10/08/17 — Cancer edition 2017: A long battle

View Archive

Cancer edition 2017: A long battle

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 8, 2017 4:03 PM

Amy Woodard knew something wasn't right. She just needed a doctor to listen. She had endometriosis, so the symptoms weren't totally out of line. But the heavy bleeding in-between periods and the sharp abdominal pains concerned her.

Her physician at the time dismissed her questions, refusing to run any tests and sending her on her way.

A few months later, in mid-May 1998, she had found a new doctor, presenting with the same symptoms.

A pap test was done, showing abnormal cells.

"They said they would re-test in three months," she said. "But on the way home from my doctor's office to go to work, the pathologist called and was not comfortable waiting three months. (The pathologist) wanted to remove some of the area."

Cervical tissue was removed and she was diagnosed with mild dysplasia -- a precancerous condition in which abnormal cell growth occurs on the surface lining of the cervix or endocervical canal. The condition is closely associated with HPV, the human papillomavirus.

Prognosis for this is promising, with the right followup and treatment. But if undetected or untreated, women are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

A procedure was done, removing about half of her cervix, Woodard said. The results came back as moderate dysplasia.

"That progressed quickly, in six weeks," she said.

Fortunately, it was caught before it worsened, she says now, thankful she persisted and followed her instincts.

"To me it's real important for women to pay attention. Women know their own body," she said. "(Mine) never progressed past moderate but it was only a stage before cancer. I think it can get to severe dysplasia. It was close enough that they wanted to remove it and not leave it."

Her last surgery was in 2012.

"There's not much cervix left because the very first time they took over half of it," she said.

Then, during one of her surgeries, she said, her heart stopped while she was on the table.

"It's been one thing or another," she said, adding that she started taking hormone replacement therapy at 26, accelerating early menopause symptoms.

Initially, she continued to get checked by her doctor every three months. Then about five years ago, she had another scare.

"It came back as abnormal cells again, and that's the same year my mammogram came back and I had to be re-tested," she said. "The mammogram turned out OK but I had to have a second surgery for cells that had turned into dysplasia.

"They were removed and I probably have less than a quarter of my cervix remaining. If anything happens again, they'll do a hysterectomy."

She still battles a lot of pain issues, she says, and as her annual exam next month approaches, tries to stay positive.

"All  you can do is be diligent and treat it," she said. "There's really no way to completely solve the endometriosis problem and the only way to solve the dysplasia is a hysterectomy.

"The risks of osteoporosis are higher problems for heart issues."

She has coped with the situation relatively well, in part because it has long been a normal part of her life.

"I don't stress out about it or get anxious any more," she said. "My family does. I just don't panic with it. You just roll with it and pray that they can get it beforehand.

"I try to be diligent and pay attention to the changes in my body. You can't be embarrassed to ask questions of your doctor."

Now approaching 46, because of her medical situation she has never had children.

She has been very private about it, she says, not being one to post on social media or share her story too often.

"I feel like there's so many people out there that have gone through more than I have," she said. "But I'm always thankful for the prayers."

Woodard doesn't mind passing along her own experience, through, she says, if it helps someone else.

"Get a second opinion," she suggests. "Sometimes you have just got to push a little bit harder.

"I think it's incredibly important for people to pay attention and not let anybody talk you out of the fact that something's wrong."