My story of learning to live with my diagnosis of Ovarian cancer I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986 at that time I was working as a social work consultant at the Cancer Association of South Africa .I went for a routine gynecological check up and was told after ultrasound that I had a
My story of learning to live with my diagnosis of Ovarian cancer
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986 at that time I was working as a social work consultant at the Cancer Association of South Africa .I went for a routine gynecological check up and was told after ultrasound that I had a tumor that needed to be removed.
The fact that a new a little about cancer enhanced my fear and it was as if I was so disempowered to do anything. Everything happened in slow motion and hours seemed like weeks. Many decision had to be made in a short space of time and it was hard to know what the best was. I realized the importance of having a surgeon that you trusted and opted to go to Bloemfontein to a Gynecologist that I trusted for my operation .
The tumor was removed (apparently as big as a ostrich egg) but luckily there was no spread of the decease and in my abdomen. Three rinses of the abdomen was performed with the fluid being analyzed for any further cancer cells . All was clear and with great gratitude the healing process was started .
I was 31 years old my children were 3 and 6 years old and I was overwhelmed by fear and uncertainty . The ovarian cancer was staged as early stage 1 and no further treatment was needed. 3 months later was again in hospital there was a tumor on my other ovary and it was decide that a hysterectomy had to be done. I was not prepared for the impact of this operation on my life and was not totally informed about the impact of this operation on my life. I now had to deal with full blown postmenopausal symptoms and problems in the prime of my life. This adjustment took its toll on my self-esteem, my sexual adjustment post surgery and on my general psycho social wellbeing . The people around me were getting on with life and I was left to try and piece my life together after this illness; in the mind of all around me the ovarian cancer was early stage and I had been really lucky and should be grateful and just get on with it ; I had a lot to be grateful for and had no reason to be concerned “just get on with your life” was the advice given to me repeatedly.
It was not that easy. I struggled with depression and sleeplessness and low levels of energy and extreme discomfort from the menopausal systems especially the hot flushes that was really uncomfortable and embarrassing to say the least .I was not feeling myself and was not coping emotionally but felt that because I was the cared to so many cancer patients and their families I could not let on that I was struggling myself. I was suppose to know what to do and had all the experience needed to make a full recovery .
Reflecting back on this time now many years later I realize what I did wrong and have the wisdom now to see the grief reaction I was experiencing at that time but was not allowing myself to feel or share with anybody. The isolation cycle was born and stated becoming part of my coping repertoire that I still struggle with this at times. It is not easy reaching out for help when you are used to be the one who is always there for others . I was so aware of the fact that I was not practicing what I was preaching at all and in a sense this was impacting on my overall adjustment to my cancer experience .
It was at this time that I started thinking about what I still needed to achieve .I started journaling and wrote down my personal goals I still wanted to set for my life . My husband and I talk about some joint goals for our family and unconsciously things stated to get better as I started living again. Getting engaged in life in a different way after the cancer experience was the start of the healing process. I looked at the reality of death at this young age and new that I still wanted to live still wanted to see my two boys grow up and wanted to spend time with my precious extended family that I love so dearly. I had to face the possibility of death and face the reality of it head on . I wrote letter to my boys in my journal as I was so scared that I would not have an opportunity to share with them what was import to me in their life as they crew up. The mere fact that I did that gave me a feeling of relief and I could slowly but surely start tackling life again .I was very clear in my mind that I would never ever stop working with cancer patients and that this would be my passion till the end of my days on this earth . When the opportunity game to start as the first oncology social worker for a group of oncologist in private practice in Cape town I knew that this challenge was special and I threw myself into this task with all I had . From this association has come many beautiful memories and career highlights that have given meaning to my life and has help me realize my dreams I set after my diagnoses of cancer .
Being part of the founding of Cancer Survivors day in 2000 and the birth of the Cancer Buddy idea ( People Living With cancer )at that same function in August 2000 when Carl Liebenberg , has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life . I do hope that I will have the opportunity to see this organization grow to a strong independent organization rendering services newly diagnosed cancer patients to find hope and solace from speaking to someone that has come through a cancer experience similar to theirs to assist in creating hope and focus; as they are facing the trauma of having to get through their own cancer diagnosis and treatment The realizing of this dream will be grace and will provide so much meaning to my life that has and will never be the same that it was to before I was diagnosed with cancer . PLWC is a project that is so close to my heart and that I know can change the experience of many other people living with cancer daily in South Africa .