Pathways of Strength from Sarah: Endometrial Cancer, Community, and Empowering Advice

Sarah is a vibrant individual with a background in health research. Little did she know, she would be empowered to use her research skills after an unlikely cancer diagnosis.

Sarah’s symptoms, which she initially attributed to menopause, a possible uterine fibroid, or over-training, included abnormal vaginal bleeding and occasional abdominal pain. These symptoms prompted her to seek medical attention, leading to a formal diagnosis. Recovering from anesthesia, her oncologist’s words pierced through the haze: cancer, already spreading. Sarah had been certain something was wrong and confronted a new reality—she was diagnosed with stage three endometrial cancer.

Sarah used her health research background to learn as much as possible about endometrial cancer care and identify key questions about treatment and side effects for her follow-up visits with her oncologist. “I kept exercising to maintain my performance status and emotional well-being. Based on my TMB biomarker and DNA mismatch repair deficiency status, I knew I was a good candidate for pembrolizumab, but faced uncertainty about whether I could obtain it (which I did, eventually),” she reflects. “I also benefited from online cancer patient forums to address concerns and make me feel less isolated in my side effect journey.”

Initially guarded about her diagnosis, Sarah’s perspective shifted at a friend’s urging, opening the floodgates to a tide of support from her expanded circle. She also found strength in her husband of two decades, Chad, who provided unwavering support throughout her journey through diagnosis and survivorship. With the tremendous support of her family and dedicated network, Sarah gained the encouragement needed to keep her spirits high.

Having been through this journey, Sarah now uses her experiences as an advocate, raising awareness about the subtle symptoms of gynecologic cancers, and urging more research on endometrial cancer as incidence increases. She is willing and able to share practical advice with others facing similar challenges.. She offers the following recommendations:

1. Befriend your care team; learn the names of your doctors, nurses, etc. See them as people, and this will boomerang back to you. It makes a difference, believe me.

2. If you don’t have a health/healthcare background, find a friend or colleague that does, who can be with you in appointments. The language of cancer, and the complexity of healthcare are a 1-2 punch with an unprecedented emotional wallop; don’t go it alone.