**The following post is a part of our blog series that we will do each month as a part of our cancer observance mission information. These courageous cancer survivors are sharing their story…..the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. But the great news, thanks to the work of the American Cancer Society, they are with us today and we hope these stories provide inspiration to all who read them. This month’s blog is by Conallee Moss.
Scared….so scared. That’s how I felt and no doubt how everyone feels when they’re presented a sort of diagnosis that they know little or nothing about and thrown into a world you’re totally unprepared for.
I had never been sick or in the hospital; I had been diagnosed with a large fibroid when I was about 39 years old but it never bothered me so my doctor had said we’d watch it because I didn’t want to do anything invasive to my body if it wasn’t necessary….so I went regularly to have it checked and got in great shape, working out and running five miles a day. Life was a little stressful with a full time job and looking after my mom who at the age of 95 was still living alone – but life is stressful for every one of us…So my husband and I took a short vacation to Washington state to hike a little and stay in tree house, (so much fun btw!) and two days into the vacation, I felt like I had a bladder infection so I went to the urgent care center there in Issaquah Washington and see if that’s what it was to see if I could cure it quickly. They said that’s what it was and gave me a little pill to clear it up….Well, later that day, August 21, 2012, I sat up after a massage and my life changed forever. I was violently ill and rushed back to the center that gave me the little pill, thinking I’d been poisoned. From there they transferred me to the emergency room of the Issaquah Hospital where my heart went into some crazy rhythm and they put me on a medicine for that and ran all sorts of test….they came back and said they thought it was diverticulitis, but I would need to see my doctor when I returned home. They kept me in the hospital for two days after getting my heart settled and then we had to fly home. The only doctor I had was my gynecologist who was out of town so I went to see a doctor recommended by a friend who sent me out for all sorts of tests….One doctor did an MRI and called me on the phone the Friday night before Labor Day 2012, to tell me I had cancer and that I should give him a call the following week….(there are some out there that do not have much understanding or good communication skills) – so I waited for my gynecologist to get back in town who sent me in for tests and sat down with me to tell me that it appeared I had ovarian cancer and that it didn’t look good. After sitting with her and one of my best friends for about an hour crying, she said “Conallee, I know how much you don’t like doctors or medicine but you don’t have a choice now and I want you to see Dr. Bristow, because if anyone can help you it will be him and you will like him”…..well, I did and within two weeks, on September 28 th , 2012 he had me in surgery and after about 4 hours, my dozen or so friends and family members waiting in the waiting room at Memorial Hospital in Long Beach, said Dr Bristow came out into the waiting room and got on a little table to tell them all that the surgery appeared successful and I was going into recovery.
Then the truly crazy times began ….. but some of the most wonderful, loving, caring times of my life began along with it. I was working full time when diagnosed, traveling extensively and loving my work, but after my 12 week leave for surgery, I went back to work part time, at least not travelling but working primarily from my house. I learned that my disease was actually endometrial or uterine cancer diagnosed as Stage 3 (which sounded scary in itself) and it had metastasized to my ovaries and colon and had taken over that part of my body so Dr Bristow had done what sounded like some amazing work – and then he met with us about 6 weeks later to explain the next phase of chemotherapy, six treatments, one every three weeks and that he felt that was our best defense…….That’s when I think my mind became……somewhat separated from reality (if it hadn’t already happened on the day I was told about having cancer)…..I’m sure everyone’s experience with cancer & chemotherapy is something so unique it’s hard to put into words, but for me “scared” is the feeling I remember the most….scared but wanting so much to be strong.
As I said, from that day, August 21 st , 2012 till now have been an incredible journey – so very frightening, so very sad, but also so filled with love and compassion and warmth, unlike any I’d experienced …..I completed chemo in April 2013, two weeks after my mom passed away and two weeks before my first Relay for Life, where my nephew started “Team Conallee” at Chapman University and he and the football team there and his family, helped me walk my lap when I was completely bald and totally exhausted but felt more loved than I can even begin to describe. From there, I went back to work full time and sadly, six months later my husband was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer (he went through surgery and 8 weeks of daily radiation and feels good now too!) and six months after that, my employer laid me off unexpectedly…..and then the almost scarier times of what to do now that I’m still alive, have house payments and no money to live. I have amazing friends & family and also, I have to say, dug deep to find incredible strength…..My life was made so much better because of Relay and the American Cancer Society through my nephew Brandon Moss and his family…..and that’s why I wanted to speak to others about my experience, about Relay, about strength, love and determination….and giving back to others, by mentoring, by speaking, by telling my story.