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My Story… It was time for my regular check-up and since I always make sure to do these on time I scheduled it and went in. Regular exam and I walked away feeling good and checked it off my to-do list. A few days later my doctor called and said he needed me to go see a gynecologist to get a biopsy. I was quite surprised and immediately made another appointment. How could this be? I wasn’t having any issues or symptoms?!
A short 3 days later Mark held my hand for the biopsy procedures (which ended up being 5 of them) as I tried to not scoot off the table in pain. Stressed and sore we headed home for what we thought would be a long wait….2 days later (Friday before Easter) my gynecologist called and said, “we have to take this to the next level” stunned I asked him to hold and got Mark in the room so we could both listen. I asked, “what does that mean?” and he clarified, “you have cervical cancer and I am pretty sure the oncologist will want to do a hysterectomy”. The room spun and although I know he kept talking I could barely understand what he said. Through my tears, I was able to choke out a few questions and he referred us to one of the top cervical cancer specialist in the nation, telling me, “this is where I would send my wife.” Mark and I hung up and just held each other and cried.
My mind raced with questions - Will I die? What will this mean for William? For Mark? What about having a second baby? Did I do anything to cause this? What stage is it in (I didn’t even ask)? I want my Mom; how will I face this without her? What is an invasive adenocarcinoma?
I began researching and soon felt overwhelmed. Even as educated as I am, this isn’t my field, and I felt at times like it was a foreign language. I soon reached the point where I had to stop researching as it was doing more harm than good!
1st Visit with the Oncologist… My doctor is Dan Veljovich and instantly we liked him. We sat down to discuss everything after my exam and I recorded the conversation on my phone to avoid the blur that happened before. Here is what he told us:
For this type of cancer and the cells it invades it doesn’t follow the normal staging and has its own scale. For what they can see now they believe that I am 1B2 which is still early but falls in the middle range (0,1A, 1A2,1B,1B2, 2A1, 2A2, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B). I am lucky that I went in for my preventative visit and that my doctors found this, especially since I didn't have any symptoms. 5-year survival rates for this stage is 85%-95%, which is excellent.
Since this is an invasive cancer they need to act quickly and aggressively since it spreads faster than other cancers. I am scheduled for what is called a “radical hysterectomy” which is just as it sounds (the most extensive) on May 15 at Swedish First Hill in Seattle.
On May 25th I will get back the results of my surgery as they will dissect and test everything they take out. This will show if it has spread into my ovaries, lymph nodes, kidneys, or beyond. At this point they will determine if I need radiation and/or chemo and I will be higher up on the staging if it has spread. 5-year survivals rates could be 60%-70% if I need radiation and/chemo but could be worse if it has spread into the kidneys for example.
A few factors still TBD:
- They hope to do a robotic assisted surgery which could be 2-3 weeks of recovery (praying for this one!)
- If they need to go further during the surgery they will open C-section scar which will 8 weeks of recovery
- Either surgery is going to throw me instantly into menopause with some pretty intense side effects (some studies averaging 20+ hot flashes a day) and finding the right hormone replacement may take some time (doctor also warned Mark to be ready!😊)
- If I need radiation and/or chemo I may be able to return to work for a few weeks before going out again and will need to see how my body reacts to the treatment. What I have been told is some people work while others are unable.