Our Patient Fights Rare Form of Gestational Cancer
Michelle Hernandez is a wife, a mother of two, and an attorney. She didn’t think much of the initial spotting. She chalked the bleeding up to her IUD. But after three weeks, it hadn’t gone away. “I could feel something that ended up being a tumor,” Michelle recalled.
She scheduled an appointment with her OBGyn, and during a pelvic exam the doctor confirmed the tumor and referred Michelle to Southwest Gynecologic Oncology Associates.
One week later, Dr. Karen Finkelstein performed a second pelvic exam and another exam under anesthesia. There were three tumors – one in the cervix and two smaller ones in the vaginal area. “Originally, my doctors thought I had cervical cancer,” Michelle said. “But, Dr. Finkelstein explained the results of the biopsy and what she saw clinically didn’t match up.”
Trophoblastic Choriocarcinoma is a Rare Disease
Cells from a second biopsy showed Michelle had a rare gestational disease called trophoblastic choriocarcinoma. In and of itself, this type of gynecological cancer is very rare. It is typically seen in women who have recently been pregnant. Michelle, however, had given birth to her daughter six years before. “Both Dr. Finkelstein and my OBGyn said this cancer is so rare, they may never see this disease again in their professional careers,” Michelle said.
“My diagnosis was serious. Stage 3. Dr. Finkelstein explained that gestational cancer is very rare but treatable. It turns out that my cancer is relatively easier to treat than the original diagnosis of cervical cancer. I am following a definite chemo/drug regimen, and so far it has been responsive. It is going a lot faster than I had anticipated. And that’s good!” Michelle noted happily.
Convenient Treatment Regimen & Lab Work
Michelle goes to Southwest Gynecological Oncology Associates for lab work and chemo every week. Every other week, Dr. Finkelstein looks after Michelle as she receives chemotherapy during a two-day hospital stay.
“When I’m at the SWGynOnc office, I give them a urine sample. I prefer to do it there because it’s easy to get there, and if I have any questions, the staff can give me answers right away. And I know those lab results have to be read stat, so having the test done in the office means they can have the results that afternoon.”
“I think the staff is great. Before I approach the counter, they know who I am by first name,” Michelle shared. “From day one it was great because the diagnosis was kind of shocking news and the staff transitioned me into a regimen very quickly. I met with the chemo nurse who explained what will happen and how it would make me feel. The nurses handed me their cell phone numbers and encouraged me to call anytime to ask questions or let them know if I wasn’t feeling well.” Michelle said.
Patient and Doctor Bond Over Family & Careers
According to Michelle, “I was very impressed when I met Dr. Finkelstein. She was relatable. She has two young children and a career. I have two young children and a career. I am only 42, and I recognize that I’m significantly younger than most patients she sees. Dr. Finkelstein understood my situation and what I’m going through. She was great at explaining how the treatments would affect me and my family so we could all adapt. It was very clear they work as a team. It doesn’t matter which SWGynOnc person I talk to, they are all caring for me. They always ask about my kids.”
“I’m an attorney and I’m used to working a lot. I’m on leave now,” Michelle notes. “I miss work. I look at the calendar and figure how long it will be until I can be back at work. At the beginning of the process I was so busy with appointment after appointment. Now that I have this routine, I look forward to returning to my role as attorney. My law firm has been very supportive throughout this whole process.”
Advice for Women
Michelle shared this advice for other women: “As women, sometimes we ignore symptoms. Don’t wait to get checked out. There’s nothing wasted by making sure that everything is OK. I’m glad the doctors caught my cancer when they did. They could have caught it earlier if I had paid more attention to my body. I was fortunate to have an OBGyn that was attentive and got me into see Dr. Finkelstein right away. I’m so very appreciative.”