By ILKA CARAPINA
I’m a procrastinator. I will leave starting something until the last possible moment, except when it concerns my health.
Late 2010 during my third year in Dubai I started needing to get up earlier and earlier in the morning to go to the loo. I remember a night following a going away party that I had to get up 3 times during the night. This was unheard of for me. I put it down to the quantity of red wine I’d drunk.
Not long after I had returned to Australia (permanently) and as the frequent urination was continuing, I didn’t hesitate to make an appointment to see my GP. She ordered an ultrasound which showed (much) endometriosis and a CT confirmed the endometriosis. A visit to the gynaecologist resulted in a visit to a gynaecologist oncologist. Surgery was needed and there was a possibility of Ovarian Cancer. During this time I also started experiencing changes in my bowel habits, bloating and some at times excruciating pain in the pelvic, kidney and top of thigh regions.
As the gynaecologist oncologist didn’t know what surgery he needed to perform, as the endometriosis was widespread, my consent form read like a list of all the gynae procedures I knew and some I didn’t.
Surgery revealed an endometrioma on 1 ovary and cancer on the other ovary (Stage I). Recovery from the surgery required 6 weeks, think of a classic caesarean incision, from belly button to almost your private parts. Prior to surgery I even had the beauty therapist try and make an arrow pointing upwards so they wouldn’t cut too low.
As much as I thought I was prepared for the cancer diagnosis it was still a shock. My knowledge of the disease had me thinking I was too young to have ovarian cancer. I was 40 at the time, and any time I’d heard of a woman with ovarian cancer, she was usually in her 60’s or older. Being 40 I had been contemplating having children the last few years, as I don’t have any. That decision had now been made for me.
The beginning of 2011 had some major life events for me: resigned a job, packed up my life in Dubai, returned to Australia, moved house and started a new job all in a short period of time. Those life events were of a different category to a cancer diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis particularly as it’s of the reproductive organs introduces so many issues that I needed to evaluate or re-evaluate: surgical menopause; fertility; body image; managing relationships; dating; employment; financial status…. Each of these would require their own telling.
I elected to have chemotherapy and it is during this time that I discovered how much the human body can take and still come out the other side only a little different. I did 6 course of chemo over a five month period, which was exhausting. Everything takes so much effort and you feel like you’re walking through water. Even my thought processes were slower.