Make An Ovarian Cancer Survivor’s Day

October 10, 2016 7:14 pm

The following article is provided by The Clearity Foundation to support women with ovarian cancer and their families. Learn more about The Clearity Foundation and the services we provide directly to women as they make treatment decisions and navigate emotional impacts of their diagnosis.

Make An Ovarian Cancer Survivor's Day

By: Annette McElhiney

Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words. I know that painting how I felt was a very healing experience for me. When I was first diagnosed, I could not always tell people how I felt or what I thought but, somehow, when I picked up a brush, what I was feeling or thinking emerged with each stroke. Therefore, I always like to listen to other ovarian cancer survivors, caretakers, and medical professionals stories as to what has helped move them through various points in the journey of survivorship or to view the pictures, photos, or paintings with which they surround themselves.

Here at The Clearity Foundation, we are trying to build a community of ovarian cancer survivors who can share their stories, learn from each other, and support each other in our individual journeys.

Occasionally, my neuropathic feet sting so bad at night that I can’t stay asleep. Last night, lying awake for several hours, I was thinking about how to build a really supportive community. I asked myself why aren’t readers commenting on what I share? What are they not saying? How do they feel? I wondered why we aren’t hearing much from our readers. Suddenly I realized perhaps I’m not offering a specific prompt that will provoke those feelings or thoughts.

So here goes: Please participate in our community by posting (and explaining in under 500 words) a photo, picture, poem or saying that moves you forward each day.

As an 8-year survivor and amateur painter, my walls are covered with paintings I’ve painted through the years. In addition, I have photos of diverse subjects ranging from family, to scenes, to support groups and sayings on my iPhone.

Yet am I alone in doing this? What pictures, paintings, or photos do other survivors have around them that move them forward, or backward, in their individual healing journeys each day?

For example, when I came downstairs this morning, feeling grumpy, snarly and sorry for myself because I didn’t get enough sleep last night, my eyes landed on a painting I did 7 years ago hanging on the wall adjacent to my Keurig.

As I looked at it, I remembered my feelings when I painted it. I was about 8 months out from an incompletely debulked (5% – 10% tumor left in me) IIIC high grade serous undifferentiated ovarian cancer diagnosis and surgery. I’d been told at the time I had a 25% – 33% chance of living 5 years. I’d started out having 6 rounds of Carbo and Taxol, adding Avastin on the 2nd round and continuing on with Avastin alone for a year. After the 6th round, my CT scan showed suspicious shadows, so I had another 2 rounds of chemo for a total of 8. I was supposed to have a year’s maintenance after the 8 rounds. But I wondered if that was the best path to follow so I sought a second opinion.

After examining my records and me, the consulting gynecologist oncologist said, “It really doesn’t make much difference what you do now as you are going to die from the disease someday anyway!” That advice/prognosis, coming on the heels of 8 rounds of chemo, was worse than the initial diagnosis!

On the drive home, I could barely lift my head to view the scenery whizzing by as I was so discouraged. I moped around the house for several days, but finally decided to paint. Strangely enough, something happened to my fingers and hands. The brush moved effortlessly over the canvas until a strong figure emerged. Gradually a man with an ugly face with horns coming out of his head and a big red blob coming out of his mouth surfaced. I recognized him — the doctor who gave me the second opinion!

With the emergence of his face, my feelings changed from depression to defiance! I vowed I’d prove him wrong as long as I could and have my heirs send the painting to him after I died with a message: “Being too brutally honest about a negative diagnose can destroy a newly recovering ovarian cancer survivor’s confidence in recovery and leave her with an absence of hope!” I deliberately hung that painting where I’d see it first thing every morning because it reminds me of the vow I made to show that man he was wrong for as many years as I could!

That painting “Dr. Destroyer” has done its job for 7 years just as it worked its magic this morning. Instead of moping today, I felt compelled to write this invitation to you to share a photo, picture, poem or even a saying you saw that sparks an emotion in you or activates a certain change in your behavior.

So please look around your house, neighborhood, or even in your photo albums. Or even as you go about your day, take a digital photo of some person, scene or object that triggers some insight you’d like to share. Each of us has the power within us to contribute something that could, for a fellow survivor to make her day! Please join me and share what moves you!

To read more of Annette’s posts on The Clearity Portal, click here to login.

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