Location: Kentucky

Age at diagnosis: 44

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: II

How my story begins: My story begins on April 22, 2021 when I received my second COVID vaccine. On that same day, I begin leaking fluid from my cervix. The leakage became so heavy, that I had to wear adult diapers until November 30, 2021 when I received my booster vaccine.

By no means do I think the vaccine was the cause of my cancer. On the contrary, I believe the vaccine saved my life and the unusual leakage. It not only prompted me to see my OBGYN, but it also prompted my doctor to follow-up with the CA-125 blood test, subsequent ultrasound, MRI, and biopsies. I also had severe low back pain for several months, and an enlarged uterus. I received my cervical cancer diagnosis July 2021.

Life before my diagnosis: I was a single mom working a full-time, corporate, paralegal position. I loved my life being a single mom. Luckily, I am blessed with the best 12-year-old son in the world.

I enjoy being single and staying single, with zero desire to ever be in a relationship again. My son and I love to travel, and would often jet down to Florida every three months, and even spend a month+ at the beach in the summer.

How I felt after diagnosis: My world came crashing down after my cervical cancer diagnosis. I was so concerned with how I was going to be a single parent and fight cervical cancer. Ultimately, I had to move with in my 70-year-old mother who is caregiving for me, my son, and her 89-year-old husband. She is a super woman!

Telling my family and friends: My friends are my family. I have the same group of friends for 20+ years. I told all of them while we were together one afternoon. They have been very supportive and will drop everything to be by my side at the hospital or home.

My treatment: I received six weeks of external radiation every day, with chemotherapy once-a-week on Thursdays. I then had five treatments of brachytherapy.

I was admitted to the hospital three times during my treatment. My first admission was a result of obtaining the biopsies. The doctors could not control the bleeding, and I had to stay overnight in the hospital. My second admission was nausea from radiation and was in the hospital for three days. My third admission was widespread radiation colitis and was in the hospital over the Christmas 2021 holiday.

I still see a physical therapist for vaginal therapy, and still use dilators to keep everything open for further checkups and/or treatment.

How I felt after treatment: Cancer and the radiation have broken me both mentally and physically. I currently take anti-anxiety medication, and for a time was taking an anti-depressant. I was crying all the time, just feeling so defeated.

What was most difficult for me: The withdrawal from Oxycontin was the worst. I know the pain medication "helped", but I never want to take Oxycontin again. My body and my brain fought the hardest battle against each other. At one point in time, I was taking 120 mgs of Oxy a day, along with 21 other pills (yes, 23 pills a day).

I've had a rough time with the menopause as well. The insomnia and night sweats were keeping me up all night for weeks and weeks. Eventually I started taking sleeping pills but have since stopped taking medication and fall asleep on my own. It has also been difficult to live with incontinence for several months as a result of the radiation colitis and proctitis.

What I did to help myself: I currently take anti-anxiety medication. My mom and I discuss my cancer and our subsequent journey quite a bit. Talking about it helps. I was recently directed to a local cancer support group at the YMCA and plan on looking into that further.

My life after cancer: I don't know yet where my life is going. I know it's probably naive to think I will be cancer free soon, but I still try to remain positive.

Where I am today: I still have cancer, maybe, I don't know yet. I have my PET scan soon to see if the cancer is gone.