Tina

Cancerversary: September 2009

Age at diagnosis: 32

Diagnosis: Adenosquamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: No stage specified

How my story begins: I was 31 years old and living in Virginia and in the process of preparing for a move back home to Boston. During my annual exam, my Pap test results came back abnormal and I was treated with the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to cut out abnormal cells. Six months later, I went for a checkup and the results were normal. That was a big relief and I was able to finish my move home without the added stress.

Immediately upon my return to Boston, I found a doctor and scheduled an appointment to establish my relationship with my new doctor and provide her with all my medical history. It was just six months since my last exam and I was just looking to move forward, but it was then that I was told that I had abnormal results followed by a colposcopy and the words "you have cancer."

How I felt after diagnosis: I never thought I would hear those words and I think I shocked the doctor when my only response was to say, "OK. What do we do next?" I wasn't sad, I wasn't upset and honestly I don't know what I was thinking. I was with my sister and she told me that it was OK to be mad, but I wasn't.

My treatment: Ensuring that I went for my exam and following up immediately saved my life. I am sure of it. I had an invasive cancer that if found 3 months or even 1 month later, it would have been a different story for me. But it was caught so early that I didn't require treatment. I had a cone biopsy in March. The margins were too close so I had another cone biopsy in May and then it was when I had the lymph nodes removed in September that I had assurance that the cancer was gone.

What was most difficult for me: As a result of all my surgeries and an infection that occurred, my reproductive system was destroyed. I didn't have a hysterectomy, but children were not part of my future. That was the hardest part, but I didn't hit me until 7 years later.

Where I am today: It was just a couple of weeks ago that I had a hysterectomy - the final chapter in this book for me. Reality right in my face that cancer took that part of me, but I won. I don't have cancer and my life continues. It is still hard. I found some words said by Laura Bush that hit home for me. I want to share this because as hard as it is for me this has helped me so much.

“The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?”
― Laura Bush, Spoken from the Heart

How I will try to help others: I tell everyone my story. My cancer was caught early because I followed up, because I went to my annual exams. It is so important and if anyone asks, I tell them my story in hopes that they may learn or share with a loved one.