This is my story of what lead up to the utterance of those 4 little words “Sorry, You have Cancer”
So for me those 4 little words meant the diagnosis of Uterine Cancer. Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that affects the uterus in the female reproductive system. Cancer most commonly develops in the endometrium of the uterus, resulting in endometrial cancer, the most prevalent type of uterine cancer.
Symptoms of Uterine Cancer
The most common symptom of uterine cancer is vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause. In women who have yet to go through menopause, vaginal bleeding not related to menstruation is experienced. Vaginal bleeding is considered abnormal when:
- periods are heavy and prolonged
- heavy spotting occurs between periods
- more than one period in a cycle month
- bleeding occurs before and/or after sex
- bleeding occurs in women who are post-menopausal
In my case this diagnosis took months. I was in terrible pain, sometimes bleeding so heavily, that in meetings at work I had to excuse myself because I literally had blood running down my legs, and had become so anemic that I had no energy. I felt like my ovaries had clamps on them that grew tighter everyday. I didn’t yet have other sign of menopause, like the dreaded hot flushes.
I also had several unrelated symptoms like constant nausea and pains in my shoulders.
I went to 5 different Doctors 2 of whom were female and whilst my symptoms were text-book and couldn’t have been more obvious I was told
- it was just the beginning of menopause ( although hormone tests showed I was not yet menopausal), don’t worry about it.
- I was too fat, so lose weight and it will go away
- At your stage in life this is normal, just put up with it, it will go away
- It was all in my imagination and I should go see a counsellor
- You are a Hypochondriac.
- My symptoms were too all over the place to make a diagnosis
After over 5 months I was really nearly ready to jump in front of a bus. I was so frustrated and I knew something was wrong. It was more than just menopause. The thing that finally made me take action was rather unusual. My little dog Zack, pictured right, had during this entire time been behaving quite strangely. He is an adorable dog, but had not at that time been particularly affectionate. He didn’t mind a pat but became quite squirrelly if you tried to put him on your lap. During that ENTIRE 5 months every night when I sat down in my chair, he would jump up and whine. I started to research this behaviour online. Many articles came up about a dog’s ability to detect cancer and how they behaved when they did. I started to joke to my friends and family that his behaviour was beginning to make me paranoid.
After my research, and by this time being almost suicidal, I eventually stormed into my local doctor with a list of tests that I insisted be done.
- a pap smear (gee what a revelation)
- a blood test to check for any possible cancer markers.
- a Cervical ultrasound
- an Appointment with a gynecologist
She wasn’t happy but did the pap smear herself then and there and wrote out all the various referrals and off I went. I made the appointment with gynecologist for a week later, so there would be time for all the results to come through to him. I wanted a woman but unbelievably they are still a rare thing and there were none in my area so I had to settle for a guy.
- The Ultrasound was a nightmare as the poor girl had to put up with her entire examination table being literally flooded with blood running out of me as she inserted the wand.
- The results of the pap smear immediately came back as slightly abnormal.
- The blood test showed nothing obvious.
So there I was, armed with my results sitting in the waiting room of the gynecologist. I was nervous and tense, because every instinct in my body was screaming there was something wrong. Of course being a gynecologist they always have the convenient excuse to be 2 hour late that they had to attend a birth. I HATE waiting, so by the time my name was called I was in an even worse state of mind, frightened, apprehensive and now just plain pissed off.
I was ushered into the surgery and the Doctor stood up and introduced himself. We both sat and he proceeded then to look at my results. After about 5 minutes he looked up and said ” I don’t think it is to bad, I think you just have Polyps. I will schedule you for surgery next week and we will remove them and do a biopsy but that should be it.
I said Ok but was there anything else wrong. He said what do you mean. I said, well how would polyps make my ovaries feel like they had grips on them. I also said why do I feel so nauseous , and why are my shoulders hurting? I said I understand that these symptoms don’t necessarily fall into your area of expertise but did the ultrasound show up anything else and was it possible that I had more than one thing wrong with me??? He quickly relooked at the results and said “no, just go out to reception and book your surgery and we’ll have you feeling better in no time”.
So off I went out to reception and booked a simple day surgery for the next week. I was still not convinced but perhaps a little relieved. Maybe it really wasn’t so bad after all.
I went home and did my normal thing of researching everything I could find about polyps on the internet. Whilst it explained the bleeding, it didn’t seem to explain some of the other symptoms. A week later I rocked up at the hospital about 11 am to be admitted. The Hospital was like a construction zone as they we doing lot’s of work.
I was called in to the anaesthetist, and I explained that I was quite difficult to get a line into. Like most Doctors, he assumed he would do a better job than anyone else, so took no notice. Once I was called into surgery, it took him nearly 2 hours to get a line in (Gee, why would I have warned him if I didn’t know what I was talking about??) This put their surgery schedule behind. Anyway I woke up about 6pm and the Doctor walked into the room all smiles. He said “well we have removed the polyps and I think you will be fine. You can go home in a couple of hours. Just make another appointment for next week to get the results of the biopsy”. I asked straight on, “was there anything wrong with my Ovaries?” He said “no”.
My friend picked me up about 10pm and took me home. I felt OK and all I could do was wait for the results. Despite the Doctors optimism, my instincts were still telling me it was worse than he said and I am definitely NOT a Hypochondriac. Three days later the phone rang and it was his receptionist saying he wanted to seem me the next day. One didn’t have to be a genius to realise that this did not portend for good things.
I rocked up the next day and was again led into the surgery with a rather grim-looking receptionist. The Doctor stood up, shook my hand, we both sat down. He looked down at his reports. My phone rang and it was my Mum but I thought I hung up on her. Without even looking up at me he uttered those 4 little words, “Sorry you have Cancer”
See my previous post Sorry you have Cancer for how that made me FEEL and stay tuned for the next blog Cancer – the Journey begins.