“There’s nothing more powerful than a good story…”
For all of you Game of Thrones fans, this saying may sound familiar; but show fan or not, its true! There really isn’t anything more powerful than a good story, and I have one to share.
One Sunday morning in September, while getting ready for church, I noticed some irregular bleeding. I know my body, I’ve always taken good care of myself, and I knew this was unusual. So, after church, I contacted my doctor’s office. The nurse on call asked if I could come in the next morning, to which I did and had an ultrasound done. Upon review of my ultrasound, my doctor told me he noticed a few things and wanted to do a hysteroscopy, which he explained as a series of biopsies, just to be safe.
A day or so after the procedure, I received a call from my doctor asking me to come in for a follow-up appointment. I wouldn’t have thought much of it, except he suggested I bring my husband or a loved one. Which, as so many know, when they ask you to bring someone with you, the news is typically never good.
I’ll never forget sitting in the doctor’s office, nervously waiting, and having my doctor walk in and say, “Oh! I’m so sorry. It’s cancer.” As with so many women before me, upon hearing those words my mind just went blank. The only way to describe it is like the biggest punch in the stomach you could ever imagine. I don’t remember crying; I don’t think I did. I’ve long had the mindset of,“It is what it is. We have to keep moving forward. Now…What’s the plan? Who are the people? What are the resources?”
It was shortly after my diagnosis that I was transitioned from my OB-GYN to an oncologist. Dr. Fort would be the man leading the charge and he assured me that this was a very treatable cancer. Regardless, worry and fear still lingered, but I trusted him and trusted in God’s plan for me. His plan was clear, I was to have a total hysterectomy to remove the cancer and reduce the chances of it recurring. Dr. Fort was open and honest, answering all of my questions, which helped ease my worry. We moved forward with the plan and were blessed to have a good outcome from the procedure.
At my follow-up appointment, Dr. Fort explained that my cancer might have been a result of a very rare genetic mutation known as Lynch Syndrome. I agreed to the blood test and the report did come back Lynch positive. While uneasy with the results, the silver lining is that I am now aware of the condition and could plan ahead and be aware of issues it may cause. As a precaution, my daughter had the same test and the results came back as Lynch negative, which was a true blessing for us all.
While Dr. Fort was sure he got all of the cancer, he advised a short rotation of low dose chemotherapy in conjunction with radiation. I had 6 weeks of radiation, 5 days a week, and then chemo every Tuesday after radiation. I’ll be honest, it was rough going through it all at the same time; I experienced nearly every side effect, which was extremely hard, leading me to several assessment center visits and a few fluid and blood transfusions. But 6 weeks went by relatively quickly, we got through it, and I believe it was partly because of the incredible staff and care I received at the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion.
The facility is second to none! When I was first diagnosed and planning treatment, my friends and family asked if I was sure about moving forward without a second opinion. I was quick to say, “Absolutely! I don’t need a second opinion! Where else would I go?” The pavilion brings together three big hitters, Woman’s Hospital, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, and Our Lady of the Lake, who all work together to provide the most incredible care close to home. The entire facility is filled with the most sincere and compassionate people who are all dedicated to ensuring that you not only receive the best care, but also have the best experience possible.
As the countdown to my last treatment started, I began making a list of everyone in the facility that touched my life and had helped me. Do you know that the list quickly became 75 people long? After I made the list, I tried to think of what I could get each of them and I was reminded of a conversation I had with Yolanda, one of the radiation techs. She noticed I always wore a broach and complimented me on them. It was then I realized a broach was my signature piece, and would be the perfect little gift for everyone. It also made me realize that Yolanda took notice of me. I wasn’t just a number or random patient; she saw me as an individual and truly cared about my outcome.
Thinking of Yolanda made me think of so many others that went above and beyond to help me during my cancer journey. Robin, the nutritionist, was always so willing to help me with my diet as I struggled with side effects of treatment. She would help me with new recipes and foods to try. The nurses in chemo were true angels! I didn’t have a port put in, so had my chemo delivered by IV. I’m known to be a difficult “stick”but those women always got it on the first try and went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable during treatment. Robin Maggio, the social worker, helped me deal with some feelings of depression and anxiety that I had. She provided me some really good resources and talked me through some exercises to help keep me calm on days when I felt really stressed or anxious. Mrs. Dee at the front door was always so welcoming and uplifting. She knew you by name, would welcome you with a smile, and is just exceptional at what she does. And still, there are so many more people that fill the pavilion that just care so much! There truly is no other place like it.
They say you never know what you’re made of, or what cloth you’re cut from until something like this happens to you. This journey was a true test of my will and determination, but with the love and support I got, not only from my family and friends, but also the doctors, nurses, and staff, I know anything is possible. Would I choose to do it again? No. But if I had to, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would be right back at the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion for my care.
My name is Ann. I’m 63 years old. I’m a wife, a mother, a friend, a believer, and now a survivor of Endometrial Cancer.
For more stories like Ann’s, click here.