Uterine Cancer Survivor

Humor helps patient survive three cancers

Louise Barnow is not only a uterine cancer survivor; she is also a two-time breast cancer survivor—and still has an incredibly positive outlook on life. Together, Louise and her husband have two children as well as eight grandchildren. Louise worked as a nonprofit special event fundraiser on and off for several years, and she currently keeps herself busy with volunteer work. She also enjoys playing duplicate bridge.


I have one of the best lives of anyone I know. Yes, I have now had cancer three times in the past 20 years, but no one goes through life without glitches. I have a great family, true faith…and good insurance. Have I mentioned that I also have a nice sense of humor?

I was originally diagnosed with Stage IIIB breast cancer in my left breast in 1993. To treat it, I had a mastectomy, underwent radiation therapy, and took the chemotherapy drugs doxorubicin (Doxil) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) as well as the hormone therapy drug tamoxifen (Soltamox, Nolvadex). Life went on for the next 12 years, during which time I became a volunteer for the Bloch Cancer Hotline. I answered several calls from women who called in to seek information about vaginal spotting. Some of them had waited more than three years to say anything. When they eventually had it checked out, they often discovered that they now had late-stage uterine cancer.

Because of my experience with those phone calls, I immediately made an appointment with my gynecologist when I found minimal vaginal spotting on a Tuesday morning in late 2005. She took a biopsy, which came back inconclusive. But given my history with cancer, I asked for a full hysterectomy anyway. The gynecologist said she’d prefer to wait and do another biopsy in six months. But I didn’t want to wait; I wanted surgery. I’d spoken with too many women who had been negatively affected by waiting.

I decided to call my oncologist – the one I had seen for my breast cancer – and ask him to arrange another biopsy with a gynecologic oncologist. He did, and this time the results were more conclusive. I was diagnosed with Stage I endometrial uterine cancer. I was so relieved that I had caught it early.

Knowing my history, my new gynecologic oncologist agreed with my wish to have a total hysterectomy and performed the surgery two weeks later. Thankfully, my margins were clear, so I did not need any additional treatment.

Even though I was 65 at the time, my mind and body reacted incredibly well. I had no negative physical effects, other than the normal issues that accompany recovery from surgery. I also remained emotionally positive, even when just three short years later I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer—this time in my right breast. I had another mastectomy and was also prescribed anastrozole (Arimidex) tablets, which I still take and probably will forever.

As a three-time cancer survivor, I feel a responsibility to share issues like this because we can all learn from others’ experiences. Early on I remember being asked by doctors, “Do you have any questions?” To that I usually responded by telling them I had many questions, I just didn’t know what they were. So that you don’t experience the same thing, I recommend looking through the wonderful lists of questions to ask your doctor provided by numerous information outlets. Use these to make your own list, and then make sure you get the answers in terms you understand. It’s a good idea to take another person with you to your appointments, because four ears are better than two.

Aside from that, my best advice for anyone battling cancer is that time is of the essence. Take it from an experienced cancer veteran—don’t procrastinate. Educate yourself and find a good doctor and/or specialist that you trust. Take charge. It’s your life!




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