Got Married. Got Cancer.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. – Cayla Mills

On January 1st, 2016, I finally got to marry my best friend and soul mate, Dee Scott.  I knew there was something very special about this girl, since we haven’t left each other’s side for the past twelve years.  We’ve been though countless ups and downs, yet our love only grows stronger. We were thrilled when the Supreme Court finally allowed us to be legally married… and in the State of Ala-freakin-bama of all places. Oh, what a wonderful day we had this New Year’s Day!  We were surrounded by our families, loved ones, there to celebrate our love.

Unfortunately, seventeen days later, I was rushed to the emergency room with abdominal pain. I thought it was diverticulitis.

The reality would change my life forever. I had Stage 3 ovarian cancer with metastasis to the abdomen, with lymph node involvement. The next week was a blur of tests, in-patient chemo and surgery to determine the extent of the cancer.

Being a Medical Speech Pathologist, I automatically turned to my analytical and problem solving mode.Where do you turn for information these days?

GOOGLE!

Let me tell you – Google is the LAST PLACE you should look for medical advice – unless you like being scared out of your wits! According to Google, I had maybe 5 years and I was going to be miserable from side effects from chemo.  I was numb, scared, and truly didn’t know what to do.

After 20+ years as a Speech Pathologist – I DID NOT know how to BE the PATIENT.  I was always the medical specialist. As a patient you’re scared. You are face to face with a possible death sentence.

So I learned.

I learned to lean on my caregivers – My Wife, my Mom, my Dad, my neighbor Lulu, and the blessing of Shannon, who moved in with us. Ten years of taking care of her own sick mother, she was there for me. She fed me tiny meals throughout the day, kept me hydrated, rubbed my feet, sore from the neuropathy and especially on those days, like holding me when a huge clump of hair came out in the shower and the reality came crashing down.

But, mostly I’ve learned you have to laugh.

There’s a commercial for a chemo drug where two sisters are having a lovely clambake on a Massachusetts shore after one sister has just had a Chemo treatment.

The drug increases your white cell count, to help avoid infections while on chemo. But some folks have a reaction where the bone marrow expands in your large bones so fast that you feel red-hot pokers being driven through your bones.

Clam Bake for me?  HELL NO!!!

You also find yourself referring to your bathroom visits as “Chernobyl Diarrhea” and I can attest to levitating off the toilet!

Then there’s the hair- after losing it … I decided to take charge and cut it off. My dad joined in for the party each getting our first Mohawk! We could have easily been the cover of an 80’s Sex Pistols Album! When bald, I dubbed myself Uncle Fester.

My friend’s mannequin hair show had the nurses in the hospital flabbergasted as laughter rolled from the oncology floor. Well… here I AM… Nine months of Chemo and surgery and I’m now in REMISSION.  What a beautiful thing to hear.

I have to continue preventive chemo for the next year to keep this demon from coming back!!  But…. that’s Okay.

Having cancer has changed my life FOREVER!!  My 2nd Act changes everyday!!  I have trained myself to find a blessing in every moment of my everyday life!!  Oh my God!!  And the people that have randomly appeared in my life after Cancer!  It’s just amazing.

After my diagnosis, I felt the loss of my Health, my Hair, my Mind (we all know chemo brain)  So my second act is just beginning, slowly, but beginning…

I have started a swimming class and a knitting class.I’ve started a 2nd Act. And I’m still learning – cancer is my journey of self-discovery and finding a silver lining through laughter, love.