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  • Mellisia, St. Louis, Missouri
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  • I am a cancer survivor
  • 03/14/03

    A Positive Attitude Will Help You Through. I had always lived a normal life. Wonderful family, lots of friends, good grades in school, good job, very active and always healthy. In July 2000, at the age of 22, things changed. It all started with a phone call regarding my annual Pap smear I had two weeks prior. "Abnormal pap" the doctor said. They wanted me to come back to the office to sign some papers so my records could be released to another doctor. I was told there was nothing to worry about, that these tests come back abnormal regularly. In September, I had a biopsy scheduled at St. Mary^s hospital. After the biopsy, I went home thinking there was nothing to worry about. A couple days later, the doctor told me that there was a possibility I had cancer. To be sure, she had forwarded my tests to Barnes-Jewish hospital. Still no worries, I went to Barnes by myself to meet my new doctor, Dr. Randall Gibb. After examining me, I^ll never forget him saying it. You have cancer. Of course, all I could do was cry and wish I had brought someone with me. I was diagnosed with stage 1B1 cervical cancer, grade 3. I was told I had to have a radical hysterectomy (removal of everything but the ovaries). We scheduled the operation for September 28.

    The Big Day. September 28, the day of the operation. I had never had any kind of operation or surgery before. After awaking from the operation, all I wanted to know was if everything went okay. My mother said Dr. Gibb would be in to talk to me soon. There were complications. After the incision was made, Dr. Gibb had removed 33 lymph nodes from my abdomen. Two out of ten lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. Surgery was immediately stopped and I was now scheduled for chemotherapy and internal/external radiation.

    On October 6, I started a type of chemotherapy called cisplatin. The
    positive part of this type of chemo was I wouldn^t lose my hair. Five days a week for thirty days I had to got through external radiation on my abdomen and one treatment of internal radiation a week. Within two weeks of treatments, my periods had stopped, I had started menopause and I was told I would never get to experience having children. I took the treatments pretty well. I didn^t start getting sick until towards the end of my treatments. I went through the nausea, vomiting, fatigue, but always in a good mood. That is what helped me through the day. My mother would take me to all of my treatments since I was unable to drive myself. On chemo days, she would always surprise me with a cinnamon pretzel from the cafeteria. Towards the end of my treatments, the skin on my abdomen was burnt, blistered and peeling. It was pretty painful. I couldn^t wait for it to be over. November 14, 2000 was my 23rd birthday and my last treatment. For my birthday, the nurses tied balloons to my I.V. poll. That day was a great day.

    Another Bad Experience. In the beginning of January, 2001 I called my doctor complaining about a pain I had on my left side. On January 9, he scheduled me for a CAT scan. After more tests, I was told the cancer had returned in some lymph nodes in my stomach. I had to go through twenty-five external radiation treatments. These treatments were a lot harder for me to handle. I was sick all of the time and lost all of my energy. After twenty-five hard treatments, I was cancer-free on May 24.

    In June, I ended up getting extremely sick. I was in and out of the
    hospital every week for months. My colon was bleeding, I was vomiting every day and I couldn^t keep any food down. On June 13, the results from a colonoscopy showed evidence of radiation damage to my colon. I ended up being put on TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) and fed through the vein for three months since I was unable to hold any kind of food or liquid down. After numerous times of being in the hospital, I was operated on. My colon had collapsed from the radiation damage. I ended up having a partial colectomy, where 18 cm of my colon was removed. I now have a colostomy (my colon is brought out of my stomach). Still, I wasn^t getting better. I was always in pain and still sick. My visit to the hospital turned into a three-month stay. I was finally released on September 6, 2001.

    I Made It! It has taken awhile to recover, but I have come along way. Of course, couldn^t have done it by myself. Thank you to my family, friends, co-workers, supporters I have never even met in person, and especially Dr. Gibb and the staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. I am now 25 years old and 1 year and 7 months in remission. Unfortunately, I am still in and out of the hospital because of infections, but I am recovering quite well. Since my recovery, I have been involved with many charities and events involving cancer. Some of which include Guest Speaker and Co-Chairman for the local Relay for Life, radio interviews, ACS^s Daffodil Days, and just volunteering for numerous events. I have learned to keep busy and keep a positive attitude. That is what helps me through. GOD handed this task to me because he knew I could handle it. It was hard, but I did it and I am thankful to be here.

  • 09-08 -2003
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