She and her husband had decided to wait until later to have children. And then they had three, the last being born when she was 36. Because of her age, the last one had concerned her since she feared the baby might have Down's syndrome, or some other congenital abnormality. But all children were healthy. And now at 54, her oldest child, a son, and his wife were expecting her first grandchild next year, about the same time her middle child, a daughter, would graduate from college; and her youngest daughter would finish high school next year. She and her husband were on cloud nine.
She had received a marketing degree from an in-state university and was able, like many women, to meet the challenges as a parent and still pursue a career. Her husband was most supportive, both emotionally and materially and they were eyeing early retirement in a few short years. There life was almost perfect until she began to feel tired and weak. After three months of worsening fatigue and weakness, she began to have swelling around her eyes in the morning that persisted through most of the day, and became easily fatigued even after sleeping eight hours. There also developed a vague abdominal and low back pain, which interfered with their sex life but which she put off on yard work, lifting, and errands.
It was all she could do to just trudge through the day. She ignored the mild weight loss, weight lost without trying, as she thought she could afford to lose a little weight anyway. Her friends though began to share with her that she looked bad, looked tired, and looked stressed out. And it was then she decided to go to the doctor.
The blood tests were all normal but the imaging studies revealed, to the doctor's surprise, that the cancer had spread beyond the confines of the pelvic area to involve many of the lymph nodes lining the spine, in addition to involving the urinary tract, which explained why she'd begun urinating blood. The prognosis was devastating.
In an effort to save her life she underwent a radical hysterectomy with two subsequent hospitalizations at the same hospital, eventually running up a balance of $63,870, after the high-deductible insurance payments, for which her husband had tried to arrange a payment plan. Her pain had now become a daily ordeal.
The first hospital's collection department, for business efficiency purposes, outsourced their collections to a law firm out of state that hounded her and her husband with letters and phone calls, forcing her to go to a second hospital 15 miles away to get continued care with maximum radiation and chemotherapy. She eventually succumbed to the statistics of survivorship of advanced metastatic cervical cancer, not being in the 15% of those who are still living after five years. The funeral was held one week before the birth of her first grandchild, whose bedroom would be adorned in blue, as revealed by ultrasound. They named the baby after her father.
Her husband was eventually left with a $96,000 balance to pay. Unable to do so he took out a Home Equity Loan but the recession sucked business away and he eventually couldn't make the monthly payments and filed for bankruptcy.
She never got to share in the birth of her first grandchild, nor see her 20 year old daughter graduate from college, nor her youngest daughter graduate from high school. And she will never, among many other things, hear her grandchild sing at his first Christmas pageant.
She hadn't had a Pap smear in 5 years.