Blessings in Disguise During Cancer


Sometimes difficult experiences like cancer can come with blessings in disguise.

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger, Julie Brokaw

It has been a while since I have been able to put some words on paper. I have had a change in my treatment, so I have been focused on that. Sometimes I have so many ideas and then I just can’t find the words. Today, I found them.

I have been fighting ovarian cancer for 10 and a half years. I told my first amazing oncologist that I wanted to be her poster child for survivorship. She helped me accomplish that with her excellent and diligent care for me, with lots of items from her arsenal of medications, surgeries and radiation. I also did a clinical trial. My doctor took another job out of state and now I have another outstanding oncologist with a team of fantastic support staff to take care of me. I have asked her to continue my dream of being that poster child. She is hoping the same for me.

This has been a blessing in disguise.

Since February, my numbers have risen, so something clearly had changed. I was on a maintenance drug from last September until late spring. That was a great bit of respite for me. The medication was easy to take and had very little side effects. I was very lucky. Again, a blessing in disguise.

Recently, my numbers proved that we must go back to the drawing board and see what that entails. Fortunately, I had some genetic testing the first year after my diagnosis as well as about five years ago. In June, we did a liquid biopsy (bloodwork) and a liver biopsy of the lesion on my liver, and that specimen was sent to be genetically tested to see if my original tumor had changed or morphed.

The results showed that it had changed a bit but not with too much relevance.

But they found something else. My lesion was feeding off what little estrogen that was floating around in my body. I did not know that was possible as my first surgery took all my female anatomy out. Having early genetic testing was ablessing in disguise.

As for my new 7th round of chemo which I have had two of six treatments, I had to change my regular carboplatin to another drug, as carboplatin is out of stock. I am also on another drug with that, which will hopefully help to bring those numbers down. I am also taking a medication to stop the estrogen in my body so that the lesion can’t get nourishment. New meds available, a blessing in disguise.

With all this medical information presented so far, I also want to share the other blessings in disguise that I have encountered these last few months. My oncologist and her amazing support staff have helped me to be able to travel this summer to see family and friends. We worked out a calendar so I could be with some of the best medicine available, children, grandchildren, and girlfriends. I have been to Idaho and Tennessee so far and will be leaving for North Carolina and Utah with their blessings and support. I do not know what I would do without these chances to visit family.

There is one other blessing in disguise that I would like to share. When you go in for treatment and believe me, I am at my hospital very regularly, I have met some of the finest people. Some of them I will never know their names, as they are like me, a patient getting treatment. But they are amazingly friendly. It is like we are all in this nightmare together, but they are fighting hard just like you. Last week, I witnessed an older man walking his wife out after treatment and he put his arm around her shoulder to help her walk with confidence. That gesture was full of love and support. To see it was a blessing in disguise. I have seen so many moments like this during my plus ten years and it always gives me hope. We all need that.

I have certainly had my moments when I get down, but I try to remember the little blessings in disguise. Sometimes it can be the best medicine.


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