In 2015, I was newly single, living in Atlanta and making plans to take girl trips when an unexpected financial decision changed my life forever.

After the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, my company decided no longer required health insurance benefits for its employees. But “affordable” meant $600 after taxes; that far exceeded my means. So instead I opted out, feeling frustrated that an educated, skilled, middle-class American healthcare worker did not have enough means to look after her own wellbeing.

Over that year, I visited at least three different gynecologists for heavy bleeding and cramping issues, each time paying out of pocket and seeking answers with both my heart and health records in hand.

“I had early-stage ovarian cancer in 2003 and shortly afterwards my father passed away from colorectal cancer,” I informed my doctors. “Should I be concerned?”

After my original diagnosis and treatment for ovarian cancer, I received three rounds of chemotherapy ‘just in case.’ At that time I wasn’t certain what “just in case” meant or how to ask questions; yet something felt very off about that decision now 12 years later.

My visits would always end in normalization of symptoms associated with perimenopause or fibroids and I was always instructed to return in several months. Every so often I would receive a transvaginal ultrasound but no answers or further testing were ever offered to me; leaving me feeling disregarded and powerless.

Early 2016, I accepted a job offer with a larger company and, on March 28, drove from Georgia to Tennessee to attend orientation. En route, I received a phone call from my new employer’s benefits officer and was thrilled to learn my health coverage would begin that day! Immediately upon hearing this news, I began signing up for every insurance product available to me: medical, dental, disability life and cancer policies as soon as I could afford them; having gone so long without being covered had left an “if only” feeling in my memory that had left an “if only” feeling.

That call came in at 6 p.m. and by morning of less than 24 hours later I began bleeding profusely. Weeks later when I finally visited a gynecological specialist for an endometrial biopsy test and received the result that showed endometrial cancer had developed, my immediate question was why this had taken so long?

Treatment required a complete hysterectomy followed by months of chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy, to which I was initially terrified; yet upon reflection, it brought some relief that it all worked out according to plan – it just took persistence and one day’s worth of health insurance!

“Part of the difficulty in diagnosing gynecological cancers lies in their subtle symptoms; often presenting as common issues women are susceptible to. Even so, I knew something wasn’t quite right with me and would have appreciated hearing from any one of the doctors I consulted: ‘Adrienne, please be aware you could be at risk of endometrial cancer and here are some steps we could take together now… just in case.”

Today, I share my story in order to leave an impactful and permanent mark of endometrial cancer on others, should they never have heard of this disease or its symptoms before. Also, any woman reading this who may have personal or family histories of cancer and has never received screening genetic testing may not know to ask about endometrial cancer either.

Just in case another woman is feeling demoralized by their lack of access to healthcare and their reliance solely on gut instinct and prayer for treatment, hopefully my story can encourage her to ask about their disease and speak up when necessary.

This resource was produced with support from Merck.

Have a Real Women, Real Stories story to share? Reach out! We want to hear it all.

HealthyWomen presents Real Women, Real Stories as authentic experiences from real-life women. Please be aware that views expressed here do not necessarily represent official policy or positions taken by HealthyWomen.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *