In 2014, after experiencing discomfort and pain while seated, Carly Allen was diagnosed with Stage III vulvar cancer.
Upon diagnosis, Carly was immediately placed in the care of BC Cancer experts to determine a treatment plan. After a PET scan, Carly had surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes in her groin, followed by chemotherapy and 39 rounds of radiation.
“My skin peeled, my hair thinned but didn’t fall out, I lost 17 lbs, nowhere near as much as I expected. My oncologist told me that was a good sign, that my body was strong and fighting. It just wasn’t the image of what I thought cancer looked like. I was quickly learning that cancer didn’t have just one look,” says Carly.
After four months of treatment, Carly underwent a second surgery to remove the tumour.
As she continued to recover from her surgery, new obstacles started to present themselves. Carly was suffering with a loss of bowel control due to the radiation, and would often have accidents when away from home.
Despite the challenges, Carly was diagnosed with no evidence of disease and she was able to focus on rebuilding her life.
Just months before celebrating three years of having no evidence of disease, the cancer returned in December 2017 - just days before Christmas.
Armed with support from her friends and family, Carly underwent an aggressive surgery in February 2018 to remove the tumour for good. With the removal of her tumour, also came the removal of her sphincter, the creation of a colostomy and a hysterectomy to ensure the cancer was not present anywhere.
“When I was told I was getting the colostomy I accepted it immediately. I knew I wasn’t going to continue having accidents, and that my anxiety would slowly go away. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy recovery but it was one that would only get better over time.”
Today, Carly is thankful for the care she received during her treatment at BC Cancer, and passionate about raising awareness for gynecologic cancers and ostomy. More than ever, Carly feels that she is the best version of herself because of her experience.
“I’m way stronger because of my ostomy. I’m alive and it’s not gross, it’s different, but if you asked my loved ones which girl they’d rather have around I know they’d say this version of me. You never know what the better version of you is until you get there.”
We are overjoyed to see Carly’s continued success, and commend her for being a true example of self-love and authenticity, no matter life’s challenges.