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Endometrial cancer at 33

Letter to my friends...

I've been experiencing a lot of problem with my menstrual cycle, especially in recent years, that lead to anaemia. (It was right off the scale low iron count). Lately I've been off-work for about 2-3 weeks on and off due to doctor's appointments (GP, Gynae, Haematologist) and in-hospital procedures: Iron-infusion, D&C and related follow-ups.

Following routine pathology testing after my recent Dilation and Curettage (D&C) and hysteroscopy procedure (as part of the treatment plan for my heavy menstrual bleeding when ultrasound showed abnormal uterine wall thickening of nearly 3 times the norm at 2.5cm), I have been diagnosed with Stage I Endometrial Cancer (i.e. least aggressive form)

After discussion with my gynaecologist and then the specialist gynaecological oncologist, it is decided that I will have a full hysterectomy (removal of the uterus + cervix), as well as the removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and a sampling/removal of the pelvic lymph nodes (for pathological testing) - standard mode of treatment for this type of cancer - hopefully through laparoscopic technique (key-hole surgery).

I'm sure you all meant well, but now what I need from you is to trust my judgment and my treatment decisions. I need to trust those who hold my life in their hands. Please do not thrust your "wise counsel" on me as I really have enough on my plate as it is. Compassion and comfort welcomed, but not pity and advice OK?

I don't think I'm in denial (though it is weird when I finally feel completely normal only to be told I'm actually sicker than most thought), more like not really thinking of the long-term consequence of being menopausal at the age of 33, but just being practical and want to live beyond the age of 40 and hopefully not look like a shriveled prune, walking with sticks (osteoporosis), 'elephantitis' (lymphedema) - swollen legs - and definitely not swapped my shares in Libra for Poise... or worse... TenaLady! (All possible consequences following my type of surgery). See I'm psychic, that's why I have four Godchildren already! (Since obviously I won't actually have any children of my own - still a virgin at 33!!) Trying to be funny is my only protective device, so now you know why I'm still laughing. I do not want to be all depressed and go on funny drugs, coz then I cannot work and I'll go crazy watching Dr. Phil, Ellen DeGeneres and Kerry Anne - WHY is she still on TV??

Why me? Why not me? Who knows? Why did that tsunami hit Thailand/Sri Lanka and killed all those people?

Should I be blaming all the previous GPs? Gynae? Ultrasound Doc? Maybe... but then, maybe the symptoms were not pronounced enough to trigger anyone to suggest further exams/treatment. Maybe 'STRESS' explains everything they cannot. Maybe 'losing more weight' is what I should have done. Maybe I was 'only after a medical certificate'. (Sounds crazy but my ex-family doc said that to me when I saw her after I fainted in the bathroom last year) Maybe nobody listened to what I was complaining of. Maybe I didn't complain enough. Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention to myself. Nobody can say how long I've had the cancer in me for. There's just not any good answer, and if you go there, it doesn't lead you anywhere good.

I'm trying to be positive and live life as usual - after all, the studies say I have a high chance of being cured after the surgery without need for further treatment. Nobody on Earth knows if I'll 'be fine', but I'd certainly like to think so. Please do not treat me as an invalid, definitely not when I'm still at work, after all I do not look/feel sick now. (I've even managed to walk/shop around for 2 hours without getting out of breath! So those few hours at hospital with that iron drip was worth it.) You're most welcome to pamper me during my convalescing period of 3-6 weeks post-op. (read, 'time off work') I've been told I cannot drive or go anywhere for min 2 weeks!! bummer! - My dad will not be much good around the home (especially after he decided it's quite OK to leave a person just out of surgery home-alone whilst they go out and entertain), so if necessary, my mother will postpone her July 19th trip back to Hong Kong to look after my expectant (again!) sis-in-law and grandkid(s) (hopefully this change won't be necessary). What? I hear we're going to celebrate with another round of karaoke. I am sooo going to be OK for The Boy From Oz at the Rod Laver arena in August and looking forward to my trip to Hong Kong/Beijing/Xian in late September.

Thank you for making it to this paragraph. Guess I needed to talk about it. Maybe cry a little about it. But it's all normal right? It's OK to talk and cry about this kind of thing. It's certainly more healthy than doing the "I'm fine! I'll make you feel fine, and you'll make me feel fine, and we'll all just feel just fine!" act. I also want you to know that at some stage in the near future I may not be at my best mentally/emotionally and pray that you be patient with me.

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A little post-script: I had the LAVH, BSO and PLND and pathology results came back confirming staging 1A (no spread, highest 'cure rate'). I went off the oral painkillers after 4 days. It's now been 10 days post-op and day 4 of my HRT, and I can manage to walk (slowly) a short distance, sleep through most of the night (still with a bit of night sweat) and looking forward to my trip overseas! I know the reviews will continue for next five years, but God-willing, I trust all will be OK.

Iola Chan

 

some resources:

  • American Cancer Society presents everything you need to know to cope with cancer and its effects
  • Cancer Care Inc. is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to provide free professional help to people with all cancers through counseling, education, information and referral and direct financial assistance.
  • National Lympedema Network (NLN) provides education and guidance to lymphedema patients, healthcare professionals and the general public by disseminating information on the prevention and management of primary and secondary lymphedema. The latter can develop as a result of cancer surgery, radiation, infection or trauma.
  • National Cancer Institute offers comprehensive information about endometrial cancer
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Updated  05/15/2010