It’s Women’s Cancer Awareness Month. We are more familiar with wearing Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, but we also wear Teal in support of Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Peach in support of Uterine Cancer Awareness. Cancer has not been kind to my family, two Aunts and a cousin with Breast Cancer, my mother with Ovarian Cancer, and then I thought I would write today about my own brush with Uterine Cancer.
I actually should go even further back to my very first Cancer scare. And while it didn’t amount to much of anything, it was a scare none-the-less. When I was 21 years old I met my first husband. We fell in love, were engaged, married, and just after my 22nd birthday had a bouncing baby boy. By the age of 24 I was experiencing some woman’s issues and had gone to the doctor who discovered I had a rather large ovarian cyst. They attempted to drain the cyst via a laproscopic surgery, but 6 months later I was back at the doctor and the cyst had grown to 13cm .. or the size of a Grapefruit. That’s when the C word first came up. And it was at this time I was going through a separation with my husband, who wanted nothing to do with Cancer or surgery or watching his toddler son while I went through the mess. Bless my parents for coming to my rescue and watching my son so that I could have a 2nd surgery.
The soon-to-be ex-husband dropped me off at the front door of the hospital without even a wish of luck. Being a Navy wife, the procedure was being done at the Naval Hospital, whose doctors and nurses didn’t take too kindly to seeing me walk in to the hospital alone. They sent the Navy Chaplain over to try and find out why I was there alone, I was thoroughly humiliated as I explained my impending divorce from my husband due to his infidelities. I’m not sure what happened when the Chaplain left … but I told the nurses there was no way in hell they were to tell the future-ex how my surgery went or what the results were. He didn’t want to be part of my life .. he wasn’t going to be part of this either.
Surgery time – they opened me up, belly button on down, and discovered a non-malignant dermoid cyst. Complete with hair and teeth … but no actual Cancer. Whew! I was left with a lovely 4″ scar as a reminder of the experience … some might call it a badge of honor. I’m not so sure I see it that way. I was just glad it wasn’t Cancer and I could move on with life.
Flash forward to 2011. My mother had just been through her battle with Ovarian Cancer and surgery, and my father was still battling stage 4 lung cancer. I started to once again experience severe women’s issues and after seeing my OB/GYN was referred to an GYN Oncologist. Endometrial Hyperplaysia can lead to Uterine Cancer, and if I didn’t have treatment, I was told it would most definitely develop. I took a rather high-dosage of progesterone for a year as a form of chemotherapy trying to post-pone the inevitable. It was just my son here to take care of me after an extensive surgery and I didn’t want to burden a 21 year old with that responsibility. But in the end the medication didn’t work, there was no way to put it off, and I went in for a radical hysterectomy via the Da Vinici method – meaning they took the uterus and ovaries as a preventative measure due to my mother’s history. Once again sitting in the hospital surgical wing alone and facing a diagnosis I didn’t want to hear. Thankfully we had caught it in time, while there was indications of pre-cancer, it had not fully developed and there would be no need for additional therapy. I was so relieved, and sent home the same day to heal up on my own.
When I look back at these two very critical times in my life I realize that most people don’t go through Cancer scares on their own. When I was going through it at the time I don’t think it ever once crossed my mind that something was out of the ordinary. I just wanted to get in, get it taken care of, and move forward. It’s only now when I tell people my story that words like “you are such a strong women to go through it alone” “you’re so brave” and “you poor thing, you had no one?” that I wonder how different the experience would have been. I don’t fault my family for not being able to assist me – please understand that my parents were both very sick themselves and lived on the other side of the country during my 2nd scare. They would have been there if they could. There was no other choice for me .. and when we face no other choice it’s amazing what we endure. I’m no stronger than any other person facing a Cancer diagnosis.
Early diagnosis and treatment is what saved me. Through Awareness efforts every October, women band together to raise funds for research to try and stop these types of horrible diseases. Through Awareness and Fund Raising for research we hope to find not just treatments for Cancer- but a cure. And perhaps even a prevention. If you have the means, please donate to a charity of your choosing in support of the women who face much more difficult battles than I have had to endure. Not everyone is as lucky as me.