Stage IV uterine cancer survivor: ‘Don’t give up hope’
After God, I owe my life to MD Anderson.
In the fall of 2009, I started feeling not just tired, but exhausted. I also had an unpleasant vaginal discharge. It wasn’t bloody, but it was very foul-smelling.
I told my local doctors that something was wrong, but no one would take me seriously. My symptoms went on for at least three months, until I had my annual checkup. That’s when I had a diagnostic bilateral mammogram and an abdominal ultrasound. The radiologist said he didn’t like the results.
A uterine cancer diagnosis
I went to my oncologist in Maryland who had treated me for breast cancer in 2000. At first, he suggested it was nothing to worry about, but I said I wanted to see my only child’s wedding someday. So, he ordered a blood test, and then a PET scan.
When the results came back, my doctor called me personally. He told me that I had uterine cancer, and it was stage IV. The cancer had already spread to my aorta and omentum (a structure in the abdomen). It was also encroaching on my adrenal glands. The doctors told me that I only had a short time to live.
My whole family was very upset. But they didn’t accept this prognosis. One of my brothers is a physician, and his colleague said, “Listen: I have a classmate who’s the best — and he’s at the best place for cancer. So I’m sending you there.” That’s how I met Pedro Ramirez, M.D., at MD Anderson.
The best place for uterine cancer treatment
I had my first appointment with Dr. Ramirez in December 2009. He performed a CT scan and confirmed my uterine cancer diagnosis. He said it was very serious, but he wanted to explore it surgically.
It wasn’t until he said he saw a shadow on the tail of my pancreas that I broke down completely. I just thought, “What’s the point? I’m not going to make it.” Dr. Ramirez gave me courage and hope for the future by saying that he would do his best and making feel like I was his most important patient.
The day before the procedure, I told Dr. Ramirez, “May God guide your hands tomorrow morning and may He guide them well.” It felt this was like a direct message from God. And he said, “Moina, I’ll do my best.”
The surgery took almost 10 hours. Dr. Ramirez removed my uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes and omentum. He also took out several lymph nodes, as well as the tumors wrapped around my aorta. Dr. Ramirez called in two other surgeons to check my pancreas and liver. They found no other tumors.
Afterwards, I had six rounds of chemotherapy. I finished those in June 2010. And while I did experience side effects — nausea, low blood counts, fluid build-up, intermittent pain in both legs and severe constipation — I have been cancer-free ever since. I only return to MD Anderson now for my annual checkups.
The poster child for MD Anderson
I returned to work just a few months after I’d finished chemo. My son got married on July 4, 2011. And now, I have two beautiful grandchildren. So I consider myself one of Dr. Ramirez’s greatest success stories — and the poster child for MD Anderson.
In Arabic, my first name means “one who helps others.” So, for the past five years I’ve been volunteering through myCancerConnection, MD Anderson’s one-on-one support program for patients and caregivers.
The first thing I tell people is, “Don’t give up hope.” Have faith in God and in yourself. Because if I can make it, anyone can.