Age at diagnosis: My original diagnosis was in 2017, I was 47. My recurrence was 2019, I am 49.

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: No stage specified

How my story begins: I was a very busy person. I had several jobs, was raising a special needs child, and had just married an amazing man. I was a volunteer firefighter and a first responder. I had raised three young men. I had just purchased my first home and was trying to slow my life down a bit.

In October of 2016, I had gone on a vacation with my husband. When we got home, I really didn’t feel well. I had been to my doctor in September and was told my concerns were due to menopause. I ended up at the ER with intense abdominal pain and just not feeling “right.” They found a hemorrhagic cyst on my left ovary and sent me to the gynecologist. I hadn’t been to a gynecologist in 16 years because I had no insurance or time. She talked me into a Pap test and it came back abnormal. After a follow-up colposcopy and cold knife conization, I was sent to a gynecological oncologist in February of 2017. Unfortunately, I have a recurrence at this time that I am struggling with.

How I felt after diagnosis: I am a very matter of fact person. The entire time I was focused on “what’s next” and “how do we fix this.” I was a bit scared, nervous, but determined to come out on top. When I was told I was NED, I was so happy. Two years later, I have a recurrence. This one is tougher. Last time I had a pretty good chance of beating it with just surgery. This time, my oncologist gave me a 50% chance even with treatment. I’m still fighting, daily. I’m determined to win again.

Telling my family and friends: I kept it to myself for quite some time in 2016 and 2017. I was a bit embarrassed about it, oddly enough. This time I’ve been fairly open with family and close friends. I’m not one to walk up to a stranger and tell them my story without a reason. My family is behind me 100% on this fight this go round.

My treatment: In 2016-2017, it was just procedures and surgery. I had a hysterectomy and oophorectomy. This time I am having chemo and radiation. My oncologist wants me to do maintenance chemo for a year when I’m done with this original treatment.

How I felt after treatment: After my original surgery, I struggled a bit with feeling like a sexual woman still. I was just getting back to “normal” when this recurrence happened. I will have to let you know when I’m done this go round how I feel.

What was most difficult for me: Dealing with the stigma associated with cervical cancer has been difficult. Some people judge harshly, thinking women with cervical cancer are promiscuous or dirty. Or they discount it because it’s not a “difficult” cancer. People are so misinformed.

What I did to help myself: I meditate. I am more present in the moment since my original diagnosis. I make sure I have more time for my family and myself. I work less and rest more.

My life after cancer: I can’t really answer this at this time.

Where I am today: I am still struggling to overcome this recurrence. I find myself focusing more on what I feel is important in life. The drama and ridiculousness that show up in daily life are just not important anymore.

What I want other women to know: There is no one cancer that’s more important, easier or “cleaner” than any other. They are all life-changing. Get yourself checked on a regular basis. If something feels wrong, it probably is. You know yourself better than anyone.

How I will try to help others: I want to try to make women aware that they are in charge of their health and their health care. They need to advocate for themselves. They also need to teach their children to become their own advocates as they become adults. I want to partner up with people and organizations in my community to help promote health and wellness for women, especially in regards to cervical cancer.

Any additional information you'd like to share: I have received an invitation to Cervivor School for this year and plan to be there.