About Me

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2 time ovarian cancer Survivor, Advocate for ovarian cancer awareness & research, Teacher of Zen Method Tai Chi, Blogger, sharing the wonderment and power of essential oils, proud fan of Cathe Friedrich's workouts, Reiki practitoner, A Course in Miracles student, paper crafter

My First Cancer

My first cancer story began when I made the choice to move to southwest Florida in August of 2007. I wanted to live by the beach and work for a good company with good benefits. Happily, I was able to do both even though it was sad to leave my family. I waited the required 90 days to get health insurance and promptly made an appointment with a highly recommended gynecological nurse practitioner. It was one of my smarter choices to date. She was concerned that the lining of my uterus was too thick. We waited for my next cycle and checked again. Yep, still too thick. I was sent down the hall to have a vaginal ultrasound. Oh yeah, it’s as much fun as it sounds! A couple weeks later I had a cone biopsy (LEEP style). A week later the results came back- I didn’t have cancer, but I had endometrial hyperplasia and the lab found a teeny tiny atypical speck. My GYN wanted to be super cautious so we scheduled a D&C to make sure that teeny tiny atypical speck was ‘nothing’.

It was agonizing to wait for the results!! My GYN’s nurse called while I was at work and told me that the doctor wanted to see me right away- that day. I was totally freaked out! I left work early and drove the 45 long minutes to the office and waited another hour. I was a nervous wreck! Finally, my name gets called and I was brought to the doctor’s office, not an exam room. My GYN told me that I had Stage 1A endometrial cancer. I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but I did my best to listen and take notes while fighting back my tears. I can vividly remember sitting in that big leather chair next to the pretty aquarium and breaking down. I was beyond scared, and I was very far from home. I calmed myself down after a couple minutes and started really listening to what the doctor was telling me. He said that of all the cancers out there, if I were to going to get one then THIS is the kind I wanted. It was a ‘baby’ cancer. In fact one of the labs that got the tissue said it was PRE-cancerous, but my GYN went with the findings of the other lab. That felt reassuring enough. The ‘cure’ was simple- a partial hysterectomy leaving my ovary (I had one removed along with an 8 pound cyst when I was 10) behind so I wouldn’t go into menopause.

This so-called simple cure wasn’t quite so simple for a then 33 year old single and childless woman. My options were: have a child right away and plan on a hysterectomy as soon as possible OR have a hysterectomy as soon as possible. My GYN told me to think about it over the weekend (this was a Friday) and call him on Monday with my decision. I could have easily told him while I was sitting there, but he wouldn’t take my answer then.

I had wanted to be a mother someday. I’m good at mother-ing. I experienced the true joy and pleasure of being an Aunt when my oldest niece was born in June of 2006. My sister was going to college at the time so I had the privilege of caring for my newborn niece. Somehow that filled the hole in my soul that had always wanted to be a mother. That wonderful experience made it easy to choose to have the hysterectomy right away. Both of my fabulous sisters offered to be surrogates for me if I ever wanted to have children, and that made my choice even easier.

However, this whole experience was very tough on me. Here’s an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote on February 6, 2008:

“I spent the day crying off and on and have had some pretty morbid thoughts. They really intensified after the phone call I got from my gyn. He called to to set up a phone consultation between me and the other surgeon- a gyn oncologist. He was kind of vague about why exactly I needed to talk to this guy. He said he would be able to give me all the numbers and details and options. WTH? I don't want to talk to him. I don't want to have to hear numbers and make new decisions based on a bunch of "what if's". All of sudden I feel like I got a death sentence. My rational self is trying to understand that this guy needs to talk to me...needs to make sure I understand what this hysterectomy will mean for me. That's his job, right?
My raging hormones and denial side of me wants to throw my phone in the ocean. I keep wondering if Zoey will remember anything about me...if my mom will have to pay all the bills I'll leave behind...if the life insurance policy I have from work will be honored if I die of cancer...? And I keep thinking that I'll never know what my body looks like or feels like thin. I've wasted my time feeling sorry for myself and stuffing my face and now I'm out of time. I know it's crazy, it doesn't make any sense and these feelings have no true base. But that call from the doctor changed how I'm looking at this cancer now.
I'll forget for a few minutes...and then all of sudden remember, I have cancer. I say it in my head over and over and over and part of me believes it and part of me is wondering who the hell I'm talking to. I'm a mess.”

The surgery was scheduled for February 25th of 2008. The week before my surgery it just so happened that my mom was in Orlando for her company’s national sales meeting. So, I drove up and got to spend a couple days with her in Orlando. I got to go to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot, rode the ‘best’ rides and had some wonderful quality time with Mom. That was a fun bonus for Mom and I. Mom’s my best friend, truly. We drove back to my place together and I went back to work for a few days. Then I went through 2 days of surgery prep (the super fun spend all day in the bathroom kind). I got to the hospital at 6 a.m. and was told by the registration desk that my surgery had been cancelled for that day, but she didn't know why. I was beyond angry, confused and frustrated!! The reason for the cancellation was that the GYN oncologist that was doing the surgery with my GYN hurt his back the previous day and wasn’t able to perform the surgery. Someone should have called me, even if was a Sunday, but they didn’t and there was nothing I could do at that point.

I ended up having the surgery later that week on Friday. I hated having to do all that not-so-fun surgery prep stuff again! The surgery went well and the surgeons were able to do the surgery laparscopically as planned. However, they had to do 5 little incisions rather than the traditional three because of all the scar tissue I have from my two previous pelvic surgeries. Thankfully, none of the lymph nodes that were tested were cancerous. The surgery was deemed a big success, and after a night in the hospital I went home to recover. The recovery went well and I was back to work in a few weeks.

I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. When I went for the two week post-op exam my GYN told me that I had to get PAP smears every 3 months for the next 3 years. Also, I would have to have CT scans every 6 months to make sure there wasn’t cancer in any other part of my body. That's when I realized that cancer would be a part of the rest of my life.

I had my first CT scan in November of 2008. Again, the nurse called me at work with results and asked me to come into the office right away. Again, I was a nervous wreck! The CT scan showed activity/inflammation in my left inner and extreme upper thigh. I had been experiencing tenderness in this area since the hysterectomy, but my GYN kept telling me it was just a nerve ending issue and it would get better ‘soon’. I felt relieved that there was really something going on and I wasn’t just paranoid. My GYN order a PET scan to get a better idea of what was going on in my thigh. After the results came in, my GYN ordered a biopsy as the PET results weren’t clear. I was referred to a vascular surgeon and the biopsy was scheduled for December 30th. I had to wait until January 14th to get the results, but the results were very good! It turned out to be a benign small cyst that ruptured. I was very, very relieved to be able to close that cancer chapter. I continued with with PAP smears and CT scans and it was all good until September of 2009, but that’s cancer story number two and has it’s own page.