In 2010, Marlo was a divorced mother with two teen-aged children when she finally took the advice of her mother and met a long-time family friend for lunch. James was a career military man also divorced, but with no children, whom Marlo had known since they were kids. Despite persistent encouragement from her mother to meet and reconnect with him, Marlo hesitated since she was in Texas and he lived in Mississippi. Finally, the stars aligned when Marlo was visiting her mother in Mississippi, and James was home from deployment. When she came back from their date she told her mother, “I think I am going to marry him.”…and she did three months later.
Marlo and James were married just two weeks before James was to be deployed to Afghanistan for an entire year. They had discussed the potential of having children together. However, Marlo, a Nurse Practitioner in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, knew of all the potential complications and difficulties of becoming pregnant at age 40. As a result, she prepared James that it may not happen for them. Of course, things have a funny way of working out and the stars aligned once again. In the two short weeks between their wedding and his deployment, Marlo became pregnant.
They were thrilled that they were going to be parents. However, Marlo was worried about going through the pregnancy without him, and being a Nurse Practitioner, she almost knew too much about all the potential complications of being pregnant at 40. These worries were intensified when she had bleeding almost daily for the first 16 weeks of her pregnancy due to a subchorionic hemorrhage. Also, because she was 40, she knew there was an increased chance of the fetus being chromosomally abnormal. She had the necessary screening, and thankfully everything was normal. Once the bleeding stopped at around 16 weeks of gestation, she felt more at ease and was finally able to truly enjoy being pregnant.
At 23 weeks of gestation, Marlo’s blood pressure started to increase. At the recommendation of her doctor, she stopped working and was monitored closely for any further increases in blood pressure. During this time at home, Marlo noticed that her left leg stayed significantly more swollen that the right leg. Although swelling of the legs is normal in pregnancy, the fact that one leg was more swollen than the other required that she have an ultrasound of that leg to check for the formation of a blood clot. At 28 weeks, the ultrasound was done and was negative. However, the swelling never really went away.
At 37 weeks, her blood pressure started to increase again and delivery was required. Because Marlo had previously had surgery to repair pelvic organ prolapse that resulted from the births of her first two children, Marlo elected to have a cesarean delivery in order to prevent further damage that could occur with a vaginal birth. In April 2011, James was able to come home for the birth of their daughter and spend two weeks with them before returning to duty. Everyone was healthy and happy.
After her delivery, Marlo’s recovery was uneventful. However, she did notice that her left leg would still periodically swell. In addition, her menstrual cycles, although regular after the delivery of her daughter, started becoming heavier in flow. She brought this to the attention of her OB/GYN in December of 2012, and a pelvic ultrasound was ordered. She was told that she had a 1.5 cm polyp, or abnormal growth of endometrial tissue, in the lining of her uterus and an endometrial biopsy was recommended. Marlo didn’t act on this recommendation right away because her symptoms weren’t that bad. In addition, with a newborn at home and recently returning to work, the diagnosis of an endometrial polyp took a back burner. However, within a few months, she started having menstrual cycles every 2 weeks. In August 2013, she decided it was time to get the endometrial biopsy done.
A couple of days later she was diagnosed with endometrial adenocarcinoma. Marlo had endometrial cancer.
After her diagnosis, things moved pretty quickly. She was sent to a Gynecology Oncologist, a doctor who specializes in female cancers, where additional testing was done. In September 2013, she underwent a total hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries. The final pathology showed that the cancer was confined to the lining of the uterus, and thankfully no further treatment was necessary.
Looking back, Marlo realized that there were warning signs long before her diagnosis. She started having irregular and heavier menstrual cycles about a year before she became pregnant, but she didn’t think much of it. She thought it was a result of her approaching 40. When her symptoms worsened after the birth of her daughter, she probably could have paid more attention. However, with a new baby at home, a husband who was deployed and a demanding job, it was easy for her to neglect herself and time slipped by.
In retrospect, she was actually having warning signs for a number of years before her diagnosis of endometrial cancer. When asked if she had any advice for other women, she encourages others to pay attention to their bodies and don’t wait to see a doctor if something isn’t right. Although the silver lining is the birth of her beautiful baby girl, she realizes that she is lucky to have gotten her diagnosis before the cancer advanced.