Barbara’s Ovarian Cancer Story, Part III

Happy Thanksgiving 2006

Barbara’s continued Ovarian Cancer Story:

It’s been two years since my last article and I have a lot to share with you. Presently, I’m sitting in my cozy little office/guest room, in my cozy house on Whidbey Island, Washington. Rosie-the-cat is reclining on the windowsill and we’re both staring out at the wind-whipped trees and billowing, dark clouds being blown across the sky. It’s very beautiful and I’m very grateful to be here!

At my last writing, I had just completed eight cycles of heavy-duty chemotherapy for advanced ovarian cancer and was in remission, ready to celebrate a very special Thanksgiving with my family. (See articles 1 and 2 on the “articles” page at http://www.dstress.com.) Those holidays were wonderful. I felt healthy, had hair, was working and exercising and planning my retirement date, (September 2005), and subsequent move to our home in Washington. Being an inveterate planner/list-maker and worrier, I organized the retirement and move to within an inch of its life. I knew when my last day of work would be; how much vacation time I had on the books and what day we’d be packing up. John made his plans to close his office and relocate his business. We were done with cancer and ready to move on! Well, as we all know, life has a way of not always going according to plan. We were about to be thrown a real curve-ball.

In March, we took a great trip to Arizona to celebrate my birthday. On the drive from Phoenix to Bisbee to visit friends, we marveled at the lush green desert, abloom with flowers after recent rains. Locals told us that this beauty lasted about two weeks before fading to gold and brown, and people had learned not to take it for granted. Well, that’s true about anything, isn’t it?

The day after we returned from our vacation, a message on the answering machine said a new suspicious mass had been found on my most recent CT scan, the one I had done before we left for Arizona. I was devastated and furious and terrified! I ranted and I raved and I screamed, scaring John and the cat. What about my plans? My retirement? Moving to my new home? What about my life? I don’t want more surgery, more chemo! I don’t want to lose my hair again! I feel fine and healthy- how can this be happening AGAIN? I had taken for granted that the first surgery and chemo had worked and I was cured. But in fact, 70-90% of people have recurrence at some point in time. I just didn’t think I would be one of them. I had to completely let go of my carefully orchestrated master-plan and face this challenge head on.

June found me back at UCSF for major surgery for removal of a tumor that was very close, but not on, the liver. Because ovarian cancer cells tend to migrate to the spleen and gallbladder, they also removed those organs. I was lucky to have access to one of the best surgeons in the country and post-op reports stated that they had completely removed all the cancer! I used all the same tools to prepare pre op and postoperatively as I had for my first surgery and my recovery was good. I was home in five days and back to work in five weeks. I started chemo in July.

On December 1, 2005, I had my last chemo cycle. Other than a very low blood count (I was very anemic and my white count was very low), I tolerated the treatments fairly well. Acupuncture, visualization, exercise and supplements all played an important part in my work to stay as strong and healthy as possible. My hair thinned considerably, but I didn’t have to wear wigs or cover-ups. With the particular drug regimen I was on, there is a 60% chance of hair loss. Before treatments started, I researched the web for any products that might minimize this side effect. I found a product called E.V.P.3 Chemaid. The website is:www.evp3.com. It provides good information and research so I decided to give it a try. I don’t know if it was the chemaid, the different type of drugs regimen and dosage, supplements or all of the above, but I kept the majority of my hair. Seems like such a minor thing when you are fighting for your life. Yet sometimes those small things make a difference in quality of life. I felt that I looked healthier and “normal” and that translated into not feeling like a cancer patient.

The new year brought new resolution to finally make our plans to retire and move. My labs were good, my scans were clear and we moved to Whidbey Island in May. We’ve been involved in projects ever since.

First on the agenda was painting the inside and the outside of the house. Just as John and I have been a good team in my healing process, we’ve made a good team in working on our home. And it’s been fun! We dug a garden using picks and shovels. We built planter boxes and created a Zen rock garden; we yanked out a huge juniper bush and planted roses and dahlias. At the end of the day we collapsed into recliners with such a good feeling of accomplishment. I’ve never used my muscles like that before. I’d be exhausted by 8pm-it was such a good kind of tired. One of my favorite activities was sitting in the dirt, pulling weeds. The sun on my shoulders, eagles soaring overhead, the smell of earth and flowers and growing things became a huge part of my healing process. I visualized my immune system plucking out and “disappearing” any unhealthy cells from my body with each weed I pulled. Working in the garden has become a wonderful meditation for me. I clear my mind and totally focus on the task at hand. Learning how to live in the moment is an ongoing lesson, and I have to continually find a balance between artful planning and my natural tendency to organize the future. I’ve learned a greater appreciation of each sunrise and sunset. I notice the rhythm of my breathing and muscle movement when I walk and hike. I take time to pick up interesting bits of wood from the beach and decorate my garden with them. I revel in the love of my family and dear friends. I consciously practice NOT taking anything for granted and I try to live each moment joyfully. I have a favorite mantra that I recite to myself on my daily walks. “thank you for all the blessings I enjoy; thank you for my health today; thank you for my family and friends; thank you for allowing me to spend time in this beautiful place; thank you for the gift of life! And wouldn’t it be very, very nice if abundance cascades into my life and into those I love-abundance of health-physical, emotional and spiritual; and financial abundance.

I wish I could say that with all the meditation and mantras, I now lead a joyful, positive life. The truth is that I have my ups and downs; my incredibly joyful moments along with times of fear, sadness and anger. I go into worry-mode when it’s time for lab work and waiting for results. I get fearful about any new ache or pain (does this mean the cancer is back?) I vacillate between should I go ahead and spend money on redoing the kitchen now or keep that money in savings a little longer. Sometimes I feel caught between living in the moment and wanting to plan future projects for next year, two years from now, five years from now. And I still get angry that this happened to me, even though I’ve learned many lessons in the past few years. One of the main lessons I’m starting to grasp is that life is an act of faith. When I was planting the garden, I mostly put in vegetables and flowers that would reward me with bouquets and crops right away. My act of faith in the future was planting a cherry tree. My daily prayer is that I’ll be around to enjoy the blossoms and pluck the cherries.

This year we will celebrate Thanksgiving in our new home. We’ll share our gratitude with friends and family; we’ll feast and watch football; and we’ll toast to health, happiness and prosperity. The garden hibernates now beneath a blanket of red and gold leaves. The tulips, daffodils and hyacinths I planted last week rest and wait until it’s their time to burst forth into colorful splendor. And I rest, write, clean closets and enjoy indoor projects as I wait for spring, when I’ll burst out to nurture and be nurtured in my garden.

Here’s to rainy days and warm fires NOW and digging in the dirt in the FUTURE.

Happy Thanksgiving

Barbara Ehlers-Mason

Whidbey Island, WA

Tips For Managing Pain Due to Complex Ovarian Cysts

If you are suffering from complex ovarian cyst pain, then here’s what you need to know. There are many ways on how to deal with pain caused by cysts. You can use herbal remedies and medications, alter your diet routine or simply apply pain management techniques. After reading this article, you will be able to lessen the pain brought by complex ovarian cyst.

To start with, when you are experiencing pain from the complex ovarian cyst, you need to put a heating pad in the lower portion of your abdomen. You can put the pad just under your belly button. After that, use your fingertips to gently massage your abdomen. I suggest you do it in a circular pattern. If you prefer to lie down or decide to take your rest while suffering from pain, you can simply elevate your legs or do a side position while bending your knees. Relaxations are also beneficial. You can either do yoga or meditation. A warm bath is another way of easing the pain as well.

When it comes to the amount of food intake, I recommend that you only eat small servings. And to make up for the low amount, you need to eat frequently. In that manner, you will gain the daily nutrition required for your body while avoiding any pain. A warm drink will be a good complement for your diet.

If you weigh more than what your supposed to weigh, then I suggest you start losing weight to lessen the pain. Instead of eating simple carbohydrates like white rice, try eating foods which are rich with complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and wheat bread. Fruits and vegetables also speed up burning your body fat. You need to control your salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine intake as well.

If you are taking Vitamin B6, Calcium and Magnesium then continue taking them. They are proven to lessen pain as well. I also recommend that you do regular exercise particularly pelvic rocking exercise. You also need to do breathing exercises if you really want to manage your pain. Once your period is near, you can take Ibuprofen until your period is finished. And lastly, you need to rest and sleep properly.

However, you can also use medications which can help eliminate your pain. There are lots of medicines such as antidepressants, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs are only effective for moderate to severe pains. You also need to get prescriptions from your physician to be able to use these drugs.

If after all of that, you are still suffering from tremendous pain, then you need medical attention. Other cases which need medical experts are delayed periods while being sexually active, profuse vaginal discharges, fever and bad odor.

Although the tips I have mentioned above seem simple, you still need to consult your doctor before trying any treatment. Oftentimes, Pain management is a case to case basis and may not be effective for everyone. Find out what pain management routine is best suited for you and stick to it to effectively get rid of the pain caused by complex ovarian cyst. Good luck and have a pain free life.

Stage 2 Ovarian Cancer – How Leg Pain Saved My Life

I had never given a thought to ovarian cancer, and why would I? When it comes to gynecological cancers you hear about breast cancer all the time but you never hear much at all about ovarian cancer. I probably heard the words before at some point but until I was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer I was pretty ignorant of signs and symptoms and had no idea what to look for.

As it turned out, I had probably been having early warning signs for some time, possibly years, but I attributed them all as just regular old signs of getting a little older and entering that time in life where different things start to bother you or basically fall apart, kind of like a car that is reaching the end of your warranty. You know how that goes, your warranty runs out and you’re in the repair shop every other week.

So I had been having typical symptoms such as indigestion (never had that before), bloating, change in menstrual periods (heavier), and some pelvic pain right AFTER my periods. It was really a strange symptom I thought because it wasn’t right along with that time of the month but a few days after. But then it would go away and I would just figure, you know, getting older, etc.

But then I started having this annoying leg pain. It was sort of a radiating pain, so I figured it must be something to do with a nerve. Sciatica? I didn’t think so because it didn’t follow the usual M.O. for that type of nerve pain. Maybe a muscle strain? Fibroids? Yes, that was it, I decided, fibroids. I researched all the symptoms and everything added up! A huge fibroid must be pressing on my sciatic nerve and causing this intolerably aggravating leg pain. I made an appointment with my gynecologist and she agreed, yes, that must be it.

She sent me for an ultrasound where a large mass was seen, so I was immediately sent to a gynecologic oncologist. This is the best person for ANY type of GYN problems that are out of the norm because these doctors are very specialized, but it is very scary to be sitting in the oncologist’s office wondering if you may have cancer. As soon as I had my exam, my doctor scheduled surgery, and soon! My surgery was done 6 days later and the diagnoses was stage 2 ovarian cancer. I was then scheduled to begin chemotherapy. I did not want to hear this! All I could think of was losing my hair. In the grand scheme of things this is such a small thing, but believe me, when you are faced this it just seems so awful and dreadful.

But there was good news hidden inside all of the bad, and that was that I ONLY had stage 2 ovarian cancer and not a later stage which is most often diagnosed (due to the fact that no one realizes they are having any symptoms to be worried about).

I am happy to say I made it through it all and am now cancer free. I do believe though that if I had not had the leg pain I would NOT have gone to the doctor anytime soon, probably not for quite some time, as my symptoms were just so nonspecific and seemingly very benign, and my disease may have gone unnoticed and kept growing. So please do heed your body’s communication with you and if you have anything going on that seems really out of the ordinary, have it checked out by a doctor.