How my story begins: Ever since I can remember, my Pap tests have always come back abnormal. In 2012, I had a doctor that followed up with a colposcopy and did cryotherapy. After that, I didn't really understand what happened but the doctor didn't follow up. So I thought I was fine.
It was December 2015. I was living the dream. I was working in the central Florida theme parks. I had recently been divorced from a domestic violence relationship, and thought I was taking steps to get back on track. Little did I know that a doctor's appointment would change my life.
I had painful and heavy periods so I made an appointment with my gyno to get on birth control. They did the exam and I was supposed to come back a week later to get the birth control inserted. Just a few days later, they said the Pap came back abnormal and the doctor wanted to see me again right away to do a colposcopy. I had no idea what that meant, but showed up. I woke up in the ER and was told that I had a panic attack and seizure from the colposcopy. At the end of the week, I got a phone call from the nurse saying the doctor wanted to schedule another procedure. I didn't ask questions. I was scared. I said ok. The LEEP was scheduled in the operating room about 3 weeks out. (Due to my disability, I had to be put under for this procedure). A few days later, I had a follow-up appointment and was told "you have cancer" and I was being referred to a gynecological oncologist.
How I felt after diagnosis: I became this young woman that couldn't get out of bed. It felt like my mind had given up on me. I live so close to the "magic," but I wouldn't even look outside at night to see the fireworks. I felt so bad about myself; I didn't like who I was. I didn't know which way to turn. I didn't want to face the world. To me, I felt so alone. I never heard of this cancer. I didn't know where it came from. Unfortunately, I turned to Google and that didn't help the situation at all. My first instinct, the first thought, was "get it out." I had the appointment with the oncologist and was told I have stage 2B. I had no idea what that even meant. My response was "take it out." The doctor said okay and scheduled my hysterectomy a few weeks later.
Telling my family and friends: I was embarrassed. My family are the best supporters, but I didn't know how they would react. I told my mom a little bit about my appointments, but to have to make that phone call. My mom began crying immediately. I felt guilty. I began to tell my close friends. One friend that I haven't seen in 18 years came and spent a week with me just talking and giving me that safe space to understand my emotions. I slowly began to tell the friends I hung out with almost nightly to watch live music. My musician friends truly gave light to the meaning that music is the heart of the soul. It tells emotions and heals. It became hard to tell my story over and over again, the same reaction of shock and distraught, but everyone reassured me that The Princess Warrior would beat it.
My treatment: I chose to have a radical hysterectomy, removing Fallopian tubes and the surrounding lymph nodes. However, I didn't see the point of doing radiation. I was told that "we got it all." I went back 3 months later, and we were still good. Six months after the surgery, the doctor pleaded with me to do radiation. Due to my anxiety disorder, I couldn't accept that. The nurse called me, the doctor called me, and I finally agreed to 5 days of internal radiation. My current doctor wants to pursue chemo and radiation, but I am refusing as emotionally I cannot handle it.
Where I am today: I am currently living with cancerous cells inside my vaginal cuff. I am trying to move forward with life, and I do that being a part of an all women's Triathlon team whose mission is to empower women through the sport of triathlon. Training keeps me focused and having races on the schedule keeps me determined. My family and I are closer than I have ever imagined. I am single, but am surrounded by friends who care.
Any additional information you'd like to share: If my story helps one person realize that they aren't alone, then I've completed my legacy. I will keep sharing and letting others know that they are not alone and I"ll keep fighting so that no other female has to lose to cervical cancer. I'm always here to share a hug, share my tears, but most of all I want people to know that one voice can make a difference, but when you join hands with others, you can leave a footprint.