How my story begins: I was 27 years old and dealing with recurrent miscarriages. My doctor could not figure out why. I had some ultrasounds done that were normal. My Pap tests were always normal. I decided to change ob/gyns to get a second opinion. She told me my cervix "looked angry," and ordered several tests - including an MRI of the abdomen and pelvis. That MRI showed a 6 cm mass and enlarged local lymph nodes. As a nurse, I knew in my heart what this meant. I was devastated. I was referred to Sloan Kettering for treatment.
Life before my diagnosis: I had just gotten a divorce before my diagnosis. I had just gotten my own place and began my life as a single mother. I had secured a great job and started taking classes towards my bachelor's degree.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was terrified. I had an 8 year old son at the time who needed me. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. I felt an extreme loss of control. I felt desperation. I was initially staged at 2b. My cancer returned in 2019 and I was told I was stage 4, incurable.
Telling my family and friends: I immediately shared what I knew with my family. They were devastated but hopeful. When my cancer came back in 2019 my family was by my side. Despite being told I probably won’t live beyond the next 2-3 years, they are hopeful I will find a treatment that works for the long run.
My treatment: Initially I had 6 cisplatin chemo infusions, 26 extended field radiation, and 5 internal radiation treatments. Now with my recurrence I am on a chemo cocktail of carboplatin, taxol, and avastin. I have had a great response and after 4 cycles, I am back in remission.
How I felt after treatment: I was always looking over my shoulder. Googling my outcome. I was deathly scared the cancer would come back. And guess what? It did. And ironically, I am no longer scared. I have accepted that what will happen is out of my control.
What was most difficult for me: The hardest thing for me was grieving my future when I was told my cancer is no longer curable. My husband and I brought another baby into the world two months ago. We had begun our surrogacy journey a year before my cancer came back. Believing that I most likely would not see my baby, or my older son grow up was devastating. I went through the grieving cycle much more intensely than I thought I would. I debated suicide. But sure enough, time has a way of healing. I am in a much better place mentally now.
What I did to help myself: I stopped Googling and I reached out to other survivors.
My life after cancer: I told myself to try to live in the now. During my first remission I traveled all over the world. I bought a house. I bought two cars. I got remarried. We brought two dogs into our family. I climbed my work ladder to where I wanted to be. I plan to graduate once my chemo brain has calmed down during my second remission.
Where I am today: I have one more infusion left of my chemo cocktail, then I stay on Avastin for the long run. I am currently back in remission and hope to stay here as long as possible! I still have my job for now and hope to return to work within the next year. I hope to graduate with my bachelor's degree and maybe even a masters during this remission. I am planning a getaway with my family for my son's twelfth birthday, and I am enjoying watching my new baby continue to grow.
What I want other women to know: Cervical cancer isn’t the easiest or best cancer to get. I am guilty of previously thinking this before I knew what I know now. Cervical cancer is extremely aggressive and kills 30% of affected patients.
How I will try to help others: I am constantly advocating for the HPV vaccine and for my friends to get their Pap smears. I always tell women if something doesn’t feel right, keep pushing your medical team. You know your body more than anyone else.