Longer than I can remember, I have had most or all of these symptoms. The first time I had a pap smear and internal exam, I was told I had cysts on my ovaries. They were never biopsied or truly examined. Since I started menstruating at 15, it was always irregular, and would go in tandem with excruciating leg and hip pain. I threw up more than anyone should, and was constantly complaining of stomach pains and how it felt like my “stomach was eating itself.” From the beginning of the leg pain, I saw multiple doctors and had multiple CAT scans, X-rays, and Ultrasounds. No one could give me an explanation for my mysterious pain. The symptoms persisted through my early twenties.
In November 2010, I lost my health insurance and did not seek medical treatment for almost a year. By the time September 2011 had begun, I had a cyst like growth protruding from my belly button. For the first time I thought that there had to be something seriously wrong. A month later I met my general surgeon Dr. Rodriguez, and that day was the most surreal day of my life.
Dr. Rodriguez was concerned that the growth was cancerous, and conducted a biopsy. A week later, my results were in and the beginning of 2012 was not just the start of a new year, it was also the mark of my new life. The biopsy confirmed carcinoma. A CAT scan showed that it had spread to my liver, giving me a Stage IV diagnosis. Doctors were not positive that it was ovarian cancer, so were required to make the final diagnosis following my surgery.
On February 13, 2012, I underwent an 11 hour surgery to remove all of the infected parts; both ovaries, my uterus, 1.5’ of bowel, stomach lining, appendix, spleen, and attempted to remove as much from my liver and diaphragm as possible. I was also given a temporary ileostomy as my bowels needed time to heal.
It was August 2012, just before my 26th birthday, when I completed the last cycle of treatment. My CA-125 level was stable and supporting CAT Scans confirmed that there was no sign of cancer growth. I was put in remission, and scheduled for 6-week follow-ups/checks.
In November 2012, my numbers elevated once again, and when they reached above 55 my doctors and I agreed to start maintenance treatment, after which my CA-125 level were in the normal range. Unfortunately, my symptoms and overall health did not match up with the CA-125 level. My doctors ordered another CAT scan in April 2013 and were disappointed to find some cancerous growths on my liver, and possibly on the sides of my pelvis. My doctors and I made the decision to switch treatments once again and at the beginning of May 2013 I began a new treatment.
Most days I look at my cancer as a blessing. It has completely re-prioritized my life and made me truly see what matters. I love my family and my friends, and most of my miracle child. He makes life worth living. Some days I feel sorry that I cannot have any more children but then I look at him and know that it doesn’t matter. I have him and he is all I need. He has given me the strength each and every day to fight, and he is what will get me passed that 5 year mark, then to 10, 15.
As a really good friend Michelle once said, “We are just like anyone else fighting a daily medical condition. A cancer diagnosis isn’t the end it is just a lifestyle change, and a battle that we must all be strong enough to fight.” Cancer isn’t life ending, its life changing, and you are your own destiny. Your mind is the strongest tool in your fight, and the will and determination to fight daily, and to not fear but embrace this disease, will give you far more strength and success than anything else.