An Introduction: For those of you who don't know, Sara is one of our incredible Stroller Strides instructors, and she's been part of the Fit4Mom Olympia family since 2010. She has two beautiful kids, a wonderful husband, and a very sweet dog. This is her story of fighting a tumor, finding support, learning to ask for help, and of courage to confront the things that scare us the most. We are honored to be able to share it with all of you.
I have something called a Desmoid Tumor. I hope shortly to say I HAD a Desmoid Tumor. It has been a long, exhausting road.
Way back in 2011 I suffered the always devastating loss of a pregnancy. My Dad had died a few months earlier. It was the Fall. I was sad and empty. And then I found a lump. Not the lump so many woman fear, but a weird lump in my abdomen, just to the left of my belly button. I pretty much ignored it for a month thinking it would disappear. Then I went for a doctor’s visit and my husband insisted I ask about it. In breakneck speed I found myself sitting in a surgeon’s office scheduling surgery to remove this unknown mass in my muscle.
Surgery was successful, until it wasn’t. Nearly a year passed from the complete removal of what was diagnosed as a Desmoid Tumor and I was supposed to make a complete recovery, to life repeating itself. One year. In moments that would leave me in a ‘you have got be kidding me’ shock I experienced almost to the day, miscarriage, lump, surgery. Again.
They said they’d removed it all, but they said that the first time. They said it was a local recurrence, no big deal. They took bigger margins and filled in the missing muscle with a piece of mesh. I was good to go.
And for a while I thought I was. My miracle baby, Camille, was conceived and then born in February of 2014. I was joyous and I didn’t suffer from the baby blues that had plagued me with my firstborn. But it was overshadowed by enormous pain at my surgical site. I convinced myself that I had merely herniated my surgical mesh (after-all I was huge and gave birth to a 9lb baby). At 6 weeks I was still too swollen to tell what was going on. So I held on and at 14 weeks we did an MRI.
The results were devastating. There was a new tumor. I still cry. I was 35 years old with a brand new baby. I didn’t know how I could move forward. Everything stood still and I was scared.
Now you may be wondering about what a Desmoid Tumor is and why Its a bad thing. See if you look it up, you’ll find out that it is actually benign, non-malignant tumor of the muscle. Its rare, but that’s about all you’ll find. That sounds so good, right? I mean when they told me that after the first and second surgeries I was relieved. Phew. I wasn’t going to die from this! What I learned when it reappeared the last time is that while this tumor won’t metastasize it will send out little arms like a weed sending out suckers spreading in your garden and invade nearby organs, which actually will kill me. Oh, [pardon my French], Shit.
Then something amazing happened, I found my strength. It was in me. The way I learned from Body Back that I can do anything when I believe in myself. It came from my husband who never left my side and called and made appointments and researched and questioned. It came from my Fit4Mom family who said they would be there however I needed. It came from my children who needed a mom they could see and believe in.
I had to make tough decisions, ones that broke my heart, and ones that took determination and courage. Some things seemed so simple and straightforward and others baffled my brain.
From May 2014 to March 2016 I took a chemotherapy drug to try and shrink the tumor. It made me tired and sick. My brain was in a fog. The skin on my hands and feet hurt, burned and peeled. Somedays it was painful to walk. I went to Seattle every 3 months for MRI’s and blood draws. The good news was always that it hadn’t grown, except for that time when we tried no drugs and it did grow. The bad news, always, was that it had not shrunk.
In the end, being on the drugs indefinitely was unsustainable. I couldn’t keep it up. We had to find a different solution. And that’s how I’ve ended up with Radiation treatments for 6 weeks. We hope that these will kill this stupid tumor and I will not have to worry about it ever again.
Know someone else who’s struggling with a scary life situation? Take it from me, they can be strong enough if they know you’re in their corner. I have survived because I have learned to accept help and the love shown me. I look forward to being on the other side and repaying all that love.