As we approach Mother’s Day this weekend I am reminded of two very important things. One that I am very thankful to have my Daughter and two how thankful I am here today with her.
I am also reminded that not everyone is as lucky as I am. It reminds me of any earlier post I made and the quote I shared. We are all fighting battles and we all need support from one another. It doesn’t matter how big or how small your battle might seem. It’s a battle that we are all facing. So remember to be kind, smile, say please and thank you. Tell a friend you’re thinking of them, send a card and send some love. We are all fighting different battles through our lives and its really important to be there for people along the way.
We all have a lot to be thankful in our lives. Cherish the moments you get to spend with your love ones. Remember that there are family and friends out there that might not be so lucky.
To anyone out there know that you’re not alone we all fighting different battles. They might be different battles, but they are all important no matter how big or small they might be.
To all my friends and family out there know I am always thinking of all of you. You’ve been there for me so much and I will continue to be there for all of you.
Hi Everyone! My name is Gabrielle and I am 30 years old. I am a Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Ice Hockey Player, Runner, Career Woman, and an Ovarian Cancer Survivor. I am here today to share my “cancer” story, how my life changed and how I overcame many obstacles along this journey.
On December 11th, 2015 my life changed and it was one of the best days of my life. On that day my daughter was born. It was the happiest day for my husband and I. What we didn’t know at the time, was that on that day a miracle happened to us in more ways than one.
Our daughter was born via emergency C-section after having complications during delivery. During the C-section a cyst was found on my ovary. It wasn’t until six weeks later that we got that dreadful call from the doctor asking for us to come in. To be honest I had completely forgotten about it, the doctors said it didn’t look like cancer and at the time and we were so caught up with our newborn daughter. So on January 21st we got the news that the cyst was cancer and that it was diagnosed as Ovarian Angiosarcoma. They told us that it was very rare and aggressive cancer and that they had an appointment for me the following morning at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
A lot goes through your mind when you hear something like that. I was a new mom holding a six week old baby in my arms. I had just gone from the highest moment in my life to one of the worst. My life had completely turned upside down and it wasn’t about me anymore it was all about her. My head began racing I was envisioning her crawling, walking, to her saying “Momma”, to her prom and wedding day.
The emotions weren’t going away, what came next was one of the hardest things I had to do. I had to share the news with my parents and family. It wasn’t just about the diagnosis, we suddenly needed help;we had a 6 week old baby at home. Asking for help doesn’t come naturally for me. So began to me the dreadful process of asking for help and telling the people who are really important to me that our lives were about to change. I say “our” because this diagnosis wasn’t just about me it was about the people that surround me,their lives were changing too.
When my brother found out about my diagnosis he said the best thing to me and that was there was “hope.” I had never thought about life that way that way and he was right. The word “hope” means so much. We get a diagnosis like this and the first thing that comes to your mind is what if I don’t beat this. However, life was giving me the opportunity.
We don’t like talking about dying. When I was younger I always thought if I was going to die, that I would want it to be quick. When you become a Mom that changes, you want more than anything to be there for your child.
Once again after two days of doctor’s appointments and scans my emotions were at another level, I got the best news! There were no signs of cancer from the scans. My doctor still felt that it was necessary to remove one of my ovaries. Three weeks later I went in for surgery, I was in and out in one day. My family and friends all showed up and helped. They rallied behind us and pitched in from cleaning our house, doing our laundry, delivering food and taking care of our daughter. The most challenging thing emotionally at the time for me was that I couldn’t hold my daughter for about a week. It was difficult for her and it was difficult for me. Now I realize that it was minimal. At the time it felt like the hardest thing emotionally. She wanted her Mommy and I couldn’t be there.
I cherish and enjoy every minute I spend with her, being a Mom has been the greatest gift of all. One day I will share my story with her and everything we went through as a family. I will share with her how she saved my life, how being her Mom is the greatest thing I could ever imagine.
After the surgery everyone’s life went back to normal, except for me or at least that’s what it seemed like to me. We didn’t need the help, and I was cancer free. However, as the patient there is one last step that you personally have to deal with and that is the emotional part of it. I had to accept that yes I was now part of a group that nobody wants to be part of.
I went back to work after a 15 week maternity leave. To my co-workers they just thought I was on maternity leave, only a few people at work knew what had happened. On my first day of work I needed to share what had happened to me. I sat in the conference room in front of all my co-workers and explained them that what my family and I had been going through for the past month. The problem was at the time I didn’t want to talk about what I went through and I made it clear to my colleagues, family and friends. On the outside my life went right back to normal but inside it didn’t feel that way. My family and friends couldn’t relate to the feelings I felt. I had gone through a roller coaster in a matter of one month.
The reality is that I really needed to talk out loud about my diagnosis and what I went through in order to recover from it. Cancer doesn’t just affect us physically it hits us emotionally too. I struggled with how to do this, I needed my family and friends to understand how I was feeling without having an awkward conversations.
So I began writing a blog. I began writing every time I was frustrated and overwhelmed and when I was finally comfortable I shared it will all my friends and family. As Winnie the Pooh said “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
I use the blog to share how I am feeling and what I am going through. This blog is my outlet,when I write I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest. One of the hardest challenges I find is that by looking at me you wouldn’t know that a year and half ago I was diagnosed with cancer.
Right before Christmas this year I went out to dinner for a work event and was hit with a challenge. I wrote about it in my blog, which went on onto say:
“Tonight I went out to dinner. The person next to me just met for the very first time. This person doesn’t know me and would have no reason to know my “cancer” story. As I sat there he began talking about how he had just attended a fundraising event to help children with cancer. He went to say how we can never imagine what these people went through. In my head I just wanted to yell out “I DO KNOW!” My heart starts racing and I realizing I am holding my breath because I feel like everyone at my table is watching me. A lot is going through my head,“I do know what you’re talking about!” “That was me only eleven months ago, can we please change the subject?” I am dealing with it now as I approach my one year diagnosis date and one month later my scans.
I know I won’t bring up my story so I stay silent and just continue nodding my head. I don’t want to ruin the mood with my story. I don’t want to make that person feel guilty or uncomfortable. So I will continue to sit there and just nod my head. I will pretend like I am like everyone else at the table just living our normal lives;hiding my cancer scars behind my shirt. Tonight the invisibility is a curse, it will continue to bother me and bring up memories for me.I will be the one that will see this feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
This diagnosis changed my life forever and I hate it for that. My life will never be the way it was before. I have to continue to live my life with (this) diagnosis. Every so often there will be days like this one where it gets turned upside down.”
I shared what I went through because I was frustrated at the time, and to me I didn’t think any of my family and friends would understand what I was going through. By writing this and sharing it with them they had the opportunity to know how I was feeling and how to be there for me.
It was around this time that I began to also deal with the fact that I was coming up on my scans. I was about a few months away from my first set.
One of the hardest challenges I faced was waiting. My doctors recommend waiting a year before doing my first set of scan post-surgery. A year is a long time to wait for something like this. As the date approached and by approaching I mean months away I began to feel the stress and anxiousness associated with it. It’s been referred to me as “scanitice”.
During that year I felt like my life was on hold until those scans happened. I had fears of what might happen to me, what will they show, did we miss something? I felt like I didn’t want to plan anything for the future, I didn’t want to leave a burden on my husband if something went wrong. I didn’t want to think about having more children because what if they told me I couldn’t have more children. I began writing those feelings and sharing them out loud. I found by writing that my friends and family could relate to me and could easily have conversations about what I was going through. I didn’t feel so alone through this process.
Even being diagnosed with cancer I still find it difficult to relate to others who have been diagnosed. We all fight battles differently and we all need support in different ways.
I am thankful my results came back great, there were no signs of cancer and I was told that I could have more children in my future.
I have continued on with my blog since my all clear in February, it will sometimes be about my diagnosis as that will never go away. My blog does have a new shift to it as it’s focusing on some amazing things I am doing. I’ve started new chapters in my life that I never imagined I would be doing, I have begun training for a relay team in Vermont City Marathon, organizing my Dragon Boat team “Soaring On” and including me speaking tonight to all of you.
I know I am not alone in this journey I have an amazing support team as many of you are here today, including biggest supporter and love of my life, my Husband. I have a great group of family of friends that I am thankful to have part of my life. My journey will continue and I am only at the beginning of this thing called life.
I never imagined in a million years that I would be so into running. Last night I went out for my first solo run. Neely was exhausted from an earlier play date and my daughter was already asleep. I changed into my running clothes, pulled my hair back, laced up my running shoes and put the headphones in. I stepped outside into the warm air, the music began blaring and my feet started to move along the pavement. As I hit the second turn in my run I realize that my speed is much fast than I had thought. I was planning on running two miles tonight, as I had ran one and half the night before with Neely. I look down at my watch and realize my pace. In my head I am thinking; “this can’t be right!” I am not winded, I don’t have blisters, my shins don’t burn, and I am actually picking up my pace. The music continues to fill my head. I am approaching the one mile mark and realize that I am running my first mile in eight minutes.”That can’t be right?” “When was the last time I ever did that!” As I continue on I start to feel the affects of my eight minute mile, my pace begins to slow down but it isn’t until the last quarter mile. I look down and I am still doing good time. I push myself. “I don’t need to run tomorrow so I can do this!” I hit the entrance to my driveway and I stop my running and begin to walk off the exhaustion. I look down at my watch. I finished my run in nineteen minutes. Not too bad for someone who only started running two and half months ago. I’ve never been so impressed with myself in regards to physical activity. I had no idea how great of shape I’ve gotten myself into. I look forward to my next run in a couple days!
Every so often you’re hit again with the reminder of how lucky you are. Yesterday I had a routine doctors appointment but what should take people a few minutes takes me 20 minutes just to go through my history. “Anything in your past medical history we should know about?” “Have you had major surgery recently?” You have to go through this every time because the person checking you is either new or they won’t remember. It’s also important and vital information that the doctors need to know about.
Then you get an email the next day about someone you don’t know but its shared through a newsletter. This persons life just changed their cancer came back and has spread to the brain. They are living in respite care now. You’re reminded how lucky you are that your life is fairly normal. You’re working full-time, you’re working out, you have no restrictions, you’re worries are about whether you packed enough diapers and wipes. You realize how lucky you are that your worries are so minimal.
You’re happy because its Friday and that you’re spending the whole weekend with your kid and Husband, and that you’re almost halfway through the workday. You know that going to the doctors office is important because of your history so you take the time to make the appointments, talk to your doctors and go through your entire medical history.
I am thankful that my cancer was caught so early by a doctor. It had nothing to do with me. I had no idea that it was growing inside me. It’s important to know your body and to have annual doctor visits. These things can save your life.
Ovarian Cancer is pretty much impossible to recognize. Most people don’t notice the symptoms until the cancer has spread. Click on the link to know what to look out for Ovarian Cancer. Knowing your body is the most important thing you could possibly do.
I’ve started my Dragon Boat Team for the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival happening Sunday, August 9th on the Burlington Waterfront. Our team is made up of twenty boaters and one drummer. We are working to raise money, all money raised goes to support local cancer charities including the Young Cancer Survivor Group that I am part of. The Young Cancer Survivor Group is made of individuals between the ages of 19-40 years old. They do monthly meetings that include dinner but also do activities. I’ve participated in zip lines in Stowe and my family went to the Echo Center in Burlington. It’s a great opportunity for people to meet other people who have survived cancer. Money raised will also support Camp Ta-Kum-Ta (a year-round camp for children with cancer) another amazing program local to Vermonters.
The design was something my sister-in-law worked together to design. The butterfly represents the change I’ve made of myself over the past year and half. The name represents me moving on beyond my diagnosis, nothing is stopping me! The color teal represents ovarian cancer which was what I was diagnosis with. We are working on having shirts made up where proceeds will go to support the Dragon Boat Team.
To make a donation to my Dragon Boat Team please click below:
I’ve been asked to speak at the Stowe Weekend of Hope in a month. I will be speaking Friday, May 5th at 7:30pm. I will be part of the Young Survivor’s Panel Discussion. The speech is very similar to the one I gave at UVM Conference this past Fall. I plan to share my story and explain how I’ve managed to deal with my life events. This is my first year attending the Stowe Weekend of Hope. I am really looking forward to attending. It is nice to be around other individuals who understand what its like to receive a diagnosis. Everyone’s story is different and unique and we all have coping mechanisms.
I look forward to sharing my story I hope it helps someone else as much as it helps me to share my story out loud. Look for a future posts!
I’ve lost a bunch of weight since I’ve started running. However, there are times like today where I don’t see the change on the scale. I bought a new pair of size medium pants online. I put them on this morning to wear to work. Well I still wore them but they are falling off my waist. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. I’ve found other clothes that just don’t fit me anymore. It is now time to start tracking my measurements because I am starting to have non scale victories which are awesome. I haven’t felt this great with my weight and body since when I got married a little over 2 1/2 years ago. I am in better shape now than I was when I got pregnant with my daughter. I am looking forward to shopping for a bathing suit this summer. You won’t see me showing off my stomach but I also won’t be hiding behind a bathing suit cover either. It is time to go downstairs and rummage through my old bins of clothes and get rid of some others because well these clothes don’t fit anymore.
I am continuing to run when I can outside. The weather hasn’t been very helpful with this. I should be able to get back out and run on Wednesday. Tonight is a non-running day because I have ice hockey. I really hope the weather gets warmer and sunnier because I would like to get into a routine and stay with it. The race is only a month and half away at this point.
I use to hate running. I never would do it and I had no interest in it. Then one of my friends convinced me that running on a relay team for Vermont City Marathon would be a good idea. Well I can never say no to a challenge (she must know me to well). I’ve started training for it since I am not in any shape for running. I have never run farther than 5 miles, and well that was in high school. So far the longest I’ve run is 3 miles and that was with the stroller. Last night I managed to run a little over 2 miles with Neely. I even had a time of 9 min 40 secs per mile. Not bad in my opinion for someone who doesn’t run. I don’t have a treadmill and I refuse to spend money on this so the only place I can run is outside. I never thought I would say this but I’ve really come to enjoy running. Last night I just ran with Neely even without music. I even ran farther than I had planned and in less time than I thought. I look forward to more running and I hope it starts to get nicer out so I can start running more and more.
I’ve been asked to speak Friday, May 5th at the Stowe Weekend of Hope. I’ve been asked to sit on the Young Cancer Survivor Panel. It is very similar to the speech I gave for UVM Medical Center this past Fall. Telling my story out load gets easier every time I say it and it helps me as well. I have many topics that I wouldn’t be opposed to talking about. It’s hard to narrow them down. One of those topics is my blog and how writing it has helped me through this journey.
One of the major things that has allowed me the opportunity to express my feelings is this blog. I never thought in a million years that I would be writing my feelings out load for all my friends and family to read. This blog gave me the outlet I needed to express my feelings. I wasn’t a person that was going to walk up to someone and say to them “I am having a bad day. I am anxious, nervous and frustrated.” I never wanted to bring up what I was going through. It didn’t want anyone’s sympathy and I didn’t want them to feel bad. I didn’t want to see that persons face when I said it them. Blogging gave me my outlet to tell everyone how I was feeling without having to see their reaction. It made difficult conversations easier.
Blogging has become my therapy. I hope to continue to share my journey through my blog. I have lots of fun stuff planned for this Summer that I can’t wait to write about and continue to share with all of you.
So some stats on where my blog has gone:
To date I’ve had 1200+ hits to the blog
413 hits in the last month
181 hits to So Now What?
147 hits to One Year Ago
48 hits to Hiding Behind My Shirt
Making those my top 3 post
I plan on continuing writing and I hope you will continue to read!
My scans came back normal which is the best news I could possibly get. They also told me they no longer need to monitor me with chest scans. I will only be monitored via ultrasounds going forward. This is also great news! So you may ask now what?
Well I’ve signed up to run on a relay team for the Burlington Marathon over Memorial Day weekend. I am running 3.4 miles in the first leg. I’ve started training for it. I am on day 5 of training. I run for 30 minutes every other day. I either run with Neely (my dog) or with our jogging stroller with my daughter. The other days I either play ice hockey which I’ve been doing since June or I am lifting. I am determined to continue with getting in great shape. I am doing everything right to achieve this and I can’t wait to see the results!
So I hope you won’t see my future blog posts about my diagnosis. I am sure it will come up in the future as it will always be part of me. I hope this will be a new journey for me going forward with my life.