The Cancer; the Diagnosis

I was going to make this one post, but after writing everything out, I figured it would be best to split this in two: the diagnosis and the consults

Pregnancy does weird things to your body. You can sleep through a whole weekend and still feel exhausted, love chicken one day then abhor it the next, eat nothing but sugary carbs and still lose weight, etc. One thing I noticed that was strange was my discharge. It was sort of a milky/oily texture and had a distinct smell. After speaking to a friend who’s had two kids, I thought it was normal and I just needed probiotics.

Remember how I said I had morning sickness four weeks into the pregnancy? Two weeks later the morning sickness suddenly went away. I thought the worst and called my OB office. My second appointment was two weeks away, but I knew I couldn’t wait that long to find out if something was wrong. My doctor wasn’t available to see me, but the doctor all my friend’s had used, and who was no longer taking new patients when I called, had an appointment time for that morning.

Dan and I went in, scared and nervous for what she would find. They did an ultrasound and we were able to see the baby, and see a heartbeat. Everything was fine. I mentioned my discharge though, and she swabbed me for tests. She also said she would take me on as a regular patient. Victory! The next day she called saying I tested positive for ureaplasma, a bacteria in the vagina, and I needed to go on antibiotics. This should have cleared everything up, but a couple weeks later I noticed it was back. Dr. Camden was hesitant to give me more antibiotics due to the pregnancy, so she said we would keep an eye on it.

We went to NYC, then had our third appointment a week later (technically fourth appointment counting the vital life check at week 6). The night before my appointment I went to the bathroom and saw light pink discharged. I panicked. I called my doctor’s office and spoke to the after hour nurse. She said since I felt no cramping, to just wait for my appointment the next morning.

At the appointment, we had another ultrasound and got to see the baby again. When we saw the ultrasound at week 6, the baby looked like a little sea monkey. Week 9 showed a formed baby, it was so crazy to think that I was growing a little human inside of me. This appointment at week 12 made me feel great. We had gotten over the first trimester fear of a miscarriage, and I asked Dr. Camden what the chance of a miscarriage at this point was. “Low”, she replied. Dan and I were elated.

At the end of the appointment I mentioned the pink discharge, and the doctor set me up for another speculum exam. During this exam, she found two bumps on my cervix that weren’t there the month before. She removed them and sent them out to be biopsied. She also tested me ureaplasma again.

Dan and I were nervous, but not too worried. It was probably just polyps, right? My body was just acting up with the pregnancy, I was sure. I texted a couple friends letting them know I was pregnant, using emojis, because I’m a #millenial like that (am I really though?). It was so great being able to tell friends. I also put the preface of the bumps on my cervix, but didn’t think about it too much.

It was President’s Day weekend, and after 7 weeks of feeling nauseous, I finally felt normal. I started the weekend off with a small cold, then went into baking mode and even made dinner. Dan had done such a great job of taking care of me during the first trimester, making breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. He went to the store every time I needed juice to mix with water, carb cravings, and vitamins. He was and still is, a saint.

Tuesday morning before work started, I got a call from my doctor’s office asking me to come in for another biopsy. The biopsy had come positive for endocervical adenocarcinoma in situ, or pre-cancerous cells. Dan and I headed to down to the office where Dr. Camden performed a colposcopy. She numbed me, so I wasn’t in any pain, but I was scared. Shocked was more like it. I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be happening. Again I asked about the chance of miscarriage. My doctor didn’t sound so confident now.

The new biopsy was sent to Missoula (where my previous biopsy had been sent) and she said she would call me as soon as she found out results. She said Thursday afternoon.

Imagine my surprise early Wednesday afternoon when I got a call from the Dr. Camden asking Dan and I to come in. We showed up, and she started talking. I don’t remember what she said, but she never used the word “cancer”. The biopsy had come back positive for adenocarcinoma in the cervix.

“Wait. Are you telling me I have cancer?”

“Yes.”

Dan and I both started crying. I remember sitting on the exam bed and texting my best friend: “I have cancer.”

“What does this mean for the baby?”

“The baby should be ok.”

Dr. Camden gave me the name of the gyn oncologist in Montana (yes, the entire state of Montana has FOUR gyn oncologists in one office). He is based out of Billings though, 6 hours away from us, but comes to Missoula twice a month to see patients. Dan asked about going to get checked out somewhere else, MD Anderson, LA, etc. Our doctor said she would work with anyone we chose to go with, but they would contact the Billings gyn oncologist and make an appointment as back up.

Dan and I left the office in tears and on the phone with our parents. My mom cried when I told her. Dan called his mom immediately and they started calling hospitals for appointments. I called my friend in tears. She and her husband were coming out that weekend and I said I didn’t know what was going on anymore. She said anything I wanted they would do. I called my obgyn resident friend, she was shocked. She didn’t think there was any way cancer could have happened. I called my boss crying. I remember she was in the car with her daughter, and told me she’d take care of anything that needed to be done with work and to take the afternoon off, but I told her I’d finish one project. I just needed something to do instead of sitting on the couch.

I was in shock. Dan had driven separately, and I sat in his car just staring at the office in front of us. Someone we know walked by our car and waved at us, we both waved back in silence.

We went home and I finished work. Dan was still on his mission to get me an appointment somewhere. He called a doctor at Harvard, and was also given the number of a gyn oncologist at the University of Colorado who is friends with his boss. His mom was trying to get me in at MD Anderson in Houston, but they don’t take pregnant women. His stepmom said she would try and find a contact at Stanford or somewhere in the Bay Area.

We went to a brewery that night. We went running with our run club, then sat around eating pizza and Dan drank beer. A lot of beer. I told my friends. There were more tears and shock. I didn’t know what was going to happen.

I will post part 2 of this story shortly, detailing both of my appointments at UW and MD Anderson.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

 

The First Sign?

I add a question mark to this title, because one of the symptoms of cervical cancer is bleeding between periods. I was tested though, and my tests came back negative. No signs of cancer, just positive for HPV. When I had my appointment at MD Anderson, they said they would have done the same thing my doctor did, yearly check ups.

Back in July I had abnormal bleeding. I had been on birth control for the past 10 years and always had a regular period and never any spotting in between. It was like my period came out of nowhere and never stopped. And it was heavy, not light like normal. It went on for about a week before I called an OBGYN office in my town for an appointment. I was in Seattle for a week for the Adele concert and a friend’s wedding and had to wait over a week to see the doctor.

Side note: Dan and I are from Seattle, but we moved to a small town in Montana a few years ago for Dan’s job.

I called my friend who is an OBGYN resident and she suggested I double-up on my birth control pills. After 3 days I went off the double pills, but the bleeding started came back. I went back on the double pills again until I saw my local OBGYN.

At my visit, the doctor did a routine exam, even though I was only 2 years into my every 3 year exam. I had a pap smear done and other testing. Everything looked normal, except that I had cervical ectropion, which means that my glandular cells can be seen on the outside of the cervix. The doctor didn’t seem worried about it. Also, my cervix was very soft, she also wasn’t concerned.

We talked about me going off birth control to stop the bleeding. I went off it right after our trip to Peru. We were planning on trying to get pregnant a few months later, and I thought it would be nice to give my body a hormonal break before that.

We got the results of my pap smear back. I tested positive for HPV for the first time ever. I’ve always had normal pap smears. The doctor reassured me that it wasn’t the high risk strain and we would keep an eye on it with a yearly pap smear.

After a minor freak out, I figured everything would be ok and I started focusing on our upcoming Peru trip.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

 

The Babymoon

I had always imagined going to Europe for our babymoon. Running around Paris with a baby bump, eating pain au chocolat, taking cute photos in front of the Eiffel Tower, and French women looking at my bump adoringly. In all actuality, I probably would have just looked fat and hated all the photos I was in. And truthfully, I wouldn’t have had enough vacation time to go anywhere before August.

Back in October, Dan miraculously got tickets to Hamilton on Broadway. Yes, that Hamilton. From the actual theater and not resale. It was amazing. Neither of us had been to New York City before (minus the airports), so we were excited to make a mini-vacation out of it. Little did we know it would be our babymoon.

Side note: Does a 5 day trip to NYC at 11 weeks constitute as a babymoon? Maybe not normally, but it was the only vacation we went on while I was pregnant. And since I will not be able to be pregnant again, I’m calling this as my babymoon.

Our vacation was planned for the first weekend of February. In addition to Hamilton, we were also going to go to Book of Mormon and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. We arrived at 6am on Saturday and headed straight to our hotel which was in Midtown. After dropping off our bags, we walked a couple blocks to Ess-a-Bagel and enjoyed our first New York bagels. I was relegated to an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese (and my life has changed due to that cream cheese) while Dan had a lox bagel. It was everything he dreamed of. I stole little bits of bagel, assuring myself that one little bite wasn’t going to hurt the pregnancy.

After our breakfast we took a quick nap before heading out to Little Italy. I saw that there was a Chinese festival going on during the day and thought that would be fun thing to do, besides stopping at every pizza joint to get a slice of pizza. Which Dan insisted on doing.

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Our first slice at Prince Street Pizza

We walked around Little Italy/Chinatown for a couple hours, eating more pizza, bubble tea and snacks at Ten Ren, and had a cannoli from Caffe Palermo which was recommended by multiple friends.

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Cannoli!

We walked our way up back up to Midtown, stopping by Eataly where we had second lunch? Third lunch? I wanted the burrata so bad, but Dr. Google says burrata isn’t for pregnant women, so I stuck with mozz and sparkling water. And gelato for dessert. Because during first trimester, all I wanted was sugar and carbs.

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At this point I may have asked my OB friend about gestational diabetes…

That night we went to the evening showing of Book of Mormon and made it back to the hotel to watch Kristen Stewart host SNL just 10 blocks away from us.

Sunday morning we got up for a run around Central Park. Pregnancy had taken a toll on my running. I had no energy and I just felt fat. It didn’t help when we ran by storefront mirrors and I checked myself out. Dan ran the entire Central Park loop and we split up at the reservoir and I ran that twice waiting for him. We made our way slowly back to the hotel then headed out for the day.

We took the train down to Katz’s deli and split a reuben and matzo ball soup. Then went next store to Russ and Daughters and got more bagels. Because, when in NYC, right? I wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, but Dan wasn’t feeling well and it was cold. We ended up walking back up to the hotel, stopping for dessert at Mac Brenner, then doing some shopping along the way, including my first maternity wear! Yay new bras from a Pea in the Pod.

The plan for Monday was going to see the Today Show and head to wait in line for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Instead, we slept in and made our way through Rockefeller Center and then arrived at the Ed Sullivan theater at noon. Were we the first ones there? Yes. Did we need to be there that early? No. Was it the only real sunny day while we were in NYC and maybe we should have spent time in Central Park instead? Perhaps. Whatever. After 10 years I was finally going to see Stephen Colbert in person! I couldn’t wait! We ended up in the second row and watched him interview Paul Giamatti and Wendy Williams. He was just as amazing as I had hoped.

Dan still wasn’t feeling well, so we went down to BCD Tofu House and went to bed early. Without a doubt, this was the quietest trip we’ve ever been on. No bars. No dancing. No late nights.

Tuesday was Hamilton day! We got up, walked to the Met in the rain, then cabbed back to hotel. After 4 days of walking around my feet were officially done. It was cold, but at that point I’d rather wear my Nikes and have frozen ankles, then warm legs and broken feet. We took the train down to the Brooklyn Bridge and walked over for some pizza at Grimaldi’s and headed back over. We checked out the World Trade Center memorial and did some shopping at the Oculus.

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We took the train back to Midtown, I changed into my new booties and we headed to Hamilton! It was everything I imagined and even more. Dan loved it as well.

New York City was amazing. I miss being in the city and everything it offers. We definitely plan on going back, hopefully with our future child. There are so many museums to visit and places to eat. We can’t wait to make more memories there in the future.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

The Pregnancy

I’ve been staring at this post for days. Both because I don’t know where to start, and because it makes me sad thinking back on this. There’ll never be another excitement of taking a pregnancy test (which my best friend said I was addicted to), a look of shock on Dan’s face. I’ll never have the quiet moments with just me talking and holding onto my stomach, and much more. I look back on those memories fondly, but with a sadness that hits my stomach and tear ducts every time. This is our pregnancy story.

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Having kids was never the top the priority for Dan and me. We knew we wanted them, but it was always later. “Let’s just go on one more trip.” We spent our honeymoon in South Africa, and after that we only had two more continents to cross off our list — Antarctica and South America.

“Alright, Peru. Machu Picchu. One last adventure. Then let’s do this. Start our new adventure.”

And so we did. We went on an amazing trip to Peru where we explored Cusco, climbed Huayna Pichu, ate our way around Lima, and then waited the mandatory 3 months due to visiting a zika country.

I won’t lie. I was starting to get antsy for a baby before we left. I told Dan that if there wasn’t the fear of zika, I would have started trying before our trip. But instead, I got to enjoy ceviche and never-ending pisco sours.

I actually thought I was pregnant the month before we actually were. This is when I learned that years after having a clock-like period, maybe going off the pill was actually going to mess with my system. I went off the pill in before went went to Peru and had a normal period in September, so I thought everything was normal. Apparently not.

We celebrated my 32nd birthday surrounded by friends and watching the Sounders win MLS cup. A friend flew in to surprise me for the weekend. It was a great time spent drinking beer, spiked eggnog, and red wine. It was definitely not the same birthday craziness of my 20s, but I breathed a small breath of relief on Monday when I took a pregnancy test (late period again) and saw it was negative.

Two days later I noticed my breasts started to hurt. They just felt heavy. I attributed it to PMS, even though my boobs never hurt before my period. On Thursday, friends came over to watch the Seahawks game and I slowly sipped on a coffee porter a friend had brought for my birthday. My boobs were really starting to hurt now. I joked with Dan that maybe I was pregnant. He laughed feebly.

The next morning, I stared at my closet that held my pregnancy tests (when I thought I might have been pregnant the last time I bought a 20 pack of HGC sticks, because as mentioned above, I’m apparently addicted to peeing on a stick). I took a stick and a small Dixie cup, did my business and waited. And waited. And then there it was. That faint pink line you see in the commercials.

Wait. No. What?

I took another test. Same result. I immediately called my best friend.

“I think I’m pregnant.”

“What?!?!? Yay! I think you’re going to have a girl, I hope it’s a girl.”

“I think I’m going to pee on another stick.”

Maybe not the conversation verbatim, but close enough. I took 5 tests that morning. I waited until Dan came home for lunch to tell him. It was torture G-chatting with him, pretending like nothing was going on. As soon as he walked in the door I gave him a hug.

“So, uhh… I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a dad.”

Dan: Blank face. Shock. “What?”

“Yeah….”

So there we were. Two future parents who had no idea how to parent. We were both excited and scared. Totally normal, right?

I called my OB office to change an appointment I had made to see if my late period correlated with the non-stop bleeding I experienced in July (more on that in a later post). Instead of going in to see if something was wrong with me, I was going in for my first prenatal appointment.

We waited until Christmas to tell our parents (which was a little over a week away). We went down to Mexico to visit my parents, flying into Phoenix where I grabbed breakfast with one of my best friends.

“I thought we chose this place for the pastries?” she asked eyeing my healthy granola bowl.

“Well, yeah, I got a pain au chocolat to go. But I’m pregnant. So I thought I should try and eat healthy.”

“WHAT.”

I’m really good and casually dropping information.

My mom cried when she read the card telling them, and my dad had a huge smile on his face. She said she knew because I was being so picky about eating leftovers and washing fruit with bottled water. Dan’s parents were both estatic. This would be the first grandbaby for my parents, and for Dan’s mom and stepdad.

I had felt fine for the first two weeks of pregnancy. Then the day after Christmas, nausea and exhaustion hit. I was supposed to go golfing with my dad and Dan, and I opted to read “What to Expect” on the balcony instead. It was a gift from the doctor’s office when I had my first appointment with the nurse getting my background.

The rest of the trip was spent eating Honey Bunches of Oat with milk and grapes. I couldn’t believe I was finally back in Mexico and not enjoying any of the delicious food I had been bragging to Dan about for years. I didn’t really care though. I was so excited for the baby.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl

Confession

Hello!

Can I make a confession? I’ve never actually seen Gossip Girl. I was trying to think up a name for this blog, “Dear Diary”, “Gossett Life”, “Life Without Utero”, something to do with cancer… Somehow “XOXO Gossip Girl” popped into my head, even though I’m much more Pretty Little Liars. I guess cancer could be A/Uber A/Whatever A is called now?

I thought I’d start this blog as a record of everything we’ve been through and will go through. Hopefully someday I can look back at this period and reflect on everything without tears and anger, though I’m sure sadness will always be around.

I was 13 weeks pregnant (our first! So excited!) when I learned I had cervical cancer. I spent week 14 of the pregnancy traveling to Seattle and Houston for consults on how to deal with the cancer while pregnant. During week 15, I fell sick with the flu, ended up in the hospital, had to be medevaced from Montana to Seattle where I landed in the ICU with sepsis. Week 16 we lost our baby to subchorionic hematoma that had caused the blood infection in the first place. We held onto hope that doing a cone biopsy would clear me of cancer and we would be able to try again. Sadly, the margins came back positive and I would need to undergo a radical hysterectomy and chemo/radiation treatment. I sprinted through IVF treatment in hopes to create some embryos before the chance of losing all my eggs. And now, I’m just waiting for the surgery and treatment. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks away from home, and I’m finally headed back tomorrow for 2 weeks before coming back to Seattle for the surgery.

That’s my current story, and I’ll fill you in on all the details as this journey goes on.

Stay tuned.

XOXO,

Gossett Girl (Gina)

PS – This photo is from our wedding (husband: Dan) over two and a half years ago!