How my story begins: I was diagnosed in June 2007 at 30 years of age with Stage 1A1 Cervical Cancer, even though I have always kept my Pap smear appointments. At the time, I was in nursing school studying to be an RN.
How I felt after diagnosis: The diagnosis was devastating for me, as I thought I was doing what I was supposed to by having my annual Paps every year on time. I remember the doctor saying it was possibly cancer and we need to send you for a biopsy, but it was like an out-of-body experience. Her mouth was moving, but the room seemed to be spinning. I didn’t have any children and I felt hurt by the thought I possibly wouldn’t be able to have a child.
Telling my family and friends: The first family member I called to tell, I couldn’t get the news out because I was crying. I told them at different times and I just said I have cervical cancer. I must have surgery to remove the cancer and I hope that this treatment will allow me to have a child or children.
My treatment: I had a trachelectomy, which would give me a chance to conceive. However, there were no guarantees that I would be able to conceive or carry a baby to full term and would more than likely need to seek fertility help to conceive.
How I felt after treatment: I felt confident after treatment. I wasn’t in a rush to start a family.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult thing for me was finding support and women who have experienced what I was going through and about to go through. There were no local support groups for cervical cancer and I didn’t know anyone in my family or outside our family who could share their experience with me. I found support through Internet searches, which led me to the NCCC-National Cervical Cancer Coalition. I attended the first annual conference and made friends with some great women who were survivors.
What I did to help myself: I had one day of crying and feeling sorry and said that’s it! My first option of treatment was to have a hysterectomy, which would have left me unable to have kids, so I asked my doctor if I had any other options. A trachelectomy was explained to me and I said let’s do this and get this cancer out! I encourage my co-workers, family, and friends to speak with their doctor about HPV vaccination. I wish I would have had the opportunity to be vaccinated and not have to share my experience.
My life after cancer: The great news is that in August 2009, I had a son without fertility help, and I’ve continued my annual appointments. I went back to work with no restraints.
Where I am today: Today, I am a ten-year survivor with no recurrences. I share my testimony with cervical cancer every chance I get. I have a healthy, handsome 7-year-old son. I’m into fitness and eating healthier. I enjoy meeting new people, photography and spending time with my family.
What I want other women to know: I have come to understand that not all women are diagnosed as early, their options of treatment are different, their outcomes are different, and they may not have great support systems. These reasons, along with my own battle, gave me the courage and encouragement to start Walk 2 Inspire, a non-profit to raise awareness of HPV/Cervical Cancer and a support.
My message is Early Detection Saves Lives! I’m a living testimony. I encourage women to please have your cervical cancer screening and be your own advocate for your health. Also, please educate young women about the importance of their health, as well as the importance of getting the HPV vaccine, and ask your physician questions. No question is stupid except the question not asked.
How I will try to help others: I host free local seminars in January, Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, with information on HPV/Cervical Cancer. I speak with people locally and share my story and I support any newly diagnosed women or women having biopsies to rule out cervical cancer.