Peach Ribbons: My Cancer Story + Women's Health Tips
Something had not been right with my reproductive system for years and I knew it. It wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Finally being able to put a name to what I was dealing with helped me deal a little better, but I still did not have all of the pieces to the puzzle.
Late in 2018, I constantly felt bloated, nauseous, and completely worn out. My pelvic area was heavy and I was having to go to the bathroom frequently and urgently. In addition to these symptoms, I had bacterial vaginosis two or three times within a couple months. Still feeling as though something was flying under the radar, I made an appointment with my women’s doctor. She had mentioned to me earlier in the year that surgery was a possibility, but given all of the symptoms I had come in with, she felt it was necessary at this point.
On February 14th of this year, I had a hysteroscopy, which was a minor outpatient surgery that allowed them to look further into my uterus than what they could with the several ultrasounds they had already done. That was on a Thursday. The following Tuesday, February 19th, my doctor called to say that I had endometrial uterine cancer. She referred me to a great oncologist who found that the cancer was only stage 1A. I was put on hormone therapy in pill form to reduce the size of the tumor, and I’ve been able to maintain a regular lifestyle over the last four months.
At this juncture, there has been no discussion of a hysterectomy, and the oncologist reminds me that having kids is still a possibility; however, the doctors emphasize that my life and health are most important.
On Friday, June 14th, my oncologist called to let me know that the cancer is benign, there is very little tissue where the tumor was, and everything appears to be normal. Although, I am not completely in the clear as far as treatment, I live in faith as a survivor.
*The uterine cancer ribbon color is peach.
Women’s Health Tips
Intuitively, I believe we know how our bodies should feel. I felt in tune with my body and I could feel that it was not functioning properly, and if I had not been persistent about seeing doctors, they may not have caught the cancer until it was much further along and more damage had been done. In my new awareness of women’s health, I realize that more women struggle with feminine issues than you would imagine. Knowing this, I’ve been wanting to share what I know and what has helped me with the hope that it may help someone else facing similar issues.
1. Be persistent. I stress this, especially for black women, because some doctors can be very dismissive. In fact, one of the doctor’s I saw told me there was no way I had cancer, and that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The mortality rates related to pregnancy and other women’s issues are incredibly high for black women, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Constantly let doctors know your symptoms and everything that you feel is not typical for your body. If a doctor does not offer a solution, resources, or any sort of possible explanation, find a new doctor.
2. Keep track of how you feel. Although my cycle was never regular, I still used the Flo app to track how I felt everyday. With five million daily users, the Flo app tracks your cycles and graphs physical and emotional patterns that then allows the app to predict your future cycles. It updates with articles that may be relevant to some of your symptoms, offers community support from other users, and sends reminders about cycles and ovulation. There are several other practical features that I haven’t named, but my point is that it was amazing at helping me to track how I was feeling. I could see that I was bloated for several days consecutively or that I was nauseous for so many days out of one week and it was easier to let my doctor know my symptoms based on this.
3. Be aware of family history. My mom was just diagnosed with cancer last month, my grandfather has had cancer, and several other family members have had it. Thankfully, my genetic counseling showed that I am not predisposed for cancer, so it’s not likely to come back once it’s treated, but it is important to know your family medical history when it comes to your symptoms before diagnosis.
4. Trust your body. Don’t dismiss how you are feeling. If you are tired, admit you’re tired. If you need to rest, do that. You know you better than anyone else, and there is only one of you.