Past My Expiration Date

September 24, 2016 12:10 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.

By: Ruth D. Merz

As I been reminded repeatedly, “You do know you are past your expiration date, don’t you?”  With a Stage 2B and Grade III diagnosis in 2009, and a relapse in 2012, my chances for a normal life span were not very good. But I have actually made it seven plus years, and I couldn’t be happier.

Sure, I had the five abdominal surgeries, two for tumor removal, one laproscopic, and two more operations for mesh surgery, and then old mesh removal and new mesh insertion. I also went through the two regular, six-month rounds of chemo after the operations, eight packed RBC blood transfusions, two rounds of week long WBC enhancer injections I shot into my belly, and of course the long term hands and feet neuropathy I still experience.

There were all the sticks, the pain (sometimes intense from the treatments), the port draws and flushes, hot flashes, and the extreme fatigue — but all those memories seem to slowly fade as time goes by.  I have also been diagnosed with Stage III renal disease due to the chemotherapy, but YES, YES, YES, it has all been completely worth it. I often wonder why I am still here, and strive to live every day to the absolute fullest.  I’ve learned so much about myself and life itself, that might not have occurred without this diagnosis:

Patience and Persistence

I’ve always been a type A personality, and spent the last 20+ years of my professional life as Director of the Hawaii Birth Defects Program. There was always too much to do, and too little time to do it in. But the cancer forced me to slow down. I just couldn’t keep up the hectic pace anymore, and I found new joy in just reading, listening to more music, spending more time with my friends, taking a nap whenever I could, doing only what I really wanted to do, and experiencing my authentic self.

I set my mind and energy on trying to slay the dragon disease within me. I did everything I was supposed to do, I filled my life with every good thing I could, and took the time to really experience the wonder and beauty of my island home.  I didn’t go wild in making changes to my life, but I now had the time for the really important things, focusing on the people in my life I loved, and letting the rest just go. I never ever gave up, and tried to live in moderation with all things.

Faith, Family, and Friends

Although I found that sometimes I could only find a little piece of joy in what I was going through, I maintained as positive an attitude as I could, never forgetting to smile despite what I was experiencing. My faith, family and friends were always there for me with extraordinary support and love, and I couldn’t have gone through it all without them. Since 2009, my involvement with our Hawaii Ovarian and other Gynecologic Cancer Support Group enabled me to be supported and uplifted as a newbie, and then give back later as a much more experienced warrior and survivor.

Laughter and Love

My greatest joy however, has been my hanai (adopted) Granddaughter. She arrived in my life less than three months before my diagnosis at 6 years old, and is still the light of my life at 14 years old. From a first grader to now a freshman in high school! We love our time together doing all sorts of fun and educational things, and I can’t imagine my life without her. I also have two little Italian Greyhound dogs that I adore, and we share our time loving each other as well as working at a Nursing Home doing therapy with elders.

So yes, my expiration date keeps moving further and further into the future, and I couldn’t be more blessed, grateful, or happier.

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