How my story begins: I had been experiencing breakthrough bleeding for around six months. I was on a continuous birth control pill but I would randomly bleed. I chalked it up to being stressed, but started tracking it to see if I could find any correlation. I also began experiencing pain during and after sex. I wasn't due for a pap for another six months, but I decided to get an exam early. The doctor I saw was adamant that I was experiencing these symptoms because of my birth control pill but she examined me and did a pap and HPV test. I came back HPV positive and my pap was abnormal. They had me come in a few weeks later for a colposcopy and biopsies.
Life before my diagnosis: I was feeling really good and healthy. I had recently lost some weight and was feeling like I had found my passion again in fitness. I was working full-time in a restaurant and spending the remaining hours working out, learning anything and everything about health and fitness, and spending as much time as possible with my husband.
How I felt after diagnosis: September 1, 2022. Getting that call felt so surreal. I was very calm on the phone, but I think it was such a shock, I wasn't sure what to feel. I had felt so healthy besides the bleeding, I didn't see myself getting cancer. My doctor was very supportive and gave me great resources. I felt a comfort that there was a plan but I was definitely anxious about what treatment might be like and how my life would change. I was diagnosed five days before my last shift at my job. I had given my notice to leave my job to pursue a new career but now had this curve ball thrown in.
Telling my family and friends: My husband was there when I received the call and I told him once the call ended. When I told my mom, the first thing she said was, "No you don't!" It was very hard for her. I slowly began making phone calls the next day to close friends and family members. I felt grateful to have so much support. After sharing the news with those I was close to, I shared with everyone else on social media.
My treatment: A month after receiving my diagnosis I went in for a LEEP. The margins were positive and the lesion was a bit bigger than they originally expected.
Next was a Cold-Knife Cone. Luckily, my doctor was able to remove a bigger piece and my margins came back clear. We were still concerned of the possibility of another lesion and took another couple of biopsies. We also found fibroids in my uterus, as well as adenomyosis, so after much thought I decided to proceed with a hysterectomy. On January 4, 2023 I had a total hysterectomy and salpingectomy. Pathology came back clear!
How I felt after treatment: I felt quite relieved after the hysterectomy. I was spending so much time doing research and preparing that it felt good not having to do all of that anymore.
What was most difficult for me: I think the hardest part for me was feeling isolated. I didn't have anyone at the time who understood what I was going through. I think part of me felt like people were tired of hearing about what I was going through so I also isolated myself. I had a few people who I knew that I could count on so I am extremely thankful for them.
What I did to help myself: I focused a lot on my nutrition and getting in as much movement as I could. I took advantage of the days I felt really good and trained normally, and on the not so good days I took it easy and focused on gentle movement. I asked for help more often from my husband, and relied on those who where close to me to be there to chat and bring meals and such.
Where I am today: Today I am two months post-op and feeling great! I no longer experience the symptoms I was experiencing when I was first diagnosed. While I know that I still have to get checked more often, I feel hopeful. I am preparing to transition to a career in fitness and hopefully help other women feel as strong and empowered as I do.
What I want other women to know: I know it is uncomfortable, but do not skip your pap tests! And make sure you are getting screened for HPV as well! The biggest thing is that you have to be your own advocate. Doctors can also make mistakes and if you aren't receiving the care you need then you need to find a doctor who will give you that care. Never settle.
How I will try to help others: I will be sharing my story with anyone who will listen. Prevention and early detection is key, and more people need to know about getting vaccinated and tested. I also hope to be a support for other women who are going through cancer.