Location: Maryland

Cancerversary: November 2006

Age at diagnosis: 28

Diagnosis: Cervical cancer (unspecified)

Stage of cancer: IB2

How my story begins: My symptoms began as some bleeding during intercourse. Pain during and after so much so it became almost unbearable and definitely not enjoyable. As the months went on the bleeding grew worse and would last a few days.

After the sudden loss of my mother, my boyfriend of four years decided he wanted to get married and make us a family. I had two sons from a previous marriage and we shared a son together. Our son was three at the time.

We set our date for May 22, 2006. Our wedding was such a great day after the sadness my family experienced just 10 months before. Our family was so excited for our big day. But they all knew something was going on with me.

My husband and I had to be married for 30 days in order for my medical benefits to take affect. Somewhere around the month of July I was diagnosed with cervical cancer due to HPV. From July through September everything became a blur. Between testing, bloodwork, CT scans, PET scans, colposcopy (which I started hemorrhaging on the exam table). Then finally my surgery was scheduled in the beginning of September.

Life before my diagnosis: Life before my diagnosis was anything but normal. Just about a year before my diagnosis, I lost my mother to colon cancer. I watched her suffer for many months while we tried to get answers for her. In the end, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away within 10 days of being admitted into the hospital. The cancer had already spread throughout her body.

While dealing with my mother, I myself was having “ female issues”. I didn’t have health insurance at the time and just figured it would get better, but knowing it was definitely getting worse!

How I felt after diagnosis: I felt very afraid and alone with my diagnosis. I had just lost my mother less the a year before. I was a stay at home mother of three very young boys. I didn’t know if I was going to live. I had no idea what to expect or what I was actually going to have to put my body through. So many questions and concerns as to how I was going to fight this disease. My treatment options were, in my case, I could do surgery for a hysterectomy if they could get all the cancer or I could do treatment to shrink the tumor with radiation. I had to make a decision at that point as to which direction this could go. I opted for surgery and wouldn’t you know it, they couldn’t do the hysterectomy due to the location and size of the tumor.

Telling my family and friends: Telling my friends and family was such a relief since I had been avoiding this situation for almost two years. They were all thankful that there were treatment options and a plan in place for me to begin my journey. Of course the only person I wanted by my side was in heaven so I felt left here to battle this fight without my #1 supporter. But my mother was my motivation throughout my fight!

My treatment: My treatment started with two options: 1) surgery for hysterectomy or 2) radiation to shrink the tumor. I chose surgery as I figured that was the easiest of the two options. Boy was I wrong! Surgery was unsuccessful so plan B became the only option. I had to do treatment which was six weeks of 5 days a week of radiation, Cisplatin chemotherapy once a week for 6 weeks and let us not forget about Brachytherapy.

It was three days in a hospital bed while three metal rods are stuck into me vaginally. You are radioactive and nursing staff has to wear gauges to even enter your room. There was a metal shield on the side of my bed that visitors couldn’t come past and they could only visit for 15 minutes. In the end, I’ve had three surgeries through this process and had to be admitted into the hospital because my colon was not functioning.

How I felt after treatment: After treatment there is definitely an adjustment period. I didn’t know what I was supposed to expect. Between treatments and surgeries I just wanted to die. I just wanted to get better sooner and that wasn’t happening. I’m almost 16 years cancer free and my body still suffers from the treatment side effects. My insides are fried. My bowels are a mess. Life after treatment is definitely a struggle at times. Having to know where every public bathroom is just incase I have to go to the bathroom, is my life on a daily basis.

What was most difficult for me: What was most difficult for me is the lack of having any kind of sex drive. It just becomes so painful no matter what I do. I still bleed during intercourse just not as heavy. I can never not think about it in the moment.

None of this is ever talked about! No one prepares you for the toll treatment takes on a woman’s body. No one talks about how your hormones get thrown out of wack. No one prepares you for life after treatment.

Where I am today: Today I am coming up on 15 years of beating cervical cancer! I have a loving husband and my three boys are all grown up! My oldest is getting married in three weeks, so I’m thankful to be here to witness my first born child get married! My middle son is absolutely life of the party with his carefree spirit. My youngest just graduated high school in June. I’m so blessed to be here to watch them turn into men and for that I will always be humble.