How my story begins: I was living my dream with my boyfriend in a beautiful house in South Italy, working as a pastry chef and thinking about getting married.
I had a small amount of blood loss outside of my normal period so I decided to make an appointment with a gynecologist in my new town. He felt a small ball inside my cervix and told me it probably was nothing but that we had to take it out. They performed a LEEP a week after and 3 weeks after the surgery, the diagnosis was there. Adenocarcinoma.
How I felt after diagnosis: I couldn't believe they were talking about me. I was more than petrified, almost disconnected with reality. I didn't cry in front of the doctor but asked him: Is it cancer? He said: "Yes, but you need to do more exams." My boyfriend was there with me and I saw him turning white. My first thought was: How am i going to tell my mum?
Telling my family and friends: I made the first call to my best friend and she was great because she took a plane one day after to reach me. Then I called my mom and my sister and they were shocked. After 3 days, I was on a plane to my hometown in the north of Italy because the doctors told me to do so.
My treatment: I had a tracheletomy and a pelvic lymph nodes aspiration. They found 4 lymphs were metastatic so I had to go under treatment. My treatment was 6 rounds of chemo with taxol and 6 rounds with cisplatin, 29 days of radiotherapy and 48hrs of brachotherapy.
How I felt after treatment: I was exhausted and very weak. In some way, I was feeling more alone between treatments because I had to wait for the control and I was scared something bad would happen to me again. During treatment, I wasn't happy but felt protected; without all those doctors and nurses, I was afraid. After a while, I started to feel better, a little more confident, but every pain was an excuse to call my oncologist. I am better now.
What was most difficult for me: Repeating the same things to dozens of people. Trying not to be a burden for my family. Staying quiet and in silence most of the time. Overcoming my worst fears like needles and showing my genitals to unnumbered people. Being one of the youngest in the hospital with all those looks of pity at me. Being cheated on by my boyfriend who left me with a phone call.
What I did to help myself: I wrote, I had psychological support weekly, I read and slept a lot. I started to eat only healthy and controlled food - no meat, no dairy, just vegetables, fish and grains. That helped me to feel better.
My life after cancer: I am trying to rebuild my life. I came back to live with my parents because I lost my job and all my money. I am starting a new job now and I have filled my life with activities I like a lot, such as writing about food, blogging with friends, staying with my friends more and traveling as much as I can.
Where I am today: I am not the same person I was, I am better. I like the way I look even more with short hair and I am skinnier. I still have a port but I show it proudly. I am trying to regain confidence in men and in life, but I am very afraid about my sexual health. I haven't had sex since the end of treatments and I don't know how my body and my mind will react.
What I want other women to know: That I am here for any kind of support I can give - a talk, a laugh, a cry - but mostly concrete advice about what to do here in Italy to go through all of this.
How I will try to help others: I want to spread the word about HPV, cervical cancer and where to go and whom to talk to if you are diagnosed. I'd like to focus especially on young adult women like me because having cancer in this age range is very different than in other periods of life.
Any additional information you'd like to share: I'd like to help women to know their rights during and after cancer in terms of insurance, job laws and things like this. I found out too late that the Italian government has some specific laws for us and they could have helped me a lot during hospitalization.