Last updated: November 2023
Sometimes when alone and feeling scared and rather sorry for myself, I ask how I got here. Foremost, I acknowledge my blessings. However, managing advanced ovarian cancer creates many obstacles in our life plans.
Both my husband and I worked hard and saved with the hope of a secure future. I imagined a life full of travel and new experiences. However, despite my best efforts to remain positive and convince myself I can cope, I can easily conjure up anger at even being in this position.
While most of us have difficulty getting in touch with or expressing anger, it is as essential an emotion in healing as all the rest. If only there were a villain upon which to place blame. Unfortunately, the anger becomes free-floating and takes some effort not to place it on the people we love.
Acknowledge the reality
Each of us experiences this disease to a different degree. It fills my heart to read about women who report their cancer was discovered early. However, I am equally excited when I hear about someone declaring they have managed stage III for some 18 years. All of your reports give me the strength and courage to go on.
For me, a critical aspect of coping is to acknowledge the reality. I realized from the start that an advanced stage of ovarian cancer impacts the dream of long-term survival. So perhaps I won't make it to 94 like my Mom.
I quickly realized that it is not so much the length of time you spend on this earth but how you choose to use your time.
So I choose to write to impart knowledge to all of us on the Social Health Network. I also want to use my skills to rattle some cages and encourage a deeper dive into maintaining some visibility that 1 out of 78 women is diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a late stage. This can offer a perfect forum for the expression of anger.
Powerful ways to cope
Years ago, I learned to respect the saying, "Don't count your chickens before they are hatched." Whenever I slip, my husband's gentle reminder of our favorite proverb helps get us through some of the worst days.
Like many others over history, this saying encourages us to live in the now and reduce the chance of being disappointed. I encourage you all to stay centered on what we are dealing with in the present.
Coping with the unknowns
Having cancer is full of unknowns. This little voice likes to comment on every new suggestion to beat cancer. But, so much of what we need to do is to find ways to handle information and changes that come to us with grace and dignity.
I am the first to admit we live within an existential belief, a denial system, that bad things happen only to others. Indeed we, too, watch the nightly news where innocent people are killed at a local mall. However, focusing on the events around us is essential to cope daily.
The final chapter: Gratefulness
I am no longer the independent woman who quickly boarded planes each Monday to start my work week consulting in hospitals throughout the nation. With diminished energy levels, I now carefully measure activities on a weekly calendar.
My dreams of adventures with my husband or the potential to promote my book were quickly squelched and replaced by many hours of recovering from surgery or chemotherapy.
Just 6 weeks ago, 800 cc's were removed from my right lung. Four weeks ago, emergency surgery corrected a need for resection of my intestines. I am now learning the ins and outs [no pun intended] of a permanent colostomy.
"How do you cope?"
With great regularity, I am asked 2 things. First, people tell me how wonderful I look. Then they ask the magic question, "How do you cope?"
The latter is easy. I have been given a wonderful life. I continue to live it even now with gratefulness for all those who loved me along the way. It begins with my husband and children, who remind me of who I am.
This has also been a faith journey; I promise you I know where I am going. And I have concluded that there must be something else I am meant to do before I go. As expressed many times, I will continue to love along the way.
Do you have things that helped you cope through your ovarian cancer journey?