Cancerversary: September 2013

Age at diagnosis: 61

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: I

How my story begins: I was happily married to my awesome husband. We traveled, and enjoyed family and friends get-togethers. Life was good.

My story does not begin with the diagnosis. My story began much earlier than 2013. When I was in my late 20s, I began having abnormal Pap smears. My gynecologist would tell me that I had a hormone imbalance. I would return a few months later for a follow-up Pap and it would be normal. This went on for years - abnormal and normal Paps smears. I would have normal Pap smears for 5-10 years, then suddenly an abnormal Pap. I was 35 years old and I went to have my Pap smear. The gynecologist told me he wanted to freeze my cervix; however, he needed to have me come back to have my cervix frozen. He wasn't set up for that type of procedure that day. He told me to make an appointment with the receptionist as soon as possible. The receptionist made me an appointment three days later. Upon my return appointment, what he saw on the initial appointments was completely gone. The gynecologist told me that my cervix looked great, healthy, and normal.

In 2007, I had a Pap and the gynecologist found squamous cell lesions on my cervix. He proceeded to perform a LEEP. From 2007 to 2011, my Pap smears were normal. In 2012, my world came crashing down. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

I went to have my annual physical exam and requested to have a Pap smear. The physician did not want to give me one, according to the guidelines, stating that I was not required to have a Pap smear. I insisted that I have one and reluctantly, he gave me one. A few days later, the physician called to tell me that I needed to see a gynecologist. My test came back abnormal. I made an appointment to see my gynecologist. He did an exam and told me I needed to see an oncologist. The oncologist said I had stage I cervical cancer.

How I felt after diagnosis: I immediately went into denial. This could not be happening to me. I went to 12 doctors and 3 cancer treatment facilities before acknowledging that this was REAL. I was afraid about the treatments and how I would be able to get through this.

Telling my family and friends: Telling my family and friends was the hardest to come to terms with. I had a lot of reservations. I didn't want pity, nor did I want to hear negative, like this was my death sentence, which I knew it wasn't from the onset.

My treatment: In 2013, I began treatments -30 treatments, 5 days of radiation and one day a week of chemo. Those six weeks felt like an eternity! I was constantly sick with diarrhea, vomiting, and hair loss. I had to be hydrated every Saturday morning in ER just to get me through the weekend. Sometime, after the hydration, they would send me home. Other times, I would be hospitalized and given a blood transfusion. I had a total of six blood transfusions. The cure left me with equilibrium issues and numbness in my feet.

After the first radiation treatment, I lost my tastebuds. I had only the sweet tastebud left. As you know, cancer cells and sweets are a marriage made in hell. They love each other so much until the cancer cells will kill you. It's a toxic relationship. Because that was the only taste I had left, I wasn't going to let the sweetness of any sugar food go into my body. I went cold turkey on all sugar products. Therefore, I was at God's mercy to keep me alive to survive this horrible ordeal.

I give Praises to God who got me through this horrible ordeal. I am a six-year survivor and counting.

How I felt after treatment: I was very weak, no appetite. I lost 65 lbs. in 6 weeks. I literally was starving to death. I was glad to know that I had made it, that I was cancer free! God had gotten me through. I was moved to advocate for women's health, especially cervical cancer. I had stared death in the eye and had overcome one of the impossible - CANCER!

What was most difficult for me: Acknowledging that I had cancer and having the treatments.

What I did to help myself: I prayed. I watched and listened to TV Evangelists. I read healing bible scriptures. I accepted support from family, friends, and church members. I kept photos of myself around - a younger, happier, healthier self.

My life after cancer: I was reborn to a more committed, dedicated person. I see life not through rose-colored lenses anymore. I live each day in the moment. I appreciate life, I do not take life for granted. I appreciate my family and friends more. I give back every time I have an opportunity to do so.

Where I am today: I am living, thriving, doing well, and feeling well. I am celebrating life as a cervical cancer survivor.

What I want other women to know: The big "C "as it was once called is not a death sentence. Advocate for your health. When you have an abnormal Pap, find out why. Do not assume it is something minor. Ask your physician to do an HPV test at your next appointment.

How I will try to help others: I founded a nonprofit to bring awareness to cervical cancer and to advocate for the HPV vaccine. We are in our fourth year and raising funds to provide cervical cancer screenings for low income and disenfranchised women.

Any additional information you'd like to share: Arts and wellness is the name of my nonprofit.