I remember as if it was yesterday, heading to bed after a long day of work, having what I thought was my typical bad PMS acting up again. I checked my calender and my Period Tracker App, only to discover I still had a week and a half to go. Needless to say, I found it odd, but didn’t question it. My periods were always a few weeks off, and when they came, they came with a vengeance. I popped some Tylenol, gave the boyfriend RJ a kiss, and called it a night. I had work the next day and needed my hours. No way was I letting this get the best of me.
“It’s just cramps.”
3am brought a horrible pain in my lower abdomen I have never felt before, it was as if someone was making balloon animals out of what I thought naively was my appendix. I made myself a hot bath to soothe my stomach, but the pain was so bad, my body went into a shock of sorts, I never felt so cold in a hot bath in my life.
RJ woke up and saw me curled up in the bathtub in a fetal position, begging me to call 911 because even he knew something was off from my typical PMSing. We must of argued back and forth for what seemed like forever about me calling an ambulance. I had work in a few hours, plus why would I waste time getting help for period cramps? Imagine the medical bills for something so mediocre, even though this was the worst pain in my life.
RJ dialed the phone and passed it on to me as a explained what was going on. I was then whisked away to Dr. Philip’s Medical Center, where it was discovered that the culprit in this case was my left ovary, they originally told me there was a golf sized tumor growing on it, and if I did go to work that day, it would burst and I could of died. They needed to get this out of me fast, then I was warned that in addition to the tumor, the ovary will come along with it.
I never been so scared before in my life. This was less than six months living away from my family, RJ being the only person I was close with within a thousand mile radius. He moved down a week prior to find work after he wasn’t able to extend his internship working a farm in Arkansas. Lord knows what would of happened if he never came down.
I remember waking up to a catheter in me, as well as a bunch of staples in my lower abdomen. The doctor came in and told me that the tumor size was wrong at triage, it was actually the size of a grapefruit, and because of it’s size, out came the left fallopian tube.
“I became half a woman.” was the first thought that went into my head. But despite that odd feeling, I was thankful to be alive.
A few weeks later, the lab confirmed that there was malignancy in the tumor, early onset Ovarian Cancer, which could of been worse if I went to work that day and let it rupture.
The average age of diagnosis is 63. At the time, I was a few days shy of my 28th birthday. Although it was uncommon to be diagnosed so young, it is a grim reality. Usually, treatment would consist of chemo therapy and laser surgery to keep the cysts and tumors at bay. But since they removed the source of the problem and the surrounding area, the cancer was gone, and about a month and a half later, I was back to work. I have been going for yearly checkups and for the last four years, I have been cancer free.
Since then, those crazy death like periods began to subside, my cycle became more regular, and the cramps that would confine me to bed for days became mostly a thing of the past. I was told I could still have children but it will be a tough process, which isn’t a top priority for me as of now, but good to know for down the line.
So pretty much, I became a ticking time bomb years before landing in the hospital. I knew something was up, but I wasn’t the kind of person to run to the doctor. Insurance is expensive and I went without it up until I got Medicaid, and even that became hard to use since not many doctors take it and many of those doctors aren’t accessible in public transit. Health became a bottom priority over work and paying my bills.
Guess the most important lesson is to learn to take care of myself. Cancer DOESN’T discriminate. Even Ovarian Cancer. It’s always best to get checked out often. Many free clinics and Planned Parenthood offer screenings. Your life matters over anything else. The bills and adulting can wait, your life can’t. If you show signs of irregular periods, frequent cramps and abdominal pain, loss of appetite, frequent urination, indigestion, weight loss, and changes in bowel movements, please consult a doctor. Although you think it might be nothing, it could be something you never imagined. Always play it safe.