After a 30 year career in teaching, I took early retirement in 2003, so my husband and I could travel and enjoy golf and many other activities that had been sidelined while working and raising our two sons. That went well for the first four years, with just a nine week side step for my husband’s prostate cancer treatment. The summer of 2007 altered the course of our lives, when I spent the summer dealing with corneal herpes, superficial blood clots in one calf, and then a dry cough that caused a diagnosis of probable whooping cough. In September of ’07 my cough and I ended up in the emergency room, and during a 12 day stay, I was given the diagnosis of stage IV ovarian cancer. The cough was due to many liters of fluid in my chest and a collapsed lung.
I had two rounds of chemotherapy, a hysterectomy and debulking surgery, followed by six more rounds of chemotherapy. In April of 2008 I was declared to be in remission. It was during that period of remission, as I was resuming my normal activities, that I caught a portion of a Dr. Oz radio program. Dr. Oz was interviewing a young man who was speaking enthusiastically about connecting cancer fighters with survivors. The little bit of the show that I heard stuck with me for weeks, until I sent an email to Dr. Oz asking for more information about that show. To my surprise, I soon got a phone call from the amazingly friendly and energetic Jonny Imerman, and before I knew it, I was signed up as a mentor angel.
Being a part of Imerman Angels has been perfect for me. It has given me a way to connect with other women who are fighting the same fight that I am, and allows me to share my story while hearing and learning from the stories that other women have to tell. I find that each of us feels we are alone in this journey, until that first phone call or email, and then we find that although our numbers are not as large as breast cancer, we have friends and fellow fighters across the country, willing to laugh and cry with us, listen to us, and support us as we battle this silent cancer.
In the nearly two years I’ve been associated with Imerman Angels, I have talked with 10 women, 7 of whom I still speak with or write to on a regular basis. During this time, I came out of remission and have been back in treatment for 15 months. It’s not where I want to be, but now I am also able to talk about and support women who have also had a recurrence. Sometimes the phone calls come one after another, but it is invigorating to work with the Imerman staff, and to know that none of us has to “go it alone.” Thanks to Imerman Angels, we can hold hands and march forward on the path to remission, or better yet, a cure in the future.
One of these days I’m going to be able to meet Jonny in person, either when he’s out her for a west coast engagement, or who knows, maybe one day I’ll make it back to Chicago and be able to give Jonny and Rynell a hug right there in their offices, and thank them for adding an extra spark and purpose to my life.