I suffered from endometriosis for 10 years. For those not familiar with this strange sounding condition, just note it can be incredibly painful. For a better understanding of my journey, I'll share some quick cliff notes of this disease, but keep in mind I'm not a doctor. Endometriosis is a disorder where tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. The tissue that makes it's way outside of the uterus has no way of exiting the body. So, it creates scar tissue and adhesions, which can be a cause of ovarian cysts and, in more advanced cases, organs to attach to each other.
The pain that I was having had become so unbearable, I would spend 3 to 4 days a month in bed. My stomach was constantly bloated. Even using the restroom was painful. I was miserable. Years previous, I had an ovarian cyst removed, and I was given a shot to help manage the spread of endometriosis, which had not worked. So, this time I was looking for a long lasting solution. My gynecologist and I discussed my options. At age 35, I decided to have a hysterectomy. The plan was to take everything except for my left ovary, because my right had always caused problems. The goal was to allow me to gradually enter menopause, and if my left ovary became problematic we would remove it at a later date.
As already mentioned, I was in a good amount of pain. However, it was a shock to everyone involved, including my doctor, when it was revealed how advanced my endometriosis really was. During surgery (I was told) everyone in the room gasped when the endoscopy camera showed I had an 8 centimeter cyst attached to my right ovary and it was fused to my uterus. But, that wasn't the only thing fused to my uterus, so was my left ovary and my abdominal wall. My doctor said it was the worst case of endometriosis she had ever seen. With all of that being said, my gynecologist was amazing! The surgery actually went really well; she was able to save my left ovary by burning off the scar tissue surrounding it. And, I went home the next day, as planned.
Fast forward two days later. That's when the phone rang. And, the only thing the nurse would say was, "Can you come in today? Make sure your husband is with you." This sticks with me, because deep down, that's when I knew I had cancer.
When my doctor sat down with us, she set a box of tissues beside me. Then, she explained that the pathologist had found cancer inside the cyst that was attached to my right ovary. It was the only cancerous nodule found; however, the cyst broke during the removal process, so there was a chance that there were free floating cancerous cells in my pelvic area. My gynecologist gave us a run down of what to expect. I would be referred to an oncologist. There would more than likely be chemotherapy involved and my left ovary would also have to be removed as a precaution. At this point we didn't know the exact diagnosis, but the pathologist surmised we had found it at Stage 1. However, we had to wait 2 weeks to see the oncologist. All of the waiting and the unknowns, was and still is the hardest part.
My oncologist made it a point to say that my gynecologist did everything right. See, here's the thing, the symptoms of endometriosis and ovarian cancer are similar. Both, endometriosis and ovarian cancer, even elevate the same markers in blood work. He also made sure I knew that there was nothing I did that caused me to have cancer.
Thankfully, I had made the decision to take a more drastic approach to my endometriosis and in doing so made it possible to find my ovarian cancer at Stage 1. This is rare. Ovarian cancer isn't usually found until Stage 3 or 4. So, in a weird way, I felt blessed.
Our approach to fighting my type of cancer, which is estrogen related, was 6 months of chemotherapy, followed by a final surgery to remove my left ovary. They don't use the word cured, but my cancer is currently in remission and the overall prognosis is good.
In full disclosure, I did get thrown into menopause at age 36. So, that's a whole new challenge!