Location: Ohio

Cancerversary: December 2021

Age at diagnosis: 31

Diagnosis: Cervical cancer (unspecified)

Stage of cancer: IB2

How my story begins: After the start of the lovely COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed like everyone was putting on a few extra pounds. However, my few extra pounds had turned into 50 over a very short amount of time. My clothes weren’t fitting and I was feeling tired and run down no matter what I did.

At the time I had an IUD in for contraception so I was concerned my hormones were freaking out. So I made an appointment with a new OBGYN to have it removed. As she started the exam, I started bleeding a lot, so much that she could not complete the exam. She then expressed her concern but said not to worry yet but I needed a colposcopy in a few days. During the colposcopy she tried to prepared me for the results she feared and then two days later I got the call.

Life before my diagnosis: My story is pretty simple: A single mom of two amazing kids! They are my total world! They keep me busy between dance to football to basketball to cheerleading; we are always on the move. I have worked in a small town ER and I am a closet Harry Potter and vampire diary fanatic (yes even in my 30s I’m a big kid at heart) :)

How I felt after diagnosis: The first thing that crossed my mind was how is this going to affect my kids. Then I broke down. “I’m 31, this isn’t supose to happen to me”. I cried and got so angry. I cried for about an hour till I called my best friend. She cried with me and then said, “We got this. We will fight this and we will win.”

In that very moment I went from feeling the most alone and scared I had ever felt in my life to feeling like the whole world was behind me and that I could and would do this.

Telling my family and friends: This was the hard part for me. I’m typically a very private person. I’ve been on my own since my kids father left nine years ago so turning to others and saying 'I need you' was very hard. This fight was a fight I could not fight alone. My support system was huge! My work family was so amazing! Raising money and food for us the days I couldn’t cook. Groceries for the days I had to try. My mom and dad rotated taking me to appointments and helping me with the kids. They communicated more in my four month fight than I ever seen them do in the 20 years they have been divorced. My best friend who lived in Texas even came up and helped take me to a few appointments and cleaned my house. Heck, friends I hadn’t talked to in years reached out offering help. My support system got me through it and I will forever be greatful.

My treatment: My doctor decided radiation and chemotherapy together was the best way to go. I did chemo once a week for six weeks. Radiation Monday through Friday with five internal radiation treatments.

How I felt after treatment: Honestly, terrible. Sometimes I got sick as soon as I got home. Other weeks it was the next day but boy did I get sick. Everything came back up. And everything tasted terrible! Even water. I am a huge coffee addict, pumpkin spice lattes are life lol… I couldn’t even drink one of those. There were days I cried and wanted to give up, I just wanted it all to stop hurting. I went from usually being so active to not even having the energy to clean my house.

What was most difficult for me: The most difficult part for me was helping my kids understand and deal with it all. They hurt and were more scared than I was. Especially when I couldn’t get off the bathroom floor. They both handled it so different. Helping them understand it all and not be scared was very hard on me.

What I did to help myself: For me, I had to remind myself I needed 'me' time. If it was sitting alone in my room for 10 minutes or going for a walk, it helped and was needed.

My life after cancer: You like to think everything will get back to exactly how it was before you were diagnosed, but it doesn’t. No matter how hard you try, cancer changes you. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad, it’s up to you to make the best of it.

It has made me really realize how short life is and how quick it can change. There are still side effects from treatment like urinary issues, tingling in my hands and the worse part is going into early menopause. Until you experience hot flashes you don’t understand how bad they are lol. But the estrogen patches my doctor proscribed really do help. I’ll take the side effects all day to be able to say “I am cancer free”.

Where I am today: Today I’m working on myself. I'm back to work, my kids activities, and trying to be the best mom, daughter, coworker and friend I can be. Also remembering that taking care of myself is important. If I want to go on a trip, I’m going to. If I want to buy the shirt, I’m going to. It has also made me open up more. Tell the ones you love you love them and make sure they know it. And now I’m on a journey to be a healthier me for myself, for my kids, and for my family.

What I want other women to know: That they are not alone. I could not of done it without my support system and if I can help another though it like my family did for me, I would in a heartbeat.

How I will try to help others: I’m still trying to figure that out exactly but I want to share my story. I want to inspire others and I want to help women understand how important exams are for early detection.