Cancerversary: July 2017

Age at diagnosis: 35

Diagnosis: HPV

Stage of cancer: III

How my story begins: That's a hard question to answer. Before my diagnosis I was living life with a smile on my face in public, but crying behind closed doors. I lived life with a mask because I was in a lot of pain physically for many years. My family did a lot, but we didn't have the ability to go to the doctor and when we did it wasn't the best. So I just took Tylenol and Midol for years.

How I felt after diagnosis: I was devastated.

My treatment: I had radiation treatment and a radical hysterectomy. That put me in menopause before my 50s.

How I felt after treatment: Drained. I felt very drained.

What was most difficult for me: Most difficult for me was admitting I had cancer. I heard the specialists and the doctors but I was in denial for a long while. Then I became angry. Angry at myself because I felt I was living a HEALTHY lifestyle - not dieting but actually eating properly everyday. I wasn't overweight and I exercised regularly.

I wasn't fully aware that it wasn't my fault.

I finally stopped The "blame game." I decided to fully educate myself and ask my oncologist a lot of questions. I went to treatment every Tuesday like clock-work and It was hard - really mentally, emotionally and physically draining. The things I was doing in my daily life became a real challenge: getting out of bed, tying my shoes. These normal things became hard. But the hardest was being a mom through everything. I missed going to the playground and pushing my daughter on the swings! My body became my enemy. It took a long time to have an appetite. I drank a lot of smoothies (and it took a lot to keep it down). Seeing the changes my body was dealing with was a wake up call. But I am thankful that I had a strong support system. My church family and my immediate family were amazing. My mom moved across state lines to be with me and to assist me with my daughter. It was a GOD SEND!

Where I am today: Today I am smiling with no continuous pain nor discomfort.
I have a purpose and hope!

What I want other women to know: What I want other women to know - as well as men - is that we are strong! We are resilient. We can adapt and are able to handle anything that God gives us. Yes, it is a challenge. There will be bad days, but there will also be good ones. Stay strong. If you need a support group, see if there is one available in your community. Educate yourself about your diagnosis. Ask a lot and I mean A LOT of questions with your health providers and oncologists. When I was told I contacted HPV, I felt ashamed and dirty. Now I realize I did nothing wrong and I shouldn't feel ashamed, dirty or embarrassed.