Survivors

Survivors
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  • I am a cancer survivor
  • Hello. I am 44. Last year I finally went to the GYN because I thought I had a simple, treatable yeast infection. It was 20 years since my last trip to the GYN. Yes. 20 years! And I\^m a nurse. Doctors and nurses are know for focusing on their patient\^s health rather than their own. I could just tell by the look on the Doc\^s face that she didn\^t like what she saw, but of course she needed diagnostic proof. I left with an antibiotic. When I heard the urgency in her voice in my phone messages I thought they had screwed up the prescription. I actually forgot that they send your pap smear to a lab. I went in for a biopsy because my pap showed HSIL (a high grade lesion). She told me that it wouldn\^t hurt. Boy was she wrong. She took chunks the size of walnuts and told me that I would need surgery before she even send the specimens in to the labs. I still wasn\^t scared or worried yet. I was pissed that I was going to have surgury. I did start to worry when she asked me if I was done having children. She told me that a hysterectomy was most likely in my future. I told her that I didn\^t have children yet. I was told I did have a large invasion squamous cell carcinoma that had been there a while. But she assured me that Cervical cancer is the most treatable and curable cancers (most preventable too). She acted like it was no big deal. It was as if she was telling me that my gallbladder needed to be removed. I had the radical hysterectomy with extensive lymph node dissection. I had complications and stayed in the hospital for a week. The surgeon told me that due to the size of the growth that I needed 6-8 weeks of daily radiation. That was the first time that word was ever mentioned in regards to my treatment. I was upset. It was at that point that everything finally sunk in. This was kinda serious. I was way too sick to start my treatments for almost a month. I didn\^t leave the couch for 2 months. I couldn\^t work due to the fatigue. The treatments caused horrible yeast infections, urinary and bowel problems,significant hair loss,nausea and skin problems. None of the Doctors ever really emphasized these possible side effects. Even as an educated nurse I wasn\^t prepared. I went to the bathroom 12 times in a 4 hour period. I certainly was not prepared for the sexual dysfunction that is still a problem today. The vaginal stenosis is the biggest issue. This is very common with radiation to that area. Your vagina actually shrinks in diameter and they recommend frequent sex during radiation to keep it open. That\^s almost impossible when your\^e raw and full of painful scar tissue. They also recommend a dilator which is basically a female sex toy void of any pearls or bumps and it doesn\^t come in pink. You start with one that is the size of a teenage tampon and work your way up. My sex life is basically non-exsistent. I realize now that what bothers me the most about the cancer is the profound effect it has had on my sexuality and my sexual self worth. I often say \"they took my woman away\" I forgot about the lymphedema in my legs and pubic area. My pubic area frequently swells to a very abnormal, almost disfiguring size. If I was single I wouldn\^t let a man see me naked. I still suffer from fatigue and less severe bladder and bowel problem than the first 6 months. I also have major hormonal problems that are still not under control. I have yet to get a full night\^s sleep due to hot flashes that soak my pajamas. I never ever knew that this cancer was going to have such a major impact on my quality of life. Of course I am angry at myself for not getting routine exams, but I know I have to let that go. They never told me if I had HPV, but the research and studies seem to indicate that I most likely did. My pap results didn\^t indicate that. I\^ll have to ask. I know I have only shared the negative, but I did it purposely to hopefully scare woman into routine GYN exams and the need for the vaccine and protective sex. My life has been changed forever and it all could have been prevented. It only takes about one hour once a year.
  • 04-24 -2009
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