Cancerversary: March 2017

Age at diagnosis: 33

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: III

Cervivor School Graduation: 2018

How my story begins: I was a busy mother of 2 boys, a wife, a full time cosmetologist, and an active ministry leader at my church.

In the middle of the summer of 2016, I began to notice quite a bit more vaginal fluids than normal. I didn't think too much of it, because at the time, that was my only symptom. Not long after, I noticed that after being intimate with my husband I would bleed slightly. I decided to make my appointment, but my doctor couldn't see me for a over a month due to the holidays and vacation. On January 9th, my doctor said what I had began to suspect..."I think it's cancer." She took a sample and assured me she would rush the results. It's important to mention that my Gyn is also my client. She texted me 2 days later and asked if I was at the salon today. I texted her back yes and asked if results were in. When she didn't immediately respond, I knew that I would more than likely see her face soon. Within 45 minutes, she walked into the salon to hand deliver my diagnosis.

How I felt after diagnosis: There were a whirlwind of emotions as I tried to wrap my head around it all. What's next? What's the plan? What stage? Who do I tell? But I had already been in prayer and in the midst of such crazy news, I had a peace I couldn't explain. Now don't get me wrong! I cried, I was sad...but I knew I could beat this. I had no other choice!

Telling my family and friends: Being the people person that I am, and being a stylist and active in a large church, I know tons of people. But I chose to tell only a small fraction of friends, family, and long time clients. Most people were more worried than I was, which made me tell even less because I didn't want sadness and negativity around me during my fight. I strategically chose people who would be a light in such a dark time for me.

My treatment: Radiation, chemo, and brachytherapy. Although I looked at other treatment options, I ultimately entrusted my care in my doctor's hands. Radiation came with its drawbacks, but was probably the easier of the two to deal with. Chemo left me hungry, but uninterested in food due to nausea, tired, and just drained. 29 days into treatment, my MRI showed no measurable amount of disease! I was ecstatic! But I had to finish treatment. Brachy was by far the biggest hurdle for me! I wanted out of it so bad, that i almost psyched myself out of doing it. I couldn't understand why I had to go through with it after such a great MRI....but my team wanted to ensure they got it all. Looking back, I can say the mental aspect was probably worse than the physical. It wasn't as painful as I imagined...but still was very uncomfortable. Mentally, it wore on me, and I tried to get out of the second time. But ultimately I made it through 92 hours of it.

How I felt after treatment: It took me awhile to get back to normal. Physically, things had changed. I began to have the worst hot flashes and night sweats, when just a few months prior, I couldn't tell you what those were. I sometimes couldn't make it to the restroom in time, but my husband and kids were very supportive. Mentally, it was rough! I knew that I would beat this monster...but I also knew what was at stake. I would often weep at the thought of infertility.

What was most difficult for me: I recall when this beautiful baby girl just a few weeks old came into the salon with her foster parents. It made me so emotional. Before I knew it, I began to weep. These people who didn't know me or my story probably thought I was a little weird, lol. But the thought of a beautiful baby like that just weeks old being cared for by someone other than the mother that carried her made me so sad since I still longed to carry my own little girl. Wanting another child of my own and being told that won't happen has by far been the hardest part of this all.

What I did to help myself: I continued with what has kept me through this entire journey. Prayer. It keeps me sound, it gives me peace. I talk to friends about my feelings and life after treatment, which helps a lot.

My life after cancer: My life has for the most part went back to normal...mother, wife, stylist, ministry. But now I try my best to advocate. So far, Facebook and the salon have been my platform.

Where I am today: I am better. I am healed. I am cancer free!

What I want other women to know: Trust your body! Don't wait! And stop taking care of everyone else without taking care of YOU!

How I will try to help others: I will do my best to explain what i have learned through this ordeal. I recently started a support group in my area, and hope to host a walk in January next year.