Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cancer: My Emotional Roller Coaster Ride

Diagnosis: No Cancer
I can finally say with much confidence that I DO NOT have cancer. But for five long stressful weeks before March 1st, I wasn't so sure. Neither was my doctor.

It's one thing to feel like you have something growing inside you. It's another when your gynecologist feels it too, and isn't sure what he's dealing with because there's so much internal swelling. Because of this, an ultrasound was immediately scheduled and it, of course, confirmed a large mass on my ovary.

My doctor had his speculations as to what was attached to my ovary and uterus -- a benign endometrioma (cyst)-- but because of my elevated CA-125 blood work thereafter, he couldn't say for sure unless he went in. And because he didn't feel comfortable waiting six weeks for a follow-up ultrasound, he strongly suggested we go ahead with the operation and biopsy.

So, on Friday of this past week, I had surgery to remove said cyst. Or if was cancer, to remove the ovary. But let's rewind a bit...

Before The Surgery
When I first had the ultrasound, I tried not to let it scare me, and think positive thoughts that everything would be fine. For my kids sake, I tried to remain calm and give them as much comfort and security as I could offer. As a young child, I know it's very scary to hear the "C" word. Naturally, their wild imaginative minds kick in and they wonder what will happen if the mom they loved and still depended on was diagnosed with cancer. Will my mom die?

As a grown woman, I, too, felt the burden of that impending question and more. What if I had ovarian cancer? Would I be one of the few survivors? How would my husband survive without me? Would he be able to care for the kids like they needed to be, while still working to make a living?

As a mother, it's difficult not to over-think every situation under the sun and begin planning for any or all future scenarios. Mentally, I started preparing myself for that moment when I'd have to explain to my kids that their mother may not make it, although I'd also reassured them that mommy would fight tooth and nail to beat it. I even thought of making movies of myself. Maybe speaking to my kids and my husband about life's hard knocks and the reasons you have to go on, or telling stories of when the kids were little--funny memories that would get them to laugh and likewise see my smile and hear my laughter and remember it.

It all sounds so morbid, but it's what I thought of.

I already lost a little sister, so I know what it's like to wish for more time with her. To wish I had captured more of my awesome sister on tape than just the few times she slipped in during my daughters' birthday parties. In hindsight, I wished I had memorized every moment I had with her, or even hugged her just a bit longer, especially since I never got to exchange a formal farewell with her.

In light of not getting the chance to say goodbye to my sister, I began thinking of ways I'd say that final goodbye to my family and what I needed to do, ahead of time, to prepare for that fateful day. Things that I could do to help my family get through this loss, even after I was gone. (Yes, PS I Love You had come to mind.)

While some of you may think I was simply freaking out and jumping the gun, I had no control over my fears, my concerns, and my determination to take care of those I loved. Realize, I'd gone from diving into panic and dread when an unknown mass had been found, to plummeting into the grisly thought of my last days on earth and how would I spend them. If anything, perhaps I was unconsciously leap-frogging the other stages of grief and landing into the "acceptance" stage. Right.

Last Minutes Before The Surgery
Fast-forwarding to the day of my surgery, the doctors, surgery staff, and of course my family reassured me that all would be well. However, I was quiet that day. I didn't have much to say because I knew in a couple of hours there was the possibility of waking up and finding out that my days on this earth might be cut short. And was I really ready to know that? Personally, the thought of not knowing had always been a difficult thing for me to swallow. My biggest fear has always been that I'd not get the opportunity to say goodbye to my family and friends and tell them how much I love them should I go suddenly and unexpectedly. But now, when I was conceivably faced with knowing my days were numbered, I think I suddenly preferred the ambiguity of it all.

Anesthesia's Like A Much Needed Help-Me-Forget Switch
I don't remember much from that morning, except being scared out of my mind. I was surrounded by so many people who loved me, yet I felt so alone. I don't remember the conversations I had or the things I said. Heck, I don't even remember them juicing my IV up with the sedative before surgery. One minute I was hugging my husband and the next I was waking up to a nurse fiddling with my IV, blankets, and blood pressure cuff.

I looked at her and asked, "How did it go?"

She smiled and patted my arm, "When they went in, there wasn't a cyst."

For most, that would be fantastic news. Little did she know, I was rooting for the cyst. So, logically my brain conjured the worst: If there wasn't a cyst on my ovary then it must be cancer. I started to cry. My heart sank in my chest like a heavy stone. No matter how much I had tried to mentally prepare myself for this news, I wasn't strong enough to shoulder it.

Upon seeing my tears, the nurse immediately inquired about my sadness. When I explained, she quickly amended her words. "No, honey. There's no cyst and no cancer. You're fine."

Being half dazed by the anesthesia, I hardly believed her. At that time, my husband and sister were there to back to her up. I remember being totally relieved, to the point of crying again (which was probably the workings of the anesthesia too) and when they offered me a cup of coffee, I was truly elated. I thought coffee at that moment in time was the BEST! (again, gotta love anesthetics)

Recovery and Relief
After getting home and going through the recovery process this weekend, my emotions again lifted and dropped, which to be honest is not worth blogging about. But now that I'm getting my energy back and slowly returning to normal, I can finally feel the heavy burden of my stress lifted from my shoulders. My heart is no longer plagued with having to break my children's hearts or prepare them for a rough road ahead.

I've been liberated this weekend.

Heartfelt Gratitude
Despite the stress and the many weeks I spent worrying, I never lost the support and love of so many people: my husband, my family, my close friends, my Facebook friends, my author friends at Turquoise Morning Press, and many of my chapter mates at Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. You all have helped me more than you know. Many of you sent emails of reassurance, letters of uplifting advice and consolation. Several sent get well cards and flowers. Some sent simple texts of thoughts and prayers. No matter what it was, I was truly grateful for each and every one of them.

And so, I wanted to say from the bottom of my heart: "thanks." I know that simple word may not sound like much, but realize I'm offering it so very sincerely. I could not have gotten through this rough patch had it not been for so many of you. I've saved those emails and cards and will never forget this outpouring of support and encouragement. Thank you all so much!


Now I can finally get back to doing what I love - writing more romance novels for my awesome readers and fans! Thank you so much for being patient with me and (metaphorically speaking) holding my hand through this very scary time in my life.

The pictures in this post were all from the actual flowers and get-well cards I received.
As a little thank you, I wanted to feature some of them in this post.


B J Scott said...

So Happy for you Renee!!!!!! Best news ever. Take care of yourself an celebrate now that the burden is lifted from your shoulders.

Nicole Laverdure said...

Renee, I just read your letter and you have really touched me. I'm so happy for you. I knew you were worried but not at this point. I guess after leaving such a moment, you see life differently. Good news, life shows you how you can be strong! Do not be discouraged yourself even if you have ups and downs, this is normal. Take it one day at a time! Reading your letter, I understood your fears! Now, you seem to feel better, just enjoy your beautiful life with your family and your friends. And don't try to be a "superwoman woman" I have news for you, they don't exist! Cheer up, la vie est belle!

Margaret said...

So thankful for good news. Rest, recover, recharge. The world will be here when you're back in kilt-swiping shape!

Stacy McKitrick said...

I did not know you were going through all this and so very happy to hear it all turned out well.

sheri said...

do you have time to call an old friend? would love to talk to you.

derekd said...

Renee' I am so happy to hear your news. That means we all get to keep you around longer and enjoy your wonderful writing and your warm and playful wit. Take it easy as you mend. Get a bell or something so people can tend to your needs.

Pat McDermott said...

So glad you're on the mend, Renee. Take care of yourself!

Amie Denman said...

Thanks for sharing your story and Thank God you're alright! As a wife, mother, and sister, I was so moved by your journey.
Amie Denman

Ute Carbone said...

I'm so glad to hear your wonderful news, Renee. Thank you for sharing your journey in such an honest and moving way.
Take care

Nina Pierce said...

What a terrible ordeal. So happy the results were the best they could be. {{{hugs}}} to you. Here's to many happy hours getting back to your writing!

Alexa Bourne said...

Yay, good news!!!!! Now go out and enjoy life like you should! (Okay, you can wait until you're COMPLETELY mended.)

Holly Gilliatt said...

Soooo glad to hear of your good outcome!! And maybe, although the time of not knowing was gut-wrenching, maybe it will help you to appreciate all the great things in your life that much more. Life is probably looking a little sweeter today. :)

Miriam Newman said...

I went through this in 1988 and for whatever reason was just as convinced I didn't have cancer as my doctor was convinced I did. Call it denial if you will, but it kept me from going through the gut-wrenching emotional trauma you have endured. I so admire you for your grace under pressure. You are a brave and special lady and I am happy with all my heart that we have you back healthy and ready to move on.

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

I am so moved to tears right now - AGAIN. You all are the best! Your words have and continue to touch my heart and soul with warmth.

I'm grateful for the generous time you've taken out of your schedule to read my post and comforted by your kind and thoughtful words.

I am the luckiest author around!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I am reading your blog with tears and such joy in my heart, Renee. I know all the feelings you expressed because when I was diagnosed with cancer I knew I was going to die, too. I think it's a normal reaction because so many people I've loved and had cancer have died. My surgery was just three years after our daughter died from it so my feelings were pretty raw at that time.

I love you Renee and I worried about you since you shared your anxiety with us. Thank God, your doctor, and you for staying strong, because I think you did. Look at you worrying about others before thinking of yoursellf. So proud of you, sweetie, and happy for all of us who love you. No cancer are the words I was praying for. Huggles.

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

It's amazing how many people I've found through this ordeal that have had or are currently dealing with cancer. My heart goes out to you all!

Holly, you will continue to stay in my thoughts and prayers, sweetie. Know that I so wish your news could have been as good as mine.

Paisley: I love you too, darlin!!! I know you have gone through some serious hard times and it's amazing you still have such an amazing outlook on life. GB and I love your luster! Keep shining for the world - we need you.

Melissa Keir said...

Like you, I faced cancer. Mine was a problem with my breast. When you find out that everything is fine, you are so relieved. I'm glad that things are good now for you and you can get back to what you love!

Katalina said...

You're a brave woman Renee and I'm sure you'll have a quick recovery.

Maddie James said...

Love you bunches, chica. I am soooo glad you are on the mend.

Gerri Bowen said...

Renee, I am so happy to hear there is no cancer, no cyst! I identified with you worrying about your children, how they would cope without you, how would your husband manage to be both mommy and daddy. But you came through, stronger and happier for your ordeal! Welcome back! :)

Fraoch said...

So glad to hear that you survived the journey and there was no cancer. Having gone thru a cancer scare at age 27, while doing infertility meds I know the fear and total feeling of helplesness. And the anesthsia... be thankful you weren't able to talk in the operating staff.. I told them not to cut my breast off because they were my best part. Here's hoping that things wil now return to normal with little stress.

Teresa K. said...

My beautiful Sunshine,

I so wish I knew you were going through this. I could have shared my experience. Seven years ago I went through the same thing.

I was having female problems of hemoraging. I went through this for 78 days. Going to my regular MD he said it was pre menal pausal. I told him he was a fruit loop and I wanted to see a specialist.

I went through the ultra sound which revealed a tumor on my ovary the size of a golf ball. That's when the C word was mentioned to me. The difference in you and me is you had such a great support of friends and family. Not having anyone I was terrified.

I went through everything by myself and waited for the results after the surgery. Biopsy came back benigned and when they removed the ovary no more problems. I truly believe the Creator allows us to go through things to make us grow.

In your case he showed you how much you are loved by your family, friends, and me. He also gave you so much to write about. What you wrote on your blog was great. You made feel that I wasn't alone in going through my experience. I just wished I could have written down my experience like you did. Maybe if I did someone who was going through the samething could have gotten a little peace.

I'm so glad your okay. And I hope I get to see you at Lori Fosters so I can give you the biggest hug and buy you dinner or a drink. I love you pretty lady.
Thank you for your blog.

Teresa K.

Adele Dubois said...

Heartfelt congratulations, Renee! I'm so happy for you and your good health. So sorry you had such a terrible scare, but thrilled all is well.


Suzanne Lilly said...

It's so wonderful that you came through fine, and that the doctor didn't waste any time. Thanks for sharing.

Harlie Reader said...

Thank God Renee! Hugs to you and your family. I have lost an uncle, grandfather and grandmother to cancer. And my maternal aunt had breast cancer. Plus twin paternal aunts that had skin cancer.

I know the feeling of uncertainty with the unknown but you're doctor was diligent and NO CANCER!

Love you,


Marianne Stephens said...

So glad it's not cancer! How scary and the waiting is so tough to go through. You had a great support system, and being surrounded by those who love you is always comforting.
When you're ready, do a very lively Happy Dance...and enjoy life!

Marianne Stephens said...

So glad it's not cancer! How scary and the waiting is so tough to go through. You had a great support system, and being surrounded by those who love you is always comforting.
When you're ready, do a very lively Happy Dance...and enjoy life!

Jennifer Page(JC) said...

That is the best news!! Smiling in my heart:) The thank-you goes right back to you for the heartfelt message for my sister's brain cyst, only a month ago. Thank-you too!!

Sarah Hoss said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Don't worry about the "jumping the gun" part of your emotions. We're women, it's what we do. We are the care takers and if we are sick, then who takes care of us? Who takes care of the others? It's not that we don't think anyone else can handle it because people step up to the plate quite nicely when they have to, I think it's more about us losing our place and feeling helpless.

I'm so happy for this outcome. I prayed often for such a thing. God does listen.

I love ya! You work now on getting your spunk back and healing!!!!

Z said...

I had a similar experience when I almost died from blood loss, having an extremely heavy period for three weeks in Nov. They did the ultrasound and I had a biopsy, no cancer but I did have an ablation in Jan of this year and I'm doing much better.

Wendy Williams said...

So happy for your news, Renee, and for you ability to so eloquently share your story with us. My heart also goes out to those who included their stories in the comments. God bless you all!

Paris said...

Glad to hear that you are cancer-free and on the mend! Get well, soon:)

kittyb78 said...

I'm so glad everything worked out for you. Thanks for sharing your heartwarming story with us.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I can really relate to your emotional turmoil before you got your answer. Even though my experience was different in that I did hear the dreaded word
"cancer", I had to draw my way out of the emotional upheaval. I'm not an artist, but I have a big sketching notebook that I draw my feelings in and I even color them with colored pencils. It helpd calm me and give me a new perspective. I sometimes thought about death, and I'm glad I had a firm faith base, but mostly I prepared myself for the big fight--chemo and radiation. I hung on to hope like a life raft floating in a big scary ocean. I wasn't afraid of death, just how it would happen. I prepared for it; made out my will, got my sister to promise to take my dog and cat and told everyone how much I loved them. I so appreciated my friends and family who stayed with me during chemo and procedures, talking about this and that until I wasn't thinking about what was taking place. What a Godsend friends and family are.
For all that chemo and radiation are tough to get through, I think the hardest part was the emotional chaos that I went through.
I am so happy for you that your diagnosis turned out not to be cancer. Live long and prosper, Renee. It's good to be on Earth.

charmainegordon author said...

Another well wisher writer here. My best to you and your family. I wish you continued good health

Jennifer Johnson said...

Rock on, woman! I've had a near miss with cancer. I'm a survivor. And the best thing it did for me was give me the opportunity to see how good my life is and that it was worth fighting to live. I am so happy your news is good.

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Today was my first day out of the house and it felt great. Then to come back to this crowd of visitors is just so heart-warming! You guys are the best. You sure know how to make a person feel loved.

Thank you all so much for your well wishes on a speedy recovery. So far so good...now that I have survived a difficult weekend.

Sarah McNeal: Darlin, you know you have been on my mind for so long as you've battled with your cancer and I so wish there was something I could do. Your story always continues to inspire me. You are such a ray of sunshine whenever you reply...no matter how crappy you feel. Your smile is beautiful woman! Don't lose that lovely smile. Still praying for you (((hugs)))

Teresa I'm so sorry you went through that alone but so glad you found out it was benign! Thank the good Lord!

Can't wait to see you at Lori's!!!

S. Durham Writer ~ Author said...

Oh Renee, that must have been a very difficult couple of weeks. I have 3 children of my own and I would have been overwhelmed with those same fears you described! So glad it turned out to be nothing serious, and here's wishing you a speedy recovery, and a renewed creative drive!

Warm wishes, Sara

Vonda Sinclair said...

I'm so thrilled it went well, Renee!! Happy hugs!!