Patient Advocacy Affairs
I am Pre-school Associate Teacher with a Certificate in Early Childhood Education, as well as other specialized courses in ECE. I work at a non-profit Pre-School where we work with low-income children and families. The program is fantastic and the work we do with the children really makes a difference. I can’t think of a better way to spend my days.
My health care story begins with years (2013 onward) of never feeling quite right and having lots of abdominal pain and cramping to which I looked to my family GP for answers. In November 2017 I ended up in the ER and although it was still a long journey with lots of ups and downs that was the beginning of the road to finally getting a diagnosis. I met with one of the doctors at my GP office as they were unavailable, I was told that everything came back normal, but I would be put into a pool to meet with gyno as soon as possible. I would later learn that none of those tests were conclusive and that instead of being sent for more testing I was just told everything was fine.
By the end of February 2018, I had still not heard from the specialist and life was getting unmanageable I had started to get intense back pain as well as pelvic area cramping and pain. I finally got an appointment with the specialist and had another pelvic exam and pap smear done. Three days later I got a call to come to get the results and they said that I was a high risk for cancer cells to occur and that they wanted me to get a colposcopy done but that it wasn’t a huge deal and I would hear back from them about an appointment and at most I would need a pelvic scraping done. April 20th I went to the hospital to have a colposcopy done. Immediately when I was on the exam table the doctor told me what he saw worried him and he would rush the results, the next Monday late afternoon I was called and asked to come into the office, the doctor told me I had cancer, he was still hopeful at this time that it didn’t look like it had spread too much and he ordered a CT scan, hoping that and my ultrasound would show what was going on.
I had my CT a week later and it showed not only cancer but that a tumor was causing a major blockage to my left kidney (explaining the back pain). The specialist worked hard and fast to get me into the cancer clinic as soon as possible, as well as dealing with finding me a doctor to deal with my kidney. Within the first 10 days of May, I had surgery to insert a nephrostomy tube to my left kidney, as well as an MRI, and PET scan. I then met with my oncologists and between the two of them, the treatment plan got started. I learned I had cancer in my cervix, uterus, lymph nodes, and bowel.
I knew it wasn’t great but I was very clear I didn’t want to know what stage I had, and what they thought the chances were, I just wanted to get the treatment started. May 22nd, 2018 I started my first 6 weeks of chemo with 33 daily radiation treatments and 4 brachytherapy treatments. I had reacted better to the treatment than was initially thought and I was lucky to show almost no evidence of disease when the treatment was done. I did another 6 months of chemo starting in August and finishing on January 17th. I have spent the past year with my scans still being NED. Recently I had something show up on my one-year CT scan in the pulmonary area, and need a PET scan, after pushing to get it done as quickly as possible I can report it will be done on March 4th.
What got me through this time is the choice I made to look at only the positives and the wonderful and supportive group of humans around me. These past couple of years have been a crazy ride but it has made my family closer than ever. I spend my free time with my family, godchildren, friends, and a wonderful boyfriend. I love my dogs, spending time in nature or reading. I am part of a monthly craft group that keeps my creative juices flowing.
I am currently navigating menopausal life post-cancer with as much humor and grace as I can muster. I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of women suffering from cervical cancer, and working towards eliminating this disease in Canada. I am on two committees with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the Survivorship and Mental Health, and the Elimination of Cervical Cancer, recently I did the Patient Keynote Address at the CPAC Elimination of Cervical Cancer Summit 2020 in Toronto.