Friday, March 31, 2017

A New Year, A New Way of Life

So, to continue the story of my diagnosis.... After waking up from my laparoscopic oophorectomy, it probably took about 12 hours to fully digest the words that my surgeon had said "It doesn't look good.  I think we're going to have to go back and take it all out." I mean I did understand immediately that he meant I would be needing a hysterectomy.  And this implied cancer.  But it probably took the full 12 hours to digest that reality.  I mean, cancer wasn't even on my radar 24 hours earlier.  But once it did, I just knew.  I didn't tell many people - I wanted to wait for the confirmation of the pathology, but in my heart, I didn't need to hear the pathology.  What I needed was just to hear about the next steps.
So here's the thing.  I am a Muslim, a convert - I have been for 18 years.  In the last 18 years, I would say that there have been times in my life when I have been really close to my faith, and other times, not so much.  What I can say with absolute certainty, is that those times in my life when I was the most faithful, I was at my happiest.  And at the times when I wasn't practicing the way that I should, I definitely felt incomplete.  For the last year or two, with the other health issues that I was experiencing (especially the fatigue), I was at a distance from my faith.  I would pray to God to help me get closer to Him, to living in Islam, but nothing would really make a difference - until that day I woke up from surgery.
There's something about a disaster that brings you closer to faith, closer to God.  And so of course I turned back to Him.  And honestly, because of that, I've actually been happier than I was for a long time before that.  It might sound crazy to say it, but I actually have to thank my cancer diagnosis for that.
The other thing that changed drastically is my motivation level to finally commit to the diet I had been trying (and failing) to do since the summer.  I gave up eating sugar and grains.  I started making sure that every meal had an abundance of vegetables - especially anything in the cabbage/broccoli family, because these vegetables have anti-cancer benefits.  There's nothing more motivating for sticking to a particular diet than "I need to starve these cancer cells so that I can live as long as possible!"
I also researched Ovarian Cancer as much as I could.  It's deadly they say.  And when it's stage 4, it is.  The 5 year survival rates for Stage 4 OC is bleak.  But the 5 year survival rates for the lower stages, even stage 3, is much better.  My 5 year survival chances, excluding my age and any other factors, is close to 50%.  Which means that I have a 50/50 chance of still being around in 5 years.  I choose to hope and believe that I will be among the survivors.  My positive attitude, my will to live, my adherence to healthier living choices, my supplications to God; I hope these all contribute to me being among those who live longer.  Is it a guarantee?  No.  Will the world end if I don't reach 50?  No.  My only hope is that I can live long enough to see my son grow up and become the wonderful man I know he can be.  If you're reading this, please pray that I can see that happen.
So, while I was making these changes to my lifestyle and my attitude, I was also anxiously awaiting the next steps in my treatment.   The oncologist ordered a CAT scan of my entire abdomen - which confirmed no sign of spreading to any other organs.  Then I met her on January 11th and she scheduled me for the full hysterectomy on January 26th.
I have to say that before my surgery, I really didn't tell a lot of people.  But I did tell my colleagues at the College, because I would be leaving on an extended medical leave.  They are the best work mates a person could ask for.  They have been so supportive.  The day before my last day teaching, they brought in a whole bunch of prepared meals, soups and smoothies that I could freeze or store, so that I would have a lot of food ready for my time recovering from the surgery.  They have been so supportive and I really appreciate them.  They also gave me a card, filled with encouraging messages, and a beautiful plant that I hope I don't kill ;).  Cards really do work to help cheer a person up ;)  I am so lucky to work with such amazing people.  I miss going in to the office and just laughing with them about random things.  #Blessed.
I will write more next time about my progress so far - from the hysterectomy through to the chemo, which I started on March 17th (2 weeks ago today).  Yesterday and today, my hair is starting to come out by the handful.  Guess it's only a matter of days before I finally have to bite the bullet and shave my head.  Mehmed's comment about my impending hair loss was the best, though, so I will leave it on that note.... he said "I'm really going to miss finding your hair in my food"
Peace, love and have a great day :)

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