Sunday, March 1, 2015

Surviving Cancer to Celebrate a Meaningful Birthday

This is a particularly meaningful birthday for me since I was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer last
June.  I ended up in the ICU with a collapsed lung after fluid built up in my body cavity.  But thanks to the brilliant cancer team at St. Francis Bon Secour Hospital here I am in remission and cancer free.  Dr. David Griffin and his nurse practioner, Jacqueline, saved my life a number of times as I went through weekly chemotherapy, side effects, surgery, a blood clot in my lung and I have to admit a couple of times when I was ready to stop chemo and just let what was going to occur happen.
I could not have made it without the constant care of my daughter, Beth, a CNA at Roger C. Peace Hospital who was also going to college for nursing, my son, Jeff and my best friend, Mark.  They dealt with my medical issues with love, support, humor and encouragement.  I decided not to tell too many people, first

of all because the chemo made me too sick to want to do much, but also because I didn't want to be a burden.  In ICU Dr. Griffin told me he was going to be very aggressive and that he would put me in remission within nine months.  He did better than his promise, I was in remission after only six months of chemo and surgery.
It was a difficult time and I spent much of my time in bed or on the couch because of exhaustion and an inability to eat.  I lost 42 pounds and could not drive or walk to the car unassisted.  For months I was in a wheelchair.  I lived at my daughter's and only went out to the hospital or doctor's office.  I didn't step in a grocery store, thrift store or Michael's for six months and was in a wheelchair for more than three months. When I got the blood clot, I could not walk to the room next door, because I put off going to the emergency room thinking it a side effect of the chemo.
I'm only writing all this because I want others who have cancer, have friends or family with cancer, o9r may get cancer to let you know - yes, it is very rough to endure treatment.  You lose the life you know and substitute it with one that seems made up of suffering.  But don't give up.  There are so many new cures now and knowledgeable doctors that the suffering is worth it.  My family, Mark and I did not think I'd see last Christmas, but here I am, back in my life, gaining more energy each day, eating like normal and wanting to paint.  I'm still not too goo on socializing, don't quite have all my social skills back, but I do drive myself now, go to Michael's and coffee shops, art galleries and thrift stores and I enjoy the company of my family instead of needing their constant care. I'm back attending my women's group and going out to eat once in a while.
Never in a million years would I have believed I would go into remission in six months. My daughter keeps reminding me, when I complain about losing my hair and how slowly its growing back, that I should take my hat off and wear my short cut proudly since it's a sign of how I survived terminal cancer.  
I won't write amount cancer much because I don't want to be a downer and my life is getting too busy.  But if anyone has questions and needs answers or a pep talk feel free to contact me.  I want people to know there is life after cancer - an even better life because you learn to appreciate every little nuance of each moment and realize there are miracles in this world. 

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