How my story begins: It all started with a pap done in May. After coming back abnormal I had to go in for a colposcopy. The doctor assured me I had nothing to worry about because I was young and had no symptoms. But I was a nervous wreck; looking back I don’t know if it’s because deep down I knew or because six years prior I had lost a sister to cervical cancer.
The day of the colposcopy was the initial day of this nightmare I was about to spiral down into. There were two doctors in the room. I was bleeding out of nowhere and they ended up taking five different biopsies from my cervix. I left the office that day crying because I could see in their faces it was serious.
Life before my diagnosis: Life before diagnosis was a dream. I am self-employed, married with three beautiful children ages 17, 8 and 6. I had the perfect balance of work and stay-at-home. I worked out 5-6 times a week and had been weight training for the past six years. Nothing could get in my way. I was where I always dreamed of being with the picture perfect family.
How I felt after diagnosis: Fast forward to July 11 and I get a call around 7pm and it’s one of the doctor’s to confirm my fear. They found cancer in my cervix. She explained alot of things but to be honest I went blank. I was frozen. The air was sucked out of me. I walked downstairs to my husband to let him know. We were both in disbelief.
I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do nothing but think about my kids and wether they were going to be raised without a mama. Causing them pain and heartbreak is all I thought about. I had failed them as a mother.
Telling my family and friends: It took me a while to tell friends and family. I wanted to wait for the staging and treatment decision. My family had been through the trauma of losing my sister to the same cancer and a part of me was sparing them the pain as long as I could. I finally told them beginning of November, four days before my scheduled hysterectomy. I am the “strong” leader” in my family so this situation had me beyond my comfort zone. It broke my heart to see them sad.
My treatment: I had a radical hysterectomy and my ovaries were left in. I started 25 rounds of external radiation with 1 weekly dose of Cisplatin the end of November. My margins after surgery were clear but due to the tumor being a little bigger than 4cm, my oncologist suggested I get the rad/chemo therapy to ensure it doesn’t come back.
How I felt after treatment: I am halfway there and personally the chemo has been the hardest for me. I am tired all the time but I get two days where I feel good and thats the weekend with my kiddos.
What was most difficult for me: Accepting the diagnosis. Nobody wants to accept something like cancer! Oh also even saying the word. The whole thing was so hard on my heart and my mind, I still struggle with it because it’s a scar I will live with forever.
What I did to help myself: I continued doing things I previously enjoyed like getting together with friends and going to the gym. Not a single part of me wanted to be there but I’m glad I went afterwards. Another thing was praying and reading the bible. I have been Catholic my whole life but that’s all I was, a believer. Reading the bible, praying, going to mass and joining bible study have helped me tremendously. It is because of God I have remained so strong even in the darkest times where I had very ugly thoughts.
My life after cancer: To say I'm scared is an understatement. This diagnosis changed the person I used to be forever. I am a whole new person with a new perspective to life. I don’t take anything for granted and I always look at the cup half full.
Where I am today: I feel very blessed to have found this at an early stage. I want to take my experience and help every woman I can. I pray often to be led to the right path to use this experience in a positive way. I live everyday like "what a BLESSING it is".
The reality of it is death is inevitable but only God knows when that time will come. Not even a cancer diagnosis can determine that. With the world we live in now, waking up each day, keeping your kids safe at school or on the drive home is already a blessing and that is where all my focus is on. Every blessing that surrounds me.
What I want other women to know: You did nothing wrong. I felt guilty and blamed myself and felt like the biggest failure to have to put my kids and family through this. Everyone surrounding you reacts different. Don’t focus on them but focus on yourself and on what you need. If you need the space take it, if you need the company also take it. And know that kids are so resilient and can be your biggest motivation. You are going through something that is hard. Any emotions and thoughts are all justified. You have the right to express any form you want.
How I will try to help others: I have always been a very private person. It’s hard for me to open up and talk about my experiences. But this is not something I can stay quiet about. And even if it helps one single girl out there to make sure she never misses a pap then that is enough to get my story out.