Janet Mulder shares her long journey with metastatic cancer. She started her battle in 1970 and went through surgery to remove a hydatidiform mole. More recently, her pathologist found a malignant tumor hidden underneath her uterus. She underwent another surgery and is still currently receiving chemotherapy.
Diagnosis: Metastatic Cancer
It was turning into a very busy Fall 2019 and I seemed to be getting tired more quickly, gaining many inches around my middle, but not gaining any weight, my abdomen was distended and hard, had trouble sleeping, and just “not hungry”! I decided to give our primary care physician a call and went in for a check-up to make sure all was okay. Her examination was thorough, and she was able to see a change in my appearance since I had made many frequent visits with my husband who was diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension and had had many falls resulting in visits to her office over the last few months. She sent me to get a CT Scan followed by a chest x-ray. I received a call the day after the Scans, telling me that Dr. Shuffleton needed to see me that day…I knew it was not good news for that was an unusually quick turnaround!
When I went in the doctor did not pull any punches. She said, “The Scan and X-rays show several large masses in your abdomen and I want you to see an oncologist STAT as I suspect that you have metastatic cancer that has spread throughout your abdomen. Wow! That was a bit of a challenge, but I shared with her that in 1970, I had gone through quite a bout with cancer and at that time I had a two-year old and a three-year old at home.. Interestingly enough it is rare that a hydatidiform mole is malignant and even if it is the chances are great that it will not metathesize…however mine was malignant and after they removed it (leaving my uterus as per my instructions as we wanted more children) it had already metastasized.
Treatment: Chemotherapy and Surgery
They did not know this at the time, but gave me a series of experimental chemotherapy and sent me home after a few weeks. Unfortunately within a month my titer count went up and I had a positive pregnancy test which meant that the tumor was still in my body. This time they did a complete hysterectomy and the pathologist worked and worked with the tissue and finally found the proof of the malignant tumor hidden in the uterus. This time they really assaulted my body with chemotherapy utilizing two new drugs with daily intravenous infusions and I was really sick. They had me under reverse isolation which meant I could not have visitors. I was released after over a month in the hospital…but…I was cured!
I am not sure whether this prior experience was a help for me to cope this time or not…but here it was 2019 and my doctor told me I needed to see an oncologist STAT, but when I called to make the appointment I was told the first open appointment was three weeks away. I told them that seemed to give a new definition to the word STAT, and I did get a call back with an appointment for a “Fellow” in the Oncology staff. After talking with me, she told me she wanted me to see the doctor she considered the finest surgeon in the field. Dr. Jo Marie Janco is a renowned doctor specializing in Gynecologic Oncology working with Scripps La Jolla. She was very straight forward telling me that this could be a very big and long surgery, but could also be fast. She explained everything. The surgery took over five hours and she deemed it successful.
My recovery was hampered a bit by an inability to get rid of the fluid in my abdomen and they had to insert a tube down my throat which they left for several days to suck out the liquid. I was finally released from the hospital and came home with visiting nurses twice a week. I was supposed to start chemotherapy the second Tuesday in November, but I ended up in the Emergency Room as I was not holding anything down. They gave me an IV and Dr. Janko came to the hospital and gave me some prescriptions….I started chemotherapy the next week (November 19) and continued until March 17, 2020. The infusions were always preceded the day before with a blood test and they decided to skip a week in January when the blood count went too low, but continued the next week. During this time I gave myself an injection in the abdomen each day for three days following the infusion. I think the injections were supposed to lessen the effects of the chemotherapy. I did okay…had the usual nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, hair loss, fingers and toes neuropathy (which went on to include the complete hands and feet), but did okay.