Ovarian Cancer Grad- Sharlene
Name: Sharlene Walker
Age at Enrollment: 36
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? Fatigue, bloating, pain during intercourse, painful periods.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? A ruptured cyst- and ovarian torsion was what sent me to the ER.
I was running to doctors on and off for two years, because of feeling "off." No one doctor could find anything. So sex actually helped in me getting my early diagnosis (go figure)!
Courses completed: Surgery and chemo (carboplatin only- why I still have hair).
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? The hardest moment over all for me is not being able to have my own child. I did get diagnosed at 36, so the probability of becoming a mother was low, but of course I didn’t want cancer to decide that for me.
Chemotherapy was also very tough to endure. So much so that I stopped after the 4th cycle. It was a risk I was willing to take since my cancer was found at stage 1. When I received my treatment plan, I decided I needed some fun in between. Friends from the states organized to come after each chemo cycle to keep me company and do fun things in Berlin. Museum visits, good food and lots of laughing got me through that time period.
Also, my family they were, and are, amazing. Now is a different phase, the after treatment phase, which is also hard. I try and stay in the moment and look forward to all the good times to come. My one year diagnosis date is coming up, so I’ve decided to go to Portugal to make a new memory. I feel lucky that that’s even an option. GRATITUDE is everything.
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? Meditation and visualization are great tools. Just going for a walk (while in treatment), reminding oneself that there is a whole world out there and so much to see and experience. TV shows got me through chemo. So did foot rubs and and having my visitors- helped big time.
I did develop neuropathy and lymphedema in my left leg. I receive acupuncture weekly. The best book, with lots of positive stories is Radical Remission. It’s my go-to when I get anxious.
Also, joining a young women’s cancer group has helped me immensely. We actually have a really good time and its focus is on healing and not whining! Those women are one of the best things I got out of this experience.
What did you know about ovarian cancer prior to your diagnosis? Not much. I knew about cervical cancer and HPV, those are the only guys that get attention as far as gynecological cancers go, especially for pre-menopausal women.
What do you wish more people knew or understood about Ovarian Cancer? That early detection is key. That’s the main reason why I’m so open with my story.
How did your family and friends respond? Everyone was very supportive, It was interesting to see- how some people didn’t even acknowledge the fact that I was sick, more so through social media… Cancer, makes people react so differently. But most of all I felt loved.
How did/do you find joy during this experience? I found/find joy in this experience by constantly reminding myself to stay in the moment. That this very moment is all I have - and the past and future are obsolete.
It's a tough practice, but it helps.
I've recently discovered a new joy for myself- nature. Walking outside, looking at the trees, stars, ocean. Reminds me how small I am in this universe, and to not take everything so so seriously.
What's always been a safe space for me is a modern art museum. Especially during the week, it's meditative and calming for me. Kind of, my equivalent to church.
During chemo, I became a HUGE Game of Thrones fan. John Snow brings me joy. Ha!
Right now, I'm looking forward to traveling a bit. I'm writing this from Portugal! It's been super joyful and healing.
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? Well, two women who dealt with breast cancer contacted me early on. They both said, “you will be so strong after this”. I thought “no way”, I’ll be this broken woman. But I am so strong and I feel things more. It sounds so cliche, but being so in touch with mortality makes you a different person. When people complain about colds, I have to hold myself together (haha).