For months I had unbearable cramps and excessive bleeding. Initially thought of to be fibroids or side-effects from my menstrual cycle, the doctor looked like a ghost when she saw a large mass had inverted my uterus and pushed my cervix into my uterus.
After emergency surgery and several tests, I went back for not great news: it was cancer. There are only 20 reported cases of Uterine Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma in the world, and on January 26th, 2021, I became the 21st person at the age of 21. What followed was a trip to gyno-oncologist, a hysterectomy, fertility treatments, surgery to protect my ovaries from radiation, followed by 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 25 sessions of radiation.
My first round of chemotherapy was hard since my treatment plan started quickly after I was diagnosed. Like many women, I began to lose my appetite but also started to have jaw pain from treatment. Luckily, I am doing much better now, and my appetite has gone back to normal, though I don’t find a lot of the same foods appealing anymore.
Through out the entire process, from diagnosis to treatment, I had been trying to find a way to be more comfortable. This is something I learned when I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease eight years ago. This time around, I knew that to get through this I would need to do the same. I came across a pamphlet for Look Good Feel Better, and as a novice makeup user I thought it would be a good to sign up—especially since my eyebrows were disappearing.
I learned a lot about the importance of sunscreen from the workshop, like I never knew not to mix two SPF levels together for a higher coverage. When I was first diagnosed, I learned that it was important to take care of my skin and be careful with the sun. I remember even asking my mom, “will I ever be able to go outside?” But signing up for an online workshop taught me a lot about how to take care and enjoy the summer weather, and with eyebrows as well!
I can’t say that it has been easy to be diagnosed with cancer, or to defer medical school for a year because of my diagnosis. But the silver lining of all this is a deep, personal knowledge from the patient’s perspective that I will use to help my future cancer patients. Not only medically, but emotionally as well. I will know how the sun will affect their skin, what resources to share with them, and how to hold space for these life changing moments.