She will tell you about her ‘buns and guns’ class at the gym, how you can best support friends and loved ones facing ovarian cancer, and what it’s like being a 28-year-old in menopause.
Jamie lives in Trumbull County, Ohio and was 26 years old when she was diagnosed. She remembers first the shock and then becoming completely emotional, thinking of the worst-case scenario. But now, she reflects on what the experience has taught her and the physical and emotional strength she has discovered within herself.
After two surgeries in one year, Jamie was constantly feeling weak and always working to regain her strength. She decided to join a gym in order to feel strong again. It’s working.
“I have a friend who joined the gym with me. He calls me an inspiration and he’s trying to be as strong as he thinks I am,” Jamie said.
He’s not the only friend that calls Jamie an inspiration, but she doesn’t think of herself that way. Regarding her ability to keep on going during treatment, no matter what, she said, “This was something I had to do. I couldn’t see myself not putting up a fight.”
Now, Jamie wants to find a way to help others, in whatever capacity. “I felt so alone when it came to finding someone who actually got it,” she said. “I have friends my age, but they weren’t going through what I was going through.”
Through a random Google search, Jamie found the OCRA website, and specifically, the Woman to Woman mentoring program. When she saw that they were taking applications, she immediately filled it out and thought, “I need this to work!”
She went through the training in January of 2020 and was fascinated by the different ways she learned how to listen. She was drawn to the exercise on active listening, where you check for comprehension, or ask questions such as “how does that make you feel?” or “why do you think this is the case?” to show that you’re really hearing the other person, and not just waiting to speak. To not give advice if someone doesn’t ask for it.
“I hate when people give me advice when I just want to vent,” Jamie said. “I’m like ‘this is not why I’m talking to you!’”
Jamie wants to help other young women who are battling ovarian cancer, because she wants others to know that there’s someone else out there who understands, specifically, someone who is trying to navigate what it’s like to date when you’re a young woman in menopause.
“It’s fraught. Just dating in general. But adding the cancer and the ability to have children adds an extra level of difficulty,” she said. “Never knowing when to tell them, or should you tell them?”
At the age of 26, Jamie wasn’t even sure if she ever wanted to have kids but was forced to make a decision about retrieving and storing her eggs. The whole process of contemplating the future at a time when she had to stay in the present was a mind-bender. “I was putting shots in my belly and getting ultrasounds a couple of times a week and watching the follicles grow,” Jamie said. “I felt like a frog.”
She said it’s nerve-wracking thinking about the fact that her genetic material is sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Early on, she hadn’t gotten the storage bill and called the facility and asked, “Are my eggs still there?”
“It’s hard trusting people as it is, but trusting that? It’s a part of you but you can’t control it,” she said. She also thinks it’s bizarre knowing that she’s now older than her eggs are.
“I joke all the time that I’m old and wise,” Jamie said.
While she’s not old, even if she thinks her body is, Jamie does possess the wisdom of a woman decades older than herself.
“I had all that time before cancer, but I felt like I wasn’t living,” Jamie said. “I had to go through this experience to really start to feel alive.” She doesn’t wish this wisdom on others.
“I don’t want to straight up say YOLO, but you only live once. I wish my perspective was as easily changed before cancer as it was after.”