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My Journey Through Cancer (Part 2)

Nancy McBride


My Journey Through Cancer (Part 2)

By Nancy McBride

Life is full of twists and turns, and this is my story of how cancer has ultimately blessed my life. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the young age of 38. During this time, I kept a journal of my doctor visits, thoughts, symptoms, and struggles so that I could tell others how to pray for me and my husband Shane. At the time of diagnosis, my doctors and I thought the tumor was contained within my uterus. When conservative therapy failed, we made the decision to move forward with a hysterectomy. We truly believed this was God's way of healing me from cancer, and that life could continue as normal after the surgery. However, God made it clear that He had a different plan. I invite you to read snippets of my journal entries and see what God has done in my life.

Apr 18, 2019

The hysterectomy went very well, and my recovery so far has been very easy. The surgery was done laparoscopically, so I simply have five small incisions across my belly, each about 1-1.5 inches long, and all the other stitches are internal. It has been 12 days since my surgery, and I am off all pain meds. I am able to walk, drive, and do just about most normal activities with very little discomfort. My energy level has steadily improved and I feel about 85% back to normal. It is truly amazing how quickly the body heals. The best part of this surgery? I have had NO bleeding down there since I got home. What a change from before! Before the surgery, my spotting never stopped, so I was wearing pads all the time for the last 3-4 months. I feel like the woman who suffered 12 years of bleeding and was instantly healed when she touched Jesus's cloak. What a praise!

We recently received the biopsy results from my surgery, and unfortunately, they were not what we expected. The cancer was graded as a grade 2, which means it was a moderately fast-growing cancer. The mass took up about 23% of my uterus, and there was no cancer found in my fallopian tubes. They took about 7-8 lymph node samplings within the region of my uterus, and one of them had a small 1.5mm node of cancer on it. There were also a few free-floating cancer cells within my abdominal cavity. Those findings elevated my cancer from stage 1 to early stage 3. Since I have cancer in my lymph, there may be still cancer remaining somewhere in my body. Therefore, I have to undergo chemo and radiation in the next few weeks. My ovaries, which I thought could be spared, will need to come out soon as well, either before or after chemo/radiation. When I heard this, I was very upset - not because I still had cancer and needed to go through chemo and radiation, but because my ovaries couldn't be spared, and I would have to go through menopause. All the stuff I read online about menopause bothered me so much. I felt like surgical menopause would cause me to age 20 years. And I wasn't ready for that. I wasn't ready for how that would affect my relationship with Shane, how people I know would look at me and see how much I have aged in such a short amount of time, and overall how that would affect my life. It was a hard pill to swallow. But afterwards, I thought - maybe God is using this cancer to reveal to me the things of this world that I treasure and hold on to - youth, beauty, physical fitness - and ultimately He's showing me how none of that matters. It's still something I'm struggling with, but I also have to keep in mind that a lot of what I fear is what I'm reading online. I have to remember that my symptoms may not be as severe as I think they are, and I may not experience all of them. So menopause really may not be such a hard adjustment.

As far as the fate of my ovaries - my doctor is leaning towards removing them after chemo and radiation. If I wanted to get them out now, the soonest surgery date could be 2-3 weeks from now. I would not be able to start chemo/radiation until another 7-8 weeks from now. It seemed like too much of a delay. He also mentioned that the radiation itself would likely kill the ovaries anyway, so the threat of estrogen in my body to stimulate cancer growth would be very small. This means that I will experience menopause slowly over the course of several weeks as the radiation slowly atrophies the ovaries. To be honest, I see this as huge mercy from God - it certainly sounds easier to handle compared to being hit by menopause a few days after surgically removing them. My doctor did recommend putting me on hormone replacement therapy, but not until about 2-3 years after chemo/radiation. He wants to make sure I'm clear of cancer before putting estrogen back into my system.

As for chemo/radiation - my doctor gave a general outline for how the treatment will go. I will learn more specifics when I meet with my radiation and chemo doctor over the next few weeks. But I'll likely start in about 3-4 weeks so that I have enough time to heal from the hysterectomy. Then I will have 5.5 weeks of chemo and radiation together. Each week will have one session of chemo (which lasts a few hours), and five short sessions of radiation (every day, Monday through Friday). At the end of 5.5 weeks, I will get about 2-3 weeks of a break to let my body recover. Then I will have one session of chemo once a week, every three weeks for 12 weeks (so essentially four individual sessions of chemo spaced apart evenly). After that, hopefully I am done. There is no way to be 100% sure the cancer is gone, but my oncologist will follow me carefully over the next five years. I'll have follow ups every three months for two years (with CT/MRI scans frequently), and if everything looks ok, every six months for three years, and then at the five-year mark, I will move to annual visits. (To be continued…)

I remember the evening I found out the results of the hysterectomy. I remember the devastation I felt when I learned I had to go through surgical menopause, and I remember crying with Shane and my parents as I tried to accept this new path God wanted me to walk on. It was the first time I had truly cried over what this cancer was doing to me. I already had to give up having biological children, and now I had to give up my youth. It didn't seem fair. There were no easy answers, and I struggled to find strength in God. I had to remind myself that there would be a purpose in all of this, even though I couldn't see it then. Next month, I will share more specifics on my chemo and radiation treatment plan, and how God works through all the small details to bring peace in the middle of chaos.


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