How my story begins: In November 2017 I was experiencing bleeding after sex which was not synced up with my regular cycle. I scheduled an appointment with my GYN and I had a Pap smear completed. The Pap came back abnormal and my GYN scheduled me for a biopsy in 3 months. He explained that at times there are abnormalities and your body will correct itself. In February 2018 the biopsy was completed. One week later I was informed that the abnormality was cancer and I had been scheduled to see an oncologist for further treatment options.
Life before my diagnosis: I lived a full life - one that was filled with being a mother, wife, and full time director for an organization that provided services for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was scared. I cried. I didn't understand why this was happening to me. I felt betrayed and I didn't want to deal with cancer because in my mind it equaled an immediate death sentence. I started to panic about how long I had to live and how long had this disease been living inside of my body. I wanted to crawl in a hole and just act as if this never happened.
Telling my family and friends: I delayed in telling my family. I only told my closest friends initially what was going on. I did not tell my family until after I was seen by my oncologist and I was told what the treatment plan was and what would be happening moving forward. My family and friends were supportive and understanding of my diagnosis. My husband at the time was confused about HPV and I researched the information to ensure that he had a better understanding of my diagnosis.
My treatment: I was scheduled for a radical hysterectomy 3/5/2018. This was a procedure that my oncologist believed would remove all of the cancerous cells out of my body.
How I felt after treatment: After treatment, I was relieved that this part was over. But for some reason, I felt an emptiness.
What was most difficult for me: Recovery was difficult for me because emotionally I was going through things within my marriage and I was trying to get back to work too soon. My mother was helping me, but I felt alone. I cried many days because I was frustrated with where my life was.
What I did to help myself: I read a lot of books, educated myself on cervical cancer and HPV. I also made a decision to be an advocate for "below the belt" cancers and to encourage ladies to have their annual checks completed.
Where I am today: After my radical hysterectomy my surgeon explained that there were cancerous cells found on the outside of one of the lymph nodes which would require chemo and radiation treatment. However, I was not able to get the chemo and radiation treatment in 2018 because of problems with why insurance carrier. I did not know if there were ways to move forward with treatment at that time. I was seen by my physician in November 2018 and April 2019 but no scans were performed at that time. I received my first set of scans in May 2019 which identified that there was a reoccurrence of cervical cancer. I'm currently undergoing chemo and radiation treatment for the reoccurrence. The oncologist indicated that the cancer was within a small lymph node of the pelvis area, but treatable.
What I want other women to know: I want other women to know that this is not a disease because you were nasty or you've done anything wrong. Take the steps to get treated immediately if ever diagnosed, don't wait! Lastly, keep up with your annual exams.
How I will try to help others: On a daily basis I share information as it relates to HPV and cervical cancer. I share this information on social media platforms and on YouTube. I'm completing a vlog of my journey on YouTube as well as speaking at events to share information and to keep people informed about this cancer.