Location: Iowa

Cancerversary: June 2016

Age at diagnosis: 24

Diagnosis: Endocervical adenocarcinoma

Stage of cancer: III

Cervivor School Graduation: 2017

How my story begins: I had been going to Planned Parenthood for well woman exams since I was young. It was my yearly physical and Pap test time! I received abnormal test results back and was scheduled for a colposcopy. They tried their best to attain biopsies but I was in such excruciating pain they decided to refer me to an oncologist. I was in denial as to what was happening. That day I got the news that I had cancer. I also tested positive for HPV16.

Life before my diagnosis: I was your typical 20-something who loved to party with her friends. I was working at a good paying job and I had made the decision to go back to school for social work because that’s where my true passion is.

How I felt after diagnosis: I was in shock. I went to the appointment alone because I didn’t think it was going to be anything serious. I was wrong! I never went to another appointment alone after that! After the shock wore off, I was extremely sad. I took a couple days to let it process and then I was ready to kick some butt!

Telling my family and friends: This was the hardest thing for me to do. I remember calling my parents first and crying hysterically. I had to call my boss to let her know I wasn’t going to be back. I had to go home to my boyfriend at the time and tell him that all the dreams we discussed just a couple nights before would be gone. I told my best friends and made an announcement on Facebook the day after. I didn’t want any confusion going on. Little did I know, this was where my support team was!

My treatment: The first time I was diagnosed, I underwent five weeks of Cisplatin chemotherapy and six weeks of external radiation, as well as 4 treatments of vaginal brachytherapy (internal radiation). I was in remission on August 10, 2015. I had a 3-month check-up and they discovered spots in my lungs. After a couple of biopsies and other tests, they concluded the spots to be the same cervical cancer cells. I went to a new provider for a second opinion and we decided on a regimen of cisplatin, paclitaxel, and bevacizumab. I went through many trials and tribulations receiving this chemotherapy every 3 weeks. My neutrophils got so low that treatment was extended. I lost weight and my hair. After 3 treatments, I was scanned and they were NED, completely clean. I unfortunately had to go through 3 more treatments as a preventive measure. The next scan remained NED.

How I felt after treatment: It’s been a long road of recovery. I was frustrated with not gaining weight back right away. I was happy that I didn’t have to have any more treatments as they made me sick. I even had a 5-day hospitalization due to a colitis flare up. It was a scary time! There was always a fear that the cancer would come back. Now I’m feeling happier and healthier!

What was most difficult for me: Realizing the seriousness of metastatic disease. I wasn’t ready to die. I had lost so many family members already to this kind of disease.

What I did to help myself: I had a couple of days of self-reflection, which I think is crucial. I had an amazing support system! When I felt pent up emotions, I would write in my journal. Creative outlets were by far a benefit!

My life after cancer: I am a happier, more grateful person. I don’t take things for granted and I look forward to every single day! I have come to learn that cancer is both a blessing and a curse.

Where I am today: I celebrated a cancerversary while at Cervivor School and I remain happy and healthy! I’m still pursuing my Social Work degree and I’m doing it well!

What I want other women to know: You are never alone and it is NOT your fault!

How I will try to help others: I will be pursuing my Master’s in Social Work and would like to put my concentration in the Oncology Social Work field. There’s nothing more I want to do than work with cancer patients and their families!