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transitions

kimberly sue 63's picture
kimberly sue 63
Posts: 396
Joined: Apr 2012

I am an ovarian cancer survivor!!! That is a great statement to make. I am proud to make such a statement...and I do believe it. However, as life reminds us daily...there is always a "however"....Transitions of cancer is what I think of..... I survived....I'm glad for that, but it took a toll. One that I did not think changed me but it did. I had seven months of treatment starting in April. I adjusted.....I learned about ovarian cancer, chemo treatments, side effects of treatment, mortality rates, change in diet, attitude adjustments, survival rates, and many more learning aspects. I survived nausea, hair loss, fatigue, loss of normal activities, loss of normal thoughts, loss of intimacy, loss of the life I knew before. I am now in recovery...recovery of what? I can hardly remember what life is like without the big "C" in the forefront of my mind. I still see cancer every time I look in the mirror. It could be me with a scarf or me without and have a tiny thin hair. More hair than I have seen in months, but not the hair I remember. My perspective on life is different. I can't quite describe the change, but it is there. I am now waiting to return to what I feel is a norm, but also knowing that norm is gone. Transitions are troublesome, and I know, take time to evolve.
So dear teal friends, many of you have been through these transitions...any thoughts or wise advice? How do you feel sexy again? How do you readjust and love life and begin to experience life fresh without always comparing it to life with cancer?

azgrandma's picture
azgrandma
Posts: 577
Joined: Feb 2010

Dear Kim
I do not think any of us are ever the same again. I praise God for each day he allows me to have another day of life.
Honey it takes time but it does get better, it really does.
praying for you
Lynda

Alnik
Posts: 56
Joined: Feb 2012

im going on almost a year to the day from when my nightmare started i feel exactly the same way you do. I just turned 44 and keep thinking this was supposed to be the best part of my life REALLY!!!!!! I wish everyday that i could turn the corner and go back to normal and it is hard to make others understand that i am thrilled to be here however if they could be inside my head maybe they could understand that i am no longer me.I wish i had answers for all of this as well. Im sorry i dont have words of wisdom i just wanted to share with you that i guess these feelings are common. I do however look forword to finding my NEW normal who knows maybe it will be better than my old normal. Stay strong!!!!!!!!!!!

kikz's picture
kikz
Posts: 1270
Joined: Jun 2010

you are so right about transition. There have been so many for me on this journey and they keep coming. But you know I look around and many of my friends and family are going through their own transitions. I have a friend who had a stroke and does not want any of us to see her. My own cousin, my age who deals with COPD, heart problems, severe obesity, diabetes and other things. My mom who has suffered with Rheumatoid artthritis for 26 years and at 88 with constant pain and crippled hands just put in for her retirement from work.

You will feel better and more like your former self. The hair will grow back; mine took about six months. I am 64 and working hard to lose weight. I still want to look sexy even though no one seems to notice. I feel good and want to look as good as I can.

We have been dealt a hard blow but most of us have found strength we didn't know we had. I always thought I was such a mouse but have been told by many people how brave I am. I don't feel brave; I just face what comes my way and try to keep moving forward. There is really no other choice. I refuse to curl up in a ball and wait to die. I have a lot of living to do. And so do you.

My best to you.

Karen

2timothy1 7's picture
2timothy1 7
Posts: 333
Joined: Jan 2012

Hello KimberlySue,
This Sunday will be exactly one yr. since I found out about the beast that was growing inside me. What a day that was! I don't think any of us ever forget that day. My hair has come back super curly and I don't look like a cancer patient anymore. Yet I am not the same person, as you have also said. I have not went too many days without thinking about cancer since the diagnosis. I don't know if I ever will. I try to stay busy so I won't think about it. However I am more thankful for my life and my family than I was before. I know The Lord is in control. I have to just find a way to rest in that. I have sought Him out many times during this journey. A few times I have felt so connected with Him. That was an awesome experience, to feel that the God of the universe was so close to Him.
Anyway, I wish you nothing but the best on this journey. Maybe we will adjust to a new normal.
Shawnna

kimberly sue 63's picture
kimberly sue 63
Posts: 396
Joined: Apr 2012

Thanks for wonderful thoughts. It is always comforting to know others feel the same way or are experiencing similar things. It is a road that no one wants to travel alone. I have many who care and comfort me...but it is always comforting to feel it from those who have traveled a similar road. Kim

jbeans888's picture
jbeans888
Posts: 313
Joined: Mar 2011

I know this sounds crazy but eyelash extensions will make you feel sexy. It did for me and I get a lot if compliments all the time. Totally worth it.

ptharp
Posts: 190
Joined: Oct 2012

Hi Kimberly: I have Ovarian Cancer Stage 3c. I was diagnosed on October 18th and just finished my first round (3 treatments - Carboplatin and Taxol first week and Taxol alone on second and third week). I think about cancer everyday. Hopefully there will be a time when I go into remission when I do not think about it all the time. I also cry every day. I hope that will stop. I have nt started the transition yet. I feel like I am floundering about like a fish. I am in I feel sorry for me stage. I am also struggling with the fact that I do not know what my life is going to be like or how long I will live. My husband tells me all the time I can not think like that. I have to stay possitive. I just found out that my CA-125 before surgery was 84. I had another test just before my chemo and after my surgery and it went to 11. I was very excited, but some women on another site (not this one) burst my bubble by going on and on about how that does not matter because it is not a good measurement and not accurate. So not I am feeling down again.

When does this transisition start? Will it start after I go into remission?

Cafewoman53's picture
Cafewoman53
Posts: 735
Joined: Jul 2010

but after diagnosis it can be good so you should be happy at your number. Also if you trust your doctor ask him/her what he thinks .Go to your doctor for medical advice and come here for support, none of us here or other sites to my knowledge has a medical degree. I can't wait to hear what your number is after chemo !
It will get better, being told you have this cancer is a shock plus the shock to your body by surgery and chemo. Give yourself all the time you need. I like your the analogy of floundering like a fish, that is how I felt for quite awhile.

Colleen

gloriamdeo
Posts: 8
Joined: May 2012

Please try not to let things on websites get you down. Your number is good! Your hubby is right, try your best to think positive! Keep in mind this is coming from someone like me who can be quite the cynic, so I understand the struggle. ;)

I'm the same stage as you, and I think I underwent the same chemo. You're doing better than I was, so you should feel excited! I think you could very well be like me: in remission doing quite well going on 2.5 years (and counting), thank you Lord! :)

I really have no idea where I am in terms of transition. But I know I'm in a different transition than I was when undergoing chemo. This is going to sound weird but chemo was a rather peaceful time period for me. I was very blessed to not experience many side effects. Because I wasn't working full time I had more time to rest and do a little more of what I enjoyed. I watched a lot of warm fuzzy cooking shows, like Barefoot Contessa. I tried cooking myself new, tasty foods. I read more of whatever interested me or made me feel good, e.g. The Lord of the Rings and other such books. Try it yourself! Find stuff that you enjoy that keep your mind and hands happy. Love your loved ones, and enjoy their love. I think all that kind of good stuff will help you feel quite a bit better.

kimberly sue 63's picture
kimberly sue 63
Posts: 396
Joined: Apr 2012

I have been right where you are!!! also very similar numbers. 89 with diagnosis, 29 prior to treatment and nine after first three weeks of treatment. I had chemo every week. I am now a six last checked over 5 weeks ago. I struggled everyday with dealing with cancer and all of its affects. I think we all do in our own way. Cancer changes us. Not everyone gets your own mortality thrown in your face like we have. It makes you think differently and yes worry. I too cried almost everyday since I found out I had ovarian cancer, still do with just lite tears to full sobs at times. It is better being done with treatment. Physically I feel better.
Your path through this is your own. Your numbers are down and that is the most important. You are managing treatment and that is important. One day at a time during this transition.You get through it. Chin up and hang in there. There is light at the end and there is always time to start another transition. Kim

Mwee's picture
Mwee
Posts: 1316
Joined: Nov 2009

I believe you adjust slowly. You said it yourself that your perspective on life is different. All our lives we know that we are mortal, but to face the big "C" head on changes us. People are always telling me how strong they think I am... like I picked this fight like people choose to train for a marathon. I am not the woman I was before cancer, that old norm is gone. I no longer take anything for granted. I don't think I'm as hard on myself and I view the world, loved ones and my day to life with new eyes. I think that in time you will feel sexier than ever.
((((HUGS)))) Maria

Alexandra's picture
Alexandra
Posts: 1210
Joined: Jul 2012

Hello Kim,

I fully understand how cancer diagnosis, treatment side effects and surgical menopause could make you feel depressed, self-conscious and less of a woman. For me it's been stage 3C, ascites, 6 months without hair, 30 lbs weight gain, chemo brain, peripheral neuropathy, a big old hysterectomy scar and an open wound from the IP port that never healed. My last chemo (7th round) was yesterday. My CA125 is 7, down from 1083. Techically I am NED, but no one told me about it.

An old college buddy called me recently and asked how cancer had changed my perspective on life and death. I told him that I did not choose to get cancer and having it does not qualify me as an expert on eternal philosophical questions.

APPEARANCE

- I don't like what I see in the mirror but I try not to dwell on it.

- I wear different wigs, even in the house. Most of them look better than my natural hair and I never got as many compliments. If wigs bother you, wear scarves or hats till your hair grows back. I respect women who go "topless" to make a statement, but I don't do that.

- I religiously moisturize my dry skin twice a day and apply foundation and decorative make-up as soon as I wake up.

- When my eyebrows were gone for about a month, I used eyebrow pencil and powder with templates. Looked almost passable.

- For eyelashes I use Idolash, it makes them grow faster. I was not able to use false lashes.

- If you have not been to the 'Look Good Feel Better' workshop in your area - go! Even if you already know everything they teach there - you will get a complimentary makeup basket.

- You can't completely erase scars, but there is a number of 100% silicone gels and dressings to minimize them. I use Mepiform tapes and kelocote gel.

- It's impossible to disguise weight gain, but Spanks and similar shapewear enhance your overall body shape, I haven't left the house without a pair on in 10 years.

- After unsuccessfully trying to squeeze into my old clothes, I packed them up and bought a whole new wardrobe in my current size. I bought several pairs of NYDJ (tummy tuck) straight leg jeans that suck you in and make you look at least a size smaller. Longer loose tops and tunics with deep V-neck take attention off problem stomach areas. Shapefx brand has many types of clothes and underwear that address different body issues.
No woman with or without cancer can feel bad trying on new outfits and shoes.

- Drink a lot of fluids, get as much sleep as possible and exercise. It's good for your skin and overall health. This is purely theoretical; I don't really exercise, but I would like to start one of these days.

INTIMACY

I went and talked to the GYN nurse and the doctor about sexual issues and they provided me with a bunch of 'cancer and sex' literature. Some of it was helpful. They are trained in the subject and know how to help even if you are not comfortable or shy. I am definitely not shy.

My advise is don't stop. Even if you are feeling tired, depressed, sad - don't give up on intimacy and sex. I kept at it through the darkest time after being diagnosed, while on chemo, after surgery. It is doing wonders for my self-esteem. It makes me feel desired, attractive and normal. Have a sense of humor and keep it light. Once my partner forgot and pulled on my hair and my wig fell off; rather than being embarrassed, we laughed so hard.

If your libido is down, try toys, videos, magazines, fantasy role play and dress up, suggest different positions, do it outside of the bedroom. Be a teenager again: have a hot date in the car, in an empty movie theatre, in a secluded area of the park. Obviously don't go crazy, you don't want to get arrested for public indecency. But it is your chance to do things you always wanted to do, but maybe were uncomfortable. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I've met couples in their 50's who started nudist lifestyle, swinging or engaging in threesomes after wives had breast cancer (mastectomy and reconstructive surgery).

Not to be presumptuous, but many men over 40 have their own health problems with low testosterone, flagging libido, getting and maintaining erection, performance anxiety.
Not all men are used to talking about sex. Your partner may be holding back scared to hurt or upset you. Communicate clearly when you are willing and ready.
This is not the time to be a shrinking violet. Initiate sex when you feel like it. Wear sexy lingerie, make-up, perfume, jewellery, whatever makes you feel good. It may take you longer to get aroused than it used to. You may not reach orgasm every time. Extended foreplay is a must for women with low or absent estrogen. I was open with my partner about it and he had no problem with it. Use tons of lube (Astroglide, KY, etc.), re-apply as needed.

If you're having vaginal dryness or pain with intercourse caused by surgical menopause, there are prescription estrogen creams (Premarin, Vagifem, etc.) I take Premarin 0.625 orally daily and Premarin vaginal cream 0.5 gram twice a week. In 2-3 weeks it completely eliminated hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, improved quality of sleep and my overall sense of well-being. There are over-the-counter creams like Replens, if you're scared of hormones. However there is plenty of scientific evidence that estrogen does not increase risk of breast or ovarian cancer recurrance or decrease survival rates in ovarian cancer survivors or in BRCA1 and BRCA2 positive women (and I am both).

Unless you have some religious reason not to, masturbate often. It will prevent vaginal atrophy and keep you healthy down there. All in moderation however, don't overdo it with vibrators, because it can desensitize your clitoris and cause stress or urge incontinence. Do Kegels or use pessaries if you are having urinary issues.

Sex does not have to be only about penetration. If traditional intercourse is very painful or not possible for medical reasons - no red-blooded guy has ever refused to give and especially to receive oral or manual stimulation. Hold each other, kiss, cuddle, try sensual massage, foot rub, send a naughty text, open a bottle of red wine, take a romantic walk, hold hands, talk about something less morbid than cancer.

OTHER STUFF

- Don't directly apply recurrence and survival statistics to your situation. Everyone is different. OC is a chronic disease, not a death sentence. There is a much better chance to survive OC, than to win the jackpot in Vegas and yet gambling is a billion-dollar industry.

- Don't withdraw from your family, friends and co-workers. Don't wait till they call you, call or email them first. Only discuss cancer-related issues if they are comfortable with it.
There are million other things to talk about, even if it does not look this way right now.

- Don't be a hero. Ask for help and accept it if you need it. After my surgery rather than fighting a losing battle with my husband and teenage daughter about how keeping house clean is not optional, I gave up and hired a cleaning lady. For the first time in 20 years I don't take out garbage, don't lug bags of groceries upstairs from the garage or heavy hampers to and from the laundry room, don't mop floors or scrub toilets. Sweet!

- Sign up for something physical: yoga, swimming, power-walking, tai-chi.

- Meditate, pray, think happy thoughts, read a book, play video games, listen to your favorite music, watch a silly old movie, cry if you feel like crying, buy junk off eBay, flirt with strangers, play with children, treat yourself to something frivolous like botox or a day at the spa, celebrate small victories, help others cope.

Sorry about the long post, I have been off this board for a while.
Best of luck to you and all the other wonderful ladies.

kimberly sue 63's picture
kimberly sue 63
Posts: 396
Joined: Apr 2012

Thank you ...very comprehensive response. It will not only benefit me, but all who have the same questions. Keeping a positive attitude is the best. I struggle with that at times. I really have it all. Fantastic husband, 4 great daughters. Friends who have been so wonderful. Work companions who have never left my side, and even my patients I treat have been great. But some days....I still struggle with having cancer, living through it, and then on the recovery end dealing with it day to day. Cancer changes us all. Some of us breeze through it gracefully, others struggle...each day we cherish, but each day we are different. Again it is the transition of life. Today is a struggle...but tomorrow can be a blessing. Kim

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