Yvonne Kash, of Burr Ridge, did everything right. All of her life, she stayed up-to-date with routine exams and screenings, including regular visits to the gynecologist. Little did she know that one of her last routine exams before she turned 65 would save her life.
“Even though I have no family history of cancer, I always thought routine check-ups were important,” she says.
Kash always tried to be ahead of the curve. She knew her insurance would change when she turned 65, so she made sure to schedule appointments with her general practitioner, gynecologist and gastroenterologist.
“I just thought everything would be normal, as usual” she says. But during her exam with her gynecologist, he noticed something unusual.
“He told me he was going to send my results in for a biopsy, but it would all be fine because in the past, there has never been any issues,” she says.
It didn’t get scary until a few days after, when Kash’s doctor called her from his cell phone at 9:30 at night.
“I heard the words ‘Yvonne, it’s malignant,’ and at that very moment my life changed.”
He recommended that she schedule an appointment the next day with Sudarshan Sharma, M.D., gynecologic oncologist at Edward Hospital. She was already planning to get her colonoscopy that day, so she thought she’d call on the following day.
Kash didn't get the chance to call Dr. Sharma’s office — they called her first.
Within four days, she learned that she had stage II endometrial cancer, with a high cell grade of three.
“We weren’t necessarily worried about the stage of the cancer, we were concerned about the high cell grade because higher cell grade cancer cells tend to grow more quickly and they are more likely to spread,” says Dr. Sharma.
“It was all out of the clear blue. I didn’t have any pain or any discomfort and I wasn’t taking any medications. I only took a multivitamin every day. I was very healthy,” says Kash.
Within a week, she had da Vinci® robotic surgery — a total hysterectomy.
Luckily, Kash had the support of Dr. Sharma’s office, who she describes as clear, concise, caring and focused.
She says, “During my first appointment, my husband brought a pad of paper with a mile-long list of questions. By the end of the appointment, Dr. Sharma had answered all of them before he even had to ask.”
Because the cancer was a cell grade of three, Dr. Sharma recommended Kash have chemotherapy and radiation. He introduced her to Edward Hospital radiation oncologist, Vasudha Lingareddy, M.D., who Kash describes as her “divine intervention.”
“From the moment I met Dr. Lingareddy, I felt comfortable, confident and convinced that she was the right person to take care of me. She and her staff were so approachable, empathetic and compassionate. She sat knee to knee with me, focused on my eyes, and held my forearms as she spoke with me; I felt as though she was holding me and supporting me,” Kash says.
After six cycles of chemotherapy, she received external radiation five days a week for almost six weeks, followed by internal radiation once a week for three weeks.
“Even though Yvonne had a hysterectomy to remove the cancer, sometimes there can be a microscopic stray cell that hides and causes the cancer to recur or spread. We wanted to make sure we took every precaution to prevent a recurrence,” says Dr. Lingareddy.
Kash says the entire time she was in treatment, Dr. Lingareddy’s team never made her feel like a patient — she was treated more like a friend. “It was a crazy ride. I didn’t know what my route would be or the destination, but I did know that my doctors and their staff were great navigators.”
The hardest part throughout her journey was not being able to spend time with her children and grandchildren while she was in chemotherapy. “My family is so remarkable. I enjoy cooking dinners for them and I love thinking about the conversations we’ll have during those dinners,” she adds.
Now cancer-free, Kash continues to see her doctors every three months. Looking back, she reflects on what would have happened if she didn’t schedule her regular exam:
“At 65-years-old, you don’t have to have a gynecological exam every year. If I had not gone when I did, the cancer would have spread. At that point, my doctor says, I may not have made it to the next appointment.”
“I’ve told so many people to ‘just go.’ Go, go, go, go. Just call and make the appointment. It’s best to find it early and be prepared.”
Learn more about cancer care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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