And this is the story of Tanya waging war on cancer...
￼"Tanya and Geoff getting photos for their wedding invitations"
Cancer sucks. Do you know anyone who lost a loved one to Cancer? Did you feel bad for them? Did you wish you could do something to help? If you answered yes then this is your chance to be a hero in a war that Tanya isn't giving in on.
For those that don't know me, I'm Tanya.
I was diagnosed with a stupidly rare form of Endometrial cancer at 35 years old. It's called a Mesonephric Adenocarcinoma. I dare you to say that 3 times fast...
When I first diagnosed there were only 10 documented cases of this type of cancer and mine was made even more rare because the 8.4cm tumor presented inside my uterus instead of on the ovaries or cervix like it typically would.
Immediate treatment was surgery - a radical hysterectomy that would take my uterus, ovaries, and cervix. I was assured that the surgical team was confident that they got it all and I would be fine. That was Sept 2016.
Fast forward to April 2017. I'm 99% sure my gallbladder is acting up and ask my GP for an ultrasound to confirm. Not only did the scan confirm gallstones, it also picked up a lesion on my liver. Not good. The recommendation was to follow up in 3 months to see if there was any changes to the lesion.
After a CT scan 3 months later we found out that not only was the lesion still there but it had a friend...and another on my spleen. There was also so many tumors in my abdominal cavity that they weren't able to count them. So much for being "fine". June 5th, 2017 was the day my life changed forever. It went from being a busy photographer and planning my wedding to being told that I should get married as soon as possible because I might not get the chance to if we waited. The 5 year survival rate for people like me with stage 4 endometrial cancer is only 5%.
I met my oncologist, Dr.Atwell a little over a month after that day. Honestly, I don't remember much about that appointment. It was a blur and I was in pain and super uncomfortable thanks to my body developing ascitis in my abdomen (fluid build up) and I just wasn't focused. If were smart I would have either recorded the appointment or asked someone to take notes for me. This is why I will always recommend having someone with you for the first few appointments. They can be overwhelming and a blur.
For those that have never experienced Ascitis, you're lucky. For me it was a quick build up of fluid in my abdominal cavity. It was extremely uncomfortable and make the simplest of things, like walking to the bathroom, difficult and painful. There really is only one treatment for ascitis, which is having a tube inserted and having the fluid drained. Unfortunately for me, the freezing didn't take and the whole process was anxiety inducing and painful. I had this procedure done twice before starting chemo and once after.
The first chemo appointment was nerve wracking. I didn't know what to expect, had no idea what kind of side effects I would have, and wasn't looking forward to getting an IV. It turned out to be not such a bit deal, aside from sitting there all day. There were several pre-chemo medications they give to reduce the chance of a reaction, which is highly likely with these types of medications. There's anti-nausea meds, Benedryl, and a steroid. Each of those bags of fluid takes some time to run and then there's the chemo meds.
The initial dose of chemo turned out to be too much for my body and it tanked my immune system. I had my 3rd ascitis drain done and by the time we got home from the hospital I had already started to show signs of a fever. A fever of 100.1 means I'm headed for the emergency room and that's where we headed. I tried to fight it and wanted to stay home and sleep but my husband insisted so off we went back to the hospital. 7 hours later, I was admitted to a room and put into reverse isolation - everyone who came into the room needed to wear a mask, gloves, and gown to protect me from outside germs as my immune system wasn't in any shape to fight anything off.
While I was in the hospital my left arm developed some swelling and got worse and worse. After a few days of this an ultrasound was ordered to see what was causing the swelling. It turned out to be a blood clot. Little did we know that there was also one in my right lung, which wouldn't be discovered until my 3 month CT scan. As if all that wasn't enough to deal with, I developed the most random swelling on my hips and right thigh. The doctors were stumped. On top of everything, my hair started to fall out while I was in the hospital. My poor nurse walked in to my room to find me bawling my eyes out with a handful of hair. I know it's "only hair" but to me, that was devastating. I cried when we finally shaved what was left of it. After a week of the worst hospital food I've ever tasted I finally got to go home :)
My wonderful husband had arranged for a hospital bed to be set up in our home so that I could still be around everyone even though I was still stuck in bed most of the time. My strength is one of the first things cancer took from me. It's unfortunately extremely difficult to rebuild strength because of how chemo works - it destroys all fast growing cells, not just cancer cells. It's still a work in progress though and I'm not giving up. Some days are better than others, some days I over do it, and some days are Netflix and bed days.
Once I was home from the hospital and recovered we started chemo again. Over time I started to react to the Carboplatin, which is the second chemo med, which meant we had to add even more supplemental drugs to the cocktail to reduce the reaction. Unfortunately, with each treatment I reacted more and more until finally they had to stop the drug and give me several doses of steroids to make it stop.
That was November 2017, and the last of my scheduled treatments so the next step was a CT to see what progress we were making. I refused to ring the bell on my way out. I knew that I wasn't finished yet.
The CT results were great! Dr. Atwell suggested a 3 month break from chemo over the holidays. of course I jumped at the opportunity! Then I panicked. I started remembering how fast the cancer had come back after surgery and was very worried about how much it could grow in 3 months. I spoke with Dr. Layher, my Nanaimo oncologist, and we discussed my fears. We agreed to scan at 2 months instead of 3 and go from there. The scan at 2 months showed minimal growth and Dr. Layher didn't recommend further treatment yet, but to scan again in 8 weeks.
Just 4 weeks in I knew something was wrong - I had discomfort in my chest (that I incorrectly attributed to another clot) and the ascitis in my abdomen was back and quickly building. I spent a lot of time in tears and having anxiety attacks just thinking about having another drain done. I couldn't do it. After talking to Dr. Layher about it she was thankfully able to arrange for me to have the procedure done under sedation.
10 liters of fluid drained later, I was home again and much more comfortable. For now.
When we started chemo treatments again we started with a different drug called Doxirubacin. This particular drug is known amongst cancer patients as "the red devil". That sounds promising hey?
Right off the bat I was nauseous...so nauseous that I couldn't function. Nothing helped, even when I could get anything down. After a few days the only thing that made it go away was to keep food in my stomach at all times. Empty stomach = nausea. No medication helped except for occasionally chewable gravol. Cannabis didn't help in any form. Ginger didn't help. Not even my usual trusty peppermint tea helped. For 2 weeks at a time I was so sick.
That bring us to today.
My last CT scan was April 18th. It showed a good response to the Doxirubacin and the tumors had shrunk.
However, I'm not prepared to do go through a third cycle of this drug. My mental health took a pretty big hit this round I'm not sure I'm strong enough to do it again. Dr. Layher agrees that switching to something else, possibly back to the platinum drugs, is the best course of action to give me better quality of life. I'm very grateful for a wonderful medical team that actually listens and cares :)
So that's my story. I'm still fighting every step of the way. One year down...4 more to go to beat the odds.
- Karen Foster
- Whittaker Clan
- Karen Foster
- Ramona Sharp
- Heather Maddison
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