Jennifer Cooper (Updated)

Jennifer Cooper - ProfileJennifer’s profile was updated on February 23, 2011. See the update here!

Hometown: Fort Frances, ON

What school did you attend? Sir Sandford Fleming College/Athabasca University

Do you work? yes

What is your career goal(s)? ASD Consultant

How did you find out you were sick? What event(s) led to the diagnosis?
I have always gone for my annual PAP tests, and I had an annual in December ‘08 and everything was normal. In March ‘09 I thought that I was having bladder incontinence. I went in to my family doctor referred me to a specialist. I visited the specialist in July ‘09 and was misdiagnosed as having a large ectropion on my cervix. I was told to stop taking the birth control pill since the ectropion can be caused from the hormones, and that even though it was a nuisance to me, it was not harmful and unfortunately there was no treatment for it. I left that appointment upset, but I did as I was told. I went back to the same specialist in November ’09; my symptoms had increased and I had started to lose weight. The doctor sent me to see a colposcopist who immediately knew that is was cancer. He took a biopsy and I was given the results two weeks later.

What year was it? What was your age at the time? 2009. I was given my full diagnosis the day after my 27th birthday.

What was your diagnosis? Cervical adenocarcinoma

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed? I was a little numb. I tried not to think about it, and focused on what needed to be done. I knew I could deal with the emotional aspect of it later.

How did your family react? My family was upset. We have seen a lot of cancer within our family. I grew up in a blended household, and out of the six of us, three have had cancer.

How did your friends react? Were you treated any different? My friends were very supportive and really helped me through everything, and still are.

What did your treatment consist of?
My treatment consisted of a radical hysterectomy and lymphadenectomy. I felt like everything happened so quickly and that there was a lot of miscommunication between the medical team and myself. I would have one doctor tell me that I was having the surgery, then the next would come in and tell me that I was having chemo/rad. It was a whirl-wind of emotion, and I am very happy with the final outcome. During surgery they removed 23 lymph nodes; one parametrial lymph node came back positive, and all distant nodes negative. At this time I am considered cancer free. I have my three month follow up in May ‘10.

In which Hospital(s) are/were you treated? Women’s Pavillion Healths Science Center in Winnipeg, MB

What is your current medical status? Cancer free

How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)? I am still struggling with the emotional aspect of the whole process. I still don’t think much about having the cancer, more about what the cancer took from me. Physically I feel great! I have that visual reminder every time I shower. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, and other times I get upset and start to cry.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge? Losing the ability to have children. I also feel like I have lost a large part of my identity as a female.

What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience? I found this quote by Margaret Mead. And it was my inspiration through it all: “We are continually faced with great opportunities that are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.”

What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
The Canadian Cancer Society website states that after three consecutive years of negative PAP tests, one can wait two to three years. I went yearly for 12 years…all negative. Then within 11 months I was undergoing a radical hysterectomy to remove a tumor that was over three centimetres. If I had waited two years, I don’t know where I would be. People know their body the best, and if you think something is not right, you have to be your own advocate.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge? No

If you did not attend a support group, why? I live in a small town, three and a half hours away from the closest city, so there is not a lot of support for people. If there had been a support group available I would have participated at least once. I have found it difficult to find someone who I could relate to on all levels.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? My grandma was given the link to the website by her family doctor. My grandma forwarded me the information. YACC has helped me find support, and I thank you!

Update

Age at diagnosis/relapse:

28.  I had follow up appointments every three months. At six months I received a CT scan which was clear, and at 12 months I received a PET scan which displayed a localized tumor which was 2.5cm x 2.5cm, with two positive lymph nodes, one in the common iliac lymph chain and the other in the internal iliac lymph chain.

How long has it been since your last treatment?

It has been one week since my last treatment.  This time around I received five rounds of chemotherapy (Cisplatin), 28 rounds of external radiation, and two HDR brachytherapy treatments.

How are you today?  How have you changed since your last update?

Physically I feel pretty good. I fatigue easily and have some GI irritability from the radiation treatments. I am also menopausal and have been dealing with hot flashes.

During my treatments I had to move to the city to receive the daily radiation treatments. Leaving my house, family, friends, and boyfriend was difficult. I was very lucky to have a very close friend to stay with while in the city, and through the generosity of those around me, I was able to go home on the weekends or have others visit me. I also wrote a blog (http://downthebeatenpath-jenn.blogspot.com/). Initially the blog was a way for those around me to be updated on how I was doing, but after a few posts, it was helping me feel better too. The thought of the blog inspiring or helping others was just icing on the cake.

What are you doing today? (school, work, recovery, etc)

I am currently off of work on sick leave and focusing on getting strong and healthy. I have a follow up PET scan in May which will determine when I return to work.

What are you goals for the future?

I have so many accomplishments to achieve and dreams to fulfill and this just pushes me harder to achieve them.

Do you have any advice for other survivors who may be where you once were? 

Surround yourself with love and support and stay positive.