How my story begins: Life before my diagnosis was one of happiness. I was planning on getting married, giving my child a sibling, and living the happily ever after. Little did I know my life would be forever changed with seven little words.
I was 29 years old and had been engaged for less than a month when I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. I left the doctor’s office that day knowing that in one week I could call for my test results and not have to see the doctor for another year. Unfortunately, that day never came. Instead, I got a phone call from the nurse asking me to come in so they could discuss my lab results.
The next day, I went to the doctor’s office, checked in and sat in the waiting room waiting for my name to be called. Sitting there, I looked around the waiting room and looked at everyone waiting and thought, "I hope they hurry up because I have somewhere to be tonight." I was finally called back to see the doctor and I will never forget the words that came next. He said “I’m sorry, but your test indicates that you have cervical cancer.” I looked at the doctor in complete shock and blurted out, “I can’t have cancer. I just got engaged.” The look on the doctor’s face was one of confusion, as he was not sure what to say to this revelation.
Everything else after that point became a blur. I remember the doctor saying that there are different types of cancerous cells, squamous and adenocarcinoma cells, good vs. bad cells, and the treatment of the cancer would be a hysterectomy. I sat there in shock, not believing that this was happening to me. My fiancée would not know the joy of holding his own child in his arms, watching his child grow up, or enjoying the title of dad, or worse yet he could be losing the one that he loved. All of these thoughts were floating through my mind as the doctor continued to talk about the cancer, treatment, and what it would mean to me, and nothing was making sense.
The doctor said he wanted to run more tests that day and get the results back so we could come up with a plan of treatment. I left the doctor’s office in a state of shock and drove to my fiancé’s work, where I broke down in the lobby. We went home and discussed our options, and at this point I made the toughest decision I would ever have to make. I told my fiancé that I wanted to break off our engagement so he could be with a woman who could provide him with a family.
Lucky for me, he turned that offer down and promised to stand by my side through everything. During the next 18 months, I would learn what an amazing man my fiancé was.
How I felt after diagnosis: When I was diagnosed, I was devastated. I did not want to burden my fiancé with piles of medical bills, a woman with health issues and the life of not having children of his own. We tried to do surgeries to keep cancer at bay and then fertility treatments, but I was unable to continue them.
Telling my family and friends: Telling my family and friends was difficult. Many of them wanted to know my plan of action. Was I getting a 2nd opinion? What was I going to do? I did not know my plan of action and these were all questions I did not have answers to.
My treatment: During my course of treatments, I would encounter 7 surgeries, 12 weeks of chemo and radiation where we would travel to KU Med every day. I needed a ride to and from treatments, which were 2 hours away. During the middle of my treatment, I was diagnosed with a blood clot and almost lost my foot. This postponed my treatment as I had to spend a week in the hospital.
During this time, I often was too weak to even crawl out of bed. My fiancé (now husband) made sure that I was taken care; he worked with his boss to move his work schedule around so that we still had a paycheck coming in, but he was able to take me to my appointments. He also took over the child raising of my 9 year old daughter and made sure that she had the support she needed while her mom was going through this difficult time. We did not do this alone. We were lucky to have family and friends step up to help as well. My mom, stepdad, dad, in-laws and friends would take turns driving us to Kansas City everyday so we did not have to spend our money on gas and we could just go along for the ride. My daughter had to grow up fast during this time, and she would step in and help with cooking and cleaning so mom didn’t have to.
How I felt after treatment: Exhausted!!!! Broken!!!!
What was most difficult for me: Not being able to have any more children and not giving my husband a child of his own. I still live with this guilt to this day.
What I did to help myself: With the help of family and friends, I have learned that I am not less of a woman for having cancer and not having children.
My life after cancer: I am proud to say that I am now 10 years cancer free. I am enrolled in school part-time, still working on paying off $200,000 in medical bills and working full and part time jobs.
Where I am today: Today I am a sophomore in college pursing a degree in Crime and Delinquency Studies, part of a National Honors Society and living life to its fullest.
What I want other women to know: That your life doesn't end with your diagnosis. Nobody told me that when you finish treatments, you will have lifelong side effects. But that is okay. You learn to live with them and it only makes you stronger.
How I will try to help others: I am the Event Chair for Relay For Life. I use my position to help those in our community know their resources and where they can go for help, so they don't have the burden of finding rides to treatment, they have support groups, and they have people who understand what they are going through!
My passion for Relay comes from the support I received during my treatments, the passion to help those who are currently going through cancer and the hope that someday we will have a world without cancer.