September is GYN cancer awareness month. It is an entire month dedicated to bringing awareness of GYN cancers to every woman. In an effort to do my part I am sharing my story. It is my hope that maybe some woman somewhere will read it, thinks it sounds familiar and sees her OB.
It is estimated that in 2015 there were 98,000 GYN cancers in the US. 30,000 women died from these cancers. I was diagnosed in 2015 with two GYN cancers. I had endometrial and ovarian cancer and I was 43 years old.
2015 was an incredibly busy time in my life. I was commuting almost four hours a day for work. I was launching new contact centers overseas along with being a mother, sister and friend. Life was crazy busy. I was eating horribly, drinking my share of wine, barely sleeping and my stress level was through the roof. I had finally reached my biggest career goal and I was determined to not slow down. I paid very little attention to what my body was telling me. For over a year and a half I was experiencing intermittent bleeding. It was between my periods and never heavy. More annoying than anything. At first I thought I miscalculated my period but the times were off. I then began to coorelate my few glasses of wine at night to the bleeding. I told myslef that maybe I had too much and this was maybe a stomach ulcer. After a few more months I told myself that it was the start of the “change.” After all I was in my 40’s and I knew my family had early onset menopause. So I blew off the bleeding and kept blowing it off. I also blew off the fact that I would sit down to eat and be so hungry but a few bites into my food I was full. No longer interested in the food in front of me. This was an easy blow off because this felt very anxiety releated to me. I had experienced this issue earlier in my life when my sister, Michelle passed away. My anxiety was so high then that I physically could not eat. All anxiety related and I eventually worked through it. So in my mind I was again stressed and this was just anxiety. I had no idea that these two things were neon signs against a dark night sky telling me something was very wrong.
In March of 2015 I went for my annual exam at my new OB’s office. All was fine. At the end of the visit she asked me if I had any questions or concerns. I told her I was struggling to lose weight and that I had some abnormal bleeding. My OB, without pausing, told me that I needed a uterine biopsy. She was very blunt and said that abnormal bleeding is a cause for concern and can be endometrial cancer. I remember scheduling the appointment and going to my car. I maybe, stopped for a minute to let the thought of cancer run through my mind. One minute and then I drove away.
My phone rang a few weeks after my biopsy as I drove to work. I had a two hour commute and I talked to everyone during those rides. I answered the phone almost automatically without realizing it was my doctors office. Plus it was seven in the morning and I knew the office was not open. When I answered, the girl on the phone told me she was my doctors assitant and could I come to the office today. I laughed and told her I was almost in CT but I would schedule a follow up. I told her I was heading to El Salvador and I would come in after I got back. She was very nice but her answer shocked me. She told me no. She went on to tell me I had to go to the office the next day. Gave me a time to be there and directions to a different office where my doctor would be. I asked if I could go in when she was in the office I knew and again she said no. I hung up and called my sister. We both agreed this would not be good news.
My sister came with me and we walked into the office. My young doctor walked in and did not breath or pause. She thanked me for coming in and told me I had cancer.Whatever she said next I dont remember. I walked out to the car, my sister stopped to have a cigarette and I swore. I climbed into her car and as we drove to tell my parents I told her that I did not have time for this. She lauged and said I would have to find it.
Post a quick hysteroctomy I hopped online to read the surgical notes. I cried when I read that not only did I have endometrial cancer but I also had ovarian cancer. I knew from what I read that I would need chemo. I also knew that ovarian cancer kills and even if it does not kill, recurs in other parts of the body. 6 rounds of chemo, lots of surgeries and procedures later I am NED (no evidence of disease). I will have to have tests every three months for the next five years. All of that is fine because I am alive.
I am one of the lucky ones. I am one in 700 women who have ovarian cancer but I am living. My only regret is not paying attention to the warning signs my body was showing me. Irregular bleeding, bloating, feeling full after starting to eat and weight changes. If you are reading this and it sounds like you, please schedule an appointment with your OB and get a biopsy.
Heres to the next five years!