How my story begins: I was 28, a dog mom living with my boyfriend and his two boys. My boyfriend is a widower and lost his wife to breast cancer. Before meeting him, I had recently lost my grandmother to breast cancer. Since losing my grandmother and seeing what my boyfriend and his kids went through, I started advocating about breast cancer, that early detection and going to your yearly doctor appointments can save lives.
I also have struggled with mental health issues having been diagnosed with major depression, severe general and social anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder (before meeting boyfriend). So I also would advocate about how important one's mental health is and not to be ashamed to get help through therapy, counseling, medications etc. I am always putting other people before myself and was okay with putting myself out there for people to see my struggle but for them to also see my growth. I stood behind everything I advocated for.
When I moved in with my boyfriend and after COVID, I had to change doctors because I moved two hours away. I met a new doctor and she said she also did women's health and behavioral health all in one office. I hit the jackpot. I had all my records transferred, got my yearly appointment screenings set up and life was great. October came around and I had my first pap test with my new doctor and I had mentioned that I would like a mammogram and that my insurance would approve it only if my doctor felt it was medically necessary - I needed her to sign a paper saying that even though I am not 40 I still should get it done for my mental well being. Side note: my boyfriend's wife was diagnosed at 28 and passed at 29 from breast cancer and my grandmother was on my father's side and was in her 60's when she was diagnosed.
My new doctor agreed and after my pap she said everything looked great. I did have some left over blood (I just got off my period like a day prior) but she would expect to see me in another year. I also got blood work done because my work insurance program needed to have it done once a year. The doctor said she would call or leave a message about my blood work but was confident everything was fine since I am a young, healthy lady.
Three days later I received a voicemail from my doctor and I called her back as I was leaving work. The nurse answered and was very calm and said my blood work looks really good however my pap came back abnormal with high risk HPV and AGC cells were present. She said my doctor believes its just from the left over period blood that could have effected it but would like me to follow up and have a colposcopy with an OBGYN.
After lots of waiting and missteps from my new primary care doctor’s office, I ended up going with a new OBGYN who asked if I had any questions about the procedure and I was like uhhh yeah, what is a colposcopy and how in the heck did I get HPV? I’d been with the same person for three years and before I was with him I had asked my last OBGYN to do an STD screening for every STD possible and they all came back negative.
I’m in tears sobbing and the doctor came in and gave me a hug immediately and said everything is going to be okay and we don't have to do this procedure today but I said no and to please do what we can today because I need answers and my anxiety was getting the best of me. She explained everything to me and said after reading what my doctor put in the referral that it was very vague and she didn't state where the AGC cells were or came from. So she would do a total of three biopsy: endometrial biopsy, uterine biopsy and then the colposcopy.
My doctor called and she said that she was very shocked of my results and she said the medical term for my diagnosis is Endocervical Adenocarcinoma in Situ. Which means these aren't possible cancerous cells but they are cancerous cells.
Life before my diagnosis: Fun, spontaneous, adventurous, loved to do anything that got my adrenaline pumping like concerts. I'd like to say I was living life to the fullest.
How I felt after diagnosis: Empty, alone, hopeless, and confused. Those are just a few words that stick out. I just started doubting everything. I always had in my mind that I didn't really want children but if I did, my cut off was to have them by 30 because my mom did have cervical displysia in her early 30s and had to have a hysterectomy after. But after getting my diagnosis I was like maybe I do want a kid and I don't want cancer to take that away from me.
I contradicted that with I didn't want to hurry up and have a kid because I have cancer. I also went from being a very open person to very private. I told my close friends, family and work what was going on but I had asked everybody to not talk about it. I am thankful that the cancer was caught early and so little but I'm still in disbelief. I don't feel indestructible anymore, I'm very paranoid about my surroundings and realize how quickly someones life can change. I am motivated and want to share my story and BEAT cancer and have a success story but again, I'm not ready yet and feeling very reserved. This is actually the first platform of sharing my story and man it feels good.
Telling my family and friends: My mom found out first with her own eyes because I sent my medical results online to her so she kinda broke the news to me. She then asked if it was okay to tell my immediate family that we need to let know. I asked her if she would tell my grandmother and my pregnant sister. I was comfortable enough to tell my other family members but couldn't bear hearing my grandmother cry and didn't wanna stress my pregnant sister out. My mom said she would tell my aunt and uncle on her side as well.
I called my dad and he was at the gas station so I told him to call me when he got home and was with my step mom. He called me and said I was on speaker phone and i said it's not good news but I'm not gonna beat around it and I have cervical cancer. The phone went silent. My dad said he thought this was going to be good news but I said no and explained everything and he said he had my back. Then I spoke to my sister and I could hear her the shaking in her voice but she said 'okay whats next?'
When I went back to work I asked my team leader to call a meeting and I told everybody at work that if they believe in prayer to pray and if they don't just send positivity my way as I have cervical cancer. Everybody was very supportive and said not to worry about work and some even came forward and told me success stories from someone in their family etc.
My boyfriend is very private but he too was going to start missing work to attend every appointment with me so he just told his family that I'm preparing to have a hysterectomy. After missing Thanksgiving dinner because of my cold knife cone biopsy his family put two and two together and have been very supportive, offering to take the boys and keep them occupied so we can take care of this privately. I started a website that I would put my updates on and everybody has supported me so well. I had a little nail polish party and everybody bought teal nails and is sending me pictures with supportive and motivational quotes to hang up in my room. Truly everybody is going above and beyond and i can't be more thankful for my support system .
My treatment: My treatment so far is going to be full hysterectomy. The Da Vinci robot is going to make a few incisions around my belly button and I will have a 6 - 8 week recovery time. My doctor is going to do an ultrasound of my ovaries just to double check but I am keeping those so I don't go straight into menopause. If anything is uncovered during surgery than it could turn into a radical or bilateral hysterectomy and we will go from there. However my doctor believes I will not need chemo or radiation. Thank goodness.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult for me is wondering if I could've done anything different. Wondering if my previous medical team failed me by not doing an HPV test earlier. It irritates me that the medical board says a pap test should be done every 3 - 5 years and HPV testing doesn't need to be preformed until the age of 30. When I asked to be tested for all the STDs back in 2019 they didn't test me for HPV, why would HPV not be included. I feel if I would've been tested then we could've caught it before it turned into cancer.
Even tho I never desired children, I fear that I will regret it later; its also sinking in that I will never get to celebrate Mothers Day, I will never be a mother. Again even tho I didn't desire children, those are hard facts to accept after having to make a decision. I have a good relationship with my boyfriend's kids and I've been the "mother figure". The youngest knows his mom is in heaven but he says I'm his mom on earth and that makes me feel really good.
What I did to help myself: I have been open with my support system and I'm not scared to put exactly how I'm feeling out there. My pregnant sister is getting ready to have her baby in February and she asked me to be in the delivery room so I can experience child birth. I have a very good relationship with my counselor and psychiatrist. I enjoy reading success stories and have been trying to do some research on HPV. I enjoy looking at pictures of everybody wearing teal. I have joined some support groups also.
Where I am today: Waiting for my hysterectomy. Trying to stay positive and active. Making sure my friends and family members are scheduling and going to routine doctor's visits.
What I want other women to know: REQUEST yearly PAP and HPV testing. Not just visual appointments but actually get the tests done. AGE DOES NOT MATTER. If insurance gives you a hard time give them an even harder time. Make yourself a priority and don't let the cost of testing or appointments defer you. Not having children doesn't make you any less of a woman. Childless people in society are needed and wanted to keep society going and can contribute the same if not more to society.