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Diem Brown Blogs: How I Made Myself Take Charge After Surgery

08/16/2012 at 11:05 AM EDT

  • Diem Brown
    Courtesy Diem Brown
  • Diem Brown
    Courtesy Diem Brown
In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time, opens up about her desire for a child and the ups and downs of cancer and fertility procedures.

I feel free. I feel proud. I feel filled with confidence that any daunting task can be accomplished.

These feelings come with returning to work four days after my surgery. I made and updated a list of goals every hour that I was confined to bed-rest and was dead fast to accomplish each physical task on my grid in order to move on from this surgery.

I would not allow myself to succumb to a lengthy recovery. I wanted to move on with my life and get back to work. I had no desire to undergo surgery to remove my last remaining ovary, but ultimately chose to do so at the urging of my loved ones. I am very thankful for their love push.





Having my sole remaining ovary removed was extremely emotional for me. I could not figure out why this particular surgery was so frightening. Yes, early menopause isn't fun, but why was I so scared of it? I felt embarrassed by my emotions, but I was less afraid going into surgery after reading some of y'all's encouraging and informative menopause/early menopause experiences, because I felt better prepared for what lies ahead.

The unknown, as many of you wrote, is what can scare us the most. I know I won't feel the effects of early menopause for another 3-6 weeks, which ironically will be around the same time my chemo side effects will start ... yep, that's a fun combo ;)

One Day at a Time

I am trying to not look too far ahead, because placing one foot in front of the other is the best way to cross that proverbial finish line ... one foot in front of the other keeps you moving forward!

While changing into my hospital gown my anxiety was at full peak. My body protested as my raw emotions crept out and I couldn’t hold back my tears. I was scared. My doctor even joked that she made a bet that I wouldn't even show up. If there was any way out I would have helped my doctor win that bet ... but I knew this surgery had to happen.

This was the fourth time having this surgery, and I was a rockstar for the first three, but this time felt like the end of a road, the end of a chapter for me. There was a feeling of finality with this surgery.

I tried to go into auto-pilot mode as I walked down the hospital hall towards the operating room that was filled with doctors and nurses waiting for me. I tried to make my mind go blank. I thought to myself, "You are at the hospital. Your loved ones have traveled to support you. You have changed into your hospital gown and hairnet already. The doctor has opened a spot for you on her schedule. There is no turning back so suck it up and let's do this!"

As the nurses helped me onto the surgical table, one of them sensed my fear and clasped my hand for comfort. With so many people in a room it's amazing how lonely you can feel. Nervous to make eye contact with anyone in the room, I hung my head low in hopes of shielding my fearful eyes.



"This is happening. This is real. Goodbye ovary, and hello menopause and cancer treatment road," I said to myself as I was beginning to accept the reality of the situation.

The sweet anesthesiologist started rattling off questions. Still being a total needle wuss I turned my head away from her and I tightened my grip on the hand of the kind nurse as the IV entered my vein.

I couldn't tilt my head now to hold back the tears, and three tears start to trickle down my cheek. I pleaded, "World go black, world go black! Please hurry and make my world go black!" As I'm chanted these words in my head, my nerves started to ease and I knew I would soon drift off.

I'm happy to share that there were no surprises during the surgery, although I have to wait for a full pathology report.

Asking for Help Is Hard

The cool thing about this surgery is feeling the support from friends, family and loved ones. Through Facebook, Twitter messages, texts and even traveling across country, I felt so humbled by the love shared by so many people.

I am not good about asking for help. In fact, I almost constantly deny I'm ever in need of help from others, but those who know me best hurried to my side. As I returned home from the surgery I was completely helpless. Having to rely on others for help with every li'l movement (hint, hint) modesty goes out the window ... such an odd feeling ;p

I tried to keep my mind light and didn't want to process what had happened. I didn't want to be an emotional wreck, but rather wanted to take charge! "Diem, make a list of your daily goals and take charge by finding ways to combat the side effects of early menopause. Up next is chemo. You have done this before so chill out. You got this!" Sometimes the best pep talks come from within :)

I debated watching another one of Susan Somers's menopause videos but instead I made a list of all the possible side effects of early menopause and a list of questions I can review with my doctor for ways to fight the ill symptoms. Take Charge!

Nowadays we can find a solution to almost any ailment … so gathering up all the information you can and using your doctor as a sounding board can only produce positive outcomes. You become a part of your treatment. You feel like you are gaining some control back. I would recommend that every patient to become a "civilian expert" in their ailment field.

Thank you so much for your comments, suggestions, for sharing your experiences and sharing your own fears. Starting a dialogue with no judgment is the best way to relate, bond and learn from others. I thank y'all so much for helping start this dialogue!

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