Cancerversary: November 2017

Age at diagnosis: 33

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: IB2

How my story begins: Life before my diagnosis was wonderful! I enjoyed it on every level. I had been married for 5 years. My son was 2.5 years old. I went back to school to fulfill my childhood dream and to get a profession I was dreaming about all my life. I was very healthy and felt like the whole world was in front of me.

My husband and I were planning to have another child and I went for Pap test just in case. The news was devastating. For the first 3 days, I had constant noise in my ears. I felt like I was watching a horror movie and it was not really happening. At the beginning, doctors told me that my stage was very, very early and it could have been possible to maintain fertility. I had hope! But when I understood that menopause was a very likely scenario, I wanted to jump from a bridge. I am glad I had the best support and I decided that I have to fight for my son and people who love me.

How I felt after diagnosis: Fear, disbelief, objection, hope, anger, anxiety! Full range of these emotions. I cried my my eyes out.

Telling my family and friends: It was easy for me to share this with my friends. I felt the responsibility of trying to save as many people as I could. I told people because I wanted them to see their doctors and make sure they were OK. I am still paranoid that members of my family may be sick.

It was very difficult to tell my mother. She is a very pessimistic person. I was afraid to hear "You are not a woman anymore," "It's a tragedy," "Your husband will leave you now," "Your health is ruined forever," etc. But surprisingly, my mother became the best support for me.

My treatment: I had a cone biopsy in August 2017. My doctor was not able to remove the whole tumor. It was 7 cm and 8 mm deep.
After that, I had a CT scan, an MRI and a PET scan that showed no cancer spread. My oncologist decided that it was a good idea to go for a radical hysterectomy and try to avoid chemo and radiation.

On 10th November 2017, I had a robot assisted radical hysterectomy and ovarian transposition (in case I need radiation later). The surgery went well. Lymph nodes that were taken out and tested before hysterectomy came out clear. The pathology report stated that tumor margins were clear and there was no microscopic invasion of cancer cells.

My surgeon told me that tumor margin on the bladder side was 5 mm, which is fine, but it is the red line. Even 1 mm less and I would have to go for radiation and chemo. Now doctors are discussing if I need low dose radiation just in case or they will just observe me. Most likely I will not get any radiation.

Surgery itself was not as bad as I thought. I almost had no pain at all. I could walk the next day. I had a catheter for 3 days after surgery. Urinating is a little bit more difficult than it used to be but running water in the bathroom really helps with the reflex.

How I felt after treatment: I was worried while waiting for the pathology report. But now I am very happy and full of future plans! I feel blessed! I want to live every second of my life and I am grateful!

What was most difficult for me: The most difficult for me is infertility and understanding that I have no womb anymore. Sometimes I feel empty and this is overwhelming. But it is just for a few minutes and then I am back on track.

What I did to help myself: I went for fertility preservation. My husband and I have 16 embryos waiting for the right time! I am so grateful that I have this chance to have another child through surrogacy. In my darkest hours, I was thinking about it. I found people all over the world with the same problem and we support each other. I got inspired by success stories. I let people help me.

I was really worried about early menopause. I went to a hormone clinic to see if I can use bio-identical hormones. They told me that menopause is the last thing I should worry about. It is fixable.

My life after cancer: My life after cancer is not like it was before. For now, it is better because I feel keenly everything that is happening to me. I have many plans. I love life and I don't want to waste any minute of it.

Where I am today: I am pretty much in the same spot where I was before cancer. I had to put my life on pause for a few months and now I am back. My family is right beside me. I have career plans. I am happy! I am grateful for the chance I was given!

What I want other women to know: It is not your fault! You don't have to feel guilty! And you don't have to be ashamed of cervical cancer! Don't let anyone make you feel this way!

How I will try to help others: I told my story on social media. I will inform people about cervical cancer (and other types of cancer caused by HPV) and the HPV vaccine.