We Are Not Alone
I had been married for seven months when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Just one month before my diagnosis, I was on my honeymoon. Then one day, I had a pain in my side that needed investigating. The diagnosis came quickly. I needed surgery, which would involve losing a lot of my reproductive system, and I needed chemotherapy.
The beginning of our marriage was supposed to be filled with hope, promise, and dreams for the future. But cancer stole that magical sense of newness. I had to get through the surgery, the chemo, and I had to find a way to have children. I remember, as I was ushered into surgery, begging the doctor…please, I’m 23. Please try not to take everything. We want a family. Please.
I was lucky to be surrounded by a strong support system. My newly minted husband was so good to me. He cried with me, stayed up with me when I woke up afraid in the middle of the night. He didn’t flinch when I found hair on my pillow and helped me cut it off so it would be less traumatic. He loved me through it. And my mom was truly heroic. A cancer survivor herself, she’d arrive at the hospital by 7 am, sit by my side while I slept, and make a discreet exit when my husband arrived, ensuring that we had some time together as newlyweds.
I had so much love surrounding me, and yet, I felt so lonely. Being sick was isolating. Being so young, I felt completely alone. Who could relate to what this pain feels like? Who could quell my fears about the mysterious side effects of chemotherapy? Who could understand how desperate I was to have children?
After many years of heartache, and more jealousy than I’m proud to admit, we were miraculously able to start a family. We now have four children, a life that we never could have imagined at the time of diagnosis. When I was in the hospital delivering my twins, I actually had the same orderly that I had when I was in treatment. When I recognized her, she couldn’t get over how special it was for me to move from the oncology floor to the maternity ward.
For years, I’ve hesitated to share my story. Recently, I approached Sharsheret because I felt ready to tell my story. Sharsheret encouraged me to speak. They convinced me that we have to share the good stories, the things that work out. By sharing, we remind ourselves that we are not alone with our struggles. By sharing, we find hope.
I wish Sharsheret were around when I was sick. Connecting with others is sacred. For that reason, I am proud to be a part of Sharsheret today. To offer whatever support I can to other women facing a similar journey. I’m still working on not feeling guilty. But I’m going to keep sharing, in the hope that we can find strength in our journeys. That we can find the strength to go on. That we can find the strength to hope.