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 completed. The Pap came back abnormal and my GYN scheduled me for a biopsy in three months. He explained that at times there are abnormalities and your body will correct itself. In February 2018, the biopsy was completed and 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 to 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 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 March 2018. This was a procedure that my oncologist believed would remove all of the cancerous cells out of my body. 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.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get chemo and radiation treatment in 2018 because of problems with my 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 again in April 2019 but no scans were performed.
I received my first set of scans in May 2019 which identified that there was a reoccurrence of cervical cancer. The oncologist indicated that the cancer was within a small lymph node of the pelvis area, but treatable. August 2019 I began radiation and chemo treatment, I concluded radiation and chemo treatment October 2019 (which included six weeks of treatment).
I had my first NED (No Evidence of Disease) December 2019.
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: I consider myself a Cervivor Change Agent. I am sharing my story with my community, encouraging them to keep up with their exams and be co-tested for HPV and to research the HPV vaccine. I believe my voice, along with the other Cervivor community sisters, can assist in ending cervical cancer.
What I want other women to know: If you are every diagnosed with cervical cancer or positive for HPV you are not alone. It's actually more common that you would think. Please take action to be treated immediately. If you have not be diagnosed or tested positive for HPV, keep up with your exams, get co-tested for HPV, and research the HPV vaccine. These simple measures could change your life.
How I will try to help others: I believe that knowledge is power. That being said, I share information with those closest to me and on my social media platforms, concerning HPV and cervical cancer. I am not ashamed to share information because I know that this could decrease the current trajectory of cervical cancer. I also remain active with the Cervivor community and other organizations within my community who focus on cervical cancer prevention and the HPV vaccine.