I am writing to you today concerning a very special person in my life who has just started her journey into womanhood. My beautiful 15 year old daughter Sarah Megan. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer March 7th of 2001. Needless to say Myself, my family and her doctors where shocked that a young girl could be diagnosed with this horrible disease! She had had blood in her urine a couple of times prior to her diagnosis, and her pediatrician did urine cultures and diagnosed her as having a bladder infection. This happened two consecutive times in a row! Never was any other testing done. I did notice, however, that Sarah had seemed to be gaining weight and that she seemed to complain about her closes fitting snugger lately! She had never had a period at this point either, so I was thinking as well as my mom and sister that all of these symptoms where leading up to that wonderful? moment that we all get to experience as young ladies. It was March 6th, and the school nurse called and said that Sarah was running a low-grade fever and was complaining of cramps... she too suggested that she was probably ready to start her first period. We picked her up from school and brought her home, I gave her some Tylenol® and a heating blanket for the cramps and made her some hot tea. She fell asleep and when she woke she was feeling somewhat better, but there were no signs of her period starting yet. We all went to bed that evening and around 3:00 a.m. I heard blood-curdling screams from Sarah whose room was downstairs. Needless to say, I do not even remember touching the steps as my husband and I ran to her side! She was writhing back and forth on her bed and her stomach looked extended to me, I looked at my husband and said to get the van started that this was no longer about her starting her period! Motherly intuition was telling me otherwise!
We got to the hospital and I don't recall talking to anyone at the sign-in desk I just remember the panic in the nurse's face when she saw the distress that my daughter was in! They rushed her to the sonogram room after giving her a whopping dose of morphine! I watched the woman reading the sonogram screen. She looked at my daughter and looked at the screen and repeated the process about 3 or four times...I finally said what is it? She would not say and said that the doctor would have to tell me the results, at this point I went over to the monitor where she was sitting and noticed that there were no visible organs just a black mass! I told myself that I did not know how to read this and that it was nothing, however, being that I have had four children and quite a few sonograms done I knew in my heart that this was not the case! Sarah's pediatrician came into the room and asked me to sit down. I began weeping. He said that there was a huge mass covering her ovaries and uterus and it had ruptured and was causing the pain. The nurses instructed me to go home and get anything she may need for a week stay at the hospital. I went home and just grabbed things and threw them hurriedly into a suitcase while weeping and screaming and begging to God not to take my oldest daughter and best friend away from me! It seemed that the trip to Pittsburgh was endless and I watched my daughter's face the entire time questioning how was this happening to her and not me! Never allowing the thought to settle in my mind that was this tumor or mass might be cancerous? No way, I would not allow such a thought to exist! They would remove this horrible ugly darkness from my daughter's body, and we would go home and everything would get back to normal!
We were greeted at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh by a world-renowned surgeon named Dr. Atkins. He told us that they were going to attempt to go in laparoscopically and remove the mass. I watched as they wheeled her into surgery feeling as if I would not last one more minute through this nightmare, but knowing that I had to remain strong for my daughter. Ten or fifteen minutes after they had taken her in, the Dr. came out with the most bewildered face and said "Please come with me". He took me and Sarah's father to an x-ray screen where he held up an x-ray of Sarah's abdomen, again I saw nothing but a black mass. He said that this mass spanned from one pelvic bone to the other and from what he could see laparoscopically was growing from an ovary possibly both. They would not be able to remove it laparoscopically or be able to make a small horizontal incision below the belly button because of the size and the fact that it had ruptured and was falling apart inside of her! They had to make a vertical incision Finally, they called us to the recovery room. Dr Atkins said that they were very confident that they had gotten all of the mass and flushed the area with approximately 2 1/2 gallons of some type of solution to make sure any and all debris from it was gone as well. He then told us that she had also lost her left ovary and fallopian tube because they were destroyed. I cried but, was thanking God for allowing her to still have an ovary and her uterus that the doctor said did not look affected in any way, as well as the rest of her organs that were in that area. He did say, however, that the mass was sent to the lab for immediate analysis and that he would get back to us in two or three days with the results.
Sarah was resting peacefully and I was just sitting there looking at her thinking how she looked like an angel! To my surprise, Dr. Atkins came through the door with that look of disbelief he had the day before in the X-ray room. He said that he would like to speak to me and my husband in the hall. He said that the reason he was there was because the lab knew immediately that the mass was malignant-cancerous! I felt as if I could not breathe! He went on to say that chemo-therapy had to be started immediately because they feared that when the tumor that he referred to as being larger than a cantaloupe, ruptured that they feared the cancerous cells got into her blood stream! We were going to be moved to the eighth floor, which I later learned was the dreaded floor for anyone to learn that they were going to! I was I to tell my daughter what was going to be? How was I to tell this angel of mine what chemo-therapy was going to do to her, how awful it would make her feel and that her beautiful platinum blonde hair would be no more because of this powerful cancer-fighting drug? I PRAYED FOR A VERY LONG TIME! I asked for the strength to be able to face her with this news and still make her feel that we would make it through this and try to bring as much positive into to it as I possibly could, no matter how, I was determined to bring positive into so much darkness with God's help!!! I told her and she was so confused and asked why and begged me not to make her go through this that she did not want to lose her hair...it was devastating to say the very least. We started the chemo...5 days in a row of this toxic deadly drug that I prayed would find the cancer cells in my daughter's blood and eliminate all of them!
Finally after being there for three weeks we were going home! Now, to deal with the traumatizing effects that this has had on my other three children Scott 13, Jessie 4, and Bowen 2. Why did mommy and Sarah fall off the face of the earth? Sarah was given a three-week break in between each treatment. To her and me it seemed more like three days and we were never excited about returning for more, but, we knew it had to be. We did this until the beginning of August! We were greeted by Sarah's main doctor, Dr. Orlando-The Chief Hematology Oncology Surgeon at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital who has dedicated over 50 years of his life to helping cure children with terminal illness.
It has been three months since Sarah was tested last. She is scheduled to go in on January 23rd, to have regular testing done as usual! I am nervous, but I do not let her see that I am...this long stretch of not being tested has been unnerving for me. I just feel the need to hear those test results often to make sure that no more darkness has entered my daughter's body again! I'm keeping my faith in God, though, to keep his arms wrapped tightly around her as he has throughout all of this life-altering experience! I felt the need to share with you my daughter's story, I read and hear of so many woman who go through this, but, never have I read about a young girl like my daughter. I am very proud of Sarah, she is such a beautiful person inside and out! She always has a smile for everyone, and is famous for that smile and helpful giving attitude in her school and community as well!
This past year has been the hardest in our lives, as well as our nations and I pray that 2002 will bring much healing and unity! We have also been faced with another hardship on top of Sarah's cancer. During all of her treatments and trips to the hospital, my husband's employer said to him on September 11th (of all days) that his absence from work for my daughter's trips no longer fit into their business plan, and he was fired. He has been without employment since and we are getting fearful of what is to become of our financial situation next. Please pray for us, for God to give us yet another miracle so that we don't lose everything that we have worked so very hard for! Thank-You for allowing me to share this with you and I will pray for ovarian research to be blessed continuously with people who are willing to help research this horrible disease that afflicts so very many women, even young women as well!
God Bless you and Best wishes,
Sincerely Sarah's Mom and best friend, Kimberly A. Rager