Cancerversary: March 2008

Age at diagnosis: 32

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: I

Cervivor School Graduation: 2018

How my story begins: I was a very energetic, outgoing person who loves bowling, reading supernatural romance, and gaming. I had the greatest 6 year old named Romeo who was my sunshine and I had just started dating my boyfriend who eventually became my hubby. I had hardly any medical issues and we were pretty happy with our life.

In 2007, I had already had my Pap, which was negative. Around late summer to early fall, I started experiencing vaginal irritation. They did multiple Paps that came back normal, but they treated it as a yeast or bacterial infection and eventually the irritation would go away. This happened at least 3 times and all tests were negative. Forward to around the end of January 2008, my hubby noticed blood after being intimate. I had an appointment to have moles removed at the Gyno so I requested to have them recheck me because I knew something was wrong and my next Pap was not due until April. I remember her examining me and she mentioned that something was down there. I knew she wasn’t talking about my Nuva ring. She immediately went and got my regular gynecologist. I remember him telling me to take a deep breath and to relax and I felt like a pulling sensation and then liquid. When I sat up, I was in a small pool of blood. My mind already started to come up with a diagnosis of cancer. I went home and went on The American Cancer Society website and put in my symptoms and it came up as cervical cancer. I guessed I was stage 1b1. I went back to the doctor on Friday of the same week and he examined me and said, "Minus the small lesion on your cervix, I wouldn’t have thought you had cancer." He kept shaking his head and said, “We checked you multiple times last year and it just wasn’t there!” He gave me a reassuring hug and said they were going to send me to the University of Iowa Hospital for treatment. I called my family physician and she was stunned because she had tested me for HPV and I was negative.

How I felt after diagnosis: Numb. I never had the “Why me?” thought at all. I simply shut myself down and accepted it. Does that make me weird?

Telling my family and friends: Telling my son and my new boyfriend was extremely hard. I actually gave him the option of breaking up with me since we’d only been dating for 2 months but he refused to leave my side. Explaining to your child that you have cancer is heartbreaking. I got out my anatomy and physiology book and showed him the pictures and explained to him what was going on. He was very accepting of it because I never showed him how worried I was. I was more worried about him than myself. And my family cried more tears than I did and so did my friends. I had a great support system.

My treatment: We decided on the radical hysterectomy, though I would retain my ovaries so I wouldn’t go into menopause. The other option was to just remove my cervix. The doctor said the chances of it coming back were higher with the other option so that’s what I chose. I was 32 and was basically being told that I would be giving up my reproductive rights. I still have that paperwork to this day.

My son was from a previous relationship and Matt didn’t have any kids and I was hoping that later down the line if we were still together we would be able to have a child or 2. I even told my doctor that I didn’t want to give up my reproductive rights but I still chose the supposed better option. On March 27, 2008, I had my radical hysterectomy where they removed my cervix, the top part of my vagina, my uterus, my Fallopian tubes, and about 20 lymph nodes. I requested a copy of my surgery report that showed that the cancer was about 1 cm. Everything else was negative for cancer. I consider this day as my cancerversary.

How I felt after treatment: I would have to say numb. I had accepted that it was necessary, which kind of made me feel or seem like I was on autopilot. My job sent me to therapy to make sure I was ok. I didn’t feel like I had time to mourn my loss of fertility. I just kept going. I had to for Romeo, Matt, my family, and friends.

What was most difficult for me: Giving up my dream of having children with the man I loved and giving Romeo a sibling was one of the hardest things to deal with. After Matt and I got married, people automatically asked when were we going to have a baby. Another thing was the fact that my once healthy body seemed to be deteriorating. I somehow now had a hernia, osteopenia, gastritis, and vitamin d deficiency, and my migraines increased tenfold. Was it all because of the surgery? I never had any of these issues before the cancer.

What I did to help myself: Positive imagery and inspirational words help keep me calm and knowing that I have many people out there that truly care for me motivates me to try and be a better person, to be stronger.

My life after cancer: It has been hard but I’m still here for a reason. There are things I need to do and accomplish. Life is extremely short and I must embrace it and learn from the good and bad things that have happened in my life. I truly believe that whatever you put out there to the universe, whether it be positive or negative, will come back to you in the same way you sent it. Law of Attraction!

Where I am today: I finally broke down and made the first step to get counseling to deal with a lot of things that I had bottled up and need to be healed and set free. My health is more important to me as I watch my son transform into the man he will become someday. I am truly thankful that I am still here and my mission is to help as many people in every way I can.

What I want other women to know: The person who knows you the best is you! If you feel something is wrong, have it checked out. It may save your life. Women are still dying from this cancer, which is preventable. Please get your children vaccinated! And if you’re in the age range that’s eligible for the vaccine, get it! Don’t neglect your kitty;-). Spread the word about the vaccine. Educate yourselves when it comes to your genitals. Yep - I said it, lol.

How I will try to help others: Raising awareness is so important and I don’t know how many times at work I hear my female coworkers say they don’t think they need a Pap or they’re too afraid to find out if it’s bad news. Also, knowing your family medical history is so important! My mom never told me that there are other women in our family who have had cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and vulva cancer, which is extremely important to know. Knowledge is power!

Any additional information you'd like to share: Find a group of women to be your “sisters” that will support you, give you tough love when needed, and be there for you in good and bad times. Women are goddesses and should be treated as such.

And ask your doctor everything when it comes to cervical cancer treatments, fertility options, and sex. We are all blessed. We are here for a reason. ❤️