Lindsay Long: On the Road to Recovery

I was first diagnosed with stage 1B1 cervical cancer in March of 2018. After surgery in July to remove my cervix and the 2cm tumor attached, I went about my life. I went to all my check-ups in the first three months with no problems. I was cancer free! I felt super blessed and lucky that we caught it early and I got to keep my other reproductive organs.

I felt mostly normal except for swelling and weight gain that my oncologist attributed to post cancer op depression, even though I didn’t really feel depressed. As time went on, I started to wonder why they never did any imaging post op. I asked for it, and was told I didn’t need it since all my exams/pap smears came back clear, so I trusted the docs and their protocols.

Fast forward to August 19th, 2019: I went to the ER because of extreme pelvic pain and relentless vomiting. They did a scan to discover I had a 16cm mass in my pelvis. I was shocked by the images. This massive blob of mysterious tissue was just hanging out, occupying space in my body and shoving all my digestive and reproductive organs out of its way.

Since I had a history of cancer, they sent me to UCHealth Anschutz immediately, where I was checked in and had emergency laparoscopic surgery. The docs initially thought the mass in my abdomen was an abscess from my previous surgery, but a week later, I got a call saying that it was a recurrence of my cervical cancer, which is apparently very rare. They scheduled me for surgery to remove the mass on Sept. 27 (about a month away at the time).

A week later, I found a red/sore/warm spot on my left calf that turned out to be a blood clot. Back at Anschutz, they found several other clots in my lungs. Cancer tends to thicken your blood, apparently, so they delayed my surgery until they could safely operate. They checked me back into the hospital for 11 days, and everything from the waist down swelled up about as big as my skin would allow. I looked like I had Fat Bastard’s legs for at least a month, unable to bend any of my joints.

My surgery now severely delayed, I was so worried I wouldn’t make it. They put me on oxygen and blood thinners, inserted a tiny filter into my jugular vein to catch any possible blood clots into my inferior vena cava (a major blood vessel all the way down in your pelvis), and installed nephrostomy tubes in my back so I could urinate (the mass had now grown to 19cm and was obstructing my ability to go). I lost most control over my bowels as well.

I did one round of chemotherapy to try and shrink the tumor, and I could barely eat and couldn’t keep anything down. Thanks to the distraction and care from good friends and family (and my sweetheart boyfriend that never batted an eye when my hair started falling out like the Crypt Keepers’), I made it through. I sat around in adult diapers doped up on pain meds until I finally had surgery on Nov. 1.

Since surgery, I’ve had another round of chemotherapy – which I despise of course because it makes me feet numb and give me the worst body aches of my life – but hopefully it helps, and its side effects are only temporary. I will continue to go every 21 days until the end of the year, when they will reassess, and see how much cancer is left/how it responds to chemotherapy. During the surgery, they cut me sternum to pubic bone, and the tumor left behind a cancerous rind that was attached to several vulnerable areas and organs that they couldn’t remove without killing me.

I’m doing much much better since my surgery, and I’ve been able to eat normally (although I’ve lost over 50 lbs since August) and have regained control over my bladder and bowels thank goodness (peace out adult diapers)! I’ve been able to function the last week without opiate pain medication which is a pretty huge milestone for me, because that means I can drive again (sweet sweet freedom) and hopefully be able to work and see patients in the near-ish future. Every day is different though, so it’s always hard to tell how much I will be able to accomplish in a day.

I can’t thank you enough for the support and kind thoughts coming my way. I believe that it all helps the healing process. I still have a long road to go, but the support I have gotten over the last few months has been truly cherished and absolutely necessary to get me through.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

Lindsay Long

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