Lisa Riggi

First post: May 9, 2022 Latest post: Sep 9, 2023
"We have a problem," I said to Frank as I sat on the toilet that morning. 

It was the first week of July 2021, after being post-menopausal for 6 years, I started a period.  Great. So, I called my GYN and scheduled an appointment.

Humor has always been the ice breaker during rough patches in our marriage. While sitting in the waiting room with 4 VERY pregnant women, Frank gets up from his chair and goes to the basket of condoms and picks up 2, grabs his wallet and slides them in, secures his wallet in his back pocket, and comes back and sits next to me. All the while I am trying not to make eye contact and bust out laughing. 

After my exam, it was decided to do a D&C and Hysteroscopy for testing. That was completed on July 28. My next appointment to see him and discuss the results was scheduled for two weeks. 

I received the phone call in less than two weeks from my GYN. On August 5 he was sorry to tell me that I had Grade 2 Uterine/Endometrial Cancer. It was a sucker punch in the gut. Where did this come from? My next appointment wasn't for three weeks (due to summer vacations) at Roswell with Dr. Peter Frederick. 

One thing you may know (or not) about me, is that I always look for signs. In everything. Most often than not, they provide me comfort. For example, learning I had cancer on August 5... which happened to be my Aunt Lee's Birthday. The GYN Oncology doctor I was referred to... Dr. Peter Frederick. Frederick.. Uncle Fred..and married to Aunt Lee and who was my mom's brother. They both were very influential and loved in my life. Coincidence? I think not. I found comfort in these signs. 

After the appointment with Dr. Frederick, my Total Hysterectomy was scheduled for September 28. All went very well. They removed one suspicious lymph node however, with the exception of my uterus, all parts removed tested were benign.  My staging was Grade 2 Stage 1a. The best possible outcome. At my post-op appointment, I asked for a couple of "zaps" just to ensure that any rogue cells were eliminated. He said that it wasn't protocol in this case and not necessary. Bummer.

At the end of November, I started to experience a nagging pain in my upper right quadrant. Ok... under my right boob. I told all my doctors about this pain. I had some testing and I was found to have gallstones but not believed to be the cause of the pain. By the end of March at my second follow-up with Roswell, I continued to complain (cry) about this worsening pain. I was told it was unrelated and probably the gallbladder. I could not lay on my right side and at times I could not take a deep breath. 

Jessica found me the most amazing surgeon in Dr. John Rutkowski (she use to work with him at Catholic Health). He agreed to take the gallbladder out and that was scheduled for Monday, April 25, 2022. I called and asked Frank to be sure we wanted me to have surgery on our 30th Wedding Anniversary. I was routine gallbladder removal, right?!

My picture above... taken one hour prior to my life-changing for the second time. 

Sadly, when Dr. Rutkowski got inside he found fluid in my abdominal cavity. He was concerned so started to look around and found lesions on my small bowel and around my liver. At that time he aborted removing the gallbladder and took fluid and biopsy samples. 

Much of what happened after that is blurry for me. I remember the nurse waking me, rubbing my arm, and Dr. Rutkowski near my head and he told me what he found. Shit! And then he prayed with me.  He told me Frank knew. They took me back to the pre-op room and gave us all the time we needed. They called the hospital Priest. Frank called the kids who were now making their way to the house. We called our Pastor. That afternoon Dr. Rutkowski called me and shared all the information once again and that gave the opportunity for the kids to ask questions. He also shared he had already spoken with Dr. Frederick at Roswell and they were lining up testing and appointments. 

I had a CT scan on Friday, April 29, and met with Dr. Frederick on Monday, May 2. It is a reoccurrence of endometrial cancer. Official diagnosis - Metastic Endometrioid Adenocarcinoma consistent with Uterine Primary.  Stage 4...which means multiple locations.

Chemotherapy is the treatment and I will begin that shortly. The survival rate is based on remission. If/when I go into remission and for how long. Six months or longer, and if it returns again, they will use the chemotherapy I received originally. After less than six months of remission, a new chemotherapy treatment will be needed as it was resistant to the first. 

Next up... 
Supportive/Palliative Care appointment on Friday, May 6.
Port Placement on Wednesday, May 11

And this is where the story will continue...

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