How does one carry on with life when it suddenly has a high probability of ending? How does cope with an illness that strikes fast, only whispering its presence after it’s already spread? How does one stay optimistic when the odds are stacked against beating it, and when few doctors have encountered it, let alone successfully treated it? What does living in such a precarious state do to the loved ones of the patient?
In July of 2013, I joined a very exclusive club. Being part of the 1/3 of new cancer patients under 55 was not special enough. I was one of the less than 250 women who are diagnosed with high-grade neuroendocrine cervical cancer. These fast-growing and deadly tumors often appear as small cell or large cell varieties under a microscope, hence the Small Cell or Large Cell Cervical Cancer monikers. I was diagnosed at Stage 3B, which has a five-year survival rate of 9-23%. Remission is possible, but recurrence is probable. I enjoyed 7 months of a cancer-free existence after finishing treatment, but barely a year past diagnosis, the cancer returned to my liver. Surgery removed that first metastatic tumor, but 4 more were detected just 9 weeks later.
So how do I cope? It isn’t just one thing. Occupying my mind, keeping up my hobbies (health permitting) and making sure I have things to which I can look forward all help. A critical part of keeping my sanity in these tough times is having a strong support network. My family and friends have been amazing, but I’ve also found tremendous support among a special group of women who belong to that exclusive club I joined with my diagnosis. What began in 2008 as an email friendship between two women diagnosed with SCCC, each of whom never thought they would meet anyone else with their illness, has grown into an international Facebook community for women grappling with SCCC/LCCC and their supporters.
If you have been diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Small or Large Cell Cervical Cancer, or if you love someone impacted by this terrible disease, I would encourage you to find the Small/Large Cell Cervical Cancer community on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SmallCellCC).