I know the undeniable strength of community. I know it in terms of what it takes to be a successful teacher, student, cancer patient; It takes the courage of others when my own courage falters. When I can, I offer my support back. I have cried on the shoulders of giants and I have dried many tears rained upon my own shoulders. My family and friends were, and continue to be, my life-lines when my diminished immune system kept me in isolation. There is no denying that I have an indefatigable community backing my walk with ovarian cancer. And the evidence has become quite clear as September 9, 2018 approaches. This date – is my very first “Walk of Hope” for Ovarian Cancer.
I’ve never been much of a fund raiser, but this year I thought I may dabble in it a bit. From the moment I dipped my toe into the waters of change, however, I was a convert. I recognized that my journey with ovarian cancer is not unique; There are many other women whose lives have been turned upside down with this disease. Like me, the majority of these women were diagnosed when the disease had spread extensively throughout their bodies: Stage Four.
There is no screen test for ovarian cancer and more often than not, the cancer grows undetected. It is sometimes found by happenstance when something else goes wrong and the cancer is accidentally discovered. And that is the best case scenario. In my case, I didn’t know why my side hurt so much when I coughed, or when I sneezed. I dismissed the pain as menopause. I dismissed my bloated middle as menopause. I dismissed my fatigue as stress. I simply – dismissed the symptoms which masked themselves as “something else” which was innocuous. This story – is far too common. I hear the words, “I dismissed my symptoms” far too often during my volunteer shift in the chemo-suite.
I have had great success to date with a drug which was specifically designed for individuals with the BRCA II gene – the only thing that Angelina Jolie and I share, sadly. The drug is known as Lynparza, developed by Asta Zenica. And so far – it is holding my cancer at bay. It will be two years this September. I am hopeful. But I am realistic. And reality hit me hard yesterday when I met a woman who was on her third bout of ovarian cancer – after Lynparza failed to work for her. It is my understanding her kidneys were not coping well with the drug. Of course, it is a toxin so something at some point is bound to give out – whether that be kidneys or liver or… what ever else. For now – I am holding – trying to take good care of my body so that the toxin can do its job and then “move on”. What was remarkable about the woman I met, though, was that her spirit was still strong. She was still fighting. She was resigned to the fight – not knowing the outcome, but having faith in her doctors and the chemo.
I’m not sure I have that sort of grit? One has to reach down and dig really deep to muster the courage to face chemo … again. The seventeenth chemo was tough for me. I wonder how I would face an eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth? I wonder how I would feel about losing my hair all over again? Feeling toxic all over again? Having to isolate myself all over again?
This is why I am walking on the 9th. I don’t really want to have to go down that road of knowing the answers to those questions. I am spoiled by my current quality of life – even though I am a slave to my fatigue. No biggie. I taste like a normal human being. My sense of smell is that of a normal being. I am not clouded in my thinking (although my memory sucks). I can carry on a meaningful conversation and organize my daily routines. I want to continue to live this way. I want to be the one “helping” others to recovery from their chemo and ideally – their cancer. So – I will walk.
The Walk of Hope is the only annual national event dedicated to supporting ovarian cancer education, support and research. Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope (Barrie) is being held on September 9, 2018 on Barrie’s lakeshore, starting at the Southshore Centre. Click on this link to read my full story or to find the “donation” button. The name of my community? Teal Magnolias. What else would we be called?