The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Cancer Does Not Play by the Rules

by Allison StultsSurvivor, Ovarian CancerOctober 1, 2022View more posts from Allison Stults

It can happen to anyone. Cancer does not play by the rules!

In Fall 2020 I was training for an ultra marathon. My goal was ultimately 50 miles! I was rocking it. In October I locked in 175 miles, and 150 miles in November, even though, surprise, I was expecting our fourth child! Finding out I was pregnant in a pandemic while training for a huge race knocked me back with fatigue and frustration. However, when the day of the race came, I competed. I didn’t hit my goal, but I ran 30 miles, the most I’ve ever run. I celebrated by saying I ran 30 miles for my 30th year.

After the race, I rested and recovered in December. I continued to homeschool my nine, seven, and five-year-old and homestead our hobby farm. I was struggling with fatigue and constipation but I pressed on. January came and I suddenly had a big belly even though I was only 12 weeks pregnant. Doctors all agreed it was just due to my fourth pregnancy and severe constipation. The doctor prescribed and suggested everything for the constipation and nothing worked! I was on serious meds, still running 40 miles a week, and I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in seventeen days! Towards the end of January, I was miserable. I couldn’t move or sleep without being in pain. I went to the doctor every day for a week begging and advocating for them to do something! Finally, a GI doctor ordered an abdominal ultrasound where they found a 19cm mass.

The next week I was referred to a high-risk OB and fetal maternal medicine doctor. After an MRI and consultation, they admitted me to have it removed. I was 15 weeks pregnant and had a big open surgery to remove a mass on my ovary. The doctors were certain it was a dermoid cyst, but when they got in there the mass was much larger than they thought; 26 centimeters after it was drained, and it resembled a teratoma. They removed the entire mass and my left ovary. Due to my age, health, and no family history, they still thought it wasn’t cancer. However, two days later the pathology report said otherwise. I had an immature teratoma. Ovarian cancer.

This ultimately terrified and devastated me. It seemed that more bad news came with every step of this process. The next day I had another surgery (yes, two In 72 hours at 15 weeks pregnant) for staging and to remove the main artery and omentum where the tumor was connected. Thankfully my cancer was stage 1; it has not spread! However, it was a very aggressive grade 3!

I had three rounds of five days in a row of Etoposide and Cisplatin.

The first round wasn’t so bad, however, the second round really knocked me down. Side effects amplified and lasted longer. In the third round, I ended up bedridden for six weeks and received two blood transfusions.

Through all of that, I still have the most supportive loving husband who has never left my side.

We were blessed by family and friends with support, food, donations, cleaning, and kid-wrangling.

I’m not handling the unknown well. Survivorship is by far the hardest part for me. Navigating this as a young adult is lonely and scary. I am continuing to research and connect with as many AYA groups as I can. Locally there is nothing. I want to connect with and empower AYA survivors more than ever.

I am now one year post-treatment in April 2022; my baby is a healthy, typical nine-month-old.

If anyone is going through cancer when pregnant, please look up Hope for Two pregnancy resource foundation. They have a ton of information for you and provide support and a mentor. Throughout the unexpected, you are not alone.

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