The other “C” word that changed my life.

I am pathologically private to a fault. Growing up with a private family, then becoming a private adult, made it difficult to be vulnerable. There are moments that changed that for me.

Going into therapy was one. I realized I could identify emotions and triggers in an environment that was safe.

Then came my son. I had my son and giving birth is a real eye opener. You spread wide in front of strangers (though they are medical professionals, they are strangers to you) and bring into this world a life for which you are responsible.

Then I found out I had cancer.

The word that starts with the letter c and ends in tears.

It is difficult to say when this started, but it is assumed that it had been there for a long time. How can they tell? This is a rare form of cancer that is slow moving, until it isn’t.

When I was 19, I went to the emergency room for the same exact reason. They did an ultrasound to find it was nothing more than the swelling of a lymph node. When I had my son, they even said there was something they couldn’t identify, but nothing else was done. My son was born 2016.

Fast forward to January 2021. I went on vacation where I got sick when I normally wouldn’t. Then a month later it progressed to pain I could no longer endure.

I thought I was pregnant. I was convinced at the time, because February 28th, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. That was not the case.

The end of February 2021 the illness was unbearable, and by March 4th I was escorted to the urgent care. They assumed it was cirrhosis of the liver with the amount of liquid crowding my abdomen. They referred me to Olive View in Sylmar.

I attempted to wait in line, but the vomiting (which is unlike me) caused me to sit outside on the curb unable to stop. They escorted me to a room without question.

The CT scan showed a three-inch mass that appeared to be abnormal and needed to be examined further. I was heavily medicated because the pain was beyond excruciating.

The news was devastating, especially when surgery was recommended.

Much of it is a blur. I was on a myriad of pain and anti-anxiety meds to keep me calm and allow me to sleep. Four excruciating days of little to no food or sleep, and more pain than I could ever handle, took its toll on me.

I wanted nothing more than food and water, they refused until after my surgery. I had three IV’s, due to dehydration and malnutrition. Yet, I was 155 pounds.

This is forty pounds over five days which is something I was unaware of at the time.

I cried a lot.

I was crying so much, they allowed me to take my mask off for longer than they probably should have. The nurses and doctors were so understanding and caring, I felt safe with them, simply scared. I was terrified.
It took time to consult with other doctors to make sure they were making the right decision. Keeping me in the loop with every motion, big or small. I felt involved.
The next day they prepped me for surgery, despite the wait being several hours. It was a desperate situation for me, they didn’t want me to wait any longer as if I had waited another day, I would most likely be in much more dire shape.
They had emergency numbers and names written before I even got transferred to the prep table. Asking me often details to make sure I was conscious because I was fading quickly. My response time was slower than normal, but there.
It was a six-hour surgery due to the complexity. Having taken at least 8 to 10 biopsies on the surrounding structures within to see if it spread.

I have no idea what time I came to, or how long it took for the anesthesia to wear off, but I remember the first thing I ate. Cherry jell-o and apple juice. I had never appreciated eating like that before. I continued to cry. Not allowing visitors after a surgery like that, sad. My son, my fiancé, were all I could think about.

They continued to draw blood for the following day, but I received good news. Once I felt well enough, and could walk around, I was able to leave. That didn’t mean I was well or recovered, it meant I could recover at home.

I was determined to prove I was going home. It was Saturday the 6th. Despite being drugged a bit, I was nearly back to normal. The pain I was in was nothing as it was the previous day.

My left fallopian tube, my left ovary, a three-inch mass, and six liters of liquid were removed from my abdomen.

I was given instructions on how to care for myself at home and did so with my fiancé closely monitoring my progress. I recovered well, and rather quickly. My emotional state was more questionable.

I started therapy again. Medications to help manage it.

By my first checkup, I got the news of what exactly I had been waging a war on, internally.

Juvenile Granulosa Cell Tumor or JGCT. A rare form of cancer that effects men and women in the reproductive area. Juvenile means that it effects children and young adults but is largely unknown. Adult Granulosa is more common, affecting those after menopause.

Mine was caught at Stage 1C. This means it was nearly Stage 2.

It had burst.

The odds of survival are high for me. I have a good chance of living well into my sixties.

The odds of recurrence?

These odds are debatable. So little is known about JGCT, it is hard to say.

Luckily for me, it has a marker in the blood. Which means I need to submit blood work every three months indefinitely.

That should be the end of it, right?

Wrong.

How do you move on in life after you nearly die of cancer, then survive to tell the tale?

I have vivid nightmares. Nightmares where I wake up the mass has returned where it was before, and I’m escorted to the same oncologist.

I am moving slowly. Recovering at my own pace.

My wounds are closed, but they were visible.

How do you move on with life?

Get back to work?

It’s not easy. Nothing ever is, but we can.

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