Carrying on with the theme of telling personal stories, I asked my dear friend since childhood to share her story. Erin and I aren’t “best friends”, per say, but we have been friends (through friends) since early childhood. I grew up 3 doors down from a family that would become my second family over the years. We moved into our neighborhood during my 6th year of life and the family (and extended) has become my dearest of friends….my second family. The family had 2 children – Tim (4 days younger than me and my best childhood friend) and Amy (15 months younger than me and a dear, dear friend of mine today). The parents, Bruce and Chriss, are second parents to me. So close and so dear that the family was included in my wedding in various roles. They acted as my blood family. …I hope I am relaying our relationship as strong as I feel it is!!
Chriss (well, and Bruce, too!) has an amazing extended family. I remember as a child seeing them at birthday parties, Halloween or randomly throughout the year. I consider each of these souls my extended family. See the evidence below from Halloween in 1990 (I am the one in the witch costume with the long, ugly nose):
We honestly loved spending time with each other! So imagine the blow when I heard that their niece/cousin had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer…in her 30s. Being that Erin is such a special person to me, I asked her to guest respond on this blog with her story. I have chosen some bites from her story, but the full story can be seen by clicking on the following link:
What I love so much about Erin is her honesty and candidness when asking about her cancer. I don’t cry – but I teared up at her responses knowing the soul and woman that she is. I hate for this amazing woman to suffer as she did, but she is a strong and amazing woman who moves mountains, so I am honored to share her story.
So let me share a bit of our (emailed) conversarion. Again, you can see the who thing in the link above.
What kind of cancer did/do you have?
I was diagnosed in June of this year with endometrial cancer (Cancer of the lining of my uterus)… On June 4th, two days after the biopsy, the specialist called me to tell me I in fact had endometrial cancer. The only thing I could say was, “Okay”. I didn’t ask any questions…I just hung up the phone. When my husband got home from work, I told him about what the specialist said. I have never seen so much panic in someone’s eyes, but yet no movement or words came from him. The entire first day I did not cry, I was not upset, and I went on with my day and didn’t even think about it. That my friend, is denial in its prime. The very next day….it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I had moments where I was crying so hard I could not walk. I was crying so hard, I could not breathe. I was crying so hard, I physically got sick. I couldn’t stop throwing up. Over and over again I would vomit between catching my breath from sobbing. That first day I hovered over the toilet and held on to it as if it was hugging me back. Then all of the questions came. How bad is it? How long has it been in my body? Will I die? Will my husband be a widow in his 30’s? What will treatment be like? How will I tell my parents, my brother, my Grandmother…Oh my gosh, I had to tell my Grandmother? Then I thought, “No. I don’t have to tell anyone” I felt as though if they didn’t know, ignorance would truly be bliss. I could not tell this news to my family. I could not imagine my mother or my father holding on to the toilet and puking between sobs. But I did tell them. I needed there love and support. I needed them to pick me up, I needed them to tell me it was all going to be okay. I needed them. I was so sorry about the pain I was about to cause them…but the need for them outweighed the fear of the pain I was about to give them. I cried for a total of three days. Nonstop. I did not sleep. I cried. I did not eat. I cried. I did not talk. I cried. I did not shower. I cried. Then one morning after my husband left for work, I came out of the bathroom from vomiting and I sat on my bed. I started praying. Not a prayer like you would hear in church or at the dinner table. Sobbing, begging, pleading, ineloquent, messy, quoting God’s promises, crying out and shouting over and over again “JESUS”. For hours I prayed and pleaded, I bargained. From that day on, I had a clear mind. I pulled myself together. I wasn’t hugging the toilet, I was talking, eating, showering again. I got a grip and started the process of, “OK what’s next…”
What is your current state with the cancer?
Endometrial cancer is a very different kind of animal when compared to other cancers. The only way to tell if the cancer is gone is by hysterectomy and the tissue would be dissected and evaluated. My husband and I wanted children and went for the medication route with no hysterectomy. It was treated without chemotherapy, just Progesterone. (This type of cancer is caused by long periods of time where the uterus is in an environment of very high estrogen. Progesterone is the opposite of estrogen and kills the endometrial cancer cells) We did six months of treatment with very high doses of Progesterone. I had D&C surgery one month after my diagnosis where as much of my uterine lining was removed as possible. We went into the office after the surgery to get more answers on how much cancer was removed, what is the exact type of uterine cancer is it (cell type) etc. The Dr. said that there was no cancer found. In one month, my cancer was gone. They kept me on the medication until November (just last month) to make sure my uterus was basically marinating in Progesterone, in order to keep the cancer away and create an environment where cancer cells will not want to live. As of right now, I am off of the cancer medication. There is no cancer that we know of.
What was the hardest part about going through the cancer fighting process?
Telling my family…and telling them in a way that was a gentle as possible. I did not want them to hurt like I was. Also, the waiting. Waiting for the next Dr. appointment to ask questions and get answers, or waiting for test results. The waiting and waiting to get answers was very difficult. When I was those my constant panic attacks during the first few days after I was told about the cancer and I would call his office 3-4 times a day and asking who ever answered the phone to please let me know what this means…will I die, am I going to be ok, how bad is it, can I get in sooner to see him, can you have him call me. I would tell the front desk girl over and over again,” I am so scared…please tell me something, anything” over and over again, knowing she couldn’t tell me anything. She just answered the phones. One day when I called in during one of my panics, I was asking her if she could tell me anything about this cancer, if I was going to be ok, that I was just so scared, begging her for any information that I could cling to and find comfort in, that I couldn’t wait 2 weeks to see the Dr with NO information…she started crying, saying she was so sorry she couldn’t answer my questions. (It must be SO hard to have that job). I felt horrible for her and found myself comforting her. Yeah…not knowing and waiting is the hardest part. By far.
What got you through the process? What kept/keeps you positive and motivated?
The number one thing that got me through, hands down, without a doubt is Jesus. He told me what to pray for before I even know I had cancer. I would recite His promises over and over. I would pray constantly. He was there with me EVERY MINUTE. He went BEFORE ME and removed any harm that was coming my way. He worked MIRACLES…. Jesus. Jesus.
My husband is a very close second…this man is a SAINT and has gone through as much as I have if not more. The feeling of being helpless for him, was as bad as the waiting and not knowing for me. I love that man so much
And thirdly, my doctors. They were always very forth coming, honest and talked to us for hours on end to comfort us and walk us through everything. I thank God for those Dr’s.
What is one thing you want everyone to know about either your process or the cancer fighting process itself?
I am not going to lie. It is UGLY. Every different type of cancer will have its own process, but one thing that is the same is that cancer is straight from the devil himself. It is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life. The pain my family went through, their worry, the feeling of being helpless for them was almost unbearable. This specific type of cancer is treated so barbarically. There is no way for them to tell if there cancer is gone unless you have a hysterectomy. During a D&C, the Dr is not able to remove all of the tissue because he cannot see. He is going off of “feel”. Out of all of the medical advances, there hasn’t been a more advanced surgery than a D&C to remove all of the tissue?? If you have lung cancer, there is a surgery to remove the cancerous tissue! But with this type, they are literally doing the surgery blind. I was shocked at how underdeveloped the treatment and surgeries are for this cancer! It is not comforting when a Dr tell you there is no way to get all the tissue because it has not been developed.
My humble advice:
- Be very active, progressive and put your foot down when it comes to your care. Ask questions. Ask a million questions. ASK QUESTIONS. The more you know, the more you keep the Drs and nurses informed, on their feet, accountable, and you help them prevent mistakes. THE MORE YOU KNOW THE BETTER….with everything when it comes to your care.
- Do not ever let a Dr make you feel rushed. If they are an hour behind, that is THEIR problem. Sit there, ask your questions and make sure you get your answers.
- Take someone with you to your appointments. You will forget some things that were said that the other might remember. Two minds are better than one.
- Make a binder. Write all your questions down before the appointment. Start writing a few days ahead of time. You will be surprised of the questions that pop up the next day that you never thought of before. It is also useful to be able to go back and see what the Dr said about something 3 months ago.
- The person that you bring with you has a job. They write down the answers to your questions as they are answered by the Dr.
- The process of fighting cancer is just that. It is a process. It can be slow. And some days it’s all you have to just deal with one day at a time. That is PERFECTLY FINE.
- Deal with it how you need to. If you need to cry and throw things, do it. If you need to go for a long car ride and end up in Florida…fine. DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO. Not only are you trying to heal your body, but you are picking up the pieces of your spirit as well. Do what is good for your spirit.
- And lastly, it is not a death sentence. It is an unexpected, scary chapter in your life…but it is NOT a death sentence.
- Be prepared to be known as that “person with cancer” for a long time….even after you have been healed. My Grandmother still introduces me to people as “the one with cancer”…even though I don’t have cancer anymore.
- What is your prognosis?
My prognosis is good. I will need to have a hysterectomy if my husband and I are not able to get pregnant in the next 6 months to a year in order to totally remove the possibility of the cancer coming back. If I keep my uterus, the cancer will come back. It’s a guarantee. Pregnancy creates an anti-cancer environment in the uterus, so pregnancy would be in my favor. During trying to get pregnant, I will have ultrasounds a few times a month to make sure cancer is not coming back in the fertility process. Even after giving birth, a hysterectomy will be schedule immediately.
Special thanks to Erin for sharing – so candidly – her story. I love this girl with 100% of my heart. We share the same faith and I can attest to the nervousness about telling family. But as her friend – and my neighborhood friends, the Cox’s – I can say that we adore this woman. Her strength, her love, her passion – 100% of her.
Right before her wedding, I had the privilege of attending her wedding shower…so here is a picture from 2009 (I believe…):
Donation website: http://t.co/Qe5LfjA6m5