Here’s a shout out to gynecological cancer month, you know the ones like uterine, ovarian, cervix but what about the other ones, say, vulvar, or placental? What? Placenta cancer? Is that what you read? Placental cancer, yes. You read that right. Cancer of the placenta. Yes, the same special organ that forms during pregnancy. The same organ that feeds and nourishes the baby, that is, in a healthy and normal pregnancy. What? What is this? The technical name is choriocarcinoma, a type of gestational trophoblastic disease or GTD. How do I know this, you may be wondering? Why, I am a survivor of this rare type of gynecological
pregnancy disease and its cancer. This fast growing, aggressive cancer had metastasized to my right lung and claimed what was to be my surviving twin baby.
I had a rarer GTD case called complete twin molar pregnancy with one surviving and healthy, full-term twin. As we were blaintly and descriptively told: I had two eggs regularly fertilized. Of those two eggs, one was my surviving twin, the other egg happened to be missing dna/chromosones, therefore stopping at the formation of the placenta, unable to support any fetus. These abnormal cells eventually turned into the cancer called choriocarcinoma. This cancer is fast growing and aggressive and spreads from uterus, liver, lungs and then the brain. Despite this germ cell cancer nature, it is easily treated IF caught in time and IF treated correctly the first time around. I remember being told that this was the ‘good kind of cancer to have’. The good kind? Really? Was that to be of some comfort to me? I had a newborn baby, only four-months-old; she was my surviving twin.
What I thought was a quick trip for a ‘simple d&c’ (which, by the way, made no sense because my obgyn delivered the healthy placenta, even held it up to show me, turned it back and forth in examination) turned into a traumatic 12 hour visit with repetitive refusal to go home to bleed to death, especially after a massive hemorrhage, being told by several different faces on different floors that I was pregnant or miscarrying. The day prior at my regular obgyn office, the ultrasound showed a grape-like image on the right side of my uterus. At the hospital, it was not found even after ultrasound two attempts, however; the labor and delivery dr said my cervix was as thick as almost a 6 month pregnancy (remember, I had just had a baby 4 months from this). She appeared quite disturbed, but I was certain something was wrong, terribly wrong as I remained persistent in telling her what we saw that afternoon before.
This finally led to being officially diagnosed, then quickly and unexpectedly, being admitted and forced to quit breastfeeding (which I couldn’t that night anyhow since I was so dehydrated no milk came down), varied tests, picc-line insertion, and my 1st chemo, all with one single hospital visit and within a 48 hour period. From there it turned in to weekly 6 ½ month weekly chemo, starting out with 4 single methotrexate to 8 ema-co cocktail cycles, Neupogen shots, Leucovorin, steroids, hospital stays, Love Knox shots, constantly being neutropenic, transfusions, infection, PTSD and a long 5-year follow-up.
That night, February 1, 2014, the 3 or 4 doctors that stood at the bottom of my bed, explained further that this cancer had fully gestated around 19-25 weeks into my pregnancy. I had no idea that I had been carrying cancer with my pregnancy and for that length of time! This was the most bizarre thing I heard yet, I had been actually living it, the clues were finally adding up. The itching that came back negative as yeast infection, the regular contractions from around that time frame, the extra bleeding at birth that led to my postpartum anemic (the contents were not saved for my obgyn examination for 2 reasons: 1. she was born in the back of an ambulance in route to the hospital 2. The medics were trainees, one was fresh with certificate), the bleeding that lasted for 8 weeks, then continued intermittedly as spotting for the remaining two months until a small hemorrhage in the middle of the night and then the passing of a good sized round, flat clot later that afternoon. It was then that I called my obgyn. He had me come in within the hour, telling me to go to the hospital for the ‘likely needed surgery’ of d&c after we saw the good-sized grape-like image hanging there.
Despite all of this, I can say that I passed my 6 year cancer free anniversary. I have found my new normal, for the most part, dealt with the aftermath of chemo and all the things that come with it and live life to the max each day. I continue as a strong awareness advocate for this pregnancy disease and its cancers to women and their family’s all over the world. My healthy twin? Oh, she is doing great, too! Be your own advocate and educate yourself where you can. By doing this, it can help save your life.