February 7, 2018
My name is Leondra Roberts I am 45 years old and I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer on the 10th of October 2017. This is my story. So where do I start? With the tragic death of my mother that took place on July the 13th 2017, or the same scenario running around my head that I was there attempting CPR when the paramedics arrived, and we couldn’t save her?
Or do I start with a more positive note and say that after the tangi, I returned to work in August 2017. I began working full time in my newly appointed role as Head Teacher in my Early Childhood Centre. I was in the last stages of completing my Post Graduate Diploma in ECE, which I completed, and the qualification was awarded to me on September the 13th 2017.
Or do I start with what I now know to be symptoms of advanced Ovarian Cancer that began a few days after receiving my achievement? I think this story will be about the events leading up to diagnoses. With all the circumstances that were continuously taking place in my life, who needs to take notice of being woken from sleep with pain, and needing to go to the toilet, only to experience more never felt before pain, then crawling back to bed hoping it doesn’t happen again, well certainly not me, I am far too busy! So, after a few nights and days of this pain, I self-diagnosed and figured ahh I have a urine infection, off to get some ural and cranberry juice, and as you can guess these remedies don’t work for cancer!
I began to get worse. I decided to turn to DR Google and hurried away to buy some Mintec, because now according to me I have irritable bowel syndrome. As I couldn’t suppress the symptoms of the (what I now know to be) cancer getting worse, my colleagues began to notice a physical change in me, my skin became grey, I looked unwell like they’d never seen before and one of my colleagues said she had noticed my stomach was not like she’d ever seen it before. Finally, I went to my doctor, he decided it was a bladder infection and off I went with a weeks’ worth of antibiotics.
Despite this, one week later I admitted myself to Auckland hospital A & E. I was exhausted, in severe pain, and worried about how large my stomach had become in the last week. It was here finally I began to get some answers, these were, my stomach is filled with ascites and it’s highly likely I have advanced ovarian cancer. All I could think was at last there is a reason for me to feel so sore and unwell, hindsight set in, the fact that I had been unwell 4 years in a row unlike ever before, that my doctor had continuously fobbed me off each time I went in to see him and I allowed him to convince me all my growing health and woman problems were because I smoked so really it was my fault. The hindsight, like, why did allow my doctor to treat me that way, why didn’t I go and get a second opinion, the struggle of losing my mother in such a traumatising way, but having to carry on with ‘everyday life’ like my teaching role, and my study and feel so disconnected emotionally to those around me, then to find out that I had advanced cancer has no doubt changed my life forever.
I am recovered from a six-hour extensive surgery, chemo isn’t so bad, and I still have moments where all this seems so surreal and I wonder how did I do all the things I’ve been doing with cancer growing slowly inside me? I did it by ignoring my body, by putting the needs of others first, and by allowing trusted professionals to treat me poorly, all the while rationalizing away the fact that for the last four years all I seem to do is sleep whenever I can, again, and it’s because of age, smoking, work related stress. Well no, know I know it was because I had cancer. I am reminded of something I learnt while at Outward Bound with my son a few years ago, “There is more in us that we know if we could be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less” (Kurt Hahn, 1886-1974).
I believe that through this part of my life story I have been awakened and given the opportunity to live my life in a way that I am unwilling to settle for less, and that having cancer as a part of my journey has helped me to help myself by putting myself, my needs, and my health first, by finding a new health professional I can trust, by truly listening to my body when it tries to speak to me…(without becoming a hypochondriac).
Until I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer I thought I was living my life this way, hindsight has shown me I wasn’t. Although I am not grateful for having had ovarian cancer, I am grateful for the lesson it has taught me about really living my life like I truly love myself. Cheers for that OC J Leondra