In 2007, I was 25 years old and pregnant with my second child. I had passed 6 kidney stones while I was pregnant and was also complaining about lower back pain. I told the doctors that my butt hurt so bad it felt like it was going to fall off. They told me that it was just pregnancy symptoms.
I had my daughter on September 5th 2007 and because the pain seemed to have gone, I thought it had been a result of my pregnancy. I still had bleeding, but thought it was hymriods. In March of 2008, I went into the ER for a vaginal cyst, which ended up bursting on the way there. They couldn't tell where it had been, and they had to use a catheter to get a urine sample. Somehow, during that procedure, they loosened up another kidney stone. They did a CT scan, and found that both my kidneys were full of stones, and the one I was trying to pass was 9mm.
They gave me pain meds and sent me home. The next day the ER doctor called and said that they had reviewed my scan again and had found some swollen lymph nodes. She told me that she hoped that it was because of the cyst, but wanted me to get another scan done next month, just in case.
In May 2008 I went in for another CT scan. The radiologist said he couldn't identify my ovaries so he wanted me to go get the original CT scan so he could compare. The radiologist called me himself and said that I needed to get an MRI and go see an OB specialist ASAP.
So I went to get the MRI done, and soon after I met with an OB doctor. The OB doctor asked if I knew what was going on and I told him no not really. He said "Oh great I get to tell you the good stuff," and then explained to me that there seemed to be solid objects on one of my ovaries and one to be close to the other. I told him everything I had been through and he told me that he was going to send me to another OB doctor who specialized in my situation. One thing lead to another and July 13th (Friday the 13th), I went in for an office visit and they did a rectal exam. The doctor saw blood, and told me I needed to get a colonoscopy done. I saw another doctor, just to be sure, and this doctor said that I needed the colonoscopy done ASAP. It was so urgent that he personally lead me out his office to schedule it.
In less than two days I had my colonoscopy. They found a large mass and sent it off to be tested. On June 23, 2008, I was officially diagnosed with colorectal cancer. After that, everything happened quickly. I was in for radiation and chemo at the end of July for 5 weeks. I got a break for a couple of weeks, then had surgery on October 9. They did a full hysterectomy and colostomy. They took out 9 to 10 inches of colon with 21 lymph nodes. Out of the 21, 12 came back positive for cancer. At the end of November, I started chemo again until May, when I was told I was cancer free.
For maintenance, I continued chemo for 5 more months. In September, I had to stop the chemo because it was causing heart attack symptoms.
In February 2010, my husband was transferred to Wright Patterson AFB. I was very nervous to move to a different health care team. But when we got here, they took care of everything. I never had so many appointments! I met the whole cancer care team and had more scans. The spot on my liver that they had been keeping an eye on was normal, but a lymph node in the pelvic region was inflamed. I went for PET scan, and the results showed no evidence of cancer.
Now, my oncologist is worried because my case is so unusual and I am at a high risk for reoccurrence. There is no textbook answer to what they should do next, so they are being proactive. I am going in for surgery and the results will tell us if I need more chemo.
There is so much that I want to do. I have been asked to serve as a board member on the American Cancer Society organization that they are building in my county. I will be on the Colorectal Tasks Force, and I am on the speaker bureau. I want to make others more aware of colorectal cancer through my personal experience. I tell people that even though I have a colostomy I still have to get colonoscopies, and that because I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 26, my children will have to get colonoscopies when they are 16. I would love to find a way to make sure that they don’t have to go through what I did.
I have many ideas and ways to help people and I would love to share them and put them out there for other cancer patients. One thing to I think needs to be addressed is that the military needs better cancer support. Since we are part of the military, we do not have close family and friends around us and so we don’t have the closeness that most people do when they are living in the same area for years.
Cancer is a terrible thing but I feel I was blessed with it so that I can help find a cure.