I have openly written about my experiences as a cancer survivor. I try not to dwell on my cancer experience; in truth I would rather erase those memories all together. I suppose my avoidance is partly out of fear of a recurrence but primarily because I don't want to be the recipient of the "poor thing" look which is often bestowed upon survivors. I detest being viewed as weak!
Although my status as survivor does not define my life, the experience has certainly had a profound impact on who I am today. I often refer to Robby as my little miracle because, had I listened to the experts, he would not be here. I was told that although I had the heart and soul of a Mom, my body could not make that dream a reality. I never expected to receive yet another miracle which is why we were shocked and overjoyed when I learned that I was expecting again.
Just when I began to digest the news that I was going to be a Mom again at 40, our miracle was overshadowed by a devastating report. The cancer which I have fought against and have feared for a decade, has returned. I am officially considered a pregnant cancer patient. To be more specific, my medical record touts me as an amputee, pregnant cancer patient with advanced maternal age and active pituitary cluster tumors. I have grown weary of labels and would much prefer to be called Peggy.
I have taken solace in the the experts' assurances that I will be okay. Approximately six weeks after the baby is born, I will undergo surgery to remove my uterus, including any (and hopefully all) malignancies. We are hoping that no further treatment will be needed, but we won't have a guarantee until after the baby is born. I am being monitored closely, but there is nothing else to be done at this time.
As if the cancer diagnosis wasn't devastating enough, I learned that the pituitary clusters which had gone dormant, have now fully ripened. A few weeks after my uterus is removed, I will again be in the operating room to remove the clusters. Thankfully we know that these little tumors are benign! I do have to admit that the prospect of neurological surgery, a few weeks after gynecological surgery, which will happen a few weeks after I give birth, has rendered me both scared and overwhelmed.
I'm hoping for the best, but my mind is spinning with worst case scenario preparations. I wish that I could just enjoy the pregnancy with my only worries revolving around integrating a newborn into our family dynamic. At times I feel such paralyzing fear that I can't move. I want to run away and hide, but I know all too well that this is not something that evasion will fix. I look at Robby or I feel the baby kick, and I know that somehow I will figure out a way to cope. After all I have to--I'm a Mom and Moms don't have the luxury of hiding.
We have tried to deal with this diagnosis internally. Other than family and a few close friends, I haven't spoken openly about the newest battles. I suppose I just wasn't ready to face it, or maybe I just didn't think I had the strength to cope. I have come to realize that this isn't news that I can deal with privately. I am not SuperWoman, and I don't have the strength to pretend that everything is okay.
Much of my hesitancy in writing about the diagnosis lies in fearing the reactions from others. I don't want to be cast as living in a shadow of despair. I detest pity and cannot bear to be viewed as pathetic. I need others to help me focus on the true blessing of this situation;I am about to be a Mom again and for that I could not be happier!
More than anything, I just want to enjoy this pregnancy and feel the rush of anticipation and excitement as the delivery approaches. Instead, I have felt guilt because I am afraid of what will happen after the baby is born. As long as my little miracle is inside me, I know that I can avoid reality. Delivery will mark the beginning of a medical journey which I am dreading. Sometimes I think that we are both safer as long as I'm pregnant.
With time, I know that these experiences will simply become memories. The latest medical blips will be added to the list of obstacles which I have overcome. I don't know how, but I do know that we will figure a way through this situation.
In the meantime, I am sure I will continue to struggle with a roller coaster of emotions as I come to terms with what lies ahead. I'm scared, and I've never dealt with that emotion gracefully. I'm hoping that I will be able to draw strength from going public and being true to my feelings. At this point, I figured it can't hurt to be honest!