How my story begins: My husband and I went to my normal gynecologist’s appointment (it had been one year and about 6 weeks since my last gynecologist visit, and I had never had anything abnormal or concerning in regard to pap tests) to get my checkup and discuss getting pregnant as soon as possible. This appointment was on a Monday afternoon. We discussed my running, diet, and general health with the gynecologist, and the doctor performed a typical gynecological check up including a pap. We were given the “green light” and told to call the office when we had a positive pregnancy test.
However, that same week, on Friday afternoon after school was out (I was a high school teacher), I checked my phone and saw an unfamiliar number had left a message for me. I checked the message. It was the gynecologist, and she gave me her cell number in order to return her call. (That should have been a heads up that something was wrong, but it wasn’t for me.) When I called her cell phone, she explained that I would need to hold off on getting pregnant because there were cancer cells found by the lab who processed my pap test. Her office had already made an appointment with a gynecologic oncologist for me for the next Tuesday, because she felt that to preserve my fertility, the oncologist was the best surgeon for me to use. I had adenocarcinoma in situ, the invasive type of cervical cancer.
Life before my diagnosis: I had always been a runner, and had completed my first marathon a couple of years before my diagnosis. I was at the peak of physical health (I thought), and my husband and I decided to try to get pregnant.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was dumbfounded. I called my husband and told him. He got the cell phone number from me and called the doctor to hear the details, since I was so taken aback and couldn’t remember all she had said.
We laid in bed that night and cried. That was the longest weekend of my life thus far. I had cancer. There was no plan yet, and we were scared out of our minds. It was my husband’s birthday weekend, and to this day, neither of us can tell you if we did anything to celebrate it or not. All our brain space was used up by my unexpected cancer diagnosis.
Telling my family and friends: First, we called my brother-in-law, who is an OB/GYN in another city. He confirmed the seriousness of the pathology. We told my husband’s parents and grandparents that weekend also, and friends who lived nearby. My parents lived several states away, so we waited to tell them until we had been to the gynecologic oncologist and had a plan. We hoped this would help them not be so sick with worry. I also had a 9 year old daughter whom we had to tell. We sat her down and explained the situation and that surgery was the first step. I also told my students (high school aged) and coworkers, who were all very concerned and caring.
My treatment: Upon going to the gynecologic oncologist the next Tuesday, I had a colposcopy and she took a biopsy of my cervix. I needed surgery, and Friday was good for her schedule if it fit mine. We were eager to get to a solution, so we said yes to the date. Within two short weeks (12 days really) we went from a regular doctor visit to having surgery to remove cancerous cells. It was a whirlwind. Surgery went well, but it was quite a painful recovery.
I had never had uterine cramps as bad as the ones I had after surgery. The next week the oncologist called with the surgery results: widespread cancer cells and positive margins, but the cancer was not invasive and deep in my cervical tissue. My uterus had no cancer cells. We were scheduled to go back six weeks later to have another pap test and see where we stood. We would return every 6 weeks, then every 3 months, for a year. The oncologist monitored me closely, and released me back to the regular gynecologist a year later. She also gave us her blessing to try to start a family.
How I felt after treatment: I was so thankful to have my fertility intact. I was also thankful that the gynecologic oncologist was a skilled surgeon, and that surgery was the only major treatment needed.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult part for me is living with the fear of recurrence. I have to fight being a bit of a hypochondriac. I tend to think all my ailments are cancer - when in reality they are not.
What I did to help myself: This last year, 2022, I had a hysterectomy as my final treatment for cervical cancer. Since we were not having any more children, my current gynecologist felt this was important. I feel less stressed knowing my cervix (and uterus and fallopian tubes) are no longer a concern.
My life after cancer: Miraculously, I had two more beautiful daughters after my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I was able to carry them each to 36 weeks, even though my cervix was rather thin because of the surgery in 2010. I never skip a preventative test recommended by doctors (especially gynecological tests and checkups).
Where I am today: I am 42 and a Cervivor! I live in Pensacola, FL with my husband and two youngest daughters (my oldest is a college graduate and now lives in Orlando), our golden retriever named Mae, and our two sweet cats. I am still a teacher (middle school now), and I have completed another marathon since my battle with cancer.
What I want other women to know: Get your pap tests! Don’t neglect your health!
How I will try to help others: I feel so grateful to have been so easily treated for and recovered from cervical cancer. I encourage everyone I can to get their pap on time, and to not neglect preventative tests and check ups.