Serena Williams

A few years ago, I had the TV running in the background when my normal programming was interrupted by the French Open women’s final. I found myself getting sucked in watching Serena Williams rally to win the French Open while fighting the flu, and I’m pretty sure throwing up in a towel.

That got me hooked on tennis and Andy Murray (sorry Dan). I started following multiple tennis players on Instagram and wanted to learn how to play. I won a tennis lesson at an auction over a year ago, but when I finally got around to scheduling my lesson, everything went downhill with my cancer diagnosis and I didn’t get to take my lesson until October this past year. While I would love to continue taking tennis lessons, time and money are always fleeting. Maybe when I retire?

But back to the main subject: Serena Williams. Serena Williams is an amazing woman. She is so strong, talented, and BFF with Beyonce. She was also due to give birth a week after me.

It was painful to see all the media outlets talking about her pregnancy while I was dealing with the loss of our baby and the upcoming loss of my uterus. The wound was ripped open again with the birth announcement of her daughter a week after our due date and finishing chemo instead. She’s back in the news now on the cover of Vogue with her baby and talking about the horrific ordeal she went through after the birth.

While I’m glad the topic of birth complications have been brought back into the conversation, it’s still a little painful to see her as a joyful mother and her smiling daughter. It also makes me think of of my two friends who gave birth to their daughters a month after our due date. I still haven’t spoken to either of them. Short emails and cards were all I could manage. Random thoughts of them and their perfect families pop up into my head, and while I’m extremely happy for them, it makes me sad for the life we don’t have. Jealous even.

Am I a bad person for thinking this? Probably. Why can’t I just be happy for other people? I mean, I get why I can’t be 100% happy, but I would like to be. I want to let last year and all the emotions go. It’s hard to see any family with their kids. I find myself still nodding and smiling when someone brings up someone else’s kid, or quickly scrolling through Instagram when friend’s post their children. I’m hopeful that one of these days that will be Dan and I. And if not, then I hope the pain and sadness go away and we can be 100% content for those who have what we could not.

Am I going to regret being this open about my feelings in the future? Maybe. But this blog was created so I could share my experience as a now 33-year-old woman dealing with cancer and cancer-caused infertility.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

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Thirty-three

Ever since I was little, I had always thought 32 would be my year. My mom had me the year she turned 32, and in my mind, I always thought I would be 32 when I had my own child. Life has a way of letting you know you’re not in charge, and obviously that didn’t happen.

Last year  we celebrated my birthday with an evening party, watched the Sounders win the MLS Cup, and I was pregnant and didn’t know it. This year we celebrated with brunch, and watched the Sounders lose the MLS Cup. We went XC skiing on my birthday again which is always a fun time.

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It was so cold I couldn’t do a real smile.

A year ago I thought we would possibly be celebrating as a little family. It was bittersweet to try and celebrate, but also wondering what could have been. I have definitely felt supported by all my friends this year, and that means a lot.

I’m hopeful for 33. I look forward to what it will bring. I already know we are going to South America and most likely Hawaii. We have a ton of Seattle trips planned, and it will be good to spend time with friends.

Goodbye 32, hello 33.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

Dear Baby Gossett

To our sweet baby,

Today is the day you should have come into our world. Though if you’re anything like your mom, you would probably be a little late. A fashionable entrance I like to call it.

I’ve had a long time to think about what to say to you. I’ve started many sentences, just to mentally delete them.

I’m still not sure what to say, except that I love you. I know your dad loves you and we think about you often. We will never forget you and you will stay with us always. I had so many plans for us. I know we’ll be together one day, even if it’s much later than I would like. Our next journey together will be different since I can no longer carry you, but I will love you the same and wait with even more anticipation to see you.

I can’t believe it’s been 37 weeks since I first learned about you. 37 weeks sounds like a short amount of time, but in actuality it feels like years. I can still remember seeing the first test, then the second. Calling your auntie Jess in disbelief. Telling your dad as soon as he walked in for lunch and his shocked reaction. The look on your halmonie and halahbuji’s faces when they read the card. The joyful exclamations from both your grandparents when we FaceTimed them.

In the short time you were with us, you have brought so much joy and happiness. We thank you for everything you’ve given us and we love you so much. You’ll be with us forever, and we can’t wait to meet you one day.

Love,

Your Parents

Radiation Treatment: Check!

You can mark radiation as completed! On my list of “Things I never imagined I would have to do”, radiation and chemotherapy have both been checked off. This week I completed two rounds of brachytherapy.

Brachytherapy, for those of you lucky enough to not be in the know, is a type of radiation in which a plastic tube called a dilator is inserted vaginally and the radiation comes from a source, and specifically targets a certain area, in my case, the apex of the vagina. The dilator looks like a church altar candle, and is closed on the end that is inserted, but has an opening on the other side that the source is fed into through a wire. You awkwardly lay on a gurney while they insert the dilator and make sure that the angle is correct, and hold it in place with an intense looking metal device. The device reminded me of the Black Widow scene in the Avengers when she’s being sterilized, guess it’s a good thing that doesn’t effect me anymore! They then take a CAT scan to ensure everything looks good, then moved me to a room that the source is held in.

What is the source you ask? That’s a great question. I am not 100% sure, but I know it’s held in a radiation specific box, that’s not that big, and just hangs out in a room by itself. It goes through a wire that gets fed through the dilator. It’s not painful, but you definitely feel a weird thump during it. Well, it is painful, because there is a lot of pressure on a sensitive spot, but not any sort of burning sensation.

The first day, the whole process takes about 45 minutes with the angling, measuring, CAT scan, moving to another room, waiting for the program to give all the information needed for the treatment, and then treatment was three minutes. The second day, I went straight to the source room, had the measuring and angling, then had the treatment, so about 15 minutes all together. Not too bad.

It feels amazing to finally be finished. I have my follow up appointment in Seattle in October with a PET scan. I’m a little scared something will grow between now and then, but one cannot focus on that. I’m still trying to recover from chemo, my appetite is slowly coming back, but I’m still sensitive to certain foods and smells. I went to yoga on Tuesday which felt amazing, and tried to “run” a mile on Wednesday which was painful. Not sure how this half marathon in 3 weeks is going to go… Hopefully I can try another “run” this weekend. I use quotes, because honestly, it’s more a shuffle than an actual run.

It’s bittersweet celebrating this moment. We should be celebrating something else tomorrow instead. I’m trying to stay positive and not focus on my alternate reality, but it’s hard. It will continue to be hard. I’ve been dreading this weekend for months. I’m hoping if I surround myself with friends and keep myself busy, it will make it easier. I’m sure it won’t be though. I know the moment that silence hits or that I’m alone I’ll start crying. And that will be ok when that happens.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

The Surgery Results

It’s official. I’m uterus-less. And fallopian tube-less. And appendix-less. Wait, what?!?! The day after the surgery, when my favorite resident was sitting down and chatting with my mom and I, she casually mentioned taking out my appendix. Somehow my mom knew, but this was brand-new information to me.

“Wait, you took my appendix out?!”

“Yes. Dr. Goff said it had high risk of perforation, so she took it out so you wouldn’t need another surgery.”

Apparently there was some stuff on my appendix that could make it burst. Also, my appendix was super long, much longer than normal, and Dr. Goff didn’t want it to get radiated and also burst. Essentially, my appendix would have burst some day and emergency surgery is never fun. This also goes to prove that my body is just greaaaaaaaat at growing things. Babies, cancer, organs, etc.

But back to the surgery. Dr. Goff said everything went great. At least, as well as a radical hysterectomy could go for a 32 year-old who can never have a baby. All my margins came back negative and the lymph node she took was negative as well. There was still cancer in what was left of my cervix, so she was 100% confident that this surgery was the correct decision.

I’m actually doing pretty well a week-and-half later. I almost have feeling back in  my stomach. It’s the strangest feeling. I can put my hand on where it’s numb, or coming back, and I can tell something is there but I can’t feel anything. I’m sleeping pretty well now. The first week was painful, it hurt to roll over, to lay down, to lay on a certain side, but it’s better now. Not 100%, but maybe 90%. I’m probably not walking as much as I should, but I went on a walk Monday after work and made it half the block before I needed to turn around. I couldn’t even make it to the mailbox. Tomorrow we’re going to Missoula though, so wish me luck there.

It’s a little hard realizing the surgery has come and gone. I spent so much of my time fearing the hysterectomy. Losing the ability to carry a baby is heartbreaking and I never thought it would happen to me. When it finally happened though, I felt ready. Ready to close this chapter and start the next one. It showed during the anesthesia as well. I vaguely remember crying on the way to surgery, but I didn’t cry when I came out of it. To be fair, whatever anesthetic concoction they  mixed for me this time was a doozy. I felt sleepy even before Dan left pre-op, and I don’t remember coming out of it at all. I can’t remember post-op, and I sort of remember being in my room with my parents, best friend, and Dan. Dan went to Din Tai Fung with his parents and tried to feed me some fried rice, which I gagged on and demanded a popsicle. Apparently I was also demanding popsicles in post-op. I turn into a 5-year-old in the hospital.

I’ve been back at work since Monday so that has helped keep my mind off things. Even if Monday was a lot of cringing and staring at the computer screen wondering what I was doing. My mother-in-law has also offered to take us on a South American cruise in February, which is beyond amazing. I have put a ton of effort into research cruises and itineraries. It’s helped me not to focus on our journey to have a baby.

Our next step is chemo and radiation. I have an appointment on Monday, June 26 to discuss chemo, and another one Friday, June 30 for radiation treatment. This is when I learned that a) they’re different doctors, b) the universe wants me to support the oil industry by making my appointments in Missoula on two different days. I have a follow-up appointment in Seattle on July 10.

Ah Seattle. I miss Seattle, and my friends. While Montana is beautiful, I’ve learned I’m a city girl at heart and can’t wait to get back home some day.

Until then…

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

The Night Before

Tomorrow I go in for my radical hysterectomy. It’s been a long road to get here, and I was hoping this would happen right after giving birth to our baby (or you know, not at all). Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t really care what you want, or your plans for your future. It does whatever it wants, sort of like a drunk girl trying to fight through her friends to get back into the club to keep dancing. Not that that was me at all this past weekend, at 1am, two shots of Jameson too many… nope…

Anyways. I can’t believe we’re at this point. I cried when the plane took off from the Missoula airport, and when we landed in Seattle. Whoever thought at 32, I would be losing the ability to ever have children. I know we are lucky that we had a successful round of IVF, but it pains me to know I’ll never be able to carry our baby. Looking at pregnant women with huge tummies pulls at my heart.

I’ll be honest, I do feel like a fraud knowing that if we have kids, it wasn’t me who carried them. It doesn’t mean I feel like less of a woman, but I wonder how I can contribute to future pregnancy conversations. I can talk about being pregnant up to 16 weeks, but I never had a prominent belly. I just looked like I was packing on the winter weight. I’ll never get to join in friendly conversations about third trimester woes and giving birth.

I’m at a weird place knowing that this needs to happen. They found microscopic cells near my vagina and in a lymph node. Obviously the cancer had spread to just beyond the tumor. But I also just want to have one full pregnancy. I would like to carry our own baby, and only have to worry about my hospital bills, not that on top of paying for everything for a gestational carrier. I know if that were to happen though, the cancer will most likely continue to spread, and who knows how far it will move in the 9 months.

I realize there is no point in having a baby if I’m not around. Dan will be an amazing father, but it’s not something he wants to do on his own, especially if we can prevent it from happening. And that’s the only reason I have any semblance of calmness and acceptance. I hate being told how strong I am. I really have no choice. I’m just living. I’m not trying to be Wonder Woman. I’m just trying to stay alive.

And so now, I sign off with my uterus intact one last time. I’m going to do some sit ups and push ups, since I’ll be stuck in a hospital the next 4 days, and who knows when I’ll be able to workout again. Also, the doctor told me chemo might make me gain weight, so… Guess I should work on combatting that now.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl