How my story begins: Life before my diagnosis was great. I had 3 kids, working part-time as a massage therapist and staying home the other days with my youngest children. I was weight training and working out 4 to 5 days a week and living a pretty active lifestyle with my family.
I had always gotten regular Pap smears. I had one smear in 2009 that came back for abnormal cells. I went on to have a colposcopy in which nothing was found. I continued my smears every 6 months as a precaution for 2 years then went back to the yearly. When I had gotten pregnant with my son in the beginning of 2014, I had a Pap during my routine prenatal exam. My son was born in October. By surprise I got pregnant with my youngest only 9 months later. My doctor told me I could skip the Pap because the recommendation was now every 3 years. A few months after my youngest son was born, I started noticing some watery discharge that never let up. I chocked it up to breastfeeding and hormones. When my period returned after 10 months of breastfeeding, it was heavy and painful, so I again figured it would just take time to get back to normal. It never did. I finally decided to call my gyn and make an appointment to be seen. She then did a Pap smear and an HPV test (which I had never had before) and told me my cervix was "turning inside out" and that would explain the discharge and the heavy painful periods are often just a result of getting older. My Pap smear came back with high grade changes and I went for a colposcopy and LEEP. When we started the procedure, the doctor decided to do a cone biopsy because she thought she could see and get all the abnormal cells that day.
How I felt after diagnosis: A few days after my biopsy, I received a call from my doctor telling me I had cervical cancer and HPV 18 and she was referring me to an oncologist. I was so terrified. I immediately thought it meant death. My Mom had died 2 years prior from lung cancer. So I immediately thought of how hard it was for her. I was emotionally and physically drained from the time of my diagnosis to the day of surgery. I just felt so cheated and angry and most of all sad.
Telling my family and friends: It was only tough for me to tell my 12 year old daughter. She watched my Mom die of cancer so also to her, cancer means death too. But I had to reassure her it doesn't and make sure she knew I would be ok and we would all be ok no matter the outcome.
My treatment: My cancer was caught very early - stage 1a1 - so my course of treatment was a hysterectomy.
How I felt after treatment: After my surgery, I felt ok. It was a very easy surgery and it went as planned.
What was most difficult for me: Not being able to fully process everything. After a diagnosis of cancer, it seems like everything comes at you left and right and every day was something new. I felt like there was no time for me to ruminate and process all the emotions because I was working and raising my kids and not taking time out for myself.
What I did to help myself: I started seeing a therapist to work through some of the things I had been feeling, to talk about the trauma I felt from my diagnosis and losing my Mom in such a short period of time. It has really helped me.
My life after cancer: A week after my surgery, my oncologist declared me cancer-free. It has only been a few weeks since surgery and things are beginning to get better. My family and I are working toward adjusting to our new life.
Where I am today: I am working through my emotions and finding ways to take better care of myself. A Lot of my anxiety around this cancer and it returning I realize I bring upon myself (googling never helps). So I am working on ways to acknowledge the feelings, then letting them go and trying not to let them interfere with my life.
What I want other women to know: Listen to your bodies. Don't let things go. Who cares if the doctor thinks your a crazy person? Just call and make that appointment. It could save your life!
How I will try to help others: I have recently signed up to volunteer at the American Cancer Society, driving people to and from their treatments. It's a little way I feel like I can give back and help out those who need it.