Catherin's Story - Cancer is not the end.

20 Aug 2021
My name is Catherin Chaparro and I was born in a beautiful and traditional Colombian family 36 years ago. I didn’t come to this world alone, I was blessed with an identical twin sister that I call my best friend and a lovely little brother as well. My mum who is my idol and inspiration has taught me many valuable things in life, as she is a cancer survivor herself (breast and bowel cancer). In 2016, I decided to start a new adventure and migrate to Sydney as an international student. A few days after my arrival, I met my fantastic Aussie boyfriend with whom we have spent four beautiful years together.

I’ve been passionate about people all my life. I guess that’s one of the reasons I decided to study psychology. For almost nine years, I was fortunate to work in Human Resources, where I was able to contribute and impact the lives of many employees and at the same time learn and develop many skills.

During one of the routine visits to the GP in August 2019, I mentioned that I had a small distention in the lower part of my abdomen; painless but unusual. In order to identify what was the cause of the symptoms, the GP decided to send for an ultrasound and CT scan.

When the results came back, they showed a medium-size cyst located at the left ovary. ”99% likely benign” is what the Gynaecologist said however, he recommended getting it removed by laparoscopy. Once the procedure was completed and pathology performed, the results showed Clear Cell Carcinoma, a rare ovarian cancer.

I remember how overwhelmed I felt. I was 35 years old, and at that time, felt uncertain of becoming a mother. That was something neither my partner nor I had decided yet.

I had a second procedure on the 26 of February with the left ovary, fallopian tube, and 2nd cyst removed. The surgery was a success and the cancer hadn’t spread! Everything seemed ok, I recovered really well and was able to go back to work.

In May we decided to start the fertility preservation process and we froze seven eggs. I then went for genetic testing and we were relieved to discover my sister and I did not have any genetic mutations.

Although, in November 2020 things started to look a bit rocky. I started feeling bloated again, my first thought was food-related and as I was eating late at night, I considered it to be the cause. I have also developed another symptom. A sharp pain underneath my left breast. The first time it didn’t last very long, but a few days later it came back and at that time it was deep and persistent.
Another CT scan was performed. I remember the specialist’s face full of worry; something was wrong with my results! The cancer was back and it showed a large tumor located in my abdomen. I was in shock. I felt completely lost and worried for my family who lived so far away.

They had to drain fluid that the cancer was releasing causing my bloating and I am currently undergoing four cycles of chemotherapy. I am still going to work as I wanted to maintain as much “normality” as I can.

There are no words to tell you how much I miss my family. They are incredibly supportive and we communicate on a regular basis. I can tell they do their best to send all their love and encouragement during these difficult times. I’ve also been blessed with great friends and of course, my fabulous partner and mother-in-law. They are like angels. They give me the strength to keep going and continue positively even during the darkest, scariest and uncertain moments.

I am a dreamer! I am certain dreams come true! I want you to know that I am determined to fight, and I will grasp every chance to continue enjoying this wonderful world ... for many, many years more!

To those about to begin their journey;

People will ask you unnecessary and often stupid questions and make uncomfortable comments. Just be patient. This is just the result of their lack of understanding with regards to your sickness. Be mindful it is not your duty to educate in this matter. Just stay focused on your own process.

Chemotherapy is your path to healing. Sounds scary, but trust me, no need to be afraid! The side effects can be quite uncomfortable, and you feel hopeless sometimes, but this is only temporary... it is worth it, and beautiful moments will come, I can assure you!

Angels are with you. Angels in human form – partner, family, doctors, nurses, friends, pets, even some strangers will come into your life. They will show their love and kindness to you in different ways. You won’t feel alone.

Avoid overloading yourself with information. Yes, I know that’s the first reaction! But stop. Restrain yourself! Don’t go there. Don’t google information about the disease. Trust me! You will end up feeling overwhelmed and full of unnecessary worries. Remember, your body is unique and your process of overcoming cancer is unique as well.
Difficult times will come. You will encounter moments of darkness and fear. Hopeless thoughts towards the uncertainty of the future. But, as you probably know, no one is certain about the future. So try to stick to your present moment. Focus on the “here and now” and if you feel lost and sadness is knocking on your door, give yourself a little push and find things or activities to distract you and restore your peace of mind.

You are full of light. This won’t be an easy path. But there’s not going to be enough dark to overshadow your shine.

Cancer is not the end.