September is ovarian cancer awareness month so it seems fitting that I share my story about awareness at this time.
This has been a stressful summer—and, I’ll be honest, a series of crazy events including the purchase of a new home, a fall down the stairs leading to a broken back, organizing several events, and a demanding travel schedule for work. That said, sitting at the hospital last week, waiting for the doctor to perform a biopsy, trumped all of that — it was one seriously nerve wracking moment in my life.
Those are those moments in life that put everything into perspective. They’re the “wake-up calls.” And while I can’t say I’m glad for the experience, it did provide a bit of a reality check that I needed in my life.
I try to stay as in tune with my body as I can. I am an extremely active, health-conscious woman. I pay close attention to what I put on my skin, what I breath in and what I eat. It’s my passion to not only be healthy myself, but to empower others to live their best life in all areas of wellness. So when potential cancer knocked, I was reminded that cancer WILL and DOES strike all races, ages, and types of women, so we all must be aware of the symptoms. Knowledge is power and being proactive is key.
Here’s my story:
Weeks ago after a routine physical exam, a personal phone call came from my doctor sharing with me the urgency to come in for some follow-up diagnostic tests. There were some concerns with abnormal cells that could be cancerous. Given my family history, I tried not to freak out. After my mother’s own journey with ovarian cancer, I am highly sensitive of any unusual signs I start to feel in my body…bloating, nausea, persistent cramps, fluid in my abdomen, urinary concerns. I was immediately frightened. Part of me couldn’t imagine following my mom to an early grave — and another part of me totally could. I did my best not to think about it. I kept myself very busy until it was time to go to the doctor.
THE WAITING ROOM
Tick tock, tick tock went the lock in the waiting room of the hospital. The nurse drew my blood and took my blood pressure and informed me that it was higher than usual. I bit my tongue. I wan’t to lash out, I’m taking some tests to find out if I have cancer. How would you feel? Calm? I had a transvaginal ultrasound followed by a biopsy and scraping of the cervix. My doctor was wonderful and optimistic as I braved the needles, feeling hopeful all would be just fine.
Then came six days of waiting on results. As each day passed, I held my breath. Nobody knew I was anticipating test results except my father and a few friends. Every time the phone rang, my heart would skip a beat as I glanced to see if it was my doctor.
Time feels likes it’s standing still when you are anxiously waiting for test results. During those moments, you stand at a crossroads. You either get to return to everyday life, or you veer off in a scary new direction. During those moments, I would have replaced the stress of everyday living with the stress of this wait in a heartbeat. Here’s the thing. While I am an extremely positive thinking individual, my mind can’t help wander to all the scenarios that lie before me. While I envision the doctor calling me and saying “Amanda, it was a false alarm, we’re sorry to have brought you through all these tests,” I know millions of women in hundreds of other doctors offices hear the opposite. What makes me more deserving of good news than any of them?
A huge sigh of relief….My results came yesterday. NO CANCER. Woohoo! But I’m not off the hook just yet. I still have some very abnormal cells that need to be removed before they potentially progress into cancer. I am okay with that news. I have scheduled a day procedure to eliminate as many cells that could lead to cancer. Again, I can’t stress enough that being proactive is key.
I had permission to return to my regularly scheduled, fun, hectic, busy life. I have never been so glad to launch back into it. I have a new appreciation for life and a new commitment to taking care of myself. However, I’d be lying if I said I emerged from the experience a suddenly more profound person. The thing is…I still get stressed out. I still love my Twizzler nibs, animal crackers and I may or may not have an obsession with spray butter.
But I do have more of an understanding of how quickly life can change. I also know that I am now at a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer and it is terrifying. I am also scared I may pass this down to my children someday. I pray that an early detection screening tool is discovered in time. Charlene’s Light, A Foundation for Ovarian Cancer, raises money for emerging researchers who are working to find an early screening tool for ovarian cancer. I plan to stay as active as I can with this foundation to raise awareness about the signs of ovarian cancer and money for research for an early detection screening tool. Knowledge CAN and WILL save lives! I will continue to be a supporter, caregiver, advocate and most importantly a support to anyone I can through their cancer journey. And I will never stop my pursuit of helping others along their own wellness journey and to know that we have so many options available to us to be proactive about our health.
Women: it’s so important to listen to your body and to be as proactive as possible by optimally fueling your body in ways that will not allow cancer cells to grow. Don’t be scared to ask the doctor questions when you notice anything out of the ordinary. You are your own best advocate!
I say an extra prayer for the women in my same position as me who wait for results that could either free them to return to their regularly scheduled lives or send them on a journey even deeper into the unknown. I have always been a planner, like my mom, but I have learned to stop and actually live in the moment because that is the only thing that is certain. Sooner or later most of us find ourselves in a waiting room, in dark moments that make other stress seem like a beacon of normalcy. I don’t want to wait until I’m in that waiting room again to appreciate that gift. I’m going to enjoy my life every single day.
You can choose to be happy in spite of your circumstances, every single day. I encourage you to move from an attitude of fear and doubt to an attitude of faith. My mother’s words of wisdom ring true for me now more than ever, “I am strong, and together we are stronger.”
Here’s to your strongest self,