Hi my name is Tanya and I just turned the BIG 3-0!! Scary, right?! Well, not as scary as the cancer… and the story that follows.
In April 2011, I was having severe pain and visited my local urgent care, they said that I had a UTI and gave me medication. I followed up with my gynecologist, who said that it was just female problems and that I had no evidence of a UTI.
Throughout the summer, I visited multiple urgent cares, emergency rooms and doctors. They kept giving me pain medication and saying that it was girl problems or kidney stones or this or that, and not to worry about it. I even had one hospital in Virginia tell me that I was too young to get x-rays in fear of giving me cancer. Turns out I did anyway.
In June, I went up north to Pennsylvania for a month to visit my parents, who moved away after my husband and I got married. I went to a family reunion on July 3rd and had incredible pain, to the point of tears. That actually had been happening a lot. I had to keep popping pain medicine every day just to be able to get out and about for an hour or two. I had to sleep most of the day away because I couldn’t take the pain.
Finally, in August, my husband and I visited the gynecologist and demanded to schedule a laparoscopy. Since they said it was “simple girl problems”, they didn’t want to schedule it, but we were able to schedule it anyway. A week prior to the scheduled surgery I was having even worse excruciating pain, which was causing me to throw up. I couldn’t even walk when I went to the doctor’s office. I had lean over everything, while holding a vomit bowl, to keep me up. The gynecologist merely sent his nurse to give me a painkiller shot in my butt and he left.
The absolute worst day in all of this was the night before my scheduled surgery. I had to prepare for the procedure and I was not allowed any water, food or medication. I remember lying on the couch crying and screaming for just a drop of water, because I was so hot. At that point the doctor questioned whether I even had a fever, when I know I would get them regularly.
The next day was my scheduled surgery and the nurses found out that I had a temperature of 104° in pre-op. They contacted the doctor (who wasn’t even in the building at the time) and I was sent to the ER. I was not allowed to have surgery and the doctor did not show up or try to contact us for several days. He did not care what happened and did not show any concern after-the-fact, either.
In the ER, a new doctor finally ran a bunch of tests on me, and said that something was not right. Well, thankfully, they found something.
The next morning I had an emergency abdominal surgery. The surgeon said that my appendix was perforated, and appeared that it had been that way for at least three months (when I started complaining of pain). Since my appendix was leaking waste into my body, E. coli spread through my system, making me septic. The surgeon also said all my organs were “red and angry” (especially my uterus, ovaries, etc) and had developed a lot of scar tissue already. She had the option to remove my ovaries and tubes, since they were so damaged, but thought forcing me into menopause at this time might make things worse. At a later date, though, they may need to be removed.
In total I was in the hospital for 8 days, and had to go back everyday for 10 days to receive treatment for the E. coli. I slowly recovered from that surgery.
About a year later, after I thought this was all behind me, again I started to have pain, similar to before.
In November 2012, we were on our anniversary trip to Disney World. During one of the nights, I started to have severe abdominal pain, so much for our anniversary. A couple weeks after this began, I started noticing blood in my stool and it continued for two weeks. I went to the doctor and they told me to get a colonoscopy. The gastroenterologist said that I had an odd growth, what appeared to be a precancerous tumor. Unfortunately, he could not remove it through the scope due to the size and shape. I would have to schedule an outpatient surgery to get this removed in the future.
I also had a new gynecologist at this time, who needed to do surgery on me as well, because something wasn’t right with my female organs (leftover from the last surgery). So I was trying to coordinate a time that worked for everyone.
While I waited for the surgery, I continued to work and often had to call in sick. It finally got so bad, that I went to the ER and was hospitalized for two weeks. However, they eventually sent me home and scheduled a surgery, since it was supposed to be a quick outpatient procedure.
On December 19, 2012, I had the surgery. It took five doctors, five long hours to perform the bloodless surgery on me. When I was opened up, they found a hernia, and some abdominal adhesions. One of my ovaries adhered itself to my abdominal wall and my other ovary had swollen to the size of a softball and moved to the center of my abdomen. My colon was wrapped around this swollen ovary, and the tumor that they found during the colonoscopy was growing through my colon, into my ovary. Tissue samples were sent out to the lab. On December 21, 2012, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
I had no idea what to do, but a friendly doctor I met at work was my savior, over the next several months he would have helped me so much. Since my case was so unusual, being so young and a strict vegetarian with no prior family history of cancer, he sent my medical history and me to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, to figure out a plan of action. They prescribed 12 treatments of FOLFOX and 25 rounds of abdominal radiation. Fortunately, I was able to get this done locally and didn’t need to drive to Tampa (2.5 hour drive each way) for each of my treatments.
I only had 7 of the 12 chemotherapy treatments completed, because I was hospitalized so many times due to complications. For example, I had a stricture in my bowel, my port site kept ripping open and never healed shut, I contracted C. diff and ileitis, and so many other horrible experiences; my body wasn’t able to handle the medicine or the weakened state. However, I did complete all 25 rounds of radiation. I was also put on hormones, since my treatment basically killed what was left of my remaining ovary, and I began to go through early menopause.
In order to figure out the cause of my cancer, I have had genetic testing done and been tested for Crohn’s. All tests were negative. The doctors seem to think that my cancer formed by some random mutation, most likely experienced sometime during my first painful incident with my appendix. There is no medical way to prove this, of course.
Thankfully, after so much pain and suffering, on October 2013 I was given the “all clear.” It was at that point that we moved up to Pennsylvania from Florida, to live with my parents. We lived there until August 2014, when my husband had found a new job (finally!) and they located us to Harrisburg for a month until we settled into our new life and area.
In September 2015, we moved into our new apartment in Mechanicsburg, PA. We love it! We have happily begun the latest chapter of our lives with a fresh “new” start.
In fact, I have since been officially clear for over a year! My gastro says that my latest colonoscopy was so clear that I would not need to have another for 3 more years. That is amazing news, especially for a Stage 4 Survivor!