by Cindy McKinnon Deurloo
Five years ago I heard the only words a cancer patient wants to hear “you’re cancer free and in remission.” After the painful surgery (radical hysterectomy), surgical menopause, 6 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy that made me very ill, multiple blood transfusions, hospital stays and scars, I made it!! How blessed am I to be one of the few who survive ovarian cancer. But this was only the beginning of my journey. After genetic counseling and learning I have BRCA1 mutation, I struggled with the decision to have bilateral mastectomies to prevent another cancer diagnosis, which I chose to do. Once again I went under the knife and did what was necessary to save my life. Although it wasn’t nearly as rough as the ovarian surgery and treatment, it still painful. The four months of chest reconstruction followed by two additional surgeries were uncomfortable. But the outcome was great and I was relieved to have it over and done with especially because pathologists found pre-cancerous cells in my breast tissue.
During this time of such darkness there was also a lot of light. I somehow managed to fall in love, get engaged, have a wedding and buy a house in New Hampshire where we are extremely happy. I started a new journey of helping others as a FORCE Volunteer and Peer Navigator and sit on a DoD (Department Of Defense) funded Ovarian Cancer Research Project as a Patient Advocate. These opportunities have allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people, some with stories much like mine and they are all my heroes. I’ve travelled to Philadelphia, Florida and England and I’ll be traveling to my childhood dream destination of Sydney, Australia this April.
I’ll forever be grateful to the amazing doctors and nurses, the family and friends who helped me, FORCE and the many people who showed me kindness. And even though there are days when I almost forget it all happened, I can still be overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. The scars and residual pain quickly remind me how far I’ve made it and how blessed I am to be here. No one knows what the future holds and we’ll always need to be on high alert. I just hope by continuing to be open about my journey and sharing it with others that it will help to make a difference in someone’s life. Today I’ll be celebrating my survivorship but I’ll also be remembering the people in my life who didn’t make it; Dad, Nana, Grandmother McKinnon, Grandfather McKinnon, Midge, Melvin, Jackie, Shannon, Pauline, George, LeeAnn and Sue. RIP xo
Cindy is an Ovarian cancer survivor with a BRCA1 deleterious mutation. She volunteers with FORCE as a peer navigator and represents FORCE as a Patient Advocate for the Multidisciplinary Ovarian Cancer Outcomes Group (MOCOG) through the DOD funded Ovarian Cancer Research Program.