September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. We are dedicating our Fridays for the month of September to profiling fellow Ovarian Cancer Grads and Students.
Meet Ovarian Cancer Grad, Debbie Huff!
Name: Debbie Huff
Age Enrolled: 43
Major: Ovarian Cancer Stage IIIc, Clear Cell Adenocarcinoma
Primary symptoms you experienced: None, really. I had digestive issues all of my life so I figured the bloating and pain was from that and it was just worsening with age. The frequent urination was just age.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor?: Actually, I was scheduled to have gallbladder surgery! When the doctor poked the scope in, he hit the tumor. He took pictures to show my mother in the waiting room and said, “I think we have a problem.”
Courses completed: I had a massive surgery. Most Ovarian Cancer warriors do since many of us are late stage when it is found. Full hysterectomy, gallbladder removal, appendix removal, lymph node removal, and he fixed a hernia while he was in there. Score! I love a great deal!
I was hospitalized for each treatment. Three days in the hospital: 24 hour drip of Taxol, followed by 4 hr drip of Cisplatin that went straight into my abdomen. I had to rotate every 15 minutes to “splash it around”. Neulasta injections followed chemo within 24 hours (Neulasta is straight from hell). Day 8 was supposed to be another round of Cisplatin, but my body just couldn’t recover. I never made Day 8 treatment. My WBC was around 1.
What you’d like other women (and men) to know about Ovarian Cancer: Your true strength comes AFTER treatment. From diagnosis through your treatment, you will be supported by everyone. You think you’re strong then. Once you finish treatment, you will find yourself alone and it will suddenly hit you: “holy [insert your favorite sentence enhancer], I just had cancer!” People will expect you to just be better since you finished treatment. Your hair is growing back, so you’re good now, right? Wrong. I tell people, chemo is NOT an antibiotic. But I AM better. I’m so much better. I’m a better person. I’m a stronger person.
Any helpful tips or tricks for other women navigating a diagnosis? This is not your end. This is your beginning. RESEARCH. You will be told NOT to Google your cancer. Google it, but don’t let it overwhelm you. My cancer says I only have a 14% chance of making it 5 years. I choose not to believe that. They call my cancer the enigma cancer because they just can’t figure it out. I remain positive; you should too. Medical science changes DAILY. It is always getting better. There IS hope. There is ALWAYS hope. Be open to supplemental alternative methods. Watch the documentary, “Food Matters”; that is what changed my entire mindset on food and health in general. If you asked me to pick one thing, I would say start juicing. I wish I had juiced throughout my chemo. I think my side effects would have been significantly lower.
Anything you wished you knew prior to enrollment? I wish I had known more about the side effects from chemo. Holy heck, recovery sucks! Neuropathy, blurred vision, vestibular issues, lymphedema, arthritis, joint pain, digestive issues, funky fingernails, weight gain (that takes FOREVER to lose!), mood swings (instant menopause!), hot flashes, heart palpitations, anxiety attacks (common for cancer warriors/survivors), and many more fun things have dominated my days and nights. Juicing and vitamin therapy are helping these issues decrease.
What I learned: Debbie pre-cancer lived in a world of fear and self-preservation. Debbie post-cancer lives in a world of hope and courage. I won’t shut up about my cancer journey. If I can help one woman think, “hmmm… maybe I should get checked”, it was ALL worth it. Even the Neulasta injections.