Kendra Ekelund: Uterine Cancer Survivor

Kendra EkelundI had just turned 31 when I was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer: low-grade mullerian adenosarcoma. The road to my diagnosis was long and painful, as I suffered complications from persistent, painful and abnormal uterine fibroids. In the year and a half preceding my diagnosis, I had endured five surgeries, anemia, infections, blood transfusions, hospitalizations, and countless tests to determine the cause of my abnormal fibroids. Eventually, the analysis of the 5th surgery was concerning enough to send me to an oncologist. Thankfully, the diligence and attentiveness of my physicians caught my cancer in early stages, and it was treated quickly. Having a hysterectomy at age 31 was a hard thing to come to grips with, but at the very least, it ended my painful symptoms.

A close friend who had been diagnosed with breast cancer immediately recommended that I call Support Connection. I hesitated, because I wasn’t even sure what I would say when they answered the phone. I was not accustomed to asking for help, and I felt guilty about taking services for myself that I thought could be saved for “someone in greater need.” I didn’t realize until a few months later exactly how great a need I was in. I struggled with panic attacks, and serious doubts about my ability to ever recover, both mentally and physically. I wanted to get back to normal, but I didn’t even know what that was anymore. My entire identity had become wrapped up in being a patient, and my health care was the only thing I had focused on for two whole years. I used to be able to lift a canoe over my head – that was normal for me – but now, I struggled to lift groceries, and getting back to MY “normal” felt like an impossible task.

One afternoon, after another panic attack came out of the blue and went, I knew it was time to call. I will never, ever forget my first conversation with Robin. In just one short phone call, she encouraged me to accept help and take advantage of their support services. Slowly but surely, as I got into a routine of attending support groups and exercising to regain some physical strength, I started to become stronger and a little more confident, both inside and out. The support I received at Support Connection helped me overcome my doubts about my ability to feel normal and healthy again. I will forever be grateful to the friend who recommended Support Connection to me, and my only regret is that I didn’t call sooner.

One day, while reading, I came across a quote that struck a deep chord with me. The quote was, “don’t let your scars turn you into someone you are not.” It meant a lot to me, and I realized that vigilance about my health and fulfillment in life are not mutually exclusive, and that I could take excellent care of myself while thriving and living a joyful life! From that day forward, I decided that I would live as a joyful survivor. I learned through my own experience, and learning from others that shared their experiences, that survivors are affected by cancer, but not altered by it. It may change some of our concerns, our priorities, and our habits, but it cannot touch the very core of our beings. It cannot take away who we are.

I will always be grateful to Support Connection for helping me get to the happy, healthy place I’m in now. I hope that if you are reading this story, and you need help, you will not hesitate to call.