It is the end of an era. Next week I will say goodbye to my ovaries. What do I say about this? I could write a piece about the timing of the election, and how I better quickly get this over with before my health insurance is dismantled. I don’t know for sure, but this has surely played a role in bringing my next surgery to the forefront.
But here is the heart of it… I am reframing this from a story about loss, loss of fertility and youthful hormones, loss of yet another piece of my femininity to something else. This bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy will bring a gift of release. I will release worry and uncertainty about my high risk of ovarian cancer due to the BRCA 1 gene. I happily release the need for blood tests and ultrasounds every 6 months, and the news of new suspicious cysts forming. And as a consolation prize, I release my monthly cycle!
This last period was perfectly timed. I was walking the Avon39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer, a 2 day 39.9 mile trek all around New York City. After completing the first 26 miles on Saturday, I retired to Aunt Joyce’s apartment and realized that “my friend”, ol’ “Aunt Flo” had come for a visit. Why should I be surprised, having walked with close to 3000 women (and men), floating in a pink sea of estrogen. All of NYC was pink it seemed as the Susan Komen and American Cancer Society had also coordinated their fundraising walks for this same weekend. Of course there was the full supermoon emerging that night too, at its perigee, or coming closer than usual in its ellipse around the earth. This was the most fitting scene as a farewell to my monthly cycle.
If you missed the exciting conclusion on social media, I’m happy to tell you that I did it! I walked all 39.9 miles, just weeks before my 39th birthday. I met amazing women, all with very touching stories to share about how Breast Cancer has impacted their lives or the lives of their loved ones. I kept finding these small groups of women to walk with, those of us with matching paces and strides, keeping each other going until the very end. Thanks to the months of preparatory conditioning and training, my only injury was a massive blister on my pinky toe on Sunday. I limped for the last 5 miles, and at each rest stop, there was a van driver taunting me with a free ride to the finish line. There was no stopping me though. I had come this far. My mantra was, “Walking is hard, chemo is harder. Walking is hard, but cancer is harder.” (Or I would start singing a song in my head like, “And I could walk 500 miles, and I could walk 500 more…” from the Proclaimers, or Destiny’s Child’s “I’m a survivor..”)
This walk was my way to give back. (A huge THANK YOU to all my generous supporters! Collectively we raised 7.6 million dollars in this NYC walk alone!) This walk was my dedication to my sisters and brothers still in the battle for their lives. This walk was my steep climb back to reclaiming my full pre-cancer strength and stamina. And this walk was a much needed focal point so I wasn’t only focused on surgery and more loss come November 2nd. I have been made stronger because of it and I know I will heal quicker and easier because of all that training.
My father asked me last year if I was finished writing this blog, now that the cancer was gone. The truth is that the healing journey continues. There was no way to neatly pack up and resume being who I was before all of this. In fact, I wouldn’t want to. In the weeks to come, I know I will feel some ups and downs as my body gets use to this new normal that surgical menopause will bring. I intend to share some of that, to offer my experience of what healing from this surgery is like, of how to support the body, and to chronicle the changes that occur. My heart is full of healing hopes, for myself and for all who need it. Thank you for following!