How my story begins: I had my first pap in 2013, which came back HPV positive. I had a colposcopy done, with hopes that my body would naturally drive out the virus. In 2014, I again had an abnormal pap and then had a LEEP procedure done; again with hopes that my body would naturally drive out the virus. I indeed did have several normal pap results through 2017 and I was hopeful I was in the clear. For several years I didn't have a pap test done while having children and life got busier.
I finally had another exam and test done in March 2021. My results again came back abnormal and another colposcopy was done. Fast forward to March 2022 and I had another abnormal result with another colposcopy. The results that came back from the colposcopy made my doctor refer me to a specialist, where I had another biopsy done which showed abnormal results. I was ordered to come back in December 2022 for another pap and colposcopy. My doctor didn't like the results from the December test, and ordered a cone biopsy done a few days after Christmas. The results from this test were concerning enough that my doctor had them sent to Mayo for further testing. On January 10, 2023 I received the call confirming that I had cervical cancer (invasive endocervical adenocarcinoma, stage IA2).
Life before my diagnosis: Before cancer I had a full life (still do!). I had a wonderful marriage, two little girls, and a job I loved (again, still do!). My husband and I also have a farm to manage which keeps us extra busy. We are involved in our church and community, and love the life we have in our community.
How I felt after diagnosis: I thought I was prepared for the possibility of cancer since I had known for years that HPV can turn into cancer. But I wasn't. I cried my eyes out after I received the call. The dark thoughts of not being there for my husband and children surfaced and threatened to overwhelm me. Luckily because of my faith and number of supporters, I believe my God is bigger than cervical cancer, and because of the prayers and support I received from family, friends, and my church, the devastated feeling didn't last long. I then turned to feeling optimistic that I would beat this thing, and I would live a long and healthy life.
Telling my family and friends: It's difficult to say the words "I have cancer". It's not a phrase we think we will ever need to use. But I was able to tell everyone slowly. And the love, support, and prayers that poured out was amazing.
My treatment: Since my cancer was caught so early, my doctor believed that a radical hysterectomy was the only treatment necessary. Barring the unforeseen, I should not need chemo, radiation, etc. And I'm so thankful for that. I had a radical hysterectomy done on February 9, 2023, and was able to keep my ovaries, again something I am thankful for. The tissue surrounding the uterus showed no sign of cancer, so luckily my cancer had not spread outside my cervix.
How I felt after treatment: The surgery was rough, and adjusting to a 7 inch incision on my stomach was difficult. While there were no complications during the surgery or recovery, it still took a toll on my body. When they say to rest, REST! Since then my body has healed, but I'm still adjusting to the aftermath of having organs removed from my body.
What was most difficult for me: The unknown of how my body would react to the surgery but I was at peace with having cancer, which I knew came from the many prayers I received.
What I did to help myself: Surrounding myself with prayer warriors helped me the most. I'm so thankful for the peace I felt after the diagnosis, and I know it is because of the prayers I received.
My life after cancer: I continue to receive support and prayers, and I thank God for the blessings he has given me. I still have a fulfilling life with my husband and children. And I have an urge to be more involved in my church and community than I was before. I also want to be more active in cervical cancer awareness and HPV vaccine education.
Where I am today: Currently I am in a state of being thankful. I have a strong husband, two beautiful daughters, supportive friends, and a church family that won't quit. I have so much to live for, and I want to help others find that as well.
What I want other women to know: Cancer can be scary, but there are communities out there (like Cervivor!) that offer fellowship and resources. You are not alone in this!
How I will try to help others: Help spread cervical cancer awareness and HPV vaccine education.
Any additional information you'd like to share: Don't wait to get screened!