31 December 2008

How we got here...

How many people do take their health for granted?

I did when I grew up. I mean, for my adolescence, it is more a question of what I did NOT do, in all legal boundaries of course. So I went on roller coasters. I drank water from the river. I ate sand out of the sandbox. I did not always wash my hands, even though my parents told me so. I swam in dirty oceans and lakes. I sunbathed out in the sun, sometimes for hours. I stayed up all night. I did not go to annual check-ups, thinking who needs a doctor when you are not sick!

I thought, I was young and in-destroyable.
Then life changed forever in the fateful month of September in 2007, when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

It showed up at a check-up at the OB-Gyn. I had gone in for an annual pap test and kind of to get the okay of the doctor to try for baby number two. Well, that didn't happen!
I had had some symptoms, that I put in the category of some kind of imbalance within my body. Maybe some infection, maybe something more serious like a cyst or abnormalities of my body after a pregnancy. Never in a million years was I prepared for what was coming my way!

At first, they thought that I had a polyp maybe.... not so bad, the nurse told me! It can be removed in a simple outpatient surgery. Then two days later, I got a call from the doctor with the results from the pap test: well, it was not a polyp! It looked like cancerous cells. I got a little uneasy on the phone, yet the voice did not sound alarming. Still, she sent me to the oncology....

After going there and another week of waiting, we went back to the oncology and heard the dreadful news, we were not prepared to hear and that no-one ever wants to hear.

"You have cancer."

Cancer is staged from One to Four, with Four being the worst. My stage was 1bI. That in itself was a blessing because early detection is important when it comes to the big 'C'. But hearing a diagnosis like this at the age of 32 is not really what one would expect. So we were quite shocked. In one way, it was good that we did not have alot of time to think about it too much. Everything went so fast. It was 'only' an early stage, but we were told that it was a very fast growing cancer, so we should do something about it quick! I mean, I just gave birth barely a year before, and had a pap test done in November that year and it came back negative. So obviously then, there was nothing there. Nine months later, bam.....

We were talking a long time to my oncologist, trying to figure out what to do. According to her, fertility treatment was not an option because the cancer had grown so fast in only nine months, and she was afraid that the hormones, one has to take during the fertility treatment, would make the cancer explode. So far, they hoped, it was only in the tumor and hadn't spread too far yet - which they didn't know yet. This was to be seen during the operation.

So only two weeks after the horrible diagnosis, and a second opinion that didn't change anything, I went under the knife to have a radical hysterectomy. It was the scariest thing I had ever to face in my life. That morning, I was just a machine getting dressed to make it to the hospital. I was numbed by fear, and also by anger. It was suppose to be a few hours. They had to open me up, see how far the cancer had spread, see which organs were affected, and see what they had to remove. Our biggest fear was that they had to remove EVERYTHING, meaning, uterus, cervix, ovaries, etc...... which would have made me completely infertile and also would have put me into early menopause. The surgery took about six hours. During which the Hubby had to wait in the waiting area among tons of other people waiting. I can not imagine the atmosphere there. At last, they came out to tell him that I made it through the surgery and I was in recovery.


When I was scared before the surgery, at least I didn't know what to expect, besides my general knowledge of hating needles. But when I was waking up from the surgery, I was so numb, again. Not numb from fear or anger, numb all over my body. I could barely turn my head left to right. For a moment, I didn't even know where I was. My mouth was so dry and the first thing I remember is the nurse offering ice chips. Ice chips, really? I took them anyways.

Then an angel appeared over me. I felt her presence even with my eyes closed. Then I heard her voice, telling me the best news I received that day. I was cancer-free, alive, and still had my ovaries!
I wanted to hug her, jump up and down, and tell her how much I loved her. But my body was not cooperating! (wonder why?) I could only smile. Probably the biggest smile possible with still all these drugs inside of me. Then I grabbed her hand. I did not want her to go. I wanted her to stay! Her presence felt so calming and comforting. It gave me peace and hope all at the same time. She had to go, but told me that she only lived a few minutes away, so if I needed her, she would be back.
That angel was my oncologist.

So needless to say, I made it out of recovery after about two hours. I made it to my room where I finally could see the hubby. We cried when we saw each other, and then we just sat. I was still so groggy, so sleepy, so painfully surrendered to this bed and to the circumstances. I just wanted to make it to the next day. He couldn't stay overnight, but left as late as possible. After all, our son needed him at home.

After four dreadful days in the hospital, I was finally released. I could go home...... but then being home, it had changed. Destiny had changed our house forever, and it was hard sometimes being in a house that was the same, but my inside felt so uncertain, so shaken to the core. The pain was agony on some days, on others it was bearable. When they said six weeks recovery at least, they were not kidding!

Those days in my bed were so lonely. Not a day passed without tearing up at some point. I was angry. I was hopeless. The only thing that gave me hope was my son. He needed me. He wanted me to take care of him. So I needed to get better for him.  Six weeks was a long time, but we made it through. Mema was a huge support during those days, not only in taking care of my thirteen months old, but also in talking to me and encouraging me. I started to heal.

I have to thank God for that early detection, because I did not have to go through radiation, or chemo therapy! And I have to thank God for giving me the doctor her gave me, and for protecting my ovaries.  If I had to do it over, I wish I've had more friends surrounding me. Friends that I could pour my heart out to. I did this to the hubby.... who was so exhausting from taking care of me, and then I still wanted him to deal with my anger.... I think, I expected too much of him at times.

Yet, I have to say that among the news of  “cancer”, the worst news were the resulting “infertility”! Biologically, I cannot become pregnant ever again. And that was quite devastating, and still is. But I still had my ovaries. Now, a year later, I can truly say that there is hope....

Keep reading why.....