Lauren's story: you know your body better than anyone
Gynaecological cancer awareness. At 25, Lauren was diagnosed with endometrial cancer after having had menstrual issues since the age of 17. Today, Lauren shares her story so that young women are taken more seriously when it comes to their health down there.
My cancer diagnosis
My name is Lauren, I’m 25, and in June 2020 I was diagnosed with Stage 2C Uterine / Endometrial Cancer.
My diagnosis story is very different to most - I actually had warning. But still, no amount of warning can prepare you for hearing that C word leave the doctor’s mouth.
Signs & symptoms
I’ve had issues surrounding menstruation from the age of 17. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at 18, Adenomyosis and Simple Endometrial Hyperplasia at 19. At 20, I was informed that my hyperplasia had progressed to its most advanced stage - Complex Endometrial Hyperplasia with Atypia. Endometrial Hyperplasia is a condition that I’d never even heard of until my diagnosis, but it most commonly effects peri-menopausal and menopausal women, and in its most advanced stage it is considered ‘pre-cancerous’ as it brings with it a 50% chance of uterine cancer.
I try to tell myself I was being positive, but really I think I was just in denial. I had convinced myself I’d be in the 50% that would be ok, or that if I was to develop cancer, it would be well into the future, long after I’d had children.
Given the cancer risk associated with my condition, I had two Dilation and Curettages (D&C’s) a year after my diagnosis so that biopsies could be taken. In every one of these, multiple tumours were removed from my body, but they were always benign. Until they weren’t…
In May 2020 I got a call from my specialist to say that my scans looked different to how they normally would, and that she would like to move up my next D&C, and that’s when ‘the C word’ was unleashed.
In June 2020, I had 17 tumours removed. Of these, five were malignant, and the malignancies were not only in my uterus, but had also spread to my cervix.
My new normal
It’s safe to say my life looks different now! I’m currently in medically induced menopause to prevent cancer recurrence, so dealing with hot flashes and everything else that goes with this at age 25 is not something I ever anticipated. I’ve also had some complications from my treatment that has lead to more surgeries.
I’ve had seven surgical procedures in the 15 months since my diagnosis, but I can thankfully say that I am currently cancer free.
I still have to have weekly bloods and fortnightly ultrasounds. I give myself regular b12 injections and have had multiple iron infusions to assist my body as it heals from the trauma it’s gone through. I also never anticipated carrying a case of pills with me everywhere I go, but I’m slowly adjusting to my new normal!
To anyone else going through something similar, whether that be cancer, or any women’s health issue for that matter, the biggest lesson I can give you from my experience is:
You know your own body better than anyone!
After I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, I knew there was more going on. Endo didn’t explain all of my symptoms, and without an alternative diagnosis, there was no hope of treatment. I saw seven different GP’s and three gynaecologists who just dismissed me and simply prescribed pain killers, until I found one doctor who listened. She took me seriously and sent me for the right tests and referred me to the right specialists who were able to help treat my symptoms. Whilst that meant having two surgeries a year, my life between surgeries was far more liveable. My bleeding all but disappeared, and I was no longer experiencing pain that would have me passing out in the shower.
If you feel that something isn’t right, keep fighting for yourself; and if a doctor won’t listen, find one that will! When it comes to your health, you need to be your own advocate. Gynaecological health issues are often dismissed as not being serious, and because they aren’t visible illnesses, people may not hear you when you say you are struggling. I hear you. I see you. You are not alone.
Lauren and Mel