Dionne SheppersonAs a part of Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month (GCAM), we encouraged survivors, patients, advocates, family members, partners and friends to share what they want the public to know about gynecologic cancers using #IWishIKnew.

Dionne Shepperson wrote, “I wish I knew they weren’t just heavy periods—my menstrual bleeding was severe. I had fibroids and was told they were responsible for the heavy bleeding, but the possibility of it being cancer never came up. I put off getting a hysterectomy because it required six weeks of recovery time and I didn’t have sick leave or short-term disability at my job. I’m a single mom and didn’t know how I would make it financially. I had to just keep pushing through—so that’s what I did until the pain finally drove me to see a doctor who discovered the mass.”

Aside from sharing knowledge and experiences, this campaign creates a sense of community and serves as a reminder to listen to your body.

“The last 6-8 weeks before my diagnosis things began to feel stranger than I was used to. My abdomen became very enlarged and nothing I took would help. I felt pain and pressure on my right side near my ovary that only worsened. A small voice inside was whispering to me that something was very wrong.”

Dionne was diagnosed with Uterine Leiomyosarcoma (LMS)—a type of cancer that affects smooth muscles tissue—and underwent two surgeries. The first was nearly a total hysterectomy with the exception of the left ovary and removed the tumor found in the wall of her uterus. The second surgery—7 weeks later—removed the final ovary and a portion of her intestines that had come on contact with the tumor. Starting next month, Dionne will go for follow-up doctor appointments every three months.

“To anyone in a similar situation, listen to that voice. It’s better to overreact than underreact. Don’t get too comfortable being uncomfortable and don’t let your obligations become more important than your health. Your life is more valuable than your job and your list of things to do.” – Dionne Shepperson