I have had several people ask me how I found out I had cancer etc… I wrote this to all my coworkers at the beginning of the school year so those that talk to me regularly wouldn’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over. Lately there are those that haven’t heard the whole story so I am repeating it here. It is long, and somewhat graphic but it is important to show how vital your yearly checkups are.
To become a spokesperson by having cancer thrust upon you is a sobering thing. I guess no one that has ever experienced it got to do it gradually. It is the fact that I care for all of you that makes me take this new role so seriously. The fact is that this could be you. I know that is a scary thought and you probably don’t want to look at it directly, but it is the truth. And life is too short to avoid the truth. I will be the inner voice that reminds you to schedule check ups and not to ignore those differences in your body as you grow older, so get used to it! I have had numerous people ask me how we found this cancer, so here is the story…
As many of you know, last February I went to the emergency room one night with abdominal pain. They did blood work and x-rays looking for some source, gall bladder, or appendix but found nothing. For a couple of months they did follow up tests trying to determine what the problem was. I had a CT scan with contrast, I had a decidascan, and tons of blood work, to no avail. The final conclusion was that I must have had a cyst burst on my ovary.
While they did every test imaginable on my abdomen they didn’t do much in the pelvic area so I decided to schedule an appointment with Doctor Simone to establish myself as her patient. I had used my family doctor for my yearly check-ups since my children were born. I knew I would need a gyno as I got older and started through menopause so my appointment was set for June.
While I was waiting to get in to see her I had a few periods that were a little different. (Pardon me boys…please read for your wives sake) I was clotting some but the clots began getting bigger. On months that I had clotting my cramps were harder but it wasn’t every month .They ask you how big, dime size or quarter size…I jokingly said mine were grapefruit size…that was an exaggeration but I knew they were bigger than a quarter! That was the first red flag…but I had an appointment so I waited until June. Besides I know a lot of women that have clotting that are close to my age. I thought that was a normal part of peri-mentapause…wrong.
I also had heavier bleeding. My periods were getting longer. Some months were 5 days but some were much longer, more like 8 to 10. I would have a few light days then a flood where I would bleed hard then taper off. It was different but not every month.
Then something that was very unusual happened to me while I was in
England. I started to bleed between periods. I would just wake up and bleed for the day. No cramps or other signs of a period just bleeding. I thought I started my period 3 different times in England because I would bleed for a day, then stop for a few, then bleed again. That was the first thing I considered “weird” because the other things were things that happened on and off. When I got home from England we went to the beach for a week before my appointment.
When I went for my Tuesday appointment, it was a new patient work up. I had to fill out all kinds of paperwork describing my “problems”…only I didn’t think I had any…until I answered the questions. As I answered it became more obvious to me that some of the things I had been experiencing weren’t exactly normal even though it hadn’t even been a year since my last pap smear. I talked over the answers with Dr. Simone and she decided to do an ultrasound along with the regular new patient stuff. She found three polyps and a cyst on one of my ovaries. My other ovary was in a weird position but other than that looked normal. These are not signs of cancer but they are signs to pay attention. She said she could take out the polyps and ablate my uterus (burn it to help lighten bleeding) the next day! That was too fast for me but we set it up for the next week. The speed was due to her vacation time…being a teacher I didn’t want to wait until she got back in August so I took the earlier appointment. Thank God! In the meantime she wanted to do a Glucose tolerance test, which we did. The following Wednesday the 5th she went in to get the polyps…only instead of the three she expected she found tons. Big red flag! She told us but didn’t say her suspicions because she wanted to see the pathology report. In the meantime, my pap smear came back bad and she chased down the pathology knowing it probably wasn’t good either. On Friday morning she called and asked me how soon I could be at her office. Not a good sign. Bill and I went and she gave us the results on all of the new patient blood work and tests as well as the pathology. Diabetes and cancer in one day…that was a bad one. She referred me to a gyno-oncologist at Northside the next week. We saw this lady on Tuesday and I had pre-op on Thursday. The intent was to do a hysterectomy and hope that was all that was needed. The following Tuesday I had surgery and she found cancer, not only in my uterus but also in both ovaries. That was an unexpected blow. The pathology report showed two different cancers…a good thing believe it or not. Both are low grade and newly developed. There was some leakage from my ovaries into my abdomen which is why I will be having chemo to make sure to kill all cancer cells that may have been missed during the surgery. The lymph nodes were all clear.
This is a lesson to us all. They caught mine very early. That is a blessing. There are not words to tell you how scary this has been. I will survive because they caught it all early. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t have what I would consider warning signs. I had scans and tests on my abdomen that didn’t show anything! I had a good pap last August…it hasn’t even been a year! Listen to my voice…Please, please get your yearly check ups. Pay attention to your body. Don’t downplay stuff that is happening! It could be serious. It has been a whirlwind and my life is forever changed. Those of you that are survivors know what I am talking about. You are my inspiration; one step at a time; one foot in front of the other.
God is holding me close. He is right with me. He gave me the push I needed to get to the doctor. He is the master physician. I believe that. But I also believe he uses doctors that he has gifted to walk us through. He did not promise me I wouldn’t have troubles in life, only that he would be there in the midst. He will not fail me even in my darkest hour. He will use even cancer to draw us closer to him. He is an awesome God.