How my story begins: I was diagnosed with HPV in my early 20s. So this was in the early 2000s. From 2000 to 2019, I had 2 normal births and multiple Pap tests. Some came back normal, some abnormal. But never any pre-cancer or cancer, though the HPV lingered all those years. I got way too comfortable with the idea that the HPV had not turned into cancer over the years. Too comfortable, and too busy being a single mom. My last pap was in 2016 and it was normal. In 2018, I started spotting. I had an IUD that had been in place since 2012, so I figured I probably just needed a new IUD since I generally do not bleed at all on an IUD. I still delayed going to the doctor until June 2019. That is when my Pap came back abnormal. I went through a series of biopsies, ultrasounds and ultimately a LEEP procedure in Sept 2019 that confirmed cancer.
Life before my diagnosis: I was a single mom!! Before diagnosis, life was hectic and I was neglecting myself, a common theme in women.
How I felt after diagnosis: I had lots of anxiety after the initial diagnosis. Cancer is a waiting game. You wait for scan results. Wait for appointments. Wait for staging. Wait for treatment. Wait for insurance. I felt much better once treatment started!!
Telling my family and friends: I am SUPER vocal. Soooo...I announced to my family, friends, and coworkers as directly and soon as possible. I started a FB group, The Teal Warrior, that allowed me to share my journey and ultimately, deal with my emotions about my own mortality.
My treatment: I did 6 rounds of Cisplatin. 25 external rads. 5 brachys.
What was most difficult for me: Facing death.
What I did to help myself: I started my FB group. I drank a crap ton of water. I took a few months off work on disability to heal. I got on anxiety meds.
My life after cancer: Even the mundane is beautiful. Everything I once took for granted and even the things I dreaded.. I fight for the privilege to call that life mine now.
Where I am today: I am now, only recently, post treatment. I'm now in full blown menopause. I'm excited to head back to work in a month. I'm alive!
What I want other women to know: Use your dilators or have sex during treatment! Retaining my sexuality has been crucial to making this all work. Treatment is not fun, but it is doable. Start a bucket list.
How I will try to help others: I want to do community outreach in my area.
Any additional information you'd like to share: My mom also died of cervical cancer in 1997. Let's stop the stigma and cycle.