Coming up on one year

Today is March 8. A year ago March 2, I had had a CT scan to see what was going on. I am not sure if I had gotten the results back yet by March 8. Maybe. My primary care physician’s office had called and said they got the results back from the radiologist and that it indicated simply an ovarian cyst, rather large, but a cyst. However, on March 13 the gynecologist took one look at it, said, “That is not just a cyst” and referred me to a gyn-oncologist.

And so it began.

I remember being so confused by the way she was saying “gyn-oncologist” because it really just sounded like gynecologist, and I was sitting there thinking, “Wait, but aren’t you a gynecologist?” And then it started sinking in. She ordered the first of many CA-125 tests, called me the next day to say the results were “quite elevated.” 3500. And on March 15, I had my first appointment with the first-opinion gyn-onc, who right off the bat gave the diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer Stage 3C.

So as I’m coming up on this one year anniversary, I am remembering how it felt to be feeling so bad, and how it felt to not know what was going on, and then how it felt to suddenly know exactly what was going on, and jumping into high gear to deal with it. I don’t really feel I ever fell into terror about it. But I knew it needed addressing, and I knew I/we would need to do a lot of research to decide how to address it, and do it quickly.

I am so grateful at this point for all the people who ended up on my team of helping professionals: Dr. Guntupalli, gynecological oncologist, and his excellent team at University Hospital Denver. Dr. Asmerom, gynecologist. Dr. Fields and the whole team at Healing Gardens, integrative primary care physician. Dr. Blanning, anthroposophic medicine practitioner. Dr. West, integrative naturopathic oncologist. Drs. Dayna Larson and Monique Larson, and Korin Owens, acupuncturists. CJ McDaniels and Lindsey Longaker, lymph drainage massage artists. Denise Proulx, Jin Shin Jyutsu energy worker. Joanne Henritze, oncological exercise physiologist. Kathy Williams-Tolstrup, counselor. Jacqueline Thomas, naturopathic doctor and nutrition advisor. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone….

I am also grateful to NRBH and the team there, especially Renee, for supporting me as I was needing to be away from work, and eventually separate from work. I didn’t anticipate needing the benefits when I took that job, but I am so glad I was well supported with good benefits when I needed them. Too often, a medical situation like this can plunge a person into bankruptcy, at least in the United States. (BTW we need to fix that!)

I am grateful for all the support I received from family and friends, near and far. Dad was supportive financially when it mattered most. Kelley spent the first chemo day with me at the hospital. Brad and Stacy were constantly offering to help, and helped pick up slack on the house and garden to-do list. Montana and Cal were supportive of Grant while I was in the hospital. Rose and Cal provided big support for healthy eating. I’m afraid if I start trying to list everyone I will forget someone, and that is certainly not my intent. Even if I haven’t mentioned you here now, please know that your support was appreciated. Grateful for social media which made it easy to keep people informed and hear back from them. So many sent e-support. I felt very loved and supported, and that is very important! In fact, it is one of Kelly Turner’s nine things that help people get and stay in remission.

I am also grateful for what I have learned as a counselor, IFS Therapy, and Regression Hypnosis, especially the latter of which gave me huge perspective on this physical ailment.

And most of all I am grateful beyond words for my partner and my love Grant, and his loving, dogged, support of me through all of this. He was my champion. An excellent patient advocate. A thinker outside of the traditional box. An encourager and coach. So grateful.

I remember being so disappointed that I would be being sick, and in treatment, and we would be so focused on me and my healing, that there wouldn’t be time or energy to do gardening, or home repair projects, over the summer. The list was long, and it was nipped in the bud before the season even really started. I was very disappointed. Kind of seems silly from this vantage point, but there it is.

So this year, I am looking forward to doing that kind of thing. I stopped in at a local nursery to see what they have ready for early garden prep. They had some lovely flowering plants that they had prepared for a home and garden show, but didn’t anticipate selling, so they gave me three for free! That is a lovely start to the spring season.

I am feeling so much better than I did a year ago. I have recovered after all the surgeries and chemo treatments. I am feeling quite good.

And yet, as other cancer patients can attest, there is always that lurking fear that it will come back. So I am keeping on my A game, doing what I know to stay in remission. Grateful for Radical Remission by Kelly Turner PhD. Grateful for long term disability insurance through UnitedHealthcare, which NRBH bought on my behalf, which gives me time to keep my stress levels low. I’m hoping to keep a low profile and a low stress level until at least September of 2020 when I will be two years out from my first NED CT scan. (NED = no evidence of disease.) Dr. Guntupalli says by two years out, the chance of recurrence plummets. So that is what I’m focusing on now. Staying out of fight or flight. Staying in rest and digest. Learning new ways to be, in order to stay healthy.

I’m also looking to pay it forward and so am offering a Cancer Thriver Support Group as a counselor. I have learned a lot in this process and would be happy to pass it along.

So that is the gist of it for today. The anniversary is looming. I’m aware of it. Grateful for the learn-y, grow-y process that the last year provided. Grateful to be on the other side of it now. And putting one foot in front of the other. Working on remembering to Be Here Now.


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