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My Story | Billie, Ohio, USA

Cervical cancer, Stage 1b, December 2000 at 32, four months pregnant
Radical hysterectomy and node removal

On October 26, 2000, I bought my fifty-millionth pregnancy test, asking, "After four years of trying to get pregnant, why am I torturing myself?" I went home and took the test, and BAM!, it was positive. I couldn't believe it. First, elation, followed by fear. I called my husband at work and he said, "Take another test." He didn't want to get his hopes up either. The second test was also positive, so we celebrated that night by holding each other and thinking of possible names.

On November 10, I went for my first OB-GYN appointment. Not knowing what to expect, I was shocked to see blood upon removal of the speculum during my first Pap test. Dr. K. was concerned as there was an area of the cervix that was extremely inflamed, causing the bleeding. She wanted to do a colposcopy, and scheduled it for December 8. I went home and tried to forget what was going on. I started telling people about the pregnancy and planning the nursery.

On December 8, Dr. K. performed the colposcopy and was very worried about the cervix. She scheduled me for an immediate biopsy on December 12. This procedure wasn't too terrible, even though it was my first ever hospital visit and I could not have anesthesia due to the pregnancy.

Dr. K. called on December 14, and asked that I come to the office to discuss the pathology report. I just knew in my gut that it was cancer. My thoughts kept turning to our baby, hoping everything would be all right. My husband left work to meet me at the doctor's office. She told us that pathology showed definite cancer cells and that she was referring me to a specialist, a gynecological oncologist (GYN-ONC), at a clinic in Cleveland. Luckily my husband was able to ask questions and take notes for me because I was in total shock.

My appointment at the clinic was scheduled for December 18.. "Wow," I thought, "it must be really serious for them to get me in that quick." I spent that weekend crying, just trying to put some reason to this whole thing, and hoping that all would be well. When I arrived at the clinic on Monday, I saw the doctor's face, and knew immediately that I was in danger. He gave me the diagnosis of Stage 1b squamous cell cervical cancer.

My treatment options were few. If I had radiation and/or chemotherapy, the baby would die from it. If I had a radical hysterectomy, the baby would also die. Or, if I tried to reach full-term, my chance of survival dropped to only 15%. No one can possibly know what it is like to have to choose between your own life and that of the child growing inside of you. I was exactly four months pregnant and had already seen the baby's face and its heart beating via transvaginal ultrasound. The doctor left the room to give us some time to discuss what we wanted to do. My husband and I came to the joint decision of radical hysterectomy. What good could I be for a child if I wasn't going to live? Or, if I became incapacitated, how could my husband take care of both a child and a sick wife? It was the hardest decision we have ever had to make.

I had one week before the hysterectomy. I spent Christmas with my family and my husband, trying to be positive while inside I was devastated. On 12/28/00, I had a radical hysterectomy with removal of lymph nodes and tissues. The surgery went extremely well with minimal bleeding and no complications. I was home on New Year's Eve with my catheter, pain meds, and my dear, dear husband who laid with me and held me. I recovered well from the surgery with no complications. Fortunately, my lymph nodes were clear, as were the tissues.

Physically, I am well. I had no problems with my incision and my follow-up with my GYN-ONC went well. I am now ready to start my three-month exams that will continue for the next two years. No chemo or radiation has been talked about. Yes, I am afraid about my first checkup, but I feel that if I live in fear of what "will happen" then how can I ever be happy or enjoy what is "happening" now?

But emotionally, life will never be the same. There are no words that can describe the effect of all of this. There is so much that has been lost. Fortunately, my husband and I are closer than ever; he has been my rock through all of this. Maybe someday we will adopt one or two children who need loving parents to add to our family, but right now I have to heal in order to begin what is going to be the journey of the rest of my life. Thanks for listening.

(Written in memory of Cameron Robert, 12/28/00, Our baby, forever)

April 2001

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