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As I was writing the title, I still am counting my blessing that this time everything turned out to be okay! Please be advised that I am sharing my own personal stories, my symptoms do now mean you have cancer and I am using this as a way to spread education about Ovarian Cancer. Why do I want to educate you may be asking? The answer is quite simple, Women's Gynecological Cancers and Autoimmune issues like Endometriosis are almost always missed or brushed off as something else. Gynecological Cancers are also called the silent killer for that exact reason, most of the time by the time it is found the cancer has taken over. For some reason in the medical field women are not always taken seriously, no big surprise there and most doctors will pass the blame of pain for gut issues. Sending you to allergies, having you go to a gut doctor only to come back to gyno with all the same symptoms you started with but most likely worse. In the medical fields defense symptoms of most gynecological cancers and endo are the same as food allergies and IBS:(
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Before jumping into my story, I wanted to do a little education first, you know that how I role lol. If you just looking for my story go ahead and scroll down a bit, you will find it under my story! Ovarian Cancer is the 5th leading cause in women's cancer related deaths but there is still no screening or required testing for it. In your lifetime 1 in every 78 women will be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, there is roughly 22,280 women diagnosed each year with more than 14,240 not going to make it. Ovarian Cancer is part of the BRACA 1 & 2 Genes, the same Breast Cancer markers but is rarely talked about.
Ovarian Cancer almost always starts in the Fallopion Tubes and effects a majority of women who have already gone through menopause. With that being said, don't believe that only women that have gone through menopause are the only ones at higher risk! Ovarian Cancer can happen to anyone that has fallopion tubes and ovaries, it may be less common but still happens all the time.
Are there any Symptoms?
This is where it starts to get tricky, due to the location of your ovaries and fallopion tubes any sort of symptoms that you might be experience are so broad that they could really be anything else but Cancer. Doctors don't like to jump to a Cancer diagnosis right away, really it's like the last options. Another thing with Ovarian Cancer is blood work like your basic CBC panel will not show anything wrong. Usually, will show low iron but that isn't to uncommon where it's a red flag or anything. There is a blood test called CA 125 that is used to help diagnose Ovarian Cancer, but this test by itself isn't that accurate. Any sort of inflammation in your body like Endometriosis or PCOS can cause that blood test to come back with higher numbers, meaning it is unreliable in making a diagnose by itself.
Most women who have or had Ovarian Cancer do report these few symptoms:
- Bloating that doesn't go away
- Back Pain
- Pain in Belly After Eating
- Pain with Intercourse
- Loss of Weight
- Changes in Bowls usually Constipation
- Increased Urge to Pee all the Time
Now after looking at those symptoms, I can promise you that these can be several of things. Am I right?
Not in a million years did I ever think I would be writing to talking about my first Cancer scare in my early 30's but here I am writing a whole blog about it. It is really crazy how life is so unpredictable, so you really should stop planning and just live life! A little back story about me and my ovaries lol, my entire adult life I have suffered with pain down there and was told it was endometriosis and then later discovering I also have PCOS. Besides those I do suffer from Graves Diseases and Hypothyroidism that took 3 and half years to get completely under control. This is important to understand as my hormones were off so long causing cystic acne, irregular periods, pain with intercourse, bloating and loss of weight that any changes down there I really didn't pay any attention to.
With over 3 years of fluctuating hormones, it was the perfect breeding ground for cells to grow out of control. The out of control growth can cause all the symptoms I was experiencing as well as make my Endo and PCOS worse. I had the pain for over a year and chalked it up to my hormonal imbalance. Already sick of going to the doctor I decided to put it off until December 2020, I know but hindsight is 20/20. I just had back surgery in October same year 2020 plus dealing with a pandemic, COVID going to the doctor let alone find out if something was wrong with me wasn't on my mind of top priorities.
Non the less I went to the doctor, discussed my pain, the location as well as symptoms that I did not know if they were related to or not. Thankfully, I had started to really understand my body a few years ago that I was able to see symptoms that were newer. My symptoms were:
- Pain with Intercourse, Tampons and a Period Cup, goes along with endometriosis.
- Back pain but remember I just had spinal surgery.
- Pain in low right pelvic area over my ovary and higher, could also be pinched nerves in my back from my recent surgery.
- Loss of weight due to not being able to eat because the pain was so bad after eating.
- Extreme belly bloat, pic shown above, I looked pregnant This could have been food allergies which I do have.
- Irregular periods, a regular period comes within 28-34 days Mine were coming every 42-50 days apart. This is common with hormonal imbalance so I didn't think anything of it.
- Longer and heavier periods and spotting in between, This is common with hormonal imbalance so I didn't think anything of it.
- Increased cystic acne along the jaw line with increase in facial hair, this is common with thyroid imbalance and PCOS.
- Night sweats, I am talking about drenched, wet must get up in the middle of the night to change my clothes and sheets.
Looking at my symptoms you can understand how they each could have very well been due to another issue. That is also what the doctors are looking at, but thankfully I have learned to stand up for myself in the doctor's office and had a feeling something wasn't right. You know the saying listen to your gut or intuition, trust it my friend, learn to hear it and listen! So, with that we ordered an ultrasound and they found a cyst on my right ovary as well as an enlarged ovary. Please understand the cyst on women's ovaries, ones having a cycle develop cysts that are completely safe, normal and go away on their own. A very small amount of begin ovarian cyst need to be surgically removed as they go away on their own after a few cycles!
Due to the symptoms I was having and the fact that my birth family history is unknown because I was adopted, we scheduled a CT, pelvic exam and another Ultrasound. Making sure that each image is taken at different time in my cycle to see if the cyst is getting smaller and going away. After having those two extra test, the images didn't look good. The cyst was growing, it grew 1 cm in under 30 days so almost 5 cm by now, had thick walls, solid tissue on the inside, was located on the inside of my ovary not on the outside and upon the pelvic exam there was a hard lump that didn't move. These characteristics were all signs of malignancy (Cancer Tumor) so on Feb. 2, 2021 I had surgery to remove my right fallopion tube and ovary. Doctor would have taken both ovaries if I were in my 40's but we are trying for me not to go into early menopause. We also didn't run a CA 125 because with Endo and Autoimmune issues the number were most likely be high giving an inconclusive test.
This was by far my scariest surgery not because of the surgery because it was an easy procedure, I was scared of the results. I still could not wrap my head around the fact that I just had surgery to remove a body part that had a malignant looking tumor. As I wait for days, having my heart skip a beat every time my phone rings I finally get the call. By the grace of God I DO NOT HAVE CANCER, and I say by the grace of god because what they found is scary.
They found not 1 but 3 different types of cysts two on my ovary and one on my fallopion tube! As that wasn't enough the one they found on my fallopion tube is an extremely rare type, only 134 every discovered as they are almost always found as cancer. The one on my fallopion tube was really small so I truly believe someone (my Grandma and Aunt) were watching out for me up there, because If I hadn't trusted my gut and stood up for myself, I honestly don't think I would have had as good of an outcome as I did.
Life After Surgery
Keep in mind that I do still have my left ovary meaning I will still ovulate, get my period and produce estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It is still possible to get pregnant with one ovary but I had a tubal ligation (women sterilization) in 2015 so my factory has been shut down for some time.
A few things the doctors never told me about:
- You will wake up from surgery with a pad on because you will be bleeding like you are on your period for 7-14 days. Stock up on organic cotton pads, my go to choices are Rael and Lili Pads.
- Nothing in your vagina for 14 days
- It takes 3 months for your body to regulate the hormones and might still need a small amount of hormone replacement. Most doctors won't agree with this but thankfully I have an Endocrinologist for my thyroid and believes some women need a small amount of hormone replacement. The one ovary should be able to pick up the slack and create enough hormone for the body but not everyone's body work's properly!
- Your next period that is due will most likely not show up on time, but that is normal. Your body is working to regulate everything.
- With the sudden stop of hormone with it being removed expect to experience fun hormonal fluctuations. I am still dealing with night sweats, cystic acne, nausea, blood sugar imbalances and mood swings. I am only 1 month in, I know it's going to take a few more months.
Besides the normal things I am going through the pain is completely gone, I can eat without pain, no bloat, put on 3lbs (that is a big deal for me), I can insert a tampon or period cup with no pain and no pain with sex! I would be lying if I told you that having sex with no pain was a big reason I went in in the first place:)
Trying to support my hormones I am eating a lot of hormone friendly foods, not eating dairy or things that have estrogen in them and doing light exercise. Food is such a big part of recovery but often never talked about. As for pain, I didn't have anything too bad so I stuck to CBD. The brand I used was from Eaton Hemp, you can get yours for 20% off using code YTFM20, click here. Check out more about CBD and Eaton Hemp, here.