Mar 2, 2008


Ovarian Cancer. It whispers, so listen.
I began writing this post on February 23rd. And only today have found the courage to read, update and post it. This is a record of my closest friend's last couple of weeks.

Last night (February 21st) I stayed in the hospital with Helen, my closest friend, who has recently been diagnosed with advanced stages of ovarian cancer. I felt completely useless when I could not ease her pain. The ascites (fluid that has flooded her abdominal area and has grossly transformed her belly) is hindering her breathing, making it impossible for her to lie down.

As the night went on and her breathing became steadier thanks to the pain-killer cocktail, I couldn't believe how fast things had gone from grey to completely black.

Her tummy had started swelling gradually the last couple of months and despite our concerns to see a doctor, she waved us off ascribing her bloating to collites which she had been diagnosed several times the past years. She visited a physician/acquaintance and dictated that her collites was acting up again. He took her word (!) and prescribed a couple of de-bloating drugs and after tapping on her back, which she complained was hurting her, dismissed it as common neck cramps due to computer use.

She took the medicine for her swelling for a fortnight and finally on February 11th realized that she was still getting bigger, her breathing shallower and her back pain more excruciating. Only last night, while I was holding her hand to help her doze off, did she confide in me that for the last couple of months she had been sleeping in an armchair because lying down hurt more. Realizing her situation was getting worse, she visited a (different) physician who examined her and ordered several tests. When the test results came in the doctor ordered her to find a gynecologist at once. On Valentine's Day she walked in to a hospital, looking for a well-known gynecologist, who did a double-take at her belly and immediately examined her. He wasted no valuable time with my friend and told her cold out, "You have cancer. Ovarian cancer".

She yelled "are you nuts?" in anger, shook her head in denial and cried in despair. All this within twenty minutes and then logic and the need to survive overtook her and asked what needed to be done. The doctor explained. She went home that day and the cycle of anger, denial, sadness and stiff upper lip began as family and friends were informed of my friend's situation.

Six days later, on February 21st she was admitted to the hospital because the pain was overtaking her being, unable to breathe properly, sleep, eat. The doctor tried to have the fluid from her belly removed with syringes but the darn thing had turned to jelly and wouldn't budge.

Surgery had first been scheduled for March 4th and because of her hurting it was mercifully rescheduled for February 25th. The operation and full anesthesia , doctors told us, would be hard on my friend who was a heavy smoker and had been overweight most of her adult life (although she had lost weight with dieting during the last year).

That Sunday, the day before the operation, was one of the darkest days for those of us who knew.

The operation took place and my friend recovered from it soon, which is considered a huge success considering how all the odds were against her.

Tomorrow, Monday March 4th, she starts her first chemotherapy.