Knowing My Body

30th August 2018

I have cancer, I can say it now, it took a long time for me to be able to say the c word. As if not saying it would stop it being real. Unfortunately that’s not how it works.

I’m not sure when the switch happened but one day I woke up and I was able to face the reality. I looked it in the face and I was comfortable with the conversation. I could tell people without crying and I used it guilt free to win arguments when people were pissing me off!

I didn’t have the dramatic reveal from the doctors, I almost feel this was a lost opportunity to let the emotions all roll out and for me come to terms with my new situation.

The fact is, I knew before the doctors, I had several advantages, I knew my body, I knew my history and my instincts occasionally kick in to the point I cannot ignore.

I tell people that I didn’t really have symptoms but that is not strictly true, I didn’t have any NEW symptoms. The reality in my case is that since puberty, I suffered the most horrendous painful cramps mostly localised to the left hand side of my groin and always during the first couple of days of my period. Gradually, the heavy flow and the pain increased and by my mid to late twenties, I would have episodes of pain so bad that I would collapse in a heap on the floor, sweating and trying not to be sick.

What did the Doctors do? In the early days I was given an internal and external ultrasound of my uterus and eventually put on strong pain killers. This was a pattern I went through every few years when I plucked up the courage to go back to the doctors and basically tell them they are wrong- which would result in a thinly veiled accusation of hypochondria and weakness as ‘thousands of women go through this each month’ (and occasionally a new referral for a specialist appointment and scan).

As I hit my thirties, my symptoms started to subside. I would always bloat to pregnant woman size but the pain had reduced to a manageable painful period and I would even have some months where I didn’t feel like I was going to bleed out every couple of hours! Result!

This brings me back to the present. Before ‘I knew’, I had had a period with heavier flow and my bloating was bad again. I was planning to make an appointment with a doctor but I was going to wait until I had had a couple of periods to observe as I wasn’t mentally ready to have the same argument of, I would like a scan, something is not right etc.

Along side of this I had started regularly practicing Reiki. Reiki was something I became attuned to in my early twenties. I casually used it but it wasn’t a feature in my life. However, I had an overwhelming urge in May to go back and find a new reiki master and start again.  I re did my reiki 1 in June and during my second attunement, I felt as if something lifted in my head and I experienced pure joy and happiness for the first time I could remember. Inspired by the feeling I carried on with daily self reiki and I felt the happiest, healthiest and luckiest I had ever felt.

So of course this is when the big reveal came during one of my self healing sessions. I wasn’t feeling as relaxed and comfortable and as I started, I could only see black (yes I know my hands were in front of my eyes but I usually see swirls of colours behind my eyelids). I wasn’t even 5 minutes into my session when I heard my own voice in my head very clearly and calmly say ‘cancer’ three times. I stopped in shock because in that moment, I knew I couldn’t ignore the voice. I wanted to, I even tried to. I carried on by scanning my body and felt heavy over my abdomen. I told my Husband hoping he would tell me that I was an idiot and had been watching too much Tyler Henry the Hollywood Medium. Instead, he looked me in the eye, saw my fear and told me to book a health screening where I could book a pelvic ultrasound without having to justify why.

It was important to have Matts support but I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that I had just had a mind altering experience and that it was pretty negative to boot. I didn’t know what to make of my new found powers, was I an X Man or just a paranoid person? I therefore decided to test these powers by asking for three signs.

Not really expecting anything, I carried on the rest of the week as if nothing had happened. Two days later I was out shopping for a friends birthday and I was drawn to a metaphysical shop and bought tarot cards. I don’t know why? I know nothing about them, I was brought up being told they were bad, I certainly didn’t know how to spread them, read them or interpret them but I got up early the next morning, sat on the balcony in the sun feeling very zen and gave myself a reading. My morning wasn’t relaxing for much longer when I drew the death card. Now, I know this very rarely means actual death but more death of a situation, circumstance, relationship etc. but it was followed by a medical/hospital card and then a doctors card for what was in my future. This was my first sign.

My second sign came swiftly after, the very next morning in fact, when I woke up and as I was lying in bed I thought could physically feel a heavy lump in my side. Not when I poked with my fingers (the doctor could not feel a lump either) but as I lay there, I felt a heaviness sink in my groin.

Sign three came the following morning in the form of a horse. I shall explain… Every Monday and Thursday mornings I worked for the riding for the disabled charity. It’s greatly rewarding work where I get to interact with both children with special needs who have come to expand their therapy and the horses giving the treatment. Monday’s were my day where I would work with the horse. We were in the middle of term and I had bonded with my horse Anay. This is not hard as she has the gentlest, docile personality and she allows even the most inexperienced horse handler to lead her without challenge and judgement (yes, I think horses judge you). However, on this day, Anay was being so slow with me she was tripping on her own feet to the point I was worried about her. It wasn’t until our mid-session break that, as we were standing side by side, she kept sniffing my left side, she would then lift her head to make eye contact and go back to sniff. As if I wasn’t getting her communication she started to push her nose into my side and eyeball me as we were standing there. I got it, there was nothing I could do at the time but carry on. I was so scared I got home and made an appointment for my medical screening for the very next day.

You don’t really learn about cancer, especially your type of cancer until you or a close relative are made to face it head on. I had no idea that ovarian cancer can only really be diagnosed at pathology once the tumor has been removed during surgery. Yes there are tests; an ultra sound and a CA125 blood test but these are not full proof and a doctor will find it hard to diagnose cancer based on these especially the CA 125 which can show false positives.

My ultrasound definitely showed a tumor growing on my left ovary and we agreed to get it removed asap but my doctor was optimistic that based on all my other bloods, lack of symptoms, no family history and overall health, it would not be cancer. A healthy woman CA125 can read anywhere from 0-35, mine came back 39.5, a raised CA125 level doesn’t mean you definitely have cancer, as it can also be caused by less serious things such as endometriosis or even pregnancy.

Fast forward eleven days, an MRI and PET scan and I am in hospital having had a full hysterectomy, omentectomy and appendectomy carried out along with almost 30 lymph nodes removed. I feel fortunate that whilst my doctor was optimistic and was giving me good odds and offering solutions to what can and can’t be removed during the surgery, I KNEW and therefore, I went in knowing that I was not going to be coming out with any of my reproductive organs. Why fortunate? Because I cannot begin to put myself in the place of women that were clinging on to the hope of coming out of surgery intact and having to get that news post-surgery.

I still had an agonising wait to find out what stage and grade my cancer was and when it came I was too relived to hear the stage was 1A to fully understand the grade. Being 3 was not good news as it was a very aggressive growing cancer and therefore, despite having it cut out during surgery, I was still going to have to undergo chemotherapy to make sure no radical cells were floating around in my body waiting to strike.

So this is the beginning of my journey.