How my story begins: Before my diagnosis, I was a very healthy and vibrant young lady. I'm a wife and mother of 4 boys. And I had recently graduated with my degree as a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and was loving taking care of women. I was feeling great, staying busy and enjoying life.
I've always had my Pap tests on time and they've always been normal. My last Pap was in 2013. I went in 2014 and was told that the guidelines have changed and that a Pap was not needed. So, like any other woman that "loves" these exams, I ran out of the clinic quickly. I waited the 2 additional years before returning for my Pap test. In April 2016, I had my Pap test. Everything seemed fine, until I received the results...Normal Pap, POSITIVE HPV 16.
I didn't worry until my colposcopy and biopsy came back as "adenocarcinoma in situ" a few months later. Then, I became really worried because I knew I'd have to have a CKC (cold knife conization of the cervix). It revealed Stage 0 cervical cancer/CIN 3/severe dysplasia with changes consistent with HPV infection and all margins were clear. My follow-up 6 months later revealed a normal Pap with high-risk HPV again. My doctor and I decided to proceed with the hysterectomy due to persistent HPV, severe dysplasia and recent onset of dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
How I felt after diagnosis: I felt hopeless. The diagnosis, Stage 0 cervical cancer, CIN 3, severe dysplasia with persistent HPV 16, made me feel like I was in limbo. I didn't have cancer, but I wasn't normal either.
Telling my family and friends: It was pretty difficult telling my family, not because of their possible reaction, but because I had already accepted defeat. My husband, my mom, my sister and my sons were all very supportive and gave me the hope and courage that I needed.
My treatment: Cold knife cone biopsy, then lap-assisted vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingectomy
How I felt after treatment: After the cold knife cone biopsy, I felt like my old self until I began to have worrisome symptoms. I had my hysterectomy on May 15, 2017 and am feeling great to know that this hurdle is over!!
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult part of this journey was accepting that after having normal Pap screenings all of my 38 years, I now had Stage 0 cervical cancer/CIN 3/severe cervical dysplasia.
What I did to help myself: I changed the way that I educate my patients about cervical cancer screening. It helps me feel better when I am able to help others and make a difference in their lives.
My life after cancer: I feel liberated after all that I have gone through. I feel that I have a purpose and my purpose is to help all women that come into my practice prevent cervical cancer.
Where I am today: I am currently recovering from my hysterectomy, but am looking forward to returning to work soon. I plan on becoming a Cervivor ambassador, officially. I feel like I am already a cervical cancer educator due to my profession, Women's Health Nurse Practitioner.
What I want other women to know: Cervical cancer can happen to anyone; however, it is preventable!!
How I will try to help others: Educate, educate, educate!!