I joined the military in May of 2007 at the age of 21. After basic training, I went to my tech school and in June 2007 I noticed my lower stomach, below my belly button, was sore in one spot. At that time there was nothing there. By October, there was a noticeable lump. It was starting to hurt pretty bad, so I went to the ER one day after accidentally bumping my stomach and doubling over in pain.
Once at the ER, they scheduled me to come back for a scan. I had an ultrasound and a CT scan. The doctor could feel the lump, but when the scans came back he said there was nothing there. I knew that was wrong because it could be physically felt. I waited until I got to my operational duty station to get seen again.
In March 2008, I was referred to a general surgeon in Smithfield, NC. He assured me it was a fatty cyst and he would take it out and I could be on my way. I had the surgery about two weeks later and it went well. Two weeks after that, the doctor wanted to see me. He told me I had fibrosarcoma and that he didn’t remove the whole tumor. He referred me to UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, NC.
My oncologist was Dr. Kim in the surgical oncology department. He and Dr. Tepper, the radiologist, decided not to do radiation as it would destroy my chances of having children. Dr. Kim did the surgery in May 2008. He resected the tumor and a plastic surgeon placed a mesh to patch up the hernia they created. At my follow up he said that I had Synovial Cell Sarcoma of the lower abdominal wall muscle and not Fibrosarcoma. He felt confident that he had taken enough out that it would not recur. I had the tumor for nearly a year before I could get it taken care of. The remnants of the leftover tumor was 5cm x 3cm x 2cm. I can’t imagine how big it was originally.
I still have surgical pain and hope one day it lessens. It has been difficult accepting that I cannot do the same things I used to the same degree. For example, working out and doing things that take a lot of core strength, because of pain and weakness in that area. I don’t let it stop me from trying though. Fitness has been a hobby for de-stressing.
After the surgery, I had scans every 3 months for the first two years and 1 scan a year since then. Dr. Kim recommended getting a CT scan every year for now on. I have been cancer free for 6 years. In that time, I finished my military service, got married, completed my Bachelor’s degree and have two sweet boys. Alex is 2 and Gareth is 3 months. I still worry about recurrence, but I don’t let it stop my life plans. I am currently attending Boise State University and planning on applying to medical schools, while my husband is still in the military.
This experience has taught me to appreciate life and strive to follow my dreams, since 60 years on Earth is not automatically guaranteed.
If you or a loved one has been impacted by sarcoma cancer, we encourage you to share your story. Sharing your story can be such an inspiration to others who are dealing with sarcoma in their own life and remind us all of the urgency to find better treatments in order to make an impact on the devastation that sarcoma cancer brings. Let your experiences help others become involved with raising awareness!