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My Story | Terri A., Michigan, USA

Ovarian cancer, Stage 3c, June 2001 at 34
Hysterectomy, tumor debulking, removal of parts of small intestine, omentum, appendix, and colon
Chemotherapy (taxol/carboplatin and doxil)

I was diagnosed on June 28, 2001 with Stage 3c ovarian cancer. When I went for surgery they thought it was just a big cyst. After an eight-hour surgical debulking, they found it wasn't. I had many things removed. I am 34 years old.

Three weeks after my surgery, my boyfriend of two years decided he didn't think he loved me anymore. He is still playing the "Do I want to be with the cancer patient?" game. My brother thinks that I am faking this disease. My daughter is so into drugs she can't see straight. My son is getting into trouble at school My parents aren't talking to me. And all I keep thinking is I want to go back three months and get my life back.

This is my story.

I was having many health problems, mostly intestinal. I would get sick, then feel better; I would puke, then feel better. I finally got to the point where I could eat almost nothing. I would feel full after just a bite or two. So I decided that I would go to the doctor. I would go no matter what this time. No canceling if I felt better.

I also could feel something on my left side but actually thought it was intestinal again. When I did go to the doctor, he said, "Terri, that is not intestinal; it is your uterus." He scheduled me for an emergency ultrasound that day.

When the technician was done, she said, "Sit here, I want to call your doctor." I knew something was wrong. They just don't do that. They say, "Okay, you're done, we'll let you know." She came back into the waiting room and said, "Your doctor wants you to go back home and call him when you get there."

When I got home, my doctor had already spoken with a gynecologic oncologic specialist. (I want to add that I am VERY grateful for this doctor. There are only two gyn-oncs in western Michigan, and they are both in the same office: MINE!) The doctors had decided that they wanted me to go for a CA125 test that day. Which I did. They called me the next day to tell me that it was higher than normal, and that the gyn-onc wanted to see me right away. I went to see him the next day and he recommended surgery. As for what would happen, he told me he wouldn't know exactly until he got in, but that he would try to save one of my ovaries. He said the operation could take anywhere from one to six hours.

When I woke up in the hospital, I checked to see how long my incision was. It ran from my pelvic bone to my ribs, I also noticed that it was 8:30 at night. I had gone into surgery at 7:30 A.M. I knew things were much worse than I had been expecting. I learned later how much they took during surgery. They removed all of my female parts (except my heart) as well as my omentum, appendix, and parts of my colon and small intestine.

My boyfriend of two years and my best friend of 14 years were there for my surgery. They both were the first to hear what was wrong with me. I did not find out until the next day when the doctor came in and said, "You have cancer, third stage ovarian cancer. This will probably shorten your life, and you may have several surgeries and chemos."

Well, my God, that was the start of it all! Three weeks after surgery my boyfriend told me he didn't think he loved me anymore. And now, three months later, he still sees me and my son, but still doesn't know how he feels. How stupid am I? My family thinks that I don't really have cancer. I guess the bald head, the port in my chest, the sickness, all of it is just a figment of my imagination or a bad joke or something. My eighteen-year-old daughter is so heavily into drugs that she won't let me see my grandson, Hunter, unless she needs something. And my thirteen-year-old son, who has been my rock, is learning too quickly about things he should not have to worry about at such a young age. He has begun to have many problems and is getting into a ton of trouble at school. I am going to try to get him into some sort of therapy.

And my best friend, God bless her, is backing away also. I don't know if it is because the newness of the experience has worn off, or if she just doesn't know how to handle it anymore. The newness is certainly not gone for me! I am still trying to get through a day without crying or wishing I could be the old, "before-cancer" Terri. I would give anything to turn the clock back; to have my life be the way it was before June 28th.

Thank you for listening to my story.

November 2001

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