Menopause

My Cancer Story: Yes! Five Years

The day had come. My five year check up.

If all went well, my oncologist would dismiss me from her care. I’d visit the gynecologist once a year, but my treks to Gynecologic Oncology would be finished as long as I remained symptom-free.

I like to revisit North Carolina Women’s Hospital. During the two days I spent there, I celebrated some of the best news of my life: My cancer was early stage. My prognosis was quite good.

Revisiting the hospital reminds me of that good news and of the fine care I received. (You can read my entire cancer story here).

But I was still crossing my grateful fingers that today my doctor would dismiss me from her care. The huge parking garage makes me nervous, and the hospital bill for a ten minute check up would buy a lot of dinners out. A whole lot.

Most of  all, I wanted to NOT have to go back anymore because that would mean I am a five-year cancer survivor.  I wanted to be this person:

After a bit of a wait, the nurse called me into the exam room. “Dr. Gerhig will be in shortly,” she said after asking me a ton of questions. Then she left, closing the door behind her.

I whipped out my phone and snapped a selfie for Friend for the Ride and for myself.  I worked fast. I didn’t want the doctor to catch me taking a selfie in her exam room and think I am majorly weird.

About ten minutes later, there was a knock. “Come in.”

“This is it!” Dr. Paola Gerhig announced as she stepped into the room. “Five years!”

We talked about what I was to do if I had any symptoms. She instructed me to visit my gynecologist, who would determine if I needed to see Dr. Gerhig next. Menopausal women can bleed for many reasons, but I am to rush to the doctor with even a spot of blood. We also discussed genetic testing, which I’ve decided to do (more about that later).

The actual exam takes about five minutes. I always hold my emotional breath.

“Looks good,” Dr. Gerhig said.

When I got off the table, she hugged me. “This is huge. Five years cancer-free is  very significant.”

Then I said to her what I’ve said for five years: “Thank you for saving my life.”

“You’re welcome.”

She left, and my eyes welled up with tears.

My good news plan was to celebrate with the same beautiful and delicious cookie I celebrated with in this post:

But alas, the hospital Starbucks didn’t have any sunflowers, so I selected a cookie pop. It’s got a bit of an anatomical look to it, which is either slightly funny or kind of gross.

I’m not sure I even tasted that cookie pop. I was too wound up.

When I  got to the parking garage, I gave the hospital a long glance. My guess is I’ll be back, for one reason or another, but hopefully, my days as an endometrial cancer patient are over.

My happy mind spun. Was I going to jinx myself by sharing my news? By being so happy?

But I couldn’t hold back. I posted on Facebook and enjoyed the kind words of so many. Since the beginning, I’ve been open about my illness. Endometrial  cancer is the most common gynecological cancer and the most curable if caught early.  My goal is to spread the word.

Cliff bought me festive handmade presents in celebration the next week at the Farmer’s Market in Charlottesville.

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I’m especially fond of my new checkbook cover. I’ve had the same green plastic one for 35 years.

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Of course my CHECK UP was present enough. It’s one of the best presents of my life because on that good day I got to spread my arms wide and say:

P.S: I was pleased to receive my first shout out in the Washington Post. My friend Steve Petrow interviewed me for his article on celebrating cancer anniversaries. You can read the article here. 

 

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