This Woman’s Work by Greg Laswell
The song above has been one that I’ve listened to often these last few months and was inspired to share with you. (You can listen by pushing the play arrow on the media player.)
It’s sad and haunting, but it gives me hope. It reminds me that there’s a “lot of strength left” within ME, that I won’t give up–that I can heal from this new health crisis and that I will create more meaningful moments to replace those that have been taken from me.
In a sense, it reminds me that I am “This Woman” that he speaks of who still has a lot of important work left to do in the world. It inspires me to say what needs to be said, and to do what matters most RIGHT NOW because I’m all too aware of how quickly life can pass us by with loads of regret if we’re not prepared to make every moment count.
It’s taken me awhile to decide whether or not I want to share what’s happening right now with this community.
At first I thought I’d just keep it to myself and see what happens–but as the days progress, I know that this current health crisis is yet another stepping stone on my path to living my life’s purpose. In essence, it’s living proof that my theory is correct:
Prolonged emotional stress combined with [chronic low-level] environmental toxins can impair the body’s immune system, trigger inflammatory illness, and if left untreated–can lead to long-term degenerative disease.
(This theory came about in the midst of researching the field of Epigenetics. My search for answers to my health problems, as well as my mothers, has led me to this new field of scientific thought that believes illness and disease are created within the body as a result of environmental triggers. It goes back to the age old discussion of Nature vs Nurture–revealing that the “nurture” aspect of our environment may have intergenerational consequences in terms of our genetic code and overall quality of life. There is much more to say about all this, including several resources I’d like to share, but that is for another day.)
Right now, I want to share what is happening within my body as a consequence of my own unresolved emotional trauma and environmental triggers:
At this point, it’s unclear whether or not the growth we have found is merely an endometrioid cyst or a cancerous tumor.
In the past two months the ultrasounds and CT scan I’ve had reveal that it has grown to 7.2 cm. (the size of a large tennis ball). Due to its size, it repeatedly pushes against my internal organs and the nerves that stem from my lower spine. This often sends shooting pains down my left leg, and a burning sensation up through my abdomen. It also makes it hard to eat, sit for long periods of time, or walk. There’s also an increased risk that it will twist my last remaining ovary and cut off it’s blood supply.
(Which clearly explains why I was experiencing so much pain back in July when I was inspired to write Home: A Haven for Healthier Living. It seems this thing has been growing for quite some time.)
At this point, I have yet to find out what my actual diagnosis is.
In early September when the symptoms became unbearable it started out being a 5.9 cm cyst that required the “wait, watch, and see” approach of doing nothing beyond the occasional ultrasound to monitor its growth.
Only the pain would not subside and by the beginning of October another ultrasound confirmed that it had grown an additional 1 cm within three weeks.
A CA-125 blood test to determine my risk for ovarian cancer was ordered and came back elevated at 95.
A normal result is anything below 35. And anything above 65 is a cause for concern.
In response to this my doctor said, “It’s not high enough to be cancer for certain—but high enough to know that something is brewing. And with your past medical and family history, this is no longer a wait and see scenario. You need to have surgery.”
So, she referred me to a gynecological oncologist in Madison, Wisconsin who has scheduled me for surgery on December 5th. (I know, it seems like a long time from now, but it’s actually quite quick in terms of “not immediately life threatening” medical procedures.)
Upon first hearing the blood test results and the words “gynecological oncologist”—I admit, I kind of panicked.
To even be in a position that cancer could be probable scares the hell out of me.
And, being someone who can’t possibly sit by and wait–I began researching everything I could about ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and the unmentionable, “Ovarian Cancer”. Let’s just say that the latter does not have a lot of hopeful information out there…
THE GOOD NEWS, however, is that the CT scan shows that I don’t appear to have any enlarged lymph nodes, abdominal fluid, or other areas of concern at this time. The not so great news is that this means they cannot determine exactly what is happening within my body until a biopsy is done during surgery to remove the growth.
This alone makes me a bit nervous. It means they can’t even tell me exactly what kind of surgery I will have.
The plan is to start with a Laparoscopy (a small incision below my belly button) to remove the growth and HOPEFULLY leave my last remaining ovary in tact. You see, as women, we can go on with our lives just fine with only one ovary–however I already lost my right one when I was 20–which means losing this one would put me into menopause approximately 15 years too early and take away my ability to ever have more biological children.
Also, I’ve been informed that it is highly probable that the surgery may progress to a Laparotomy (think c-section) if the growth (and ovary) are too difficult to remove via the previous method.
AND–if they find anything of concern from the biopsy, they will “do a more extensive surgery to remove other areas of concern if necessary”.
This means that I can’t even really prepare for an outcome–or how long I will be in recovery, or if I will need other treatment afterwards. There are just too many unknowns.
What I know for certain at this point is that I’ve been labeled as “high-risk” for ovarian cancer due to the fast growing nature of this cyst, the constant pain, the elevated CA-125 test, and my past medical and family history.
You see, we don’t really know why I lost my first ovary. By the time they removed it, it had already twisted behind my fallopian tube and adhered to the side of my uterus with scar tissue. Plus, I’ve already had pre-cancerous cells on my cervix removed a few years after that with a LEEP procedure. And, there is a history of cancer in my family. My grandmother died of cancer that had spread throughout her entire body before anyone could really diagnose where it started.
As you can imagine, this is enough to get me a bit scared and worried. (Probably a huge understatement!)
Regardless of the actual outcome ahead, however, what I do know is this:
My body is not well or healthy.
On a biological level it has changed. It’s no longer just a matter of managing the inflammation of fibromyalgia, painful irregular menses, low back flare-ups from my herniated disc, or even the melancholy of depression that often rears its ugly head.
I’m now at risk for cancer.
This means that something has gone wrong internally—which in my mind means something caused this—which means there is a way to fix this!
Like most people facing this possibility—I never thought this would happen to me.
And, like others, this led to asking the universe WHY ??
What followed was a plethora of questions that sparked my new leg of research into mind, body, spirit wellness, and the impact of our environment on our physical wellbeing.
These are a few of the questions that spewed forth:
- What caused this to happen? (A loaded question with tons of possibilities as I have discovered.)
- How did it start?
- When did it start?
- Is this my fault? ( I know it’s not, per se, but it’s a question that does surface.)
- Did I somehow manifest this?
- What can I do about it?
- What are ALL of my options? (Natural and Conventional)
- What do I need to learn from this?
- What do I need to change in my life? (A lot)
- What action must I take above all else?
- Is surgery even my best option? (According to my daily pain–YES!)
- What happens if I lose my last ovary and go into premature menopause before I’m even 35?
- Am I okay with never being able to have more children?
- What can I do to FIX this???
- How do I ask for help? (Perhaps my hardest obstacle right now.)
- Who do I ask for help?
- How do I not let the fear of this destroy me?
- Is it okay to allow myself to feel the stress of my emotions and financial constraints, or will that make it grow faster?
- Is it okay to momentarily retreat back into the deep recesses of my psyche in order to protect my soul from this physical pain and what feels like the spiritual loss of my identity as a woman? (My typical self-preservation response.)
- Can I handle the trauma of another surgery?
- How is this going to change my life?
- How is this going to change me?
- How do I take back some control? (How tricky this one is–to be able to release all control and purely subsist on faith has forever been a challenge.)
As you can see, the questions are endless–they rage rampant, like a fire out of control.
They are overwhelming and consuming, especially at 3 am each night when I can’t sleep from the pain.
But I am Resilient!
I know deep down that once the initial storm of fear, doubt, anger, and uncertainty pass—I will rise again. I will listen wholeheartedly to my intuition. I will follow its guidance.
I will heal.
I will survive.
I am a survivor.
Even though the darkness sometimes threatens to consume me—I will take inspired action.
I will devise a new, more comprehensive, healing plan…
And so it is I begin a deeper, more profound Healing Quest.