My Cancer Story –

In late 2014, I was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. When I received my diagnosis, my oncologist described it as serious, but treatable.

I mentally checked out of the conversation for a few moments and played with the diagnosis description in my head. Serious sounds bad, but it’s treatable, so that must be good, right? But as I continued to bargain with the cancer word cloud floating in my mind, my oncologist said something that jolted me back to the present moment: I strongly recommend chemotherapy.

Shit.

As my oncologist began to describe what I could expect over the next six months, I rapidly moved from feeling completely numb to totally overwhelmed. No one in my family had ever been diagnosed with cancer or any type of serious illness. Though I lacked context for what was to come, I knew I was experiencing moment-one in day-one of a journey I was not prepared for.

Despite my diagnosis, there were many things working in my favor. My care was being managed by an incredible team of doctors. My family and friends surrounded me in a circle of fierce protection and support. I had a job that I loved, which provided comprehensive health insurance. Even my career choices proved beneficial as I was working in the healthcare technology field, which gave me a deep understanding of how hospitals operate in the delivery of patient care.

But in the immediate aftermath of my diagnosis, I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of my circumstances. I was experiencing the most vulnerable moment of my life, which was going to require extraordinary strength to get through. I would soon learn that this realization is the cruel dichotomy that accompanies any serious health diagnosis.

Somewhere between getting ready for my first chemotherapy treatment and seeing an actual date on the calendar for when I could expect to start losing my hair, my Type A tendencies took over.

I needed a plan. Like any new patient, I turned to Google.

Unfortunately, any search I entered for cancer – even the very rare cancer I had – yielded an enormous amount of data. Way too much data. There were times when I found snippets of information that were helpful, but overall, nothing felt meaningful.

As I reviewed countless websites filled with clinical information I didn’t have the knowledge or capacity to understand, I realized this wasn’t even what I was looking for. What I wanted were ideas for how to tell my coworkers that I had cancer, some insight into what it would feel like to wear a wig every day and a list of what I needed to bring to chemotherapy treatments. I wanted to hear these stories and forge a connection to people who could understand what I was experiencing.

In the early days of my cancer diagnosis, the idea that a blog would be birthed from this experience was the farthest thing from my mind. But here we are. One of the biggest learnings I took from having cancer is that when you are forced into being a patient, you need to find a way to feel empowered. But this is no easy task. Fear, confusion, treatment side effects and day-to-day life can all feel like a big brick wall blocking your path to empowerment. Navigating the US healthcare system is no walk in the park either.

Long before I received my cancer diagnosis, I always felt my most empowered self through writing. Whether I wrote as part of my job or processed my thoughts in private journals, the simple act of writing to tell a story has always been a source of strength for me. Through cancer, my writing practice took on greater importance and meaning. I was deeply inspired and emboldened by the stories other patients told me about their cancer journeys as well as their loved ones who described their role as caregivers. A seed was planted, which told me that there might be other patients, family members and friends who are either seeking or could benefit from personal stories about the cancer experience. As a result, I have decided to share my stories.

Every Tuesday, I will tell a story from my personal experience with cancer; with topics ranging from how I processed my diagnosis, got through treatment, engaged my family and friends and found some amazing resources along the way. In no way should anything I share be considered medical advice or a recommendation to be followed. I am writing purely from my own experience to share I what I learned, what I wished I knew beforehand and the many things I am still figuring out.

I am grateful to be sharing these stories as a cancer survivor and for my family, friends, doctors and nurses who took on my battle as if it were their own. Cancer is a club that no one seeks admittance, however, now that I am here, I am committed to being an active and vocal member.

Welcome to patient and empowered.

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If you have feedback or questions you would like to share; we would love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments below, or send an email to hello@patientandempowered.com. To receive regular updates from patient and empowered, please subscribe here.

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