I started spotting in June 2017, at age 65. I finally got in to see the doctor by July 3 and by July 18, 2017, I got a phone call from the gynecologist. I was told the biopsy came back positive for endometrial cancer.
I scrambled as I was supposed to go to North Carolina to take care of my grandsons the next week. I had to change our trip reservations so my husband could go and get our youngest son. He was going to help me through surgery and the first chemotherapy.
All of my doctors kept saying I needed to take care of this NOW. After a lost referral to the oncologist, I finally got fed up and proactive. I called the oncologist’s office and demanded to speak with the office manager. They gave me the nurse I had been dealing with and funny thing, she suddenly found the referral. I got an appointment for several days later.
The oncologist flies from Portland to Medford, Oregon once a month to treat patients. I was afraid I would have to wait until October for surgery. Nope. She realized I was ready for a fight and scheduled me for 11 days after the appointment.
We drove the three hours the day before the surgery to be ready. I might add that all of this was going on during the big fire in southwestern Oregon. The air was really smoky and there were constant updates on Brookings, Oregon as to possibly having to evacuate. (It’s 20 miles from where I live).
The hysterectomy went well. I only needed a Tylenol after surgery for pain. The doctor let me go home a day early. I had to go on blood thinners for 28 days after surgery. It was Saturday, though and only one drugstore carried them.
We submitted the prescription only to have the pharmacy call and tell me my insurance wanted me to purchase them through mail order!! It was 97 degrees out, we were in a truck in the parking lot, and I was fighting with my insurance company. I finally had my son pay for 10 pills and we started home as the pharmacy was closing. The insurance company called 45 minutes later and tried to explain it was cheaper for mail order, but I told them I require the meds NOW, not a week from now as I just had surgery.
They approved it, but we had to drive back Monday to get the refund and the medication. We got home to find out the fire was within a mile of my son’s home. We drove up and picked up some of his belongings.
Fast forward, I healed quickly from surgery, remained healthy and active.
My first chemotherapy was a day after port placement. I was given Carboplatin/paclitaxel /neustra. I was tired for a couple of days but on day three decided to stroll to the mailbox, a half-mile round trip, and I did it!
Each day became easier and quicker. I got to the point I was mowing the lawn, going places, doing things. People would tell me I look like I’m healthy and couldn’t have had cancer and asking how I can be so active. They told me I should rest. My answer: I don’t want to rest, I have no choice but to fight.
For my radiation, I would drive the three hours to Medford every Monday for 5 1/2 weeks to go through five days of radiation. Then I would drive home Friday morning, empty the car and go into town to help with renovations on a duplex for four hours.
During the week I would walk around the local stores (it was Christmas) and just look. At the doctor’s office and waiting room, I would talk to people, suggesting resources and listening to their stories, offering suggestions.
I was nicknamed the “Chaplain of the Waiting Room” because I made people smile, feel better and offered suggestions. I finished my last three chemotherapy sessions and was told I was NED (remission, or no evidence of disease).
Four months later was my first checkup. On July 18, 2018, I was told I have 28 spots in my lungs; highly likely endometrial cancer had metastasized. I had a needle biopsy that didn’t show anything, so they took a lung wedge. (OUCH).
It was endometrial cancer. The chemo oncologist, as well as my main oncologist, said there were lots of options and they were not going to give up on me. I requested a complete genome sequencing which was sent up to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland.
My chemo doctor called for information and my case was staffed by a doctor at that facility. He said there is a trial now I would be perfect for and I got in!! I got the Keytruda Lenvatinib mix! It was funny all the doctors and nurses pulling for me.
Now we are driving the four hours each way to get treatment every three weeks. This treatment is harder on me physically, plus I’m getting older. I have good days and bad but still push forward. I still manage to make doctors, patients, nurses, and staff laugh, and I keep them on their toes.
I tell myself I don’t have a choice, there are no other options available. I choose to fight.
Both my parents, my brother, and sister have all had cancer at least twice. Our daughter had thyroid cancer. I am the last of my family to get it.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.