How my story begins: I started having lots of clear, odorless discharge from my vagina. I was having some bleeding and figured it was my period. I had an IUD only to stop my periods because my husband had a vasectomy. I had never really had periods most of my life because I guess I was thin and exercised lots.
I made an appointment with an OBGYN doctor. I kept my IUD for longer than five years because it was only to stop my cycles vs birth control. My doctor thought the bleeding was from the IUD being in and decided to change it out. Bleeding and the clear drainage continued. I started to realize that the bleeding would happen after having sex, pooping, and having a vaginal exam. My doctor and his nurse were kinda annoyed because I kept calling and going back for more visits.
The doctor ran a few tests and all were negative. Since my pap was negative a year or so ago he didn’t think it needed repeating. I asked to have STD tests even though I didn’t think that is what it was because it was odorless but knew something wasn’t right. I was wearing tampons and pads cuz there was so much clear drainage. Finally, my doctor had a light bulb moment and repeated my pap and it came back abnormal.
A colposcopy confirmed it was adenocarcinoma. I found out I had cancer the same week I finished with a post-masters degree as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. I was in Boston with my husband for a two-day review course for my certification to be a mental health nurse practitioner when my doctor called to tell me. Needless to say, the next two days were challenging as I tried to take it all in. All I could think was I have cancer but I need to study and pass my board test.
Life before my diagnosis: I’m a mom of two girls: one a senior and the other a sophomore in high school. I own four businesses with my husband. I had worked as an ED RN case manager as I went to school. I didn't know much about cancer or anyone that had or was going through treatment.
How I felt after diagnosis: I found out on a Friday from the OBGYN doctor then had an appointment with a gynecology oncologist on a Tuesday. I remember her saying they were gonna treat to “cure”. Stage 3. Pet scan to confirm it had spread from my cervix to my vagina and to lymph node on one side of pelvis. I didn't really know what all this meant. Googling and thinking and processing. I was told I would need chemo and radiation and I still kept thinking I don’t have time for this because I need to pass my test.
Telling my family and friends: I remember the first time I said, “I have cancer” out loud to my husband it sounded so strange and foreign. Lots of crying and I felt damaged. The hardest part was telling my girls. Part of me thought no big deal, do the treatment and get on with life. May 2018 sucked.
My treatment: #1 TX: Chemo weekly for five weeks; internal x5 and external radiation daily for five weeks. I gained 25 lbs in five weeks. Those steroids make ya so hungry!
#2 TX: Three different kinds of chemo. Cisplatin in the hospital and the other two were outpatient.
#3 TX: Surgery to remove my lower omentum where the cancer returned followed by post-surgery chemo.
How I felt after treatment: Strong and ready to get back to living. My cancer returned twice after about a year to the date after treatment. Coming back once, okay, then after coming back twice, I felt the surgery will get it with the added chemo. Now it's just a waiting game. I feel confident one minute then fear can take over and I’m scared.
I had small spots in my lungs that my oncologist was still monitoring. The doctors changed from monitoring with CT scans to just a physical exam and watching for symptoms when I ended my first treatment. I was having some blood in my stool and it was radiation proctitis. Also, I had a little tenderness to my lower abdomen so my oncologist decided to do a CT chest to monitor the spots in my lungs and added abdomen and pelvis.
It was by luck she added the pelvis and found the reoccurrence free floating in my pelvis area. Of course it was unusual place to return twice. It was confirmed by CT guided biopsy the second time and in the lab the third time after removed in surgery.
What was most difficult for me: The reoccurrence and the unknown. The treatments taking me away from my family because I wasn’t the same physically or mentally and not working because working is my purpose to help others. So strange to have others help me because I have always been the helper.
What I did to help myself: Frequent massages; talking with lots of friends; staying positive. A friend taught me about gratitude and it really helped me thru and really focusing on one day at a time.
My life after cancer: I finished chemo July 2021 and had a negative scan August 2021. I'm working towards getting back to living and enjoying each day.
Where I am today: Back to working as a psychiatrist mental health nurse practitioner that gives me purpose and I love. I'm healing physically, mentally and emotionally.
What I want other women to know: IT WILL BE OKAY. A saying I have with one of my daughters. No matter what, everything will be ok. It will change you and you will be a different person and it is okay!
How I will try to help others: I think telling my story and staying positive will help others who are facing a cancer diagnosis.
Any additional information you'd like to share: There is power in connecting with others that have been thru what you have been thru. I have found that it is rather frustrating talking with others that really don’t know what it is like.