Why I braved the big city for cervical cancer treatment

I don’t like change. But sometimes you have to be willing to make one
in order to survive.

That’s what I did. I’m a small town girl who’s lived in southern
Mississippi my whole life. And except for one trip to a resort in
Mexico, I haven’t travelled more than about 500 miles away from my
little Gulf Coast town.

Then I came to MD Anderson for cervical cancer treatment in November 2016.
Before then, I’d never even been on an airplane by myself. And it was
scary, going from my small town to the fourth largest city in the
country without my husband. I never thought I could do it. But I did.
And today, I am cancer-free.

My cervical cancer diagnosis

I was originally diagnosed with stage I cervical cancer in January 2014, after
experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding. Three years earlier, I’d had a
procedure called an endometrial ablation, in which the lining of the
uterus is destroyed to reduce the severity of a woman’s menstrual
flow. It worked at first. My periods were very light for a long time.

Then I started bleeding heavily again, and I thought, “Oh, no. We’re
not doing this.” So, I went back to my ob/gyn to schedule a
hysterectomy. I wanted this taken care of. But she performed a pelvic
exam and noticed some abnormalities in my cervix. A Pap test and a
biopsy both came back positive for cervical cancer. So instead of a
hysterectomy, I had seven weeks of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments at a facility near my home.

Later that year, a PET scan showed a suspicious-looking lymph node
in my pelvic area, so I had another round of chemotherapy. The
following year, the abnormal lymph node was still there — and getting
bigger. I had a third round of chemotherapy.

When my local ob/gyn suggested a fourth round of chemotherapy in
2016 and suggested that perhaps I needed to focus on the
quality of my life rather than the quantity, I
decided to call MD Anderson.

From a clinical trial to a cure

I spent a week in Houston, and discussed the possibility of a clinical trial with my MD
Anderson
care team. But my lymph node had to be biopsied
before I could participate, and my surgeon, Sanjay Gupta, M.D., decided it was too risky.
The node was too close to my aorta in a very veiny area, and the
biopsy needle would’ve had to go through my intestines to reach it.
Dr. Gupta didn’t want to risk nicking my bowel or a blood vessel. The
clinical trial was out.

I worried we’d have to wait for the cancer to spread somewhere else
before we could finally biopsy it and move forward. But Ann Klopp, M.D., had another plan in mind. One
of the first things that came out of her mouth was “cure,” and that
was a word I hadn’t heard in three years. So, I decided to do it.

My cervical cancer treatment plan

Dr. Klopp’s treatment plan called for chemotherapy, external radiation and a type of internal
radiation called brachytherapy. I had to stay in Houston for eight
weeks to do it, so I packed my bags and got a temporary apartment. I
was pretty nervous. On my first day in town, I discovered the key to
my new place didn’t work. So, there I was, alone in Houston, with
three bags of luggage, groceries on the way, and no idea how to get
inside my apartment. I almost left and got on a plane heading home.

Luckily, people in Houston are amazing. The shuttle driver I’d
gotten to know during my previous visit offered to stay with me until
the complex manager could sort out my key issue. And the other
patients I met at MD Anderson were so
encouraging. Some of their success stories were so unreal. After a
while, I didn’t really see them as patients anymore. I saw them as hope.

My cervical cancer treatment side effects were nothing I
couldn’t handle

I finished my treatments in March of last year, and I’ve shown no
evidence of disease since June 2017. Today, all I have is a little
residual bone pain in my hip. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to go to MD Anderson. It was overwhelming at first, but
a few days of discomfort are worth enduring to be cured.

I’m convinced that if I’d gone straight to Houston after my initial
diagnosis, I wouldn’t have had to go through the four rounds of
chemotherapy I did. So I tell people, “Even though you’re scared and
it’s not home, go to MD Anderson first.
It’s worth trying something different.”

Because what is your life worth? The truth is, you can’t put a price
tag on that. And if you go to MD Anderson,
one day you’ll be able to look back proudly and say, “I did that.”
Because I did. And if I can do it, anyone can.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by
calling 1-877-632-6789.