Dear Doctor / Oncologist:
I need you to acknowledge my support system sitting here with me, but I need you to fully understand that you are not here for them.
Because I want to know how we’re going to beat this thing. Don’t tell me how quickly you think I’m going to die or about all the stats that say I shouldn’t be alive. I am a statistic of ONE. Say it with me: ONE. You don’t know when I’m going to die and neither do I. The only person that can possibly know that is the man above, so let’s keep those thoughts to yourself.
Give me words I can hold onto when I need hope and faith and fight. Because I am a fighter. Your sad eyes won’t lessen the fight in my genes. But they will momentarily distract me, and I don’t have time for silly distractions.
Talk to me like we’re in this together. Show me that your confidence in my ability to fight this will never waver. Show me that you’ve got this. We’ve got this.
I’m not asking for denial. I’m asking for determination. I’m asking you to deliver the facts in the most let’s-kick-its-ass-together way possible.
OK, now let’s talk about how I need you to support my loved ones. Everyone is different, but because I want to know as much about what’s on the horizon as possible, I could really use a heads-up on what will most affect my loved ones.
Don’t protect me from the inevitable: chemo means hair loss; “debulking” surgery is a foray into the unknown but I will wake up in post-surgical menopause. I need to know this stuff.
I need your honesty. Let’s talk about the side effects of treatments, from short- and long-term perspectives. What will happen to my body during the treatment, in the 24 hours afterwards and in the 24 years after that?
Don’t tell me I shouldn’t focus on a future I’m unlikely to have if I don’t fight now. I have to. Planning for my future is what keeps me going through this hell. And I will keep going. You don’t know if I’m going to die from cancer. I could leave the hospital and die in a car crash, so I don’t need to worry about something that hasn’t happened yet.
Teach me what I can do for myself after the treatments are over. Is there anything special I can do with my diet to help with side effects from treatment or to help keep the cancer away? What type of integrative medicine or care can I invest in to help keep my cancer at bay?
Now. What’s next?
Sherry, you are such an inspiration to so many. Thank you so much for all you do to bring awareness to ovarian cancer. I love your positive attitude.
When I read the article in the Charlotte Observer about your story I could relate to so much of it. Although I was 59 when my cancer was discovered and was stage 2B ovarian cancer, I can relate to what you went through when you went from a CT scan to debulking surgery 5 days later. For me it was six days. My gyn/oncologist has always been so positive and doesn’t tell me the odds. He tells me to just live! I am happy to say that five years after my last chemo I am still a survivor.
I’ve been following your story for a while and have started following Martin’s NASCAR races.
Thank you again for educating so many about ovarian cancer.
Hi Beth! Wow that’s amazing! I LOVE hearing stories like yours!! You are an inspiration too! Thank you for sharing your story and giving other women still fighting hope! I wish you many more years caner-free!!! xoxo – Sherry
I had this conversation with my oncologist at our first meeting. He was amazing. He said, “I’ll be the coach, and you’ll be my star player.” I was diagnosed in 2001 with IIIC ovarian cancer at age 45, and now am a 15-year survivor, active in education and advocacy. I want to give hope to women diagnosed with this cancer. I am sorry I didn’t get to meet you at this year’s conference.
Hi Annamarie!! Wow I love that! My oncologist was amazing as well! He told me to get my boxing gloves on because he was ready to fight!!! I am always amazed when I hear from women like you that are 15 year survivors! That’s amazing! We would love to interview you for our survivor spotlight here on the website! We’ll email you soon! Thank you for giving hope to other women fighting! Hope to meet you at next year’s conference! xoxo – Sherry
I hope you and Martin enjoyed the ‘Nas Car’ hillbilly card after the Coca Cola 600.
I saw your visit to WCNC TV this week and posted the video to my Facebook. When I was diagnosed in 2005 at the age of 55 w/ Stage 3 OC the intravenous abdominal chemo port was not offered. It was suggested during my second surgery, in 2012, but I have too much scar tissue for it to circulate and do much good. I was told it was the “New” – old way of treatment being brought back. My surgical Onc is Dr. Higgins at Levine in Charlotte. My regular Onc is Dr. Krumdieck at LN Onc in Mooresville. They are both the best! One thing that has always bothered me: In 1999, I asked my regular Gyn for a hysterectomy when I was 49. I was having miserable 3 week long periods and other painful issues. I was denied because there was nothing “medically wrong” with me and the Dr could lose her license for performing an unnecessary operation. So, six years later my life changed forever. I am my own advocate now, trust my intuition and stand my ground if necessary. You are so right, no one can say when or how we will go. My first doctor told me “You will eventually die from this disease” and I replied “Not if I get hit by a bus first” 🙂
I gave a copy of the following to my doctor who nearly fell off his chair with excitement to give it out. From the book by Gilda Radner “It’s Always Something” her mantra was:
I am well, I am great, I am cancer free
There are no cancer cells hiding inside of me
But if any little cancer cell is sneakily holding on
I’ll beat and bash it’s f###ing head and smash it till it’s gone.
Bless you and keep up the good work!
Haha I love that! I wish Gilda Radner would of had an opportunity to receive the treatments we have today! Would be interesting to see if she would still be alive! IP chemotherapy is TOUGH! But there is some evidence that there are benefits for certain patients, I just did what my oncologists thought was best! And your right, no one knows when or what you will die from so live each day to the fullest! That’s the one gift cancer hands you in a pretty little package, the gift of LIVING!!! Get out and enjoy everyday!!! Life is short for all of us!! xoxo – Sherry
I also was diagnosed with ovarian cancer Went through the surgery went through 6 mos. of cemo until my ca125 started going up Unfortunately cancer showed it’s head again now I have started cemo again this time I’m praying cancer will leave my body. I’m so thankful and grateful for what you are doing . Thank You I will keep fighting.
Hi Sherry! Thanks for this. I was diagnosed last fall at 32 with Clear Cell ovca. One of the first things I said to my oncologist was “don’t tell me about statistics ever. I am not one.” He said “you are absolutely right”. He has never mentioned my future and what he expects or statistics. I love him because he doesn’t sugar coat but is not negative, he believes in me that I can get a “cure”, and he always makes me laugh. If we didn’t laugh, we would cry right?? Thanks for all you do for bringing light to ovarian cancer and for bringing a young face to it. It makes me feel less alone
I am training midlevel providers in a large medical institution and use your letter to set the standards by which patients are to be treated.. Your blunt honesty is so appreciated and as healthcare providers, I want to thank you for helping me help others.
Sherry, thank you. I have endometrial and uterine cancers stage 3. I have been blessed with the best doctors who are very good at supporting not only me but my support system. My husband of 42 years is amazing and two grown sons who are so very loving. I am still teaching, mainly for insurance, but also it’s a reason to get up each morning. I work with people who are doing everything they can to care for me.
Your site is helping many including me, so again Thank You.