How my story begins: I was diagnosed with HPV in my twenties, too old for the vaccine. Over the years my HPV cleared. I had my first child via c-section and then my second. I had a Skyla IUD placed soon after and then replaced it at the 3 year mark. I had spotting intermittently since the replacement and it got frequent enough that I went in for a placement check. The ob/gyn told me that my cervix was “friable” but the IUD was intact and sent me on my way. As the months went on the bleeding got worse so I decided to have my IUD removed. The day of my appointment I started bleeding heavily with blood clots. The nurse practitioner could see the mass with her bare eye and when she called in another doctor I knew it wasn’t going to be good. A colposcopy confirmed cervical adenocarcinoma and an MRI and PET staged it as 2b.
Life before my diagnosis: I’m a wife, mother of 2 children and a pediatric ICU nurse.
How I felt after diagnosis: I was shocked and devastated. I was angry that my doctor didn’t notice it sooner. I was scared that I wouldn’t be around to see my kids (then 4 and 7) grow up.
Telling my family and friends: I called my husband at work immediately and he left instantly to come meet me. I told my parents over the phone. My mom was shocked and concerned. My dad cried. He had been treated for lung cancer 6 months prior.
My treatment: I started 8 weeks of treatment: six weeks of daily radiation with weekly Cisplatin, followed by brachytherapy for 3 days concurrently while inpatient.
What was most difficult for me: Accepting help from others was difficult for me. I’ve always been very independent and it was hard to let people bring meals and pay for a house cleaner. Also, the nausea...
What I did to help myself: I tried to get gentle exercise when I could. And I tried to take naps while my son was watching TV.
My life after cancer: In July 2019 my PET proved my to be “no evidence of disease”. I started going through radiation induced menopause and ultimately started HRT due to my age. I have chronic constipation/IBS after radiation. Using a vaginal dilator is easier with a “vibrator” but still difficult. I went back to work right away to give myself some sense of normalcy and I started feeling like myself again slowly, although forever changed by cancer.
Where I am today: I am learning how to respect my body for what it has overcome. I appreciate my family and friends so much more. I am open with my story to try to help others with their cancer screenings or through a new diagnosis.
What I want other women to know: Cervical cancer is largely preventable. The HPV vaccine is the only vaccine available that prevents cancer for men and women!
How I will try to help others: I try to help my friends and family going through their own circumstances with support and with any knowledge I can share.
I educate friends through social media on HPV and vaccination, as well as cervical cancer screening.