Saturday, March 12, 2016

I beat cancer, cancer didn't beat me!

12 years ago today I had surgery to remove cervical cancer. It's not something I talk much about, but on this day I always feel the need to share info in hopes that it will bring more awareness and maybe save someone. I don't really refer to myself as a cancer survivor, although I am one. I shared a lot more detail in last years post, but here are a few things that people are always curious about.
  • I had no symptoms.
  • I never skipped an annual exam, nor had I ever had any abnormal results.
  • I was young and healthy.
  • My entire life changed in a matter of 1 year.
  • I was lucky and my cancer was caught early; I didn't have chemo or radiation and I didn't have a hysterectomy. I had a laparoscopic radical trachelectomy which means my reproductive organs were left in tact and they only removed my cervix. 
  • They were able to remove the cancer and it hadn't spread and it hasn't come back.
  • I ended up experiencing a lot of unexpected fluke complications that I still deal with to this day.
  • I ended up with an arterial clot that caused me to lose feeling and use of my right leg for months.
  • My complications were not typical, but anything can happen when you have surgery.
  • In a matter of 4 months I had 3 major surgeries,  5 procedures, a blood transfusion, ended up with 10 scars.
  • I have A LOT of scar tissue in my lower abdomen area because of all the surgeries and procedures and sometimes it causes a lot of pain.
  • I could have almost died, but I spoke up and didn't shut up until they listened!
  • I have permanent nerve damage and there are still parts of my legs that I can't really feel because of the lymph node removal. 
  • It took almost a full year before I could walk without a limp and stop falling.
  • They removed all the cancer during the initial surgery.
  • Because of the arterial clot and no blood flow to my right leg for almost 24 hours, I was told I may never walk without assistance, I would never wear heels again and I would never dance again. - To help put that in better perspective, imagine being told your leg may never be fully functional again, you will likely have to walk with a cane, and you'll never be able to wear your favorite type of shoe again or do what you love ever again
That last bullet might not seem like a big deal and it may even seem a little vain, but those things were part of me and I was essentially being told that because of cancer, I was going to potentially lose those parts of me. The independent me, the super feminine, girly me, the dancer me, the confident me. Well one thing that I never lost was the strong me, the stubborn me, the fighter me. Everything I went through made me stronger because I wasn't going to let cancer win. I became more stubborn; I questioned EVERYTHING, every doctor, ever procedure! I refused to be a victim or a statistic and sit back believe what the doctors told me, I was going to prove them wrong - and I did! I was going to walk without assistance, I was going to dance and goddammit I was going to do it all while wearing heels!  

It's been 12 years and I have been extremely fortunate that the cancer has not come back, and even though I no longer have a cervix I still have to go and get an annual PAP EVERY YEAR - no exceptions! And while I am extremely thankful and grateful that I am healthy not a day goes by that I am not reminded of everything; the scars, the permanent nerve damage in my right leg, when it is cold out it is almost always colder than my left leg, sometimes cramps up for no reason or sometimes my foot just goes numb for no reason. I am susceptible to infections that others don't have to think twice about. I try not to dwell and remind myself of how far I've come, how strong I am and how I beat cancer. I don't let it get me down, it just makes me push harder, research everything and do everything I can to enjoy my life and stay healthy.

As the years go by, more and more people in my life are being affected by different types of cancer and I hate it. I know what it's like to have a doctor tell you that you have cancer. And even though I share that with them, each persons diagnosis is different, their journey is different and there isn't anything you can say to make things better. Just be there for them, listen and be supportive.

If you made it this far and want to know more details, then read last years post or ask me questions. I may not constantly talk about it, but I am always willing to share my story and encourage other women to take care of their bodies. What I went through was hard and scary, but I had an amazing support system of family and friends and I still do. Not everyone has that or can talk about certain things with their family and friends, so if my story can help someone else feel a little less scared, not become a statistic or simply not feel alone in what they are experiencing, then it's worth sharing.