Jenn's story: questions save lives
For years, Jenn suffered fatigue, anxiety and depression until she was diagnosed with Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma, a rare cancer of the adrenal glands. Today, at 42, Jen admits she was fortunate that she kept pushing for answers. Her story is a reminder that life is a gift and asking questions is a powerful tool in taking control of our health.
The early signs
In February 2011, I went to the emergency room for stomach pain. During my visit they discovered that I had a small growth on my left adrenal gland.
Follow up with your primary doctor
Scans were done approximately every six months for a year and once yearly for two years.
I was then told that “no further monitoring was needed”
End of story, right? Wrong.
I suffered for years with fatigue, anxiety, depression, a small hump behind my neck, extreme sensitivity (granted, I’m sensitive, but this was different) and the last straw was the chest acne. I went to see my primary doctor, I went to dermatology, I was diagnosed with folliculitis and sent home with cream.
My cancer diagnosis
Fast forward 6 months.
Symptoms were still persistent. I spoke to a dear friend who had worked for an endocrinologist in Boston at the Brigham and Women’s hospital. He looked at my chart, ordered blood work, and within a week I was sitting in a surgeon’s office, alone, being told I “might have cancer”
Needless to say, I went to the bar next to the doctor's office and ordered a beer.
Then I called my mom. After that, it was a whirlwind. Within a few days I had surgery scheduled. I opted for the open adrenalectomy to avoid any chance of “missing” any piece of the tumor. I was lucky enough not to need chemo (or 'mitotaine' in the adrenal cancer world), and just made it out (so far) with my surgery.
Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma - officially diagnosed.
A roller coaster of emotions
It is definitely a roller coaster of emotions. Fear, whenever I feel a pain, find a lump, a bruise. I always have cancer in the back of my mind. I feel fortunate that I was spared. That my cancer grew slower than “normal”. I feel fortunate to have listened to myself. To keep pushing for an answer.
You are in control of your health
If I can tell you anything. It is that YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH. Always ask questions, ask why tests are being ordered. Ask why tests ARE NOT being ordered. Ask. It’s your body. It’s your life. You need to live it and fight for it. This life is a gift.
Life post cancer
Life post cancer has meant being more thankful. More present. It's definitely a new way of life: I always have the fear of recurrence. But, I also am so blessed to experience the fear.
Be kind to each other, always. Much love to you warriors, in this realm, as well as the rest.
Jenn and Mel