DREAM.

I hit my one year of remission from ovarian cancer in May. The month before, I lost a friend to ovarian cancer. She was such an amazing person, with a beautiful spirit. I once again found myself feeling so many different things. I needed to do something that showed my appreciation of where I am in my journey, but also honored my late friend. That's when...

I designed the DREAM. shirt with Colleen’s Dream Foundation in mind. I love this foundation and the genuine connection they have with their cause of raising funds for ovarian cancer research. They also have a primary focus of early detection, which means a great deal to me. I was fortunate that my ovarian cancer was discovered, simply by chance, at stage one. However, most ovarian cancers go undiagnosed for years. There are no current tests that accurately detect it. My hope is that more women will have the same fighting odds against ovarian cancer as I did, not by chance, but through early detection. Colleen’s Dream Foundation is dedicated to funding the research to do just that. I’m so excited for Swearing Off Cancer to be able to help in their fundraising efforts by donating proceeds from the sale of each DREAM. Pullover to Colleen’s Dream Foundation! This is a cause, near and dear to my heart!

Cristan, Owner & Creator of Swearing Off Cancer

Fighter Vs. Survivor

Why don't I feel comfortable being called a survivor? It's not that I have a problem with the word survivor being associated with cancer. It’s really just a matter of personal preference. I guess it's a mixture of emotions that makes the word uncomfortable for me. Maybe it's just too soon. Have I survived? My cancer has been in remission for seven months. I go every three months for blood work. And, every time I have an ailment, cancer pops in my head. I realize it’s irrational, but cancer surprised me the first time. I don't want to be surprised again.

Personally, I prefer to be called a cancer fighter. For some reason, I equate survivor with a finalization. Fighter, makes me feel more like a boxer on my toes ready to knock out anything that comes at me. 

It could also be the empathy that I have for those who will not survive cancer. Maybe even a little guilt, that my prognosis is better than most. In all honesty, it’s out of respect, that I refer to all of us who have battled and are battling cancer as fighters, because that’s what we are. True bad asses!

My Cancer Story

I suffered from endometriosis for 10 years. For those not familiar with this strange sounding condition, just note it can be incredibly painful. For a better understanding of my journey, I'll share some quick cliff notes of this disease, but keep in mind I'm not a doctor. Endometriosis is a disorder where tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. The tissue that makes it's way outside of the uterus has no way of exiting the body. So, it creates scar tissue and adhesions, which can be a cause of ovarian cysts and, in more advanced cases, organs to attach to each other.

The pain that I was having had become so unbearable, I would spend 3 to 4 days a month in bed. My stomach was constantly bloated. Even using the restroom was painful. I was miserable. Years previous, I had an ovarian cyst removed, and I was given a shot to help manage the spread of endometriosis, which had not worked. So, this time I was looking for a long lasting solution. My gynecologist and I discussed my options. At age 35, I decided to have a hysterectomy. The plan was to take everything except for my left ovary, because my right had always caused problems. The goal was to allow me to gradually enter menopause, and if my left ovary became problematic we would remove it at a later date.

As already mentioned, I was in a good amount of pain. However, it was a shock to everyone involved, including my doctor, when it was revealed how advanced my endometriosis really was. During surgery (I was told) everyone in the room gasped when the endoscopy camera showed I had an 8 centimeter cyst attached to my right ovary and it was fused to my uterus. But, that wasn't the only thing fused to my uterus, so was my left ovary and my abdominal wall. My doctor said it was the worst case of endometriosis she had ever seen. With all of that being said, my gynecologist was amazing! The surgery actually went really well; she was able to save my left ovary by burning off the scar tissue surrounding it. And, I went home the next day, as planned.

Fast forward two days later. That's when the phone rang. And, the only thing the nurse would say was, "Can you come in today? Make sure your husband is with you." This sticks with me, because deep down, that's when I knew I had cancer.

When my doctor sat down with us, she set a box of tissues beside me. Then, she explained that the pathologist had found cancer inside the cyst that was attached to my right ovary. It was the only cancerous nodule found; however, the cyst broke during the removal process, so there was a chance that there were free floating cancerous cells in my pelvic area. My gynecologist gave us a run down of what to expect. I would be referred to an oncologist. There would more than likely be chemotherapy involved and my left ovary would also have to be removed as a precaution. At this point we didn't know the exact diagnosis, but the pathologist surmised we had found it at Stage 1. However, we had to wait 2 weeks to see the oncologist. All of the waiting and the unknowns, was and still is the hardest part.

My oncologist made it a point to say that my gynecologist did everything right. See, here's the thing, the symptoms of endometriosis and ovarian cancer are similar. Both, endometriosis and ovarian cancer, even elevate the same markers in blood work. He also made sure I knew that there was nothing I did that caused me to have cancer.

Thankfully, I had made the decision to take a more drastic approach to my endometriosis and in doing so made it possible to find my ovarian cancer at Stage 1. This is rare. Ovarian cancer isn't usually found until Stage 3 or 4. So, in a weird way, I felt blessed.

Our approach to fighting my type of cancer, which is estrogen related, was 6 months of chemotherapy, followed by a final surgery to remove my left ovary. They don't use the word cured, but my cancer is currently in remission and the overall prognosis is good.

In full disclosure, I did get thrown into menopause at age 36. So, that's a whole new challenge!