By Tamron Little
Imagine being told you had a fibroid tumor, that later turned out to be cancer. That was me 15 years ago, a 21 year old pregnant college student. During a routine ultrasound I was told that I had a fibroid tumor and that it was nothing to worry about.
At the time I figured that the different symptoms I was having such has abdominal pain, anemia and constipation, was due to my pregnancy.
About three months after I gave birth to my son, I went for another ultrasound. Even after efforts of being placed on birth control to shrink it, the fibroid had grew to the size of a ping pong ball. My doctor had some reservations about it and decided that the best thing to do was to get it out. This way it could be sent to lab for biopsy and just to be reassured that it was indeed a fibroid tumor.
Surgery day came and I was nervous, but never did I imagine that my world would be rocked to the core. While in the recovery room, my family was all gathered around my bed as I came out the anesthesia. Here walks in the surgeon. He was this tall man with a thick brown mustache. His scrubs looked like flood pants due to his height so he was already a bit intimidating. He comes to the end of the bed and tells me that I did well during surgery. I’m nodding my head like oh ok, then he pauses and says BUT! We all know when someone places a BUT in the middle of a sentence the kicker is soon to follow. He continued to say you have cancer, Peritoneal Mesothelioma to be exact, we sent the biopsy to the lab and this is what came back. All I can remember from that point in time was seeing the faces of my family members in shock and the doctor turning around and walking out the room.
I always wondered if it was just my imagination seeing him turn around walking away was him showing lack of compassion, or was it that this was some news that was so hard for him to deliver to a 21 year old new mom? During that time I didn’t digest everything and it was as if I was in the twilight zone. Family members crying, shocked, nurses coming in saying I’m sorry, grief counselor coming in because I was told it was a poor prognosis and I had 18 months to live. All the while my mind was slow to process and all I could think about was my son.
To be honest neither myself or family knew anything about Peritoneal Mesothelioma. 15 years ago their wasn’t a lot of information about it especially pertaining to a 21 year old female. The info we were finding modeled a mesothelioma patient as being an older male and when I say older I mean late 60s. For months I went to an oncologist who knew nothing about this type of rare cancer and was pretty much in my opinion stringing me along.
My mom worked at another hospital in the area and was told about this renowned oncologist who specialized in mesothelioma. Not only was this his specialty, he was very familiar with a special surgery that boasted high hopes for mesothelioma patients who were candidates. The day that I met him was the day that my hope was renewed. I didn’t care what the surgery entailed I was just ready to beat the cancer. The surgery that I had is called HIPEC. This involves heated chemotherapy and radiation treatment as well as a wash out. It took about 10 hours and a week hospitalization.
As I look back 15 years ago I am grateful for how things worked out. You never know how strong you are until you faced with something that requires your strength. One common denominator that I want to point out is that through it all my faith was intact and I grasped onto the little hope I had left. Given the circumstances of the poor prognosis, little information known about the cancer and other things I never gave up.
My nickname is now “The miracle patient”. I not only overcame cancer but I have showed my strength, resilience and crazy faith. Caleb is now a 15 year old high school student, and I’m happy to say despite being told I couldn’t have any more children, I’ve added three more to the bunch.
I am determined to continue to share my story with others that may be going through their own cancer journey. I find it a passion to write about my experiences to help other mesothelioma patients. It’s my intentions to spread hope where there’s no hope and inspire others to never give up! You’re stronger than you think you are.