If you’re anything like me, you went from the doctor’s office to Dr. Google. Or maybe you even started to Google ovarian cancer on your phone while you were still in the office. If I could go back, that’s the one thing I wouldn’t have done right away. I immediately searched Stage 3 ovarian cancer on my phone and the Internet told me I’d be dead in 5 years. I texted my doctor and said, “You just gave me a death sentence, didn’t you.” He replied, “Get off the internet now.” Best advice I’ve ever been given.
The Internet is a great compilation of random stats, but it has no power at all to evaluate your situation and tell you the best next steps or how your body is going to react to a plan. But if you’re here because of Dr. Google, then I hope what I’ve learned can help you.
1. Be honest with your doctor if he’s talking too much gibberish
Let’s face it, these people have been through years of school to understand what they’re talking about. Not only did I lack their education, obviously I was also going through the shock, anger, sadness and frustration of getting a life-threatening diagnosis. But I refused to add confusion to that list. I was lucky, because my doctors never rushed me out the door – and the one or two who did, well, obviously they didn’t remain my doctors. Being able to sit, unrushed, and walk through explanations and choices is critical. Don’t settle. If doctors who have their whole lives in front of them and who are being paid to care for us cannot stop, sit down, take a breath and focus, then in my mind, they missed the most important class of all.
2. Take control of your health
When I lost a ton of weight from chemo, my doctor urged me to bulk up. He even said, “Go home and eat cheeseburgers and drink milkshakes.” Well, there was no way I was going to put more nasty chemicals from processed, sugar-laden foods into my body while my body was battling the biggest fight of its life.
I did a ton of research online (yes, the very thing I’m telling you not to do, but my point is – be selective!) and really took charge of my own nutritional and mental health – but it took me time.
Months after my diagnosis, I met with medical experts who evaluated my blood tests and advised me what supplements would best help me stay healthy during my treatment and help me with the side effects of chemotherapy. It took me being an advocate for me to get there, though.
Look, the reality is, YOU have to be willing to change your normal. No one is going to do it for you. I completely changed my diet, began taking up to 30 supplements a day, forced myself to exercise every day, did acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, essential oils and more. I realize not everyone can do every one of these changes, but we can all make at least ONE change that benefits our mind and body.
I love my doctor and he saved my life, but when he admitted after my treatment that he hadn’t been trained in nutrition, bells went off in my head. So, rely on your doctors to treat your diagnosis but decide for yourself that YOU will make your own lifestyle choices, from exercise to nutrition to stress management.
3. Build your support team
Sharing your diagnosis is a quick way to find out who’s going to be there for you and who’s not. I quickly found out who my “real” friends were. A life threatening illness will separate your besties from your “acquaintances” really fast. My sister and I were always close but she became this amazing mom figure who never left my side. She immediately started researching holistic and alternative ways to help me treat my disease. Having a good support system…someone there to keep you company, snuggle and watch movies with you after chemo, is priceless. I don’t know what I would’ve done without my mom and sister.
More: Meet my sister, Jill
4. Don’t take it personally if people drop out of your life
Nobody wants to hear the word “cancer” and sometimes it’s just too much. Someone you thought would always be there may just not know how to handle it. I’ve always appreciated Maya Angelou’s quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Surviving cancer healthfully is as much about putting yourself first as it is about giving other people grace to be themselves, even if it hurts.
You’re not alone, ever. You’re just not. Even at 3 a.m., someone is out there, probably being horrified by statistics online, just like I was, and searching for hope and answers. I can’t promise answers but I refuse to ever give up hope.
5. Be positive and optimistic — you are a statistic of ONE!
Attitude is a huge part of fighting this disease! Try to stay positive and find the silver lining in everything. Even on the days when I felt my worse, I still found ways to laugh with my besties or read my devotional books that always made me feel better. I tried really hard to stay away from websites that I knew spouted statistics about ovarian cancer. Remember we are all different. Everyone’s cancer is different. We all have different DNA and all of our bodies react differently to treatment…YOU are a statistic of ONE. You can be that woman who ends up being a 20-year survivor. That’s my plan 😉