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Clearing out the Weeds

I am blessed to have an amazing medical team. When you are battling a life-threatening illness, you want them to be empathetic and kind, but you also want competence, tenacity, and, of course, brainpower. My “people” demonstrate all of this and more. They saved my life once. I am counting on them to do it again.

I’ve waited weeks for the latest treatment plan. I readily admit to my impatience. Knowing that I have active cancer growing inside me keeps me awake at night, as I sometimes envision this newest alien sending signals in code, messages that strike fear in my heart. What can I say? I have a very vivid imagination. And so, I am anxious to launch the first grenade, start the war. It’s time to let this thing know who is boss.

But I now understand. My doctor will not go charging into battle without the proper weapons and a bit of strategy for the attack. He is a smart one, and I defer to his professional judgement. He’s been soldiering for a long time.

My tumor is tricky, but surgery is going to be the first offensive move. In spite of a laundry list of things that can go wrong, I am optimistic and ready. So ready.

Then, I will be back in the chemo chair. That part will be long and hard with months of infusions. There are no surprises this time, no wondering what lies ahead. I know what it feels like to look at myself in the mirror and not recognize the person whose image is reflected back. I remember how hard those days of unrelenting nausea and overwhelming fatigue were. But I also know that I survived that once, and I can do it again.

At one time, cancer was considered a death sentence. Treatment options were limited and often so toxic that folks sometimes died from the therapy rather than the illness. Now, it is considered a chronic disease, one which can never be cured. This is the roller coaster I ride.

Ovarian cancer is notorious for rearing its ugly head again and again. The recurrence rate is exceedingly high, which means times of remission and times of treatment. That part is hard. So darned hard. Life for women who share this diagnosis is punctuated with uncertainty and anxiety. But it also creates warriors.

A friend shared what I thought was a pretty good analogy:

This disease is like rather like having a yard full of weeds. You spray and dig and pull, until they are gone, but a few months later, one will pop through your lovely green lawn or invade your carefully tended garden. And so, you roll up your sleeves and work on getting rid of them again. You don’t give up or allow your garden to be overrun with unwanted plants. Yes, they are a nuisance, a time-consuming chore, but you deal with them, one at a time because the landscape is too valuable not to protect.

I added my own comparison: Sometimes I think that chemo is more like burning down the house to get rid of ants. Her idea was a little more positive.

I walked through my garden this afternoon. Goodness gracious, there are wild blackberry vines and sprouting dandelions running rampant. It is time for me to put on my gloves and get to work. In a few months, I fully expect to have flowers blooming.


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