All posts tagged: Ovarian Rhapsody

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Silly Things People Say to Me When I Tell Them I’ve Finished Chemo

This piece was originally published on August 2, 2016.  Yes, I’m done. Finito. I finished chemotherapy almost three months ago and have moved on to what my doctor dubs “Survivorship.” Great. I mean, no, it’s awesome. It’s incredible. Yay. Ok, I am not exactly ecstatic. “But you’re DONE, OMG, you must feel amazing!” To which I find myself essentially wanting to say firmly: “Ahem. Shut. It?” You have no idea. Done ain’t done. As I’m learning, it’s a process. That last infusion on May 2 was a bitch. It took the first three weeks just to pull myself out of the brain and pain fog, to get my appetite back, to have normal poops, to be able to walk up my two flights of stairs in less than 20 minutes. And there are a few residual goodies mostly to do with my left leg (toe, neuropathy, chronic vein issues and – brand new! – plantar fasciitis). So there are (literal) hills to climb. Yet, people still want to tell you how to feel. They mean well. They …

Ovarian Rhapsody: A Little Self-Renovation

Around the same time I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we were scheduled to renovate our apartment. My husband, an architect, had started to sketch out the designs. We’d enlisted his favorite contractor, Slavek. Our plans were to update the kitchen and the bathroom and to turn an unused half bathroom — really, our cat’s bathroom that featured an easily accessible hole in the door, left from the former owner — into a full bath with a shower. Our kitchen was Brady Bunch-era wood-and-probably-formaldehyde paneled situation: The refrigerator sat in the living room and we had a non-working washer/dryer combo machine called a Comb-o-Matic, circa 1975. Floor tiles were loose and scattered around the bathroom floor. We’d been saving up cash and waiting to do this project for a good seven years. It was time. So after processing the news of my upcoming ordeal, one of the first things I said to my husband was, “But we still have to renovate, right? We can’t stop the progress!” “Um, no,” he said. “That’s not happening now.” …

Ovarian Rhapsody: A Thank You Note

Back in January, just before I’d started chemotherapy, I’d been talking to my friend Adrianna about cold caps, the beanie of ice that sits atop your head and (hopefully) prevents your hair from falling out during treatment. Expensive and painful, I wasn’t too sure it was for me, but this was the stage when I was researching, frantically Googling and considering anything and everything. I had no idea what I was in for. Via email, Adrianna introduced me to her friend Casey, who had worn the cap and preserved most of her hair during a second bout with cancer. Only five minutes after I’d emailed Casey, I had a response. “Margit. I wanna come over asap. When works?” And two days later, there she was, sitting on my couch, counseling me — a beautiful, earthy soul with colorful bracelets and talismans about her neck and wrists, moving gingerly, still recovering from recent treatment. Her hair was thin, but there it was. She handed me a pretty cloth bag filled with sugar-free gum, savory Kind bars, …

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Ovarian Rhapsody: Pop a Wheelie and Ask for Help

I was sweating and cursing under my breath as I wheeled my suitcase through 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Maybe it was early in my post-chemo life to be taking a trip to D.C. I might be jumping out of my pants to be my old go-get-‘em self again, but my body is definitely not so sure. You ain’t ready yet sister, it alternately whispers and shouts to me. Patience, butterfly. Just a month out from the end of cancer treatment, I’m still weathering various side effects — leg clot, infected toe, a fuzzy brain and big-time fatigue. But when a friend invites you to the first United State of Women Summit, a gathering that is essentially FLOTUS’s power-packed swan song, meant to shine the spotlight on the challenges and opportunities women and girls face around the world — violence, education, healthcare, workforce issues, family care, entrepreneurship — you go. Amirite? So I decided to do it. I just needed help getting there and getting around. Help? Help? HALP! Asking for help is hard. But …

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Ovarian Rhapsody: Wait, What? We’re All Done Here?

My chemotherapy is always on a Monday. This particular Monday is May 2. No balloons. No fanfare. Just me and my husband and the final infusion needle affixed into my vein. Yes, it’s my very last chemotherapy appointment. There it is! We’re at the finish line! Whee! Whee? I should be excited, but, frankly, I’m just tired. It has been 18 weeks since we started this mess, and now it’s come to a halt. It’s hard to know how to feel. Like 18 Mondays before, my journey to the hospital began at 7:45 a.m. A brisk 55-degree chill in the air; my blue-and-white-striped tote pre-packed with mints, hand sanitizer, tissues, Zofran anti-nausea medicine, my water bottle and the same granola bar I’ve had in there for the last three chemo sessions. I don’t even have to think about what’s in there. I usually wear black yoga pants, a t-shirt and a comfy sweater of some sort, but this time I figured I’d dress it up a little and wear this purple tunic dress thing I …

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Ovarian Rhapsody: It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s… Cancer Lady?

I am a superhero. Stronger than a shot of Lovenox into my body — twice a day! Powerful enough to withstand my first surgery ever! (Wait, make that two surgeries in two months.) Able to shave my entire head and utter, “Pssh that tweren’t so bad.” You see, even though cancer, chemo and the ensuing side effects are hellish, there is a bright side: Sometimes, I actually feel like a badass. I strut into Duane Reade, bald head shiny and a-blazing, all sweatpants and felt slip-ons, ready to pick up my meds. I look people right in the eyeball. Yup, that’s me — Cancer Lady. Cape on. Power up the invisible jet. Since my ovarian cancer diagnosis last November, and especially since undergoing chemotherapy, there are things I’ve dealt with things that I never thought I’d be able to withstand. Before, I could barely even give my cat Alice a shot in her little fleshy parts, let alone my own. Now? Hell, I’m a pro. My super powers don’t end there. My sense of smell …

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Ovarian Rhapsody: The Routine of My Dreams

Sunday morning. Tea. CNN muttering in the background. My husband has made eggs with pesto. I’m going through old mail and sorting it into “recycle it” or “shred it.” The cat is snoring on the couch. It’s a lovely boring day. Finally I have energy. My brain feels clear and crisp; I can do mundane physical tasks, even multitask. Ah, doing too many things at once. I feel like I’m back to my old semi-healthy self — yippee! The reason for my vim and vigor is in part due to a new chemotherapy routine. What was once every week is now every three. My doc decided to switch things up because I wasn’t tolerating the chemo well and the side effects were mounting. More importantly, she was acting on a report in the New England Journal of Medicine — released only two weeks prior —that had determined that my every week “dose dense” treatment wasn’t as effective for ovarian cancer patients as getting it every three weeks. Say what? This is how fast cancer research …

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Ovarian Rhapsody: Side Effects, Unfiltered

I’m lying flat on the bed with just yoga pants on. My legs are propped up on a stack of pillows. I can’t muster enough energy to finish getting dressed this morning, so here I am, half nude. My mind wanders to that hilarious Bill Murray SNL skit about an out-of-shape Hercules and his bad back. “If I lie flat like this it will fix itself!” If only. My entire left side feels swollen and pricked with pins and needles — it’s probably neuropathy, a chemo side effect. Yet…  I can’t be sure if this is actual neuropathy or the fact that I have a recently developed a blood clot in my leg. Or that I now have a new toe infection because of the clot, because of the chemo, or because of surgery. Who knows. The icing on the cake? I have a cold so I’m coughing and hacking and sneezing out chunks of blood. The blood thinners I’m on, to combat the clot, make bleeding from any orifice a likely predicament. Today is one of …

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Ovarian Rhapsody: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Upon hearing you have cancer, the thing people will ask you about, more than anything else, more than your diagnosis, more than the treatment, more than surgery: “But will you lose your hair??” And that’s only the executive summary of queries. Will you wear a wig? Are you doing a synthetic or human hair wig? Will you shave it off? Will it fall out? Won’t it be easier not to shampoo your hair? Does it fall out down there? (Yes, if you must know. Easiest Brazilian ever.) One friend suggested a cold cap? “You can keep your hair that way!” she said. Cold cap? Huh? Like many things related to cancer which I’d never thought about before in my life, this sent me down the Google rabbit hole on a process which is about $600 a month where, during chemotherapy, you wear an iced cap on your head which has to be changed at least every hour and kept in the infusion center’s refrigerator. It’s painful, it’s expensive. No thanks. I already had enough of that. …

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Ovarian Rhapsody: Choosing Your Cancer Hero

“This chair pattern is driving me nuts,” says my husband. We are sitting in NYU’s waiting room, about to meet the first oncologist on my list. “And isn’t it funny how they have to put those dots across the glass so people don’t run into the pane?” My husband, the architect, is always analyzing how a room could be better or why certain design choices are made. I’m looking around too, making different kinds of notes. A hushed room, friendly staff Bundled up cancer patients — some with caps, some with wigs — reading “courtesy of NYU” People magazine A bit depressing, but of course it is Red couches accented by intertwining geometric shapes made to look cheery but not too fun You never know, some of this random detail might help me select my doctor and my choice of cancer care. No, really. After scores of friend-of-a-friend suggestions, scouring RateMds ratings, New York magazine best doctor lists and insurance coverage checks, I narrowed my list of possible oncologists down to two: one at NYU Langone …

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The Waiting Room: Details of a Diagnosis

“Fakakta…shit.” “Fakakta…shit.” In a packed radiologist’s waiting room in midtown NYC, a 70-something woman sits next to me, scribbling in a stack of forms and muttering loudly in Yiddish-English. “Fakakta…shit.” The woman says this roughly every 10 minutes.  I want to whisper to her, “My feelings exactly.” I’m here to get a precautionary mammogram to rule out any additional cancer. Four days prior, I learned that I had — well, what looked like — ovarian cancer and, because my mother and grandmother had breast cancer, my gynecologist thought we should rule out B.C.  Hopefully, I wasn’t a cancer factory. This brown-carpeted clinic smells like sanitizer and sadness. I fumble with my keys in my jacket pocket. I’m still zipped up in my puffy orange coat, ready to get in and get out because this isn’t me. This isn’t me. Fakakta…shit. *** Allow me to back up and start from the beginning of this C craze. Back in September of 2015, I’d bled for five days. Hey, we ladies bleed; not weird, right? Well it was weird …

Nice to Meet You, I Have Cancer

It was the first time I’d been out to a restaurant since having a cyst removed, and only a few days after learning I had ovarian cancer. > Insert record scratch sound here < Yeah, I know, I know. That’s some big news right there. But hold on, let me finish my lede… I’d spent the last week and a half recovering from surgery and, up until that November night, had been pretty much down for the count. A Percocet-induced haze of Broad City binge-watching and crushing fatigue. So by the time my friend Shelly came to Brooklyn for a visit, I was ready to shake up my bed-couch-bed routine and feel somewhat normal again. What I wasn’t quite ready for was having to share my big news with the outside world. We decided to go to a red booth and burger joint right around the corner from our apartment — a place where my husband and I were semi-regulars and would often sit at the bar and order dinner. I’d gotten to know Tommy the bartender a bit, a …