Uterine cancer survivor grateful for the right diagnosis – and treatment

Looking back, the symptoms of my uterine cancer seem a little more obvious to me now. I’d had heavy and irregular periods my whole adult life because of endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But when the bleeding started getting worse a few years ago, I attributed it to getting older. I explained away the increased bloating and abdominal pain as menstrual cramps.

But when I woke up one Saturday morning in late December 2017 with excruciating abdominal pain, I knew something more serious was going on. I went to a local emergency room, where doctors performed a CT scan. That revealed a large mass on my right ovary and about a liter of fluid in my abdominal cavity. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Second opinion at MD Anderson yields different diagnosis

The ER doctors performed surgery right away to drain the fluid and remove my diseased ovary. I stayed in the hospital for a week. After I got out, I followed up with the oncologist at his office, but I felt I wasn’t getting the attention I deserved.

My family urged me to get a second opinion at MD Anderson. I didn’t want to at first. I live near Dallas — about a five-hour drive from Houston — and wanted to stay closer to home. But after thinking it over and praying about it, I agreed.

I called and got an appointment less than a week later with gynecologic oncologist Dr. Michaela Onstad. She conducted her own scans and tests. Then she asked a group of gynecologic oncologists at MD Anderson to review my case. After some discussion, they came to a consensus and changed my diagnosis to stage III uterine cancer.

My uterine cancer treatment

Dr. Onstad recommended we treat the uterine cancer with a total hysterectomy, followed by a combination of radiation therapy and two different chemotherapy regimens.

I felt an instant connection with Dr. Onstad, so I was very comfortable with her advice. She took the time to get to know me and my family, so I knew I was at the right place with the right doctor.

MD Anderson is my ‘happy place’

Dr. Onstad performed my radical hysterectomy on Feb. 6, 2018. I took a few weeks to recover, then had six weeks of radiation along with a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin. After completing those treatments, I took two other chemotherapy drugs called paclitaxel and carboplatin. I finished that combination in July. I’ve been cancer-free since November 2018.

I will forever be grateful to MD Anderson, Dr. Onstad and my radiation oncologist, Dr. Patricia Eifel. Dr. Onstad saved my life. If it hadn’t been for her, I would’ve been treated for the wrong type of cancer.

In retrospect, I wish I’d paid more attention to my body and complained more. You can’t assume everything’s OK just because it’s explainable. Go with your gut. Follow your instincts. And find a doctor that makes you feel comfortable asking questions.

I still consider MD Anderson my happy place today, because no matter what the scans show, I know it’s where I’m supposed to be. And I feel very safe and secure there, because I know I’m getting the best cancer care on the planet.

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