In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant 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.
I grew up an Army brat and lived in Germany from when I was six years old until I was about 10. During those years, my mom wanted to make sure we absorbed as much “culture” and history as we could, so she would make us do a family drive around Europe on Saturdays. We did trips to every single monument, battlefield and castle you can imagine – and no drive was too far.
This might sound like an amazing adventure, but being a kid crammed into the back seat of a small car, driving up windy mountain roads between your sister and screaming brother, trying to reach your “field” destination … Well, it felt more like pure torture!
Every week when Saturday rolled around, I would throw the most obnoxious temper tantrum screaming, “History IS history, Mom! I don’t care about stupid castles! It’s old! It’s done!” Yes, what a precious gem of a child I was, huh? My temper tantrums never worked, and I was always quickly scooped up and thrown in the back seat where I waited for the impending car-sick history lesson to begin.
Fast-forward to college: I ironically enrolled as a history and political science major. I became obsessed with history and kicked myself for not realizing how cool those forced “history trips” really were. So, yes … I was wrong … and I misjudged the situation.
That leads me to the topic of therapy. When my mom passed away while I was in college, I was told by friends countless times: “You should go see someone …it really will help you.”
Therapy? No Thanks!
I would ignore their suggestions, because why would I talk to someone just to bring to the surface the hurt, loss and pain I felt over losing my mom? I was certain therapy was great for other people, but that I was “all good.” I thought to myself, “I’m Southern! I know I can just swallow it, bury my pain and try to push forward with a smile.”
Years later came my first bout with cancer, and as I walked into the infusion center, the “welfare” lady started handing me packet after packet of resources. I remember her urging me to try this “group therapy” session for young adults with cancer.
I politely took the packet but thought, “No way in HELL am I going to do group therapy!” I had such a wall up against doing therapy – private or in a group – because I feared it would tear some invisible Band-Aid off and I wouldn’t be able to stop the flow of the unearthed pain.
Fast-forward to this past November when I was the keynote speaker at the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) conference, where I was asked to lead a small group discussion among fellow ovarian cancer patients and survivors.
I was nervous because I had no idea how to lead a group in a discussion. There were about 30 women of all ages and I had butterflies in my stomach. But after getting the nervous butterflies out, magic happened.
In Case You Missed It: Diem’s First Hair Loss Video
I found out that there were over 175 years of survivorship in that room – one woman was in her fourth round with this disgusting ovarian cancer disease. I was blown away as people started sharing their experiences.
One woman described the first time she went out without a wig: She went to the grocery store around the time when the movie G.I. Jane was in theaters. In the check-out lane a woman behind her snickered, “Well I guess if Demi Moore is doing it, it must be cool.” As this gorgeous woman told her story, I became so angry hearing her explain how the entire grocery line laughed at the snickering woman’s comment.
Toward the end of her story, the “grandma” in our discussion room chimed in saying, “Honey, here is what I’ve said to people who make stupid comments.” The “grandma” went on to share when some of her hair grew back in after chemo, she too ventured out without a wig and sure enough, a thoughtless comment was thrown at her in a disgusted sarcastic tone, “Wow! Well, aren’t you just a cool rebel grandma with your head all shaved.”
The sweet “grandma” said she calmly looked the stranger in the eye and said, “Well, aren’t you lucky and blessed to have never gone through or have seen anyone you love go through chemo for cancer.” She said as the word “chemo” escaped from her mouth, the look on the face of the person who made the ugly comment was priceless and she knew that that person would probably think twice before throwing out a judgmental comment again.
The whole room laughed and was so impressed with how this “grandma” took control of a situation at a time when she likely felt at her weakest.
Changing My Tune
After leaving the small group, I understood what great things could come out of group therapy, how much you can learn from others and what it means to have a support system of people who have been in your shoes.
So once again I was wrong to judge something as “not for me.” And today as my doctor recently suggested, “I think you should go see one of our therapists,” I’m not insulted or twisting his words to insinuate, “Wait what?! Why does my doctor think I’m crazy?!”
This time, I actually intend to use the psychologist referral card, thank my doctor for his suggestion and am excited to try the whole therapy thing out.
I think we all have judged certain things by saying, “That’s just not for me.” But by stepping out of our comfort zone, allowing ourselves to “give it a try” can only open us up for opportunities to become more enlightened, to grow and to heal.
So watch out future psychologist, you have on hell of a basket case coming your way! 🙂
Check back for updates every Thursday: Diem will be chronicling exclusively for PEOPLE.com her journey through fertility treatments, chemotherapy and her quest to educate others about ovarian health. You can also follow her on Twitter @DiemBrown.
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