When I was about 45 – I am very bad with timelines. If it is not now I have trouble remembering when something happened – I was fat and happy! Eating and drinking everything I wanted and enjoying it thoroughly. I went out to dinner three or four nights a week, out to lunch five days a week and out to breakfast at least once a week. I felt good. I did not get much exercise but I was still young enough that it did not matter to me much. I did not like the way my clothes fit but it was not until my husband got a new camera and we went on vacation that I realized how bad I was looking. So, I stopped letting him take my picture!
Then I started having back pain. Not like, oh, I hurt my back, back pain, but OH SHIT there is a knife working it’s way in and out pain. I was also in a crunch at work, I had guests from another country in to see me for a few days and unbeknownst to the other people in the office they were there to check us out before finalizing their purchase of our company, so I also had in the people from our corporate office. I could not do anything about the pain. I just took handfuls of ibuprofen and Tylenol and sucked it up. Once my new friends left I finally took a breath and made a doctors appointment. I went to my GP of the time, who was at best ineffectual and she recommended an ultrasound and X-ray of my kidneys. The same week the pain became almost intolerable and then suddenly was almost gone. For people reading this who have been through it, you know what it was already don’t you? Kidney stones. When I had the ultrasound though they found some startling news. I only had one normal kidney. I was born with one normal kidney, and one stunted tiny still kind of functioning kidney. As a side note, that was the one that had the stones. yikes.
Off I went to a nephrologist to make sure I was healthy. The nephrologist looked at my last blood work and also asked if I was seeing an endocrinologist. Hmm? What? Apparently my thyroid numbers were very wacky and my GP had never thought to mention it. So off to endocrinologist I went. This is when I also found out that I was functioning without a working Thyroid. AutoImmune thyroiditis is the correct term.
At the same time I was in the process of dealing with menopause. In my early 40’s. My GP did not think this was odd and even though my endocrinologist mentioned maybe my GP should run my tests I was just happy to no longer be dealing with what had turned into periods from hell in the last few years. That is really the first important part of my story. It was a giant red flag that I did not follow though on because I took the problem to my doctor and she was not concerned.
In the next few years I carried on with my life. I started getting tired of not being happy with myself and the steady weight gain. I turned vegetarian and I started doing yoga. I loved yoga and I felt better as a vegetarian. Eventually I also started trying to lose weight. I got up to 160 pounds before I said enough is enough. I stopped going out to lunch and I started reading everything. I got down to 145 and there I hung. I was okay with it. I am a small person so really for me, my ideal weight is 115.
Off we go to 2011. I finally switched GP’s. She was not a wait and see kind of person. We went though my list of annoyances, occasional dizziness, headaches, and of all things, hearing loss. She did a full blood work up on me, told me to see a hearing specialist and scheduled a PAP.
In one week I was diagnosed with hearing loss bad enough to use a hearing aid brought on by Meneires disease and Vestibular Migraines, and Cervical Cancer.I will spare you too much more detail on the next six months and summarize by saying Radical Hysterectomy, a full round of external Radiation, internal radiation and Chemo and pronounced clear of my Stage 3 adenocarcinoma HPV negative Cervical Cancer. And that is when I really started trying to get healthy.
I dropped another 10 pounds and started really and truly exercising and eating right. I knew in my heart that stage 3b meant it was going to come back at some point and I wanted to do everything I could to get strong before that. I wanted to be ready to fight. I did not have long to wait.
In 2014 three tumors were found in my lungs. Two small ones in the left, one large one in the right. I switched to the worlds best oncologist in my opinion and we worked together to find solutions. We tried a number of chemos, we ablated – microwaved – the large tumor into a mass of scar tissue and found that things just were not working out. So luckily my amazing doctor had taken a tiny little sample of that tumor before ablation and had it genetically profiled. A company named Foundation One was able to tell us exactly what cellular mutations they could find and from that I was able to be included in a clinical trial for non-breast cancers that had the HER2 mutation. And BAM! Within months my tumors were shrinking.
It is 2017 as I type this and it has been two years on those two drugs from the clinical trial. As of 60 days ago the tumors were still gone and no new ones have popped up. I will stay on these drugs for as long as my cancer stays in remission. It has not all been easy. I have battled a host of small problems and side effects and one whopping bacterial infection in my lungs. I am still working out and eating as healthily as I can. I was at my ideal weight of 115 for a while but am now hovering around the acceptable but not ideal of 120 and I feel great.
I am hoping that I am stable and strong enough that I can take everything I have learned about health, cancer, nutrition and exercise and start helping other people. Specifically I would like to start helping people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer and will be or have started treatment. There is a lot of incomplete information out there and very little information is given to patients about the role that food can play in their overall health. They are just told not to lose too much weight. To that end I am going to start collecting more knowledge and some actual credentials in nutrition and will start volunteering my time to anyone that will sit down and listen to me.
In the words of the much quoted Jimmy V “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!”