I am one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason — so when I received a cancer diagnosis in December of 2009 my first thought was “for what purpose”? Why was I specifically selected to walk this path in life? While that answer has still not been fully revealed to me, I have found comfort and purpose in sharing my “medical adventure” so that perhaps others might become enlightened along the way.
In the year 2009, I was very busy — so busy in fact that I failed to notice certain changes taking place in my body. I was consumed with the fast paced life of a working mom of two teenagers —both involved in school and sports. At that time a cancer was growing in my body, but all the symptoms of everyday life completely masked the truth. I had no clue! The fatigue, bloating, anxiousness and abdominal pains that I felt could all be explained and attributed to my lifestyle and to the idea that I might be entering “menopause.” Every single symptom was written off and nothing seemed extraordinary.
At my sister’s insistence, saying that I was just not “myself,” I undertook a series of tests that year through my local health clinic here in town. The process started on
I could not eat or drink. I worked in the morning, but by I was so tired that I had to head home to my couch where I slept the balance of the day. On Thanksgiving, I had about five bites to eat and had to lie down on the couch, with no energy and no desire to eat. By this time, I had started to collect a fair amount of fluid in my abdomen and was having difficulty breathing. I felt like I was 8 months pregnant and was dealing with pressure built up under my lungs.
I had my appointment at on
On Dec. 8, after a four-hour surgery including a full hysterectomy, I was diagnosed with stage III C ovarian cancer. I don’t recall the moment that this diagnosis was revealed to me or who told me or even being overwhelmed or even really comprehending it. I was in the hospital — recovering from surgery, but it did not seem to matter to me what the diagnosis was — I just knew that I had to recover, get strong and fight.
My husband, two children and my sister were devastated, and all they could do was to PUT THEIR TRUST COMPLETELY IN GOD AND IN THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY. I firmly believe that this disease is harder on them than on me because I had all the pain and recovery work to distract me from feeling the total despair of the situation. All they could do is sit by and watch and pray and hope and cheer.
I initially spent 12 days in the hospital and was released on Dec. 20 with instructions to return on Dec. 31 for my first round of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, I would have to return on the 26th because I had developed a plural effusion and fluid had built up between my lungs and rib cage, making it very difficult to breathe. After they drained 1.5 liters of fluid out, I felt much better. I was then told that the first of six chemotherapy treatments would start the next day. That left me the entire night alone to obsess over losing my hair. The pharmacist said there was no way by taking Paclitaxel and Carboplatin that I would be spared my hair. This was the one moment when I received my “wake up call” and where it got terribly personal. This is where I believe I suddenly realized just how much trouble I was in. For the first time, I cried over my diagnosis because in that moment I realized I would soon “look” like a cancer patient.
That chemo would be the first of many types that I would try, including a clinical trial. It turns out that I am chemo-resistant, meaning most of them don’t work on my cancer. We keep trying, and hoping and praying that something will work, or that something will keep me around long enough to find “the cure.” The entire experience has made me a better person. It has taught me to live in the moment and to constantly strive to make NOW the very best that it can be. I always felt that I should live that way but was never able to see my life on those terms until the cancer diagnosis. My community and my family have become the bedrock of my existence and I have never been so humbled in my life. So much was done for me — from personal visits, to financial assistance, to meals being brought in, to friends just being friends! I think my whole family has learned to appreciate the small things that abound us in the here and now.
My family, church, community and friends have been such a huge part of my healing. The support we received has been enormous, and it has taken every bit of that support to get me where I am today. I am so grateful for each and every person whom God has put in my path on this journey.
Facts about ovarian cancer:
- There is currently no medically approved test to determine the existence of ovarian cancer.
- Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecological cancers and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women.
- Recent studies have shown that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, urinary frequency or urgency, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly.
- Survival rates for women diagnosed in stages I and II are much higher than for those diagnosed in later stages, unfortunately, fewer than 20 percent of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed early.
- The chance of recurrence is 75 percent, and the relative five-year survival rate is 46 percent.
Melinda Knoerzer, a Pender County Government employee, was diagnosed with Stage IIIC Ovarian Cancer on