Haven’t posted a personal blog for awhile… but here goes nothing. After traveling around North America and Canada in our van for 6 months straight throughout 2019, we arrived back to my hometown in Florida in the beginning of November. Many of you have asked me what’s next for us. As I have mentioned on my Instagram, our plan is to work in Florida for November & December before flying to Europe in January for our next big adventure.
But during this little 2 month travel break I decided to catch up on some personal things, including doctor appointments. I hadn’t been to any annual doctors appointments in the last few years while traveling around, so I decided I should at least get my annual appointments done while I was home.
Please Note: I was veryy hesitant to share this post with the world. Some have asked where I’ve been.. but it didn’t seem appropriate to share with them, or it was just too much to say in a quick impersonal reply. But the more I thought about it, WHY was I so hesitant to share? I share everything else with you as it happens. I share my relationship, my lifestyle, my home, my hikes, my jobs, my choices, my thoughts, etc. to everyone on here.. so why not this. Why should personal health be left out? I understand not everyone is comfortable sharing their lives with others and that is 10,000% FINE. But in general, why do humans shy away from sharing their personal health stories? Because it’s one of the MOST personal things to share? Because it’s too real? Because you don’t want to come across as seeking attention? Because you don’t want to talk about it? Because others will judge? Because it’s Scary? Boring? Uncomfortable? Unrelatable? I don’t know! But I do know everyone goes through their own personal challenges at some point. And SOMEONE out there can relate to you, learn from you, or support you, if you’re willing to share.
So as personal as this is, I decided to post this because it’s currently part of my life. And I choose to share my full life on here. & I actually think sharing HELPS people get through their own hiccups.
So here we go:
November 12, 2019 I went in for an annual gynecology exam. (FYI for the men or those who aren’t familiar for some reason, an annual gyne exam is basically just a pap smear). In addition to testing for STD’s, pap smears only test for abnormalities in a woman’s cervix. It does not inform you of the health of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, or endometrium. My pap smear came back “normal” meaning my cervix was healthy. Which is great. But I knew something wasn’t quite right in me, and I requested further testing.
But let’s back up just a little bit. A brief description of my personal history so you know why I requested further testing. I have always had the most painful periods. I know every girl says this, but I truly have a high pain tolerance and my period pretty much debilitates me for a day each month. I literally burn myself on purpose with heating pads and extremely hot bath water because heat is the only thing that temporarily helps the pain.. the burning skin hurts less than the pain inside. However, despite the pain, the cycle has always been relatively predictable. Cramping pain for a few hours on the first day, followed by tolerable days the rest of the cycle. Until this last year. The TYPE of pain and the predictability of when it would happen changed. It went from a cramping pain to more of a stabbing pain. In more areas.. even into my rectum (sorry, but just being completely real). And it wasn’t just on the first day of my period anymore.. but the 3rd, 4th, sporadically. I’d cry all night curled up in a ball or keeled over on the toilet wondering what the hell was happening inside of me. HOWEVER, when my period ended, so did the pain. The rest of the month I was fine besides a bit of pressure here and there. I was always told I was fine.. and “everyone is in pain on their period”.. so I never thought anything could be that concerning.
However, put that in combination with another concern I have had for about 7 years now. My fertility. I was married for 5 years from 2012-2017. During this time, I did not use any form of birth control and never got pregnant. Now flash forward to my current relationship with Dave, and it’s been the same story for the last 2 years. So, 32 years old, and 7 years of no babies despite no birth control. When I was married I would cry not understanding why pregnancy didn’t happen to me. But thats a different story… so to make this part of the story semi-short.. I basically went through sadness, frustration, anger at others when they got pregnant, to finally convincing myself and ‘accepting’ it might just not be part of my story on this earth. I now find joy through different ways of living/traveling/etc. But WHY didn’t I ever get pregnant? I have never went to a fertility doctor to confirm anything.
I brought up my concerns this year to my gynecologist and she recommended I see an endocrinologist to determine if I have endometriosis. Because all signs pointed to that. But that would be an expensive specialist doctor visit, so I requested to first have an ultrasound done to rule out anything that could be seen on there first. SO because of my long history of pain + infertility, I finally requested to have a transvaginal ultrasound done (this shows ovaries, uterus, endometrium, etc).
November 26, 2019 I had the ultrasound done. Truthfully I thought something minor may be found because of the pain I was having.. but at the same time I’ve never had anything except “healthy” and “everything looks good” results so why would this be any different. The doctor who completed my ultrasound was very quiet and I guess not really “allowed” to tell me what she saw. It was almost awkwardly quiet. However, the ultrasound was projected on the wall as she did it, and I could see her measuring and typing “cyst 1” “cyst 2” and “cyst 3”, so I asked if I had cysts. She told me cysts are common and not to worry. She told me my gyne would review the images and give me a call. I went home and that was that.
December 2, 2019 After the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, my gyne finally called me. She told me I did indeed have 3 cysts on my right ovary, causing the right ovary to be 5x the size of my left ovary, plus a bit of fluid on both sides. Fine I thought. Cysts are super common and usually not a big deal. But she went on to tell me that the concerning part was that my 3 cysts were considered “complex” as opposed to “simple”. Simple cysts are most common and typically go away on their own when a women menstruates without ever realizing she had them. Complex typically do not go away on their own, continually grow in size, and are filled with either blood or solid mass. They can be benign or they can be malignant. She said it was something that definitely needed to be monitored so she discussed with me my options.
I could wait 1-2 menstrual cycles and get a repeat ultrasound done to monitor them and see how the cysts changed/if they grew. Or I could get a blood test done right away to determine if I was at risk of the cysts being malignant. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you’d know my first thought was “oh no I won’t be in town in 1-2 menstrual cycles from now”. (Semi-funny but actually stressful when you’ve planned the next 5 months of your life living abroad). Anyway, the blood test isn’t cheap, but was a faster way to know if I should be truly concerned or not. So because of my lifestyle and because I have a flight booked to England on January 13, I chose to do the blood test. She had called me at 6pm on a Monday, and I had the blood test done the next day at 8am.
December 3, 2019 I had my blood drawn. It was quick and harmless. It is just a very specific test that only certain pathology labs can test for, so I had to wait a couple days for the result. The blood test I had was testing my OVA1 levels. Ovarian cancer is extremely hard to detect, but this test is the best one available to test for your risk of having it. Basically, it is measured on a scale from 1-10. Any OVA1 score under 5 is considered low risk for ovarian cancer, but anything above 5 is considered elevated risk for ovarian cancer. & If OVA1 is elevated, they’ll then then test your OVERA level to be a bit more reliable.
I was sure this test would come back negative, aka low risk. Despite my pain, I thought it was “just endometriosis”. Not that that would be fun to have, but it certainly sounded better than cancer at this point. So my mindset was “If the blood test comes back negative, meaning benign, I will go to Europe as planned and monitor them when I come back to the US next summer”, and this is what I expected. Dave, my mom, even my gyne, all told me not to worry and it would be fine. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the result.
December 5, 2019 My gyne calls me around 630pm. Asks if I have time to talk. I knew that didn’t sound good. She said my bloodwork came back as elevated risk. Both my OVA1 and OVERA levels. NO, this does NOT automatically mean I have ovarian cancer, but I have an elevated risk of having it. My heart sunk to the floor and this was the first time I actually felt truly worried about anything with my personal health. I hear about other people with cancer all the time, but how is it possible I could potentially have it?! I’m only 32 and have no family history of it. But it’s insane how quickly your brain starts to come up with scenarios within a matter of seconds. I honestly started crying on the phone to my gyne as we talked about what should be my next course of action. She is so incredibly understanding and let me ask my questions as I didn’t know what any of this truly meant.
She told me she had spoke with a few colleagues/doctors in her office and they all mutually agreed I should consult with a specialist. A gynecologic oncologist to be exact. And if I’m being completely honest, the word oncologist freaked me out. It’s just a word. But a word with heavy meaning when you’re told you should see one. So I then called my mom crying. Not because I was diagnosed with anything, but because of the elevated possibility that I could be. I also spoke with my dad. I don’t know what I would do without my parents sometimes, even though I’m a grown adult. My dad runs pathology labs all over the country. He is in the business part of the labs, so not a doctor himself, but knows many great doctors across the US. He immediately consulted with a pathologist he knows, who then immediately called 3 gynecologic oncologists on the west coast for their opinion (because it was like 9pm east coast time) and they too all agreed I needed to consult with an oncologist.
So the next morning, December 6th 2019, I was on the phone with various specialists seeing who had the first available consult appointment. Much to my surprise, most did not have an appointment for up to a month (some longer) from then. And I couldn’t make an official appointment until the MD reviewed all my previous tests. This surprised me. & It was a frustrating few days waiting around trying get my next appointment booked knowing I need to figure this out ASAP. After calling 5+ different doctors, the first available was not until December 24, 2019.
Current Situation: While I impatiently wait for that Christmas Eve date of my oncologist consult.. I’m writing this. Because when there is a POSSIBILITY that something could be seriously wrong with your health, it makes the mind overthink and overfeel. At least that’s what my mind is doing. Like legitimately living my life as I had planned on one hand, searching for another van to buy in England in January (spoiler) and looking apartments to rent in Italy (another spoiler).. but on the other hand in the back of my mind thinking I shouldn’t be doing those things in case I can’t even go to Europe when I planned to anymore. And the NOT KNOWING is so nerve-wracking, and not making it easy to plan Dave and I’s ever-changing & moving lifestyle.
**So when you guys ask me “what’s next?” The answer is: I am still planning on going to England then mainland Europe from January-June 2020. However, it now ultimately all depends on the outcome of this. If I get good news, our plan will remain the same. If I don’t get good news, I will remain in the USA to deal with it. And I probably won’t know until right before our scheduled flight. And it is hard to explain all of that in an Instagram caption or repeat that answer multiple times to the same question from people. So writing here was easier. Hope it answers your questions!!**
No matter the outcome of this, whether just a scare and I’m fine or something more serious… I hope to bring awareness to YOUR health too. Because it’s sure been a wake up call for me. To take care of YOU. Need a mental break? Take one without question. Social media break? Do it. Need to be reclusive for a bit? DO IT. Without caring what others think. I often preach this about mental health and your happiness on my blog, but never really mention physical health. & It’s obviously just as important. I personally put it on the back burner for a couple of years like a dummy. So I’m here to remind you of the importance of annual exams. And the importance of listening to your own body. Had I not requested an ultrasound, I wouldn’t have even known about this. ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOURSELF AND YOUR BODY!
Conclusion: I am sorry I have been absent from my social media this month. It’s been a healthy mental break for me. Taking care of ME. Which should always come first. But I am here. & I hope this answers some of your recent questions about where Dave and I have been (also working staying busy saving that $). I am going to try my best to get over my fear of sharing this “boring/scary” stuff in my life with you. Worried that because this is not van or travel related it’s uninteresting to share. EVERYONE has their own stories or struggles, temporary or not. But THIS is what I’ve honestly been doing and why I’ve been absent. It’s real and it’s raw. & It’s all part of life’s journey.
I really hope to post good news with my next update. Until then.. go get your annuals done!!!!!! 🙂 And I’m here for anyone who needs a listening ear for their own stories👂🏻🙏🏻