September was National Gynecological Awareness Month, and October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I want to share my story.
I am a survivor!
I have always been diligent about my yearly checkups and mammograms. On a routine exam November 30, 2005, after just completing menopause, I was spotting. Sorry guys, but this needs to be shared. If you have special women in your life, pay attention.
My doctor performed a biopsy, and on December 6 I heard those four dreaded words: “You have uterine cancer.” An appointment was already set for Dec. 13 with an oncologist, and surgery scheduled on January 19, 2006.
My head was spinning.
At the appointment with the oncologist, I learned that I was in the early stages of a very aggressive cancer. However, he assured me that he was 99.999% certain I would not need chemo or radiation. I was still scared.
I went about my business and holiday plans, including hosting our annual New Year’s Eve party. It was comforting, as our friends were lovingly supportive of Jack and me.
January 19 arrived. I was prepped and ready to go. My attitude was positive. Our minister and Jack stayed with me until I was wheeled away for my grand opening.
All went well. After a complete hysterectomy, appendectomy (it was a mess), and removal of 12 lymph nodes, all was right.
That is, for a few days.
I got home and became extremely ill. I had contracted Clostridium Difficile (C-Diff). It causes a disruption of normal, healthy bacteria in the colon, often from heavy antibiotics. It can also be transmitted person-to-person, by someone who did not wash their hands.
The result can be severe damage to the colon and death. Over 800 people died in Ohio in 2005.
After a couple of days, I could barely walk due to severe dehydration from gross stuff exiting my body. I could barely eat, as the smell of food made me nauseous. I ended up back at the hospital for fluids and meds.
After surviving cancer and C-Diff, my experience did not end there. I suffered survivor’s guilt for several years.
It’s not uncommon and sneaks up on you. It is a response to knowing others who did not survive. It is a feeling of helplessness.
Every time I met someone I knew was not going to survive, I would often have to excuse myself for a few minutes to cry and pull it together. One day a dear friend said, “Dianne, this was your path God gave you.”
It took awhile, but with those words and prayer, I finally got through it.
I cherish my life and embrace every birthday. I will always be grateful to my medical team for saving me.
My faith guided me through a big hiccup in my life. I thank God and pray for others during their journey.
Anyone who knows me, understands that I am a free spirit, love to laugh and am enjoying my life to the fullest.
Ladies, get those checkups regularly. It could save your life. A few minutes of being uncomfortable beats the alternative.
Practice self care and self love.
Dianne Bonecutter Garrett is a Wilmington native and a former print and broadcast journalist.