My treatment: Radical hysterectomy
When I first knew something was wrong: I had always been a go-getter, someone who had time to work 60+ hours a week, but did not have time for “important things” like getting my Pap smear (like I should have). When I began to have intermittent bleeding problems and pelvic pain, I finally made an appointment to see my ob/gyn. I knew something was wrong when I experienced severe bleeding for 3 days following a simple pelvic exam.
My biggest fear: My mom had died in 2006 just 2 weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, and I had a real fear that the same thing would happen to me.
Getting my diagnosis: I was tested for HPV, but due to the bleeding, the results were inconclusive. I eventually needed a cone biopsy because of the bleeding. I remember the day I was sitting in my doctor’s office, scared of what I would hear, but needing to know. He just looked up and said “I’m sorry, but you have cancer, and I will need to refer you to a different doctor.” I was shocked, not sure how to respond to that, and worse yet, how I was going to make it through the rest of the day at work.
The first thing I did after I found out: I went to McDonalds and bought 20 ice cream sundaes to break the news to my co-workers. I have no idea who I was trying to soothe, them or me (especially because I am a crisis worker through Riverside County Mental Health).
Getting through treatment: Luckily, I had a lot of support, and people who were willing to help me through the next few months. I made it through surgery, and did not have to do chemo or radiation. I do continue to struggle with some ongoing complications from my surgery (namely lymphedema, bladder problems, and scar tissue which will require future surgery to correct).
What I am grateful for: I am very grateful to be alive today! This whole experience has taught me so much more that I could have bargained for. It taught me patience, with those I work with, as I was given patience and comfort when I needed it, and it has taught to really listen to the needs of others. Besides my job with mental health, I also work in a hospital-based program in which many people have either dealt with cancer, or are currently being treated. I now have the ability to give back and share my experience with them and advocate for them, offering them resources and hope. This is why I feel it is important to share our stories with others. This is where I got my hope.