Jul 25, 2019 Latest post:
Jul 31, 2019
Welcome to my CaringBridge website. I'm using it to keep family and friends updated on my husband Kurt's and my respective journeys through cancer. We both appreciate your support, love, and words of encouragement. Thanks so much for visiting. Here's my story:
"Watch out what you wish for." Mom loved to say that when we whined about how bored we were during those long childhood summers in Chicago. Boy, was she was right. Here I was again, at age 60, whining about the state of my life. I'd been restless for a while, longing for a new adventure. Kurt and I used to feel so connected when we traveled together or when we were working toward a common goal. Somehow, we'd reached a point where we were both working hard but failing to plan in any way for our future. I felt stuck, and I longed for a change. Any change.
In the words of comedienne Lily Tomlin, maybe I should have been more specific.
Shortly after Christmas 2018, I knew something felt different inside my body. I began to bloat every time I ate. I experienced some painful episodes that made me wonder whether I'd inherited my mother's sensitive digestive system, after all. I could barely eat 3 bites before feeling full and uncomfortable. Good grief, I couldn't tolerate wine any longer (!) These symptoms alone didn't seem to warrant a visit to the doctor. Obviously, this was my fault. I needed to change my diet, start meditating, and find a little more joy in my life.
And then it happened. I began to bleed. A little at first, then a lot. And it didn't stop. It didn't take long before I felt so fatigued I couldn't walk up the stairs in our home without feeling winded and having to stop. This no longer felt like something I could control or hide.
I went on a search for a primary care physician, as I'd let that little detail slide over the years. After finding one, I scheduled an appointment, but had to wait a full 6 weeks to see her. Note to self: Don't wait until you need a doctor to start looking for one. I'll always wonder whether I might have prevented this whole thing if I had had regular physical exams in the past 5 years.
Just days before my exam, my husband came home from his annual physical with the news that his PSA had jumped from 1 to 16.5 in a single year. He was on his way to meet with a urologist. Good heavens, I thought. Is it possible that Kurt and I could both have something serious going on? This was not quite the adventure I'd been fantasizing about.
Sure enough, Kurt was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. (For those of you who track such things, his Gleason score is a 9 out of 10.) Thanks to his regular physical exams, however, his illness was detected at an early stage. His doctors felt confident that hormone deprivation shots (goodbye testosterone, hello hot flashes) and radiation therapy would do the trick.
By the time I sat down with my new doctor, I felt certain that I had cancer and I told her so. Instead of judging me or telling me to stop looking at the internet, she calmly asked me to describe what was going on. Upon hearing my symptoms, she said, "I don't think you're crazy. Every alarm bell in my head is going off right now, and I think we need to assume this is serious until the facts tell us otherwise." Bless you, Dr. K. I realized in that moment that my biggest fear wasn't that I had cancer, but that my doctor wouldn't believe me.
The next week was a blur. CT Scan, meeting with a gynecologic oncologist, and undergoing "de-bulking" surgery on May 28th to remove every conceivable female organ and tissue that might be malignant. Diagnosis: Stage IIB High Grade Clear Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary. That's a lot of fancy talk for ovarian cancer that has found its way into the pelvic wall. The strange thing is that I was relieved to know what it was, and felt like a million bucks after the surgery.
I wish the story ended there. I wish the next stage of my adventure would be a trip around the world with my soon to be healthy husband. Alas, the fun part of the adventure will have to wait. First, I'm going on a journey into the world of chemotherapy. I'll let you know how it goes.