"I remember the date well, October 26th 2012, the day I was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer. To say it was a shock is an understatement. At 25, cancer was last thing I expected to hear when I was called back for the results of the hysteroscopy I'd had 4 days previous. To be honest cancer hadn't even crossed my mind. Looking back, being called to come in for my results at 8pm on a Friday evening should have been a giveaway that something serious was going on.
I hadn't been 'ill' as such, or in any pain leading up to my diagnosis but for many years I'd experienced irregular periods, which I'd ignored. Only now do I realise the importance of getting these things checked out. Things finally came to a head when in summer 2012 I'd experienced a period that lasted around 17 days that ended with extremely heavy and terrifying bleeding. My GP referred me for an ultrasound and then a few weeks later for a hysteroscopy which lead to my diagnosis. During the appointment in which I received my diagnosis I was told that the cancer was most likely contained within the womb and I'd need to have a hysterectomy.
Nothing can prepare you for hearing the words 'you've got cancer'. I remember just bursting into tears. Everything else was a blur, I had completely switched off from what the consultant was saying. So many questions running through my mind. Has it spread? Where has it spread? Am I going to die? How long have I got? Yet I couldn't speak. I just sat there, completely stunned. Luckily my mum was with me to take in all the information, because even now I don't remember much about that appointment. I felt numb, like it was happening to someone else. It didn't feel real.
It was only when it came to telling people that I realised it was real, it was really happening. Saying it out loud seemed to confirm it. My parents dealt with telling family members and I only told a few close friends. Every time I thought, wrote, or said the words 'I've got cancer' I just broke down, so I'm glad I didn't have many people to tell.
MRI scans, X-ray and biopsy revealed the cancer to most likely be stage 1a, grade 2 but they'd know more after the hysterectomy and further testing. I met with my surgeon and specialist nurse a week before surgery to discuss the surgery, risks and options. I was told that there was an option to have my eggs frozen but only if I was married or in a relationship, I was neither married or in a relationship so that option wasn't available to me. I remember telling the surgeon that I didn't care about any of that, I just wanted him to get the cancer out of me. The thought that I had rogue cells inside me that had turned on my body, trying to kill me, freaked me out a little. I hadn't had time to think about whether I wanted kids or how having a hysterectomy would affect me. I just wanted the cancer gone.
So on the morning of Nov 14th 2012 I was waiting on the ward to be taken down to surgery and the realisation of what was about to happen hit me. Cue another break down! I am getting quite good at these now! I was still in floods of tears as I was lead to theatre. The next thing I remember was waking up in recovery 5 hours later. The operation went well, there was no visible sign of spread and they were 99% sure they'd got it all. Back on the ward I don't remember being in much pain. I do however remember coughing and sneezing being absolutely terrifying... with every cough I felt like I was going to burst open! I was assured by a nurse that with 65 staples and internal stitching, I wasn't going to 'come undone'! I was on the ward for 5 days before being allowed home. Recovery was slow, even short walks proved difficult.
A few weeks later I received a call from my specialist nurse to inform me that the grade of the cancer had changed from 2 to 3. This meant that it was particularly aggressive and as a precaution it was recommended that I have Chemotherapy and Brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy) to mop up any cells that may have been left behind. I began chemo on Jan 14th 2013, my 26th birthday. I was to have 6 rounds, 1 every 3 weeks.
Chemo day was a long day, 8 hours hooked up to various drugs and poisons. The side effects became very predictable to the point that I knew what day certain side effects would occur. The hardest side effect to deal with, even more than the horrendous leg and neck pain I'd get at around 3 days after each cycle was the hair loss. It seems silly that after everything, not having hair affected me the most. To this day I do not know what I looked like with a bald head! I kept it covered 24/7 and refused to look at it. Going out became extremely difficult, I'd only leave the house for hospital appointments. As soon as chemo finished my hair began to grow back almost instantly, much to my relief. A year on and I have around 4-5 inches of very thick and wavy hair!
Then it was time for Brachytherapy, three 5 minute sessions over a week. The brachytherapy itself was a piece of cake, if not a little embarrassing. But the permanent side affects are a little harder to deal with, and I worry that it might make future relationships difficult but hey, I'm alive, so that is just another problem I'll have to deal with when I get there.
It's been almost a year since I finished treatment and I'm doing ok physically, besides dealing with menopause symptoms, brought on by the hysterectomy. I have check ups every 3 months and I'm told there is no sign of the cancer returning. Which is great. Dealing with the emotional side is proving a little more difficult though. I was at my worst when treatment finished. I had nothing to keep me busy or to keep my mind occupied. This was when I began to process everything that had happened over the last 8 months. Emotionally I was a mess. The constant fear that my cancer would return was consuming my every thought. Every ache and pain no matter how small had me convinced that it had indeed returned. I felt like it was driving me insane. And then there's the fact the I'll never have kids. When I wasn't thinking about cancer I was thinking about this. The fact that I'd never have a child of my own, I'd never know what it feels like to have a life growing inside me, I'd never be pregnant. For months I cried myself to sleep most nights. Simple things would set me off, seeing a pregnant woman, a baby pic on Facebook. It was like I was mourning the loss of something I never had. It's a very strange feeling, but a feeling that I've grown used to.
I spoke to my GP and was prescribed a low dose anti depressant that also helps me sleep. It seems to be doing the trick for now. These days I'm doing much better, I worry a lot less and randomly bursting into tears seems to be less frequent these days too! Right now I feel like I'm gaining back some control in my life and while I still have some bad days I'm feeling more positive than I have in a long time. I have realised that getting back to 'normal' just isn't possible, I'll never be the person I was before my diagnosis and I am slowly coming to terms with that. Onwards and upwards as they say!"
If you are wiling to share your story then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
xx Kaz xx