How my story begins: I went in for a routine prenatal checkup when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2011. The results from my pap came back abnormal so my doctor had me come in for another and the same results came back. He performed a colposcopy and did a biopsy and still the results were abonormal. Due to my pregnancy he decided nothing else would be done until after the baby was born. I went in for my 6 week post baby checkup and those results were still abnormal. So in May of 2012 I had a LEEP and still...abnormal. My doctor sat down and talked to me and told me what it did and didn't mean. Basically, I had a virus (at that time I had no idea it was HPV) and typically in these cases the body will take care of it. He took the "wait and see" approach. I had exams every 4 to 6 months to keep an eye on things. All the while, every time, the results came back abnormal.
In late 2014 my husband and I had a surprise that was born nine months later. At my 6 weeks checkup after baby number three I was told the doctor wanted to see me in four months. I went back in February of 2016 and again in June (my original OB had left the practice so I was seeing someone new). In June, it was decided another colposcopy/biopsy was needed. I'll never forget the call after that procedure. That's when I was told I had adenocarcinoma in situ of the cervix. I asked the nurse if that meant I had cancer and she said "well, yeah."
My OB recommended a hysterectomy but first she wanted to do another LEEP. After the results from the LEEP came back, I was referred to an oncologist. The most frustrating part is I never saw my OB again. There was no "let's sit down and explain or talk" about the results. I felt as though she was washing her hands of me and passing me off. Anyway, I met with my oncologist and that's when I found out my cancer was caused by HPV. It was most likely passed on to me by my husband since he's the only person I've ever been with. I was told it can lie dormant for years. Apparently I had tested positive for HPV for the past five years (I had no idea that's why the results were coming back abnormal) and that's what my doctor(s) were watching. They were basically waiting for one of two things to happen, the virus to clear up on its own or to form into cancer. The benefit of going every 4-6 months is this was caught extremely early.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was scared, partly for myself but mostly for my children. I lost my mother at 14 and hated the thought of my little ones losing theirs.
Telling my family and friends: For the most part, everyone was supportive.
My treatment: My oncologist recommended a modified radical hysterectomy. In July, I had a PET scan and was fortunate that it hadn't spread to any organs. The type of cancer I had was glandular as opposed to cellular which has a more predictable path. I was told only 15% of cervical cancer cases are glandular and it's aggressive. My oncologist also informed me there was microinvasion - the cancer was still in my cervix but a radical was necessary to make sure it couldn't go anywhere else.
The doctor explained that he would first take two of my lymph nodes and test them to make sure the cancer hadn't spread to them. If they were ok, he'd go ahead with the surgery. Thank God they were clear and the surgery went as planned. I had my one week post op checkup and my doctor came in and high fived me and handed me my pathology report. My ovary (the left one), my tubes, my uterus were all cancer free. He circled 'no residual carcinoma found' and put a smiley face next to it. That report is still on my fridge as a daily reminder of how fortunate I was.
How I felt after treatment: Once I got the pathology results, I felt awesome!
What was most difficult for me: Facing my own mortality.
What I did to help myself: I talked to friends and family and researched. Also I had to be an advocate for myself. My PET scan was originally denied by insurance. I later found that it was taking so long to get approved because it had been lost in the paperwork at the doctor's office. It took my oncologist calling the insurance company to get it approved, but it would have taken longer had I not been proactive about it.
My life after cancer: Due to the type of cancer I had and the fact that there was microinvasion, I have to go back every three months for an exam for the next two years, every 6 months for years 3-5. After five years, it will be annually.
It's been a long, confusing, scary journey. I believe in prayer and I prayed a lot. I have three young children (7, 5 and 1) that I want to see grow up. I have an amazing oncologist and I have to give credit to my OB. If they hadn't watched it so closely, it very well could have been worse.
My relationship with my husband is still great, if not better. There was a worry too much would change since so much more is taken with a radical hysterectomy but those worries have been laid to rest. There are definite perks to having a hysterectomy and I was fortunate my doctor used the da Vinci method. I have 5 small scars from the incision and I healed wonderfully. I was back to work after three weeks. The hardest part was not being able to pick up my baby for 6 weeks but I got through it.
Where I am today: I'm doing everything I was before. My baby days are over but it's okay - I really was done. It's still a little sad but I have three wonderful children I'm so grateful for.
What I want other women to know: Cervical cancer is curable. We don't have to lose so many lives to it. Go in for your yearly checkups. Don't postpone and don't skip it. It's extremely important to be aware of what can happen if you do. Based off of my own experience, my children will get the HPV vaccine. It wasn't available when I was a child but it is now and if I can prevent my babies from going through this, I will do what I can.
How I will try to help others: Let people know my story. Cervical cancer is curable with early detection. I've been hearing some insurance companies will only pay for screening every three years. I feel there needs to be yearly screenings. Once symptoms show up, the cancer has already started to progress.
Any additional information you'd like to share: **The views and opinions expressed in this personal story are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Cervivor.**