Monday, April 22, 2013

I Have Cervical Cancer

Cancer of the cervix is the 12th most common cancer in females in the United States and is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the cervix. Usually it grows very slowly over a long period of time. The tissues of the cervix go through changes, where cells that are not normal begin to appear; this precancerous change is known as dysplasia and is usually found during routine pap spears. Squamous cells in the most common form of cervical cancer, it is the cells that cover our body including the cervix, and this makes up about 85% of the cases. Adenocarcinoma (glad cancer) is the other major type and makes up about 15% of the cases, this is the type that I have and here is my story:

February 13, 2013: Was the date that I went to see my doctor for my annual exam and it was business as usual. Approximately two weeks later my doctors nurse called to tell me that the pap smear had come back abnormal so they would need to do a colposcopy, sonogram and an endocervical curettage.
March 5, 2013: I was back at the doctors office for my 2nd exam. I’ve had a colposcopy done before and it’s always come back normal, so there was no need for me to be worried. However the endocervical curettage he did hurt like a mother ****er! That is something I can go the rest of my life without ever having to do again. I’d have the results in a week or two.

March 12, 2013: I got the results and again this test came back abnormal and the first time I heard the "C" word. I would have to come back again for another procedure called a LEEP.

March 19, 2013: I had my LEEP done this day. When the doctor came in he said that the concern here was that the results were showing that the abnormalities were not just on the surface of my cervix but they were going inside of it, this is also the first time he mentioned I may need a hysterectomy. A LEEP is where the doctor uses an electric wire loop to slice off a thin, piece of cervical tissue. In 90-95% of cases this is a cure to the abnormal cells on the cervix. I was pretty nervous, but only because I thought it would hurt. Based on the results of the last exam doctor wanted to take two passes off of my cervix in hopes of getting all of the abnormal tissue. When I saw the doctor at this appointment I immediately knew it was time to take this seriously, although I’ve had LOTS of friends in the past week tell me they’ve had it done and its nothing. The way he spoke to me and his concern, I just knew this was bad. I’d know the results in a week. However, it two agonizing weeks for the results thanks to a computer problem at the pathology lab!

April 3, 2013: Doctor called me; I knew this can’t be good. All I remember was “you have mild invasive cancer of the cervix”. Doctor told me at this point he had to pass me along to a specialist, a gynecological oncologist, and that treatment would more than likely be a hysterectomy as this type of cancer is treated through surgery. The doctor may do radiation but it was unlikely and would depend upon the staging of my cancer. So began the week and a half from hell dealing with insurance, and I’ll spare you the details.
Monday April 15, 2013: This was day I was meeting my new doctor at the Illinois Cancer Care center in Peoria. I knew I didn’t need to worry based on all the reading I had done but here are I am, walking into a “cancer center”. I was frightened walking in but walking out I had no fear at all, my doctor explained cervical cancer, the kind that I have, how invasive it was and after examining me he also staged it at Stage 1b1 which means it’s a cancer confined to the cervix that is less than 4cm (1.6 inches) or less in size.

So what’s next?

I'll need to have a radical hysterectomy. This operation will remove my cervix, uterus, their supporting ligaments, and they will also do what is called a lymphadenectomy, which means they will also remove the lympyh nodes in the surrounding area. I’ll have to have the surgery done abdominaly because of all this, which means a longer more painful recovery and I’ll be hospitalized for a few days. That will be the hardest thing for me as I’m very active, no running and no teaching my classes, nothing. Prognosis for my future is 100%. Right now surgery is scheduled for Monday, May 13th (I'll miss Spring Fling...soooo sad) but they are trying to get me in sooner.

I share this with you because the only reason this was detected, treatable and my prognosis is 100% is because of that yearly exam, that found it early on. For the record I have had 15 YEARS of normal paps, this was my first abnormal one in that time period. Without that exam this could have gone undetected, I had no signs or symptoms, in fact I'm in the best physical shape of my life. Left undetected cervical cancer can be far worse and sometimes even deadly. If you are a woman reading this PLEASE make sure you are getting your yearly exam! If you’re a man and have a female in your life ask her if she gets her yearly exam. If she doesn’t, please share this with her and encourage her to do so. When you add the C-word it always makes something sound scary but I assure you the biggest worry here is that I have to undergo surgery. I assure you I will be fine, I'm not afraid or worried. The only reason I share my story is because I have the means to share this with many women and to stress the importance of getting that yearly exam.

If I’ve learned one thing in the past few months it’s that cancer is expensive and this is a non-life threatening one. I cannot help but think about the kids and families of St. Jude (because I’m a St. Jude Runner). This has given me 10 times the motivation to run for the kids this summer and to raise as much money as I possibly can because not only does St. Jude save lives every day but they also do it FREE! If you do anything for me at all, will you please make at least a $10 donation to St. Jude?