My story is sadly not too different from most of us who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was a perfectly healthy and active 67 year old, who had the common issue of abdominal bloating. I was shocked when I heard the words, “I am sorry, but your tumor was malignant.” As a retired registered nurse I knew that ovarian cancer was almost incurable. Otherwise my training and experience as nurse and a woman did not prepare me to know the symptoms or warning signs.
I went through the typical stages of grieving (shock, denial, depression, bargaining, and acceptance). Once I reached acceptance I began to use my ways of coping with challenges in my past (abuse, divorce, premature deaths, and alcoholic family members). My belief is that any challenge (my preferred word rather than problem) is to use it as an opportunity to learn and grow; to become a better person.
I have always used the following coping methods and still do to this day:
It was through my journaling that my book, “Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir” was born. I have always written poetry, short stories, and even a novel though I never sought publication except for an article for a nursing journal. To daily write about my cancer journey was very therapeutic and the resulting book has been helpful to others for which I am grateful. All proceeds from Outshine and my other two books (novels) go to gynecologic/ovarian cancer research. (avail. at amazon: goo.gl/K9x33h in paperback or Kindle)
In Outshine I share about the symptoms, risk factors, statistics, and typical treatments. I highlight certain points, events, and people that were meaningful, spiritual, or learning experiences. I am proud to say that my book won two awards, one of which was for first place in women’s health.
I give presentations about ovarian cancer to nursing and pharmacology students, women’s groups, churches, book clubs, and service organizations. I believe it is imperative that we keep spreading the word about this disease.
There are many positive things I can say about having cancer…yes, you read the sentence correctly. Just as with the abuse I experienced as a preteen and abandonment as a teenager, I came away from them and cancer choosing to let them have a positive effect on me.
The phenomenal people I have met.
The nourishing programs.
Opportunities to teach and reach out to others.
Deeper understanding and appreciation of life’s events.
I can now weekly write on my blog www.outshineovariancancer.blogspot.com reaching people around the world.
Forgiving those who hurt me which brought more light to me.
Refusing to let cancer be in control. I accept it is a part of my life, but it is not my life.
Cancer gave me the opportunity to follow a dream…to become a published author.
Here is an excerpt from Outshine:
“One special person in my life has not been able to cry or pray with me during my journey, even though I yearn for such a relationship. At times, she can be negative and self-absorbed, so I haven’t always wanted to be around her. I hope one day she’ll be able to nurture herself so she can nurture others.
We don’t always realize the impact our words or actions might have on someone. My grandmother taught me the importance of always trying to reach out to others with a smile, kind words, or helping hands. How often do we let opportunities of kindness pass us by on airplanes, in restaurant, in stores, in traffic, or wherever? Glancing away from someone with a physical image different from the norm can be hurtful, but a smile can warm any heart. The power of making a difference in someone’s life is a lesson to be well learned.
The Star Thrower
“I saw a young man walking up and down a beach after the tide
had gone out.
The young man would pick up a starfish, left behind by the tide,
and would throw it as far as he could back into the ocean.
‘What are you trying to do?’ I asked.
‘Make a difference,’ He replied.
‘But the beach is covered with starfish! You can’t possibly expect
to make a difference for them all!’ I stated.
As he picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean, he
replied, ‘I made a difference for that one.’”
As I write this blog I look out the window at the beautiful lake, watch the puffy clouds float by, see the herons, egrets, wood ducks, and even one alligator pass by. The beauty of the oak trees, flowers, and blades of grass sway back and forth in the wind are joyful sites. I am so blessed that just as the sun is shining down on me, I am outshining ovarian cancer.