Over the past couple of days,  I have felt an undercurrent of anxiety in my bones.  Easily weeping at a Christmas movie-one in which the mother passes away when the main character was a child.  I quickly fumble the remote in my hands to turn off the television. Why the hell is it the Mom that always dies, almost every time?

My cancer-versary is around the corner. January 2, 2018.  The worst thing that has happened to me (so far) in my 45 years on this earth. Once I was diagnosed with cancer, my life split into two in a matter of minutes.  Before Cancer and After Cancer. And if you know, you know.  Lucky us, right?

No one talks about it.

As concise as I can, some history, if you will.  Before Cancer-I had had my last child at 35, my OBGYN had tied my tubes. I was okay with this.  The doctor had come to my room for a post check, and had said my “uterus was paper thin.” I remember thinking to myself “phew..it’s a good thing that I got my tubes tied!”.  She smiles, tells my husband and I that she ‘got her workout in by delivering our 10lb 11oz daughter.’ We laugh.

Two years after the birth of my last child, I had voiced my concerns (I had intermittent periods) to my OBGYN. Two years of appointments to physically check what was going on and lab work. In November of 2017, my OBGYN came to the conclusion that I must be perimenopausal.  It was a little early for it, but it was possible.  “Nicole, you’re a Mom of three, you stay at home! Your periods are getting wonky from stress and anxiety.”

Talk about gaslighting! We’re women! We’re supposed to support and listen to each other! I’m having severe periods that look like murder scenarios! I can’t leave my damn house for fear of leakage! But hey, she was the expert. I requested a hysterectomy, and she set me up with a gynecologist who specialized in menstrual disorders.

December 21, 2017, I had a procedure called an endometrial resection.  This is when the endometrial lining is scraped and sent to the lab. I was confident when he assured me that my periods would be lighter.  I left my outpatient surgery high on fentanyl, yet relieved that things would get better.

Spoiler alert! They did not. On January 2, 2018, my phone rang as I waited for my preschool students to enter my classroom. It was the actual doctor on the line. I remember thinking it couldn’t be good if he was calling me. He asked if I could come in later that afternoon. I replied that I was at work, but I could talk right now. He told me that they had found endometrial cancer on my resections that had been sent to pathology.  Trauma response was kicking in…I remember hearing doorbells ringing between ‘I have set you up with a gynecologic oncologist’ and looking behind me thinking ‘they have the wrong person, they have mixed me up with another patient.’

No one talks about the women under 45 who are diagnosed with gynecological cancer.  I know this because after genetic testing, no risk factors in an endometrial cancer diagnosis-a cancer that primarily affects postmenopausal women 60+, I am a fluke.  No one knows why I got this type of cancer.

Four weeks after diagnosis, on February 6,  I underwent a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Plus, I was dealing with bilateral pneumonia, and immediate menopause. Hot flashes from hell. Mood swings (as if I wasn’t enough of a bitch worrying about my upcoming cancer treatment).  I felt that I had no one TO talk about it with.  I researched A LOT-looking for local support groups for women my age with gynecologic cancer. Then I found support on Facebook-Young Women with Endometrial/Uterine Cancer Support Group.  This group saved me.  Women who understood what I was going through.  Women that I could share my fears with, and who lifted me up as I went through six rounds of chemo, three rounds of brachytherapy, and cope with life after treatment was complete.

After Cancer.  Currently, I am 5.4 years ‘No Evidence of Disease!’ I’m stronger than I ever had anticipated in my life.  Because of the growing number of young women getting diagnosed with gynecological cancer, I attend a local support group for those that have a gynecologic cancer diagnosis, sharing my story. Women should not go through cancer alone. I am an Elevate Ambassador for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.  I have been on Capitol Hill advocating for cancer survivorship.  Advocacy is how we can change cancer treatment in the future, so the numbers decrease for those with gynecologic cancer.  Let’s start talking about it.

To connect with Nicole, please visit her blog.