July 11th, 2012
| Fighter: Ovarian Cancer
Carly may look like your average 23-year-old, but her battle with ovarian cancer has left her to deal with mets to her lungs and brain and the despair of losing the love of her life to cancer. Read on to learn how she has found a way to stay strong and positive during her journey.
I was a healthy 20-year-old girl.
I had experienced nothing extraordinary in my medical history. I was getting blood tests done for mundane reasons. And my HCG was elevated. Aside from minor abdominal pain, I didn't feel any different. I wasn't pregnant--no way. My PCP ordered additional blood work, including CA-125 on a hunch. The next definitive moment in my story was staring at a business card in my hands.
It's not every day you read the word "oncologist" as your next suitable option.
I may not know much, but I knew that something was officially wrong. Next thing I know, I am staring at the scans of my abdomen with five masses staring right back at me. Then, there were biopsies. The final piece of this puzzle...
I found out that at 20 years old, I had become a Stage II Ovarian Cancer patient.
My journey was broken down into these pieces because they are what I remember most. I can remember just about every detail of my diagnosis day, October 26, 2009. Most people ask what I said when I found out. My phrase of choice? "I'm sorry, what?" The whole world went pretty quiet. I kept rolling through different emotions. One minute I was confused, the next I was terrified, the next I was calm for goodness knows what reason. But as I thought rather than listened, I continually had to ask, "I'm sorry... what did you say?" After that, it was thoughts about not having kids, not being in love or getting married, or making it to see my twenty first birthday. It's a disease that, as I mentioned, affects much older women. "Why me?" came much later. But at first, it was just, I'm sorry... what?"
The next two and a half years have been the toughest of my life.
Countless hospital stints. Stage II to Stage IV. A glorious month's worth of remission to Stage IV. Metastatic Ovarian Cancer and threats of moving to palliative care. Meeting the love of my life. Falling in love. Waiting too long to make it known and finding out too late how much time you can lose. Collapsing when the love of my life died. Listening as his mother called me and sobbed, "he's gone," when the week before he was perfectly fine. Going to the funeral of that same mother three weeks after attending her son's because she too died of complications from undiscovered brain tumors.
I didn't know what to do.
What do you do when you are told at 20 that you are diagnosed with a disease that (this far along) kills over 80% of the people diagnosed within the first year? What do you do when the love of your life disappears from this earth and you couldn't be there with him? What do you do when you are on this roller coaster of "what if's," with the medical world itself staring back at you with unkind eyes?
I have found a great support system in the blogging community. I have less than a handful of people in my life who know I am going through this. That is my choice, and it has been a good one for me. However, I can write honestly. I can take the time to gather my thoughts and write them beautifully. I get to release these emotions and find comfort in those who are more "experienced" than I am. And I get to know that I am genuinely understood by someone.
I know that I am not alone.
This would not have been made possible without the last three years and the agony they have brought forth. And while I am broken, with cracks that indicate the damaging times I have been through, those experiences, those spaces, those cracks- they let the light in. They let others see what has happened and understand me more as a complete person. They let in an entirely new kind of light-the light that others shine for me so I know that I do not fight alone.
I was a healthy 20 year old girl. Now, I am a 23 year old cancer warrior. Right now, I feel stronger than ever.
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