How my story begins: In June I started having irregular bleeding and I automatically was suspicious about it because my period has never been irregular. I've always had regular periods, every 28 days like clockwork, which is how I ways knew when I was pregnant. Lol.. no period.. I know there's a baby coming Lol.
So the first time it happened it stopped a couple days later so I let it go but in July when it happened again it was just after my period, after my husband and I were intimate and there was a lot of blood! So by now I'm in a panic. This definitely wasn't normal so I went to the ER and they told me there was no cause for concern.
Fast forward the next few months and I would just bleed randomly, to the point I had to start wearing pads every day because I never knew when I was going to bleed. There were several clots and some days I would sit on the toilet for up to 45 minutes because I was bleeding. It was definitely not normal. So I went to my primary care physician and told her my symptoms and she tested me for Hyperthyroidism, which came back positive and after being referred to an endocrinologist I was diagnosed with Graves Disease and given meds.
I was describing my bleeding to the Endocrinologist who suggested I still go to my gynecologist because she agreed the bleeding wasn't normal. So I finally got in to see a gynecologist who was new to me and after a pap was told my cervix felt abnormal and enlarged and sent me for an ultrasound.
I looked at my chart online and saw the results to my pap and the first thing that caught my eye was a mass! I panicked but I couldn't get in to see him again for 2 weeks.
So after a grueling 2 weeks I'm in his office and he walks in and blurts out, "So its cervical cancer and I'm referring you to the Levine Cancer Institute, they will take care of you" and walked out. No further explanation of my results.. nothing.
Life before my diagnosis: I am a mom of 5 biological, 3 bonus and 3 dogs. I am a Grandmother of 1 beautiful Gganddaughter and she calls me "Grapes" and I have been married to my husband for 12 years.
I am a One on One for the Department of Exceptional Children and I work at Piedmont Charter School under Support, Inc. My life was pretty simple.. wife, mom, work. I love to travel, I love music and movies and I dabble a little in creative writing - short stories and poetry. My ultimate goal is to mentor youth, preferably girls and to make an impact one person at a time. I would love to someday become an author. Previous to my diagnosis the only other medical issue I had was asthma.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was in a state of shock and disbelief. When you hear "Cancer" you automatically think negative. I was scared and confused and angry because he didn't take the time to talk to me or explain anything.
Luckily I got into the Cancer Institute rather quickly, the very next day and my Oncologist, Dr. Casablanca, explained everything to me.
She laid out a plan and told me it was treatable and I felt better. Now it was time to work.
Telling my family and friends: I am an open book and I don't hide or sugercoat anything. My closest friends are back home in NJ (I live in NC now) so I called them and told them and I sent a text to all other close family and friends. My husband and I sat our children down amd told them and reassured them that we were ready for this fight and that I was going to do whatever it took.
I debated on telling my story on social media. I wanted to finish all the treatment first and share my testimony after I was done but then I realized that my story, my journey, could possibly help others and so I wanted everyone in my life to be a part of my journey. I told my story on social media.
My treatment: My treatment plan was 5 weeks of external radiation, 5 weeks of chemo and 5 rounds of bracheotherapy.
How I felt after treatment: After treatment I felt relieved, accomplished, and ready to get back to myself.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult for me was being in the hospital. After my biopsy, my tumor was angry and it kept bleeding and I had to be admitted into the hospital. I stayed for 2 days, went home for 3 and was back in the hospital where I ended up staying for 8 days. I had multiple blood transfusions because my iron kept dropping. I was still bleeding even though "packing" was administered. If you dont know what packing is be glad! It is the most uncomfortable thing to go through and I had the most packing done than any other patient according to my treatment team. " Packing" for those that dont know is a procedure where they take a roll of gauze and put medicine on the end of it and push it into your vagina until you can't take anymore to attempt to clot the bleeding.
I was in the hospital for a total of 10 days - the most I had ever been away from my kids and the longest I had ever been in a hospital. My arms were bruised from all of the IVs and I had to start radiation while I was in the hospital because I wouldn't stop bleeding. My diagnosis was confirmed Nov 9, 2022 while I was in the hospital and I spent mine and my husband's birthdays in the hospital. I was scared and alone and depressed. That was the worst experience for me.
What I did to help myself: I stayed positive. I spoke life into myself. I prayed. I leaned on my family A LOT and I leaned on my support system. I did research and started to educate myself. I stayed hopeful and never once thought I couldnt beat this.
Where I am today: Today... well my 9.8cm tumor shrunk to 3.2 after my external radiation treatments and chemo and after the 5 rounds of brachytherapy the tumor is gone! I havent been declared NED or "Cancer" free as of yet but my PET is scheduled for April 2023 so I am still in it to win it!
I am going back to work on Monday and am ready to resume my life. Cancer is a part of my life now, I am forever changed but absolutely for the better.
What I want other women to know: What I want other women to know is that we are fierce beings! We are strong and there is power in our voices, in our stories, in our journeys. Listen to your bodies!! Advocate for yourself and for others! Speak up! Show up and Show Out! YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS!
How I will try to help others: This month I had a Health fair/Pop Up Shop to bring cervical cancer awareness to my community and get the information out there. I plan to do this event every year. I plan to create a support group page for those that may be hidden, silent but that need to talk about their journey. And I plan to keep spreading awareness.