"Something didn't feel right." Joan Vennart tells how proactive care helped save her.
In her mid-20s, Joan Vennart suffered from painful bouts of endometriosis and underwent multiple surgeries to address the problem. She continued to experience extensive pain, and when she was 31, she had a total hysterectomy.
Now 64, the retired OR nurse has been vigilant about an annual visit to her gynecologist for the past 30 years. “I know medical issues can still happen even if you don’t have any female parts,” she says. Just a few years ago, after decades of feeling fine, something did happen.
Gynecological cancers include cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar. Each type has its own symptoms, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge; pelvic pain/pressure; urgent or frequent need to urinate or constipation; bloating; abdominal or back pain; or pain, itching, burning, tenderness or changes in vulva color or skin.
“Something didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it,” she recalls. Her one ongoing symptom was groin pain that would last for up to 10 minutes once a day. She underwent a CT scan and learned her endometriosis had evolved into cancer that was sitting on top of her large colon and left ureter, along with a small spot on her diaphragm.
In one 5 ½ hour surgery at Summerlin Hospital in January 2015, she had three different surgeons operate on her to address each aspect of her condition. They included a colorectal surgeon, a urologist and a gynecologic oncologist. Eighteen chemotherapy treatments followed. She received a clean bill of health at her two-year anniversary last August.
Today, she is back volunteering at Summerlin Hospital, where she purchased a special brick in memory of her therapy dog, “Rhett,” who brightened the lives of many patients during their hospital visits together. She has also made it her mission to educate others about the importance of an annual GYN visit, even if they’ve had a hysterectomy. “You have to be aware of what’s happening, and you have to visit your gynecologist because they will begin a process of elimination as to what the problem can be.”
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