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My Story | Lisa C., Connecticut, USA

Ovarian cancer, Stage 3c, March 2002 at 42

Hysterectomy, chemotherapy

My life will never be the same again. I was 42 years old, living in a beautiful town in Connecticut and up until March 18th 2002, my life was almost perfect. I was living the life of a superwoman: two teenage children, running a landscape design business with my husband, very active in all kinds of sports - and burning the candle at both ends.

Hindsight is easy, and looking back, there were signs and, of course, a genetic disposition (my mother had died of ovarian cancer at age 54). I had became tired and irritable right after Thanksgiving. I felt bloated many times, but thought it was normal to feel this way at mid-life. I was too busy "being busy" to pay attention to my body. In the middle of March, I played my last hockey game for the season and I felt very winded. I thought I had a cold coming on and hoped to get over it in a few days, but my problem with breathing got worse. And I started to feel even more bloated; I gained so much weight that within five days I could not button my pants. I was constipated. I could not eat. And I was out of breath.

I got so scared I made an appointment to see a doctor, thinking I had pneumonia or something bronchial. When I finally saw my doctor, she sent me to the hospital after a short exam and I had x-rays done. They found fluid around my lungs. I went home and they called me to come back for a ct (computed tomography) scan the next day.

After the scan, I was lying on the table in discomfort when the nurse told me the doctor would be with me in five minutes. When nobody came in for 15 minutes, I started to get very nervous. The nurse told me to sit up and wait. I looked over my shoulder, saw the doctor on the phone and I knew something was really wrong. Finally he came in. I saw his face and I vaguely heard what he was saying. It had something to do with cancer. Did he say ovarian cancer? He could not be speaking of me. Sure, my mother had died of it ten years earlier, but I was nothing like my mother. I had tried to live my life differently.

I had entered the twilight zone. I felt like somebody had hit me over the head with a giant baseball bat while I spun in mid air. Immediately, they drained two liters of fluid from my stomach and did a biopsy. I was shaken and asked for drugs to numb my mental and physical pain. I believed I had received a death sentence because all I could think of was my mother's cancer: her loss of dignity, and ultimately, her life. And, of course, I thought of my kids.

For the next two weeks I lived off painkillers and tranquilizers just to make it through the day. Nothing made sense any more. Why had this happened to me? I had been strong and healthy. I exercised regularly. I did not even eat junk food. Although those first days were spent in a fog, I knew I could get to a different place once I had accepted my situation. I felt better immediately when they drained three liters of fluid from my stomach. I dropped ten pounds at once. As soon as my treatment plan was designed, I rejoined the world. I was to have six sessions of chemotherapy followed by surgery and then another three to six sessions of chemotherapy. I had found my power within to get ready for the upcoming battle. I had spent the prior year preparing myself physically for a rollerblading marathon. Little did I know that I would be a part of a much more grueling type of race.

My hometown doctor, a member of a very reputable oncology group and personal friend of mine, became one of my angels. I also started to see a therapist on a regular basis and received energy healings every time I had chemo. I changed my food intake, eliminated the bad sugars, and cut back on fat and coffee. Then I started to work on my spirit.

I bought myself a journal and started to write. It's been part of my life almost daily. My whole life unfolded in it and, to my surprise, a lot of pain came up that I had never dealt with. I confronted long-buried grief and, in doing so I started to get to know myself better than ever. I read many books from authors exploring the depths of the soul and the healing process and learned I had to heal body, mind, AND soul. It's been a journey for me. Living in the moment has become my motto, enjoying the day as it unfolds, seeing my family, being grateful for my faithful friends all over the world.

Prior to chemotherapy, my CA (cancer antigen) 125 was as high as 2000; just before surgery, it came down to 35. I had a total hysterectomy in August, followed by three more chemo treatments. After that we decided on smaller treatments to stabilize me. By February, while I felt good, ct scans indicated my cancer had returned in small areas in my colon and outer wall of my lungs. My CA 125 went up to 400 and I had to have a liter of fluid drained from my abdomen to ease my discomfort. The good part is that the cancer did not show up in my lymph nodes or any other major organs and I feel basically great. The bad part is that I am really scared. I pray daily for strength and courage; I surrender daily, but I always hit valleys. I ask myself, "Is the prize worth the price?" Someone told me once that even if there is only a one percent survival chance, I could be in that one percent. After all, somebody has to be there. So I gather my faith and march on, hoping that one-day, women will be able to conquer this silent enemy.

November 2003

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