Location: Illinois

Age at diagnosis: 43

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: II

How my story begins: At the end of 2022, around October, I noticed an increase in discharge. It wasn't smelly so I just thought it was a sign of pre-menopause. By April of 2023, the discharge was getting worse. I always have had irregular periods but this seemed weirder than normal. I decided to look on Google and cervical cancer came up. Of course, this made me freak out. I got a gynecologist appointment the next day.

I'll admit I'm not a doctor person and haven't had many pap tests. I let the gynecologist know this and I also told her I was worried I had cervical cancer. She told me I was young and healthy so I didn't have cancer. She did an exam and pap test and I started to bleed heavily. She said I just started my period. In hindsight, I should have gotten a second opinion but she was telling me what I wanted to hear. She told me to use Rephresh for my discharge.

In July the gynecologist called back saying I had HPV and needed to redo my pap because the bleeding messed up the results. A week later I started having heavy bleeding. Like gushing blood nonstop with huge blood clots so I called the next day and was told to come in for an ultrasound. I had massive bleeding during the ultrasound and they found a huge mass. It was 7cm. They told me to go to the ER so I would be put in the system so I could see an oncologist sooner. A couple days after the ER visit I met my gynecological oncologist. He did an exam and biopsy. Since my tumor was 7cm, radiation and chemotherapy were my only options. I met my radiation therapy doctor a couple of days later. I was diagnosed with stage 2A cervical cancer. Thankfully it was localized to my cervix and upper vagina.

Life before my diagnosis: I am just your average stay at home mother and housewife. I enjoy taking care of my family and I love to garden. I like to be outdoors and love walking. I also have a crazy dog I attend to.

How I felt after diagnosis: I was freaked out. I have a teenage daughter; and a husband who was going through his own health issues. When you hear cancer you automatically think of death. You feel helpless and aren't sure what to expect. I let myself freak out for a little bit but I put on my big girl pants and got down to business.

Telling my family and friends: I only told my husband and daughter at first because they lived with me and knew stuff was going on. I waited about 3 weeks before I told my parents and siblings. That was hard talking to them on the phone, acting like everything was normal but I wanted to process what was happening and also I didn't want to worry everyone about stuff I wasn't even sure about. I wanted to know what I was going on, what stage I was in, my treatment, and what to expect before I clued everyone else in. When I first told my parents it was hard because I knew I was about to hurt them but I felt a huge burden come off my shoulders when I did.

My treatment: I went through 25 external radiation treatments and 5 chemotherapy sessions. I finished treatment with 5 brachytherapy sessions. As of right now I still have cancer but have my PET scan in a couple of weeks. My PET scan three months ago showed I had a very faint sign of cancer left so we are doing this next PET scan to see where I am.

How I felt after treatment: I actually felt great. I really didn't have side effects and stayed active throughout the whole thing. I just lost my taste and had chemo brain fog so it was nice to get rid of that.

What was most difficult for me: Chemo brain and loss of taste.

What I did to help myself: I stayed active. It was important for me to live life normally. I made sure to walk every day. Staying active can really help with fatigue so if you are physically able move move move.

My life after cancer: I still have cancer. I'm at the tail end. My PET scan showed my cancer to be very faint. I have a PET scan in two weeks so fingers crossed I'm NED.

Where I am today: I'm still me and still doing what I've always done. I don't let cancer dictate my life. I often worry about it getting worse in the future but I try to push those fears away.

What I want other women to know: It's important to stay focused and have a positive outlook. It's ok to flip out at times but you want to keep a straight head. It's also important to stay active if your body allows you to. You don't need to run a marathon but a little movement is beneficial.

How I will try to help others: I'm always here to listen and offer support.