Meet Vulva Cancer Grad, Carly Allen!
Name: Carly Allen
Age at Enrollment: 39 (actually 38 & 11 months lol)
Major: Stage 3 Vulva Cancer
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? Pain, pain! When sitting it felt like a grapefruit was under me. I struggled with walking.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? I went to the ER twice over 3 months & was misdiagnosed. The head of gyn said I might have warts. The next doctor said I had a cyst burst. Once I finally got in to a specialist, 4 agonizing months later, she took one look & knew it was a tumour.
Courses completed: As soon as I was diagnosed, a PET scan showed cancer in my groin as well as a 4x8 tumour in my Vulva area to the sphincter. I had lymph nodes removed first, then chemo & radiation at the same time. My tumour had shrunk (although my hair didn't fall out) & I had a radical vulvectomy just before Christmas 2014. An infection followed requiring debridement. My pelvic radiation was 40 treatments, so my skin was not healing properly. I then went to 40 hyperbaric treatments to help my wound (where the tumour was cut out) heal & seal. Oxygen was such a major factor in my healing. It pretty much saved me from receiving a colostomy bag.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? From the start, the toughest moments were answering all the calls, texts, emails etc. As a result, I started my blog so loved ones could read my latest updates and my family & I could fight without silencing cell phones! It was, and still is my therapy. I'm at nearly 64,000 views. I'm so touched by all my readers.
I found post-cancer life harder to cope with almost more than fighting-cancer life. You might be told you're cancer free, but your body & mind are wrecked...damaged, if you will. I got extreme anxiety post treatment and still struggle today. The tough moments are never forgotten, and for me, car rides were hard. I was terrified of being away from a washroom. I couldn't leave my house for days. As much as I looked "normal" I was struggling with walking & so much more.
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? Everyone struggles at some point, it's how you cope that counts. Let it out, be it in a private journal or an online blog.
How did you find joy during this experience? It's funny how joy comes in so many ways. My joy was makeup. I did my face every day. Lipstick was my mask. Of course, I had days where I attended treatment sans makeup, but I mostly wore it daily. It was my way to maintain a face with the disease, my way to control what cancer looked like on me. Since I didn't lose my hair I didn't look like a typical cancer patient. I wanted to stay as made up as possible so I didn't look like a "bum".
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? I learned so much about myself. I learned that I can conquer...to the point that I now have a tattoo on my left wrist that reads "conquer". I used to give up easily, or just move on, whereas now I see things through. You never know how long you'll have to make an impact.
I think the one thing I'm activating for as I approach 2 years cancer free in March, is that cancer has no face. Breast cancer might be most known cancer, but it's not the top killing cancer. Lung cancer is. Just because I, or someone else has a rare cancer, doesn't mean we don't deserve to be heard. Cancer sucks. But lessons will never be forgotten. Love to all.