Liz's Resilience: Ovarian Cancer
It was only a month after Liz started her dream job at Unity College that she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. She had not even unpacked her boxes and settled into her new home in rural Maine when her doctor told her the news. Like every other challenge she has faced in life, Liz is meeting this one with courage and optimism, determined to do everything she needs to do to recover. But it has not been easy.
This past few years have been rough. She’s been laid off more than once due to cutbacks, “right-sizing,” and in one case, because her employer lost a big contract. Each time she has weathered the blow, gotten up off the mat, and eventually found another job. When she landed the position at Unity, she packed up her belongings and struck out for a new life in a new town. The future was looking bright.
Instead, medical bills are mounting, and she struggles to make ends meet because her income is reduced and she has yet to pay off her moving expenses. Her employers at Unity College have been fantastic, reconfiguring her job and being extremely flexible about medical appointments and time off. She is surrounded by a group of loving friends and family, “Liz’s Posse,” who do whatever needs to be done – laundry, grocery shopping, organizing medical bills and cooking. Her medical care is top notch – she can’t say enough about the doctors and nurses at the Alfond Cancer Center in Augusta.
The word that best describes Liz is resilience. Sometimes it’s hard to believe she can maintain her positive attitude, as the setbacks have hit her like an endless series of waves. She gets knocked down, but she gets back up every time. This time she needs a hand to regain her footing.
Her treatments are going well, and she will have surgery later this year, followed by more chemotherapy. The future can still be bright, but right now, Liz needs our help. Your donation in any amount will be deeply appreciated by this resilient woman and all the members of Liz’s Posse. As she goes through the next months of treatment, including surgery and more chemo, she will need to concentrate on healing. With your help, Liz will be able to stay ahead of medical bills and meet her basic living expenses like rent and heat. Every donation will make a difference.
One synonym for 'resilience' is 'buoyancy.' Liz is not only resilient, she is buoyant. Every donation will help keep her afloat.
Last Saturday night was a presenter at the Dempsey Center Challenge awards ceremony. I presented an award to a young woman who is graduating this year from high school and raised $4,000 for the center this year. In the last 3-4 years she had raised over $30,000. Quite the accomplishment! I was so pleased to be the one giving this award and was able to talk about what an inspiration it was to not only me but others including the young adults in the audience. I hope to be able to volunteer at the Dempsey Center doing some development work in the future. I was able to meet Patrick Dempsey (“McDreamy” on the tv show Gray’s Anatomy). Patrick started the center after his mother had ovarian cancer and found how hard it was to find services for people with cancer and for their caregivers. I was able to speak to Patrick, his wife and two grown daughters. He is so unaffected from being an actor and is very committed to the center. I was so honored to be asked to be a presenter.
Another thing that has been going on is that my car was leaking anti-freeze and they couldn’t find the leak. I had taken it several times to 2 dealerships and finally took it back to the one dealership I have had the best experience with. First, they thought it was the radiator but then ran a compression test and found it was a problem with the motor. The options were either to replace the motor or get another car. I talked it over with my sisters and getting a motor was less expensive and doable then another car at this point. The engine they put in had 75,000. The one they took out had 278,000 miles. I have a Prius and it runs great. So hopefully this car will last a few more years. I have to thank my sisters for helping me with the car. I would have been carless. I live in a very rural area so that would not have worked. Thank you sister dears!
I had chemo on Tuesday this week and hopefully I will be done this month. After I finish chemo the plan so far is to go on a chemo pill which would help cells from propagating.
I have been working on my expenses and reducing anything I can. I am still of needing help with expenses I have with medical bills. If you are able to help in any way I really appreciate it. So many of you have been so generous on many occasions. I know that I wouldn’t be able to do this without you. I am doing all I can to get healthy and financially stable. Thank you!
My friend Marilyn picked me up at the hospital and I was home by 2 pm. I really realized how weak I was when I had to go up the 4 steps into my house. I was very unsteady and my legs were very weak.
Marilyn went grocery shopping and I went to lie down on my own bed! Boy, did that feel good. The beds in the hospital are not made for little people. Every time I went to adjust the bed I would slide down and have to boost myself back up. Try hitching yourself up with 2 IV’s, a heart monitor with a small box you have to carry around, three incisions with a total of 19 staples, and the drain in your side. The bed has a plastic mattress cover so you are always uncomfortable.
When Marilyn got home from the grocery store I took a nice long hot shower. I didn’t want to take one until she returned for safety reason since I was so weak. I didn’t want to get out of the shower because it felt so good!
I got a text from my sister Pam saying she had just gotten into Maine. I knew It would be 2 hours for her to get to my house so I sent Marilyn home because I was just going to try to sleep until Pam got there. As soon as Marilyn left I fell sound asleep. Pam and her little dog Milo arrived and came into my bedroom several times to say hi and they were here. I didn’t move. I was out cold! I didn’t wake up for 2 hours after she arrived. I guess I did really need to get some sleep!
I wasn’t able to eat much in the hospital. The only things I could tolerate were melon, cantaloupe, cream of wheat, and yogurt. I would get nauseous with anything else. The night before I came home I order a piece of chicken to try. Wahoo! I was able to eat a bit of it chicken and didn’t get sick for the first time. When Pam went to get dinner for us I told her I just wanted the melon and yogurt. She had brought some leftover chicken kabobs from a restaurant she had gone to the night before. They smelled really good and I was starving since I hadn’t had any substantial for in 10 days. I asked for one little chicken piece and I couldn’t eat it fast enough. I ended up eating 3 pieces of her chicken. The anesthesia, morphine and antibiotics must have gotten out of my system which effects everything your body is doing. I can eat again!!!!! I had lost 10 lbs. in the hospital. I am eating everything now!
Friday, I spent the day making doctors’ appointments, a haircut (more on that next), and calling the Dempsey Center.
Big news! The Dempsey Center (dempseycenter.org) was created by Patrick Dempsey (Dr. McDreamy from Gray’s Anatomy). His mother had cancer and she had a good support network in Lewiston, ME. He wanted to do something good because he learned from his mother that many people don’t have the same support or resources that his mother did. He wanted a facility that would have free services and support for cancer patients, survivors and their care givers. He created the Dempsey Challenge and he raised money for building this program and having a facility to house it. The Dempsey Challenge is a Bike, Run, Walk to raise money for the center. Each year they have a Challenge dinner to give out award to the high donors. I was chosen to be highlighted and present one of the awards. I will be video taped on Thursday this week. I almost couldn’t do it. I was in the hospital for the first schedule and didn’t know If I could make the second schedule taping. When I call them on Friday they were so glad I was going to be able to do the video or the Challenge Awards Dinner. Pam will drive me down Thursdays and she will also be able to see the Dempsey Center. What a wonderful place. There should be more of them. They just opened a second Center in South Portland.
I will report more after all my appointments this week.
One last thing. I had to take my car to the shop to see if my water pump needs to replaced. Hopefully it’s only the water pump. It was the first time I drove my car. Good thing the dealership is very close. Pam followed me and the car will stay there until they figure out what is going on. This will also keep me from jumping in the car and taking off!
Thank you to everyone for being so supportive while I was in the hospital for the gallbladder surgery. It was a life-threatening event. You will see from the stones Pictures I will post of the shooter marble gallstones.
I AM SO GLAD TO BE HOME!!!!!
This does not have anything to do with my cancer. I have had gallstones a long time but Sunday night they really were ready to be taken out. I was in extreme pain and needed to go to the ER. They kept me comfortable until I had them out yesterday morning. My friends Robin and Addonna and Marilyn were with me. Thank you! Susan, Kay and Pam were not able to be here because Susan was sick, Kay’s nephew was come to Buffalo and Pam was in the middlecof some major house project’s that needed to be completed. They would have been with me if they could have. My friends are the best for stepping in and are my extended family!
They tried to take them out laproscopicly but because of the size and other factors they had to open me up. My nurses and adsistants are great and have been able to keep me comfortable. I was in extreme pain coming out of sugery and they have been great at managing my pain. I just need to remember to press the button for the pain medication pump!!! That helps a lot!!!!!!! I’m still not on food but am comfortable. I did get some good sleep last night after they were able to get my pain managed.
I appriciate all the support I’m getting from friends and family! I love you all!
First of all my cancer marker numbers are doing very well. I am still doing some chemo with longer periods between chemo treatments. Because I have had so many chemo treatments my bone marrow is getting worn out. What happens is that when I have a chemo treatment my blood levels drop significantly especially my platelets. I have to rebuild them for 4 or more weeks after a treatment now. So that means eating lots of protein and dark green veggies and beets. I also have been juicing to get the nutrients I need to build my blood back up again. It’s a good thing I have always loved beets!
On Friday June 29th I ended up in the ER. We had tried to change my blood thinner medication from the shots I was giving myself to a pill. I had been on the pills for just over a month. One of the side effects is internal bleeding. I was feeling very weak and lethargic, so my doctor sent me to get a blood test and it showed I needed a blood transfusion. It was late in the day when they got the results so I had to go to the hospital ER instead of the Cancer Center. It was a zoo! I was there for 2 hours and I knew it would be many hours more. I decided to go back when it would be quieter. I ended up going back at 11 pm and there were only 3 people ahead of me. then the ER blew up with many emergencies. I didn’t get in to have my 2 pints of blood until 3 am. I had a head CT as well because I was also having headaches which I never have. They wanted to make sure I didn’t have any bleeds in my head. I am glad they did the scan. No bleeds! Good thing because I didn’t want to have a stroke.
I see my doctor at the Cancer Center regularly, and have blood work to see if I able to have chemo. If not we just wait until my blood levels are up and I am healthy again.
I finished up the time I had on Short-Term Disability and I then applied and got accepted for Long-Term Disability through work.
Two weeks ago, I received a letter from Unity College, where I work, that I was being laid off at the end of June. It’s only 18 months until I can receive Social Security and Medicare. It’s a good thing that I have Long Term Disability which continues through May of 2020. I am in the process of applying Social Security Disability and am working with an advocate to do that. Because of the kind of cancer I have I am on the list that is approved usually immediately the first time with out having to go through months of denials and appeals. Keep your fingers crossed!
I decided to go with COBRA instead of ACA (Obama Care) because I don’t trust what Trump and the Republicans are doing. I couldn’t apply for MaineCare (Maine Medicaid) because I make too much for a single person. So, for the time being, COBRA it is. It’s expensive but I know what I am covered for. With having cancer you have to be covered as best you can.
It is going to be very hard over the next few months financially until everything is in place and I can figure out what my income, COBRA and bills will be going forward. I am increasing my Go Fund ME goal a little bit. Medical bills keep coming and I am trying to cut or lower anything I can.
For all of you folks that have helped me in the past and in the future, I really couldn’t do with out your help. You help me to stay positive and moving forward. Thank you!
WOW! those are really big! you most of been in so much pain! Glad you survived this ordeal and are home is your own bed. You have been such a goddess warrior thru out this. Keeping your spirits up. I have heard of the Dempsey center, truly a gift. Continue to progress and take care of yourself. We are all rooting for you Liz.
Hey Liz! Love your always “upbeat” posts even when the stuff is so hard! So glad you are on the mend! Sending hugs!
So glad you are home again and I know Pam will take good care of you.
Holy cow! Unbelievable. I think you've been dealt more than your share. We'll be praying for a quick and relatively pain-free recovery. Love, Bob and Ginny
Hearing you got laid off must have been a real blow on t of everything else's. Praying for you, Liz.
Liz, what an awful struggle you are facing, but you are doing it with courage, grace and style. I am holding you close in my heart and visualizing the best possible outcome. Love, Sue
I am so sorry that this is happening all over again. You will be in our prayers for God to give you strength and that wonderfully positive disposition that you were able to rely on to help get you through the last bout. Sending love your way. Ginny and Bob
So sorry to hear about these set backs, which I remember from my mom's experiences with ovarian cancer. The parenthesis gave her much relief, and the c-diff can be a tough one. Continuing prayer Liz ~ Cindi (Krespan) McGee
Good to hear your update Liz. Wishing you well as you continue your journey. I can't imagine how hard this has been for you but your determination and positive outlook is amazing. Lifting you up again in prayer. ~Cindi (Krespan) McGee
Good news Liz! I'm so glad that the treatments have helped you. You are a strong lady and we love you!
Thank you so much for this update. It’s a great Christmas gift to know you are doing so well. It was an honor to be of some help and I applaud your courage and perseverance. Merry Christmas Liz, and have a wonderful 2018.
Hi Pat, I didn't have back pain. I had major abdominal bloating that continued to get worse very fast. I was lucky to have a doctor that was concerned because of my family history and had me go get tests the day I went to see her. Ovarian and Uterine cancer are silent killers and many women don't know until it's too late. The CA 125 test should be done as a routine test just like mammograms.
Did you have a lot of back pain that was unusual That was how I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and found out after I had historicrect. I just had a touch of ovarian cancer that is one of the symptoms Pat
Congrats on zero! This is great news.
Awesome news Liz!! So happy to hear it.
Congratulations and keep up the great work!! Best of Luck for totally staying away from any treatment forever and enjoy a well earned summer off chemo!!
What an inspiring and comprehensive update. Yes, you amazing us all, and we were so glad to be able to be there and help you through the surgery. The Clements and Patterments are an unstoppable team!
Hi Liz- Glad to hear the strength is coming back and taste and less numbness. When you are all done after the next bout of chemo it will even get better!! I also had the IP Port and I really think that is what allowed me to do so well in my survivorship. The dosage does get right in there to the tissues and under the abdomen so it really helps to get all that stuff that might be roaming around!! Hope surgery does go well with quick recovery!! My Best to you and I will be thinking of you next week. Jane Piduch
Liz -thanks for sharing and giving us the update. I will be sending prayers your way! That is such good news about the cancer gone. It is your positive spirit that has made the difference. You are in the home stretch now. Stay positive and keep that"fighting to conquer " spirit up.
What a brave & busy woman! Personally, I think the beer was a brilliant idea ~ even the ancients knew it had healing powers! We'll keep a six-pack on ice for you. Jen & Mary