A look back… The Origin of HOPE’S Wing

A cancer diagnosis changes your life.  It isn’t just a physical illness. It affects you emotionally and mentally. It affects your entire family, and the effects are long-lasting.  When I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2011, my world stood still.  As my body endured toxic drugs meant to heal me, I became weak and unable to care for myself and my family.  I had lost the ability to do what meant the most to me and I really struggled with understanding why this was happening.

Around the same time, my then 6-year old son, wanted to help raise money for cancer research and in one afternoon, our community rallied around him raising $1,700.  He was given the ability to feel like he was making a difference and it was so empowering for him to have a positive impact, when everything seemed so negative. He taught me something.  I remember having a conversation with myself after that event.  I had been a victim long enough. While I continued to fight my physical battle, I began preparing for what would come next.  I needed to give this part of my life a purpose.  There had to be a positive outcome from this ordeal so that I could move on and know that there was a reason for it all.  I’ll never forget my husband’s words to me at one point. He said, “I think God gave this to you because he knew you would do something with it.”  That became my purpose.  And that became HOPE’S Wing.

When I thought about what impact I could have, I remembered all of the support that I received which made the experience so much easier. I made a list of what meant the most to me:  a care bag delivered when I started treatment, meals from friends, support networks and knowing other survivors.  I also realized that many people do not have those supports, and that there was a need in our community to establish a program which provided cancer patients with assistance in an encouraging and hopeful way.  The first project of HOPE’S Wing was our Faces of Cancer Video which features survivors and caregivers sharing their stories, all with an underlying theme of HOPE.

Soon after, we started distributing care bags to local hospitals. Another ray of HOPE after receiving a devastating diagnosis. To date we have delivered 100 of these bags.

As HOPE’S Wing began to grow, I once again thought about what impact I wanted the organization to have in the community. Again I was reminded that  cancer doesn’t just affect a patient. It affects the entire family. It isn’t just a physical illness, but it can devastate a family emotionally, mentally and financially.  I thought of what my own children went through, watching their mother fade away and not understanding why. And I knew of the financial impact families encounter as they pay medical bills instead of saving for college.  No family should ever have to choose between sending a child to college and paying for cancer treatment.  With this in mind, we set out to develop the HOPE’S Wing scholarship fund, so that we could alleviate a part of that burden. In the last 2 years, we have awarded $3,000 to local high school seniors who has their lives turned upside down by cancer.

This year we added yet another program, and through our Circle of HOPE fund are able to deliver nutritious meals to patients and their families as they undergo treatment, when their bodies need nutrition the most. Our plans for the future include even more programs as well as expansion into neighboring counties!

As I think about all that HOPE’S Wing has done, and all that we are yet to do, to help support cancer patients and provide hope to them when they need it most, I remember what gave me hope. I was blessed with the support of loved ones, friends and even strangers who rallied around me.  I am thankful that I have been able to use my experience to make a difference, and to pay forward all of the love, support and hope that I received.

Kim Eroh – Founder, HOPE’S Wing

“So how are you doing?”… Do you really want to know?

Remission does not always mean recovery. I read an article recently about how life after cancer can be difficult for survivors, but everyone thinks since the cancer battle is over, you are fine.
But here we are, years later, still putting pieces together. All of us survivors.
Never considered “in remission” or “cured”. Just NED: “no evidence of disease” {insert “right now”}.
My life is very different from most. I just don’t even think about what life would be like without constant tests, bloodwork, scans and worries. Most women my age have calendars booked with family, friends, outings, vacations… I have those too, but they are scheduled around doctor’s appointments, tests, scans and procedures.

I get the question, “are you doing well now?” I sometimes don’t know how to answer.

Physically: I don’t have cancer. That’s the important part. That’s what they want to hear. But I do have residual effects that most cancer patients have, but won’t tell you about. Because after all… It’s not cancer so we know we are lucky.

Emotionally: I don’t have cancer. I should be thrilled. I am a happy person. But sometimes it’s assumed that once you make it through something like cancer, everything else is a piece of cake. Let me tell you. Some things are harder than cancer.

Financially: I don’t have cancer. So the medical bills should be gone right? It’s like college, you are paying it off for years. And the constant tests just add more and more.

Family: I don’t have cancer. So we should all be falling right back into place. Living a full life. Except that there is somewhat of a paralyzing fear of “what if”. Decisions are made based on “what if”. Loved ones struggle to move on because the trauma of what happened is difficult to come to terms with and the fear of “what if” keeps them from being able to move on. Cancer affects the whole family. Sometimes being helpless while you watch your loved one come close to death is too much to handle. They put on brave faces too. No one asks how they are doing.

Friendships: I don’t have cancer. My friends are thrilled and supportive and amazing! Cancer brings new friends, which is great! But they didn’t know me before cancer. They didn’t know how different I was then, how worry-free I was. They didn’t know the me that wasn’t scarred inside and out. And many of those friends who I knew before cancer have moved on with their lives. I lost years it feels like. I’m just now putting pieces together but I feel like I’m playing a different game than they are.

So when I’m asked “how are you now?” I say “I’m good thanks!” Mainly because it would take too long to say all of this.


1 year ago today, I received my last chemo treatment. I didn’t know it was going to be my last, but a month later I was lying in a hospital bed wondering if I would ever make it out. The chemo was so hard on my body (for reason that I don’t think we may ever fully understand), that my doctors and I decided to drop the 6th round. So May 14th, was my 5th and final round of chemo.
I think back to a year ago, and how I felt. How exhausted I was, and how much pain I felt. I couldn’t walk to the edge of the yard without it leaving me breathless. Going to the grocery store was too much to handle and playing with my kids consisted of “I will sit here and watch”. I was angry at myself feeling so helpless. I was angry at the cancer and chemo for dragging me down and not letting me live my life to the fullest. I wondered when or IF I would ever feel like myself again.
A year ago seems like such a short time… But when I remember myself then, it seems like a lifetime ago. My energy slowly returned, my stamina is still lacking a bit, but nothing is stopping me any longer. I can do everything that I want to do. I feel better than I have felt in 3 years and I am ENJOYING every minute of it!
There are still bad days. There are still times when I wonder if the cancer has returned. There are days when I still struggle with the effects of chemo, even a year later. But there are so many more good days!
So today, being one year past chemo… Being one year out from the poison circulating through my body…. I celebrated. I went to the grocery store, I walked to the edge of he yard and beyond, I ran a bit, and I played with my children. I even took a karate class with my son. All things that I couldn’t do a year ago. All things that tell me that I am doing well and feeling great! I am still breathless at times, but its from laughter… not exhaustion. Milestones are important, because they remind you how far you have come, and I feel like I have come full-circle.

A Letter to Cancer:

I wrote this a year ago, in the middle of chemo, in the middle of emotional turmoil.  It was a turning point for mThis releasing these emotions helped me to take an offensive stand against cancer. I was no longer the victim.

I though I would share…

To Cancer:

You entered my life without my permission. You tried to turn my body against me, leaving pain and uncertainty in your wake. You took away my security. You will stalk me for the rest of my life, and I will constantly look over my shoulder for fear that I see you coming. Because of you I wondered if I would see my children grow up, or if I would be taken from them when they needed me the most. You made me feel like less of a woman, with an emptiness inside, and I wonder if that will ever go away. You took my hair and scarred my body. You made me cringe at my own reflection in the mirror. Others see a warrior. I see someone wounded – broken by the battle.

You not only affected me, but you affected those that I love. And for that I hate you even more. You have caused worry and tears in the eyes of family and friends. You have made me a burden to those who have become caregivers. You made me sick and tired and unable to be the mother/wife/daughter/friend that I wanted to be. You touched my children and I was helpless to protect them from you. I may never know the extent of the effects that you have had on them, but I will spend my life trying to make up for it. You made me say to my son, “Mommy doesn’t feel like playing with you right now”, and for that I will never forgive you. I have missed fun times, nights out, Christmas plays, school functions… all because of you. My life has been turned upside down and while I long for all that is “normal”, you have taken that too.

But Cancer – know this… You may have given me your worst, but you have not gotten the best of me. I promise you that I am taking more from you than you have taken from me.

I am taking a second chance at life knowing that each day is a gift and I will use my life to make a difference in the world. I take from you the strength in knowing that I have overcome your trials and therefore I can overcome anything in my path. I take from you friendships that have sprouted from the soil of your torment, and those that have grown stronger because of it too. I take the closeness of my family and knowing that life’s challenges only make us stronger. I take from you the love that I have been blessed with, the compassion that others have shown to me and the kindness that even complete strangers have given.

Cancer – I know that your intent was to break me, but you have failed. You wanted to take my life, take me away from my beautiful family, but you did not realize who you were fighting with. You may have seen me waivering, weakened at times by your torture, but that was just me getting ready for another round of fighting. You did have one success out of your endeavor. You have changed me. But not the way you may have wanted. I am better now because of you. I have a new resilience, a new purpose, a new determination. I will survive. And I will thrive. In spite of you.

Is My Cancer Different?

With the knowledge that genetic testing can predict a person’s risk of certain cancers (like breast cancer), many are asking the question, “Is my Cancer Different?”

The mission of Is My Cancer Different?™ is to spread awareness of molecular-level testing and targeted testing in general. Too many patients are unaware of advanced testing and the difference it could make
in their treatment options. By encouraging all patients to ask “Is my cancer different?” to their medical team, we hope they’ll receive treatment that’s more specific to their particular cancer.

So go on over to www.IsMyCancerDifferent.com to check them out!

15 Things NOT to Say to Someone with Cancer:

When I made my diagnosis public, I received an outpouring of support.  So much love, kind words, prayers, cards… but cancer scares people.  Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to say to someone with cancer.  Do you talk about cancer or do you talk about the weather?   Some people want to be private – so do you say anything at all?  It’s difficult for the person on the other side, so I never got angry towards those who meant well, even though their sentiments weren’t exactly helpful.  With every cancer diagnosis comes an immediate membership into the “bite your tongue” hall of fame, AND a free pass into the “grin and bear it” club.    Survivors, you know what I’m talking about, right?.  I once had a person tell me after a few chemo treatments, “Oh, you look great!  And you even lost some of your belly weight!”.  That’s exactly what I was going for – killing cancer AND losing weight!  Everyone should try it… It will be the newest Hollywood weight loss fad!  But I knew she meant well, so I just smiled and nodded.  And then there was the person who said, “Oh, Ovarian Cancer… well isn’t that a good kind.  Don’t they just take them out and you’re OK?”  Yes, someone ACTUALLY said that to me. I proceeded to tell her the survival rates and statistics and by the time I was finished, she was horrified – but INFORMED!

So, for those of you who know a cancer patient, or will ever know someone with cancer, I have compiled a list of things to say and NOT to say.

What NOT to say to a person with cancer (NEVER EVER):

1) DON’T SAY: “You don’t LOOK like you have cancer”:  Exactly what does a cancer patient look like?  It can affect anyone – healthy people, young people, children even!  So what exactly are we supposed to look like?  The stereotypical image of a frail, bald, pale person may not apply to all cancer patients, so don’t assume that everyone with cancer will look that way.

DO SAY:A simple, “You look great!” will do wonders for anyone (even if they don’t have cancer).

2) DON’T SAY: “Everything will be ok”:  This diminishes and invalidates the emotions that the person is feeling.  I wanted someone to listen to my fears, not tell me that I didn’t need to have them.  And of course, it goes without saying – you can’t KNOW that everything will be OK.

DO SAY: Instead, try something like “I hope everything goes well”.  HOPE is a very important thing to a cancer patient.  It’s ok to say that you don’t have answers – and to rely on hope.

3) DON’T SAY: “How are you feeling?”  What would you really say if the person actually said, “I feel horrible!  I am so tired that I can hardly move, I can’t eat anything because of the nausea, and I hurt all over!”  What we say instead is “I’m good!”  And by that we mean “I don’t really want to tell you how horrible I feel because I know it would worry you, so I’ll say I’m doing well and you’ll be satisfied”.

DO SAY:  Instead try something like “I hope you are feeling well”.  As a side note, other survivors CAN say “how are you feeling”.  Knowing that they truly understand what you may be going through makes it easier to open up to them.

4) DON’T SAY: “Oh, you have Ovarian/Breast/Prostate/eyeball cancer, can’t they just remove it?”  I know this probably needs no explanation, but I am going to say it anyway.  Cancer spreads – quickly. It doesn’t matter if it started on the tip of your pinky, just removing it may not do the trick especially for cancers that are known to spread.  And even if they were lucky enough to have no need for chemo or radiation, and even if the surgery removed all of the cancer, they still had to have a part of their body removed and that’s no small deal.  And by assuming that the process is a simple one, you are invalidating all of the pain and emotional turmoil that the person has endured.  It’s never simple – NEVER.

DO SAY:  “I don’t know a lot about that type of cancer, what are the treatment options?”  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  But it may be a good idea to preface that with “do you feel like talking about it?”  Sometimes, you want to do anything but talk about cancer.

5) DON’T SAY: You have a 70% (80%, 99%) chance of surviving the next 5 years… “well that’s good!”:  In the words of a friend of mine, “when I woke up this morning I had a 100% chance of surviving the next 5 years so what the heck is good about 70%!?!?”  I think doctors often get in this habit of looking at everyone as a statistic.  The prognosis is good; survival rates are great – only 10 of every 100 people die from this.  That’s great, unless you are one of those 10.

DO SAY: “I’m very glad that it wasn’t worse” or “I’m very glad that the treatment is expected to work.”

6) DON’T SAY: “Isn’t that the good kind to have?”  Many seem to think that there are good and bad kinds of cancer.  Ones that are easily treatable or easy to remove are “good” – thyroid cancer patient are often told this.  There is NO GOOD cancer… Cancer is in its nature very bad.  Being told you have cancer is never easy, even it is the “good kind”.  Similarly, don’t say “You were lucky to have caught it early”.  Yes, it may be true, but “lucky” and “cancer” just don’t go together.

DO SAY:  “I’m so glad that it was easily treatable” or “I’m so glad you listened to your body and it was caught early”

7) DON’T SAY: “Let me know if you need anything”:  How easy is it for you to ask someone for help?  Most of us are very independent and have difficulty accepting help from others.  Having cancer doesn’t change that, it may even make it more difficult.  I had a hard time coming to terms with how much I needed others throughout treatment.  Independence is just one more thing that cancer tries to take from you.  I was very thankful for those friends who didn’t ask – they just did.  One friend brought dinner over every Wednesday.  I didn’t have to ask, she TOLD me she was bring dinner.  Plus, chemo brain is real!  Asking what you can do to help requires thought and planning which may not be easy to someone who is exhausted and may not feel well.

DO SAY: “I am going to bring dinner/pick up the kids/ drop off groceries”.   Tell them how you are going to help.  Or, “I am here if you need me” (although, don’t expect a call 🙂

8) DON’T SAY:  “My sister’s, husband’s, aunt’s brother had cancer and they breezed through treatment”:  This is meant to provide a comfort.  If someone else can do it, then you can too.  And it’s a way to relate to the patient.  But every person is different, every cancer is different and every treatment is different.  For example, the chemo drugs used for testicular cancer are very different from those used for ovarian (or breast cancer or any other type of cancer).  The drugs used to treat blood cancers are very different from those used to treat tumors.  Each drug has different reactions, side effects and durations of effects.  So don’t assume that because you knew someone with cancer and who may have gone through chemo or radiation, that all people are going to have the same experience.  And if someone else had a better experience than me, does that mean I’m flawed?  Why didn’t I “breeze” through treatment too?  Why was I in the hospital for a week an unable to continue chemo?  Am I not as strong as that sister’s, husband’s, aunt’s, brother?

DO SAY:  “I hope that treatment goes well for you”

9) DON’T SAY: Similarly, don’t say “if ‘so and so’ can do it then so can you!”  Again this implies that if I have a more difficult time with treatment or if the cancer spreads or reoccurs, then I have failed in some way because ‘so and so’ did it and I couldn’t.

DO SAY: “You are very strong and have a great attitude and you are surrounded by love and support.  I hope that makes things a little better for you.”

10) DON’T SAY: (This one is important for those with a recurrence).  “Well, didn’t you have both breasts removed? How did it come back?”  Or “Didn’t they get it all the first time?”  Again – cancer spreads.  Perhaps the first treatment was thought to be successful, and for an unknown reason it reappeared.   THAT is the fear that every cancer patient faces.   So, don’t rub their noses in the fact that it did come back like they didn’t do enough the first time to keep it at bay.

DO SAY: Sometimes, it’s just better to not say anything.  Asking questions that no one knows the answer to like “why did it come back” doesn’t help anyone.  The person dealing with a recurrence has already asked all of those questions dealt with that disappointment.  A simple, “I’m so sorry” or any of the other things mentioned here would be better.

11) DON’T SAY:  “I know how you feel”.  Don’t try to understand the person’s emotional state, unless you have been there.  Don’t try to project what you think they should feel.  I once had someone tell me, “I know you want to curl up in a ball and just cry and you feel like a horrible mother for being so tired all of the time, but you CAN do this!”  That is wrong on so many levels.  I held myself together pretty well (most of the time).  I didn’t feel like curling up in a ball and crying… I felt like kicking cancer’s butt.  And sometimes I felt guilty for the time that I was missing with my children, but I had been able to come to an understanding that it was just a means to an end.

DO SAY: “I can’t imagine how you are feeling, but I am here if you ever want to talk”

12) DON’T SAY: “You can do this!”  I never doubted that I could, and while I appreciated the vote of confidence, pep rallies should be saved for football games.  “You can do this” implies that I have some sort of control over it, which then implies that if something goes wrong it’s somehow because I wasn’t good enough at fighting the fight.

DO SAY:  “I love you and I am here for you”.  Really, that is all that needs to be said.

13) DON’T SAY: In the case of someone with lung cancer… “Did you smoke?” or skin cancer “did you lay in a tanning bed?”  Or any other variation.  Never imply that the person did anything to contribute to their cancer diagnosis.  The reason seems obvious, but then why do people still ask those questions?  Trust me, every person with cancer has already asked themselves, “what did I do to make this happen.”  Coming to terms with the “why me” is a very difficult part of the process and they don’t need to relive that by answering to you as well.

DO SAY: “Cancer is so unfair!”  Yes, it may seem simplistic, but hearing it may be just what that person needs to reinforce their own feelings.

14) DON’T SAY: “God gave this to you for a reason”.  This is a tricky one.  If the person is religious, relying on God’s ultimate plan may make the healing process a little easier.  BUT, it has to be something that THEY realize as they begin to work through their grief and eventually come to acceptance.  It can’t come from someone else.  I have said many times that I believe God gave this trial to me because he knew I would do something with it.  I am using my experience to try to help others who are facing cancer.  But, it was a conclusion that I made, when I was ready to accept it.

DO SAY: If you know the person holds strong to their faith, you may say “God is with you” or “God is watching over you”.  I would still shy away from the “God can heal you” sentiments because that then leads to the “why didn’t God heal me” if the outcome isn’t favorable.

15) DON’T SAY: “I’ve been researching and you should do X,Y,Z”.  I had so many people telling me about special diets and herbal remedies.  While I appreciated their concern and that they were trying to help, I always wondered if they thought I was just home twiddling my thumbs.  I was the one with cancer – did they not think I was doing every bit of research possible!?!  I realize this may not always be the case, and even in those cases – sharing your concern and offering help can be accomplished in a less patronizing way.

DO SAY:  “There is a lot of information out there about various things.  If/when you feel up to navigating through it, I am here to help you if you’d like”.

Beyond Survival

This article was written by a one year cancer survivor detailing his experience since he was deemed cancer-free.  It’s a great read:   Click HERE 

Many don’t realize the lifetime ordeal that a cancer diagnosis begins.  Of course during the treatment you are focused on fighting, winning the battle and prevailing over cancer.  You cope with that in a variety of ways: denial, anger, action and eventually acceptance.  But then what?  What comes after acceptance?  What happens in the weeks months and years after the battle is over?

During the first few weeks/months you I was elated!  It was finally over, no more driving to Charlotte once a week to be poked in the chest with a 1 inch needle.  No more sickness from the chemo.  It wasn’t immediate but my energy level finally began to improve.  Physically, I am feeling great!  But the mental and emotional toil of cancer lingers on.

While I am not required to have weekly blood tests and monthly treatments, I still need test every 3 months.  They are testing for “tumor markers” which is simply a “red flag” in my blood that may say that the cancer has returned.  For my particular type of cancer, the blood test has to be sent away for processing and it takes up to 2 weeks to get the results.  Even thought there are days now that I don’t really think about cancer – during those two weeks I make up for it ten-fold!  What if its back?  What if they didn’t get it all the first time?  Every cancer survivor feels this way I would guess – at least those that I have spoken with do.  One friend said her way of dealing with that waiting period is to be super worried and then when it comes back all clear she is super happy and celebrates. Another friend says she asks them not to even call her with her results.  That way she doesn’t have to wait around for that dreaded phone call.  If there is any bad news it will be a surprise. For me – I sort of ignore it as best I can.  Pretend that it doesn’t bother me.  And pretend that it wasn’t a big deal when the results come back – sort of like “oh, ok – I knew it would be ok”.   But even beyond the bloodwork, there are the everyday questions that arise.  EVERY pain, EVERY twinge, EVERY eye twitch – is that the cancer coming back?  Even now, as I write this, I am sitting in a hospital waiting for a breast biopsy.  Breast pain led to a mammogram, which showed 2 masses.  Even though the doctors say they are 99% sure they are benign, that 1% chance is still there and I will feel much better when I know for sure.  Afterall, I was told by numerous doctors that I didn’t have cancer – so its hard for me to bet on the odds in these situations.  I know that I am in for a lifetime of these what-ifs.  Maybe it will get easier, or maybe not – but I suppose the “what-ifs” will keep me diligent.

On the emotional level, no matter what traumatic experience occurs in ones life, it alters the course of normal.  Hopes and dreams are put on hold, priorities are shifted, focus becomes on the here and now rather than the plans for the future.  That’s not always a bad thing.  I think cancer helped me to “stop and smell the roses” so to speak.   But after focusing so intently on overcoming the traumatic event (in my case cancer), getting life back on track doesn’t just come naturally.  For the first time in my life, I had lost control.  During those months of being sick and tired, and fighting the evils of cancer, I had lost the control over the day to day things (and if you  know me, you know that I am a control freak!).  I had certainly lost control over my own body:  cancer didn’t ask me if it could come in and set up shop.  I had lost control over my emotions and was prone to break down at any moment.  You may say “well, you have good reason – a good cry never hurt anyone”.  But again, the “old me” would have never let that happen.  But most of all, I had lost my independence.  I had never before been unable to take care of myself and my family.  For the first time since childhood, I was the one being taken care of by those that loved me and while I was so thankful for that, it was difficult for my ego to come to terms with.   So regaining that independence was a big deal for me.  The little things that I used to take for granted were big milestones: going to the grocery store without being exhausted afterwards, being able to walk to the park with my kids, Christmas shopping (the year before I wasn’t able to shop for Christmas because of my health issues).   For me, that was the “normal” that I wanted – NEEDED – to get back.  It took time, but I finally feel like I am back to my full-time mom/wife/daughter/friend self.  And its great to be back!


Survivor’s Guilt

One year ago today, I went in for surgery.  I wasn’t sure what to expect – doctors had told me it wasn’t likely cancer, but what other explaination could there be?  Even after surgery, I had no answers.. It wasn’t until a week later that I received the call telling me that I had cancer.  (To read more about my story, you can visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/kimeroh)

The past week has been filled with a barrage of emotions.  Some reminding me of what I went through a year ago, some reminding me how lucky I am to be here enjoying the holiday season, and still others leaving me wondering why I have been so lucky and others have not.  In a period of 24 hours, I was engaged in conversations and situations that did all three.

Tuesday evening I received a phone call from a friend who had, by chance, met a young mother who had been diagnosed with Ovarian and Uterine Cancer. I spoke to the young woman for a bit and hearing her story reminded me how I felt after I was diagnosed.  Scared, Worried, Angry, wondering why I had this awful disease.  Would I survive it?  Would it return?  How would this experience scar my children?  Now, a year later, I have been able to somewhat overcome those fears and anxieties.  I still think about whether or not it will return, but I’m not trembling in fear anymore.  I’m not angry.  I have survived and I have made peace with the “why me” emotions. I have found a purpose in the way my life has gone.  I regret the time that cancer took from me, the memories that I missed because I was too tired or sick to participate.  But even more than that, I am thankful for all that I have learned along the way.  I am in a good place… most of the time.

The next day, I happened to strike up a conversation with a woman who had lost her mother several weeks before.  The holiday season was going to be very difficult for her.  Coincidentally, her mother died from Ovarian Cancer.  We talked briefly about her mother’s battle and she spoke to me of her fears for herself and her daughter.  Ovarian cancer can be hereditary, and it can increase ones risk of developing breast cancer.  So I mentioned genetic testing, which he had not heard of.  We wished each other a Merry Christmas and went our separate ways.  But she stayed with me long after.

The same morning, I discovered that one of the ladies I met early in my journey had been told there was nothing more that could be done for her.  I first met her at a support group right after I was diagnosed.  I would then occasionally see her in the chemo lounge during treatments or blood work sessions.  She has fought a long fight, even trying experimental treatments, traveling hundreds of miles to specialists.  She did all of this with a smile on her face and a word or two of encouragement for the rest of us.  Ovarian Cancer is a horrible disease.  It is often caught in late stages, it can spread rapidly and the rate of recurrence and survival rate can be frightening.  Since my diagnosis, I have met several women who were survivors, or who were also battling Ovarian Cancer.  I am sorry to say that several of them have lost their battle.

Ovarian Cancer is always “with me”, but on that day it was haunting me.  I thought I had a handle on my emotions.  I am moving on, feeling great, enjoying life. But I realized that as a survivor, my part of the story isn’t over.  I will watch as others are diagnosed, fight, and hopefully prevail.  But I will also watch as many will lose their battle.  It’s the nature of the disease itself.  There is almost a sense of guilt that I am able to move on and call myself a “survivor”, while so many cannot.  I am torn at times.  I feel so lucky to have caught my cancer early, so lucky to have a good prognosis, so lucky to be cancer-free.  But how can I feel so happy when others are still fighting for their lives?

Survivor’s Guilt: a deep feeling of guilt often experienced by those who have survived some catastrophe that took the lives of many others; derives in part from a feeling that they did not do enough to save the others who perished and in part from feelings of being unworthy relative to those who died.

I guess that probably sums it up… I wish I could do more.  I wish I could tell these ladies that I will honor their memories throughout my life and that I will always work to raise awareness so that others can escape this fate.  A dear friend of mine helped to put this in perspective for me.  She said, “I love my Teal Sisters (Ovarian Cancer Survivors) more than I hate this disease.  Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and divorce myself from it – but if people like us don’t try to do something, who will?”

So, to every survivor: I am honored to be in your company.  To those we have lost:  I will honor your memory by living my life to the fullest and knowing that it is a precious gift.  To those who are fighting:  I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, you are already a survivor!