A year of many losses
Sorry this is long:
How do I begin to write about this past year? Just thinking about everything that’s happened brings back every thought I‘ve had, every emotion I’ve felt, all of it. The bad and the good, although sometimes the bad seems to outweigh the good. In order to write about the good though, I have to write about and relive the bad because out of all the bad came the good.
Just over a year ago, my symptoms of cancer started. At the time, I wasn’t aware of it, I thought it was due to stress. I had just been through all kinds of heart testing and was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse. I was working a full-time job and a part-time job in my own business. I was also traveling in between to my parents’ house about 2 hours away. In late July, my dad was diagnosed with neck cancer that was so aggressive, by the time of his diagnosis, it was already at the last stage and the only option left was hospice. They decided on home hospice so my brothers and sisters and I all pitched in to help when we could. He finally passed away on September 16th, at home with my mom, two of my brothers, myself and my husband with him. For me, it didn’t end there. I was executor of his Will and had to take care of all he left. So the stress continued, as did my symptoms.
In early October, I closed my business hoping that would ease what I thought were stress-related symptoms. Instead, they got worse and by the end of October, I saw my doctor. She ran the standard pap test and blood tests. On November 10th, she called with the results. The pap was abnormal, but the HPV was negative. That was the day my world ended. I had never had an abnormal pap in my life and I knew in my gut that it was cancer although no mention of it had been given and I had no idea what type of cancer. All my doctor said was that she wanted to run more tests and do ultrasounds. I started doing research and everything I read led to uterine cancer. I thought uterine what?? I’d not heard of it before. I then remember thinking about the time my husband barely survived a ruptured brain aneurysm 4 years earlier. We almost lost everything we owned and I fought like mad to keep us going. What came to mind was a conversation I had with my sister-in-law. She told me that old saying, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. I asked her stronger for what? She said the future. I told her I didn’t want to know what was in my future - it scared me to think of it. I know now what it was - cancer.
On December 16th, my doctor called me and told me that the tests indicated a “second lining” in my uterus and she scheduled me for a D&C and hysteroscopy on the 28th. I spent the holidays in a scary fog. The waiting and not definitely knowing were sheer torture. I was finally diagnosed with uterine cancer on January 3, 2007. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office looking over at my husband and thinking “I told you so” but for the first time in my life, couldn’t bring myself to say those words. The next day was even harder than hearing the doctor tell me it was cancer. In all honesty, it was the single most hardest day of my life until then. I had to travel to my mom’s to tell her that just over 3 months after dad died of cancer, another of her daughters had cancer. My older sister has been battling lung cancer since 2000 and has gone through 3 recurrences.
My surgery was on January 24th and I spent a week in the hospital because of allergic reactions. The initial post-op report showed that the cancer had spread through about 80% of my uterine muscle wall, was grade 2 and further treatment was still only a possibility. When I went to have the staples out, the gyn/onc went over my final report with me. It showed grade 3, stage IIIc and had metastasized in a lymph node so I had to have radiation therapy. I asked him about the research I read that stated that it was a slow growing cancer and was supposedly a “good” cancer to have. I found out that that’s not always true. Mine was very aggressive.
In February, my husband’s uncle lost his battle with lung cancer. We couldn’t attend the funeral because I was back in the hospital with an infection. I remember a day in March, shortly after starting radiation, crying to my husband and telling him that I couldn’t go through anymore. I was a complete wreck. I decided to see a counselor and found that there were no support groups in my area for my specific cancer. My counselor suggested the internet. That’s when I found Hyster Sisters and found others like me. I didn’t join at first, just lurked and read through all the posts. Then an uncle who my husband and I were very close to started losing his battle against pancreatic cancer. He’d been a great support to me throughout my ordeal. Also at that time, my older sister was undergoing testing because her tumor started “growing” again. When our uncle was given only 6-8 weeks I decided to join Hyster Sisters. I had to think of a screen name to join though. At the time, I was still doing radiation and was using visualization. Over a year ago, a dear friend of mine had given me a “charm” necklace with a Viking woman in full warrior regalia on the front and a saying on the back about having the strength and resources that I needed inside myself. She became my warrior in fighting cancer, my Viking princess warrior and eventually became my screen name. I finished radiation on May 17th and started back to work in June.
In the past year, 3 people I’ve been close to have lost their battle with cancer, and several women I’ve met through support groups have lost theirs too. I too have lost my previous life to cancer, yet I remain. While I’m not 100% yet and I still have bad days, I do have my life. Granted, it’s a “new” life, a very different life, but it’s a second chance at life. I know I still have many lessons to learn, but I’m glad to still be here to learn them and to appreciate just how precious and short life is. And I’m really glad to have found Hyster Sisters. The support I have received is indescribable and I don’t know that I could have made this far without the support of other women who’ve been through it. Just knowing that there are others who’ve made it through has helped tremendously.