When Your Told That You Have Cancer…

I follow Today Parent on Facebook and an article came through my news feed last night that I felt like I had to read. It was titled,  “What Happens When Someone Tells You That You Have Cancer“. My story isn’t that different than the one in that article. It’s not something that I will forget. I was a Mom and that was coming first. I couldn’t just go home and cry my eyes out and curl in a ball. I had to go home and take care of newborn child. I even had my daughter with me when I found out the news. My husband, daughter and I went home following the news from the doctor. She still needed to eat, her diaper changed and rocked.

Then I called my Mom and I told her that she needed to come over right away. I didn’t tell her over the phone but I imagine a lot was racing through her head, but I am sure “cancer” wasn’t something that she was thinking of. We told her what the doctor said and asked her to share the news with my Dad and Brother. I couldn’t bare sharing that news in person with them. It was hard enough having to tell my Mom something like this. I just kept picturing my daughter telling me that same news and how devastated I would’ve been. My Mom she was amazing though she held it together, she was my Mom and did everything I needed her to do as my Mom. We then made the trip to my in-laws to tell them the news. We stood in their kitchen, I was holding my daughter in my arms. I began by saying remember when the doctors were talking about the cyst they found during the c-section, well it came back as cancer. Sharing news like is never easy I will never forget those moments of watching you turn someones life upside down. I wish I was done having to tell people at that moment about the diagnosis but then you realize how many people are part of your life. There were still friends and colleagues that I needed to tell.

We went back home and this time I just slept and I slept. My husband took care of our daughter and I just slept. By sleeping I could dream of amazing things. I wasn’t having to deal with the reality that I had cancer and that I didn’t know how bad it could possibly be. Being awake was horrible to me, sleeping was what made everything better. However, I still needed to get up for night feedings for my daughter.

Thankfully the next morning at 8am my doctor gave me reassuring news that they had good margins from when my doctor removed the cyst from my ovary during the c-section. That night I had my scans done and by the following morning I knew that there was no cancer in me. I am thankful for my amazing doctors who worked on their day off and constantly reassured  me everything was okay. I was fortunate enough that I only had to live two days thinking cancer was in me. I am thankful for the quick turnaround the hospital did in getting my insurance approved and my scans processed the same day. I know not everyone is so fortunate but I am very thankful for all the hard work that everyone put in for me that day. I know it goes beyond the doctors, I know it goes to the schedulers, the admin clerks, the processors, the technicians, the insurance claimers, who all worked very hard in a short period of time for me and my family. I am extremely thankful to all of you!

 

 

Paddling on Lake Champlain

Last night my Young Cancer Survivor group had the opportunity to go out onto Lake Champlain and paddle with Dragonheart Vermont. We went out on Lake Champlain for an hour just paddling around. This is a group of individuals who range in age from 18-40 who are all cancer survivors. Some have even beaten cancer twice! Some were diagnosed and survived years ago and then there are others who are newer like myself. It was a great opportunity to meet other survivors, as Dragonheart is made up of breast cancer survivors.

I am extremely happy to fundraising to help support Dragonheart’s mission. “The members of Dragonheart Vermont strive to promote breast cancer awareness in our community, to rovide hope to other cancer survivors and their families to live each moment fully, and to support our own team members in a spirit of camaraderie and joy, (dragonheartvermont.org, 2017). Although I am not a breast cancer survivor I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Dragonheart supports all local cancer survivors. Many of the programs I’ve utilized in my recovery were sponsored by the money raised by Dragonheart.

I am organizing a dragon boat team to paddle in the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival. By clicking this link it will bring you to my fundraising page. The Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival supports cancer survivors just like myself. It is a great organization and a great cause.

I’ve met some amazing people through the Young Cancer Survivor group. We’re all different and we all need support in our different ways. It felt amazing to be out on the water last night. I am looking forward to being able to do it again soon!

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Vermont Young Cancer Survivor Group Paddling on Lake Champlain with Dragonheart Vermont

 

 

 

 

 

Stowe Weekend of Hope – Young Cancer Survivors

Friday, May 5th, 2017

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.

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Pictured: Kathy McBeth – Board of Directors Stowe Weekend of Hope, and Gabrielle

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.

 

Lucky …

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.

 

Stowe Weekend of Hope – Speaker

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!

 

So now what?

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.

Neely and I on my first day of training!

One year ago

As I am lying in bed today it feels just like a normal day in my life. I am running around crazy trying to keep up with everything going on. I have been so busy that I haven’t had time to think about what tomorrow really is. I am so grateful and thankful for that.

As I reflect on how I feel I don’t have much to say in regards to it at this moment. This day will always have meaning to me. I don’t feel angry, sad, frustrated or happy. I feel like blah. I feel like I can’t wait for tomorrow to be over.
I did receive a wonderful card in the mail today from a dear friend who happened to remember what tomorrow is for me. As I opened the card I began to cry. It wasn’t because I was sad of the memory. It was because someone remembered and had reminded me that I wasn’t alone. It was so touching to receive love in such a thoughtful way.
I will never forget the exact moments and details that I went through last year. From the moments I walked into the office, to getting the news, to living in fear, and for the moment that changed my life forever. Yes it will always be there and tomorrow I will be reminded of that. All that I hope is that I just have a normal day tomorrow as I am so thankful for normal days.
Goodnight my family and friends🎔

Trying to Live a Normal Life

A normal life never seemed like a luxury until my diagnosis.  Things that should never effect your life do. There will be days where there is nothing you can do to make it better. They will throw a wrench in your life. You’re already walking a fine line of normalcy, then one little thing can trigger something and you feel like you’ve lost control. You tell yourself only 5 1/2 more weeks until your scans and then you can move on with your life. But will you really be able to move on? This isn’t going away there will be scans again in the future and then what? Will you have the anxiety all over again? Can your family, friends and co-workers really understand the anxiety that scans bring to you? You’ve already made it more than ten months without scans why is now that you struggle with it?

I know the time will go by fast and I am anxious for that day to come and go but I also don’t want time to move fast. Time is precious, that’s time I spend with my daughter and I don’t want that to move fast. So I will continue to walk that balance line for the next 5 1/2 weeks hoping that I don’t fall too far off it.

Image result for thank youSo if you see and my mood seems off, or I am not paying enough attention most likely my mind is off in another direction.

It’s not you and please don’t take it personally. So with that I say thank you for your understanding, thank you for not judging me and thank you for just being a friend.

Hiding behind my shirt

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 breathe 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 diagnosis. Every so often there will be days like this one where it gets turned upside down. 

University of Vermont Medical Center Health & Cancer Conference Speech

October 7th, 2016
Hi Everyone! My name is Gabrielle and I am 30 years old. This story started ten months ago.
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 daugther. 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. Just this past week she said “Mumma” for the first time it was the most amazing thing to hear. 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 we needed 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, friends and family. 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 rollercoaster in a matter of one month. The things that went through my head are, “will it come back?”, “Where did it come from?”, “Do I need to be concerned about my daughter or my husband?”, “How do I live with the unknowns?’ “How did this happen?”, “Did it happen because I was pregnant?”
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 was able to find the support I needed to get through this. I still rely on my husband and my family to help me recover on this stage of my journey. You can’t do it alone and it’s okay to ask people to help you.
You can look at me today and never know what I went through. This cancer never changed me me on the outside, it really just affected me on the inside. I have challenges that I will continue to have to face. I still have fears for my future, I worry about having more children, and I worry about scans. I have to live with the fact that many of my questions will not have answers to them and that is okay.
The reality is that it will never go away, I will live with this diagnosis and these unknowns everyday for the rest of my life and I am okay with that.