My brush with Cancer

(This is a continuation of the story about coming to term with my miscarriages.)

cervical_cancer_ribbonOn March 13, 2009 – Friday the 13th – I had to have a surgery known as a “d & c” or dilation and curettage after my 4th miscarriage to remove the build-up of tissue. The surgery went fine and I was able to return to work after the weekend. About a week after the surgery, I started having pelvic pain. At first it was pretty minor compared to what I had been through so I wasn’t concerned. Within a few days, the pain was pretty bad so I went back to the OBGYN for a check-up. She did a brief exam, told me that I had a minor infection, and put me on two antibiotics. I wasn’t surprised that I had an infection. I had been told to wait 4 to 6 weeks before having sex to give my body time to heal … but my boyfriend didn’t allow me that much time – and he wouldn’t use a condom. Sex was very painful for me and I felt that there was no reason for me to do something that just caused more pain.

I finished the antibiotics but was still having a lot of pain. I went back to the OBGYN again. This time I was told that there was no reason I should be having pain … and she implied that I was doing it just to get some pain medicine. At the same visit, she informed me that the results of the tissue samples from my surgery had came back as “abnormal” and she needed to take another sample. The procedure to get more tissue was similar to the scraping for a pap smear, only this was a larger sample of tissue and deeper. I wasn’t given anything for the pain nor did she put me on more antibiotics. I was in enough pain that I started getting sick to my stomach and having to miss work. About a week later, the doctor’s office called me and told me that the tissue sample once again came back “abnormal” and the doctor needed to do another scraping. A week later I was back at the OBGYN’s office for the scraping and I again told the doctor of the pain I was having in my pelvic area. Once again I was told that there wasn’t any reason for me to be having pain. After the doctor was done this time, I was in so much pain that I almost passed out and came really close to throwing up.

A week later I got the call that I needed to come in for another scraping. The doctor took more tissue but again told me that there was no reason for my pain. When I asked why she had to keep getting tissue samples, I was told that the results were coming back as “abnormal” but that she wasn’t worried about it. The abnormal results were probably because of all of the tissue that had been built up from my miscarriages. Once again, a week later I got a call from the OBGYN’s clinic. I was told that the doctor needed to do a deeper scraping but that it would cost over $300 – and I had to pay at the time of service. I had missed a lot of work because of the pain I was in and was forced to quit my job by this point so I didn’t have the money for more scrapings. Since I couldn’t afford to have another scraping done and it was just causing me more pain so I did not schedule the scraping. A few days later, I received a letter in the mail from the doctor’s office informing me that I really needed to have the minor procedure done. I ignored the letter since I wasn’t getting any answers from the doctor. It really made me mad that she kept telling me that there was no reason for the extreme pain I was having BUT she needed to take more tissue samples.

cervical_cancerIn mid May, the day after my birthday, my boyfriend decided to visit his mother, who lived in a different state. He had quit his job in September 2008 so he wasn’t working, he wasn’t helping with the house work, and was making my health issues worse so I was almost happy to see him go. I was trying to find a job that I could do from home due to my health but had not had any luck at that point. With my boyfriend gone, I would sleep when I needed or could sleep and I took my time cleaning the house. Around the end of May I received a phone call from the OBGYN telling me that I HAD to make an appointment for the deeper scraping. I told her that I had been forced to quit my job because of not being able to work due to the pain making me sick. Once again she told me that there was nothing there to cause my pain. I asked her why I needed to have the scraping done if there was nothing there to cause my pain. At first she tried to give me the run around about how she needed to make sure there was healthy tissue growing after my d & c but I didn’t believe it. Finally she told me that the “abnormal” tissue results were CANCER and that if I did not have the scraping done I would not be able to have children and would die a slow and painful death. What kind of doctor would tell someone that over the phone?!?!

Since I didn’t have any money at the point, there really wasn’t a way for me to have the procedure done. I was in shock at first … then I went numb and sank into a deep depression. I thought of suicide a lot but was too numb to even attempt it. A few days later, my boyfriend called to check on me. I told him what the doctor had said and that I really needed him home. He decided to stay with his mom for a couple more weeks. It was at that point that I knew I was done with the relationship. It was also at that point that I kind of snapped out of the fog. I worked hard to clean on the house and returned to searching for a job. By the time my boyfriend came home, I had the house mostly clean and I had found a part time job. Unfortunately, the part time job was not enough to pay the bills that had been stacking up. I started a newspaper route in July but was still not making enough. I begged my boyfriend to get a job but he wouldn’t. In August 2009, we were evicted from our apartment and I was forced to move back to my parent’s place (around 20 miles outside of town) and I lived in an RV next to my parents’ house. For the first month or two, my boyfriend stayed with me in the “tin can”. He came into town with me every morning to do the paper route and slept in my truck on the 2 days a week that I worked my other job. (He was supposed to be looking for a job instead of sleeping in the truck.)

My parents’ decided that my boyfriend either had to get a job or he had to find somewhere else to stay. (They did not know that he was raping me when he wanted sex or he would not have been allowed to stay with me at all. Sex was still extremely painful and not at all enjoyable.) My boyfriend decided to go live with his godfather instead of getting a job but he still spent most weekends with me in the tin can. I continued living in the tin can and working my two jobs. Still basically going through the motions of life, doing what I could to survive. I was still having a lot of female problems. I would have extremely heavy periods with bad cramping that would last over month and then I would go for 3 or 4 months without a period but still had some pelvic and lower back pain. There were times that the bleeding was so bad that I would have to do my paper route sitting on a puppy training pad so that I wouldn’t get blood on my truck seat.

depressionToward the end of January 2010, I told my boyfriend that if he wanted to keep me, he had to have a job, be paying his own bills, and helping me pay some of the bills from when we lived together – before my birthday. He had not worked since September 2008 so it was past time for him to be working. The days passed in a fog as I worked my 2 jobs. Toward the end of March, my boyfriend still did not have a job so I stayed in town after my paper route – going without sleep – so that I could take him around to put in job applications. We were able to get him a job at a chicken processing plant and I reminded him that he had to keep the job and be paying bills or I would break up with him. I tried to be really nice to him while he had the job. Several days a week, I would come into town early for my paper route to pick him up when he got off work. I would take him to get something to eat and then take him back to his godfather’s house. There were several days that he would call and tell me that he didn’t have a ride into work, so I would drive all the way into town just to take him to work. (He didn’t pay for his own food and rarely helped pay for the extra gas.) I was doing my best to help him keep this job but it wasn’t enough. By the end of April he had already lost the job for missing too many days – he didn’t even make it past 30 days. So I broke up with him. (I know that I should have done it years earlier when the abuse started but I told myself that I loved him and had to try to make the relationship work.)

I continued having the pelvic pain and heavy periods that lasted over a month. The cramping and pain would get so bad that I would be sick to my stomach. I even passed out a time or two from the pain and losing so much blood. I continued working the two jobs until the end of October 2010 when the clinic I worked at part time closed, so I started getting unemployment from that job. Then in February 2011, Northwest Arkansas had a winter storm that left several inches of ice followed by almost 2 foot of snow. I was not able to get into town due to the bad roads and I lost my paper route. Since I had paid off most of my old bills and was receiving unemployment, I wasn’t in a hurry to get another job.

I ended up taking some time off from college due to my health problems but started back around the end of July. By this time, my emotional and mental health had recovered enough from the abuse that I was chatting with a guy I was friends with on Facebook. On August 18, 2011, I went to see a doctor for my “yearly exam” and I told the doctor about my female problems. After the exam, he told me that everything looked normal but he wanted to wait for the Pap smear results before he tried any treatment for the heavy periods. A few days later I got the dreaded phone call. The tissue sample was “abnormal” and the doctor needed to do a minor procedure called a cervical scraping or a colposcopy. (This is probably the deeper scraping that the OBGYN wanted to do in 2009.) When I told the doctor’s office that I didn’t have the money to pay for the scraping, they put me in contact with an organization that helps cover the cost of cancer screenings and treatment for women. My colposcopy was scheduled for early September but had to be rescheduled due to starting my period, which lasted about a month and a half.

  • As a side note, I had started dating the guy I was friends with on Facebook, and we moved in together around the first of September. It was kind of a rushed move but I had been fighting a lot with my parents and he was in a bad living situation as well. We had already talked about having children and had decided – if I was able – that we would like to have a couple children. We had also agreed that if I was not able to have children, then we would look into adopting once we were financially stable.

cervical_cancerThe colposcopy was finally done in late October 2011. I did some research on the internet about the procedure before my appointment. During a colposcopy, the doctor will spray the cervix with a vinegar solution which turns the abnormal cells white. The procedure should be fairly painless for most women. My doctor told me to take a dose of Ibuprofen before I left for my appointment and that I should be fine. I was not so sure since I had had pelvic pain for years. At my colposcopy appointment, when the doctor sprayed my cervix, he told me that at least half of my cervix was affected and that he was taking samples from several areas. The first couple of areas did not hurt much, just a mild cramping. The third spot where he got a sample hurt really bad and doctor stopped after that sample. The doctor told me that the third biopsy area was an endocervical curettage (scraping) which is from the area between the cervix and the uterus. The doctor packed the biopsy areas with something to stop the bleeding and told me to take it easy for a couple days.

A week or so after the biopsies, I received another dreaded phone call. The results of the colposcopy had come back and the doctor was referring me to a gynecological oncologist. At my appointment with the gynecological oncologist, the doctor told me that my test results showed that at least 2/3 of my cervix had level 3 precancerous cells, the last stage before full blown cancer. I was rather numb after hearing the dreaded “C” word so what I remember is kind of sketchy. I was given a couple of options to remove the cancer cells. The first option was a procedure where the doctor numbs the cervix and uses a laser to burn off the affected cells. The next option is called cryotherapy, which freezes the abnormal cell. Since my cervix was over 2/3 affected, these procedures would probably have to be done more than once to get all of the cells, so this was not the best option. The other option was a hysterectomy to remove the cervix, endocervical canal, and the uterus.

Which leads me to my next article – Hysterectomy at 32 years old.

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