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My Story | Angi, Ohio, USA

Choriocarcinoma with brain metastasis, diagnosed 1994 at 31
Neurosurgery and chemotherapy

Choriocarcinoma - I don't have time to die!

Although I remember nothing of that day, on November 4, 1994, I was in an ambulance being rushed to the hospital, comatose and unresponsive. I am told my coworkers had a difficult time awakening me during an overnight trip, so they called my husband, asking what should be done. He instructed them to call 911 immediately. They did, paramedics arrived, and I was taken to the County hospital.

At the hospital, I was treated for a drug overdose in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), since they had no idea why a seemingly healthy, thirty-one-year-old woman would be in a coma. I was told later I was very lucky they didn't kill me in their efforts to rescue me.

My husband got to the hospital as fast as he could. If the situation were reversed, and I had been the one told he was dying, and I was unable to do anything about it, I would have been terrified . But that was not the case for my husband. He later told me that he and his brother were able to arrive at an explanation of what happened to me on their trip to the hospital. They suspected I'd had a stroke, but were not sure why.

The following day I was sent via life-flight to a hospital in the city where we live. I was admitted to the neurology department for altered mental state. Mike, my husband, said every test in existence was run on me. He speaks of a day in the hospital when I was so fatigued from the many tests performed on me, that he needed to carry me. They still had not figured out why a thirty-one-year old woman would have a stroke. A Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) revealed a brain hemorrhage, which was immediately relieved through neurosurgery, or craniotomy.

My neurologist, Dr.K., was initially responsible for saving my life. He brought in Dr.R., a gynecological oncologist (GYN-ONC) who successfully diagnosed, then defeated the choriocarcinoma. My sister, ("Dr.Nancy", as I refer to her), revealed that a week prior, I had suspected that I may be pregnant. With this information, as well as what they had gathered through all the tests, they diagnosed choriocarcinoma, although no trophoblastic tissue (tumor) was ever found. Although choriocarcinoma is curable through chemotherapy, my medical team was unwilling to shut down my immune system while I was recovering from neurosurgery.

Four days later, I became incoherent again, and at the insistence of my sisters, another MRI was performed. I had hemorrhaged again, but during the second craniotomy they discovered that my skull had already healed, so I was able to start chemotherapy in another few days.

I began to show improvement the moment the chemo was started. I became coherent again, and was able to remember everyone's names. Because my medical condition had improved, I was released from the hospital and was admitted to an in-patient therapy unit. I lived there until middle of January 1995, when they allowed me to go home. I continued with outpatient therapy for approximately six months.

After being discharged from the in-patient therapy unit, my blood hCG level rose, leading Dr. R. and me to believe the gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) was again active in my body. I began my second regimen of chemotherapy, but three quarters of the way through, Dr. R. discovered that the hormonal rise could have been caused by something other than cancer, a phenomenon he called "the hormonal surge." We finished the regimen anyhow, and my hCG level returned to zero and stayed there.

About this time, my sister Carolyn came to visit. I don't remember the reason why, but she asked me to read to her. I did, and she responded, "You are reading on an approximate third-to-fourth grade level! Call Social Security, refer yourself to the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, and they will retrain you to enter the work force again." I followed her advice, completed training in web page design in March, 2000, and took a job in that field.

A friend in the medical field once told me that attitude was everything in the battle against cancer, and that if anyone could beat it, I could. I attribute my survival, in large part, to the positive attitude I developed as a result of training I received as a Mary Kay cosmetics consultant and director.

I remember how terrified I was when I needed to do a second round of chemotherapy. I could not think of a single person that had beaten the "Big C". And so I am writing this so someone, somewhere, will see that, with the help of God and my husband, I was able to kick Cancer in the butt, and that person will be less afraid.

May 2001

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