As part of her series on Gynocological Cancer Awareness Month, Jummy Olabanji is featuring the stories of women who are speaking out about their experiences with lesser known cancers that affect women locally and nationwide.
In July of 2011, Pamela Mielnik just finished running the annual Venice Marathon in Italy. When she returned home, though, the seemingly healthy young professional started to miss her monthly menstrual cycle.
She says she went to see a gynecologist, who did a blood test and said everything was normal. But a few months later, Pamela went back to the doctor when her condition worsened. At that time doctors performed an ultrasound and found polyps on her uterus.
"Ten days after the procedure, I got a phone call from my doctor at work telling me that I had cancer," said Mielnik. Her official diagnosis was stage 1-B, Grade 3 endometrial cancer - a cancer in the lining of the uterus.
About 50,000 new cases of uterine cancer are diagnosed every year in the United States, making it the most common of all gynecologic cancers.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include bleeding, bloating and pelvic pain.
"Unfortunately because I was young, I didn't necessarily know what any of the symptoms were, but i listened to my body," said Mielnik.
Uterine cancer can most times be treated and cleared with a full hysterectomy, but for young women like Mielnik, those treatments leave them without the ability to carry their own children.
"Even as physicians when we see younger, very healthy looking women, its hard to think that something devastating could be wrong with them," said Dr. John Elkas, a gynecologic oncologist at Mid-Atlantic Pelvic Surgery Associates.
"Just because I can't physically bear children anymore because of surgery doesn't mean that I cant have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations that I once did before I got sick," said Mielnik.
Pamela is now sharing her experience in hopes that it will be a learning experience for other young women.
"You don't have to be 55 and 65, post menopausal, married with three kids to be able to get something like this," she says.
Pamela is slowing gaining her strength back and plans to run in her first race post-cancer this November: the National Race to End Women's Cancer in Washington.
You can run with her and thousands of other cancer patients, survivors, and supporters.