When my life changed: I had just retired from the NYC Police Department after more than 20 years as a Police Officer. My husband, who had already retired, and I had so many plans – we were going to travel, stop to smell the roses and just plain enjoy life.
Why I hadn’t been to the OB-GYN in more than 3 years: Too busy, no time, I felt fine, I hate going, I’ve been married for 10+ years – the same reasons many women have.
Why I finally went to see my doctor: I had started bleeding on and off between menstrual cycles a few months before I retired. I had ignored it, thinking that it was from stress due to leaving my job. But when I started feeling very fatigued as well, I went to the doctor.
What the doctor told me: My tumor was too big (it was already protruding from the cervix), so I was not a good candidate for a hysterectomy. My treatment was going to consist of chemotherapy, and external and internal radiation. He also brought up the fact that I would lose the ability to have children.
How I felt when I left the doctor’s office: Numb.
How my husband supported me: We took time to do a lot of crying and a lot of hugging. And then we had to recharge. So my husband, a pretty smart man in my book, sat down and began to empower himself with knowledge of the disease. Due to lack of education and misconceptions of the disease on my part, I was ashamed that I had cervical cancer due to HPV. My husband at no time questioned me or looked at me with any doubts. Instead, he began to educate me about the disease.
My treatment schedule: I had radiation every day for 8 weeks and chemo once a week for 8 weeks, followed by internal radiation. And then – my tumor was GONE and there were no cancer cells visible. The nightmare was over!!!
How I got back into circulation: My brother insisted we walk in the NYC Walk to Beat the Clock (now Pap Rally & Run), a walk for awareness and prevention of cervical cancer. Meeting Tamika and other survivors inspired me and made me so grateful for my second shot at life.
How I help other Latinas: Knowing that Latina women are twice as likely to get diagnosed with cervical cancer in comparison to non-Latina women and the death rate for them is nearly 50% higher than that of non-Latina women, I decided to do my part in sharing my story and educate Latinas on the measures to take to prevent a cervical cancer diagnosis. We as Latinas have to be up to the challenge to make our health a priority in our lives. We also need to have more discussions about our bodies and sexuality and open up the doors of communication to our daughters and sons.
Life beyond cancer: Most people would think that when you hear the words “you are cancer free,” you are able to dust yourself off and pick up where you left off.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Cancer changes your life completely.
Even though I was able to advocate by sharing my story and educating other women about cervical cancer, I fell into a deep depression finding comfort in food. Over time, I tipped the scale at 238 pounds resulting in being diagnosed with several diseases – Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I realized that I was sabotaging my second shot at life so I became determined to get healthier and made a complete U-turn. I lost 113 pounds in 14 months and I was able to reverse all of my illnesses. Today, I am stronger, healthier and happier than before cancer!