I had a hysterectomy in May 2013 due to fibroid tumors that the doctors said were noncancerous. During my follow-up appointment with the surgeon, he told my husband and me that one of the tumors had a “high mitotic rate.”
My brain went back to college when I studied biology. Mitosis means cell division. High mitosis could be irregular. Then he said “it looks like a rare cancer.”
Is he talking about me? My husband was numb. Because it was such a rare and aggressive cancer, the hospital sent the tumor to Stanford for a second opinion. It turned out that I did have uterine leiomyosarcoma, a cancer that affects about 6 out of 1 million women annually, according to the Sarcoma Foundation of America.
I am writing today for two reasons. I am cancer-free and the local American Cancer Society named me Fairfield’s 2014 survivor speaker. I want others to join hundreds who are raising money to fight cancer at the Relay for Life event at the Armijo High School track, which starts at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The other reason is that I want women to know that fibroid tumors are not always benign. As I said, leiomyosarcoma is very rare. Cutting open, or morcellating, a cancerous “fibroid” inside the body can spread the cancer and shorten a woman’s life. The Federal Drug Administration conducted hearings this past week to hear about the risks of morcellating fibroids. The FDA will make recommendations in about a month.
The good news is that people are surviving all types of cancer at much higher rates than in the past. A key organization to help cancer patients and push research is the American Cancer Society, which sponsors Relay for Life. One of my first stops after hearing of my diagnosis was the local American Cancer Society. They fit me with a wig to cover my bald head once chemotherapy started.
I never wore the wig. I decided that people should see me and what chemo does to many cancer patients. Sometimes after a chemo treatment, I was too weak to lift my head from the couch. I would turn my eyes and look at a card from my friend Kathy that said: “Whatever happens, hold on to these thoughts – you are stronger than you imagine, braver than you know, and cared about so much more than words could ever tell.”
She and so many other friends, my husband and family, prayer warriors, doctors, colleagues and even strangers lifted me when I thought I would die. They gave me light as I sunk in the valley of darkness. They urged my soul to push for life. I survived and thrive.
My sister and her friend, whose parents died of cancer, put together our Relay for Life team, Cool Cats – Scratch Out Cancer. We have three cancer survivors on our team. All are strong, vibrant women.
We are walking for those in the fight right now. We honor those who lost life, and those who will be diagnosed with this evil disease. For the newly diagnosed, remember: You are stronger than you imagine and braver than you know.
For more information on Saturday’s Relay for Life, go to http://main.acsevents.org/goto/Catmoy.
Catherine Moy was born and raised in Fairfield. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.