Christina’s story: young and fit women get cancer too
In July 2017, Christina was diagnosed with early stage endometrial cancer. The 33 years-old had no symptoms, no bleeding, no bloating, and no pain during sex: she was in the best shape of her life! Today, the uterine and breast cancer thriver shares her story and tells us why genetic testing can save your life.
Does this look like someone who has cancer?
We can't assume young people don’t get cancer.
We all have biases, but our medical professionals must set these biases aside and dig deeper into their patients’ family history — their genetic make-up, which determines many medical conditions and may even be a factor between life or death.
The only reason my gynaecologist found this cancer was because of my family history.
Knowledge is POWER
My paternal grandfather, Douglass, died of colon cancer at age 52, my aunt had ovarian cancer at age 40 and survived, and my father died of colon cancer at age 57. I was next!
Thankfully, it was recommended to get a genetic test. I tested positive for Lynch Syndrome, which is a mutation in the DNA that causes certain cells to reproduce infinitely. In normal cellular reproduction, old or damaged cells die and new ones grow. In cellular reproduction with someone who has a genetic mutation, the cells keep on multiplying with nothing in its way to stop the overgrowth.
The cancers associated with Lynch Syndrome (MLH1 mutation), are colon, endometrial and ovarian. Armed with knowledge, I took preventative measures and caught my cancer early.
Total hysterectomy,chemotherapy, bi-lateral mastectomies, radiation, reconstructive surgery, OH MY!
After my doctors determined a total hysterectomy was needed to protect my life, it was suggested to have my eggs harvested.
'Harvesting' is a process in which the eggs that form in a female’s ovaries are removed and stored in a freeze bank up until deciding to fertilize them or not.
Since I didn't yet have any children and wouldn't be able to bear children after having my reproductive organs removed, my gut told me to go ahead with the process, so I did.
In the process of injecting myself with hormones, I found a lump in my left breast. After multiple tests, scans and biopsies, it was found that I had stage II breast cancer. I had 3 surgeries, 4 months of chemo and 23 days of radiation all within 2 years.
Of course we all know hair loss is a side effect from chemo, but boy are there so many others. Radiation is painful. So painful, in fact I discussed forgoing my last two treatments with my doctor because I was bleeding so badly. I just wanted the torture to stop.
Live out LOUD!
I am grateful to be cancer free and perhaps that should be enough. But it's not. The emotional upheaval and spiritual toll has been debilitating, at times.
Six months after radiation, I had reconstructive surgery. My mobility and range of motion in my arms and shoulders were limited. At times,
there was much discomfort. I worked with physical therapists, a personal trainer, and other holistic style treatments to help lymph drainage (because of the 16 lymph nodes my surgeon removed).
This new life is woven with many challenges that have forced me to grow, to explore and to surrender to everything I thought I knew. I may not have liked it, I may have resisted, but perhaps this cosmic plan is not about me. Perhaps it's about making a difference for someone else.
Thank you Christina for sharing your experience and insights. We look forward to seeing you all in the Girls Rocking Cancer on Facebook or Instagram. You can also reach out to Christina on Instagram @vaccacio
Christina and Mel