Cervical Cancer Survivor | Complications During Treatment

Nanette

Location: Texas

Age at diagnosis: 43

Diagnosis: Cervical cancer (unspecified)

Stage of cancer: II

My life when I was diagnosed: I was a divorced mother of three daughters – ages 8, 14, and 20. I worked full-time as an Emergency Room nurse, which meant long hours. I loved my job.

When I got ‘the call’: My sister and I were on our way to my daughter’s soccer game when I received the call. Thank GOD my sister was driving because it felt like time just stopped when I heard the words, “You have cancer.” My eyes welled up but I had to keep my composure…we had a car full of kids. I had a soccer game to cheer at and I remember thinking, “What if it’s my last?” I’ve had the same gynecologist for more than 20 years. So when I heard his voice crack, I knew it was serious.

Next steps: I could not see the Gyn Oncologist for two weeks because he was on vacation! I can’t describe the feeling of not knowing and thinking this cancer is growing inside me minute by minute. When I finally got to see him, I could not focus. It was hard for me to not be the nurse and to be the patient! Thankfully, my boyfriend (who happens to be an MD) went with me and was able to absorb all the information for me. I was a mess! On the drive home, I told my boyfriend, “I don’t like him!” I don’t think anyone likes the person who tells you about your cancer. My boyfriend was so patient with me and told me, “We can look for another doctor, but this one is going to save your life.” He was so right!

My treatment: Three days after my doctor’s visit, I had surgery to remove my cancerous lymph nodes. Two weeks later, I started chemo and external radiation. I felt great on my first day. I even planned my daughter’s 9th birthday party! No one told me that three days later I would feel sick. The day of the party, I entertained guests but spent all of my time hugging the toilet. The nausea and vomiting were intense. At the end of my treatment, I also had to have two treatments of brachytherapy, which is where you have radiation seeds placed in or near the tumor.

Complications during treatment: One month into treatment, I was rushed to the emergency room with horrible abdominal pain and I could not urinate. I had blockage due to cystitis. I went home with a foley catheter. It was humiliating and I felt so helpless. The caregiver became the caretaker. To make matters worse, my abdominal surgical site split open. I had an open, draining wound that required daily dressing changes. It took 5 months for it to heal.

My life today: Today, I live with multiple diagnoses. I live with radiation colitis, radiation cystitis, diabetes, lymphedema, and severe abdominal and pelvic pain. I take 17 medications on a daily basis. When I have a stress related flare-up of my colitis, I have to self-administer Mesalamine enemas. The threat at this time is removal of my bladder. I don’t want that! So we’re going with pain management and hyperbaric treatments.

I can’t go back to the old me…there is no old me. I’m different. Cancer changed me. Today, I am a Livestrong Leader and Cancer Advocate. I tell my story. Why am I speaking out? Because I have 3 daughters and 2 sisters and I do not want another young person to go through this. I hope by educating others, I can save lives.

 

Courtesy: UTHSCSA and the South Texas Cervical Cancer Initiative