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Stories of Inspiration

Cancer Will Never Define Me

By July 14, 2021June 1st, 2023No Comments

Never in a million years did I ever think I would be diagnosed with cancer. I’ve always lived a healthy, active lifestyle. I honestly would have to say that leading up to my symptoms and diagnosis of Stage 3C high-grade Ovarian Cancer. I was the fittest and healthiest I had ever been at age 45. So yes, I was in complete shock.
My symptoms started like most women. I was having sharp pains in my lower left abdomen.
I started having bowel changes, which I just thought were related to one another. When I saw my primary doctor in September 2020, she mentioned IBS and referred me to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy due to my family history of colon issues. Low and behold, my colonoscopy came back clear.
In November 2020, my symptoms started to worsen. I started having a lot of my pain in the left side of my back. Initially, my primary doctor thought maybe it was kidney stones, so she sent me for a CT scan.
That came back clear. As the pain started to worsen, I ended up going to the ER, where they did another CT scan. This time I was told I had constipation and mild Ascites.
To make a very long story short, after two more ER visits and several doctors’ appointments over the next month and a half, my gastroenterologist sent me for a paracentesis because the Ascites had worsened. They removed 2.8 liters of fluid from my abdomen to send to pathology. Everything I had read on Ascites was either liver issues, which doctors kept trying to lean that way, or it could be cancer in the abdomen region.
On 14 December 2020, my gastroenterologist called me into his office and my husband to inform us that the pathology results confirmed cancer. A few days later, I went back for another paracentesis and had two additional liters of fluid drained from my abdomen. By this time, I was in so much pain, and I started vomiting uncontrollably.
The following day, on 17 December 2020, I went back to the ER at a different hospital. I had another CT scan done; this time, I had two surgeons come in to tell me I needed surgery immediately that my colon was completely blocked and was at risk of bursting. My thoughts, all this back and forth to hospitals and doctors’ offices, no one could see this coming?? Mind you, I also had an ultrasound, a vaginal ultrasound, and nothing could see this.
It blew my mind.
I woke up from surgery in the ICU with the 10-inch incision down the center of my abdomen and two colostomy bags hooked to me. All I could do was cry. I had no idea what had just happened to me over the past 10 hours of my life. I woke up in an empty, dark ICU room. I just wanted my husband.
Symptoms started way before 2020. I had uncontrollable, heavy menstrual cycles that required uterine biopsies that showed benign results. Sex was always painful for me. For years I covered up my symptoms with medicine. It wasn’t until all of this that the root cause was finally uncovered.
On 18 December 2020, I was diagnosed with Stage 3C high-grade ovarian cancer. My advice to women out there, you know your body best, don’t ignore the symptoms, and be persistent with your doctors.
These last seven months, after three surgeries, chemotherapy, and learning I will have to live with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life, has taught me that I am much stronger than I thought I was. Yes, I had the physical strength before diagnosis as an avid runner and weight lifter. Cancer has made me mentally strong. I have never thought once, “why me?” I just knew I had to fight for my life and for my family. I’ll never give up, and I will never let cancer define me.

Cindy Piccirillo

I live in San Antonio, TX, with my husband Josh, four kids, and two dogs. I have been serving in the Air Force for almost 23 years. I’ve traveled the world, but there is so much more I want to see and do. Nothing will stop me.

Cindy’s Cancer Journey 

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