How my story begins: I had recently gone in for my first pap test, thinking nothing of it. The following week, my OB called to inform me that my results confirmed that I tested positive for HPV, but not to worry and follow-up in six months. I was shocked! I never heard of HPV nor understood how I contracted it. I spent the next few hours researching HPV and was shocked to discover that certain HPV strains are linked to cervical cancer. I demanded to speak with my OBGYN, who dismissed my concerns and reiterated to follow-up in six months.
Thankfully, I decided to seek a second opinion. For my second appointment I was ready with my research and a list of questions. This OBGYN was concerned and ordered a biopsy. I loved being right about everything except for this. She confirmed a few day later that I had cervical dysplasia (CIN III).
Life before my diagnosis: I was just starting a new chapter in my life. I was going to begin my first quarter of college, and thrilled to be on my own. Life was full of possibilities and I was embracing it all. I had friends, family and my red truck that took me on any adventure I wanted. Nothing could stop me.
How I felt after diagnosis: While I felt vindicated, I was alone and scared. I didn't know what to do or who to call. I sat there crying for hours trying to wrap my head around what I was going to do next.
Telling my family and friends: I had to figure out a way to talk to my friends and family, but I didn't know where to start. How do I explain what HPV was and how it turned into what I have now? I decided to take the medical approach and print out information on both. I highlight portions that I thought I could summarize in my own words to keep it short. If anyone had questions I could give them the handout. Of course my plan failed as I broke down in tears and couldn't udder a word to my parents as I handed them the print out.
My treatment: I underwent a LEEP procedure at 18.
How I felt after treatment: I was confused, emotional and scared but at the same time I wanted to move on with my life as quickly as possible.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult part for me was not being informed. I relied on my doctors to make the best decision for me, but quickly realized that I needed to take action for myself. This was my body and I needed to take charge.
What I did to help myself: I made sure I was informed. I did my research, made a list of questions and sought a second opinion. These actions alone were empowering and helped set the stage for my future diagnosis. It made me feel stronger and gave me the strength to fight for me.
My life after cancer: Of course, I thought it was over, but my body decided I needed two more rounds in the ring before I could call it quits.
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 24 and then it came back last year (2021) at the height of the COVID pandemic. But as most will say, life goes on and I continue to raise my daughter Samantha and pursue a successful career in publishing.
Where I am today: I am happy to say that I underwent a hysterotomy in the fall of 2021 and declared cancer free.
What I want other women to know: Always listen to yourself and your body!
How I will try to help others: I want to share my story and encourage women to get their pap with the hopes that no one feels alone or powerless in this battle. I want to ensure that future generations, like my daughter, will understand and take the correct preventative measures.