After my cancer diagnosis…
“You have cancer…” These words changed my life on April 1st. Ironic that it was April Fools’ Day, oh how I wished it was just a bad April Fools prank.
What now?! What’s next?! Am I going to be OK?! Am I going to die?! Am I going to be able to see my girls grow up?! So many thoughts were running through my head in that instant & I’m still crying, silently with my husband holding tight to my hand in the car on our way home from a wonderfully normal family day with the girls sitting behind us oblivious to what was going on in the 2 front seats. For the next 3 days I went through a range of emotions…mostly anger, despair & fear…not a great combination. I was angry that this was happening to me. I was angry that my family was suffering because of cancer again. Wasn’t it enough that we already went through a year of sickness & suffering with my Dad while he fought & eventually succumbed to pancreatic cancer? I feared the future. I was afraid of leaving my girls without a mother & my husband without a wife. I was afraid what cancer would do to my body, to my life. I was & still am afraid of my feelings around not being able to have a 3rd baby, when I wanted to so badly. The despair was more of a feeling of helplessness, a general feeling of being down.
My husband & I met with my oncologist on April 4th, a mere 3 days later but it felt like a lifetime. We sat down in a living room type setting, we talked about what was going to happen over the next few weeks & what treatment would be needed. My doctor was very optimistic & for the first time I was too. I thought I was going to be a wreck. I had tissues to soak up my tears. I was prepared for the crying & anguish I was sure I would feel. The tears never came, neither did the anguish or despair. I found an inner strength that day that I didn’t realize I had. I’m going to fight, I’m going to do whatever I need to do to be healthy, I’m going to live, I’m going to survive, I’m going to beat cancer. This sentence turned in to an affirmation for me, I said it probably 100 times a day, sometimes more or sometimes less. I wanted to be as positive as I could be. For myself, for my girls, for my husband, for my family…being positive would benefit all of us. So when I would start to get upset or angry or afraid, I would say my affirmation out loud or just in my head. It worked. I thank God everyday for the strength & positivity he gave me & continues to give me during this journey.
What exactly is a Placental Site Trophoblastic Tumor (PSTT)?! Don’t worry, I had never heard of it either. Some of my doctors have never seen this type of cancer & may never see it again. Only about .18 out of 100,000 pregnancies would this occur. Apparently mine was even more rare in the way it presented. Wow, I feel super special… Can I win Powerball now with those odds?! Seriously, can I?! Ok, back on track…. A PSTT grows from placental cells leftover from a pregnancy. The cells change & grow into a tumor, which can be benign or malignant. In my case it was malignant.
Now we were onto the next steps… When there is a malignancy, if the cancer was going to spread it would spread to the lungs. So, on April 10th off I went to get another CT scan, now I needed a scan of my lungs, abdomen & pelvis. This felt like the 1st hurdle I needed to overcome. Waiting for the results was torture, but I wasn’t going to borrow trouble. I continued to say my affirmation & tried to stay positive. On April 12th I got the results…the scan was clear, thank God. Now I was feeling a little less scared, a little less afraid. It was easier to be positive & see a healthy future ahead.
As far as treatment, I would need a total hysterectomy. My uterus, cervix & fallopian tubes would be surgically removed, leaving my ovaries so I wouldn’t go into menopause at 33. It would be determined during surgery if they needed to remove my lymph nodes too, which I considered the 2nd hurdle. The pathologist would be in the operating room, he/she would examine my uterus immediately to determine how deeply the tumor grew into the wall of my uterus. If it hadn’t grown to deeply my lymph nodes would stay, if it had grown too deep the lymph nodes would be removed as well. My hysterectomy was scheduled for April 22nd. Exactly 3 weeks from the “You have cancer…” conversation I would go in for surgery.
I put my thoughts of a 3rd baby out of my head. I didn’t dwell on the fact that we would never have a 3rd baby. I couldn’t. I had to focus on the positive. I planned for childcare & for help during the weeks after my surgery while I was reovering. I went to the gym & went for walks with my family. I cooked healthy dinners. I researched healthy, cancer fighting diets. I spent time with my family & friends. Through out this time I still kept that affirmation in my head & my heart. ”I’m going to fight, I’m going to do whatever I need to do to be healthy, I’m going to live, I’m going to survive, I’m going to beat cancer.”
I didn’t blog during this time, not because I didn’t want to but because I had so much to say that I wasn’t ready to say. Confused?! I wanted to tell the world about having cancer, but I still wasn’t ready to talk about it. Part of my strength came from keeping my emotions in check. There were times I was moments away from losing my shit, but I reigned it back in. I wasn’t ready to deal with other peoples emotions about my cancer. Make sense?! My emotions were enough to deal with, without adding in the emotions that other people were feeling. My family knew about my cancer & I a few friends, but that was it.
As I prepared for surgery, I decided to tell the world or at least Facebook & Twitter! I wanted people to know, I wanted people to pray for me, I wanted to share what I was going through in that moment. The outpouring of love, prayers, thoughts & positive energy was overwhelming! I felt surrounded by all the love, prayers, thoughts & positivity that was being sent by family, friends & even strangers I didn’t know.
The night before my surgery I laid in bed & talked with my husband about that 3rd baby we would never have. I mourned that loss & allowed myself to cry. Wanting & trying for a 3rd baby saved my life. Wanting & trying for a 3rd baby led to an extremely early diagnosis of cancer at a time when it was still very treatable. Our 3rd baby, though we will never know him or her, saved my life.
I’m going to make this a series of posts since there it is too much for one. Stay tuned for more…