PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — In the summer of 2020, the temperatures and coronavirus infection rates soared as the pandemic had turned life and medicine upside. The life-saving coronavirus vaccine was still months away as doctors, in real-time, practiced the art of medicine on what was initially called a respiratory disease.
In August 2020, with the pandemic in its fifth month, Julie Dehart of Saluda, Virginia, who is menopausal, noticed unusual bleeding.
“To be honest with you, I just ignored it at first,” said Dehart in a Zoom interview.
By the fall, she saw even more blood. Putting her coronavirus infection fears aside, Dehart checked in at a local outpatient facility for the first professional look at complaints of bleeding.
“Any fear that I had was overridden by the need to know what was going on,” said Dehart.
After additional testing, she was diagnosed with stage 1a endometrial cancer. The disease, which affects 60,000 women every year, is a malignancy of the inner lining of the uterus.
“I cried for a week. Every time I thought about it, you know, I cried,” said Dehart.
In April 2021, doctors at Riverside removed the tumor during a five-hour operation. Dehart said doctors had to contend with a substantial amount of scar tissue that resulted from three C-sections. She has a good prognosis and because the cancer was caught in the early stage. Dehart says doctors told her radiation and chemotherapy treatments are not recommended.
“Because I was proactive and went to the doctor, pretty much as soon as I started spotting, the tumor was small and had not spread to my lymph nodes,” said Dehart
Dr. Jerrid Neeley is part of the OB-GYN team at Riverside Health System. The team is warning women about telltale signs that should not be ignored as the pandemic has added several new layers of complications to women’s lives.
Regina Mobley: “How can you help women navigate through all the difficulties we are experiencing in the pandemic and keep their bodies healthy?”
Dr. Jerrid Neeley: “The main thing is communicating: letting us know as the provider and your health care team what’s going on with you. If there’s any problem, you let us know and we will obviously, we will work you in sooner so that you are not behind or if there’s an issue we can address it.”
According to the American Cancer Society signs of endometrial cancer include bleeding, spotting, discharge and pain.
With the support of family and friends, Dehart is adjusting to a new title in her life — “cancer survivor” — as the pandemic enters its third year.
“It was a very hard surgery and a very difficult recovery, but I’ve been blessed,” Dehart said.