2 YEARS AGO ON HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN NO LONGER BECAME JUST A HOLIDAY.
Happy Halloween, well Happy be-lated Halloween now! I can’t believe another Halloween has come and gone! Now we are getting ready for all the Thanksgiving festivities, which I for one am SO EXCITED ABOUT. Bring on all the vegan foods and desserts haha but don’t even get me started on Christmas! Christmas is my jam.
I have always been a huge fan of Halloween, but I was one of those odd kids who didn’t really like candy. I would have candy from a year ago still on the fridge. OOPS. 2 years ago, Halloween became much more than just a holiday where I can dress up and go out and have fun…2 years ago on October 31st, 2016 at 5am, I was getting ready for my major cancer debulking surgery. I remember when I first got to Seattle and met with my amazing doctor, it was barely 3 weeks later when that tumor almost doubled in size and was pushing into my spine. It hurt so bad that I actually had to take a very high dose of Oxy and let me tell you it helped a ton but I have never, ever have been a fan of pain killer or pills. Your girl has had more surgeries than I can count on so many different body parts because growing up sports and me…yeah we will leave it at that. I mean my family started calling me Murph because of Murphy’s law lol. Anyways, the tumor was growing pretty fast and my doctor knew that surgery was the best option. So surgery on Halloween it was, but let me tell you the process leading up to my surgery was nuts. It was mad! It had to be done though. My surgery was on a Monday and I had to start prepping for that surgery starting Friday morning. My doctor wasn’t 100% sure if she would need to cut into my bowls but since she was going to be working through out my entire abdominal cavity and near my intestines that meant I needed to do a colon and bowl cleanse. Friday was an all liquid diet, Saturday was an all clear liquid diet, and Sunday was the cleanse…and oh boy did it cleanse!
That entire weekend I wasn’t too nervous about the surgery, I was actually more anxious and excited for Monday and yes I was excited because it meant one step closer to being cancer free and getting that crap out of my body. When Monday morning rolled around and my alarm went off at 3am, my entire body went into anxiety and nervousness mode. We lived about 45 minutes away from UW Seattle and you always had to be there early to check in so 3am came around pretty quick. I didn’t sleep much that night either. I was tossing and turning, my mind was going crazy. I felt like there was a little hamster running on her wheel in my head. When we got to the hospital we got checked in and had to sit in this massive waiting room that was the family waiting room. It was actually really cool, they had this big tv that would keep everyone updated on their loved one while they were back there. It would say if they were still waiting to go back to surgery, in surgery, or in recovery. I had an amazing support system of family, friends, and even from social media during my entire battle and still to this day, but on the day of my surgery I believe there ended up being over 15 people who were waiting for me to get out of surgery. I finally got called back to get in my little waiting room and get comfy in my bed so I could get prepped for surgery. That is when my stomach really started to turn and knot up. It felt like a mixture of butterflies but then some bubble guts would hit right after. Hospitals are cold places in general but Seattle in October was really cold. It also didn’t help that I was barely 97 pounds and did not have much meat on my bones because of chemo. The amazing thing about UW was they had this fan/heater thing that would blow out hot air and it would blow into this blanket that would keep you warm in the bed and it was like my own little oven. That little oven was my comfort. I felt safe oddly enough in this little hospital bed with this heater/blanket thing. About an hour later I was finally finished with all the check ups, questions, all the test they have to run, and my doctor and her team came by to tell me the game plan.
Right before I was getting wheeled back to the OR (operating room) I was given something called “the sleepy time cocktail”. I’m not even kidding that is what the anesthesiologist called it and it was the anesthesia medicine that everyone gets before most surgeries. I remember very little after getting that cocktail. It is a bit fuzzy but I remember getting transferred from my bed to the OR table and looking up at all the bright lights. The nurses and my doctor were all talking to me and then next thing I know I have this breathing mask on me and they want me to count down starting from 10. I made it to 8 and don’t remember a dang thing after that, until I woke up in the ICU with about 20 white coats known as doctors and my family was in the room. That’s when I got the news that they were able to get all the cancer that they could see out and at the time there is no cancer! It is all fuzzy but all I can really remember is yelling WHOOHOO really loud haha! According to Kaleb they also told me that I had a temporary ileostomy bag. If you don’t know what that is, to put it simply, part of my small intestine was now on the outside of me and sat on top of my stomach. That is now how I would go poop and there is a bag that is attached to it and you would drain it out when needed. I’m not going to lie, it took me about a week to be able to look at it because I was really freaked out. My doctor ended up calling my family from inside the OR about an hour into my surgery to tell them that she needed to give me this ileostomy bag because the cancer was and tumor were attached to part of my colon. It was basically life or death and she wasn’t too sure if it would be temporary but was very hopeful it would be. It was a hard pill to swallow at the time, but I trusted my doctor and it had to be done.
2 days later I was still in the ICU and my doctor came to see how I was doing and to talk to me. I was sitting up in a chair which was so hard to do since I now had a 13 inch massive incision that was being held together by staples. She sat down next to me and told me that my surgery was close to 6 hours when it should have been 5 hours. The cancer and the tumors were much larger and more spread out then they thought and could see on all the scans. In scans it looked like I had 1 major tumor, possibly 2 but when they opened me up, there were actually 5 tumors and 1 was the size of a beach ball. She described it as our pelvis is like a fish bowl and that tumor sat right in my pelvis and as it grew, it started to overflow over the top of my pelvis or fish bowl and started to push organs in other directions. I ended up having 4 blood transfusions, 5 tumors removed, my entire spleen removed, some lymph nodes removed, my appendix removed, I had a full hysterectomy, I had part of my bladder removed, part of my colon removed, and a temporary ileostomy bag put in place. The tumor ended up pushing my bladder into my rib cage and would explain why I needed to use the bathroom every 20 minutes. After she told me everything they removed, she dropped a major bombshell on me. They tested the lymph nodes and they came back positive for cancer but only in a few. She wasn’t sure if at this point the cancer could be cured because the cancer I was battling which was low grade serous ovarian cancer, was resistant to chemo. I’ll never forget my doctor looked right in my eyes and said “but we are going to do everything we can, even if we have to throw the kitchen sink at it.” I looked right back at her and said I got this. Since the cancer was now in my lymph nodes and was totally covering my spleen, I was now considered stage 4B which is the last stage. I ended up staying in the ICU for 5 days and when I was finally released from there and I made my way up to the next floor and stayed there for another 4 days. A little over a week after surgery and I was finally able to go home.
2 years have come and gone and its crazy to look back on October 31,2016 and see how far I have come. On November 13th, I will be celebrating 1 year of No Evidence of Disease and I could not be more thankful and blessed for that and my amazing team at UW and now Moffitt. Cancer was not easy and trust me when I say this, I had days where I thought this was never going to end. Whether you are battling cancer, anxiety, or just having a hard day or time, I want you to know that it won’t last forever. It may seem like it, but trust me it is going to end and your new season is going to start. There will be dark days, but you have brighter and better days ahead of you. On those bad days I would always tell myself that tomorrow is a fresh start and one day closer to that finish line.
You got this.