It has been quite the year. For me, 2013 was all about closing the book on the old tattered pages of the years prior. It was also about starting an entirely new book, not just a new chapter. That first book will always be a part of my story, but I feel like the real adventure is just beginning.
At the beginning of the year, I was still recovering from a devastating blow. In 2012, I learned the crippling news that I had an ovarian tumor the size of a bowling ball. I’ve shared my story so many times that saying, “the size of a bowling ball” has sort of lost its meaning. But when I remember what I went through being sick and going undiagnosed for several horrific years, I remember exactly how heavy I felt. Not just physically heavy from the tumor, but heavy in my heart. My cancer was not just of the body, but of the mind as well.
I started getting sick when my Dad was sick. We shared many of the same symptoms. I survived my cancer, but my Dad didn’t survive his. It’s something I don’t know if I can ever fully recover from. There will always be a deep emotional scar there, and my sickness became a reflection of the inner turmoil I felt. I had a very complicated relationship with my Father, but I loved him nonetheless.
So, in 2012, the tumor was surgically removed and all the cancer with it. But I didn’t heal after surgery like I was expected to. I was plunged into my own living nightmare. Yet, I somehow still managed to retain an inner peace. I was scared witless, but I kept on keeping on. I discovered strength and courage — two qualities I always thought I was lacking. But, when push came to shove, there they were. I wasn’t just talking the talk anymore, I was walking the walk.
I endured surgery wide awake. I was left with a hole in my gut the size of the tumor — a bowling ball. I was put on a wound vacuum for several months before I was okay enough to go without it. That’s when the healing process slowed. Pig skin grafts were placed into the wound periodically after this. It took 9 months for the wound to finally close. It closed in mid-January of this year, but tore back open about a week after.
It wasn’t until April that the wound finally healed for good. I learned, at that time, that my body was in the process of producing a second cancer: Uterine (endometrial) cancer. There were no cancer cells yet, but there would be if I didn’t get my hormones back in balance. Unfortunately, I have a genetic blood disorder (Factor V Leiden) that causes my blood to clot easily. This means that hormone therapy was not a viable option for treatment, although I was placed with an intrauterine device (IUD) to help cease the constant bleeding. Being sick is not a pretty or pleasant experience.
Fortunately, I had already vowed to get healthy. This was something that I instantly knew I’d do shortly after the tumor was removed and I was left with the wound. I felt like that was what I deserved. I felt like it was the reward I needed to give to myself for having endured so much. The only way I could do this was by changing my thought patterns.
I had spent so much of my life feeling worthless, hopeless, and full of despair. I hated myself and always thought negatively about myself. I was always shy, overweight, and self-conscious. This worsened with the tumor. I gained a lot of weight while I was sick. I no longer wanted to be seen. For the longest time, I wished for death. But then I was touched by death. And when I felt death’s touch, it woke me up.
After this, there were no doubts in my mind. I was going to get healthy again. I was going to lose the weight and restore hormonal balance. It was, is, my dream. I was going to make it all happen. I am making it all happen.
On April 13th, 2013, I started my lifestyle change. The night before I started my lifestyle change, I watched a movie. The movie was entitled, “Liberal Arts”. In this movie, there is a scene where the imaginal cells of a caterpillar are discussed. As I watched the scene, I felt the universe speaking to me. I was the caterpillar and imaginal cells were taking over. It was time for my transformation from one thing into another. And transform, I have.
It’s December 26th, 2013, and I am cancer-free and have lost 130 pounds so far. I have taken a lot of small steps and giant leaps to get to where I am at today. It’s been a difficult road, but the most rewarding things are always the hardest.
I’m still a work in progress. I still struggle with old thought patterns, but I am still healing. I have a few surgeries that will take place soon, including a scar revision surgery. Hard times are ahead, but even better times are too. I believe in myself. I know I will achieve my dreams even if there are a few hiccups along the road. I won’t make a New Year’s Resolution. I don’t need to. The goals are already set. Soon I will be a butterfly. Soon I will spread my wings and fly.
I hope that my story gives hope to those who have none. One should always hold on to hope. Even if it leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Even if it makes you want to run away. Even if it shatters your heart into a million pieces. You just have to pick up the pieces, put them back together, confront your fears, and keep fighting for happiness.