I have a high tolerance for pain, so I knew something was wrong when my abdominal discomfort became unbearable in Sept. 2012. The first time I saw a doctor about it, I was told the pain was related to constipation and sent home with medication. It took six months and two more appointments before the doctor realized it was something more serious and ordered a CT scan. That's when they found a basketball-sized tumor attached to my pelvic bone and appendix.
The tumor was cancerous. I was diagnosed with stage I ovarian and endometrial cancer.
I didn't know what to think or feel, but I was calmer than you might expect. Earlier that week, while waiting on my scan results, I had asked for prayers at my church. I knew those prayers would make everything OK. They helped me stay composed.
So when I got my diagnosis, I remember saying, "When can we get the tumor out? I want it out next week."
My abdominal hysterectomy at MD Anderson
I've had a connection to MD Anderson for as long as I can remember. I volunteered there throughout high school and college, and I've been an employee for 12 years. So when my doctor suggested I see someone at MD Anderson, I had to smile.
I'll never forget meeting my oncologist, Michael Bevers, M.D. He walked into the room with the gentlest facial expression. After introducing himself and his team, he said, "We will take that tumor out next week. Even if there's no room in the operation room -- we'll make room." I knew God had heard my prayers and was taking care of me.
I had the mass removed a week later, followed by an abdominal hysterectomy and a few other surgeries. I started chemotherapy after that. I initially had a very severe allergic reaction to the chemo drugs, but my nurses knew what to do. Working with Dr. Bevers, they found a type of chemo, Carboplatin, that I could handle. Then came the side effects. I was sensitive to cologne and perfume, everything I ate or drank tasted metallic, my appetite increased and I had chemobrain.
When I started to lose my hair, I visited the Beauty/Barber Shop at MD Anderson's Texas Medical Center Campus. A woman named Justine, who to this day remembers my name and story when I walk by, helped me select my first wig. She was so patient and suggested I participate in MD Anderson's Look Good, Feel Better program, which helps patients cope with the physical side effects of cancer. During the meetings, I learned how to handle skin care, hair loss, makeup application and nail care throughout treatment. It's a group I highly recommend to all female patients.
On March 22, 2013, on my 35th birthday, I had my final round of chemotherapy. One month later, I was declared cancer-free.
Getting to know MD Anderson from all sides
Shortly after my recovery, I started volunteering with myCancerConnection, MD Anderson's one-on-one support program that connects patients and caregivers with others who've been there. It's healing to lend an ear to other patients who need to share their fears and frustrations. I'm also an MD Anderson Ambassador and speak to people about cancer prevention at health fairs.
Now that I'm cancer-free, I'm now more careful about what I eat and drink, but the biggest change is my outlook on life. There were lots of things I wanted to do before cancer, but I always said I was too busy. Now I do those things. Life is too short not to.
Everyone at MD Anderson, from the doctors to the housekeeping staff, is amazing. I know that as an employee. I know that as a volunteer. And now I know that as a survivor.