How my story begins: During the summer of 2016, I experienced irregular bleeding even though I was on birth control. I had a pap test, which I had always been on top of, and it came back positive for HPV, but not the high-risk types. We were planning on starting a family, but had a trip planned to Peru in August and wanted to wait until three months after due to the zika outbreak..
I had been 32 for less than a week when I found out I was pregnant. I was so excited that I called my best friend and then waited for my husband to come home for lunch to tell him in person. I spent the entire weekend taking tests, making sure it was true. I got in immediately at my OB office who confirmed I was pregnant. I started getting morning sickness at week four, but it disappeared suddenly at week six and I went into the OB office for a vital life check. I mentioned I was starting to have weird discharge, a milky/oily texture with distinct smell. I tested positive for ureaplasma and was put on antibiotics. A couple weeks later the discharge came back, it was persistent, and it turned light pink the day before my 12 week appointment.
At that appointment, I had an ultrasound and we saw the baby again. I felt great, but mentioned the discharge and color and my OB decided to perform a speculum exam. She noticed two bumps on my cervix that weren't there at my nine week appointment. She did a biopsy and tested me again for ureaplasma. I spent President's Day weekend finally feeling good so baked and made dinner for my husband who had taken care of me during the first trimester. Tuesday morning I got a call from my OB asking to do a colposcopy, my biopsy had come back positive for endocervical adenocarcinoma in situ. I was so concerned about having a miscarriage, that I didn't give thought to anything else.
Wednesday afternoon my OB called asking my husband and me to come into the office. I didn't know what to think and we were both scared. She told me the biopsy had come back positive for adenocarcinoma in the cervix.
"Are you telling me I have cancer?" I asked.
Life before my diagnosis: My husband and I were married in 2014 and moved from Seattle to rural Montana. We loved traveling the world, cooking, running, and spending time with friends and family.
How I felt after diagnosis: My husband and I were both shocked and so scared. My best friend's mom had died from cervical cancer. I was 13 weeks pregnant and feared for the health and safety of our baby. All I cared about was keeping my baby safe.
Telling my family and friends: I told my close friends what was going on. I called some friends and told them I was pregnant, but also, that I had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. There were a lot of tears. Often I felt like I was comforting my friends. I didn't tell many people as we were still trying to figure out what was going on. I finally posted a public statement on social media after we had our pregnancy loss. I finally posted a public statement on social media after we lost our baby.
My treatment: Because we lived in rural Montana and the gyn onc office was six hours away, we traveled to the University of Washington and MD Anderson for treatment options. I decided to go with UW as it was a single flight from Missoula and that's where we had friends and support. I ended up getting sick with an infection when I was 15 weeks pregnant and was life flighted from Montana to Seattle and ended up in the ICU with septic shock. While still in the hospital, we had pregnancy loss at almost 17 weeks.
I had a cone biopsy and lymph node removal done a couple weeks after I was released from the hospital in hopes of being able to have one more chance at getting pregnant. Unfortunately my margins were positive and I had a total hysterectomy, leaving my ovaries, after we had completed a round of IVF.
I completed six rounds of weekly cisplatin, 25 external radiations , and two brachytherapy treatments that summer.
How I felt after treatment: I was a little tired after treatment, but I was eager to get back to "normal". I completed a 40 mile bike ride less than a month after treatment ended and a half marathon nine months later.
What was most difficult for me: Having my baby and fertility taken from me was the hardest part of all this. I had subchorionic hematoma, common in early pregnacies, which is what caused my infection. I truly believe that if I didn't have cancer, my body would have fixed the hematoma and I would have had our baby.
What I did to help myself: I made sure to surround myself with friends and loved ones who supported and cared for me.
My life after cancer: After my first round with cancer my life continued almost as if it never happened. The only difference being that I was triggered by pregnant women and babies. A friend carried our son for us and we are now busy caring and chasing after a little one.
Where I am today: I had a recurrence in June of 2020, a tumor showed up in my lymph node blocking my ureter and causing my right kidney to fail. In September I had surgery to remove the kidney and tumor, but they ended up taking my right ovary and part of my small intestine. I had to do six rounds of carboplatin and taxol. I am currently on a regimen of Avastin infusion every three weeks.
Shortly after chemo ended my right toes started tingling. Three months later I experienced excruciating pain from my butt down to my toes that has resulted in foot drop and numb areas in my calf. I finally have my pain under control, but I have to walk with an AFO and cane.
How I will try to help others: I try to help others going through cancer by offering a listening ear and support when someone needs to vent or talk about how they're feeling. I try to use my past experiences to help those going through the same thing.
I also try to use my platform to remind my friends to get pap tests, the HPV vaccine, and to listen to their bodies if they know something is wrong.