Cancerversary: December 1997

Age at diagnosis: 22

Diagnosis: Cervical cancer (unspecified)

Stage of cancer: I

How my story begins: My life was full of possibility. I was a vivacious college student, looking forward to being a new mother, pledging in a sorority and completely enjoying my college life.

During my last trimester, I was diagnosed. After weeks of pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding, I complained to my doctor and after countless tests (pap and colposcopy), I was diagnosed.

How I felt after diagnosis: I was extremely scared, but hopeful. Doctors allowed me to go full-term and I was excited about having a new addition to my family and finishing my degree, but was completely undone about treatments.

Telling my family and friends: I experienced a lot of shame, most of which was in my mind. There was a stigma with cancer during the time I was diagnosed and no one I knew was familiar with cervical cancer and/or the side effects. I didn't mention it to my siblings and friends right away. It was not until a couple of years later that I began opening up about it.

My treatment: After the birth of my daughter, treatment began. I had a cone biopsy (LEEP procedure), removing the affected tissue in my cervix, and had rounds of chemotherapy. After subsequent tests, I was cleared to go back to college and have Pap tests to ensure there was no presence of cancer. I have been in remission since.

How I felt after treatment: It took about a month before I began feeling like myself. There was severe cramping, vomiting and bleeding. My hair thinned out a lot. After I kept hearing I was lucky that it was caught early, I began to lighten up a little more. I don't think I've felt like myself since though (and that was over 20+ years ago). Honestly, I don't even remember myself pre-cervical cancer.

What was most difficult for me: The most difficult thing for me was opening up about cancer and its effects on my day to day life. I lost a significant amount of weight and hair and couldn't function correctly. I began to put my thoughts elsewhere (college and my daughter) and began to feel new.

What I did to help myself: There were no support groups, so I reached out to girlfriends that I knew would be around to assist me. I poured myself into educating myself on cervical cancer and ways to protect myself against HPV.

My life after cancer: My life has been amazing. I started writing about life's experiences and how cancer affected me. I have children and an awesome work-life balance and I have vowed to live every day with zest and as if it is my last.

Where I am today: Cancer free!! And I am totally loving life. I have educated my daughter on HPV and her friends as well and am advocating any and every way I know how.

What I want other women to know: Cervical Cancer is NOT a death sentence. You can live a full, healthy, meaningful life.

How I will try to help others: I am a member of Cervivor and believe that the organization will help survivors and educate the masses on preventing HPV and overcoming cervical cancer.