In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time, opens up about her desire for a child and the ups and downs of cancer and fertility procedures.
Getting the call that changes your life … literally!
Being a “veteran” of this now, I understood the doctors’ concern because if cancer had spread into my liver, it was more than likely transferred by a lymph node – meaning the cancer could also be in other parts of my body.
Having that much cancer spread seemingly all throughout your body is terrifying! I felt as if I was placed in some sort of cancer maze, where as soon as I was close to an exit, a wall would quickly slam down keeping me stuck inside.
As each day passed and I hadn’t gotten an answer from my liver scan, I could feel the light get dimmer and my cancer maze felt never ending.
But then the call came – the call that made me feel like I had a map leading me out of my maze, doors started lifting up and I was finally let free.
The spot in my liver caused some major havoc in my world but who the H-E-double hockey sticks cares … because with that call I came to find out that the MRI showed it wasn’t cancerous! Ahhhhh thank God!!!!
That first breath you let out when you get good news feels almost stolen. Your entire body gets weak as if you were holding up this 100-lb. weight over your head and you’ve finally been told you could drop it. You feel free! Absolutely freaking free!
You are so used to getting the call that starts with, “Sorry to tell you this but I have some bad news…” that you then desperately scramble for ways to pump yourself back up to fight. However, this time my doctor’s call was different and the call became my release button – my permission to breathe and to keep on breathing!
When you’re battling cancer and you hear that your blood results haven’t moved since day one of chemo and a scan shows the possibility of a spread, you start thinking, “Come on! Who upstairs doesn’t want me down here? Um, God, we need to have a talk!” I’m just playing, but I find I can joke with God when I pray so he doesn’t mind that line of questioning.
I’ve learned so much through all of this and it’s so weird how much clarity you can have looking back. I remember back in April 2012 when I first acknowledged the cyst – I was talking to my girlfriends and flat out said, “I’m scared … I don’t wanna do this again. I can’t do this again.”
I wasn’t trying to be dramatic as I honestly felt I didn’t have it in me to go through it all again. In 2011, I had finally felt back to my pre-2005 cancer self and then boom, I find out I have to start the whole “cancer thing” all over again … really?
Overwhelmed but Optimistic
Everything seemed overwhelming, everything seemed too much to take in. The road seemed like this never-ending trail of bad news of things I was scared to do or confront. Realizing your mortality, undergoing more surgeries, coping with the loss of fertility, menopause, and my dreaded relationship with chemo’s side effects.
I saw all of the above as an overwhelming and life-altering mountain standing smack dab in front of me. Wishing that cancer mountain wasn’t there wouldn’t make it go away. I knew that the best way to climb any impossible looking mountain is with small steps not giant leaps. So I tried to NOT combine all of the tasks in my head but instead address the most pressing issues one at a time.
Fertility was my first concern and now I’m happier than I was BEFORE I even had cancer in 2005. I have 10 eggs in some freezer somewhere and no matter what happens in my future no one can take those away from me – they’re all mine, dang it, and I will have me some babies!
My situation is not uncommon as we have all been there, standing before what seems an impossible overwhelming battle. We have all gotten to today by pressing forward through our own hardships.
I know some, if not most, of you have experienced getting to the top of your impossible mountain and felt that euphoric rush overcome your body. You can’t help but smile with the goofiest grin in the world because you accomplished something you never wanted to do or ever wanted to do again … but you didn’t break. You beat it!
I love the quote, “The strongest steel has to go through the hottest fire.” I repeated that quote to myself whenever the questions of “why me?” started to creep into my mindset.
You might not like the cards you have been dealt, but you are who you are because of them. You get a bad hand and it’s your choice how you can play it, but I promise if you choose not to fold, you will come out better than you could ever possibly imagine.
The feeling I have right now, at this very moment … of finally getting my good news is the BIGGEST high in the world and the best reward for all the turmoil of a bad hand.
I want to scream, “I am cancer free!” but second-time-around cancers are a trickier bird. I won’t have that specific 100 percent clear moment because of the type of cancer I have. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate.
Celebrating My Remission
Would I like to have had some sort of marker or test that showed the chemo fought off everything? Of course! I remember the first time I had cancer, I loved seeing my CA125 blood test numbers go from 500 to 23 by the end of all my chemo treatments because it showed me the progress of it killing the cancer.
Would I like to have a CT scan of my ovary area that showed a change from before and after chemo? Of course! But, as a result of my four surgeries, there is so much scar tissue in that area that a clear ovary scan is impossible.
So although there is no actual test to give me that gives me the 100 percent cancer-free assurance that I had back in 2006, I feel I can celebrate remission just the same. I have done every treatment the doctor has ordered, done every test, every scan and with these clear liver results, I have faith that my treatment worked.
I’m confident in my “cancer-free version” even without a test that exactly proves so. I am celebrating this moment and am ecstatic to say I’m in remission! I may have a few treatments here and there but I’m done with the fear … I beat the sucker once again!
I know other patients still in their fight can’t wait to hear those four glorious words: “You are in remission.” Those four lil’ words make you feel like you got a new clean slate and are free to do whatever you want in life.
I think of y’all fighting and I promise I’m not just taking my good news liver results and peace out of the patient world. My goal in life has shifted and I want nothing more than to make the road of the patient and the caregiver less ominous. I want to help and I won’t stop until I accomplish my goal.
I know how lucky I am and I do not take that for granted! I started a company for patients and their loved ones called MedGift back in 2006 while going through my first battle with ovarian cancer. Now in 2013, I have found things I want to do to make MedGift better and it’s all because of the experiences I have had during this second cancer fight. I am on fire with a passion that has never been more intense. I can’t wait for y’all to see what I’m up to!
This is my cancer-free version! I am not living in the fear of “What if they didn’t get it all?” or “How do they know if there is no test I can do?”
Instead I’m looking out in front of me, clean liver scan in hand screaming, “I’m done! Hello, you beautiful remission you! Now let’s go kick some booty because I’m free.”
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