Friday, October 28, 2011

Schedule surgery? Check.

So I have just scheduled my next operation, having yet another piece of me cut on and removed. I sometimes wonder how many operations I will have throughout my life. I know many people who have had close to 10 abdominal surgery, some maybe more. This will be my 5th surgery and my 4th abdominal surgery (this is not counting my wisdom tooth surgery this past February) since I turned 22, just 3 years ago. If I am having 4 surgeries in 3 years then will I have 8 surgeries in 6 years? Ugh I hope not. But I am thankful that my doctors are so rigorous in screening me. I'd rather have surgery when I need it than need it and not have it.

So anyway, I have scheduled surgery. I have been avoiding this specific surgery for over a year but it is finally inevitable. My GI doctor demanded it so I consented. I have had several CT scans, 2 MRIs, and multiple ultrasounds and like I'm sure I've mentioned in posts before, they have found something on my left ovary. Actually, it was there when I was diagnosed in 2008 but they thought it was just a cyst. It might still be a cyst, but it has gotten bigger and is now connected to my uterus as well and they are now wondering if it could be something else. So, considering my history and my risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer it would just be safer to check and see if it's malignant or benign. My gynecological oncologist will be performing a robotic surgery, removing the mass from my ovary if possible (if not he will have to remove my left ovary) and testing it, biopsying a cyst on my right ovary, and testing my endometrial lining for pre-cancerous cells. That is best case scenario. Worst case scenario, they find cancer and have to do a total hysterectomy, removing my uterus and both ovaries. But I'm not going to worry about that unless it happens... there is such a small chance of it. Have any of you had a similar surgery?

Not that I think I have this, but ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed or caught too late, so in light of my upcoming surgery on my ovaries I wanted to post symptoms of ovarian cancer. But often, like colon cancer, the most common symptom is no symptom at all. Ovarian cancer needs to have more awareness too!

  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain
  • Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • A persistent lack of energy
  • Low back pain

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cope, Learn, Overcome by: Emily Walsh

Cope, Learn, Overcome

Aside from the physical affects of cancer, the emotional affects can be equally as devastating. A diagnosis can invoke a plethora of worries. "What will treatment be like for lung cancer?" "How do I talk to my family about my breast cancer?" "What is my mesothelioma life expectancy?"

You are not alone in your anxieties. Walk into any cancer survivor support program and you will hear these same questions and worries expressed. You will also hear advice and personal stories from survivors. Cancer support networks also offer an opportunity to talk about your own feelings in a safe and comfortable environment. A great source of camaraderie, strength and knowledge, cancer support networks and programs are an invaluable resource for anyone affected by the disease.

Getting a diagnosis of mesothelioma, colon cancer, skin cancer or any other form of the disease is never easy. You may experience a range of emotions right after your diagnosis, as you begin treatment or even as you go into remission. Talking about your feelings at a support group is the best way to deal with these complex emotions. You will discover that your emotions are normal and that you are not alone in your fight against cancer.

The American Cancer Society sponsors a number of support groups for those diagnosed with the disease. You can even find support in your own home with the society's online Cancer Survivors Network.

The Cancer Survivors Network offers discussion boards, email and a chat function that put you in touch instantly with thousands of other survivors. The boards are filled with messages of hope, advice and questions that may be similar to your own. Writing about your thoughts and emotions can help you overcome your anxieties and cope with the various stages of your battle with cancer.

Joining a support group, whether in person or online, is an important component to your recovery. Hearing stories of survival can give you hope when you need it the most and knowing you are not alone can give you new strength to continue in your recovery.

Emily Walsh
Outreach Director at Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

Friday, October 14, 2011

StyledOn is Raising Money for F*** Cancer!

Today StyledOn is trying to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and with our help, F*** Cancer (sorry, trying to keep it PC) could get a big check to help their cause!

F*** Cancer began with t-shirts, and now, according to the website, has become a movement. While they don't fund research they do reach out to the younger generation, hoping to not only reach young people but also through them, their parents.

So what do you have to do? It's super easy! Go to the StyledOn Facebook page and write your favorite fashion faux-pas on their wall and they'll donate $1 to F*** Cancer! I know you've seen their t-shirts so show them some love!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kissimmee Please!

I've always believed that our cancer "check-ups" shouldn't be a negative experience. We have to have them, so why not make it a fun thing? I personally visit the doctor every 6-8 months for the dreaded (by most anyway) colonoscopy, blood work, and CT scan. Getting a colonoscopy actually doesn't bother me... contrary to what the general public likes to portray, it's really no big deal. No, it doesn't hurt, and sure it's a little embarrassing but really what doctors appointment isn't? At least you won't be awake for it! I get an early appointment, stay up the night before watching movies, and then I get put to sleep and get a really amazing nap... no big deal! But, since sometimes it can make us cancer people anxious about the results, I make vacations out of my check ups.

When I was fighting cancer I was treated at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD (LOVED it and would recommend it to anyone! Such a great experience and I loved my doctors). My first time up there was for surgery. The first week we did tests and the second week was the operation. Two days before my surgery I was in DC seeing museums, doing research for a paper I was writing, and loving spending the day with my mom and my best friend Eunice. The day before my surgery we all went to the Aquarium in Baltimore. It made some really great memories... so much so that I have forgotten many of the bad ones. And since then every 6 months or so I make the trip back up there, always remembering to take a day trip to DC.

Eunice and Me at the Inner Harbor before visiting the aquarium the day before my surgery.

Me and Eunice in DC (Chinatown I think) 2 days before surgery.

David (my husband), me, my mom, and Eunice visiting DC in 2010 when I was in Baltimore for a check up.

Last week I went for my check up but this trip was different. My GI doctor fr
om Johns Hopkins that I LOVE moved to Orlando and I had to decide what to do. Well, my decision was actually kind of easy. Since I'm from Alabama, Orlando is way closer than Johns Hopkins. And the GI part of my check up is most important... I also have an oncologist here in Mobile that can do my CT scans for me. And since we are way past broke right now (thanks economy) it seemed more sensible to go to Orlando. Plus I had never been! Well, not since I was 4 anyway. Well we made it an awesome trip... we packed a cooler and ate meals in parking lots on the way down like we did when we were kids, made sandwiches in the hotel room (told you we're broke), watched the Alabama-Florida game on Saturday night, went to the Disney Boardwalk and Downtown Disney (the free areas... who knew free could be so much fun!?), and had one really awesome meal at PF Changs. I saw the doctor Friday evening and then had my scope on Monday morning... this time it was a colonoscopy and an endoscopic ultrasound (to check my pancreas since I had pancreatitis not too long ago). The test went fine... one area of inflammation that he biopsied but it's probably nothing. Pancreas also looked fine and I had no gallstones which is good. But after talking with him we did decide to go ahead with surgery to remove a mass that has been found on my left ovary and has attached to my uterus. We think it is benign but it is always better to check than be sorry. It's been there since my diagnosis but has been growing, though slowly. The only reason for any real concern is that my PET scan prior to my surgery detected metastasis to my uterus (but during surgery they saw nothing so they thought the PET was wrong). But some things can be seen on scan and not to the naked eye. So we'll see. I'm sure I'll blog about surgery whenever it happens.

Dr. Giday after one of my check-up scopes at Johns Hopkins. He's awesome.

So enjoy your scan times! Don't dwell on them. If you stay in town, make it a point to see a movie, or go shopping, or have a nice meal, or something else that is unique to your town. Make a new tradition. And don't be afraid to change it sometimes. Cancer brings so much negative... let's try to counteract it with positive! You might be surprised at the fun you have :)
"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting..... 'WHAT A RIDE!'"