How my story begins: Before my diagnosis, I had just married the love of my life and was ready to start trying to make a family. I knew something was wrong, but wasn't sure what. I was working full time as a delivery driver and pizza maker, and a cat mom to 3 goofball kitties. I didn't have insurance before my wedding, so I got put on my husband's insurance shortly after we wed. I knew something wasn't right, as I was showing symptoms of something - I had no idea at the time that it would turn out to be cancer. I went to my family doctor for a well woman exam, and she saw something that she called a polyp. She told me 99% of cases of women with polyps on their cervix are completely harmless, but she sent me over to a gynecologist to have it removed and checked.
I was in the gynecologists office a week later, and he removed the polyp, and was confident he had removed it in its entirety. But they would still test it to make sure it was harmless. Life went on normally for the next couple weeks, and I got a call one Wednesday evening, telling me I needed to come into the gynecologists office to discuss the results of my tests. I would have questions, she said. I could hear the sadness in her voice - I knew it was something serious.
My husband and I went to the doctor the next morning, and they broke the news. I would have to go to an oncology center for an appointment to discuss staging and options. That would be in 2 weeks. Fortunately, I knew someone in the office who got me in only 6 days after my diagnosis, and discovered I was Stage 1B. I had a tumor growing on my cervix. And I was going to have a radical hysterectomy in 4 days. I didn't have time to be scared.
How I felt after diagnosis: After my diagnosis, I was distraught. I couldn't believe I had a tumor growing inside me. I slept constantly - largely in part because the tumor was sucking ALL of my energy. I had been sleeping 15 hours a day for a couple of months now, and had no clue why I was tired all the time.
I was scared about the upcoming options, and I was devastated I would be losing my fertility two short months after getting married. I hadn't even had time to start a family with the man of my dreams (he would make the most adorable babies, by the way).
Telling my family and friends: I called my mom immediately and told her. I live 3 hours away from my mom, so going to see her wasn't an option. I was actually scheduled to work 45 minutes after my doctor visit where I found out I had cancer.
I slowly told friends and family, and eventually announced my diagnosis and upcoming surgery on Facebook. I was overwhelmed with support and love. So many people offered prayers and good thoughts. It was nice to see that people were there for me in the darkest part of my life.
My treatment: I had a radical hysterectomy. I feel so blessed that I didn't have to go through chemo or radiation. Fortunately. I got to keep my ovaries since the tumor hadn't grown further than my uterus. It hadn't even invaded the lymph nodes yet.
How I felt after treatment: I was happy that I no longer had this tumor growing in me, but I knew that my journey wasn't over. I had mental mountains to climb. I was ANGRY for the two months following my surgery. I was in a perpetual terrible mood, and nothing could cheer me up. I decided that I needed to go find a support group, and looked in my community for a cancer support group.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult part for me was losing my fertility. I was 26 at my diagnosis, and desperately wanted to start a family. Asking my husband to knock me up was a daily occurrence. He wanted to pay off bills we had accumulated while planning our wedding before we started trying for a family.
What I did to help myself: I sought help from others. I was mad at the world and my body for betraying me and giving me cancer. I went to a support group, and met a beautiful woman who is a breast cancer survivor. The first night I met her, I just opened up to her and told her everything, even the gory details she probably didn't care to hear, but she wanted to hear my story. I formed an instant attachment with this woman I had never met before and revealed my soul to her. There were tears, and smiles, and hugs - lots of hugs. I finally had someone to talk to who knew what it was like to battle cancer.
My life after cancer: After recovery, I went back to work and monotony of life took over. I went to my gynecologist every 3 months for an exam to see if there was any recurrence. Turns out, 1 year after my "all clear" phone call, I got another call saying I had ASCUS, or pre-cancerous cells in my vaginal cuff. The most common recurrence of cervical cancer is in the vagina, and I had it! Darn cancer. My doctor was happy we caught it soon, and my oncologist performed a laser ablation and removed the pre-cancerous cells.
Where I am today: I know that my cancer journey will always be a part of my life. Whether this was my last scare with cancer, or whether I go through it 30 more times, I'm a fighter, and I won't let cancer consume me.
What I want other women to know: I want other women to know that it is okay to be weak. It's okay to spend an entire day in bed because you can feel the cancer overtaking your body. It's okay to cry. It's okay to be a wreck.
But it is also okay to beat cancer in the face and kick it in the teeth. I want all women to know that they can fight like hell, even though they feel like they don't have an ounce of fight left in them.
How I will try to help others: I will help others understand how the vaccines and regular checksups can SAVE your life. I will help others struggling with what I went through, and lend an understanding and sympathetic ear. Hopefully, I can be someone's Donna (my support group lady).