Certified nursing assistant Consuelo Araujo became the patient after severe pelvic pain led to a uterine cancer diagnosis
Consuelo Araujo was at work when she felt a “horrible pain” in her abdominal area. She loves working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and taking care of others. At the time, she did not know she was about to become the patient.
Getting diagnosed with advanced-stage uterine cancer
Consuelo spent Christmas Day 2021 at the Danbury Hospital Emergency Department. She had sharp pelvic pressure, pain and vaginal spotting.
The emergency medicine doctors helped control her pain and recommended Consuelo see a women’s health specialist. The women’s health specialist did a pelvic examination and Pap smear; the results were abnormal.
A Pap smear screens for cervical cancer. Sometimes, a Pap smear might find abnormal glandular cells, which are caused by uterine cancer.
Consuelo is 62-years old and has never had abnormal Pap smear results.
“It was a terrible feeling. You never think it will happen to you,” said Consuelo.
“My women’s health specialist fortunately recommended I see Dr. Linus Chuang,” said Consuelo, who is from Peru and has lived in Danbury, Connecticut for the last 18 years.
Dr. Linus Chuang is the system chair of women’s health services at Nuvance Health, and a gynecologic surgical oncologist. He is also the Fred and Irmi Bering Endowed Chair in Minimally Invasive Surgery at Danbury Hospital.
Consuelo spent nine days at Danbury Hospital having tests before she had surgery, including an MRI of her pelvis. Dr. Chuang also performed an exploratory laparotomy, which is a surgery to diagnose abdominal issues.
The tests revealed that Consuelo had advanced-stage uterine cancer that was perforating her colon.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I might die.’ I wanted surgery quickly to get the cancer out,” said Consuelo.
“Even though my sister had uterine cancer 20 years ago, I did not think it could happen to me,” said Consuelo, who is one of 14 siblings.
“I worried the most about my daughter and how my diagnosis might affect her,” said Consuelo.
“I was really scared. But I was confident in Dr. Chuang’s abilities. He gave me comfort and peace of mind that everything was going to be okay,” said Consuelo. “I knew I was in good hands.”
Having major abdominal surgery to treat uterine cancer
Consuelo had major abdominal surgery on January 5, 2022 to remove as much of the uterine cancer as possible. Dr. Chuang and a specialized surgical team performed a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. The surgery involved removing the uterus and cervix and both ovaries and fallopian tubes.
They then performed a transverse colon resection, which involved the surgical removal of part of the colon. They also formed a colostomy to redirect the colon through an opening in the abdomen and away from the part that was operated on while Consuelo healed. Consuelo would temporarily have an ostomy bag to collect bodily waste.
“I felt like the surgery was performed with a lot of responsibility and professionalism by the team of doctors led by Dr. Chuang,” sad Consuelo. “Everyone worked together, which was very important.”
“The pain I felt was better after surgery,” said Consuelo. “I had very nice doctors visiting me all the time, including kind and supportive residents,” said Consuelo.
Chemotherapy for uterine cancer
Under the care of medical oncologist Dr. Madhura Hanmantgad, Consuelo had six IV infusions of chemotherapy once every three weeks at the Danbury Hospital Praxair Cancer Center.
“Thank goodness, chemotherapy was not that bad,” sad Consuelo.
Final surgery after uterine cancer diagnosis
On August 15, 2022, Dr. Eric Dong performed a robotic colostomy reversal surgery at Danbury Hospital. Dr. Dong is the chief of surgical oncology and hepatobiliary surgery for Nuvance Health in Connecticut, and the vice chair of surgery at Norwalk Hospital.
Dr. Dong performed the surgery through small incisions. He reconnected the colon to the rectum so Consuelo did not have the ostomy bag anymore. During the surgery, he found no evidence of any residual cancer.
“I was very happy to have the colostomy reversal surgery. The surgery with Dr. Dong was marvelous. I am feeling so good now,” said Consuelo.
Healing and offering advice to others after overcoming uterine cancer
Consuelo’s doctors recommended she take three months to heal after all her surgeries and treatments.
She is looking forward to resuming normal activities because she likes to be busy.
“I like to go for walks. I used to walk 15 minutes each way to and from work,” said Consuelo, who also loves going to church, reading and taking care of her home.
Consuelo hopes by sharing her experience others will listen to their bodies and get medical care if anything feels unusual.
Unlike cervical cancer, there is currently no reliable screening or early detection test for uterine cancer, endometrial cancer (a type of uterine cancer) and ovarian cancer. It is important for women to pay attention to their bodies, notice any new and unusual symptoms, and see their primary care provider or gynecologist if symptoms persist.
“Many people might not get checked right away because they are busy with work and other responsibilities. I was used to running, running and running. I even went back to work on December 26, 2021 after my visit to the emergency department. If you think something does not feel right, get it checked,” said Consuelo.
“If you have a serious health condition, having a great medical team and support system is very important, especially when you are in a situation no one wants to be in,” said Consuelo.
“I want to give my special thanks to Dr. Chuang, and his whole wonderful team of doctors, nurses, CNAs and everyone who was so helpful during my time at Danbury Hospital,” said Consuelo. “They gave me peace, love and support — they saved my life.”
“I am very grateful for my beautiful daughter, family and friends who were supportive during my critical time,” said Consuelo. “I also want to thank God for blessing me with such a nice team of doctors.”
“What is most important to me now is sharing plenty of time with my daughter and family,” said Consuelo.
Learn more about gynecologic cancer and find a gynecologic oncologist at the Nuvance Health Cancer Institute.
Disclaimer: Cancer treatments outcomes vary from person to person. No individual results should be seen as typical.