The Fight of Your Life
Just for a moment allow yourself to imagine a mother hen looking after her baby chicks. Keeping them close, providing warmth and security, she pecks at anything that represents a threat. I must admit I am a "mother hen."
So here we are. The hen is still struggling to keep the family safe from harm. However, there is a change in her world. The hen, who previously mastered all danger, is now struggling for her life. Could this be your story? It is surely mine.
The fight of your life
Cancer creates stress and fear in the best of us. Always practical about death, I was more afraid of the dying process. And, honestly, my biggest worry was the trauma my family would experience.
On some level, we all acknowledge there is a time to die. I talked openly about this. Half-jokingly, I told my husband and sons I wanted to be placed on an iceberg in the Caribbean. I loved swimming freely in the blue-green water. They laughed until they were old enough to conceptualize this wish. One day my son questioned, "But, Mommy, the iceberg will melt and you will be gone." "Yes, I said, only if it is my time to go."
Shocked by the thought of losing our future
When informed that I had Advanced Metastatic Ovarian Cancer Stage 3C, my doctor offered me no more than 4 years. I was shocked by the thought of losing our future together. Immediately, I felt cheated and tricked. There was no time to joke and I had to make some real choices.
Cancer impacts everyone
A change in one part of the family creates a change in the entire family. If one chick is stressed, the entire coop reacts. My family was devasted by this news. Yet, despite their pain and anticipatory grieving, I received tremendous support.
When I lost my desire to eat for eighteen days we all thought I had given up. My husband turned this around by bringing home every imaginable food option. I still laugh that a bologna sandwich made all the difference.
Not to be gross, but when I failed to make it to the bathroom, my husband cleaned up the mess, each and every time treating me with dignity. When the day came I thought I would die, he buried his fear and gently got me to the emergency room.
Another lesson never to be taken for granted
While it is noble to be an independent self-sufficient person, there are times, we need help to survive.
We each can recall our unique experiences. As a nurse, I knew there would be times when it wouldn't be pretty. Yet, my family continued to be there. I have never taken them for granted. Even today, I am grateful beyond words. But, in making the choice to live, my family recognized we all had to agree.
When facing stress and chaos beyond our control, people face the choice of flight or fight. Flight places us in a posture of denial. We run away from reality and often refuse to discuss what we are thinking and feeling. The person in flight sees no value in asking questions or reaching a better understanding. They are basically shut down. They are coping by avoiding. Yet, this may be the best they can do for the time.
To state this clearly, taking flight can be the only viable choice.
Choosing to fight
Ovarian Cancer and its treatment leave a person diminished and changed. Choosing to live is not an easy choice. It means frequent visits to providers, loss of hair, loss of energy, and pain. Patients sometimes wonder if it is better to continue on with some quality of life instead of the potential for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and neuropathy. There may be a loss of integrity in several physical systems and ongoing instability.
Steps you can take
- With every breath I had left, I found a way to tell people the meaning they brought to my life. This was both an exercise in gratitude, and also a time of forgiveness. It was hard and also worthwhile and valuable work.
- I wanted people to know that I loved them.
- I expressed appreciation for my immediate family.
- By pushing aside my own denial system, I could teach others to consider the value of life. If only one person learned this, I succeeded.
- I happily spoke with former employees to praise them for their work ethic.
- I acknowledged my own needs, recognizing I did not need to be all things to all people.
Life offers experiences where you have choices. Make yours meaningful for you and all around you.
Have you shared your ovarian cancer story with us?