Cancerversary: February 2007

Age at diagnosis: 30

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: II

Cervivor School Graduation: 2017

How my story begins: My life pre-cancer was carefree. I always thought stuff like that doesn't happen to me.

After intercourse, I had persistent bleeding that would not stop. Eventually, I went to the doctor and after an ultrasound and a Pap test, the doctor diagnosed me with stage IIb cervical cancer.

How I felt after diagnosis: When the doctor confirmed that it was Cervical Cancer, my life came crashing down around me. I was concerned because I still wanted another baby. My daughter was still so young and I didn't want to die. But through my faith, family and friends, I found the courage to fight it.

Telling my family and friends: As I sat in the doctor's office all alone, wondering if this was really happening to ME, I thought of how I would let my family know that another family member had the big C. So I phoned my husband (boyfriend at that stage) and told him my diagnosis (with lots of tears, I must add). Then I phoned my sister who came with me to inform my mom and mother-in-law. And finally, I told my 8 year old daughter with lots and lots of tears.

My treatment: I received what was supposed to be 6 weeks of chemo, but due to excessive vomiting, I only managed 5 weeks. After another checkup, doctors found my tumor small enough to remove. And in Feb of 2007, I had a radical hysterectomy. In May 2007, doctors found a recurrence in what was left of my vaginal canal. I then received radiation treatment for another few weeks. I was hospitalized in isolation for two weeks as my white blood count was too low and my immune system was deteriorating. But after all the radiation treatments, I went home and eventually went back to work.

In March of 2008 I was not able to defecate and ended up back in hospital where the doctors discovered that the cancer had spread from my into my colon. My stools eventually started coming out of what was left of my vagina. Doctors then recommended I have a stoma bag. After further tests, the doctors sent me home with lots of morphine and the sad news that there was nothing further they could do for me and they gave me about 6 months to live. At that stage, I developed a fistula and could no longer control my urine and now use incontinent pads.

How I felt after treatment: After the chemo treatment, I had lost my hair and sooò much weight that I felt ugly. After the radiation, i could not sleep as my skin was on fire and the only way I could get some sleep was to sleep in a bath of water. After the hysterectomy and stoma operations, I no longer felt like a woman.

What was most difficult for me: What was and is most difficult for me is that I can never be intimate and never bare another child again. I have also become extremely paranoid and imagine I constantly have a bad smell.

What I did to help myself: I try to find the humour in my situation and talk about my sounds and smells before other people comment on it. I also put my cancer out of my mind and live life one day at a time.

Where I am today: After losing my house and job due to my cancer, it was my main purpose to re-invent myself and 11 years after my diagnosis I finally succeeded. I am still not intimate in anyway, even though I have been told there are other ways. I have learned to deal with the fact that I am only a woman in name and nothing else.

What I want other women to know: Love yourself first. Cervical cancer is preventable.

How I will try to help others: By creating an awareness for woman to get checked out before it is too late.