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Meet Suzanne!

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Summer is on it's way and it is time to meet another community member. Many of you have read posts by Suzanne and will recognize her kind voice from the community where she is better known as Suzanne73. She has also recently joined our group of community mentors who assist with making the community such a kind and welcoming place :)


Hi!  My name is Suzanne.  I’m 44 years old – i.e. I was born in 73, hence the plain Jane username ;). 

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Flowers for my 44th Birthday J
Although I’m off work right now, I usually teach English to International Students who are coming to enrol in a Canadian college program.  I enjoy teaching, but I hate marking papers.   I am lucky to have fantastic co-workers.  There is a lot of laughter that echoes around the office on a daily basis.   And when I was diagnosed, they prepared a bunch of ready meals for me to have in the days following my surgery.  I am hopeful that I will remain feeling as well as I do now, so that I can go back to work in September with peace of mind. 


My home is in Barrie, Ontario, where I live with my husband, my son, my mother and our 2 cats.  I lost my father to mesothelioma (he worked in the asbestos industry for many years) in 2001, and the following year my husband and I moved to Barrie because it was the most affordable city where we could buy a house that would accommodate our dual family.  We were lucky to find a raised bungalow where my mother would not have to navigate stairs to get in and out of her own apartment. 
We fell in love with our property because it’s unusually large.  I mean, it’s not like we have acres and acres of land, but the land is a good size for a suburban house.  Over the years we’ve poured love and energy into it, and we now have a beautiful space that we can enjoy from April to October.  My husband is also crazy about wood-fired bar-b-ques, so our newest addition to the yard was a fireplace and Bar-B-Q last year.  


 
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We are not great gardeners, but we actually put in some effort and get lots of tomatoes, zucchinis and raspberries out of it!


My husband is from Turkey.  I want to say that I love travelling, because I actually do, but because of our ties to Turkey, the only two countries I have ever really explored are Canada and Turkey!  As much as I adore both countries, I would love to travel to so many more places than that.  The only exception is that at the end of a 5 week tour of Turkey in 2015, we spent 3 days in Rome.  What a beautiful city!  

 
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I am in love with the city of Istanbul – the only city that sits on 2 continents.


Our 2015 trip was great, but there was a dark shadow over it – the day of our flight, my mother had an appointment to hear the result of a biopsy, and we discovered that she had lung cancer.  I was lucky that my sister and brother were there to help her through those early days while we were away.    My mom’s cancer was Stage 1, and because she has a myriad of other health risks, the only treatment recommended for her was radiation, which she completed in October 2015.  All of her scans since then show a single ‘mass’ where the tumour was that her radiologist believes is not cancer but scar tissue from the radiation.  There are no other signs of it spreading, but she always lives in fear of the cancer.  On top of that, her overall health is still in decline, and it’s something that weighs heavily on my mind.   While she appreciates my help, she struggles a lot with losing her independence, and so she either doesn’t ask or even refuses help sometimes, even though she needs it.  Some days I know that there is more that I should be doing, but I feel lost and don’t even know what to do or how to begin.   

 
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A family photo in Rome, the summer of 2015.
 
My own diagnosis came in December of 2016.  I think I had this cancer for quite a long time before I finally talked to my doctor about my symptoms.   Ovarian cancer is a sneaky one… I mean, I did have symptoms, but I just equated them to PMS and/or ovulation pains.  I am sure that I ignored them for a good year or so – I also suffered with fatigue, brain fog and a complete lack of motivation – those were more pressing health issues to me, so that’s what I first went to my doctor about in February of 2016.  I found out that I was deficient in Vitamin B12 and D, and so I didn’t talk to my doctor about my other symptoms – I just started treating the deficiencies and I did start feeling better.  But in the summer, my other issues got worse – constipation, frequent urination, bloating so much I felt like I was pregnant – which is frustrating when you have struggled with infertility and you know that you’re “probably” not pregnant, but it sure feels like you are!


My doctor ordered the routine Ultrasound which came back showing a large (13 cm!) cyst.  She sent me for an MRI, CA125 test and a referral for gynecologist.  Sadly, my CA125 was normal.  At the time I was happy, because it just affirmed everything I was reading about cysts – 99% are benign, and since my CA125 was normal, I figured, “no way this is cancer”… Famous last words, I guess.  If my body had produced CA125 antibodies, then I probably would have been referred straight to the gynecological oncologist and had my full hysterectomy in October.  Instead, I went through the laparoscopy in December.    I woke up to the grimmest face you ever saw on a surgeon, and he delivered the not-so-great news that things didn’t look good and I would probably be needing the full hysterectomy. 


I guess I was pretty numb for a week, and then, exactly one week later, I spent a whole day crying.  But then something snapped.  I guess the diagnosis was my wake up call.  I’m not dead, it’s an illness, and we’re going to treat it.  I’m not one to dwell on things and I turned wholeheartedly to my faith. 
I am a convert to Islam.  I know it’s a religion that gets a lot of bad press, and that makes me really sad, but in the end, I can’t let my own relationship with God be affected by the horrible things that other people do.  When somebody has an evil agenda, they will look for ways to justify the unjustifiable.  I know this religion very well and it’s a way of life that, when followed correctly, improves your relationship with God, with family, with friends, with society, with your body, your mind and your soul.  I can honestly say that since my diagnosis, I have become a better Muslim and it has helped me immensely.   

 
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It is said that prostration is the action that brings you closest to God.
 

After the hysterectomy in January, I found out that my cancer is stage 3.  I know that they say “don’t read anything online” but I am not the kind of person who can do that.  I have a scientific mind and I need to understand everything about this cancer.   I read medical journal articles and I consult naturopathic sites too – very carefully, because it’s obvious that there is a lot of junk science out there.  I am happy that I understand how to discern good science from bad science, because it helps me to research objectively – to benefit from a healthier diet and some herbal support, but not to deny the usefulness of Western medicine too.  It helped me to ask my doctor about IP chemotherapy, which has better long term survival statistics for people with my staging of cancer than IV chemotherapy alone. 

On paper, my 5 year survival odds are something like 50/50.  But in my mind, it’s 95/5.  I say 95% because I feel confident that my body will respond to the treatment.  I feel confident that my lifestyle changes will ultimately benefit my ability to stave off the disease.   I feel confident that my prayers will be answered (within reason ;) ).  I feel confident that I will find the right combination of herbal support to detoxify my body and support my immune system.  And I feel confident that more medicines are being developed every day to help combat OC. 

I have also learned that living in fear of something that hasn’t happened yet is a waste of my truly precious time.  Not only that, but the fear and the worry can actually lead to more health problems. 
So if I’m that confident, why not just say 100%?  Because in life there are obviously no guarantees, and I need that little 5% to remind myself that I am not invulnerable.  I need it to remind me that regardless of what the future may hold, I need to make peace with every possible outcome.  I need it to remind me to embrace every day and thank God for it, because whether I have 700 days left, or 7000 days or even more, every single day is a gift.  Rather than being angry or fearful and stewing in the bad things from those days, I want to spend those days being happy, grateful and loving the good things. J

 
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Enjoying the love of my kitty by the fire J

Thank you so much Suzanne for sharing your story with us. You have a beautiful family and a beautiful outlook. 




Comments

What a wonderful post I wish I had the words you have to express yourself. Admire your attitude always look for the best outcome negativity helps no one. I have always tried to aspire to that but occasionally a bit of negative seeps in. Hope all goes well for you no all will go well. To hope and the future. Wish there was some way to help your mother but she does seem to have a mind of her own take comfort in the fact you are there for her. 
  • Posted Sat 17 Jun 2017 07:03 PM EDT
My thoughts are with you and your mother Suzanne. Our bodies are frail and it takes an inner strength to help us always see this life we are given is to be lived to the fullest whatever the challenges. Your research show the greater desire for us to relieve the suffering that cancer brings to so many in so many different guises. How blessed are we all to be surrounded by loved ones, and those others of us who have found this supportive community! Thank you for sharing.
  • Posted Fri 09 Jun 2017 10:01 AM EDT
Thank you for sharing....and good luck in the future.
  • Posted Thu 08 Jun 2017 01:53 AM EDT
Suzanne, you wrote such a beautiful letter to us all and are an inspiration to anyone going through treatment. I agree a positive attitude certainly helps and support of family and friends. Good luck on your journey and hopefully all goes well for you. Your yard by the way looks great.

Gaylene
  • Posted Wed 07 Jun 2017 10:15 PM EDT
Thanks for sharing Suzanne73‍! You are an inspiration! I am stage 3 oc as well, and I really appreciate your interpretation of the statistics. It is great that you were able to do research. I found the sites were too negative while I was going through chemo, and it negatively affected my outlook. Congrats to you on your research skills!
  • Posted Wed 07 Jun 2017 07:27 PM EDT

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