In 2012, I learned that I had cancer. High grade, serious, Stage 3c ovarian cancer to be exact. I also learned that I was BRCA-1 positive the same year. I wasn’t surprised to learn this. There’s a long history of cancer in my family, notably my own mother who passed from ovarian cancer in 1997. In 2010, I lost my younger sister Beth, to breast cancer, and I have an older sister Jan, who is a breast cancer survivor.
The thing about cancer, is this. I feel I have always lived with it. It has become almost a terrible
legacy. I am no longer shocked or surprised when someone close to me gets it, in one form or another.
When I was first diagnosed, I was unable to have immediate de-bulking and staging surgery due to a pulmonary embolism that was discovered during a CT scan. I received my first three cycles of chemotherapy neo-adjuvantly, while receiving anti-coagulant therapy via twice daily Fragmin injections – all before surgery was performed.
Afterwards, I finished my remaining three cycles of chemo, and with a clean scan and a CA-125
number that was reduced from greater than 16,000 to a single digit of 8, I was considered NED (no evidence of disease)!
In March 2013, my husband David and I celebrated my first year of remission. A few weeks later, he was facing a far greater challenge of his own. In 2008, David had been diagnosed with myeloproliferative neoplasm (a disease in which the bone marrow makes too much of one type of blood cell). David ultimately had more than 58 separate blood transfusions that year, before he stabilized and achieved remission. We had no sooner breathed a sigh of relief at my recovery, when we learned that his disease had returned. In fact, it had progressed into myelofibrosis (a serious and chronic form of leukemia). We were told that David would need to undergo a bone marrow transplant.
While I was battling cancer, I sought to learn all that I could about ovarian cancer and my various different treatment options. I wanted and needed to read of other women who had gone through this. Most importantly, I needed to feel that I could be well again. During David’s ordeal, we again sought information. Having cancer is truly a constant quest for information, as no two cancers are the same, and treatment is constantly changing. David was a tough and fierce warrior, but he passed away in April of this year.
I now advocate for ALL forms of cancer. I strive to raise awareness and pass on information. I wrote a book entitled “Tales from the Teal Warrior: A Memoir” which is available at amazon.com. I based it on my blog “The Teal Warrior” and the journal I kept “cancerversary.” It is a narrative that goes into greater detail of our journey through cancer together. I consider myself an everyday, ordinary person. I don’t use a bunch of fancy words, nor do I go around spouting statistics and opinions. I am still learning myself.
I am honored to be considered a “Warrior of the Month” for Greener Pastures, and I salute everyone out there who has been touched by cancer. I feel we should all tell our stories. We can all learn from, and inspire each other.