Why is it important to recognize endometriosis symptoms?
Endometriosis represents the abnormal growth of cells in the lining of the uterus. Endometriosis symptoms can be easy to miss: abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding and pelvic pain or pressure. In my case, abnormal turned malignant. I had stage four endometrial cancer. The important word is HAD. I underwent some tough treatment, and, thank God, eight years later remain cancer free. As an author, I wrote about my experience in a memoir: GODSIGNS: Health, Hope and Miracles, My journey to Recovery.
As women, we’re accustomed to pressure and/or twinges in our pelvis. Our reproductive organs speak to us through cramps, menstruation, discharge. We ignore them as best we can. In my case, uterine cancer announced itself in an embarrassing fashion. In the interest of science, and truth in literature, I share it with you. My husband and I made love one night, missionary style. In the heat of the moment, I forgot about my less than acrobatic ability and the fact that, even at five years old, I could not do the splits. I spread my legs farther than usual. Too far, I concluded the next morning when I woke with a pain in my groin.
Queen of Denial that I am, I concluded I had pulled a muscle. I ignored the pain for—another embarrassing admission here—four months. I finally showed up at my doctor’s office. He took an xray, had it checked by a radiologist, commanded me to undergo a CT scan and an MRI, and then gave me the grim news. A tumor was ultimately found to have destroyed my uterus, ovaries and most of my pelvic bone. The experience—the fear, medical treatment, spiritual guidance and love I received– make for an up-and-down, hope-inspiring read. I share it for others facing challenges of their own and for those who love them.
The following excerpt from GODSIGNS takes place in my oncologist’s office just after I have been diagnosed. It gives you a sense of who I am and whether you want to accompany me on my journey…
…My chemo regimen would consist of carboplatin and Taxol, typical for uterine-, ovarian- and breast-cancer patients, Dr. Malone said. I also needed radiation to my pelvis. Without it, my lesions could grow larger and destabilize the bone. I would receive six rounds of chemo, one every three weeks. Chemo would begin two weeks after surgery. Radiation, five days/week for six-and-a-half weeks, would start two weeks after my first chemo. For several weeks, I’d receive chemo and radiation concurrently.
“Aggressive cancer requires aggressive treatment,” Dr. Malone said. “We consider you young and healthy enough to handle it.”
Young? Sixty and falling apart. Healthy? Even though my doctor had seen me from the bottom up and inside out, healthy was a stretch.
“There’s a good chance you’ll make it through all the treatment,” Dr. Malone said. “We’re shooting for a cure.”
I am a lover of words. They connect us to friends; they warn us of danger; they inform and enlighten and entertain us. They introduce us to other worlds. I heard a lot of medical terms during my diagnosis and treatment. Some were terrifying; some, confusing. I heard encouraging words as well. Young was good. Healthy was better yet. But none was as uplifting as that single word, the word that for me evoked sunny days and rippling water and the promise of hope. The single word: cure.