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.



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


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. 



My Cancer Story: Early Detection Is the Ticket!


In the spring of 2014, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Healthy all my life, the diagnosis shocked me as I imagine cancer shocks everyone.

Luckily, my cancer was early stage. Shortly after the diagnosis, I thought: At least this is good material for Friend for the Ride. I vowed then to become an advocate for early detection of endometrial cancer. You can read about my cancer journey here.

I alternate between seeing my oncologist every six months and my gynecologist every six months. I still get nervous before the exam. Each time thus far, when I get the news that all is well, I leave the appointment with a bounce to my steps.

I met with a new gynecologist this time. She looked at my chart and smiled. “We tell our early stage endometrial cancer patients they can expect to meet their great-grandchildren.” Sounds good to me!

But the key word is “early stage.”

  • Bleeding between periods should be checked out.
  • Any post-menopausal bleeding (even spotting or watery pink discharge) should be investigated.
  • Pain during sex (that feels different than pain related to dryness) should be discussed with your doctor.

Odds are you have no worries, but do consider further testing with the advisement of your doctor.

Early detection is the magic ticket, and I’m glad to be alive to tell you so! Please share this post and help me get the word out. Thanks!



My Cancer Story: Oncology Check

As an endometrial cancer survivor, I visit the oncologist once a year and six months later, the gynecologist. Although I wouldn’t dare skip one of these appointments, I do feel some apprehension before and during each check up.

I’m happy to step into UNC Hospital again though. The doctors and staff saved my life, and I’m grateful beyond measure. The hospital is nicely designed and decorated, and the food is good. My memories are joyful ones, especially the moment when I got the first pathology report.

Before my latest appointment a few weeks ago, I studied the brush strokes on this painting in the waiting room. Now that I’m taking an art class, I keep my eyes open for art education opportunities.

On to the check up.

The news was excellent: No sign of recurrence. I asked my doctor a round of questions because I like to get my money’s worth. (A visit to UNC Hospital is not cheap.) Then Cliff and I went for a celebratory lunch.

Since my news is happy news, let’s move to a more carefree topic. When you go to the doctor, and the nurse tells you to undress, do you climb on the table once you have on the drape or robe? Or do you wait in the chair?

In my younger days, I felt duty bound to climb on the table.  But that old table can be hard on the back while you wait. And wait. And wait.

So now I don’t get on the table until the doctor comes into the room.  I snapped this selfie to show you. (I’m glad the doc didn’t catch me taking it. None of my doctors has expressed any interest in my menopause blog. Why not? Who knows? A question for another day…)

Back to the question at hand. Table or chair?

Do tell!

To read more about endometrial cancer and my experience, check out the link at the top of the page or click here.  Endometrial cancer has a high cure rate, if caught early, and is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system. 


My Cancer Story: Two Years

Barbara Before Surgery

It’s been two years this summer since my surgery for endometrial cancer. I look happy in this pre-surgery picture, and in many ways, I was. What I call “Cancer Courage” had set in. And I felt quite loved by Cliff  and my friends and my church that day and well taken care of by the medical world

After the surgery, I was happier still. The pathology news was great–early stage cancer and no further treatments.

But as happy as I was then and am now, cancer changes you. You cross a line. The line for me is that I now live in fear of recurrence. The stats say this cancer should not return, but I’m on daily alert for blood, the sign it’s back. The blood worry has gotten better, which my oncologist said it would, but it lives with me always.

If you know a cancer survivor, treat your friend to a movie or an ice cream cone or a glass of wine.I can promise you that unless he or she is an off-the-charts optimist, your friend worries too. I now understand what a cancer check means. I go every six months and hold my breath until the doctor says, “Looks good.” Then I treat myself to an ice cream cone.


I’m now an advocate for endometrial cancer awareness, and I share resources I find. A few weeks ago I came across this excellent brochure produced by the Foundation for Women’s Cancer. 

I’ve dedicated a page on Friend for the Ride to endometrial cancer. You can visit it here. Please share this page on your social media sites. Let’s spread the word! Thanks!