Tuesday, December 27, 2011
After an amazing year of both great achievements and difficult struggles, I found myself in April 2011…exactly one year after my original ovarian cancer diagnosis. To celebrate and recall memories of the previous year, my wonderful husband threw a “Tacos and Teal” party in my honor.
On a beautiful spring evening, our close family and friends dressed in teal and celebrated my life and my anniversary of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The incredible evening helped support and spread Ovarian Cancer awareness and included an “authentic” taco guy, teal desserts, teal ribbons, teal décor and donation boxes for Cash for Chemotherapy (an initiative my oncologist began to cover the cost of chemo treatments for women with ovarian cancer who do not have insurance). It was perfect!
I continued monthly visits to my oncologist and started a maintenance chemo at the start of the year. After several months had passed and many blood samples were drawn, my ca125 (the tumor marker for ovarian cancer) began to elevate. As soon as my oncologist saw this, he immediately started me on a chemotherapy for recurrent ovarian cancer to tackle the raising ca125. After several cycles of chemo, and a continued rising ca125, my oncologist scheduled me for a CAT scan. Shortly after, the results of the scan came back, showing my entire body completely clear of cancer.
Usually with news like this someone would be rather thrilled, but God put it on both Ryan and I’s heart that something was not right. It didn’t make sense that my ca125 would continue to rise to high numbers if there was nothing in my body making it do so. When we brought our concern to my oncologist he completely agreed and scheduled me for a PET scan. He felt as though this scan could give us more detailed answers on what was going on in my body.
This was great news to us, however, not to my insurance company. Because of the high cost of the scan, my insurance refused to cover it. Days of pleading with different insurance people on the phone to grant this one single scan were hopeless. After much prayer and lots of tears, my husband and I decided to pay cash (ouch!) for the scan to be done. We contacted my oncologist and let him know what we were going to do. He listened to our decision and our heart and then gave us amazing news. He was able to direct us to a radiologist that was able to work with us on the cost of the PET scan. Thank you Lord for answered prayers!!
I went in for the PET scan in July 2011. Sure enough, when the PET scan results came back it was discovered I had a small mass in my right axillary lymph node and a small mass in my stomach. After receiving these results my oncologist immediately called a surgeon and got me in to see her about my axillary lymph node mass the same week. She scheduled me for surgery in August 2011 to remove the lymph node. The surgery was a success, as she was able to remove the entire mass and a few lymph nodes around the mass that had been infected. After surgery I was put onto a new chemotherapy to begin tackling the elevated ca125.
It was now September and back to school I went. I began teaching kindergarten this year, my first time teaching this grade level, and I was struggling! I had taught for 5 years prior and besides my first year of teaching, had never had a problem at all. I began to have severe headaches and confusion. I thought my symptoms were because of the lack of experience I had teaching kindergarten, so my loving principal did all that she could to move me out of the current grade level. An incredibly sweet second grade teacher humbly offered to trade grade levels with me one month into the year. She was a true angel.
A weekend of tearing down a huge kindergarten classroom and putting up a smaller second grade classroom was exhausting, but I thought the move would solve all my problems. However, as days continued I found that my symptoms persisted and even began getting worse.
I was scheduled for chemotherapy at the end of September. I took a day off of work to go to my treatment, but found out once I got there that my blood pressure was too high to receive my treatment. After relaxing for a little while my blood pressure came down and I was able to receive my chemo, but I had to agree to see my general physician the following day for blood pressure medication. I had never had high blood pressure prior to this appointment. The following day I went in to my general physician to only find that my blood pressure was in a normal range. After discussion of some of the symptoms I had been having he scheduled me to go into an MRI. A week later I went back to him to discuss my results and it was discovered I had a mass, which appeared to be a malignant tumor, on the posterior fossa of my brain. I was referred to a brain surgeon who looked over my MRI and scheduled me into surgery at the end of October.
This news and recent activities put me into a completely different state a panic. This was not like my previous panic. This was a panic that intensely tore at my heart and I found myself in a deep sadness. For days I laid in bed, a crying mess, thinking about how I was going to pass. Was it going to be during the actual brain surgery or after the brain surgery during recovery? I had it set in my mind that no matter what, this brain tumor was going to be the death of me. I began deep cleaning my house, so my husband wouldn’t have to worry about it if something happened to me. I made dates with friends and family, just incase it was the last time I ever saw them alive. I was sad, and didn’t know what to do.
Shortly before my surgery the amazing worship arts pastor at my church organized a laying of hands for me, where members of our church and choir came together and prayed for my healing. It was an emotional event and words could not express the love and passion of Christ that was shown that evening. After that event I was reminded that God not once said that this brain tumor was going to be my end. He was using this brain tumor for so much more than I could ever dream, and that I needed to take complete advantage of this opportunity of him continuing his beautiful love story in my life. The next day I woke with a completely different outlook. I began waking up each morning and devoting true and meaningful worship with God. I read my daily devotion and spent time in his word. I started making phone calls, sending emails and making connections with every one and anyone who had connections with cancer. I got our life organized and prepared for the coming days after my surgery and I began researching quality nutrition and nutritionist who were located in Las Vegas. I was feeling great.
I continued my nutritionist hunt, but couldn’t find anyone that I felt truly fit my needs. It was then I found myself on Facebook reading recent posts on my newsfeed. It was there an old friend had posted an invitation to her upper cervical office for an evening of speakers, one including a nutritionist. As I read the nutritionist name, it sounded very familiar to me, I just couldn’t place it exactly. I decided to search her company online to get further information and to see if I could figure out how I knew her name. I found the Extraordinary Lifestyles eat*move*live website and began reading. I liked this girl and everything she had to say about true wellness. Through reading I was beginning to realize that it was not just my nutrition I had to focus on, but also strengthening my relationship with Christ and managing the stress in my life that would truly help me with my ovarian cancer fight. I took a few days before contacting her to pray and make sure this was something I was meant to do. I was so excited to come across her information, I didn’t want to initiate a meeting and then change my mind once the excitement went away.
A few days later I had the same excitement and had decided to follow through with an email. Surely if she was unable to help me, she would be able to point me in the direction of someone that was. I sent my email and said a prayer. If I were supposed to follow through with a nutritionist, then certainly she would email me back with information that could be of use. The next morning I checked my email and found a response from sweet Melissa Blynn, not only thrilled to have received my email but actually honored to meet with me and discuss everything I had going on concerning my wellness. I knew she was my gal! I immediately responded and planned a meeting with her. I was so excited to meet Melissa and to take the next step in my ovarian cancer journey!