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I knew something wasn't right because I was bleeding when it wasn't my period--not a heavy flow like my period, but a tinge more heavy than what I would think of as "spotting."
Examination and testing proved it was invasive carcinoma of the cervix. The original plan was for me to enter the hospital and have surgery—this was in the late summer or early fall—but when I went to the hospital and they staged me, they found I was not in Stage One but rather Stage Two, so they determined I would have to undergo radiation before they performed the surgery, which they deferred.
I then embarked on five weeks of visiting the Radiation Department five days a week for external cobalt teletherapy. I was working at home then, as I do now, though at that time I was running a business, rather than freelance writing/editing as I do now, and I had people working for me (out of my home). I would go to the Radiation Dept. @ 8 AM, have my radiation, return home feeling quite cold (a side effect of the radiation) and put on a couple of sweaters. As the day went on, I would peel off first one sweater, then the other. I tried to work and be an effective boss despite sometimes feeling less than wonderful, due to the radiation therapy.
After the five-week course of external cobalt teletherapy, I had an intracavitary radium insertion. I was knocked out with an anesthetic while the radium was placed within me, adjacent to the cancer, and I had to remain on my back for 24 hours. Then the radium was removed (no anesthetic) and I was permitted to go home (I was given the option of remaining in the hospital another night but declined.)
A second intracavitary radium insertion followed—I think it was two weeks later. I do recall that I went in for it the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. When they removed the radium late Wednesday, they urged me to stay another night. “Are you out of your mind? Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. I have to get home and cook!” I replied. And I got up, went home, did a little prep work ahead of time, and the next day cooked a whole feast. I believe it was February when I finally had the hysterectomy. They removed my ovaries and fallopians as well as my uterus, cervix, and the top part of my vagina. Biopsies of selected removed material found no cancer cells, and I have been fine all these years since.
I was left with a side effect from the radiation. I have a condition called radiation proctitis, which results in chronic diarrhea.
The effects of the radiation and surgery combined also messed up my sex life. The surgery foreshortened my vagina and the radiation made it inflexible, so that I am now both too narrow and too shallow down there to attempt regular intercourse and must resort to other forms of sex play.
Cynthia MacGregor is a freelance writer/editor with 54 books to her credit...so far. She takes on most types of writing and editing assignments, including business writing and ghost writing, and also does public speaking.
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