Oct 23, 2009 - 8:50 pm
My Mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer on 10/17/09. She has been very weak and tired over the past few months. Mom has never been one to seek out doctors or any medical advise. The last time she was in a hospital was 32 years ago when she had me. Her philosophy has always been not to seek out illness. She firmly believes that if you do not accept illness, then it will not happen. She also has a very strong spiritual belief in God and finds her strength in Him. Due to her philosophy on health, she has not had a pap smear in 32 years.
I am a nurse so I have not always agreed with my Mom's belief system regarding health. However, she has remained exceptionally healthy despite being extremely overweight. The only medication she takes is Diovan for high blood pressure. The only reason she started this is because I had to convince her to go to the doctor. I took her to this appointment so that she would not have the opportunity to play hookey. I felt like I had really conquered something when I succeeded in getting her on blood pressure medication. You can imagine my surprise and guilt when I discovered that my Mom had cancer. As a nurse, I feel that I should have seen the signs. I should have made her seek out help a long time ago.
It all started the night of 10/15/09. Mom had labs drawn earlier that day. She received a sudden call that evening from her doctor's office. They instructer her to go to the ER immediately. She had a hemoglobin level of 4.1. No wonder she had been so tired! We quickly rushed to the ER. Mom had a lot of vaginal bleeding. On exam she was so full of clots that they could not effectively examine her cervix. She was admitted and received 6 units of blood during the course of her stay. She met her ob/gyn doctor on 10/16 and received an official vaginal exam with biopsy. The doctor was very kind but also not very encouraging. He could palpate a very large mass around her cervix and noticed a very foul odor that was suggestive of cancer. On 10/17 the pathology report showed small cell adenocarcinoma of the cervix.
When we first heard the news, I immediately started crying although I was fighting like hell to hold back my tears. Mom just sat there smiling with wide eyes. It was like a small child just finding out that they really are not a super hero. She continues to stay so positive. She tells me that she does not care how severe her cancer is, she is going to fight it and survive. She laughs with her nurses and is constantly more concerned with how the rest of us are coping. I really don't think I would be as strong in her shoes.
On 10/19/09, our journey continued. We met with a gyn-oncologist at the St Luke's Cancer Institute in Kansas City, MO, who examined Mom and determined that her cancer has probably been present for 3 years or more due to its size. The doctor did not recommend surgery due to the size and unknown origin. Even with this news, Mom kept smiling. I really commend the staff at St Luke's. They have been so aggressive. She immediately got in for her first radiation treatment that very day and also received 2 more units of blood since her hgb was still low. Then she began chemo the following day.
On 10/20/09 she received a CT scan to determine if she has had any metastasis to other areas of her body. The results came back and we received very good news. Her cancer is contained within her pelvis. There may be a small amount of pelvic lymph node involvement but other than that it is only located within her cervix. I truly believe that the results would show a very late stage cancer with much metastasis. Mom attributes this news to God and all of the prayer she has been receiving. I have to agree with her on this one.
So in summary, Mom is a 56 year old woman who has always avoided medical care including yearly pap smears. She was weak and tired over the course of this summer and had irregular vaginal bleeding. She lost 40 pounds unintentionally and Mom has never been one to lose weight easily. She has struggled with weight for years. Starting at 150 lbs when she married and gradually gaining 10-20 pounds a year ever since. She tops out now at 321 lbs. I do have to note that Mom has never stopped bleeding so she has not went through a normal menopause. Since I can remember, Mom always had very heavy, irregular periods that would last weeks at a time. So when she continued to bleed this way so far into her 50's, we still did not get too alarmed. I also attributed her delayed menopause to her size and the increased estrogen levels that are often present in obese women's bodies. Heavy bleeding has always been normal for her. Now I am aware that bleeding past age 50 is not normal.
Mom is a wonderful mother and grandmother. She has a very strong spirit and has been very loved by all of her family. Unfortionately, I don't think she was ever quite aware of how much we value her until this diagnosis. I am making a conscious decision to stop sweating the small things in life. We must value our time every day and make the most of it. We must also remember to let our loved ones know just how much we love them. Don't waste a moment. I am committed to helping my Mom fight this battle and give her great quality of life each and every day.