Miriam: The Warrior
At the time of her diagnosis, Miriam was raising beautiful twin daughters Ann and Shauntell, age 9. Her life was going in the direction she had finally hoped. She was engaged at the time to Chris, now her husband. They were planning their wedding and preparing for the life they both dreamed of, a lifetime full of happiness.
Upon arriving home from a family vacation, Miriam’s life changed forever when she opened a letter from her doctor, containing the results from her recent visit. The letter stated to come back for further testing, her Pap smear had come back abnormal. Following her doctors recommendations, she made an appointment that sent her into a spiral of other tests. In September of 2012, Miriam was diagnosed with Stage 2B cervical cancer. What happened next, was something she never dreamed of happening.
Being told that her tumor was to large to remove by surgery, she started Cisplatin Chemotherapy in hopes to shrink it. While receiving chemo treatments, she had to stop in December of 2012 due to a cyst in one of her liver ducts. Due to the chemo, her body couldn’t fight off the cyst, so in order to get her liver panel numbers back to normal, her oncologist decided to stop all treatments and put her on high doses of antibiotics for four weeks.
During a scan to check her liver in January of 2013, doctors discovered a tumor in her left hip that they removed weeks later. In March, they found a tumor in her bladder. Her cancer was spreading quickly, something that cervical cancer wasn’t supposed to do, so she was told. Miriam soon found herself having a partial cystectomy, to remove part of her bladder and started her chemotherapy drugs once again.
Not sure as to what would happen, she started to push Chris away and pushed off her wedding plans. Chris wasn’t going anywhere though, declaring that he was staying by her side. That May, when she should have been planning summer vacations with her daughters, Miriam began chemo cocktails, after being told that the tumor in her hip was back and another small mass was found in her abdomen. Remember, she was still dealing with the original tumor in her cervix.
Being told that she qualified for a procedure called Cyber knife, she contacted her insurance company and was told that they would let her know “when and if” she was approved for the procedure. Cyber knife is a procedure which delivers beams of high dose radiation to tumors with extreme accuracy. In August of 2013, Miriam’s insurance carrier approved the cyber knife and her original cervical tumor was destroyed along with the small one in her abdomen.
Feeling like she finally won a round of all her treatments, she finally gave in and she and Chris wed on September 13th. She still had her hip tumor to control though. She soon started more rounds of chemotherapy and in November of 2013, chemo was injected directly into the tumor in her hip in hopes to shrink it.
Holidays soon came and went. Enjoying every possible minute with her family, Miriam vowed to kick cancer’s butt, but in March of 2014, she was told that they found lesions on her liver, a small one on the back of her bladder again and another small abdominal mass. Not willing to give up, Miriam had surgery in April to remove the small mass out of her abdomen, and the lesion on her bladder was burned off. She was told that they weren’t able to burn the ones off her liver, and was told to continue chemo.
Summer had arrived and Miriam lost her job due to her illness and her never ending doctors appointments. Chris continued to support his family the best he could, wondering each day, what would happen next. in June, Miriam had another chemo injection and was put on the highest dose of chemo drugs that she could take. The cancer continued to spread, settling in both hips and pelvic bone, more lesions and larger ones on her liver, and another mass underneath her shoulder blade.
Miriam continues to fight her cancer and believes in miracles.It is now 2016 and she’s planning a trip to Las Vegas. She is a fighter and has many people supporting her and praying for her. Once again she is waiting for clearance for a cyber knife procedure, while her cancer is being controlled. She continues to smile a smile that can light up a room, and her heart of gold is always overflowing with generosity. She doesn’t complain about her illness, just worries about her family. She worries about how her piling medical bills will be paid, hoping to receive some kind of assistance. She prays her daughters will go to college, and worries about Chris and what he will do if something should happen to her. All the worries that she shouldn’t be worrying about if it wasn’t for cervical cancer. Did starting and stopping chemo treatments and waiting for insurance approvals cause her cancer to spread? No one knows for sure. Right now, she continues to fight for life like the warrior that she is.
Please think of Miriam and the many others who are fighting this disease caused by HPV, and pray for the fallen. Know that this disease is real and affects many women world wide and right her in our home state of New York.
Ann: The Survivor
Ann was diagnosed with Stage 4A cervical cancer on April 6, 2011. She had been sick since January of that year. Having no health insurance at the time, she had to go to the clinic, where was told that she had a UTI, was given antibiotics, and sent home. Between January and March things weren’t getting any better and she visited the clinic four more times being told each time, it was a UTI. By this point, her period had basically stopped, she had high blood pressure and suffered migraines. The nurse practitioner that she saw, blamed it on menopause. If they had weighed Ann, they would have noticed that she was rapidly losing weight (approximately 50 lbs in about 4 months).
Finally in March, Ann got regular health insurance, and went to the ER on April 2nd. During testing, they found out that her kidney function was at 8% and were shutting down, and an ultrasound test showed something blocking the ureters. She was immediately admitted to the hospital where she met with a nephrologist and urologist to talk about possible cancer. The next day she had a gynecological exam and was told that it was 99% cervical cancer that was causing her problem, and was scheduled for a biopsy two days later, and a procedure to put stents in the ureters.
The procedure didn’t work because of the mass that was blocking them, so instead Ann had a nephrostomy tube inserted into her right kidney. At that point her left kidney was not working. The next day it was confirmed that Ann definitely had cancer and it was Stage 4. At that moment, her whole world that she had known, came crashing down around her. She soon found herself being introduced to several more doctors and was told that things didn’t look good and that her chances of survival were minimal. The plan for aggressive treatment was put into full swing, she had her list of appointments and a new tattoo for radiation.
On May 1, 2011, Ann started the first of 33 external radiation treatments. She had her chemo port put in and soon started the first of 6 rounds of chemo. At the end of the chemo, she had a three week break and then began brachytherapy, where rods were inserted internally and high doses or radiation where directed towards the tumor. After five treatments, she was told that they would wait a couple of months and do an exam to see how she reacted to all the treatments that she had just endured.
In October, she was sent to a gynecological oncologist. She was told that her tumor had shrunk, but was still there. At that point, there was no way of telling how active it was though. She had three choices: 1. She could try surgery, but there was no guarantee they would be able to get it all and there would be a chance that she lost her her rectum, 2. She could try more chemo, but the doctor didn’t think it would work, 3. She could just wait and see what would happen. Ann decided to wait and see what her next set of scans would show. At the end of October, she had another scan which showed she still had cancer, so she decided to do more chemo.
On December 5th, she was not feeling well and found out she had a fistula, a hole between her vagina and her rectum, and was admitted to the hospital for a colostomy. On December 14th, she started to hemorrhage and flat lined. They were able to revive her and was told if she was bleeding from a vein, they could stop the bleeding but if it was from an artery, there was nothing they could do. The bleeding was from the main artery of her heart…the tumor had ruptured. Her husband Rob was told to make funeral arrangements, that even if they could get it to stop bleeding, she probably wouldn’t live past a year. Ann was then wheeled into surgery.
Ann survived the surgery and spent 2 days in ICU, A few days later she was released to go home under Hospice care. She went back for a few scans which revealed that the cancer was slowly going away without any further treatments. By November of 2012, there were no signs of cancer. March of 2013, she was released from Hospice care and has been considered in remission. Doctors believe that the artery that was affected was the one that was feeding the tumor, and when it ruptured, the blood supply was cut off. She is considered “the miracle patient” to the many doctors who worked with her, because in reality, she shouldn’t be here today to tell her story. Most women who hemorrhage from cancer do not survive. God spared Ann’s life and to repay him and to make all of the fallen angels lives mean more, she keeps sharing her story and brings awareness to cervical cancer.