I’m Kate, known on WhatNext as KateMarie. Because of some problems I experienced for years I had a total abdominal hysterectomy on 2/5/13. On 2/11/13 while in my gynecologist’s office for a post-surgery exam, she informed me that the pathology report showed I had Stage 1 Endometrioid Adenocarcinoma.
Surprise! After consulting a gynecological oncologist, I had a laparoscopic bilateral pelvic para aortic lymph node dissection on 4/15/13, along with a needed laparoscopic umbilical hernia repair. Thankfully, pathology showed my lymph nodes were negative so I do not require any further treatment, only close follow-up of exams and tests to monitor for recurrence.
I’m a caregiver at heart – it has been my constant role in life. I was always the in-demand teen babysitter, when my friends started having kids I became the honorary aunt, and when my own sister and brother between them had four daughters I really was a doting auntie! I had some great jobs along the years that I found satisfying – pre-school teacher, adolescent group home direct care worker, community mental health liaison. And, of course my greatest caregiving role is being mom to many foster-children over the past 15 years, as well as my 5 adopted daughters and nonna to my 1 granddaughter.
The question I had to ask myself when I was diagnosed in February of this year is this: If I’m such a super caregiver, why didn’t I give myself any of that great care? When I was first diagnosed, I had a lot of guilt and self-loathing over this very issue. I felt I had caused my cancer. It took some time to work out that while there was truth in the fact that I had not taken good enough care of myself, it wasn’t going to change anything to continue to beat myself up over something that had already happened. Berating myself wasn’t going to suddenly take the cancer away, whether or not my choices had played a role in my disease. I finally realized that the negativity was consuming me. I could either continue down that self-destructive path or change my future.
That’s when I started making positive changes in my life to really take care of myself. Not token changes that I’m going to tire of in a month or two, but meaningful changes that I have integrated into my daily life. Because I was sick for about 9 months before my diagnosis, and had little appetite, I started losing weight. I have taken advantage of that “jump start.” I started using my treadmill every day. Now that my surgeries are behind me, I am planning to incorporate other exercise into my daily routine. I have changed my eating habits. I eat almost no sugar now (particularly white sugar) and am eating lots of fresh veggies and fruits, with protein and other foods added in moderation. I have made these changes gradually and sensibly because they are life changes and not a “diet.” To date I have lost 100 lbs. and will be working toward losing the last 75 lbs. I have begun doing a lot of reading about nutrition and the link between it and cancer, and I still have a lot to learn.
Part of taking care of myself now is making sure I get the medical care I need. I will not skip any of my follow up exams. If I have any inkling something is wrong with my body, I’m not going to play the ostrich again and hope for the best. I’ll put on my big girl panties and face it head on.
I know now that I also have to nurture my spirit. I’m learning to carve out a space for things I enjoy – reading, music, and writing. It is actually okay for me to have an hour or two that aren’t about the kids. I’m learning to appreciate just being still – closing my eyes and feeling peace and happiness flow through me, listening to the sounds of life all around me. I still have my moments of fear, but there are more ups than downs these days.
When I was first diagnosed, I felt so alone. My family helped me through this health crisis in practical ways, (which was wonderful, but a shoulder to cry on would have been nice too.) My sister just doesn’t like to show or talk about emotions. My brother is out of state and doesn’t have much time to talk. I have friends who are out state and I have used email and Facebook for some support from kept looking online for a support group on the American Cancer Society’s website in my area but I could only find a breast cancer support group nearby. Through ACS I found the link to WhatNext and joined. Suddenly I didn’t feel so isolated, didn’t feel so alone. When I read questions and answers, I often thought “Hey, that’s how I feel too. I thought I was the only one!” It was amazing! It was so liberating to find other people who seemed just like me, regardless of how different their actual diagnosis or treatments might be. People reached out to me. Those simple gestures meant everything to me.
Now it’s my turn to give. I felt shy and awkward at first. For some people the click to get into WhatNext is not a big deal, but for many people, it is a scary, huge leap of faith. For me it was scary at first to join the site. And even to “talk” to one another. It has gotten easier and more natural the more I have done it. I just want to help make sure everyone feels as welcome as I did. I have found that as I opened myself up to greeting people new to WhatNext, seeking to be a small blessing to them, those blessings have just flowed right back to me.
Stop by KateMarie's page and tell her thanks for sharing her story with us!