapacitated me.  But they are there.  With every twinge, every new ache, they are there.  I keep praying that they'll go away - that I'll find a graceful way to deal with all this without freaking out.  This blog and talking to my husband have been the best ways to keep me calm and focused. But my calm now is nothing to compared to what calm used to mean to me.

Everything changed.  Everything.

I know my blogs aren't all that fun to read lately.  They are full of my fear and dread, and talk about my symptoms and what's ahead.  That's what fills the mind of someone having a recurrence apparently.  It doesn't mean that that's all my life is about.  I'm still doing what I can to enjoy life.  I'm not giving up by any means.  But I write not just for myself, but for any other ovarian cancer patient out there, or their caregivers, or their loved ones - so they know that what they feel is normal.  I wish (oh man - do I ever!) it could be a blog about an ovarian cancer patient in full remission for months on end.  Apparently that isn't the story I'm meant to tell.  So I tell the story I've been given. 

And look forward to the happy ending next year ;-)

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