Lucky Me! I’m 1 of 6 in One Million
Some people have been asking, “Where did you go?” I haven’t been on the air since mid-January. I didn’t quit. I wasn’t fired or demoted. I was diagnosed with cancer.
My whole world changed forever sixteen days after my 50th birthday. The surgeon who performed my emergency hysterectomy called me to say the pathology report came back. First of all, I didn’t even know they were testing my uterine fibroid for cancer. The same fibroid I had since 2012 and was told, "they're rarely cancerous.” The surgeon told me I had a rare form of cancer called Uterine Leiomyosarcoma. Only six in one million women each year are diagnosed with this soft tissue cancer. She immediately told me not to Google it. What would you do if you were told not to Google it? You Google it! I shouldn't have.
I started seeing a gynecological oncologist. I was told that if the cancer was only in my uterus and the surgeon removed it with clear margins, and it didn’t spread outside the uterus, I was Stage 1. I wouldn’t need chemo and we'd just do scans every 3 months to make sure it doesn’t spread.
I had a CT scan which showed some spots in my lungs. A PET scan and biopsy confirmed the Leiomyosarcoma had spread to my lungs. Unfortunately, this means I am automatically Stage 4. The prognosis for someone with Stage 4 Leiomyosarcoma is not good. I was told life expectancy is one to two years from the date of diagnosis.
I’ve been doing chemo since March. The biggest tumor in my left lung has shrunk. There are several other smaller spots in my lungs, but those may not even be malignant (let’s hope). They’re not big enough to “light up” on a PET scan and too small to biopsy.
Leiomyosarcoma is aggressive and can spread fast. I’ll be doing chemo for the rest of my life with a few “chemo breaks” if the tumors keep shrinking. There is no cure for Leiomyosarcoma and unfortunately, there is not enough research and data. According to RareDiseases.Org, soft tissue sarcomas account for only one percent of all adult cancers in the U.S. and leiomyosarcomas account for 7-11 percent of all cases of soft tissue sarcomas.
The chemotherapy hasn’t been easy. I think I’ve had almost every side effect of chemotherapy drugs. My fingernails are falling off, I've had pneumonitis, pseudocellulitis, a full-body chemo rash, you name it. I’ve been hospitalized three times. Fluid on my heart and lungs and pneumonia were what landed me in the hospital most recently.
For now, I feel good. I’m hoping I can keep the side effects at bay and I hope and pray the tumors in my lungs keep shrinking.
Ladies, if you're having problems with uterine fibroids, please talk to your doctor. Yes, they're rarely cancerous, but sometimes they are. Don't wait until it's too late.
I’ll be back on the air soon, but first, I have a beast to fight.
Art Alley 2020