My Story | Sheila P., Alberta, Canada
Endometrial cancer, stage 1, grade 1a
Diagnosed 2002 at 36
I grew up in a medium-sized city in southwest Oklahoma. In the spring of 1985, when I was 19, I found out I was pregnant. I was unmarried and scared. I made the decision to keep the pregnancy and the baby. It was the scariest decision I ever made.
After my daughter was born nine months later, I was placed on birth control pills. Immediately, my menstrual cycle started messing up. I would go for two months and not have a period, then have an extra-long one. So, after six months of this, I went off the pill completely. I was not involved with anyone, so I figured I didn't need the pill. I also stopped having periods all together.
Two years later, I met and married a man and we wanted to have children, so I went to the gynecologist. He said that if I lost weight, I would resume my normal cycle. He would give me Provera to have a withdraw bleed, I would lose a little weight, but nothing would happen. My marriage eventually broke up after five years, and still my cycle was irregular.
I went to the gynecologist on and off for those seven years and was told the same thing over and over again. Lose weight! After the breakup of my marriage, I lost 45 pounds, and my cycle did not right itself. So something else had to be wrong. Two and one-half years went by and still no period. It had been over nine years now. I met another man and got married. Again, we wanted to start a family. By that time, I had moved to Canada and found a new family doctor who sent me to the fertility specialist for further investigations concerning my cycles. It was discovered I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. I was put on different drugs to see if I could achieve ovulation, and nothing worked. So we decided that if a pregnancy happened - great. If not, we would be okay. So, every six months or so, I took Provera to have a withdraw bleed. The drug would cause my hormones to go completely out of whack, and I would be extremely moody for the period I was taking the medication.
Almost fifteen years went by with virtually no regular period. I had an endometrial biopsy in 2001 that showed simple hyperplasia. Then in August 2002, I had some irregular bleeding out of the blue. Since I worked for an obstetrics and gynecology doctor, I explained to her what was going on, and she booked me to have a follow-up biopsy. A week later, I was called down into the office.
Having worked with doctors, I know they do not call patients unless it is bad news. So, I was very nervous. My husband was away helping his recently widowed mother move into a new apartment, so I had to hear this news by myself: stage 1 endometrial cancer. The best treatment would be a radical hysterectomy to remove my uterus, ovaries, tubes, cervix, and a sampling of lymph nodes. All the doctors around me kept saying, "Of all the cancers women can get, this is the one with the highest survival rate, almost 100 percent." This did not alleviate the worry I was feeling or the panic that was settling in. I called my husband and told him, crying. I kept thinking, I am only 36; I am going to be thrown headlong into menopause; I will be required to take hormones for the rest of my life; and there will be no chance of ever having another child. Outside of my mother passing away five months earlier, it was the hardest thing I had to deal with in my life.
I was extremely nervous; I had never in my life had surgery before and the first one would be an emergency hysterectomy. So, September 10, 2002, in I went for my hysterectomy - scared, unsure of what to expect, and sure I was going to come out of it a different person. I was feeling very much like my body had turned on itself or that I had somehow caused this. My husband was very supportive and did all he could to help me deal with this. After the surgery, we got the news that the cancer was confined to the uterus - in other words, it had not spread. I had stage 1, grade 1a endometrial cancer - with a 100 percent survival rate expected.
I am now six months post-op. I have been on Premarin .065 mg for five months, and, other than a post-operative wound infection, I have had no complications. Having the cancer has changed my life. I went through life thinking it would never happen to me; I wasn't one of those people who got sick. Then the next day something tells you, "Go to the doctor, something is not right" - and your whole life changes.
I feel so fortunate to have made the decision to go through with the pregnancy when I was 19 and to raise the baby myself. My daughter has been a blessing throughout my life and I would not trade her for all the working ovaries in the world.