It’s breast cancer awareness month. I’m sure I’ll eventually get breast cancer. My mom had it. She’s survived after a lumpectomy and chemo and radiation. I love my mom. I’m so thankful she’s still around. Breast cancer has grown leaps and bounds since the awareness campaigns. Maybe awareness campaigns are good.
Those of us (and we are many), who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, have all had to face the idea of death. We’ve heard the C-word and thought it may kill us. So, what do we want to do before we die?
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at 66. My aunt was much younger. She was 50. Both did everything and they’re still alive and kicking! Thank goodness. They’ve seen their mortality and have lived beyond all of it. They now have a vision many don’t. But, because of breast cancer awareness, they are listened to, understood. It is wonderful if they use it.
Me? I had cervical cancer. It’s no big deal. The majority is caused by an STD called HPV. But, not mine. There’s now a vaccine for my cancer (Gardosil), and that’s great!! But the vaccine would not have prevented my cervical cancer.
I was 32 at diagnosis. My one child was 18 months old. I’d seen a few doctors because it was so very rare what had happened. So rare, in fact, that my doctor didn’t believe it. She thought she was wrong so it was ok to tell me my results in a letter and refer me to a specialist that would surely find her wrong.
Her letter was lost in the mail. I got it a month late. Eventually, after I’d seen a specialist that confirmed invasive cervical cancer, she called to apologize. But it was too late. I was too angry. She’d delivered my son. She’d known how much I wanted more kids. She didn’t tell me she’d doubted herself.
I was referred to Mayo clinic. Every local doctor I saw told me how unusual it was. Cervical cancer is generally one of the slowest growing cancers there is. They said it was the most aggressive cervical cancer they’d seen. Oddly enough, this didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, it made me realize I may die. I may die. At 32. With an 18 month old son. My son needed me. He wasn’t a typical kid. I knew that then, but nobody else did.
My doctor (the specialist) had already given me the worst case scenario (because my mom taught me to expect the worst and hope for the best). He said my worst case scenario was “radical hysterectomy”. He also said he hated the terminology. But explained that it was the removal of my cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes, and pelvic lymph nodes. I asked for best case scenario. He said it was a cone biopsy (of my cervix), where they found it was just a messed up pap and could cut it out. I asked if I could have more kids? Because I wanted more kids. He said the cone, yes. The radical hysterectomy? No.
I wanted one more. Just one more.
I got to Mayo and met with the best female oncologist in the world. I told him how I’d wanted just one more. I wanted a girl. Just a boy and a girl–you know, like everyone wants. He said he’d looked at my slides, he didn’t understand why what had happened to me had happened, but I had two choices:
1. You can live to see the child you have grow up.
2. You can try and have another child.
I chose my son.
I had to sign a waiver that allowed them to cure me at any cost. I was in surgery for 7 hours. I survived. It’s now been 13 years and I’m alive and giving my son the best life I can.
But, yes. I love animals. I now have three cats and two dogs. I’m as good of a pet mom as I am a real mom.
I’m so very thankful to be alive. I laugh sometimes about my 3 cats, 2 dogs, 1 kid, 1 house, and a partridge in a pear tree. But, this is who I was meant to be. If you’ve never faced death head on, you probably don’t know.
It took me a full 2 years to stop thinking of my baby girls name. But I know my purpose is still valid.