How my story begins: I started noticing my periods were getting worse, after a life of mild, practically unnoticeable cycles. I would bleed profusely through pads and tampons within hours. I felt fatigued all the time and had bad cramps. I ended up in the ER due to severe pelvic pain and they could not find anything acutely wrong so referred me to a gynecologist. My gyno thought I had symptoms of endometriosis and performed a PAP as well as a exploratory and LEEP procedure. My PAP and other tests came back abnormal and she did indeed find endometriosis; she wanted to do a full hysterectomy which I was ok with, as long as it took away my pain. As procedure goes, she did a colposcopy and found cancerous cells. I was then referred to an oncologist at the PU Stephenson Cancer center here in Oklahoma who conducted further testing and determined I had stage 3c cervical cancer and my lymph nodes were affected as well.
Life before my diagnosis: I was a full time Elementary school teacher, mother of 3 adult bonus children, fiancé to the most wonderful man and basic runner of the household.
How I felt after diagnosis: After finding out I had cancer, I was lost and overwhelmed and scared. This could not be happening to me!! I had guidance from the supportive care clinic as well as the nurses and my oncologist. Not to mention, I have the most wonderful support system from family and friends. So, I put on my battle gear and went through a 56 day treatment plan of chemotherapy, radiation as well as internal radiation.
Telling my family and friends: I told my fiancé and parents as soon as I found out. I am a very open person and need support from others to get through serious issues. Most were devastated as I was, but assured me I was not alone and they were there to fight with me. This brought me so much comfort and strength to push through this hard time.
My treatment: I started a 56 day treatment plan early in January of 2022 that lasted until March 17, 2022. The plan consisted of Cisplatin (my chemo drug) once a week on Tuesday. I had to get labs drawn every Monday before my treatment. I also had radiation treatments 5 days a week, Monday thru Friday and 5 internal radiation treatments towards the end where I was sedated and had radiation directly targeting my lemon size tumor.
How I felt after treatment: After treatment, I was tired, worn out mentally, physically and emotionally, but my final PET/CT had shown a significant decrease in the size of my tumor as well as my lymph nodes were no longer visible. This made me hopeful that I had beat this disease and in my follow up scan 3 months later when the radiation had left my body I would be clear!
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult part of that process was radiation. I had always been such a healthy and strong person throughout my life and to see my body deteriorate and not be capable of things I once was, was hard. The pain in my pelvic region was so uncomfortable, but not horrid. Mentally I struggled with not being able to function like I used to.
What I did to help myself: I changed my diet, I tried to exercise as much as I could, even if it was just walking around the driveway or light yoga sessions. I saw an occupational therapist who helped me stretch and even taught me how to crochet!
My life after cancer: After my first treatment, I was hopeful. I was quickly thrown into menopause at 38 years old and the hot flashes were awful! I worked with pain management who gave me medicines to help with menopause as well as anxiety and depression. I tried to continue my life and get back to normal. Unfortunately, I was still so tired everyday that it was sometimes a challenge. I learned to give my body grace and time to heal as well as worked on patience.
Where I am today: Today, I unfortunately have stage 4 cervical cancer that has spread to my lungs and other organs, as well as my face. I had my check up PET/CT on July 5, 2022 and was told that it had metastasized. I am devastated and scared and overwhelmed and going into unknown territory. My first chemotherapy treatment did not make me lose my hair or even feel that terrible. Of course there were days of nausea and pain, but I pushed through. Now, I had a port put in yesterday and will begin three different chemotherapy's as well as a white cell blocker. My oncologist said, and I want to preface this with I asked her to tell me the harsh reality, that this treatment will most likely prolong my life a couple of years. But I am so dang strong and ready for this battle too. I cry and I am terrified and I don’t want to die so young. But I am going to fight like hell and pray to God to give me strength.
What I want other women to know: I want other women to know that this disease can be deadly and painful and scary. And that it is ok to ask questions. It is ok and not shameful to talk to and even bug your doctor with questions or repeat exams. ALWAYS get your PAP tests!!!! Always! And if you notice something off, because we all know our bodies, don’t wait. Don’t wait to see a doctor or gynecologist. This disease can spread so fast, and you do not want it to be too late!! Please be aware of your body and your instincts. It’s better to know and to get help early. Cervical cancer can also easily be cured! But trust me ladies, you do not want to be in my position.
How I will try to help others: My goal is to spread awareness about cervical cancer. I want to talk to and help other women in anyway I can. I want to be a safe space for women of all ages to ask questions because I am willing to be completely open and honest. If that can help safe just one life, then my job in this world will be fulfilled.
Any additional information you'd like to share: I want to just empower women and let them know to not be afraid or ashamed. Get the help you need.