It seems ironic somehow that I would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer during "Ovarian Cancer Month", not like it was some kind of weird trend I had to rush and get in on - but alas it is what it is.
It's funny how some of the details of that time period seem a little fuzzy now, but others I remember like they were yesterday. Has it really been 19 years already?
Indeed it has.
It had been several months of intense pain, scans and ultrasounds, waiting.. more waiting.. and even more waiting still.. before I was finally admitted to emergency because the mass had grown large enough that I couldn't eat anything without being sick.
I remember the doctor coming in and telling me the details. They'd lost 3 litres of blood on the table, and I came very close to dying. They removed a 5 1/2 pound mass and most of my left ovary and last, but certainly not least ~ it was cancer. Oddly enough, none of the details seemed to resonate as she was telling me them. Until she said that my Dad was here to see me. I remember bawling at that point. I kept thinking that I could have died and what that would have done to Dad. I had such a hard time telling him that I had cancer. I kept crying and telling him I was sorry. Finally I managed to get the words out, and the doctor explained the rest. I don't think I'd ever seen Dad look so worried. Auntie Eileen had come with him to support, and everybody thought she was my Mom. That, I found hilarious. Yes, cause every kid wants parents that look like they're *obviously* related. LOL
It was the size of a 24 week pregnancy - never having been pregnant that number escaped me - but I remember coming home and having a bit of an A-ha moment when splitting large packages of hamburger at my Dad's place at just how big 5 1/2 pounds was. That was a bit of a shocker for me.
I did over 7 months of aggressive chemo. In hindsight the 5 days in, 21 days home routine seemed to go rather smoothly. My good friend Tom lent me a "ghetto blaster" and each time I'd go in, I'd have one bag of clothes and one bag of "keep me busy" items, my headphones and a number of CD's. My Dad always called it dropping me off for my Vacation.
Doctor had tried to flex her doc muscle early on and Dad who'd been silent for the whole appointment finally spoke up and let her have it. In no uncertain terms she was told that the answer was NO and she wasn't having it. PERIOD. I was so proud of my Dad and thankful I'd brought him with me in that moment.
I laugh remembering that two of my doctors - Dad never called them by their names. One was Doctor Bad breath, who Dad always said he wanted to offer gum or breath mints to. The other was Doctor Chicken legs because Dad figured her legs looked like drumsticks. He never ceased to send us into fits and giggles with his cheeky commentary of things. I have always credited my Dad and his warped sense of humor as one of the top reasons that I survived the whole ordeal.
As it happened, I did end up going in for a second surgery that would take most of my right ovary, but thankfully there was no cancer found there. My remaining ovary bit apparently likes to grow new friends as it grew another in its place that we've been watching for years to see if it's going to do tricks. So long as it stays below 5 cms they will leave it alone. With all of the med drama, hernias etc, the least amount of anything is the way to go...
I've been thinking about Dad a lot lately. I realized last night that this would be the first time in so many years that I could not call Dad to share this "birthday" celebration. I'd always called to remind him that I'd made another year around the sun. They almost killed me, and I survived. It was the first time, but not the last that I'd woken up from one procedure or another being told "you're so lucky to be alive".. I always made my morning check in with Dad a ritual, especially today. Few people would appreciate the full weight of what this day means, like Dad.
I remember lying on his couch feeling half-dead when the med side effects were bad, and him trying to coax me to eat, or come shopping with him or something just to get me going and when I just wasn't up for it, he'd put on one of his soaps or something and we'd just watch.
I remember stopping in at the Legion with him, at the time not knowing about the "no hat" rule - and some guy at the bar yelling at me walking in with Dad's ball cap on because I hadn't wanted to wear my wig that day. To be fair, I probably looked rather manly in my jeans, and Dad's mack jacket, but I never expected what happened next. Dad walked over to the bar and in no uncertain terms told the mouth at the bar that that was his daughter and SHE had cancer. Then he turned to me and said "Show him Tam".. and I was horrified but did what I'd been told. I removed my hat to reveal my bald head with only slight wisps of hair. The poor guy paled and shrank into his seat amidst a litany of I'm sorry's. I felt so bad for him in that moment. Dad didn't let *anybody* mess with *HIS* girls. There was always a kind of safety in knowing Daddy had your back. <3
I had a really great picture of my Dad wearing my long hair blond wig. Sadly, I lent it to a cousin to scan with some other photos and she apparently lost it. But the memory is vivid, and it always makes me smile. I remember the rant about how it was over $200 and if I wasn't gonna wear it, that I should give him the damned thing. (So I did) and then snapped a picture.. we tried to fix him up a few times and we were almost successful til someone would notice the handlebar moustache or the cigar in his hand.. LOL
I have some very fond memories of the ladies on the 5th floor of the BC Cancer Agency, and the friendly Mason drivers that would come and pick me up and take me for treatments and doctor's appointments when Dad could not. I sold daffodils that first year after I got out of the hospital. Memories of big Teddybear slippers on my feet, a big ol' pumpkin bucket and bull dog stuffy on my IV pole.. and away I go. I came across some comics that a good friend brought from his collection the other day. Midnight Happy meal delivery, and being stolen out on a "day" pass for coffee by some friends who knew I'd be bored. Nurses laughed because I spent most of my time when I wasn't writing, across the hall in an empty room phoning friends so I wouldn't disturb whoever my room-mate was at the time. They called me "Sunshine."
People think I'm weird when I say I have fond memories of having had cancer - but anybody that's been through it knows what I'm saying. There's the obvious bad stuff of course, but until you've been through it yourself, you have no idea what a life changing experience it is. Never before had I had so many epiphanies of where I was, and where I wanted to be, not to mention who I wanted to be with. Cancer showed me who my real friends were, and who I should have kicked to the curb long ago -- not that I didn't always know on some level -- but it was the final straw.
And as cliche as it might sound, Most of all, cancer showed me that no matter how bad things seem. You can get through most anything, if you surround yourself with the right people. A little enthusiasm goes a long long way!
I am truly blessed. <3 Missing Dad today.. life will never be the same without him. <3
Here's to another trip around the son! Woo-Hoo!