In honor of my wife’s memory, and to help continue her amazing legacy, I will be republishing over the next few months some of her writings, which not only give an insight into how amazing she was, but really helped inspire so many people around the world.
My plan is to also publish her writings in a book, along with testimonials from those who were somehow inspired or helped by her (whether by her writings or good deeds). If that includes you, please send your experiences to me at israellycool-at-yahoo-dot-com.
Cancer Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
First published August 9th 2012
Here I am, back on Mama Bla Blah after months of silence. The past 2 weeks, I feel like I’ve been living in an out-of-body experience. How did I get here? How does a 36 year young mother of 5 end up with stage 3 ovarian cancer??? I can tell you, it’s the last thing I thought I’d be dealing with after the whole saga with the parotid tumor back in 2011. After having such a rare tumor, who would imagine that I’d sneak into another rare statistical category?!
Several months ago, I posted here about having blood work done and discovering anemia and drastic vitamin deficiencies. Shortly after, I began to suffer from vague symptoms such as severe fatigue, morning sickness, and extreme nausea. My thyroid led us on a wild goose chase for a while due to a growth (benign) which concerned my doctors for a few months. Thank G-d, my thyroid is ticking away nicely… so why am I feeling so down? Over the next few months, I returned several times to my family doctor complaining of tiredness and nausea. I felt like I was barely coping with my daily activities and life’s pressures. My doctor sent me for all the routine blood tests which were all normal. You can have perfectly healthy blood even with cancer. Good to know. Even though I was eating less, exercising, and limiting my calories, I felt like I was gaining weight! That alone was depressing and made me doubt my other symptoms – was I becoming overwhelmed with my motherly duties? Was I lazy? Depressed?
I’ll share a secret. My DH and I were hoping to conceive and each month my baby hopes were inspired and encouraged by terrible nausea, morning sickness, and fatigue, and missed periods. I will also confide that I spent a fortune on home pregnancy tests and and all but one were negative. To make a long story short, our baby hopes – ( the sacrificed baby?) – may have saved my life! Over a period of 3-4 months, peaking in June, my symptoms worsened. My tummy became uncomfortable, bloated, and round. Three weeks ago, I panicked and called the women’s clinic and took the next available appointment with a gynecologist on the following Sunday morning. On Sunday, July 22nd, I had an ultrasound and what he saw there was enough for the ob/gyn to send me directly to the emergency room. At the hospital, I was seen by an expert ultrasound doctor and referred to CT. The CT confirmed disaster. Masses on both ovaries, larger than grapefruits (why are tumors always compared to fruit???) that had spread throughout my abdomen and possibly into my liver! I was hospitalized overnight.
Before being released from the hospital the next morning, I was seen by a surgeon and a doctor who told me my only option was to have exploratory surgery to see up close what the full situation was. They booked me in for surgery in two weeks time – August 8th. In the meantime, my dad did the research. He consulted with the top surgeons and physicians in oncology and found Professor Uziel Beller, a world renowned gynecology and oncology surgeon at Shaare Zedek hospital in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. The next day, my DH and I ran to Professor Beller and pleaded that he take my case. He was on his way to surgery and said, “I’m terribly sorry that you’ll have to wait 2 hours while I’m in surgery but if you’re willing to wait, I’ll give you my full attention then…” What a relief! He went over my medical papers and arranged an operating room in two days time!!! He agreed to operate on his day off! We hired him privately. I went home for one night and came back the next night for pre-op.
On Thursday morning, July 26th, Professor Uzi Beller and his team removed all of the tumors. At first, Professor Beller wasn’t able to confirm anything about the “mass” in the back of my liver. He said that he felt it and it felt soft but without seeing it, he couldn’t confirm. When he came out of surgery, my family received the glum news. My poor DH and father! About 20 minutes later, the professor was able to confirm that the 3 liver findings are all hemangiomas – benign clusters of blood vessels. Praise G-d!
So there you have it. I had cancer. I’m 36. I was the poster girl for good health… and yet I, Erika, mother of 5 young children, am going to experience 6 months of chemotherapy and all the trimmings. I’ve joined a new club that NO ONE wants to be a member of – the Cancer Club, and I have to say… right now, I’m at the absolute highest peak of love and enthusiasm for life! I am overjoyed to be here. I’m scared and worried about the future and yet, I have never felt more loved, embraced, and optimistic! I’m more in love with my DH than ever before. I feel more love and joy for my family and friends… and I have discovered that cancer makes the heart grow fonder.