How my story begins: I had a regular colposcopy and pap smear for HPV-related cervical infection. In May 2022, I was diagnosed with HPV-related cervical adenocarcinoma.
Life before my diagnosis: I am a physician, an oncologist in Europe. My dream has always been to practice in the US and to advance cancer research and become a physician-scientist. So, I definitely moved in the US in 2020 and started my residency in Internal Medicine in 2021.
How I felt after diagnosis: Completely devastated. I hated that my job did not allow me to switch my brain off. I was obsessed with numbers, survival and relapse rates.
Telling my family and friends: My family lives in Italy. My partner lives with me in the US. I was diagnosed in the US so the phone communication with my mum, dad and sister (we are a super super close family) was terrible.
My treatment: I decided to come back to Italy for treatment because I needed the moral and psychological support of my family. My US program of Internal Medicine and my Mentors have been exceptional in everything and helped me with all the emotional and organizational aspects.
How I felt after treatment: I am an healthy person, so this was the first real major surgery I received. Having a radical hysterectomy at 34 is a pretty intense experience because it adds to the fear of relapse; also the impossibility to have kids in your future.
What was most difficult for me: After surgery they told me there was a necessity of radiation therapy (to complete the surgical treatment) with all the consequences connected to this kind treatment, first of all the early menopause.
What I did to help myself: I am trying to think step by step; and to become a patient instead of being an oncologist.
My life after cancer: My radiation treatment is still ongoing. But I did a promise to myself: the first day after the completion of my radiation therapy will be my day 0. A new life will start. A life made of happiness and research. And for sure I will be more able to interact with my cancer patient than before, with more compassion and empathy.
Where I am today: In Italy receiving radiation therapy.
What I want other women to know: You are not alone. I do not feel like a warrior, I do not want to fight against cancer otherwise if I lose my battle I will feel responsible for it. Instead, I trust science, screening, prevention, and treatment options. And I will transform my career in a professional and now personal challenge.