How my story begins: I was working full time at a children’s hospital. My boyfriend and I were in a long distance relationship, and he had just moved to my city so we could live together. I was living a normal 30 year old's life. I was really happy and in a good place.
I was having erratic bleeding, especially after sex. I had an IUD in and hadn’t had a period in years, so I thought it was my hormones acting up. Then the pain started. My doctors thought it was my IUD causing the bleeding and the pain so they wanted to remove it. However, they couldn’t find the strings so they ended up having to take it out surgically. When they went to remove it, they did a biopsy because my cervix did not look right and they had done a Pap the week before that had come back as abnormal. I had never had an abnormal Pap before so they thought my cervix was just irritated and gave me an antibiotic to clear it up, which only made the pain worse. Two days after my surgery, I got a call informing me that the biopsy showed cancerous cells and I was scheduled to have an MRI and PET scan the next week. It was the longest weekend of my life. I was so scared but hoped for the best. I went into the gyn oncologist after the tests were done. I could tell by the look on her face that something wasn’t right. I said, “You’re about to tell me really bad news, aren’t you?” She put her head down and said, “I’m so sorry but the cancer has spread to your lungs, lymph nodes and bladder, which means it’s a stage 4B diagnosis and you only have a 15% chance of living to the next five years.” I freaked out!!! I was pacing around the room and asking if heaven was real. It felt like an out of body experience.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was like a zombie. I just couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely crushed and figured I was going to die soon. I felt like there was a huge hole in my heart and I felt cheated.
At this point, my boyfriend had only lived with me for 3 months before I got diagnosed with stage 4B cervical cancer. I felt horrible that he had moved all this way and then I get sick, but I needed him here more than ever. I felt like my life was finally in a good place when bam! All hell broke lose.
Telling my family and friends: The first thing I told my mom, who was in the room when I found out, was that I couldn’t tell my friends or family. I didn’t know how I would tell my boyfriend who is my best friend and the love of my life. She told them all for me. My sister and two best friends came over to my apartment and we just cried and hugged each other. It was the worst day of my life.
My treatment: I’ve had 8 rounds of chemo- cisplatin, avastin and taxol. They didn’t give me any other options until we tried chemo. Luckily the chemo worked wonders on me! I won’t know what else they want to do until the cancer returns and at that time, I plan on getting into a clinical trial for immunotherapy. I also qualify to take keytruda because my tumor had the PDL1 gene so I always have that as a backup.
How I felt after treatment: Exhausted! I slept for days after chemo. Also, everything tasted and smelled weird. It was awful. I felt really nauseous and restless sometimes.
What was most difficult for me: Losing my hair was hard. I also like to go out and have fun a lot and I’ve had to miss out on a lot of events due to chemo. Fear of dying from this and losing my ability to have children have been devastating for me.
What I did to help myself: I tried to live as normal of a life as possible. I knew I would start feeling good about a week after chemo so I would plan trips or events to look forward to. My boyfriend and I won a free trip through a cancer foundation that provides fun trips for patients going though treatment. We got to go to Hawaii, which was so healing for my soul! Another thing I did to help with chemo was clean my apartment top to bottom beforehand and wash all my sheets and blankets so I felt organized and comfortable.
My life after cancer: I’m slowly coming out of the nightmare but still feel in the thick of it and am unfortunately waiting for its return. I try to live as normally as I can.
What I want other women to know: HPV causes cervical cancer and should be taken seriously. Also, make sure you are getting regular cervical cancer screening - it can save your life. Also, spread the word about getting the Gardasil vaccine so we can eradicate HPV altogether.