My Cancer Journey

I am all set for my surgery on Wednesday, March 1, 2023! I had my pre-surgery appointment on Friday past and I go to the hospital Wednesday morning. I’ll be home the same day and as usual, hubby is coming with me. My husband always comes with me for all my procedures, even all my doctor appointments.

The Doctor will be using a Colposcopy machine to look around the area and she will do a wide local excision to remove the lesion I know is there. Initially, she was going to do a punch biopsy but changed her mind, as she is hoping to get it all so I won’t have to go back, no matter what the pathology report says. I told her to take anything she sees!

I was first diagnosed with Stage 2 Cancer of the Vulva in the Fall of 1999, a month before we moved from Newfoundland to Ontario. I had a couple of lesions in the area for a couple of years that my family Doctor kept telling me were “skin tags”. Once I convinced her to send me to a GYN and I had it biopsied, did I learn it was cancer.

My first procedure was in Brampton in March 2000 and this one Wednesday will be number 19. I have had 18 procedures already to remove lesions from the Vulva area, so you can imagine the state that area is in right now after all that!!

I had specialists taking care of me and would see the Doctors every 6 months for many years to stay on top of it. Over time, I ended up with so much scar tissue, I couldn’t tell if I had a new lesion or not anymore… In 2007 I was transferred to an Oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto and there I remained until I moved back to NL in the Fall of 2020.

Sometimes, the pathology showed VIN 3, which is now called high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion and other times it was Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) which is the second most common form of skin cancer, characterized by abnormal, accelerated growth of squamous cells. When caught early, most SCCs are curable.

Depending on the pathology report, I would either have a laser, which burned off all the abnormal cells, or wide local excision, where the area would be cut out. My last procedure was in the Fall of 2013 and it was a big one, where I lost a big area. I was off work for 3 months then as I needed all that time to recover.

I have been lucky in that I have always caught it early enough that it hasn’t spread to other areas! No metastasis for me.

Emotionally, it is hard having this type of cancer. Being a married woman who has a wonderful relationship with my spouse, it is hard to lose all the area that makes me a woman. In the beginning, I was an emotional mess before each procedure, terrified about what I will look like afterwards but over time, I came to see it is only skin and it will heal. Yes, I have had therapy to deal with the emotional aspects of having Cancer… I was even part of a support group with the hospital when it was going…

These days, I am okay, just nervous about going through more pain. The older I get, the less tolerant I have become over adding more pain to my daily life! 

I have pain every single day now in my body, mostly on the left side and in my back. I get such burning pain in my left hand and I do get frustrated over it at times. The gabapentin I take does take the edge off of it, but it doesn’t eliminate it completely. In order for the pain to go away completely, I would need a higher dosage that makes me too loopy and I can’t think straight. I refuse to do that so deal with the pain instead.

No matter what I go through, my husband accepts me as I am and that has been a blessing for me. It helps me be more accepting of the end result of all my physical health issues, cancer and mobility, and know that I am loved for who I am, not for how I look nor even how much pleasure we experience together as a couple. I am very confident in my marriage and in my husband.

I do know I have been very lucky in my cancer journey and I have had very wonderful Doctors willing to look after me and ensure that I still get to live for as long as I am able. I am very grateful to them.

I am also very grateful for the timing, as I don’t want to have to be laid up for the warmer weather. I love the springtime when everything is fresh and everything looks so pretty. I have spent a lot of time exploring where I live, but I know I haven’t seen it all yet! Hubby already booked his vacation time and we have plans made to explore more.

I am okay and will always be okay, as I make it that way. I am here to look after myself and make sure I live a long happy life, not to make anyone else happy. I live this life, for me, not for others. The older I get, the more determined I become to live my life for ME!

Thankfully, cancer treatments have advanced quite a bit since I was first diagnosed and they try as much as possible to only remove what they need to. I’m older now, and not so worried anymore over how I look, thankfully, I am more concerned with just living! I will be here for quite a long time yet…

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