Thursday, October 3, 2013

An Interview with Endometrial Cancer Survivor, Jean Labrie

Hey, Guys - It's Alicia, and I wanted to share the story of a very dear friend who is going through the recovery of Endometrial Cancer.

A few months back, I called to make an appointment with my dentist.  Now let me hit a pause button and say that I'm religious about my cleanings.  I think this is mainly because I have a phobia of my teeth falling out and me looking like train robber circa 1863, but I digress.  Back to the call.  As always, I was greeted by the familial voice of Jean Labrie.   I have been going to the same dentist since I was a supreme tiny person, and every time I went,  Jean Labrie would greet me with a smile and make me feel like there was nothing to fear.  To this day, she always has a kind word and offers lovely support for anything that I may be going through in my life - not just supporting me through the thought of filling a cavity.

I have grown up with Jean, and she was a big source of support when I lost my mom.  It was the everyday things that really hit me hard. How would it be like to go back to places where all the people  knew my mother well?  Would I have to talk about her? Would I get pity? Would I start crying? To put it mildly, these were some of the things that I really struggled with the first year or so after losing her. I still remember walking in the door, and Jean treated me with business as usual.  She expressed her condolences, and she offered her support without any judgement, pity or intensity.  She put me at ease, and at that moment,  I knew without a doubt that this woman whom I have known forever, was incredibly kind and someone I treasured immensely.

So, back to this phone call.  It was a few months back, and out of nowhere, Jean mentioned that she had just been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. They found it, but they found it early.  I was beyond shocked and worried for her.  She had a rough surgery and immediate recovery, but they got it all, and she didn't need to undergo any further treatment at this time.

I asked her to answer a few questions to spread the need for early detection on all cancers.  Please take Jean's advice.

To anyone who is going through a similar struggle.
Our thought are always with you, and we are sending you immense strength.

I'd also like to extend a BIG thank you to Jean for sharing her personal story.

Til next time.

Alicia Arinella: How did you first discover that you had cancer? Were there any early warning signs?

Jean Labrie: I had what I now realize were several symptoms of my endometrial carcinoma prior to my diagnosis. I had pain and pressure in my lower abdomen and, Oreo, one of our cats who loves to lie on my belly, kept getting the heave ho because the weight of his 16 lbs. was just too much on me. In early May, I had vaginal spotting with clots. I called my PCP just to mention that "I am sure this is normal but..." and she let me know that bleeding, in post menopausal women, is not ok! She referred me to an Ob/Gyn. At my first visit, I had an in office DCN and biopsy which even he felt was more than likely normal. I got the call 5 days later that it was not normal, that it was cancer.

Alicia: What was your initial reaction?

Jean:  I was quite shocked but, I had taken that call at work so just finished my day. I had been told that I would need to see a gyn oncologist for further treatment and his office would schedule that appointment and call me the next day. I went home, told my husband, and waited for further information.

Alicia: Who did you turn to for support?

Jean: After telling Steve, I called my sister in law. She and my brother have been married for 30 years and she is always my rock, whenever I need her. She offered to be with me for my first onco visit and I took her up on that offer. We actually stayed at a local hotel for a girls night and dinner and went to that appt. the following morning. If was a great chance for us to talk about the what ifs and Steve just couldn't deal with it all at that time. The plan was right from the get go-do whatever it takes in whatever time frame needed.

Alicia: What was your decision for treatment?

Jean: My surgery was scheduled for 7/23 at 5:30am I would have a total hysterectomy, biopsy of lymph nodes and whatever else was necessary as seen by the surgeon. I am a very lucky girl, no cancer in my ovaries, negative nodes and the 4 cm tumor did not invade any other areas. I do not need chemo or radiation and I returned to work on 9/3!

Alicia: How were people there for you during the first stage of your recovery?

Jean: My husband, children, brother and his family and my friends were fantastic before, during and after surgery. And, on a personal and private note, my Arinella family's love and support meant the world to me! I lost a sister to a much more aggressive and rare muscle cancer when I was 5 and she was 24. Honestly, I was scared to death but, it was a "good" cancer to have and we did what needed to be done. I just want all women to know that ignoring symptoms will only kill you. Do not be afraid-just find your own good people and know that moving in a timely fashion makes all the difference.

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