Together we are standing up to cancer

Sophie

My name is Sophie and I was seventeen when I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.

The first signs there was something wrong I ignored, bloating, sleeplessness, pain before my period and extreme pain on my first day. After that the pain on my left side began to worsen every month until one day it began to hurt more and more and I ignored it, not wanting to bother anyone until I was in more pain than I knew was possible and  crying like a baby. My sister asked “Is this an emergency?” and I knew it was.Me and my dad rushed to south doc, the pain was coming in waves and felt like someone was twisting my insides. The doctor there sent us to the maternity part of CUH, knowing it was a gynaecological problem. On the way to CUH I said to my dad “Maybe i’ll never be able to have kids” I might be psychic.

My mother was already at the hospital due to some complications with her pregnancy. I had so many tests, x-rays and an ultrasound where a man said there was nothing there. The doctors were stumped and sent me for another ultrasound and the woman said “yeah, there’s definitely something there.” It was decided that i would have key-hole surgery and they would try to remove the “Cysts” as they didn’t know what it was yet. The surgery went fine but I was told that the cysts were too big for that type of surgery and the’d have to do a major operation to remove them. They removed my left ovary and Fallopian tube. I was in hospital for a total of three weeks then.

On the second of July 2015 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I said “Okay”. There was nothing in my mind then, I had no questions to ask. It was just a fact then, to me.  Even now it hasn’t fully registered, how could I have cancer?, I’m seventeen?. “It’s rare” they said, “Unusual”. Well I guess I’ve never been normal.

All the staff were surprised with how calm I was. To me cancer was never a death sentence, I have so much to do on the earth and i can’t leave over something like this. No, I never thought I’d die because of it. I had also decided then that I would never let it bring me down, I had spent enough time being depressed in the past and I was determined never to go back to the place I was again.

My biggest relief was that it had happened to me and none of my sisters, I can handle me being sick but my sisters? No way.

I had my first session of chemo the 28th of July, the day my little brother was born, because in a big family nothing is ever just about you. My sister came with me and I wasn’t really scared, I never really let anything properly register , maybe in a few years i’ll look back and think “Holy shit I had freaking cancer man what the hell??”. I was actually quite lucky with my chemo in that I didn’t lose my hair, which one of my sisters was very worried about, “Are you gonna lose all your hair” Was one of her first questions.

My chemo ended in November and after a few weeks I had a CT scan to get the results. People kept telling me it’d be fine, but I never got my hopes up for anything. I hoped for the best but was always prepared for the worst. And that time it was. It didn’t work, I spent all that time sick, tired and never eating for nothing. Sure I was pissed but what could I do?, shit happens.

Shortly after this is when I was given a flyer for the girls club. It was like destiny, All this time I’d been thinking why wasn’t there a place for people my age with cancer. I walked in through that pink door and up the stairs and I was immediately at home, I can remember the smell of the incense and how warm it felt. Janice and Kyle were there that day and finally I could speak to someone my age that understood where I was, because they had been there too.

The doctors had a conference about me, even taking advice from America, they decided that next on the agenda was Dublin. They knew I’d be having further surgery but it was too invasive for my surgeon in cork. I did more tests in Dublin. The doctor said it would have to happen soon, I couldn’t wait long. This meant I couldn’t finish my leaving cert that year, I had been working as hard as I could so i could do it this year so that upset me a little. I was also told on that day I was having my uterus, right ovary and fallopian tube and a part of my bowel removed along with the surrounding tumours, which by then had encased my uterus. Meaning I could never have kids.

To be perfectly honest kids have never been on my agenda but I was eighteen then and , obviously, you can never know what life brings you. My sister was crying, I was not. I felt relieved again it wasn’t her but me. I’ve come to terms with never having kids, there was some pluses after all, No more periods!!.

I had my major surgery on the first of February 2016. I was on the operating table for eleven hours. There were a few complications and my left leg got a clot in it. I couldn’t feel it at all. my leg was, in so many words, dying. So they released the clot and my leg swelled .. but it didn’t stop. Once again my leg would’ve just ended up dying. so they cut the skin on either side of my calf to relieve the pressure.

My foot ‘dropped’ which means while I have a little movement I can’t control it properly, I’ve been doing physiotherapy and can now walk fine with a splint for my foot. After a month in hospital they covered the wounds in a skin graft which means I have two long (and wide) scars on my left calf.

I ended up sating in the hospital just three days shy of two months. I have always been an independent person so it was hard for me to let the nurses take care of me. I was put into HDU (High dependency unit) so that meant I was taken really good care of, the nurses were all so nice.

I remember the morphine made me feel really sick and gave me terrible gory dreams and the pain specialist recommended fentanyl. The Pain doctor was my best friend. The drug didn’t give me the dreams. But what id did was sometimes I would wake with a start and once I gave a nurse a fright and made her jump when I woke up.

I have never had my patience tested so much in my life, I had an emotional breakdown on my little sisters birthday as it had all built up then. They couldn’t all visit because it was too far and there was too many of them. Eventually I couldn’t stand the hospital food either. I was just getting fed up of it all, but I was over the moon on the day I was told I could go home. I stayed with my Nan until i was well enough to handle all my siblings being around.

What upset me the most was not being able to go to college, but when i heard one of my friends from the club would be going to college after not doing his leaving I thought there could be a chance and with the encouragement of one of my best friends I applied for an animation course in St. Johns. I had an interview and was accepted. I didn’t think I could be so happy.

If it wasn’t for my friends and the club there’s no way I would be at the stage I am today. I am going for scans in August  to see if the surgery properly did it’s job and even if the results are good my journey with cancer will never be over because every pain, every strange freckle of small lump is cancer. That’s what you think.

I guess the moral of my story is that no matter what, I don’t think you can let anything get you down for long, because it’s just a waste of time and time on this world is precious.

Sophie gained her wings on 01/11/2019

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