Janet’s February Cancer Update- written by her
For the entire first month after I was diagnosed I didn’t know what type of cancer I had. I knew it was carcinosarcoma, a word that took me weeks to say casually. That’s two types of cancer and I got both, but I didn’t know where I stood on location. Was it endometrial, uterine, ovarian or all three? I definitely knew it was reproductive. Then I read it on a form I was filling out at the doctors. It is ovarian cancer. I’m not sure if I was the last to know this but I don’t think it was ever made clear to me. I have ovarian cancer.
How long have I had ovarian cancer? I started having pain on my left ovary about 6 months before my diagnosis, but no other symptoms. So maybe that long. I thought it was ovulation pain because it happened once a month between periods. Later I could feel my tumor pressing on my bladder, but I thought I was just pregnant. That tumor was surgically removed but now I have two new ones. I didn’t even really know I had grown two new tumors, though apparently when I was in the hospital I was told. I think I have been able to digest small bits of information at a time. I tell myself I’m not dumb, just a little traumatized.
The plan from the start was to do three chemo treatments and then do a CT scan to see if my cancer cells and tumors had shrunk enough to be able to surgically remove them. I had my CT scan last Wednesday. The results were really good. My tumors have shrunk by about 50 percent, I have no more fluid in my abdomen and I am now scheduled for surgery on March 2. My oncologist said, “I am proud of you.”
My surgery is a hysterectomy, oophorectomy and debulking surgery. They will remove my uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. They will also cut away my tumors and any cancer that they find namely in my cervix, upper vagina, omentum and colon. It will take hours but if it goes well, I could wake up without much cancer at all. My surgeon’s name is Dr. Yukio Sonoda. I’ve started to think about him a lot. Maybe, if he gets every last cell, my cancer will never come back.
So in the meantime my work is to stay sane and positive, which at times becomes very hard. Just five years ago my mom died of cancer next to me, bald and with a port. We were so similar. Same hands and feet, same love of long conversations, mostly with each other. Same outlook on life. Now, being bald and with a drain, my mind questions, “Is this just me dying too?” My brain continually tries to make peace with what has not yet happened — I will die in the same way as my mother, it’s ok… it’s ok. Her mother died in the same way too, you know. Was this ending written before I was born? Can being positive really change anything?
But tomorrow my drain is coming out. It’s a huge deal for me. It’s been a big source of physical pain for me, being a hole in my stomach that does not heal. It’s also from a time, a very short while ago, when I was very sick. Its removal means that I am not very sick anymore. “My drain comes out tomorrow, her port never did,” I tell myself and it hurts me and gives me hope. I am positively not dying right now.
So this is my mind and body update. Thank you for reading.
As a side note — I was thinking about the people who might be reading this and it occurred to me you are the stories of my life. The names on this email list are my prom date, my first employer that I still admire profoundly, the crew that I drank wine with on the train tracks in Spain when I was 16, my college friends, the woman I met at the coffee shop in San Francisco when I was 23 and is still on the other end of the line when I need her, the soul friends I met on the back of a bus in Chile, some of my teachers, the friend who also lost her mom to cancer, people I’ve lifted weights with, the girl I got a tattoo with at 17 in Amsterdam, the woman I met at the Brooklyn dog park and years later spent NYE drinking mojitos in Cuba with, my family in India, friends I made trekking through the NYC for the sake of journalism at Columbia in my 30s, my childhood neighbors, my first kiss, maybe even my second, third and fourth kisses, the woman who left her life to explore southeast Asia with me for a year, my last kiss, my mom’s best friends, those I’ve held cameras next to, my sister, the girl who said yes to riding a bus home from Chile to California with me and then later lost months in India with me, my best friends. All of the people that make up a life.
Honestly what a privilege to be able to tell a list of people like you all about my life and have it matter to you (at least I tell myself it does!) So again, really truly, thank you for reading.