How my story begins: My story started in 2018. That’s when I first noticed that I had postcoital bleeding. It was weird, but it was always something I could find an excuse for. Growing up, I always had irregular bleeding/spotting/periods. I was so used to it.
Fast forward to November 2020, my husband and I conceived our baby girl. About a month into my pregnancy, I had an episode of bright red bleeding. I just knew I was having a miscarriage, it was so similar to what my sister had told me about her own miscarriages in the past. I went to the ER and got labs done, had an ultrasound and went home with the plan to have another HCG level checked in a few days. I was devastated. Amazingly, my HCG levels were increasing at a great rate, so I had another ultrasound. This time it showed a teeny tiny embryo. She was still there! We were so happy.
After that bleeding episode, I started to have more irregular bleeding episodes that usually started at work. I’m an RN and conveniently, the L&D unit was on the same floor of the hospital that I worked! There were many nights I started bleeding and had to go to the L&D unit to get checked out. It was scary, but it just became a part of my pregnancy. I was told that due to the increased estrogen levels during pregnancy that some women bleed. I had numerous pelvic exams and I was always told my cervix just looked irritated or was “friable”.
In July 2021, I gave birth to a lovely baby girl, Anastasia.
A few months into motherhood, I noticed that I was having irregular bleeding again. I had no idea what to expect with my postpartum body, as far as periods etc. My periods seemed to be heavier as well, but I assumed this was probably just my body adjusting to hormone changes.
I continued to have postcoital bleeding for the next 6+ months. Then in the summer of 2022, I started to notice some pain internally. Like it felt like my cervix was burning. This was around the same time that I also had noticed a difference in the vaginal discharge I was having. I thought this was strange but did not look into it much further. I had already had regular scheduled pap smears with normal results.
In late September 2022, I had a regular appointment with my PCP. At this appointment I had some vaccines, a physical and a pap test. My last pap test was done in 2019, so I was right on schedule.
During my pap, my PCP commented on how much I was bleeding. I thought this was strange. I received my results from a nurse a week later: my pap was abnormal, showing atypical glandular cells. I was also HPV 16 positive. I was referred to my OBGYN clinic to have a colposcopy done.
My regular OBGYN was booked out a few months, but I had a feeling that I needed to complete my colposcopy ASAP. I made an appointment that was about a month later with another OBGYN at the same clinic.
Being a nurse, I always feel like I ‘know too much’ as far as health and illnesses go. I know what signs/symptoms can be serious and what health conditions they’re associated with. I also am a person who needs to know everything about everything. I read articles regarding atypical glandular cells, and saw it was associated with adenocarcinoma of the cervix/endocervix. I just knew.
In late October, I went to have my colposcopy. The OBGYN who performed my procedure told me I was bleeding heavily and that she was unable to properly do a colposcopy because of all the blood. She also commented that my body was trying to expel tissue from my cervix, which is not normal. Although she was unable to the procedure as planned, she told me that she was going to biopsy all over my cervix to make sure we don’t miss anything. I had her do a uterine biopsy as well because my grandma had a history of uterine cancer. At the end of my visit she told me that she didn’t know what to make of what she saw but that she would call with the results in the next couple days. At this point I had such an icky feeling in my stomach. I knew it was cancer.
In November, I received my colposcopy test results on my patient portal online. The OBGYN had collected 7 biopsies total. It showed that 6 of the 7 biopsies were involved with adenocarcinoma. Just as I thought. I shared the info with my husband and my dad. We knew that I would receive a call from the clinic the next day as it was in the evening that I received the results.
The next morning, my dad came over to be with my husband and I. As expected, the clinic called and I put the phone on speaker so we could all hear the results. She told us that she was very sorry but that my biopsies showed adenocarcinoma which is a type of cervical cancer. I will never forget the looks on their faces as they heard the results. It was awful.
I was then referred to a gynecologic oncologist. After a PET-CT scan and an MRI, I was ultimately diagnosed with stage 1b2 cervical cancer. My tumor was 3.2 cm. My oncologist could actually feel my tumor inside of me.
I was scheduled to have a radical hysterectomy 9 days after our first visit. Although we weren’t done having children, we knew that we wanted to do whatever it would take to save my life. My recovery was painful but I was so happy to have had the procedure done.
Just as fast as I found out I had cervical cancer, I found out it was completely gone after my surgery. This was over a 2 week period. I feel like I was never really given the chance to process everything.
My treatment: A radical hysterectomy w/ lymph node dissection
My life after cancer: I’m doing okay now, 7 months later. I still have some anxiety, always thinking it will come back. I lost my own mother to breast cancer when I was 5 years old (she was 38 years old). I still fear that I will be taken away from my own daughter. But I have learned to take it one day at a time. I have found that telling my story has helped me. I still have days where my anxiety gets to me, but I try to stay as positive as possible.
Where I am today: Today I am 7 months cancer free.