How my story begins: At 34 years old, I had a successful career and a spouse with whom I wanted to have a biological child. Travelling abroad with backpacks was at the center of our lives. I was alone at the airport leaving on a business trip when I learned that I had cervical cancer.
The cancer was an in situ cancer caused by HPV infection type 16. At the time of diagnosis, the gynecologist was convinced that a "simple" conization would completely eliminate the small one millimeter lesion. I had normal Pap tests each year since my teenage years, but the Pap test did not detect my lesion. It was located too deeply in the cervix.
How I felt after diagnosis: For a long time, I asked myself: why me? But a friend suggested that I rephrase the question to: why not me? If why not me, why not you? Any sexually active person is at risk of developing cancer related to HPV infection.
Telling my family and friends: Unfortunately, the consequences of cancer directly affected my family and friends. For me, the hardest part was seeing the people I love having to endure the difficulties associated with my illness while feeling helpless.
My treatment: As of today, I have had to undergo: a conization, a radical trachelectomy, 6 treatments of chemotherapy (cisplatin) and 35 treatments of radiotherapy (external) concomitant. I had a complete hysterectomy, hospitalization due to pelvic abscess, biopsy and lung surgery. My last treatment was a series of 6 treatments of chemotherapy (carbo-taxol).
How I felt after treatment: My most significant side effects were general anxiety and chronic disabling fatigue.
What was most difficult for me: The need for me to navigate the complex world of disease on a daily basis and to remain informed about the different possibilities related to experimental treatments and clinical trials.
What I did to help myself: I enjoy every moment. I have completely changed my lifestyle and now I place my family and my friends at the heart of my life. I meditate and read many works of Buddhist philosophy. I try to fully live out my passion: travel!
My life after cancer: Being considered incurable, cancer will possibly always be present in my life. I have to learn to live with this "chronic" disease and accept the fact that I will probably die from this disease in a more or less distant future.
Where I am today: Despite the diagnosis, I remain optimistic and I still have many dreams and plans for the future. And my greatest accomplishment would be to become the adoptive mom of a little angel from Vietnam.
I believe a lot in science and I am convinced that treatment will be soon available to turn cervical cancer into a chronic disease. I always have hope and this is what is most important.
What I want other women to know: In my opinion, we do not sufficiently address the consequences of different gynecological cancers and their related treatments. For example: forced sterility, early menopause, difficulties in sexuality, numerous physical changes, major gastrointestinal and urinary problems, extreme fatigue, etc. - all of this without accounting for the psychological impact of such information. The anxiety and deep anguish are now part of my daily life.
How I will try to help others: By sharing my story as much as possible to raise awareness of the importance of immunization for both boys and girls.
Also, by promoting the exceptional and free aid that the "Cancer Commons" organization brings for various treatments that exist and clinical trials available for people with advanced cancer.
Any additional information you'd like to share: Do not hesitate to take your own medical record in order to be well informed and to participate actively in decisions with your healthcare team.