May 19, 2005
Shortly after my 26th birthday, I began feeling ill and having some unusual spotting. My mother told me to come to the hospital she worked at and get a check-up at the women^s clinic. I had just moved back to the Buffalo, NY area from Florida 4 months earlier and did not have a GYN yet. So, off I went thinking I had a kidney infection because of the pain in my lower back. 3 days & many tests later one of the doctors brought me into a room with my mother and told me that I had Stage IIB cervical cancer. I just Saturday, stunned, how could this be? I was only 26 years old, single and still childless. It did not sink in until I went to the ladies^ room with my mother... where I began to cry and then I got angry, kicking the garbage can, punching the towel dispenser. I even scared some poor woman that was trying to come in! Then my mother said the one thing that I remember to this day and often pass on to others I help through charity work at the cancer hospital I was treated at: "You have one day to feel sorry for yourself, so get it all out now...because no matter how much you cry and feel sorry for yourself, it will not change the fact that you have cancer!" Those were the best words she ever said to me. Within in the next 3 days I went to Roswell Park Cancer Institute for a second opinion, was sent home to pack a bag and had major surgery. My doctor told us he would have to do a radical hysterectomy, but shortly after he went into surgey, my parents were paged to come back to the waiting room, where he told them that he couldn^t do the hysterectomy because the tumor was too big & I might hemorrhage. So, he removed my pelvic lymph nodes and closed me back up. A biopsy showed that the cancer had spread, but only to the first 2 sets of lymph nodes... not all 11 of them. Lady luck seemed to be on my side. While still in the hospital, I began radiation treatments and was given a drug that would intensify the radiations affects, but was still in the experimental stages. After many weeks of radiation, I was given a 2 week rest period before undergoing the first of two radium implant treatments. 72 hours flat on my back with a tube of radium and enough gaze packing to stuff an elephant shoved inside me. It was 72 hrs of pure hell, the pain was just about unbearable, but... at least I was still alive. That- I^m happy to say, was almost 20 yrs ago! I have been cancer free ever since. Today, when women are given the same diagnosis that I was given, I know they have a much higher cure rate than what we were given back then. Though I just recently lost my father after a 5 year battle with throat cancer at the same hospital, I give as much time as I can in volunteering for charity events at the hospital and several other charities in the area. Especially for sick & dying children. I^ve lived a lifetime over the past 19+ yrs since my diagnosis, but the children, are just beginning their lives, so anything I (we) can do to put a smile on their faces is worth at least a few hours a month of my (our) time. To all of you just starting your cancer journey, remember, you^re never alone, there is always someone out there to help you... just ask. There is no burden in life that we need to carry alone! There is hope!