How my story begins: Before cancer I lived life so care free, I felt invincible. I was young, nothing bad could happen to me. I was always focused on what I call now "the little things."
My husband and I had been married for two years, and I had badly wanted to get pregnant. I had been having problems when we would have sex. I would bleed very badly. This had been going on for about two years. I went to my family doctor routinely for my Pap test and talked to my doctor about my issues on several occasions. She kept telling me that it wasn't anything to be concerned about and that it was probably just a phase my body was going through. I never took the time before to pay attention to my own health or make it a priority.
Finally, my husband convinced me to go to an OBGYN and get another opinion to see what was really going on. So, I made an appointment and got in that same day with an OBGYN nurse practitioner. As soon as she did the pelvic exam, I knew something was wrong. I got really nervous when she told me she wanted to get me in with an OBGYN early next week. I tried go shake it off for the rest of the week. That Friday, while I was at work, I got a voicemail from the nurse again asking her to call her back. My stomach sank - I just knew something was up. My husband wanted to go out to dinner that Friday night. On our way to dinner, I attempted to return the call. I had my phone on speaker for some odd reason. I got through and asked my husband to pull over so that I wouldn't lose service while we were driving. I remember the nurse saying "Taylor, your Pap test came back, and you have cervical cancer. I have an appointment Monday morning with an GYN oncologist. Can you make it?" "I have what?? How can this be? I have never been diagnosed with HPV, or even had an abnormal Pap in my life!" I was so confused and scared. That weekend was the longest weekend of my life.
Finally, Monday morning came and I had my biopsy. My lesion was 4cm and I was diagnosed with stage 1b2 adenocarcinoma cervical cancer.
How I felt after diagnosis: After my diagnosis, I felt devastated at first. I had wanted to be a mother so bad, to carry my own child and to experience pregnancy. That was all I could focus on at first. Then it hit me... I had cancer. I was 25 years old and was going to start the fight for my life, and me being cured and alive was the only thing that mattered. One day I will become a mother - maybe not as I had planned, but I still had options.
Telling my family and friends: The first thing we did was go to parents house and my in-laws and told them about the call I received. They were very supportive.
My treatment: My treatment started with a surgery where my ovaries were moved up and out of the way of the radiation. After that surgery, two weeks later, I got my port to receive chemotherapy. I had 30 doses of external radiation 5 days a week with cisplatin chemotherapy one day a week, followed by 5 doses of brachytherapy.
How I felt after treatment: After treatment, I felt exhausted. I was always on the go and very active. For the first time in my life, I spent my weekends sleeping in and laying on the couch. This was very hard for me, I never would lay on the couch all day or even sit down for a very long time. I knew my body needed all the rest I could get though.
What was most difficult for me: It was difficult for me to be so exhausted and sick all the time. I had a great support system though. My mom and mother-in-law would take me to my radiation treatments after work and my husband took me on Fridays to get my chemotherapy (talk about a great date). I had to let people help me whether that meant clean my house, run errands, or make meals for my husband. I had no desire to eat. That was hard to me too. I love to eat and enjoy food. But I couldn't stand the smell of food. It made me so nauseated and I was going though all my treatments over the holidays. It was hard to me to hear about women having babies and getting pregnant. It still is for me today. I have my moments.
What I did to help myself: I held onto my faith and developed a stronger relationship with God. I couldn't have done it without my faith. Emotionally, I did very well. I had a very positive perspective on things. I kept working through everything, which definitely helped too. It gave me a reason to get up every morning and get dressed.
My life after cancer: Life after cancer is so different for me. I no longer sweat the small stuff. Who cares if the house goes dirty for one night, or the beds are not made? I find joy in the small things, and I think of each day as a gift. I thank God every day for my healing.
Where I am today: I am looking into fertility options for my husband and me to become parents. This is a dream I am determined to have come true. I am sharing my story to educate other women.
What I want other women to know: You are not alone! 8 in 10 women have/or have had HPV. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Well women exams are very important. Stay in tune with your body. If you feel that something is not right, get it checked out. Make your health a priority. I know as women we always tend to put others before us. We need to take care of ourselves - mentally and physically.
How I will try to help others: Share my story, talk about HPV and the vaccine. Let people know they are not alone. I felt so alone when I was diagnosed. I didn't know much about HPV, just the stigma that is attached to it. I want to BREAK that stigma down!