How my story begins: I always had Kaiser insurance, so switching to United Healthcare was scary and beyond confusing. After I finally researched a new OBGYN, I made an appointment. We went over my history and she took some samples. I received a call soon after to return for biopsies, not unusual for me, so I wasn't worried. During the biopsy, she asked the nurse for more trays and by the end I was just about in tears and cramping due to how many samples she took. Before I left, she warned me to be prepared for bad news.
I got the call at work. I don't know what I was expecting, but it still wasn't cancer. I listened as much as I could, hung up, called my husband and fell apart. My poor co-workers didn't know what to do. They helped me out the door and I went home. On my way home, I called my Mom and fell apart again.
Life before my diagnosis: I was no stranger to abnormal paps or abnormal bleeding. For never giving birth (I have 2 beautiful step-daughters), I saw my OBGYN too often! Every six months to a year (and sometimes every six weeks when I had a bad pap) for about ten years. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in my mid 20's. From there, I occasionally had low grade dysplasia and was told I was "pre-cancerous". As scary as that sounded, I figured as long as I did everything my doctor said, I would be fine. I had LEEP twice (with an additional follow up in there, apparently doesn't count as a separate LEEP) and too many biopsies to count. I was always surprised I still had a cervix to poke and prod!
My husband and I even paid out of pocket for our insurance so I didn't have to switch my OBGYN when I started a new job. It wasn't until my doctor retired, that I finally switched to my work medical insurance. I was finally back to annual visits, but due to the insurance change and a new found freedom, I ended up being a little over six months past due for my screening.
How I felt after diagnosis: Not only did I get bad news but I was still learning my way around my new insurance. Kaiser was a one stop shop basically so I was well out of my depth in everything.
I was beyond frazzled, scared and pissed! I couldn't believe after all the procedures and biopsies and tests, that I still got cancer! It wasn't supposed to happen, I saw my OBGYN constantly, got screenings on the regular, did the procedures as needed. I wasn't supposed to get cancer after all that!
But since life didn't get that memo, I had to figure things out fast. I read all the reviews on the GYN Oncologists in my area, and chose, to the best of my ability, one that I am quite happy with. My doctor made me feel comfortable, but most importantly gave me facts. I received a super helpful oncology nurse that took care of all my paperwork and work stuff. And step by step, we had a plan... of sorts. I'm learning cancer is kind of 'let's do this' and we'll check in later to see if it worked.
Telling my family and friends: Two of my co-workers were present for my breakdown at work when I initially found out, lol. I sort of blurted out "I have cancer", cried and was ushered out.
I told my husband and mom myself, and they told everyone else. I didn't want to tell my girls or siblings or my dad. Didn't want them to worry and I was still too much of a mess to hold myself together for them. I got better with time, spoke to them each in turn to answer any questions. I just didn't want to be present for the initial shock I guess.
My treatment: First step was a cone biopsy. I hoped that would remove what little surface cancer they saw. From there, we found the cancer went beyond the surface so a radical hysterectomy it was. After the hysterectomy, I have 10 - 15% residual cancer. My doctor said I was on the cusp of radiation, but that they'd hold off for now. I took that information and got out of there before he changed his mind! lol
How I felt after treatment: I originally felt... less than. If you asked me before what the difference between a man and a woman is, I would say "the woman's ability to give birth". Even though giving birth was nowhere in our plans (my step-daughters are both in college), I still felt less for no longer having that ability. It was removed.
I got to keep my ovaries, so good news there. No hormonal therapy for me. Surgery sucked, as I imagine all surgeries do. But at least I didn't have to stay overnight. My recovery was relatively easy. I had medical leave for six weeks to recover and cope.
I had my hysterectomy April 2022, and just had my first six month follow up. The biopsy turned up good and I am clear for another six months!!! Fingers crossed all checkups turn out like this one :)
What was most difficult for me: The initial shock was that I was angry and confused. Also, the uncertainty. I like to have a plan and structure.
What I did to help myself: Found Cervivor! Reading other stories helped me to cope and understand that my feelings are normal. Knowing there were others going through the same thing and being able to read how they got through it gave me faith that I would too :)
Where I am today: I'm more health conscious, and I make sure to make more time for myself and my family. Hearing those words "you have cancer" really changes your perspective on life and your priorities. Yes, work is important, but enjoying life and your family is more important. I'm learning to balance things better and not let life's stress hold me back anymore.
What I want other women to know: It's not the end of the world. There are others out there, going through the same thing, willing to answer your questions and offer advice or an open ear. Cancer sucks and can be all encompassing, but life doesn't stop because you have cancer. So continue to live your life, but live it better.
How I will try to help others: Spread the word! So many of my friends and family avoid the GYN as much as possible. I make sure to tell them how important it is to get screened. I share a lot of Cervivor posts on my Facebook too and it helps to get the conversation going.