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The Life or Death Decision That Improved My Attitude and Quality of Life in Surprising Ways

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By Margo Kay

Note: Margo, who lives in Missouri, has been a member of our community since 2011. In addition to this article, she also wrote Exercising Safely Using Nano Steps.

Several years ago, I was in really bad straits, trying to live alone with a very severe case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was functioning at about 15 on the 0 to 100 Rating Scale. I was miserable so much of the time, and so limited in what I could do, that my quality-of-life was practically nonexistent.

Living a Very Limited Life

At times I had to ride my scooter to get around the house. I struggled to climb the stairs to my bedroom and eventually switched to sleeping on my couch downstairs instead. I relied on processed food a lot, but as my food allergies accumulated, my nutrition became terrible.

I wore earplugs every day because sounds and audio were so difficult. I couldn't watch TV or listen to music or to relaxation recordings. Rooms were dim because I was so light-sensitive. I was isolated and the only internet device I could tolerate was my phone. I crashed often and I was utterly and completely miserable much of the time.

Often I sobbed and prayed to God, "Please, just take me! I can't do this anymore." I imagined being reunited with all my family members who have passed on. And with my dog, whom I still miss.

A Strange Twist of Fate

Then a strange twist of fate led to some major changes for the good that I would never have imagined possible.

I found myself taken in an ambulance to the hospital and four days later had surgery during which doctors discovered ovarian carcinosarcoma, which is a rare combination of regular ovarian cancer and sarcoma. It's also really aggressive and it's got a terrible prognosis. And mine was advanced.

Whoa. Full stop.

After I got my staples out, I had a talk with the gynecologic oncologist about chemotherapy. He told me that if I did nothing, even after extensive surgery, my life expectancy was numbered in weeks, not months. He said we could try one round of chemo and if it worked and I tolerated it, do another, and so on like that up to 6. We could follow my progress with simple blood tests.

I realized in that moment that God had answered my prayers, in a way. "Look, here's your door out. Take it, or not. Are you serious about this, or not?”

My Life or Death Decision

I lay on the examining table, trying to make sense of it all. A friend was there with me, so I asked her what she thought. She said it wouldn't hurt to try one round of chemotherapy and see what happened.

I realized she was right. I wasn't quite ready to walk through that door. The odds were against me, but I wanted to live. Agreeing with my friend, I told the doctor to proceed with chemo.

The infusions worked well and we continued through six rounds, which took about five months, including a couple of unscheduled hospital visits. What I went through during those months was probably the hardest thing I've ever done, but I got through it! My strength surprised me.

The Surprising Consequences

When I started the chemotherapy, I never imagined I would still be here, six years later, since the five-year survival statistics are poor. So I'm still not out of the woods, not by any stretch of the imagination, but my quality of life is better, and my attitude is different. I marvel that I'm still around!

Thanks to finding the right medications and getting home health aides who give me five hours of help a day, I don't feel as miserable and horribly depressed as I used to. And my sensitivity to light and sound is somewhat better.

I realize it's unlikely I will live to be 95 like my grandmother and my uncle, but for now, I'm thrilled to still be here!

No matter what my quality of life is like, I'm not ready to leave yet. I’m trying to live by a saying cancer patients sometimes use: "It may get me someday, but it won't be today."