Two Kids, Two Cancer Diagnoses: Our Family's Fight Against Cancer
In July 2015, I had a cyst removed. A cyst that three other doctors decided to keep an eye on for four years. Behind that dermoid cyst, tucked away and hiding from the view of the ultrasounds was my small tumor. The fertility specialist we had decided to see years after unsuccessfully trying to conceive was the one to discover my tumor.
In August 2015, I called my mom and then my brother, and told them that I had ovarian cancer. Stage 3A GCT (Granulosa Cell Tumor). A rare form of ovarian cancer. I cannot imagine what they were thinking or feeling as I told them I had cancer. My mom had to stand back and watch me go from stage 1 to stage 3A. She couldn’t take this pain away and protect me from this. They watched me endure six rounds of chemo. My mom cried with me when I told her I may never have children of my own. She cried with me when I lost my hair. They cried with me when I had no energy to get off the couch, and I prayed for it to be over.
Then they watched me thrive. The effects of chemo slowly wearing off. My hair beginning to grow. My strength and determination building back up. I had beat this beast. It was time for my family and I to move on from cancer.
In June 2018, my brother was diagnosed with a hernia. He had felt a bump and assumed that’s what it was. After multiple doctors and a specialist, he was diagnosed with Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A rare form - Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma ALK Positive. Cancer had once again entered our lives uninvited.
In August 2018, he had to tell our Mom he had cancer. Three years after I had been diagnosed, she had to hear those words again from one of her children. Then he had to tell me. Only then did I start to understand what my mom had felt when I told her I had cancer. It felt like someone had just ripped my heart out. This is blood. This is my family, my brother. Why was this happening to us again? Why couldn’t I have had cancer again and not him? I cannot understand what my Mom felt as another child told her they had cancer. Two kids. Two cancer diagnoses.
It was time to fight again. We watched as my brother endured six rounds (18 doses in total) of aggressive chemo. We watched him get sick as the poison was pumped into his veins. We cried together as he lost his hair. We cried when he was too weak to work any longer. We cried when he didn’t want to eat. We cried when we watched his wife cook every night for him trying to get as many nutrients into his body as she could. Watching him struggle to accept this path and fight, was harder than my own diagnosis. I couldn’t control his fight, but I could be by his side as he went to battle.
Then we watched him thrive. The effects of chemo slowly wearing off. His strength and energy that he missed so much were returning. His hair was beginning to grow. He had beat this. We had survived another cancer diagnosis.
When my brother’s recent scan came back clear, I almost threw up. I was at work, in a meeting, waiting for the text. I got it and then I lost it. It was like a weight had been lifted. It felt like I had been carrying something so heavy that I could finally set down. I had jumped into fight mode so quickly with him that I didn’t realize how much I had been holding in for so long.
Will we ever be able to put this behind us and pretend it never happened? No. Cancer changed us. It showed us how strong we can be when life gets tough. It makes you hug your family just a bit tighter when you say goodbye. It makes you appreciate the life you have been given so you can then thrive.
Vicki Campana is an ovarian cancer survivor, digital marketing professional and photographer. Diagnosed 3 years ago while trying to conceive a child, Vicki has battled her way back after chemo. She is also a breast cancer pre-vivor opting for a preventative mastectomy last year. She continues to pursue her dream of being a mother and hopes to continue to write about her experiences. Follow along with her on Instagram at @victoriouslyhopeful.