I found out I had cancer by chance. I’d had menstrual issues since my first period, and my cycle was never normal. When I was 14, a doctor told me it was because my fallopian tubes were upside down. I’ve since learned that that’s not a real thing, but I was never in any pain, so I just learned to deal with it.
Three years ago, my cycles became even more irregular, with bleeding in between my periods. I attributed it to early menopause, which runs in my family. But I put off going to the doctor because I didn’t have insurance. When I started a new job last summer, I decided to get everything checked out.
After hearing my history, the gynecologist ordered an ultrasound. The scan showed multiple uterine fibroids. We scheduled surgery to remove them. But when she took the largest one off my endometrium, she found cancer cells growing underneath it — stage I uterine cancer.
Why I chose MD Anderson
Before moving to Texarkana, I’d lived in Houston for more than 15 years. So, I knew that MD Anderson was the best place to go for cancer treatment. I thought, “If I’m gonna do this, let’s do it right,” and called for an appointment.
At MD Anderson, I met with Dr. Pamela Soliman. The professionalism of her team immediately gave me confidence. These folks were clearly the experts in uterine cancer treatment and knew exactly what they were doing. I also appreciated the fact that Dr. Soliman didn't sugarcoat or minimize anything; she just stuck to the facts.
My uterine cancer treatment
Because we’d caught my cancer early on, Dr. Soliman recommended only a hysterectomy. I wouldn’t need chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Dr. Soliman performed that surgery on Jan. 30, 2019. And, thanks to MD Anderson’s Enhanced Surgical Recovery Program, I was up and about much sooner than I expected.
I was pretty surprised to be encouraged to get out of bed only a few hours after surgery. But I knew Dr. Soliman wouldn’t ask me to do that unless she felt it was important. So I did — to my surprise, without dying or vomiting — and that gave me the confidence I needed to keep pushing myself a bit more each day.
I relied heavily on the Enhanced Surgical Recovery Program’s diet recommendations to speed up my healing. My nurses explained that increasing my protein intake would help rebuild the muscles that had been cut during surgery, so I drank a lot of protein shakes.
Now, I’m back to my usual diet, but for three weeks after the surgery, I followed those diet guidelines to the letter. They really seemed to make a difference.
My biggest challenge after a hysterectomy
Today, my biggest problem is occasionally pushing myself too hard. My identity is very much tied to who I am professionally, and it’s tough not being able to do my job as well as I once did. I’m only about nine weeks out from surgery, though, so I’m still recovering. And sometimes I overdo things at work and hurt myself.
I was given a weight limit of 10 pounds for eight weeks after the surgery and 20 pounds for several weeks after that. But I continue to lift things I shouldn’t, just due to the nature of my job. I’m a person who has a hard time sitting still when I'm supposed to. And as an art exhibit coordinator and educator, I often do physical maintenance on our facilities, as well as tasks related to art installations.
I haven’t been able to climb or lift ladders to focus lighting properly in galleries yet. And I still haven’t been able to move or hang art for exhibitions. But I have been cancer-free since my surgery in January.
So even though I can’t do all of the things I used to do, I know I will eventually. And I am grateful to Dr. Soliman and MD Anderson for that.
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