Okay. I'm confessing. The 'friend' with grade one spreading-but-contained-uterine cancer is actually me/myself and I. I don't know why I was trying to protect your delicate sensibilities. You're an adult. You also probably have a mother/sister/cousin/aunt/friend who might benefit from my Cautionary Tale. I've no medical training whatsoever. You need to consult a doctor for anything remotely medical. I did. And after a radical hysterectomy I am healing ready for the next stage.
But therein lies the sting in my cautionary tale.
Post-menopausal bleeding. "Common in women your age" I was told by the medical profession. Yet, no matter who I disclosed to, this 'common' thing that was happening to me had not been happening in my wide circles. Women talk, and if they don't talk, they whisper at least! No one, but no one had an anecdote about someone they knew that was similar to my story as a woman ten years past menopause. Sure, there were plenty of younger women stories, but nothing with this pattern.
And that was fairly unusual for me. Come on now! You know we talk! And I'll admit I am less inhibited than many women in this respect, but even I couldn't read between the lines. Apparently this was my unique problem, like the previous thyroid cancer, and the colostomy etc.
Initially when I observed watery bleeding I thought I'd somehow had a freak accident and cut myself unknowingly. So did my GP. I used Ovestin cream and hoped it would get better. It didn't. It got worse. Maybe it's my crazy body being slow to respond, I thought? I went back to the GP. He wrote a referral to a gyno. I had time to spend a month in London. By then I was bleeding every day, sometimes quite heavily.
I returned to Australia and saw the gyno who examined me with internal ultrasound in his rooms. He scheduled me for day surgery. That was early June last year. The investigation showed slight thickening of the endometrial wall, but no pathology to worry about. The ovary looked cystic. I kept using Ovestin after a long period of not wanting to, hoping that my body would get its act together and heal me! There was no timeline to report back negotiated. Did I/we miss something?
My partner accompanied me to each visit, so there you had a veterinary epidemiologist and a multi-skilled head of English, neither of whom could get a handle on how long was long enough before we fussed again. So, I kept bleeding. I mentioned it to my old GP, and to my new GP, because we had retired south. I changed medicos, not brains. I did not slip between systems. Same answer. I was handed more Ovestin scripts.
I bled daily for eighteen months before my hysterectomy. I was so over blood stains. I bought black clothes so I wouldn't have to cope with blood stains.
In February my darling sister-in-law was anxious at the lack of action, as was my vet. So I caved in, told the knee replacement to take a number and stand in line, and demanded of a new GP that this bleeding be investigated! I had an internal and external ultrasound, and they contacted me the next day, ironically when I was in Sydney having a cuppa with said sister-in-law. The uterine thickness had doubled and the ovary looked suspect. After that it was scans, more day surgery where a grade one carcinoma was identified, and a total of three different gynos as I was referred higher up the gyno food chain. Each visit, scan etc took time to arrange.
So,that's how I got to meet the lovely female gyno with the frangipani flowered stationery, and here I sit, sore and sorry, but not missing my uterus at all. The cancer had spread up the fallopian tube and into the ovary. And here I sit wondering how a tough, assertive, pushy ex-head of English let herself get 'pushed' around by three lovely medicos, with whom I had a trusting relationship, and still much respect for.
I understand that the semantic item 'practice' as applied to medicine means simply that. Medicos are not God. But goodness, what hope do we women have if a bossy britches like me took it all lying down, in a 'they know best' manner.
Is it the public medical thing that says ten minutes= 2 issues, and how do I choose? I have a complex medical history. Is it the medical arrogance that greets patients who Google symptons and dismisses checklists on cancer organisation sites? Is it our passivity as patients?
I set up a support stream on Facebook and let the love of friends buoy me along.
So now, I'm putting my personal experience out there so that you or someone you care about has an earlier alert system in place.
My cancer seems to have been contained and I can only await the next thrilling step into radiation. Stay tuned.
And consult a doctor again and again, if you have even the vaguest concern.