Wednesday, February 7, 2018

National Cancer Prevention Month

Cervical Cancer Survivor: ‘Don't let fear keep you from going to the doctor.’ 


Cervical cancer survivor Tonya Butler did not have health insurance or a primary care doctor in the fall of 2012. When she began feeling sick, she didn’t know what to do or where to go. Her symptoms included nausea and abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge. Butler, 46, hoped it might be related to the onset of menopause and would just go away on its own. But it was not menopause and it didn’t go away.
Over the next few weeks, Butler became weaker and weaker. She couldn’t keep down any food, or eventually, even water. Her cousin took her to see a gynecologist, who did tests including a Pap smear and a biopsy. The doctor told Butler she had what appeared to be a mass, and she thought it was cancer. She told Butler’s cousin to take her straight to the hospital, and warned her she’d likely be admitted. Butler had never stayed in a hospital before, and she was scared.
Doctors at the hospital ordered another biopsy, and confirmed Butler had cervical cancer. Further tests found it was stage 1B. She was also severely dehydrated and anemic. Treatment would include surgery followed by 6 sessions of chemotherapy.
While Butler was still in the hospital recovering from surgery, she had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” which is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain. For a short time, her left arm was numb and heavy, her mouth appeared crooked, and her speech was slurred. Her body resolved the blockage on its own, and no permanent damage occurred. However, chemotherapy left Butler with neuropathy, a painful numbness and tingling in her hands, along with muscle cramps and aches. 

A second cancer

In 2015, Butler and her doctor noticed a lump on the right side of her neck and had it checked out. It was early stage thyroid cancer, treated through surgery. She now takes thyroid hormone replacement medication. Since then, Butler has remained under the care of her doctors and gets checkups every few months. Currently she is cancer-free.

Dealing with sadness

Butler says she often dwells on everything she’s been through, and is still going through, related to her cancer diagnosis and treatment. She calls it “a really sad feeling” that sometimes evolves into depression. When she’s low, she tries to think about things that make her smile, she talks to her mother, aunt, or cousin, or she just prays.
For more on depression,  see Anxiety, Fear, and Depression, or call us at 1-800-227-2345.
Please go get yourself checked out, even if you have a mosquito bite that doesn't look right, go to the doctor. Don't let fear keep you from going to the doctor like I did, or it will only get worse. - Tonya Butler
Every September, she looks forward to Cancer Survivors Day activities held by The Carolinas’ Levine Cancer Institute, where she was treated and still has her follow-up visits. It’s a chance to meet others who have also faced a cancer diagnosis.
“I want to encourage others, inspire others, share my story with others,” says Butler. “Please go get yourself checked out, even if you have a mosquito bite that doesn't look right, go to the doctor. Don't let fear keep you from going to the doctor like I did, or it will only get worse.”
Butler dreams of having her own business one day. Before her diagnosis, she used to braid hair, but the neuropathy in her hands makes that impossible. She likes to make soaps and chocolate-covered treats including chocolate-covered Oreos and pretzels. On good days, she crochets.
In the meantime, she provides before-school and after-school care for one or two children. And she looks forward to visits from a cousin and her baby brother. “They have me smiling and laughing," says Butler. “They’re my therapy.”



Cancer Helpline: 800.227.2345


Below is the cancer.org website for more information and how you can get involved in the fight against cancer:

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