Tag Archives: cervical cancer

Remember

It’s been three years.  Three years ago, on January 12,  my aunt died from cervical cancer.

My Aunt meeting the Daughter for the first time.  Her smile just shows how much she loved my little girl!

My Aunt meeting the Daughter for the first time. Her smile just shows how much she loved my little girl!

I know I have written about her before but I feel like it’s my duty to remind people of her battle because if one person gets a pap test because they read her story, then she will have been able to help one more person.

My aunt was a kind and caring woman in the truest sense of the word.  She never married and had no children of her own but she gave so much to so many.  Not only did she love me, my brothers, and my cousins as if we were her own kids, but also she was always giving of herself to her Girl Scouts troop.  She was always there for us: for advice on life, for concerts, for graduations, for birthdays, for everything really.  She was proud of all of us.

She taught me so many things from how quilt to how to hike safely up a mountain.  She also taught me the value of kindness by showing me how doing kind works was more important than just throwing money at a problem.  By doing small acts of kindness, you can change big problems, just look at all the girls she helped when she was so active in the Rhode Island Girl Scouts.

In Memory ♥

In Memory ♥

I miss her.  I miss how she loved playing with the Daughter in the few months she got to play with her.  I miss how she would have been able to talk to me about careers, travel, music, life.  So many things, little things, are missed and on certain days, I feel them more than others.  This past week, I have been feeling all kinds of things that if the Long Island Medium were to encounter me, I don’t doubt that she would have a reading for me.

Her illness seemed to come on pretty quickly.  One day she was ok and doing all the things she normally did.  Then what seemed to be overnight, she was feeling not good, though she didn’t talk about it much with anyone.  I saw the weight loss though.  I saw her in pain from her hip.  I knew that she was not well. It was hard for anyone to not notice it.  It just all happened so fast.  Cervical and Ovarian Cancer does that though.  They both start out without any symptoms – a very scary thought.

I know that this post may seem a bit heavy, but my point is this.  Schedule you annual Pap Test.  If you’re one of my gentleman readers, please encourage the women in your lives to schedule their annual exams and then promptly please schedule your own appropriate cancer screenings.  These exams and that simple test are enough to catch cancer in its earliest stages.  Often, with Cervical and Ovarian cancer, once you start to feel the symptoms it’s often too late to do much in terms of treatment because the symptoms are brought on, most times, when the cancer has spread.  This is why early detection is life saving.

GYN_symptoms_matrix

It’s ten minutes (at most for the entire exam and test) of discomfort versus a long, drawn-out, painful battle.  If you have never been for a GYN exam, ask a friend who has gone to go with you.  They don’t have to go into the room, but they can if you want or need them to.  They can even just talk to you about it and tell you their own experiences.  I know it sounds funny, but I know a lot of women who aren’t fond of going and avoid it if they can.  The problem is they CANNOT avoid it.  It’s so important to get regular screenings.  They really do save lives.

11 Comments

Filed under Cancer Awareness, Family

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Every month seems to be an awareness month.  A ribbon of color is placed somewhere and people talk about it for a week or so and then the awareness fades.

For me though, this month’s cancer awareness is something that hits home for me on a few levels and that is why I talk about it a lot to everyone and anyone who will listen.

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.  This month focuses on women’s cancers: Ovarian, Cervical, Uterine, Vaginal, and Endometrial Cancer.

Let me tell you why this particular month is important to me.

When I was four months pregnant, it was time for my annual PAP.  They took the swab and sent it off.  I didn’t think anything of it.  I had always had normal test results.  I was more focused on my pregnancy and all the other things going on in my life at that time.  When I got the call that there were some abnormalities, cervical dysplasia to be exact, I didn’t know what to do, what would come next, or how this would change my life (if at all).  These cells themselves are not cancer cells, but when left untreated, they turn into cervical cancer.  Early detection of these cells is the most important thing and is what saves hundreds of women’s lives every day.

I was really scared.  I was pregnant and things were not 100% ok.  Thankfully, I had a great OB/GYN and she and the rest of the doctors at the practice were fantastic.  They helped me get through my pregnancy (which was not easy since I ended up with pre-eclampsia) and two months after I had my daughter, I had to have a colposcopy.  Not really knowing how to talk to someone about this or even knowing anyone who had gone through this, I was terrified since I am the kind of person who gets afraid of the unknown.  I went to the colposcopy procedure, completely nervous, afraid of the potential pain, the side effects, the recovery.  Luckily, the procedure wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, just a little mild discomfort but no real pain.  It was over relatively quickly.  The doctor did the biopsy and then the waiting game began.

Those days, waiting for the results, were the longest days ever.  They were most likely compounded by being a new, sleep-deprived, emotional mom but let me tell you, those days sucked.

The doctor called with the results that I was going to need to have a LEEP procedure.  Talk about scary.  The pamphlet the doctor gave me was nothing short of terrifying.  They talk about how they use an electric current to scrape the abnormal cells from your cervix.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  Well, let me tell you, it was not.  Anytime you need to be grounded before they start a procedure, it’s a nerve-wracking experience.  This procedure took a lot longer.  They had to numb me up and then they used this little metal loop that runs an electric current through it that scrapes the bad cells off your cervix.  The whole time, you feel this weird buzzing.  My doctor was fantastic because she kept telling me “25% done; 50% done; 75% done.  Just a few more seconds.” I really consider myself lucky because of the medical professionals I have access to.

I am glad I had LEEP procedure done and the bad cells removed.   Every year, I go and have my annual PAP and wait for the results.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous every time I am waiting for results.   So far, I have not had any abnormalities.  I am thankful every year when I get that letter with the check-mark next to that top line “Your PAP results were normal.”

Now, while all of this was happening, my aunt had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer.  I was seeing first hand what happened when this went untreated.  I was seeing the pain, the strength needed to go through the chemo, the toll it took on this active and vibrant woman.  It was so hard to not be angry that she didn’t catch this sooner and could have avoided having to go through this.  We didn’t talk about it.  It just wasn’t something we talked about.  When she lost her fight, it hit me harder than anything else I had ever experienced next to the birth of my daughter.

I think that’s partially why I feel like I need to talk so much about it.  So many women don’t have anyone to ask about these things.  So many women are afraid to ask the questions.  So many women don’t understand how a simple swab once a year can save their lives.

This Friday, I have to go in for some tests on a cyst that has formed on my ovary.  I have PCOS or Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  It’s a fun syndrome that results in all kinds of awesome symptoms.  I’m hoping that the cyst they found when removing my gallbladder is just something from the PCOS but there is a possibility that it’s something more.  I’m not going to mess around with it.  I’m going to go and have the tests needed and if I need to have it surgically removed, so be it.  I’m just going to chalk it up to 2012 – the year I got healthier.

If one woman reading this gets a little better understanding of the procedures that may be needed and is a little less afraid of them, then this blog post has done what it was meant to do.  So ladies, if you haven’t been to the GYN recently (like in the last year), call their office and make an appointment.  Don’t be afraid of it.  Don’t be ashamed of it.  Five minutes of uncomfortable pressure is worth more than months of chemo.  Gentlemen, if you have a woman you love, don’t be afraid to ask her if she’s had a check-up recently.  Talk to her about it.  Let her know that you support her.  (And also, make sure you go for your regular cancer screenings too!)

Talking about cancer and the different procedures is important too.  People need to lose the fear and nerves over the different tests and procedures.  If you have had a procedure, share your experience.  Let people know how you handled it.  Sharing your story could save a life!

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Healthy Me - Yay!

Quilting in the Summer – Crazy or Crazy Smart?

I learned how to quilt from my late aunt.  She was crafty before crafty was cool.  She quilted six baby quilts for me, my three brothers, and my two cousins.  They are all treasured mementos and I know that, at least for me, it’s one of the few things I will be sure to grab if the house ever caught on fire.  When she was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer in 2008, I was 6 months pregnant.  We had just laid my Nana to rest and then the news of my Aunt’s illness came almost instantly on  top it.  We knew she was sick, we just didn’t realize it was Stage 4 Cancer.  Needless to say, wrapping my head around all of that at once was an impossible thing.

I had trouble with the emotions – missing my Nana, happy about my healthy baby girl, angry about my Aunt’s cancer, excited picking out nursery items…it was a roller coaster that might have rivaled Kingda Ka.

One day, when I was going to Stop and Shop, I got a phone call from my Uncle.  My Uncle hardly ever calls me so when I saw his name pop up on my phone, I didn’t know what to expect.  What followed in the next few minutes were intense and at the same time so beautiful in retrospect.  He was asking me to spend time with my Aunt and make my daughter’s baby blanket.  It was hard.  I didn’t know if I could do it.  She was practically my second mom and every day I miss her because I look at my daughter and know how much my Aunt would have loved her and laughed with her.  He didn’t want me to regret not spending the time with her to make something so special – my lasting memories.

She taught me how to quilt over those months.  I would go and sit and stitch by hand each piece into the pattern.  We would talk about life, memories of the family, how the baby was moving, cute clothing I saw for her, doctors appointments, chemo treatments, religion, music, books.  It was wonderful.  She had it mostly finished by the time my shower was held.

She worked tirelessly to complete it despite going through some of the sickest months of her life.  But she finished it.  She lived to see my daughter who was named after her mother.  She held her.  She laughed with her at my daughter’s first Christmas.  She played with her.  My heart smiled.

After she passed, I was told by a few people that it was now up to me to continue the tradition of the baby quilts since I was the one who was taught how to quilt from her.  The woman once made curtains out of throw blankets and they were the prettiest curtains I remember seeing…and it was so simple!!

Fast forward to now…I’m going to attempt my first quilt.

I am trying not to be too nervous.  And it’s weird because in the back of my head, I keep thinking that I wish I could call her for some advice.  I just have to trust that she taught me the basics and once I master those basics, I can continue on.  The pattern I found was on a free site and it claims that it’s “easy.”  We shall find out if their definition of easy and my definition of easy are the same.

The pattern is nothing crazy.  I’m still a little nervous. I am pretty sure I picked an easy one….check it out – this blog has some pretty awesome ideas.

So, over the next few days, expect to see a photo or two of my progress.  It says that it’s a weekend project but I’m going to really take my time and make sure I do it correctly.  I might also cheat and use my handy dandy sewing machine.

Wish me luck!

I also promise that my next post won’t be so heavy…don’t know where that all came from but it was good to get out there.  Next time I’ll post something about milk shooting out of someone’s nose, the latest “Call Me Maybe” cover, or something…

 

4 Comments

Filed under Crafts, Family