After months of thinking I had entered menopause my monthly cycle started up again, and on top of that I began having some hellacious abdominal pains and cramps. I decided it was time to get checked, so I went to the OBGyn office that I’d used years earlier when I gave birth to my two children. My first visit was terribly painful because the medical professional wanted to stop the bleeding, and she was only just barely able to get a tissue sample from my cervix. She seemed concerned and thought there might be something very suspicious causing the bleeding (ie: cancer, although she didn’t want to say that until it could be confirmed with the lab testing). She also wanted me to come back and see Dr. Ryan, the doctor who had delivered both of my kids. An appointment was set up, but he was on vacation and wouldn’t be back to the office for over a week. The very next day, however, I was experiencing extreme abdominal pains—perhaps as a result from the extensive probing and attempts to stop my bleeding from the day before. I called and was fortunate to be able to come in and see Dr. Kahn, an associate of Dr. Ryan’s, that afternoon. He examined me and said he felt it was cancer, but couldn’t confirm for sure until the lab results from the previous day’s exam were in. But he said he’d go ahead and get me set up with a local oncologist and radiation professional in Lima, both offices of which were located in the same building, within a block of Dr. Kahn’s office. He also pointed out that if I had to be saddled with cancer, this particular kind (cervical cancer) was one of the most treatable forms of cancer—if caught early enough. That was very encouraging to hear, and I thought his suggestion of meeting with the local oncologist and radiation expert was a good plan of action.
I was anxious to get started with the process of determining the stage of my cancer and what I’d need to have done. Dr. Kahn already indicated that I might need surgery (ie: hysterectomy), but he was not in a position himself to remove the lymph nodes near my pelvic area in case that needed to be done--to see if the cancer had spread. But a few minutes after he left the examination room and while I was getting dressed and ready to leave, he returned and said he decided I needed to go see the OBGyn Specialists in Columbus, because they were the best at figuring out what would need to be done and could do a lymph node dissection if necessary. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to schedule an appointment with me until after the lab results came in. And when Dr. Kahn’s receptionist was finally able to get an appointment set up for me, it wouldn’t be for 2 weeks!
I was so disheartened and feeling helpless, because whatever was going on inside of me was going to keep getting worse over the next two weeks. Plus, I realized that a lymph node dissection would be absolutely horrible for me. I had lymph nodes removed years ago and to this day I experience constant swelling in my arm, as a result. I tried a compression sleeve, but it was too painful for me. Because of my PPS, there’s no way I would be able to deal with the same kind of swelling in my legs because I wear braces on both, from the Polio, and the swelling would lead to extensive discomfort for me and likely an inability to get around as much as I’m able to now – which is really not very much. So the thought of the potential swelling and the risk of losing the use of my legs have aided me with my decision to reject any doctor’s attempt to remove the lymph nodes in my pelvic area. Furthermore, I decided to be proactive in my own attempts to deal with this disease; so I started reading up on cancer preventative foods and began tackling the cancer as best as I could on my own while I waited for medical treatments to begin.
I also decided to get another exam—this time with my sister’s OBGyn, Dr. Kindig. That went very well and she determined the stage to be IB1. Finally, I had something that I could do some research on. She also said she wanted to get me scheduled immediately to see the oncologist and the radiology specialist that Dr. Kahn almost sent me to in Lima. She went on to indicate that she could do a LEEP procedure or a Conization, but after she talked to the specialists in Columbus, that idea was dismissed. So I read about the various treatments that might be available to me and learned that Stage IBI Cervical Cancer was not as bad as I had anticipated. I was really looking forward to getting my medical treatments rolling now. Things were beginning to pick up with sales of my artwork at Greeting Card Universe and my Zazzle graphics business, and I realized that I had a lot to look forward to if I could just get through this second battle with cancer. Additionally, I had found out through my anti-cancer diet research that eating broccoli sprouts just a few times a week could go a long way in helping to fight cancer because of the high content of sulforaphane (a chemical compound that has been discovered to prevent the progress of tumors). I also added green tea and a daily garlic clove to my diet, and some grated ginger root as well as turmeric, kale, mushrooms and blueberries—each one a helpful, healthful food.
Another wonderful method of attacking the cancer is stress reduction, and I happened to be watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show one day in April when she declared it was ‘stress awareness’ month (http://ellen.warnerbros.com/videos/ellens-monologue.php). I took her advice to heart and am cutting back on stress and laughing more.
While all of this was going on, I had my first visit with Dr. Ahmad, the radiation doctor whom Dr. Kindig scheduled me to visit with and who would help treat my cancer. Dr. Ahmad discussed my radiation options and he explained that it’s standard nowadays to have chemo at the same time to make the radiation work better. I asked the name of the chemotherapist he was planning to connect me with because there was no way I would go back to see Dr. Poopyhead from Findlay. He said Dr. Gerad and Dr. Rhoades were in the same building, upstairs. I said I had seen a Dr. Rhoades in Columbus years ago for my breast cancer, but I doubted it was the same. Dr. Ahmad said he thought Dr. Rhoades may have come from Columbus, so after I left I was planning to go home and do some internet research.
But back to my discussion with Dr. Ahmad. After he had finished going over the plan of attack with the radiation and chemo, I said “this is where you say, ‘we’ll get you through this.’” But instead of saying that, he came back with ‘I can’t say that, there are no guarantees.’ Not exactly encouraging words one would like to hear from her cancer doctor. Furthermore, he decided the staging of my cancer should be taken down a notch while he was at it. He downgraded my cancer stage to IB2 and said the reason was because the mass was 7cm—whereas Dr. Kindig’s staging suggested the mass was smaller than 4cm. I didn’t know if he meant in length or diameter, so I cupped my hands together in the shape of a baseball and asked, ‘if I were to describe the mass to my family, would I be correct in saying it’s this big?’ and he answered, ‘yes.’ Yikes, things were getting more and more discouraging with this guy, but I was getting SO anxious to get my treatments started that I wasn’t going to be demoralized.
Dr. Ahmad also said I needed a PET/CT scan to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread. That seemed reasonable, and if the results were as I had hoped, it would prove to me that the cancer was localized and I wouldn’t need to have lymph nodes removed to show as much. So he scheduled the PET/CT scan, and suggested I might want to cut back on the antioxidant-rich foods when my treatments started because the radiation and chemo needed lots of oxidation. But while waiting to get the PET/CT scans would delay the start of my treatment, it meant that I had a little longer to keep fighting the cancer with my anti-cancer diet. A visit was going to be scheduled with the chemotherapy oncologist, Dr. Rhoades—who I still didn’t know was the same doctor that had treated me years before—and I finally felt like things were moving in the right direction to possibly defeat this awful disease once again.
When I got home, I found a picture of the Dr. Rhoades that works in the same building with Dr. Ahmad, and I recognized him instantly. I hadn’t seen him in more than a decade, but there was no mistaking that this was the same doctor who saved my life during my first bout with cancer fourteen years earlier.
I was ecstatic, because the notion that I would be so lucky as to have the same chemo doctor from years ago, but who had relocated to a mere 20-minute drive from my home—rather than the two hour drive it had been for my chemo treatments in Columbus the first time around—was so encouraging. I felt like this was a very good omen and having him working with me a second time was a sure sign (to me, a least) that by golly I was going to get through this. I finally reached the degree of confidence to successfully attack this disease; and even though Dr. Ahmad said there were no guarantees, being treated by Dr. Rhoades again sure feels like a guarantee for me.