Moving on After Battling Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a deadly enemy. They call it a “silent killer” because the symptoms are so subtle and random that it’s not detected in many women until it’s far too late.

Author Sandra D. Bricker shares her experiences in moving on after battling cancer.I went through a very long period of time without connecting the dots between irregular (and sometimes non-existent) periods, bloating, abdominal pain, changes in frequency and urgency of urination, and unexplained pelvic discomfort. I treated these symptoms autonomously, never even thinking about them being related to a larger problem. When one of the doctors finally went looking, she quickly told me that I had stage 1 uterine cancer. “Not a problem, very treatable, no worries.”

My spirit just felt … unsettled. There was something more. When I voiced my concern, it was met with ambivalence. The CA-125 blood test, the one and only detection tool for ovarian cancer, had been negative … so why was I so worried?

After my first surgery, however, the revelation came that there was indeed something more. I had ovarian cancer, and it had already advanced to stage 3. This report was followed by more surgeries, five weeks of daily radiation treatments, and several days in the hospital for radiation implants. It was grueling, it was frightening, and it felt like forever.

I’ll never forget the day when my oncologist stood across from me, grinning. “You did it, kiddo. You’re cancer free.”

Of course, my initial reaction was elation. I’d been waiting for more than a year of my life for someone to say those words to me. I muttered them repeatedly on the drive home that day until they seemed to take the form of a prayer of thanksgiving. “Cancer free. I’m cancer free. I am cancer free!”

But here’s what they never tell you: You’ve just spent months of your life in a routine of treatment, in a battle stance, fighting this silent warrior that came at you out of nowhere. You’ve surrounded yourself with a certain circle of professionals and support. You’ve spent most of your days and weeks thinking about the battle, planning it, waging it. And now someone you’ve come to depend upon is looking at you, telling you to fly from the nest. Go ahead. You’re on your own now!

After the elation wears away, the next phase is a sort of numbness. And a big neon question blinking over your life: What now?

Kim Snyder is a member of Ovacome, the Tampa support group for those afflicted, and she works as a systems engineer for a computer distributor. At the age of 41, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “I had the textbook symptoms,” she says, “and I was misdiagnosed by three different doctors.”

After her last CAT scan, Linda Kraft, also a member of Ovacome, was told that she was N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease). “I remember struggling with the feelings of total ecstasy and quite a bit of nervousness,” she says. “During the past five months, I had done everything I could do to be cancer free. I had a great surgeon, followed my chemo regimen, ate right, made myself exercise … and now that it was done and I had a clear scan, I kept thinking, ‘Now what?’”

The thing about ovarian cancer is that, even after you’re considered cured, there are these frightening statistics hanging over your head about a high percentage of recurrence within the first five years. You can’t help yourself. The thought is almost always there.

“With every pain, fatigue, or weird feeling,” says Kraft, IS IT BACK? pops up.” But as she returned to her normal routine over the next months, the thoughts came less often.

Another member of the Ovacome group, Carole Martinez, put it to me this way: “I was totally unprepared for the angst that occurred after the treatments had been completed. I no longer felt that I or my doctors was being proactive, and I felt like my lifeline had been removed.”

I identified with that reaction so much!

When I was asked to write a comedy about the process of turning fifty, all of those same feelings came rushing back to me. 50 was already barreling toward me when I was finally declared cancer free, and I was almost paralyzed with questions about how to move on. So I did what every writer does best: I wrote about it. And then I turned it on its ear the way I like to do with most everything, and I made it funny. It was a little like therapy as I wrote Olivia’s story, and walked in the sands of Sanibel Island, Florida, right next to her as she considered how on earth she was going to move on after ovarian cancer. But as Olivia found her way in her new world, I am happy to report: So did I.

January 8th, 2010, marked six years cancer free for me! There are no guarantees about my future. It turns out that ovarian cancer can still recur after your ovaries are long gone. This seems wrong to me, but it’s a fact. There is still no reliable diagnostic tool; there is no cure. But I don’t think every day about it coming back any more. And I don’t ignore even the most subtle sets of symptoms. I’m vigilant about my check-ups, and I raise money to fund the research against this disease at every opportunity.

Like Olivia Wallace in The Big 5-OH!, I am thankful for balmy breezes, white-capped ocean waves, and the promise of everything ahead of me. I can only hope that there’s a happy ending written for me, too.

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The Big 5-OH! © 2010 Abingdon Press
The Big 5-OH! © 2010 Abingdon Press by Sandra D. BrickerOlivia Wallace can’t remember a birthday that wasn’t marked by illness, tragedy or both. And now, as she emerges victorious over cancer and approaches The Big Five-Oh, she is determined to change her course. Better late than never, right? That’s what Liv believes when she leaves a snowy Ohio winter behind and runs away to Florida to regroup. Amidst a crazy cast of characters that include a dog with a lampshade collar, a rogue alligator and a flirtatious octogenarian, Liv finds the biggest birthday surprise of all … A second chance at love.

Sandra D. Bricker has been publishing in both the Christian and general market for years with novels for women and teens, magazine articles and short stories. With 11 novels in print and 4 more slated for publication through 2011, Sandie has carved out a niche for herself as an author of laugh-out-loud comedy for the inspirational market. Last year’s Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas garnered three readers’ choice award nods. Sandie was an entertainment publicist in Hollywood for 15+ years and now lives in Tampa, Florida. To keep up with her blog, readers can visit

Read the first three chapters of The Big 5-OH!

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View the video trailer.

The Big 5-OH! hits bookstore shelves in February 2010, and a portion of the author’s proceeds will be donated to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

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