My name is Stacey and I’m 38 and I have been diagnosed with womb cancer. This summer (2019) I underwent a total hysterectomy, with my reproductive organs removed, some pelvic lymph nodes and momentum to be biopsied for mapping too. The shop was firmly shut, so to speak.
Cancer changes your life completely. From CNS’s, MRIs, pain, fear and hospital coffee loyalty cards. Finding the appropriately named “new normal” is a necessary and scary situation.
I had polycystic ovary syndrome since I was a teenager and went through my late teens and twenties with barely a period a year let alone every month. Happy days I thought, little did I know it was far from being good thing and would slowly develop into endometrial (womb) cancer.
The week leading up to my diagnosis was awful. I had gone to have hysteroscopy under general anaesthetic as well as a smear test and vulva biopsy. When a letter arrived for me to go to a clinic with a different consultant I began to worry. I googled his name and realised he was a Gynaecology Oncologist and I broke down. I had already sent a photo of my letter to my mum and I went across to her house to find her crying too. We both knew what it meant. At this point I didn’t know if I had womb, vulva or cervical cancer. I just knew I had one. The week went by in a blur of tears and anxiety. The help of a Macmillan clinical nurse specialist was very beneficial, and it all began to feel very real.
I had multiple appointments, MRIs and different consultants. I was told that it’s relatively unusual but not unheard of for someone my age to get this particular cancer, just that most people are usually 25 years older than me. My consultant is a self identified “womb cancer geek” which is very reassuring. She was due to do my surgery, but anaphylaxis meant we had to reschedule, and I had a different surgeon.
My hysterectomy while putting me into surgical menopause has removed the cancer, I was diagnosed with stage 1b which meant it had grown either 50% or more into the muscle wall. I was offered adjuvant internal radiotherapy (Brachytherapy) to help do a belt and braces treatment. I’m fortunate to live with my wife, with my parents living across the road. They looked after me after surgery.
My scars are healing, my “swelly belly” is deflating and quickly being replaced by me being more overweight than before due to being less mobile and comfort eating. My anxiety is huge while I should be happy that I have been treated.
My family came to my treatments. On my first trip my dad stepped out of the crowded waiting room. A lady my age started sobbing happy tears as she rang the bell. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room after. My dad came back and had no idea why everyone was crying! It was a moment I’ll never forget.
I had 3 high dose brachytherapy treatments (internal radiotherapy) it wasn’t dignified or pleasant, but it wasn’t painful. The nurses were fantastic.
I had some mild side effects of an upset stomach after each treatment and the fatigue lasted for months but it was all tolerable.
I have myself a nice purple pack of dilators that could give Anne Summers a run for their money! It’s something that has become a part of my personal care routine now.
I got to ring the bell myself and now it’s time to find the new normal. I was expecting to feel better straight away, but it didn’t happen for me for a while.
I had a few weeks left off work, so we went on a family holiday by the sea. I’m trying to eat clean and exercise more. I always said for my 40th birthday I would get a puppy. My biggest self-care project was bringing the date forward and getting my dog, Hamish a year earlier than planned. Now even on days where I just wanted to curl into a ball, I have no choice but to get fresh air and exercise. It’s nice to have something to focus my attention on. I have gained weight while I was less mobile after my surgery but fortunately, I have a supportive wife who has also gone on a bit of a health kick so we can drop a few pounds.
Mentally it’s been tough, I’m still at the stage where I think about cancer at least 5 times a day. Every ache and pain I worry is a reoccurrence.
I had a two-month phased return to work and now that I’m back to full time I have the welcome distraction. I’m slowly getting better and able to dream about other things now, and not wake up to cancer nightmares. Things are looking brighter and I’m able to look to the future.