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I Am Not Immune To Cancer

Monday, November 10, 2014

By Alissa Butterfass

Back in 2011 I wrote a post for the ACHA Blog around Thanksgiving time. You can read it here, but the gist was that everyone has something; no one’s life is perfect. Sometimes it is easy to know what problem or issue someone is dealing with. Other times on the surface it might look like someone is living the perfect life—but the truth is that person is dealing with something too, you just might not know it. And my lot in life, my issue to deal with, was that I was born with a congenital heart defect.

A lifelong cardiac patient who had already gone through two open heart surgeries by time I was two, I figured that was my problem. The doctor’s appointments, the hospitalizations, the tests, the pokes, the prods. It was my issue to deal with, and knowing everyone eventually has some issue of his/her own to deal with, in some ways I felt relieved to know what my issue was. I already had the right doctors, knew what my limitations were, knew who to call and where to go when it came to my health issues. I didn’t have to worry about what horrible disease would be coming around the corner any minute now.

I had a heart defect. I was done. I was safe.

But it turns out, some people can get more than their fair share of problems. I may have already had two open heart surgeries. I may have had multiple cardiac catheterizations, stress tests, MRIs. I may have gone through the ups and downs, both physically and emotionally, of gestational surrogacy.

But I am still not immune to cancer.

I was diagnosed with uterine cancer on Friday, October 3. As I write this, I am less than one week into recovery from the surgery that will hopefully be the cure for my cancer—though we will not know until the pathology report from that surgery is complete.

Uterine cancer is one of the most curable cancers. But it reminds me of congenital heart defects. Your heart defect may be “fixed,” but you forever need cardiac care. Likewise with cancer.

I am optimistic that last week’s surgery will be the only treatment I need, that it will have cured or fixed the cancer. But I will now be adding oncology appointments and follow-up care—at least for the next several years—to my already crowded schedule of cardiology-related appointments. Uterine cancer will forever be part of my medical history, and that of my children and nieces. Even after I have recovered from surgery and am back in my normal routine, like CHD, it will be one of the issues that I will continue to deal with.

In the past month I have been angry, scared, frustrated, exhausted, uncomfortable and in pain. I have wept and screamed and used curse words that I hope my children never know I used.

But I have also been cared for, supported, and loved in too many ways to recount here. I have experienced the incredible generosity of my family and my friends and my community. And as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday season, the message in my post from three years ago holds true. While CHD did not provide me with a “free pass” against cancer, I still have much to be thankful for.


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