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“Melissa, you have ovarian cancer” (part 2 of 2)

This is the second entry in Melissa’s blog (read first part here):

My initial meeting with Dr. Mark Morgan and his nurse left me full of hope. He confidently told me that he would consider preserving fertility if things looked okay. I had to trust his judgement, which was easy because he is obviously at the top of his craft.

On October 25, Brendan and I arrived at Fox Chase for surgery. We were beyond nervous, but Dr. Morgan and his team put us at ease. When we checked in, the staff member repeated my address, “Crescent Hill Drive in Havertown? Popular day to be from there.” On the surgical floor, we ran into our neighbor who was also having surgery. Not only was comforting to know he also chose Fox Chase, but the staff member who remembered our street made quite an an impression on me.

Next, the prep nurse and the anesthesiologist asked me about myself – “Where are you from? What do you do?” They wanted to know all about Brendan. I told them he’s the the smartest two-year old on the block. I momentarily forgot I was going through major surgery in the next couple of hours. The staff did a terrific job taking my mind off of surgery.

Fortunately, the surgery went smoothly and the pain was manageable. The following morning I woke up with some chest pain. The nurse quickly called Dr. Morgan who was in my room in no time.  It turned out I needed a second procedure the following day. I was caught off guard and visibly upset. Dr. Morgan and his staff sensed my apprehension and made the situation a calming experience. They called my husband and waited until he arrived before starting the second surgery.

I spent the next five days at the hospital with a picture of my little guy next to my bed. I tried to stay positive and the nurses reminded me I would see him soon. The nurses encouraged me to get up and walk so I could be discharged as quickly as possible. It worked. I was home just in time for Halloween and Brendan’s transformation to Elmo. I was ready to conquer the world. But first I had to conquer chemotherapy, which is no easy task.

My chemotherapy experience followed suit with everything at Fox Chase up until that point. My chemo nurse was comforting and made my experience positive. She’d even give advice on the my next move in Scrabble when my husband and a friend were beating me soundly.

I was also lucky enough to enroll in the risk assessment program. They provided a tutorial in cancer genetics and counseled me through my BRCA gene testing.

Life went on as I came back to Fox Chase for regular check-ups and scans and as my son liked to term it: I got new hair!

Through my connections at Fox Chase, I made an appearance on the Dr. Oz show. I have also been able to promote that cancer has found a formidable opponent in the Fox Chase community as Love Versus Cancer is more than a saying – it is very much a daily reality in the halls and offices.

During my treatment, some of my friends would ask why I traveled so far to get to Fox Chase. I explained that you just have to know the place and the people to know why it’s worth it. It’s not your typical hospital.

As for the two-year old … Brendan is now in second grade and will turn eight in 2013. He loves to draw and play baseball and is a big Philly sports fan. He is a great son, grandson, nephew and a friend to many. But the title he loves most I think is “big brother!”

I was at Fox Chase for a routine check-up and I felt terrible. Of course, I was afraid of a recurrence. I was told my CA-125 tumor marker test was a nine (well within normal limits), but that my HCG is pretty high. Know what that means? I was pregnant!

Almost one year to the day of my first chemotherapy treatment at Fox Chase, I heard the heartbeat of our daughter for the first time. I couldn’t think of a better place to be to receive such great news. We like to term it in our house – “The Miracle of Molly.” I honestly don’t know who was happier – Brendan and me or the staff at Fox Chase. It is truly a special place.

Missy Light Dougherty