We've crushed the first milestone of $1,000! $935 in direct donations (there was a check mailed), $43 in 50/50 raffle so far, $78 in donations received last night at the neighborhood food truck, and $87.60 through my massage business = $1,143.60 raised to date.. only.. $3,356.40 to go. I'll be doing the first 50/50 raffle drawing this Sunday the 8th! $1/ticket, $10 for 12 tickets, or $20 for 25 tickets. Chipotle will be donating 33% of sales on September 25th between 5-9pm. Come out to 4 Mountain Road, Pasadena, MD 21122 for a great cause! Thanks for your love and support.
Welcome to my fundraising page. You may or may not know me personally, so I'd like to share my story with you.
I'll start by telling you why I'm passionate about Ulman Foundation and the 2019 Point to Point race. I'm a 32 year old cervical cancer survivor; cancer free as of 2/14/19. Most cancer support groups are geared toward mature adults rather than younger adults/people my own age. Ulman connected me with other young women and men I could relate to at my stage of life. Sure, we're all battling different cancers and treatments.. but we all understand that cancer has changed us and changed our lives no matter how hard we tried not to let it. We have similar thoughts and feelings and it's awesome to be with people that understand on a different level. I loved being able to connect with people while attending fun activities, such as pumpkin carving or sports events.
Point to Point 2019 (P2P for short) is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. My husband will be deployed again (which is scary for me, considering the last time he deployed I was diagnosed with cancer) and our whole life is going to change next year. We'll be moving out of state (not sure where yet.. might even be a different country!) and may be able to start a family through surrogacy. This year might be the only opportunity in the near future where I can be a part of such an amazing journey. We'll be running/walking a few hours a day from Baltimore, MD to Key West, FL October 5-12. Our group will stop at cancer centers along the way to share Ulman's mission with survivors going through treatment, while spending quality time with these amazing men and women. We will share our stories and spread love and hope. This trip will be physically challenging for me with my lymphedema, but people have done this while going through chemo! So, really, there is NO excuse for me not to do this.
I lost my mom to cancer in 2015. She did hospice care at my house and I was with her when she died. Through my mom's illness, I learned how to live. I had never really taken a vacation before and was always so full of fear. We went on some amazing trips together for her bucket list and I'm eternally grateful for that. I shaved my head with her so I could experience a small fraction of what she had to face on a daily basis. Little did I know, I'd end up getting cancer myself.
Here are the Cliff Notes for the more detailed story below: I ended up finding out about my cancer through a routine checkup. I had no signs or symptoms. I was diagnosed a couple of weeks after my boyfriend, Mark, deployed. I told him I could see myself marrying him some day so we needed to make these decisions together (after being told I needed a hysterectomy). He came home for a week to get married and try to conceive a child (July 2018). I had a chemical pregnancy, so we agreed I'd get my first surgery. I had two cold knife conizations (8/15/18 & 11/1/18) and then a radical hysterectomy on 2/14/19. We were able to freeze 4 embryos before surgery, so we can have a baby (or babies) in the future via surrogacy.
Super detailed version:
May 2018 I went to get an annual wellness examination. I wasn't due for a pap smear for another 2 years, as they had been normal every year prior. Thank God I had a new practitioner that decided "hey, let's do this anyway". At first, I was a little upset because I knew it would cost me a couple hundred dollars because my insurance was ... less than excellent. Yeah, that's a nice way of putting it. I received a phone call with results showing high-risk HPV and abnormal cells, so the doctor scheduled a colposcopy. I was running late to the colopscopy (it was the Friday before Memorial day) and the front desk staff told me the doc probably wouldn't do it because he needs to beat the Bay Bridge traffic. I sat in the waiting room holding back my tears because I was already nervous and didn't want to wait another few weeks for this biopsy. I waited about 30 minutes and then they took me back. Honestly, I was a little miffed because the doc was running later than I was and they were going to skip me.. but hey, they took me.. so I was relieved and grateful. The biopsy itself was very painful; they had to use metal tools to open my cervix since the opening was so small. I was holding a little stuffed penguin (named Pancake) that my boyfriend gave me before he deployed a couple of weeks prior. My ears filled with tears as they cut pieces of tissue and scraped my insides. When I could finally sit up, all the tears came pouring out of my ears and soaked my shirt. Thankfully, it was over. I got a phone call the following week stating I need to see a GYN Oncologist because the biopsy showed AIS (Adenocarcinoma In Situ/Stage 0/Non-invasive cancer). The treatment impacts fertility, so only an Oncologist can perform one of the treatment options.
I met with my first Oncologist on June 4th. He told me standard treatment is a total hysterectomy (uterus and cervix). However, since I'm young and do not have any children, I could get a cold knife conization first. A cold knife conization (or cone) is where they remove a cone-shaped piece of your cervix for a larger biopsy. Plus side: you can still have babies. Downside: there is about a 15% chance there could be cancer higher up that isn't detected, so it could advance without you knowing. Well, that's a little unsettling. I sat on a bench by the elevators and cried and cried and cried. This was not the news I was expecting. Honestly, I thought cervical cancer was no big deal... just get some cells frozen off or cut out and you're good to go. Hysterectomy? What?
As previously mentioned, my boyfriend was deployed during this time. I messaged him BEGGING him to stay awake because I NEEDED to talk to him. I did not want to tell him about this over facebook messenger. I was driving to school from my appointment and got to school late. I was able to video chat with him and tell him everything I knew. We had been dating a little less than a year and I was vulnerable. I told him "honestly, I can see myself marrying you some day, so I need you to make this decision with me. This isn't just my future, it's OUR future." He got the biggest smile on his face, which was a relief because we had NOT discussed marriage plans or even living together. Well, the key word is "discussed". I mailed him a letter the week prior stating I think we should move in together after he gets back and settled into his new house. I hadn't lived with a significant other in 6 years, so this was a huge step for me - especially since we both owned our own homes so it wouldn't be an easy, quick moving situation. He received this letter a while after all this stuff happened.... I asked him for a list of questions for my oncologist because I wanted him to feel like he's a part of everything and that all of his concerns are addressed. Question # 2 was "What would happen if I got pregnant before having surgery?". Well, with my sick sense of humor, I responded "you wouldn't be the father" because he's halfway across the world. Haha. Well, now this raised a lot of questions. "What do you mean? You'd have a baby out of wedlock? I also guess I'm assuming you mean you'd be the father? Are you ready to be a father? Have you prayed about this? ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO SIGN UP FOR ALLLL THIS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?" He told me to just ask the question and then he'll tell me his ideas.
I tried contacting the doc with all my questions, without success. I wasn't informed this Oncologist was only in the office ONCE A MONTH, so I scheduled a second opinion with a different provider in Baltimore that works at one of the greatest hospitals in the country. The Oncologist I saw there told me she was mostly concerned about my fertility and got very upset when I asked "What would happen if I waited until having a baby - without getting a conization" and all of my other questions. I don't want my doc's main concern to be my fertility.. I'd rather it be ya'know.. my LIFE. After 3 hours there, the staff let me know they didn't actually have my pathology report so there was nothing we could do. They had me schedule a surgery (that I may or may not need) "just in case".
Fast forward a bit... Mark got approved to take a week of emergency leave and fly back home to get married and try to make a baby. We planned this week to be during my ovulation. We got married July 16, 2018 and I ended up having a chemical pregnancy. This was very hard emotionally and a little physically painful. Our plan was to schedule the surgery if I didn't get pregnant, so I had my first cold knife conization on August 15, 2018. My mother-in-law, who I'd never met in person before, flew out from the mid-West to take care of me for a week. My mom passed away from Stage IV lung cancer in 2015, so I needed a mom.
The results of the first biopsy... none of the tissue removed had anything, but the scraping they did further up still had AIS. I had to wait 8 weeks to get another cone. The second surgery was November 1, 2018. Mark was leaving a few days after to go to school for a couple of months, but he was able to be there for this surgery. We got the results of this biopsy while I was visiting him at school during Thanksgiving week. It came back with Stage 1B1 Endocervical Adenocarcinoma with AIS still further up inside of the cervix. So, we scheduled an oncology appt to discuss treatment options.
We decided the radical hysterectomy was the best option for me. I had my uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, upper 1/3 of vagina, part of peritoneum, and 22 lymph nodes removed. I opted for the abdominal/open surgery because there were recent studies showing nearly a 50% change of recurrence or cancer spreading from minimally invasive routes with cervical cancer.
I started an IVF cycle to freeze eggs or embryos. I was told I had a low egg reserve and they didn't know if I'd be able to get any. I was given the maximum dosage of meds from the beginning. I was taking 4 shots a day: microdose lupron every 12 hours, 300 units of gonal-f, and 3 vials of menopur. Over 70 shots in 2 1/2 weeks. The RE clinic wanted to cancel my cycle because I was not responding to the drugs. They said I could keep going, but they did not want to give me false hope. Even if I got 1 or 2 eggs, it could result in 0. We opted to keep going because at least we could say we tried. I ended up having 12 eggs retrieved, 11 were mature, 8 made into embryos, and 4 made it to freezing! So, BOOM, in yo face haters. lol.
The big surgery was February 14, 2019. The night before surgery, Mark and I talked about all of my wishes in case I didn't make it. I cried so hard, especially when we were talking about what to do with our embryos if I didn't make it off the table. It was one of the hardest days of my life. I baked cookies for everyone that had to take care of me in the hospital, made Valentine's cards, and sent drugged up videos to my hyster-sister, Lisa Davis. Lisa is one of my favorite people in this world and she actually connected me to Ulman Foundation. I spent 5ish days in the hospital and went home with a catheter. I had a sexy walker to use in the hospital after surgery. My amazing husband took care of charting all of my meds, feeding me, bathing me, draining my pee bag, and everything else. He would get up at 3am to go into work and try to get home before I woke up. Our routine was: I hold onto his arm while he pulls me up and stuffs pillows behind my back so I didn't have to use my core muscles.. he'd give me a piece of toast and pain meds, then put me back to sleep and hope I didn't wake up in a lot of pain before he got home. We are so grateful for our amazing friends, family, and neighbors that helped with meals and errands. Recovery went pretty well for the most part. I had a couple weeks of severe incontinence and went through almost an entire 60+ pack of Poise pads in a week. Fortunately that corrected itself (yay nerves). I now have secondary lymphedema in my lower extremities due to the lymph node removal and wear custom-fitted compression stockings every day and garments to bed as well. These help manage the swelling (preventing the disease from progressing) and help with pain. It's usually painful to walk by the end of the day, but I'll take this over the alternative. I am full of gratitude that my medical team listened to me and sent me to see specialists to get diagnosed early.
Thank you for reading this, whether it was a little bit or all of it. I hope you can help me pay it forward to many others. I'm so honored to be a part of such a great group of people.
Please help me support Ulman Foundation by making a contribution to my fundraiser and sharing this page with your family and friends. Every dollar I raise will advance Ulman Foundation's great cause! Additionally, you can ask me how you can get involved too.
Together, we can make a difference!
Each year more than 72,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Young adults (ages 15-39) face a variety of unique challenges with a cancer diagnosis including social isolation, fertility preservation, insurance concerns, delayed diagnosis, and survivorship.
The Ulman Foundation changes lives by creating a community of support for young adults, and their loved ones, impacted by cancer. With your support, Ulman is able to provide free services and resources for the young adult cancer community through programs that focus on patient support services, housing, survivorship, and scholarship. Learn more about young adult cancer and our impact here.