How my story begins: A year and half before my diagnosis, I was in pain and confused about what was wrong with me. Prior to that I was healthy, no medical issues besides a messed up tendon in my wrist. I was active, extremely involved in my boys' school activities and after school activities. I wasn't constantly tired or bleeding nonstop.
I had nearly 2 years of issues. I was at the doctor monthly during that time, getting numerous "could be... let's try this" diagnosis. The issues continued to worsen along with my pain. I finally demanded a specialist. Two weeks after my 31st birthday, I was told I had the very early stages of cervical cancer. The following week, my PET scan revealed it was significantly worse than originally thought. On top of the cancer, I had a massive cyst located on my left ovary.
How I felt after diagnosis: Initially, I was in complete denial. I had done everything right, regular Paps, immediately at the doctor when issues began. I even asked exactly one year before if it was cervical cancer. How could they miss this? Why me? I was depressed and mourned the fact I would never have the daughter I was hoping for. The cards were finally placed right for us to try for a baby in 2016. I was emotionally a mess and physically tired. I never let it show during the day, but at night I would break down and just cry myself to sleep. I was scared.
Telling my family and friends: My mom kept texting me during the initial diagnosis. My head was spinning so fast, I texted her saying "it's cancer, call when done." I felt awful after the fact I let my mother know that way. My husband was with me and was insanely supportive. His oldest daughter (my stepdaughter) had ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) at age 3 and it brought up a lot of new and old emotions with him. I called the rest of my immediate family - my dad, sisters, and brother. After each of their reactions, I asked my parents to tell everyone else in my family. I was barely holding it together; hearing them fight tears was too difficult. I told a few close friends early and the rest as my treatment began on Facebook.
My hardest were my boys - 11 years and 6 years at the time. I knew my 6 yr old would truly understand. I sat him down, explained a very sugar-coated version and he was incredibly sweet throughout everything. My 11 yr old was hardest; I sat on his bed and told him a little less sugar-coated version than I told my youngest. He asked if I was going to die and I said I hope not for a very long time. We both were bawling and he just hugged me forever. After that he distanced himself and refused to acknowledge the word cancer. He had issues in school during my treatments. He returned to normal immediately following my last PET scan. My nephews had a hard time also. My 10 yr old had nightmares and offered to give me his cervix since it doesn't have cancer (ha ha!).
My treatment: I started treatment 11/8/2015. I had 30 external radiation, 5 internal, 5 cisplatin. It was supposed to be 7, but the chemo was cut short due to ringing in my ears and I was having massive panic attacks after an issue during my second chemo. Chemo was the hardest of the 3 on me. Internally, I was so drugged that it was easiest just to sleep through it. The embarrassing part of being highly drugged was me telling a student doctor that my husband wouldn't mind if we had dinner; he'd drive us and pay! Hahaha!! I was humiliated, but he was one of my favorites because he knew exactly how to get my mind off of reality and we'd talk about my boys:)
How I felt after treatment: Beat the heck up. Never felt so tired in my life. I was an emotional disaster until I finally heard NED. The hormone replacement therapy kicking in around the same time most likely helped in that area too.
What was most difficult for me: Chemo. I was prepared for the radiation to hit the hardest. Radiation was a breeze for me. Chemo not so much. I spent every chemo night bawling myself to sleep, begging my husband to not make me go back. I'm a horrible patient.
What I did to help myself: Focused on my boys. They were my strength when I had absolutely no fight left in me. I'd also write stuff down. A friend was diagnosed 2 weeks before me with a much more aggressive rare cancer. The chats he and I had always will be dear to me; he was the one that understood when I felt no one else could. Now I'm here for him while he continues to fight his fight. He helped ease my mind on giving me heads up on what to expect. He was a huge blessing.
My life after cancer: I'm still pretty new in that area. I've found I have new issues. I'm here though:) I may not be the person I was 3 years ago, but I feel better than I did over the last two years. The mind tricks haven't gone away though. Cancer messed with my head in ways I can't explain. I found out 3 months after I heard NED, my (ex) step mom (she'll always be my step mom in my eyes) was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I'm glad she has me as the 'been there, I get it!' even though it sucks we are both in this awful club. I'm grateful I can be someone she has that understands.
Where I am today: I'm alive. I have some aches, new issues I hadn't had before but I'm alive to feel them. I still have anxiety before checkups. It's just day to day. I take life a little slower now. I pay extra attention to my boys when they don't even realize I'm watching. I'm grateful for everything.
What I want other women to know: Trust your body. If it doesn't feel right, it's probably not. Don't be patient with diagnosis after diagnosis. Demand proper care. Don't miss checkups but be prepared that even if you've never missed one (like me), you can still get the shock of a lifetime. The chances are just slimmer. Also, remember, we are not the cancer. The cancer can never touch our soul even if it wrecks havoc on our bodies.
How I will try to help others: It took me a long time to openly talk about it. I had a friend who helped me by easing my mind. I try to do that for others. The waiting and the mind games are harder than actual treatment.
Any additional information you'd like to share: Don't be hard-headed and accept the help that's offered. That took the longest for me to do. Once I did, I recovered faster. My doctor told me to get angry, but don't stay angry. So I give it one hell of a fight.
Don't stay in each phase you will experience. This is just a part of our journey, not our entire story. We are many things; we just happen to always be a part of a cancer club that we never asked to be a part of.
Embrace the journey and you will learn so much about yourself, your friends, and your family. You will be surprised. Besides my family and some friends, one of my biggest supporters was my husband's ex-wife. I found a truly meaningful person in her when before, we never had given each other the chance. Life surprises us in many ways. Even though I hate this is a part of my story, I am grateful for what this journey has taught me.