Early symptoms and diagnosis
In 2018, while doing yoga, I felt a bit uncomfortable with certain poses. Finally, after several weeks, I still felt the same with that particular pose. I went to the doctor for a checkup. He did an ultrasound and they found a five-inch cyst. I wasn’t really concerned with it because I had cysts before. I have a friend who is a gynaecological oncologist, so I sent him an image of the ultrasound. He asked me to see him. The next day, I had a CA 125 test which came back perfectly normal. But my friend insisted on me for a hysterectomy. They had discovered that I had ovarian cancer after my surgery.
Several weeks after the surgery, I started the chemotherapy sessions. If someone has been through this process knows how hard it is. I had every possible side effect that one could imagine. On December 31, 2019, I was fortunate enough to receive my last treatment of chemo. And a couple of months later, I became cancer-free and have been clean since then.
My support system
My family didn’t take the news well which is usually the reaction of most families. My sister, who’s the one that I’m closest to, came to Florida from Wisconsin. Having her here was certainly very nice. At the end of my treatment, she came back to surprise me. She was inside a big old box wrapped in my living room, when I unwrapped the box, she popped out of the box. So it was wonderful to have the family support for certain.
Coping up emotionally
I have two sides, a Yin and a Yang. There is no doubt that every day went by with tears. I cried every single day. But I had so many people, and friends that reached out to me. Social media is wonderful because so many people reach out to me through it. They sent me gifts in the mail, food, cards, and words of encouragement.
I kept a spreadsheet of all the wonderful things that people did for me. I did a weekly update on Facebook every Saturday. So many people from around the world were encouraging me.
Support from the doctors and other medical teams
Everyone on the medical team was like an angel in heaven. I was an emotional person during my treatment. I am appreciative of how caring and how loving they were. They are incredibly special people who have big hearts.
Message to cancer patients and caregivers
I ask the cancer patients and caregivers to surround themselves and allow people to help. It’d be okay to ask for care and support. One of the things I would constantly say is when in doubt, reach out. So many times people are afraid to reach out or are afraid to talk to others about what they’re going through. I think there’s like a stigma associated with the word cancer. Even people that I was not necessarily that close to, but knowing that people care really, meant a lot. You’ve got to be positive. Let yourself be however you feel you need to be. It’s okay to cry and break down.
I have always been the type of person who hurried through things. The expressions like stopping and smelling the roads were not my style. But, I’m slowing down and learning to appreciate everything. I now realise the importance of spending time with people. I have learned that time is a very important factor. Time is something you can’t get back. So whenever somebody allows me their valuable, precious time to spend doing something together, it’s probably one of the most cherished things in my life.
How my lifestyle changed
I’d like to say that I’ve cut out sugar. I’ve always really been into eating healthy. But I grow my own garden and have our own chickens and eggs. I always feel that there are always areas to improve on exercise or maybe cutting out a little bit more sugar. It’s not like I eat a lot of sugar. I think of improving a little bit in each of those areas.
I would never want to push my beliefs on anybody. One cannot understand the journey that I went through from afar. All I can say is to have people talk about it more to remove the stigma and the fear of cancer. It’s very similar to people talking about when somebody passes, you’re always afraid to talk about the person that passed.
But I have learned that it really brings happiness to talk about the person and share the memories. When you have that support and human connection then people reaching out and being there for each other is so powerful. It’s just all about awareness so talk about it more. If you talk about things more people become more comfortable with them.