One year ago today, I left work with my computer and light still buzzing, heading to the doctor’s office. For the previous two weeks, I had been experiencing off and on cramping, bloating, and pain in my abdomen and thought my aging body was just having a little trouble digesting all the salads I had been eating. Because otherwise, I felt healthier than I had in a long time. After examining me, the doctor sent me to the hospital for some tests.

One year ago today, I found myself in the emergency room of the Hendricks Regional Hospital in Danville, Ind., complaining of some pretty severe stomach pain. The physicians assistant tried to talk me into some narcotic pain medicine, but I insisted that I needed to be able to drive myself home at the end of the day.

One year ago today, while I was having an emergency ultrasound to try to figure out the pain, the technician said, “Oh!” with a concerned look on her face and left to get the radiologist. The process of the ultrasound only exasperated the pain, and they talked me into some narcotic pain medicine. They used the word “ascites” and said that with a fluid build up like that in the abdomen, something else had to be going on. The radiologist turned off the ultrasound and sent me for a CT scan.

One year ago today the doctor came into the ER to say that the CT scan had revealed a mass around one of my ovaries and that she was going to refer me to a gynecologist for a consult. I could not have anything to eat or drink because surgery could possibly be in my near future. “What do you think it is?” I asked. “There are too many possibilities,” she said. “That’s why we’re calling in someone else.”

One year ago today, I was admitted to the hospital and told by the gynecologist that it could be nothing, possibly just a cyst. Ovarian cysts could cause the fluid build up. OR, it could be cancer. The differential was too great for them to determine exactly what was going on. He wanted to transfer me to St. Vincent Hospital where one of the leading gynecologic oncologists could investigate and treat whatever they found.

Over the next 10 days, I had more CT scans, fluid drained off my abdomen, major surgery, diagnosis of stage 4 endometrial cancer, plans for chemotherapy and radiation, dreams shattered, hopes shaken.

One year ago today, my life changed forever.