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I kicked ovarian cancer

By By Shenelle Scott as told to Lorraine Waldropt-Ferguson

There is no season or reason for the dreaded disease of cancer. Cancer doesn't discriminate; it supersedes all races, all nationalities and gender. It's not simply an October affair; it's not about the colour pink. I never thought I would be chosen to tell a story like this one. Tell me, who really plots a biography with the most feared "Big C" in it? I have travelled the world and "have been there done that" in so many realms of life, but my biggest journey came in 2008 when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Ever since I knew myself I always had irregular and very painful menstrual cycles. The year 2007 was a battle for me. My husband and I were trying to have a baby and I practically lived by doctors and fertility clinics. I became stressed out. The best and worst came in February 2008 when I found out that I was three months pregnant while in London. Our celebrations were marred by sharp pains in my stomach followed by dizziness. The doctors were confused by my medical state as the pains continued and I became dehydrated.

When I returned to Trinidad, local doctors were confused as to my prognosis as well. They gave me blood tablets saying my blood pressure and blood sugar were low and they decided that nothing could be done during pregnancy. As months went by my condition worsened. I would pass out and had to be placed on complete bed rest with regular medication. Seeing my pain my gynaecologist advised that I go to the US to do some further tests and I took his advice. In Florida the doctors realised that my foetus was huge but I was still the same size. They started to inject me with steroids which were safe during pregnancy and soon I gave birth to my daughter, I'sis painlessly. I breathed a sigh of relief then as I was convinced that I was okay and my battle with pain was over. I was wrong. Some months later I began passing huge blood clots and I had to do scan after scan but nothing could be found as the source of the problem. I slipped into depression as the doctors had no answer. They invented reasons for my condition — breastfeeding, stress, post-partum depression — but I knew better. I began losing my hair in patches but strange enough I didn't have any pain.

Maybe it's fibroids or cysts, I told myself. No one had a clue. I was advised to drink coconut water and cranberry juice but somehow I always felt like there was something more to it which I couldn't pinpoint. Stressed out and frustrated, the stabbing pains in my stomach resumed sometimes so badly that I couldn't even use the bathroom. I couldn't even think about having sex. I was in Miami on vacation and had to be rushed to the hospital because I passed out while shopping.

In 2008, the doctors finally decided to do a biopsy and the diagnosis was ovarian cancer. Shock. It was the only real emotion I felt on hearing the news. I had to be strong for my family and so I told no one what was happening. I booked a flight and went back to Trinidad and the next day my local doctor confirmed the news. I then told my husband and family. I contented to finally find out what was going on with me but fearful as to what the future will hold. The doctors knew the seriousness of this form of cancer. I had to act quickly as ovarian cancer is intrinsically a rapid wild fire.

My sister Shanade and I went away to start my treat-ment along with I'sis while my husband cared for my other children. I decided that I had a diagnosis which wasn't bigger than God. I had faith in Him and I knew He was my healer. Yes indeed, it was ovarian cancer but they told me it was in the early stages. A disease which they never really catch in time, for me there was a cure. I would have to do surgery and chemotherapy which would be rigorous on my body. I was told a full hysterectomy was needed at first but I wanted to preserve as much fertility as possible (my husband wanted more children), since the cancer had not spread past the ovaries. I had a salpingo-oopherectomy. I learned everything I could about the disease. In an oophorectomy, portions of one ovary are removed. Oophorectomies are sometimes performed on pre-menopausal women who have oestrogen-sensitive breast cancer in an effort to remove the main source of oestrogen from their bodies.

"Drugs are available that alter the production of oestrogen and tamoxifen blocks any of the effects any remaining oestrogen may have on cancer cells. In younger women with low-grade or early-stage ovarian tumours who have not yet completed their families, the surgeon may perform a unilateral oophorectomy. This approach is called fertility-saving or fertility-sparing surgery.

I had six surgeries, and it seemed as though with every surgery it got harder and harder to bounce back. Depression was now a daily state and things only got worse since my hormones were imbalanced. After doing chemo once, I could remember walking into the shower with a full head of hair and coming out with patches in my hand and my scalp looking and feeling burnt. I didn't recognise me. I was cursing myself in the mirror. Shanade thought I was going crazy. I just didn't expect it to happen this way and so soon.

After my initial surgery when I received chemo I became extremely ill after the third session and my blood work indicated that I should stop chemo immediately. On one particular evening, Shanade told me that my body kept trembling like I was having muscle spasms throughout the night and she was up looking at me. I remembered calling out to her and saying, "Bring my baby, let me hold her. I don't think I'm gonna make it !" She handed me I'sis and ran out the room and called my parents on the phone and my husband who were all in Trinidad. I was then rushed to the hospital. Breathing became hard and I was gasping for what I thought was my last breath of air. Isa, my first child, was on my mind now and I thought, "How can I die and I never explained what happened to my kids?" I then decided I couldn't die. But it just kept getting worse. My lungs collapsed and the final straw was a blood transfusion. Somehow I continued to fight.

After the ordeal I finally made it back to Trinidad, equipped with one of many wigs my friend gave me from her new hair company in Miami. When my husband looked at me for the first time in months, he said emotionally, "I want to see my wife, take that wig off!" As I took it off he stated, "You look so good." That moment marked the beginning of my healing. My entire family was there to meet me in the airport and I wasn't my usual 125lbs. I was now 98lbs but my husband's optimism made me feel miles better and seeing my family made me very happy. I was happy and extremely grateful to be back home.

Soon after my return to Trinidad, I got the surprise of life — I was pregnant with twin boys! I decided to proceed with the pregnancy despite concerns but I lost one of my babies. Some months later Kish was born.

Looking back on my trip through hell, I don't dwell on these low points. I celebrate my miracles. I am now cancer free. What better miracle can I ask God for? I believe my faith in God is what brought me through and all the people who were praying for me. Furthermore just knowing I had to get better for my children and family was impetus for me to conquer cancer.

I have a new outlook on life now and appreciate every one in my family and close circle. I believe I am a true testimony. My talent can take me places where my character can't sustain me. After my ordeal I decided to pick up the pieces and start doing me — make-up artist/ stylist and I have even resurrected my football boots and have started back playing football which completes me. Physically, I am doing great but every time I start getting pains I feel a serious rush of panic. Emotionally I am in a great place because I know how to deal with my lows. I just need space at those times and my husband just leaves me alone and lets me be.

Socially, I don't let people get to me; all that matters is my children and family. I have always been a strong woman but this was a test. The best part and the lesson I learned in this whole ordeal is to always keep fighting and when you feel like giving up just pray that God will pick you up and pull you through. It also gave me perspective on things.

I'm a conqueror and overcomer. My spiritual journey during this time just became stronger and stronger. Now, that some time has passed, I feel more comfortable talking about my journey and more than ever I feel the need to speak to people who have gone through the same thing as me. I believe people have to become more aware of their bodies and know what they feel and trust in their instincts. Even though I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I still had to be pushed into accepting the diagnosis and pursuing treatment. If you know that something is not right then you need to follow every avenue to get an answer even if you have to climb some obstacles which for me meant going to doctors in different countries.

People always say to me, men especially, "Why you cut off your good hair to stick in this weave?" and I say to them because I like it and sometimes I give the real answer.

Yes I had very long beautiful wavy hair but I also had something called ovarian cancer but the truth is, hair pales in comparison to life and family. The thing with cancer is that if you are going through it you may think of yourself as the only victim but I wasn't the only one affected but my family as well. Some days I had to be strong not only for me but for them. A few weeks ago my football team had a tournament called "Give Breast Cancer the boot" to raise awareness about the disease. I was elated to be a part of such a great cause as just a few years ago I was also a victim. So many people die from cancer each day and their lives could have been saved with early detection. I think my purpose is to spread the word because I am a survivor. I kicked ovarian cancer.

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