Just when I thought I had caught a break, had started accepting my losses and working toward starting my career…
Never would I ever have imagined spending the month before my 25th birthday enduring what I had to mentally and physically. I went for a physical a few weeks into the month that I started my new job in September 2017, where my doctor spent a little longer than I thought was normal examining me. She said she had felt something but wasn’t sure what it was fully. I cried in the car and called my mom and texted my close friends. I was so panicked and just wanted it to go away. I remember being at work and receiving a call from my doctor saying that I needed to come in immediately.I was sent for ultrasounds, MRIs and to a specialist who had a team full of resident students behind her examining me and making plans for me. This was the start of the following few weeks where my life would be turned upside down. This was so terrifying at the time but I’m grateful to have had a doctor who called me in right away. I was one month into my first career related adult job. I worked hard to be at this point in my life and felt that this was the part of my life where things were going to look up - I set my mind to that.
I was told that I had a mass that needed to be removed. I was only 24.
I never thought to question my menstrual cycle or pain I felt. They would later tell me in the months of recovery that I had endometriosis as well. I had been in survival mode for so many years and just living day by day. There was too much to work through, I hadn’t even processed the losses that I had experienced in the 7 years prior. I worked hard to finish university right after my dad passed, working 3 jobs at one point and trying to find an opportunity for connection anywhere I went. I neglected my body for years, yes. But in no way did I think that I could’ve possibly missed this. I was livid, I was defeated and angry at myself and the world. What was my life? Dealing with one loss and health issue at a time.
When I was 18 I had a tumor on the top of my breast that I had removed. I was so scared to go through surgery at that age and remember not wanting to go through it without my dad. When they were prepping me I remember being surrounded by older women. One woman was in tears and screaming while hugging her partner. I panicked and wondered what she may have been feeling and going through. Although that tumor was benign it caused me a lot of discomfort. That was bizarre to me at the time. I hadn’t known of any other girls or read about other girls who had experienced that. Once my doctor spoke to me about the results of this new mass she immediately prompted me to ask her any questions and avoid looking on the internet. She drew me diagrams and took her time explaining what my next few weeks and months would look like. Of course, I stubbornly googled my little heart way trying to look up the prognosis of someone my age who had a mass in their ovary and it was not helpful. I would continue to try to find research and statistics based on my profile even during recovery when my mental health greatly struggled. Nothing. Similar to when I was first grieving my dad, I tried researching and getting my hands on anything “self-help” related. I wanted to connect and find a community. It wasn’t there. Everyone writing about their experience had been 40 plus with children. I felt hopeless.
I was scheduled for surgery the following week when I received that news. Again, it was somewhat of a relief knowing that this mass was going to be removed out of my body. Out of sight out of mind I thought. “Okay - let's do this! I gotta keep going and move on. This is just a little bump in the road.” I had a fighter mentality. It was resilience. It was grit and perseverance. It was everything I’d gone through preparing me and leading me to this. I was ready.
Briefly before my surgery I was told that depending on how it looked once they had operated they would determine if they would have to remove the entire ovary and fallopian tube or just the mass. I felt so powerless, I had no choice in this and I wouldn’t know what the decision was until I woke up. I was defeated but I had to be strong enough to get through this surgery, recover and get back to my life I had thought. As if my body was not part of my life - what was I thinking! This was my body though and I did choose that I was going to go through it, trust my team and trust that I would find a way to be okay and HEAL no matter what.
Before the operation doors opened a nurse asked me if I was active. I said what do you mean? She said, “can you run up and down the stairs without being out of breath?” I laughed and said, “yes.” I was confident in that moment that I could handle whatever was coming my way. I was mindful of my attitude and mindset. I was grateful with how urgent I was able to get in and how amazing my entire team filled with all women were able to detect, operate, nurse and treat me in such a short time. Bright white lights were all I remember seeing and hearing “take deep breaths and count backwards from 10” before waking up disoriented feeling completely winded and weak with a full bladder. My mind told me to get up but I could barely move. “Where was I, what happened and why does everything hurt?”
I was so happy to see my mom, sister and brother come through after a nurse had helped me to the washroom. They would be my recovery team for the next few months: putting my needs before theirs at times, advocating for me, calling nurses and doctors for advice, emotionally supporting me when I was crying daily, uplifting me when I was mentally defeated, helping me manage my pain medication, sleeping on the couch with me when I couldn’t get up the stairs, bathing me,changing me, helping me to the washroom, starting to walk and make sure I was comfortable at all times. I felt relief in seeing their faces and feeling their relief from seeing me be okay. I always have that fear of telling my family bad news because of everything we’ve been through. So, it was nice to be able to see their relief and faces.
One of the first things my mom told me when she saw me was, “The surgeon said you were very lucky, it was close to your lymph nodes. They did have to take the entire right side out though, Carm. It was a Borderline Serous Carcinoma Ovarian Tumor.”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
All I could think about from that day I had my physical to the months of recovery after the surgery was “am I still going to be able to have babies?”
To be continued..