My name is Renee. I am a manufacturing engineer, mother of three, bluegrass musician, race car driver, competitive ballroom dancer, and cancer survivor.
I had been complaining of increasing girth and incontinence to my OBGYN for several years with a decrease in hemoglobin, but I did have a large fibroid tumor. At age 51, I started experiencing pain in the right side which made getting out of bed more and more difficult. It got worse rather than better, and I knew I was in trouble. I immediately made an appointment with my OBGYN as the pain was becoming breathtaking.
I went through all the symptoms with my doctor including pain on the right side, which was sensitive to palpitation and unusual spotting. With the symptoms, the doctor recommended an ultrasound and did an endometrial biopsy. There were no obvious changes in the fibroid or ovaries from a previous ultrasound.
I got the phone call that changed everything. “You have cancer.” The initial cancer diagnosis was endometrial adenocarcinoma. It was explained that it is a good cancer to have if you have cancer because it is curable. There were no risk factors, no cancer in the family so the diagnosis caught my OB/GYN off-guard. My OB/GYN refused to do the surgery and sent me to a GYN oncologist.
I had an appointment within a few days, pre-op, EKG, CT scan, and a decision to take both fallopian tubes and ovaries. Because of the large fibroid, the surgery would be a long vertical incision rather than robotic or laparoscopic surgery. I spent a total of 3 days in the hospital, followed my instructions, and lived within my post-op restrictions.
I got the pathology report over the phone from a nurse. There were synchronous primary tumors. The diagnosed cancer in the uterus was stage 2, grade 1, and had spread to the cervix. The second tumor was in the right ovary, grade 2, stage 1. No lymph node involvement. The tumor in the ovary was 12 cm by 3 cm.
I met with a GYN oncologist to discuss any additional treatment post-surgery. Because of the synchronous primaries, the recommended treatment was the “sandwich,” which is chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemotherapy.
I experienced some difficulty in movement, post-surgery. It was discovered I had femoral neuropathy from the surgery which required some attention and physical therapy, as the chemotherapy could make the nerve damage worse.
The first round of chemotherapy was the worst. I didn’t experience nausea, but the pain I liken to the body aches and pains of the flu with growing pains. My very bones hurt. It lasted a day at its worst and dissipated. The steroids left me flushed and sleepless. I was also told that one of the early indications that your hair would start falling out is that your hair would hurt. My hair hurt to the touch before it started falling out, and it came out by the handfuls.
By the time I was getting ready to finish my last rounds of chemotherapy, I made a list of what I wanted out of the experience and what I needed to happen and advocated for myself with the clinic.
I received genetic counseling and screening for Lynch syndrome because of the synchronous primary tumors. All genetic screening and testing came back negative.
None of us expects a cancer diagnosis, so as a patient it is hard to process and understand what we are experiencing. I viewed the treatment as a new experience–an experience I haven’t done before and not pleasant, but new. I face my life not defined by cancer.
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