Stage 1: Denial
In the fall of 2007 while watching a Patriot game, my cell phone rang. Did you ever get a phone call and look at the number and say I have no idea who this is but… I need to take this call? It was my colon-rectal surgeon who had just done a bowel resection for diverticulitis. My ovaries and sigmoid colon were removed via a laparoscopy. I was recovering with minimal discomfort. I was almost one-week post-surgery at this time. Why on earth would my surgeon be calling me at 7:30 in the evening??? After 2 minutes of small talk, he states that there is a “little problem” with my pathology report. “A little problem!!!” I repeat his words. “I don’t understand. I had diverticulitis, this is not a malignant disease.” He then tells me that both my ovaries had abnormal cells that they can’t differentiate. Now I immediately feel that ugly pit in my stomach. This can’t be happening. Denial, yes I don’t want to believe this. My slides were sent to Mass General for a second opinion. I was told it would be about 10 days to get their report. Unless you have been through this yourself, you have no idea how stress, sleepless nights, and anxiety take over your life.
Stage 2: Anger
After my long 10 days of waiting, I call for my report. Doctor is away until end of week; the secretary tells me “No!”. I try telling the secretary that I need my report but am told I must wait until my surgeon returns as no report is in my chart. I can’t tell you how angry I became, yet there is nothing you can do. Wait…. 4 more days feels like eternity. I don’t want to talk to anybody about it. I have 2 sons who are in there 20s yet why tell them about it when I don’t really know what I am dealing with. Anger has no limits!
Stage 3: Depression
On Friday afternoon, my dreaded phone call confirms mesothelioma in both ovaries. The pathologist states it is a rare finding and prognosis is guarded. I’m shocked, sad, and in a fog. “Guarded, guarded,” I repeat the words over and over. I look up the definition. Not good. I refuse to just sit back and let this disease take over.
Stage 4: Acceptance
Well I don’t actually think I ever accepted it but I definitely learned to deal with it. I became my own advocate as no cases of peritoneal meso had been diagnosed at my hospital. I called numerous doctors who dealt with peritoneal mesothelioma. I was not going to let this disease take over my body without a fight. It was a tedious job but it was what I needed to do to feel comfortable with the plan of care I was going to take. It is indeed a rare tumor. I did end up traveling to New York for surgery and chemo.
In conclusion, it’s ok to deny your diagnosis, be angry at the world, and feel depressed. These are all stages we must go through to finally reach our accomplishment.
8 years and cancer Free. Yes!!!
About Julie Russell R.N.
Julie Russell is an experienced Registered Nurse who is also a mesothelioma cancer survivor. Julie’s clinical expertise in nursing is in the area of the Cardiac Intervention. She has also been an instructor of Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) for many years. Her varied nursing background includes roles as a nursing supervisor, educator and staff nurse.
Diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2008, Julie has undergone surgery, chemotherapy, and become an advocate for herself and others. A mesothelioma diagnosis effects the whole family. Her two sons became active in the mesothelioma community as well. She is a passionate advocate for all patients, but peritoneal mesothelioma is a personal cause of hers. She will be a guest blogger for us. Julie will be sharing her personal experiences with peritoneal mesothelioma as she continues to live and work a full life. Since diagnosis, Julie has also become a grandmother. We invite you to follow Julie’s journey and feel free to contact her for any questions or support.