How my story begins: I was an active healthy 34 year old. I was relatively healthy and felt perfectly normal. Work life was great. I had just finished my first ever IVF cycle, which unfortunately failed. But my husband and I were just beginning thoughts of trying to have a family after being foster parents for a while.
I wasn't due for my Pap test for another few months. But my company was switching health insurance companies, so I wanted to get in before the first of the year. This felt like a routine thing and my Pap in 2014 was normal so I wasn't worried. Unfortunately, in November 2016, my HPV test and Pap test results came back HPV positive and abnormal squamous cell chances-cannot exclude high grade changes. I then had a colposcopy, which came back as CIN 2 in one spot and CIN 2/3 in another spot. My endocervical biopsy came back normal.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was terrified. I cried for weeks and felt very depressed. I felt angry as well that there wasn't a better treatment for HPV since it is so common and that modern medicine only offered me the option to cut out the bad cells. Again, I was treating symptoms and not the underlying cause. I felt lost and hopeless. I felt like I had no control. I don't smoke and am healthy so why couldn't my body clear this HPV? Will it come back? Is this the end of this nightmare or just the beginning?
Telling my family and friends: I told a few close friends. The more I shared, the more friends I came across who also had this procedure. I leaned about the vaccine and researched it for hours. I now try and promote it to all my friends and family so that their son or daughter can help prevent at least 7 different types of cancers! This is so preventable with two simple shots!
My treatment: I was told I needed a LEEP procedure. I had that in late December as well as another ECC just to be safe. The LEEP came back with CIN 2, clear margins and negative on endocervical sampling.
How I felt after treatment: I was relieved I didn't have cancer, but I still worry about my future. I'm learning as time passes to try and not let it consume me every day. I still cry from time to time, but I do have good days too.
What was most difficult for me: Knowing it could come back and knowing I could get other types of cancers. My gyn oncologist did give me reassurance that the other cancers are less likely and much more rare, but I still worry.
What I did to help myself: Talking to other women going through the same thing. I couldn't believe the number of my friends who also had a LEEP procedure. This was so common, too common, but many women do not want to speak about it because it's associated with HPV. I never felt shame regarding HPV. I just wanted to tell as many close friends as I knew so that they could get their Pap and HPV tests and make sure everything is fine or get treated if needed. As terrifying as it was for me, I'm glad I got tested when I did. It saved my life.
Where I am today: I'm trying my best to live life to the fullest. As awful as this experience was, I am grateful for the Pap and HPV tests and that many times, cervical cancer can be prevented. The HPV vaccine is the best way to prevent HPV and HPV-associated cancers, but cervical cancer screening is still important even if you've been vaccinated.
What I want other women to know: Try to get co-testing with HPV test on top of your Pap test. Knowing the type of HPV you have or even that you have HPV can prompt close monitoring and provide a more sensitive test than the Pap. The Pap can sometimes miss bad cells.
How I will try to help others: Tell as many women that I know to get their Pap and HPV tests! It's so important to not miss that appointment. I will also encourage other parents to have their children get the vaccine. We need to preach this vaccine as cancer prevention and not so much as HPV prevention.