My Story | Tina P., Oklahoma, USA
My name is Tina. During 2002, I noticed subtle changes in my eating habits. I'd get really hungry, but feel full after taking a couple of bites of a meal. I had been diagnosed as peri-menopausal and had off-and-on vaginal bleeding with extreme fatigue but nothing else was going on in my changing body. I would occasionally feel bloated, but kept a food journal to track my migraines. The bloated stomach came after eating broccoli or chocolate. When I stopped these foods, the bloated stomach went away. So, all in all, I figured menopause wasn't half as bad as I had anticipated.
When I went to fill my migraine prescription in May 2003, the office clerk from my primary doctor had the pharmacist attach a note to the prescription stating that no more refills would be given until I made an appointment for my annual physical. My last physical had been March 2002, and migraine medicine has to be monitored for blood pressure changes. I was angry with the office clerk because I didn't need a physical. I felt good! Why didn't she mind her own business? I made an appointment for the physical for October 2003 because I was teaching during the summer and taking my mom with me to England in September to celebrate our birthdays - my 50th and her 69th. I went in to the clinic a week before our trip and had all my blood work done and a chest x-ray for the physical after our trip.
My mom and I went to London for five wonderful days. It was the trip of our lives. We walked everywhere rather than use taxis or the bus. We saw everything and shopped every "charity shop" (thrift store) we came across. We even took a day trip to Bath to see the Roman Baths and walked around Stonehenge. I had a lamb dinner on my 50th birthday, but felt full after a few bites. Other than that, I didn't feel tired or have any complaints. I did start a period and have to buy tampons and wished peri-menopausal meant an end to periods. I felt great coming back to Oklahoma.
When I returned from London, I saw my primary physician for the annual physical and Pap smear routine. She reported my blood tests were good and the chest x-ray clear. The only advice she gave was to watch the middle-age weight gain and start walking for exercise. She said I was still peri-menopausal and to keep taking my vitamins…good-bye, take care, and see you in a year.
Strange, but that night I had a dream that woke me early. I dreamed that I had a conversation with Gilda Radner. She was as real to me in the dream as a live person. We sat across from each other in big cushy wing chairs; she told me to shut up and listen. In her Rosanna-danna character, she shook her finger at me saying, "Girl, pay attention. Do I need to throw snot balls at you? Look at those ovaries." I am now convinced that we should listen to the ways our intuition speaks to us - it tells us lots of stuff. I now pay closer attention to dreams.
A week after my annual physical, my doctor called to tell me my Pap smear showed adenocarcinoma of the cervix. She made an appointment with a gynecologist that I had never seen. I will never be able to thank her enough for getting me into see this no-nonsense, blunt, diagnostic surgeon who didn't hesitate to contact a gynecologic oncologist friend.
After a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 test, I was scheduled for a radical abdominal hysterectomy with both the gynecologist and the gynecologic oncologist as my surgeons. My final diagnosis: adenocarcinoma of the fallopian tubes that had metastasized to the cervix, ovaries, and abdominal wall lining. They were not able to get all the cancer in the abdominal lining.
I had eight rounds of taxol and carboplatin from December 2003 to June 2004 after which no evidence of cancer could be found.
In June 2005, cancer came back. My CA-125 shot up from 3 to 313. A CT scan showed multiple spots in the pelvic and groin regions.
I started eight rounds of taxol/carboplatin in July 2005 to December 2005. My CA-125 decreased to 31. The spots had neither decreased nor grown in size.
I started my third round of chemo (eight taxol only) in January 2006.
I believe gynecologic cancer has earned its name as the silent killer. It is like having a stalker silently follow you. You go about your life enjoying your friends, career, and family and then one day, this stalker makes an appearance and holds a knife to your heart telling you, "I'm with you. You won't know when or where, or if I'll be back." So, you go on with your life, but are more careful, constantly looking over your shoulder.
And yet, despite of it all, I am indeed a better, happier person. I have taken the time to renew and re-energize good friendships and end the negative, energy-sucking ones. I have evolved into a deeper relationship with parents, siblings, and my two wonderful, grown children. I have written a science fiction novel and am working on a non-fiction piece. I have become a certified hypnotist. I have begun working with troubled, angry, fearful teenagers. I have traveled by simply getting in my car with no agenda; just a destination stopping wherever and whenever I felt like it. I have made new friends. I have retired after 28 years of teaching to become an education-training consultant.
I lived with fun and humor before cancer.
I live more deeply with fun and humor with cancer. And so it is with cancer...straight on like a rock.