Never Google anything. That’s the advice I received from my older sister when I told her I had been feeling really sick for months – not normal – but couldn’t quite pinpoint what was wrong with me. Apparently if you Google medical signs and symptoms, you will for sure find that you have a dread disease. I couldn’t help it.
As I sat in bed late one night, full of insomnia, yet weighted down in exhaustion, I started to rationalize my instincts. Was it my 10-hour work day? Was my constant heartburn telling me to go gluten-free? What about the change in bowel habits? The constant need to pee, bloating, gas, weight gain? How about the fact that I felt like someone was standing on my stomach? I couldn’t brush it off any longer. I typed in everything I was feeling…and there it was. Ovarian Cancer.
One ultrasound, a CT scan, and a CA-125 blood test later, it was confirmed. I received an immediate referral to a gynecological oncologist at John Muir Health. My head was spinning, yet time stood eerily still. I was in a cancer diagnosis time warp. An out of body experience of sorts. This wasn’t happening to me. I was 48. I was healthy. I had a great career. I had never even been in a hospital overnight. Cancer? No. No. No. Not me. The Big “C?” Cannot be.
But yes, it was. Despite the sisterly advice, I went straight back to Google, throwing myself into researcher mode because it felt productive. I was scared to death. Nothing I read online about ovarian cancer was hopeful or promising. Nothing. I knew I couldn’t manage this news alone. As part of my online investigative work, I Googled one more thing. Did John Muir Health have help for “people like me?” It wasn’t long before I met Carolyn Berson, a nurse navigator with the gynecologic cancer team at John Muir Health. Carolyn is the tiniest woman but gives the biggest hugs. She is calming, knowledgeable, and comforting. I immediately felt a sense of relief. Sitting in her office asking question after question made me feel better, stronger, and more in control.
Carolyn has been with me through every step of my journey, offering advice, support, an occasional walk, encouragement and understanding. She provides resources, serves as a liaison with my amazing surgeon, Dr. Dimitry Lerner, helps me with ways to cope, and with the best gift of all…hope.
I have learned that every cancer journey is unique. We are not defined by statistics and there is no cancer cookie cutter. We are individuals with our own needs and wants. Having a disease that can feel so incredibly out of your control is challenging, but with the assistance and resources I found at John Muir Health, I was never alone and know that I never will be.