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.