Back in the summer of 2010 I had known something was wrong with me for a while, but due to my lack of insurance and fear of being diagnosed with a serious disease I kept putting off the doctor. Finally on August 31st, 2010 after discovering I had all the symptoms of ovarian cancer while surfing the Web at work (thanks WebMD!) and having my sister, Tara, scare me half to death, I decided to go into the emergency room.
I had all the symptoms of ovarian cancer, but the most annoying (I was a little shallow back then) was that I had gained a substantial amount of weight directly in my abdomen. When I stood up to take a mandatory pregnancy test in the ER my sister even questioned whether or not that was what was wrong with me. I assured her I knew about the birds and the bees and there was no possible way I was pregnant. By then she was just getting on my nerves so I told her to go ahead and go home. I truly doubted that anything was wrong with me.
After the first set of X-rays the doctor told me I had a large amount of fluid in my abdomen and that he wanted to run more tests to see where it was coming from. So then it was onto CAT scans. The next time he came in the room his demeanor was much different. He looked at me and said, "The only good news I can tell you is that if it is in fact cancer it doesn't look like it has spread anywhere."
Cancer runs quite heavily in my family (grandfather and my father have had it and my grandmother died from breast cancer) and I had always had a fear that it would be the death of me, but not at 25 years old. He told me he was going to admit me for an emergency surgery. I immediately started crying and I am not one to show my emotions to people. It was surreal. Part of me knew it was coming and part of me thought I was crazy to even think I could have such a disease at 25. I'll never forget sitting in that room alone and wondering if I would make it to my 26th birthday.
It's funny how your attitude about life can change when you realize yours could be taken away.
You see when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer I wasn't in a very positive place in my life. I had been on a downward spiral. Years prior I was a partier. I had been convicted of a DUI in January 2009 and in July 2009 my sister died in a car accident. The accident took place while she was driving my car. I wasn't talking to anyone in my family at the time and I was so incredibly close to her it was like my life had turned into one huge nightmare. I didn't care about anything. I was convinced the world was in on some cosmic joke. I didn't live my life. I simply took up space and oxygen.
Now don't get me wrong cancer is not a gift. It is a horrible disease that shows no mercy. It kills babies, children, teens, young adults and the elderly. I was extremely lucky. My cancer was caught in time. After two surgeries (one in September 2010 to remove the tumor then a follow-up staging and abdominal hysterectomy in December 2010) I am healthy and NOW HAPPY to be alive. Cancer did that for me. Cancer showed me how precious life is and I now appreciate that it is a gift. Had I not had cancer and continued on the path that I was on, I honestly do not know if I would be alive to write this.
I now have a purpose in my life. This year I started a non-profit, FMC, yes it means exactly what you think it does. The main objective for FMC is to help young adults with cancer and survivors buy providing financial assistance and free resources. Its in the developmental stages. For the first few years while I am getting it up and running it will be a Florida based organization but I hope to some day have it operate as a national foundation.
When my life ends, however near or far off into the future that may be, I just want to be able to look back and know I lived mine to the fullest and helped people along the way.