It’s only when you look back that you can see how very far you’ve come.
Just about 22 years ago my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, as a chilling a sentence then as it is today. Through good medicine, exceptional strength and constant support she’s made it further than anyone might have expected when we first got the news.
We are so much luckier than most. I never forget that, am grateful for every one of the days in the last 22 years that we’ve had with her.
In that time I’ve also learned more than I ever wanted to about cancer, not just ovarian — about what an insidious, destructive disease it is… how it can lay dormant for scan after scan, year after silent year, before roaring to life once more. Now I know cancer… I’ve seen treatment up close — right from the front row, as it were.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
- Always, always get a second opinion.
- Be your own advocate. Your oncologist and the team are not mind readers, they see lots of patients. Tell them your concerns, ask for action or a plan. Never stay with a doctor who you don’t have a good working relationship — you’re a team in this fight, you need to act like one.
- You can be positive about your diagnosis or negative, but believing the best cannot hurt you… and it might help more than you know.
- Miracles DO happen, but they are few and far between. You may not be one of them, but you can count on side effects… all the ones listed, maybe more, all at once. Be ready for this. Be sure your family/caregivers are ready too.
- Don’t let other people’s ignorance/stupidity/awkward attempts at comfort to rattle you. Most likely they are trying to do their best, and not everyone can offer the comfort we need at the moment we need it.
- Have the hard conversations because you must. There will never be a “right” time, hoping for that is a way to put off something that’s hard to say… questions that are hard to ask… your own fear or sense of loss.
- Learn all you can about your disease, treatment options, support services and make the choices that suit you and your family.
- Raise funds for research… this is where the cure will come from. It might not be in time for you, but it will be there for the next patient just like you.
If you’re struggling with cancer, your own or someone you love, my heart goes out to you. It’s no easy road, but it’s not all bleak and hopeless either. My mother still has options, still has hope, still has many wonderful days ahead of her.
Cancer be dammed.