Advanced Stage: Fight to Live or Fight to Choose?
Last updated: February 2023
I've been a Zoom support group facilitator for the past few months to ovarian cancer survivors. These brave women show up for 1 hour every month and bring their fragile emotions. The majority have aggressive sub-types and are at advanced stages of their disease.
Last month, a new woman in our group arrived to discuss something so rare to witness. I will use the name "Laura" to hide her identity.
Laura had just finished her 6 rounds of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with stage 3C high-grade serous ovarian cancer. Laura joined our group on this night to gain support for her decision not to take her oncologist's advice on continuing a maintenance drug.
She did very well handling her 6 rounds of chemotherapy at 78 years of age. Laura mentioned her medical team was amazed at how her body responded to her initial chemo series and strongly advised she continue treatment by taking a daily maintenance pill.
Saying no to maintenance and yes to quality of life
What Laura shared next took our breath away. There were 10 other women on Zoom whose faces I could see when Laura shared, "I don't want to take the pill as I'm ready to start living a quality of life I'd rather choose than deal with the side effects a maintenance pill will most likely bring."
The facial reaction I saw from the 10 women was that of shock. All of them were taking a maintenance pill and were all here to discuss their side effects. There was an awkward pause after Laura shared she was struggling both with her medical team and how her children felt about her choice.
Here she was, brave Laura, at 78 years of age, choosing how she wanted to live after undergoing her initial chemotherapy. Laura read the room and continued to share her reasons why she chose no further intervention.
As a reminder, Laura had just joined our group for the first time, so there is a lot of backstory that wasn't shared. What Laura did share during this brief encounter was her children lived in different states, and she was unable to visit with them. And Laura felt at peace with her life, and if it was her time to leave, she was ready.
She got what she needed
The main reason I wanted to talk about this is that it is a rare occurrence for a woman to show up for the very first time in a meeting and share such a difficult topic. But that is the essence of a support group, to show up and share topics that are difficult to share with our loved ones.
Laura didn't stay much longer after sharing. She got what she needed. Reassurance that it was her decision, regardless of what her oncology team was pushing her to do. And the support to stay strong during her next oncology appointment to let the team know she was finished with interventions.
She got the love and support she was looking for and quietly parted.
It's your choice
What I find so interesting is we are all different. We all have different life experiences that make up the majority of our personalities as we get older. At the same time, we have different types of support we chose to have around us.
What I loved about Laura's interaction is that she is a very grounded and confident woman. She knows what she wants, and I wonder how she lived her life up until now.
Live how you want. It's your choice.
How have you exercised your choice in the battle with ovarian cancer? Let us know in the comments below, or inspire other teal warriors and share your story with the community.
Have you heard of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer?