Life After Chemotherapy and Surgery for Ovarian Cancer

blog imageSeptember is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and it’s a wonderful way to encourage women to create a deeper consciousness about their bodies. As I approach my five-year survivor date—the closest marker we have to saying “cured,”  I can say with deepest gratitude how much I appreciate my body and all that it does for me, as well as how much closer I listen to its new signs and signals.

My body graciously endured 22 rounds of chemo, with strong reactions that included numbness in my fingers and toes, severe nausea, complete hair loss, dry skin and inexplicable pains in my abdominal area. Additionally, I had my ovaries and uterus removed, so the result was instantaneous menopause. I had incessant hot flashes, abrupt vaginal dryness and pain with urination. I wondered if all of these symptoms would continue or if they would subside with time?

Five years later, here’s a review on life after ovarian cancer:

  • Numbness: Gone for good.
  • Severe nausea: Gone for good.
  • Hair loss: Gone for good. Oddly enough, my hair grew in straight which is opposite of what most women go through. My natural curls kicked in shortly afterwards and now it’s back to my typical texture—with a few funky patches of straight hair!
  • Dry skin: Here to stay.
  • Inexplicable pains in my abdominal area: Here to stay. Odd shots of pain, a cramp, a twist…never extraordinary but weird bumps in the night exist. (This may also be attributed to getting older and not ovarian cancer!)
  • Hot flashes: Still here but MUCH better and less frequent by far.
  • Vaginal dryness: Here to stay. Hint: Invest in good lubrication and let it go!
  • Pain with urination: Here to stay but intermittently. When I haven’t had enough water it usually kicks in.

So what is life like after chemotherapy and surgery? There are many changes. At times I look in the mirror and see deep lines in my face that make me wonder:  are these a result of chemo? Are these from deep worry from such a difficult time five years ago? Maybe they are just natural results of aging?

Whatever their origin, I give thanks for my amazing body, and how it holds me, supports me and sustains me. The changes in my body after chemotherapy and surgery have gifted me with new ways to take care of myself and appreciate the journey I’ve been on:

  • My straight patches of hair—symbolic of the imperfectly perfect woman that I am/we all are.
  • My dry, weathered skin—symbolic of the warrior within me; who battled and fought to survive.
  • My inexplicable pains—keep me aware and offer me an opportunity to listen to the whispers of my body; when to stop and when to slow down and take better care of myself.
  • My hot flashes—give me the sweet reminder that my body is alive with a pulsing heat and awesome energy!

Life after chemotherapy and surgery is different for sure, and everyone’s body is different and therefore handles things differently —but it has provided me with a more heightened awareness of how miraculous my body is and how to take care of myself in the best way possible.

Here’s to creating body awareness this month of September—Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

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