Cancerversary: September 2018

Age at diagnosis: 63

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: I

How my story begins: I was happy and married. We had just moved into an apartment we loved after downsizing. 2017 was a good year. I was driving around, going to craft shops for supplies and enjoying crafting.

In Jan of 2018, I noticed some blood in my underwear after sex. That happened only once. I did not think too much about it. Then, on March 3rd, 2018, after using the bathroom, I saw blood on the tissue when I wiped. I went to the ER and the doctor checked me and said I had an abrasion on my cervix. I thought that to be odd and told my husband that was not right. But I am not a Doctor. Then on March 17th, I again saw blood after using the bathroom. Again, I went to the ER at a different hospital and two Doctors just waved it on, saying it was an abrasion again. I told them this is not right and they called an OB/GYN who ordered an internal ultrasound and said the lining in my womb was thick and I probably had cancer. I was in shock.

I then made an appointment to see an OB/GYN who did a Pap smear, HPV test and a very painful biopsy of my uterus. I waited 2 weeks for results. The biopsy on my uterus came back negative and I was so happy but... my pap and HPV were showing possibly CIN lll. I forgot to say that 30 years ago I had cryosurgery for what they called irregularities on my cervix. Anyhow, I had a colposcopy done and it all started looking really bad. The HPV test also showed I had HPV type 18, which is known for causing cervical cancer. Another 2 week wait and the call came back that I had cervical cancer. I was then referred to an oncologist. I was devastated.

I went to the appointment with the oncologist and she ordered so many tests. The waiting was horrible. My husband and kids were all there with me. The test came back showing no spread to anywhere but the cervix. I had a cold knife cone biopsy and another biopsy on uterus while I was asleep. They could not get clear margins because the cervix was friable, meaning it is easily irritated and bleeds easy. That was July 5th. So I was scheduled for a radical hysterectomy on September 11, 2018. I had a Da Vinci operation and had to stay 2 days because I got really sick and could not keep anything down. About 2 weeks later, I got the all clear. They took out my uterus, cervix, tubes, ovaries, a small part of my upper vagina, tissue and 21 lymph nodes. All lymph nodes were clear; the tumor was 3.5 cm and confined to the cervix.

How I felt after diagnosis: Empty and scared. After almost 8 months of bad news, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have to be checked every 3 months for 1 year, then every 4 months for another year, and then onto every 6 months.

Telling my family and friends: It was very hard to do without crying.

My treatment: Radical hysterectomy

How I felt after treatment: Depressed, but relieved.

What was most difficult for me: All the tests and waiting, and the fear of having the operations.

What I did to help myself: Prayed.

My life after cancer: I worry it is going to come back.

Where I am today: Depressed.

What I want other women to know: Do not go even 1 year without getting an exam.

How I will try to help others: Advise them to get screened for cervical cancer and tell my kids to have my grandkids get the HPV shots.

Any additional information you'd like to share: Told my story on YouTube: https://youtu.be/csaLrhjLYTg