“My Voice” by Alissa Gores

Alissa and her children

So where to begin? I guess the beginning. In July of 2004, I was diagnosed with “pre-cervical cancer”, my Doctor said it would be fine for me to have kids but I should start right away and after I was done I would need a hysterectomy. I was a little scared, but my Doctor was confident it wasn’t doing anything. To me, Pre-cancer meant Before.  Needless to say four years and two babies later, I had a hysterectomy. I wanted to have it when I had my daughter Ava in April of 07, but the doctor said “no, no, no.. we think you should wait, you’ll be fine..”, again down playing what this could be: CANCER! I wanted to believe it was fine and so I did.  So, I really wasn’t too fearful.

I had my hysterectomy December 21 2007, right after my 32nd birthday and before my favorite time of the year. My kids had just starting to enjoy the lights, the snow and the glow of wonder. We had a blessed holiday and a grand New Year. I went in on January 8, 2008 for a post-op appointment, all wrapped in those fancy hospital gowns waiting for my hunky Doc to check my incision, but instead he came in with a sad look on his face and said how are? Good, I rambled for a few and realized something wasn’t right here.  I stopped talking and he said there is no need for me to check you; this still makes no sense to me I still did have an incision to look at. He then hit me like a ton of bricks (figuratively speaking). YOU HAVE CANCER. IM SORRY! It had spread. My “pre-cancer” that I didn’t even think was real had spread to my uterus, which thankfully was no longer in my body. Phew! Then it kept coming. “You’ll probably need to do radiation.  I’m just the surgeon you’ll have to talk to someone else about this”.  And that was that, all the info that I got about having metastasized cancer and with his apologies he sent me on my way, alone looking out into the world completely different.

When I had gone into the hospital that morning it looked bright cheery and sunny outside. When I came out, tear stained face, the world as I once saw it was no longer. Everything had sort of a grey tone to it. It felt cold and unwelcoming.  Then the anger hit! I was mad. Why was this happening?  I just had two babies;they need me. I’m the nurturer, the mama bird who looks after them, gets up with them every night. Why? Why? Why? This was one of my many tantrums.

I called my mom at work, she to was instantly upset then angry, then how can we fix it?

SO begins the next chapter….Me and the clan at the time, my husband and mother, went with me to see my oncologist.  He was not happy and he didn’t want to answer any questions. He had a horrible bedside manner; I felt very put off and unimportant and frankly terrified.  He said I would need to get a CT scan to see if it had gone anywhere else.  He then said that would be very rare. We talked statistics, options and so on.  He said the worst case scenario would be if it had gone to the lung that I would have less than a year to live. Instantly, I knew!

CT day! I had it done first thing in the morning, cried through the whole thing, thinking how real this was becoming.  Seeing the things that I used to look forward to becoming a vague memory, as one thing after another started to revolve around cancer.  My family and friends all gave me the sad face, which just threw me into an emotional roller coaster ever time that happened.

Within a matter of four hours, I had a call from my radiation Doctor, which I hadn’t started till we saw if it had gone anywhere else. He asked me to come down. Instant hysterics! Don’t do this just tell me!  “They have found spots in your lung…” Oh my God!!! Me and the family went down saw the pictures. It wasn’t just spots, it was hundreds of spots in the lung.

So begins the cancer journey.  I had a broncoscopy trying to diagnose what was going on. They couldn’t get a good sample so I went and saw a thoroscopic surgeon who was very rude. He said straight out that it isn’t cancer and if you didn’t have cervical cancer no one would even think that, He said then it doesn’t matter if you find out know or later you’ll only have six months to a year to live! Just go do radiation.  He was top of his field so I blindly believed him. It sounded good to me, I didn’t want it to be cancer in the lung.

My Grandfather had just four years earlier passed from lung cancer. I wasn’t wanting the same ending, so off I went. I did eight weeks of hardcore radiation, including in that three weeks of internal brachy radiation, which has just horrible permanent side effects: like it scars you vagina to the point where sex is impossible. I was miserable. I was sick. I was weak and now I felt very broken. It would all be worth it to get that clean bill of health though!

Three months later my next CT scan. I get the call, way too long of a wait, but finally.  It was my Doctor. He said that it grew in the lung. “We’re pretty sure it is cancer and spread to the lung. There is no cure for this. you will want to do chemo.”

I asked is there anything else it could be? It would be unlikely but we’ll do some tests to rule out anything else. They did another unsuccessful broncoscopy and then I had to go back to see the thoroscopic surgeon. I didn’t want to. I felt as though he had poo-poo’d me off the first time. He was the only one. I had the surgery. It was cancer. My life was over.

Not so fast… I did feel that way for a while though. I went thru the whys, depression, especially when I’d see my kids. The thought of not being here for them killed me, poor choice of words.

I, then, finally started doing my own research. I changed my diet to an alkaline formula, started regularly taking vitamins, getting acupuncture taking time for myself.  Praying!  I hadn’t decided yet if I would do chemo. The deal breaker was when my then Doctor, who is now fired, told me that it didn’t matter what I did that I would die. The best case scenario with chemo would be two years if I was lucky.

I watched my Grandpa become a shell of the person that he was and die almost to the exact time that of which the Doctors told him and what that did to my grandma and my mom and her siblings.  I wanted something different if this was it. I wanted to be able to play with my kids and have strength to run after two kids under four.

After much council with my pastor, friends, my family whom all had mixed feelings about my decision, I decided to go the natural route till I had to do chemo. I wasn’t showing any signs of advanced cancer.. So I decided to live.

I want to make this very clear that I’m not against Chemo, I think for the right person and diagnosis it is great way to fight, for me they said it didn’t matter what I did I would surely die.  So this is what I did.

I have since lost almost 100 pounds by eating healthy, exercising, using stress techniques, utilizing support groups for young adult cancer such as Stupid Cancer and metastasized cancer groups. I feel that you can’t go at this alone. It is a huge undertaking and your family is dealing with this also. My kids, being so little, don’t now exactly what’s going on. but they know something. I try to do as much with them, as much personal one-on-one time, playing games, going to the zoo, the park, story time and tickle torture. I want their memories of me to be that of a happy mom, one who fought to be here with them.

About nine months into my diagnosis, my husband and I split up. We had been together for almost ten years.  There were issues before cancer, and cancer didn’t make it any easier.  I didn’t care about myself the way I do now. Now I know that I have to be kind to myself and to love others. It just wasn’t working out for us. He sees the kids and he has moments of kindness, but I don’t let him decide my mood any longer.

Don’t get me wrong being a single mother with “incurable” cancer is hard: the loss of income, the support of having another person there to “help” with the kids‘. Its hard. Sometimes, I’m extremely sad and over emotional. Then,there’s the part of me who thinks how will I ever date again?  “Hi. I’m Alissa I have two kids and oh yeah did I mention I have terminal cancer and cant have sex.. Wanna go out?”  Yeah, my life isn’t easy, but one thing that I’ve learned is that I wouldn’t trade it. I have beautiful kids, I have a great family that have come through on so many aspects. Best of all, it’s been a year and a half I’m going strong. The cancer has been stable for a year now. I’m enjoying everyday and I see things differently. I’m the first to tell others and create awareness. I will tell anyone to help this unnecessary thing not happen to someone else.

Just breath!

Thank you for listening,
Alissa Gores
Cancer survivor!!!

Alissa Gores Flying High!