5 years ago today I was in an operating room to remove my cervical cancer. There were many uncertainties as I went under, things the doctor couldn't know until surgery allowed a closer look. I had done everything I could mentally and physically to prepare myself for all outcomes. One of the biggest preparations was for the potential loss of my uterus and ability to carry my own babies. Two months prior I had gone through the process of egg freezing at Southern California Reproductive Center and was lucky to have 18 eggs preserved in the case of a hysterectomy or treatment-induced menopause. My parents and I had talked beforehand and agreed that they would be the first to see me and deliver the news of what the doctors had found. I remember coming out of surgery in a daze, my mom and dad the first at my side. We cried together as they told me the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and to the edge of my cervix wall making the removal of my uterus necessary. And just like that - no pregnancy, no childbirth, no nursing, no traditional motherhood. The trajectory of my life, changed. After a few moments of comfort and reassurance from my parents, they stepped out to allow my boyfriend in. Another moment of sorrow for dreams that would never be mixed with gratitude for life and the 18 eggs that awaited someday. Aunt Jackie was next. More tears. More love. With each family member, there was a shared moment of grief. I can still see the look in their eyes as they entered the recovery room and came to embrace me one by one.
My hospital stay was a total of 7 days with complications and minor scares. Our senses heightened to every twinge, every discomfort, every abnormality as my body worked to recover. I was fearful. I didn't know my bloated, pained, and weakened body, and as I laid on the sterile bed in a hospital gown I didn't trust it would ever end.
From diagnosis to the hospital to the months of chemo and radiation that followed I felt a strong sensation of fear, and it paralyzed me. I refer to the first two years of recovery as my dormant phase. I retreated. I shut out the world. The scariest part was feeling so alone with someone so unfamiliar - me. I didn't know me any longer. While in this solitary cocoon I reflected, I explored the depths of me, I felt intense emotion, I navigated my pain and worked hard to find things that felt good. Over time, I began to reconnect and heal in the safety of my sheltered world. Little by little I emerged. I came back to life with more strength, fearlessness, and fight. I have more awareness, more fire, more light - gifts that came with facing my mortality and the complete surrender that allowed for transformations that were meant to be.
Today I am especially grateful for my life and all of you.