Ovarian cancer and me

A story about cancer and life
  1. Back in 2013, I was feeling free and having fun.
    Having literal fun at a Fun concert in some woods in Nashville while visiting my brother.
  2. It was a beautiful time.
    We felt young and carefree and sang out loud with @jackantonoff and the band.
  3. Magic and confetti fell from the sky.
    A guy behind us sang every lyric of "The Gambler" wildly off key and with such joy and love and I've always remembered that.
  4. That same month, I was 38 and single and decided to get serious about maybe having a baby one day.
    Long story short, a chat with a fertility specialist led to an exam which led to discovery of ovarian cysts which led to surgery to remove them.
  5. Surgery went fine and a week later I went to the beach.
    Our annual family vacation is one of the best weeks of the year.
  6. I always walk to my favorite beach bookstore.
    It was there while standing between the anniversary cards and the international fiction in my swimsuit and flip-flops and Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose t-shirt that the surgeon called to tell me one of my ovarian cysts was malignant.
  7. To say this was shocking would be the understatement of all time.
    I didn't know what to do but walk to the beach and stare and listen to Spiegel Im Spiegel on repeat.
  8. I broke the news to the family and left vacation early to meet the gynecological oncologist.
    He was very dreamy and wore cowboy boots. A serious man of few words. I knew I was putting my life in his hands. Afterwards my brother and I went out for mint juleps because what else could we do.
  9. Shortly thereafter I had my first ever cat scan.
    At this point we had no idea what stage the cancer was because the cyst removal surgery wasn't done as a staging surgery because there was no suspicion of cancer. Weird news: scan showed that I was born with 1 kidney and 2 uteri. Who knew? Good news: cancer-wise, scan didn't show anything terrible.
  10. But I had already decided to have a complete hysterectomy followed by chemo.
    I was at peace with this decision. This is the sunset from my hospital bed the night after surgery.
  11. I couldn't sleep that night.
    The only light was the glow of the IV. Hospitals are weird places. I thought a lot about death and life that night.
  12. People aren't sure what to do when someone gets cancer.
    Flowers are good.
  13. Organizing medical papers is great.
    My sister did this for me.
  14. Post-surgery came pathology and staging results...
    Cyst was serous papillary cystadenocarcinoma. Cancer was stage 1B. No sign of spreading. I consider my early and accidental diagnosis kind of a miracle. I went to see Jason Isbell and during "Elephant" I cried a little (obviously) and my brother put his arm around me and steadied me good. Thank you, @davidbornemusic. ❤️
  15. I was only set for three rounds of chemo but I wanted to do it right.
    I wore my St. Peregrine medal from @mollykosm every day.
  16. I took a lot of walks around the lakes near my house and took pictures of graffiti.
    Thank you, kind person with spray paint.
  17. I cut my hair first into a shoulder-length cut.
  18. I had my first treatment.
    I had an allergic reaction to the Taxol and my sister said my face turned into this: 😡. But otherwise it went fine. I listened to the Lauryn Hill version of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" from Sister Act 2 on repeat because it is the best.
  19. I went wig shopping.
    My friend held my hand and made me feel tough.
  20. Then I got a pixie cut.
    My mom and sister-in-law and friends came and we brought wine.
  21. I bought pajamas like these.
    (Or as close to these as I could find.)
  22. Then I got a crew cut.
    And posed with my obgyn/friend.
  23. My lifelong best friend flew in from Japan the week of Christmas for round two.
    She helped me shave off what was left of my hair.
  24. I only wore my wig once.
    On New Year's Eve. I didn't feel like myself.
  25. Mostly I wore stocking hats from the Gap.
  26. (This one was my favorite.)
    Cafe au lait and beignets with old friends.
  27. Or nothing at all.
  28. Soon it was time for the third and final round.
    By this point I was very skinny and very tired and very home bound due to neutropenia. My friend and I decided that day while I was stoned on Ativan and IV Benadryl that we we needed something to look forward to. "Let's go to the Tony Awards," I slurred. "Done," she said.
  29. After chemo I went back to work and back to life.
    I turned 39 and my friends threw me an awesome party.
  30. I wore a green wig for St. Patrick's Day.
    And climbed onstage at my brother's gig.
  31. I went to one of my most happy places.
    Jazz Fest for the Avetts and Jason Isbell. No tears this time.
  32. I went whitewater kakaying in Oregon with First Descents
    I felt terrified and brave.
  33. I met this crazy tribe...
    ...of fellow survivors and dreamers. (http://www.firstdescents.org) Here we are giving cancer the finger. Catharsis!
  34. I made soulmate friends.
    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart) ... You pick a new name for yourself there and mine was Roux.
  35. It was unspeakably gorgeous. I thought a lot about rivers.
    And how they only flow one way.
  36. I survived on the whitewater.
    And was pretty much forever changed.
  37. I went to the Tony Awards.
    Flew from Louisiana to NYC with the friend I cooked up the plan with and my amazing sister. I sat in the fifth row for Hedwig one night and lifted up my hands and watched @actuallyNPH win the Tony the next. "There's nothing you can find that cannot be found."
  38. My sister and I went to the Bethesda Fountain.
    And read the end of Angels in America out loud.
  39. And the words felt very true.
    Central Park was so beautiful and alive and we were also beautiful and alive. "The world only spins forward ... More life. The great work begins."
  40. Ovarian cancer is deadly and scary but I got off so easy and I got to live and I still marvel at that every day and wonder why.
    This fall will mark three years since my diagnosis. I love my family and friends and I love my life. I am older, fatter, and earnestly trying to grow out my hair after keeping it short for a long time. And I did get my baby. But that's another story for another list.