How my story begins: I started feeling pain in my lower back and thigh often. My periods became very irregular. They were hard to keep up with and the blood clots were getting bigger and more frequent. I had been to the emergency room twice for the same issue. The last time I went, I had new symptoms. I was dizzy and nauseated. The doctor looked at my cervix and told me it was inflamed. She prescribed antibiotics and sent me home. I finally scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist. It was then I found out I had a tumor growing on my cervix. This is the day I'll never forget. My gynecology told me what was going on, then asked if I wanted her to stop speaking, I said yes. I wanted to take it all in. I was 25 years old, no kids, and maybe I will never get the chance. It was quite a lot. A week later she called me in with my official results. Squamous cells. It was cancer.
Life before my diagnosis: Before my diagnosis, I was beginning to piece my life back together after being victim to gun violence. I was diagnosed with depression, PTSD, and anxiety. I spent most days working as a security guard while trying to discover myself and what I wanted to do. I was focused on bettering my mental stability.
How I felt after diagnosis: I felt broken. I was angry. I was hurt. I didn't understand why I had to experience this. It mentally wore on me. I had to once again fight, as if I had not been tired of fighting already. I was scared and nervous. I didn't know what to expect. Relationships were tested and I learned a lot about myself.
Telling my family and friends: I told my parents and significant other, but everyone else learned through a social media post after I had started prepping for treatment.
My treatment: I did 6 chemo and 30 radiation (5 brachytherapy). It was tough on me the whole time.
How I felt after treatment: I've been really tired. I had side effects that are horrible. My weight has been hard to maintain as well. Some days are better than most though. I'm happy to be taking on the healing process.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult for me was side effects of treatment. I now have a colostomy due to bowel damage. I have very achy bones, but I have life.
What I did to help myself: I researched things that were helpful, I joined groups, and I wrote constantly.
My life after cancer: These are trying times as I am still battling mental scars. Relationships are still being tested, but I am more aware of myself. I speak up more and advocate for my health care.
Where I am today: Today I am enrolled in a masters program in social work. I am battling my depression and finding the beauty in life. I believe when things happen, they come with a reason. We may not understand the reason right away, but I believe eventually it becomes clear. I am having trouble with menopausal symptoms and even my relationship sometimes, but one day at a time. I'm taking it one day at a time.
What I want other women to know: I want other women to know that they are not alone. There is no need to be embarrassed about anything. Keep fighting for yourself and your health. Be mindful of the signs your body sends you and take care of yourself.
How I will try to help others: I will try to help others by reiterating the importance of checking on ourselves often as possible. I will promote the importance of being vaccinated for HPV, being screened and Pap testing, and self-love promotion.