Cancerversary: October 2016

Age at diagnosis: 28

Diagnosis: CIN

Stage of cancer: Not applicable

How my story begins: I had seen the ads for the immunization but had not given much thought since I was just a tad too old for it and I didn't know much about it. I didn't think it could happen to me. In truth, I didn't really understand why we had Paps done.

Once, between 1997 and 2009, I had an abnormal Pap smear but nothing more.

Then, in 2009, during a routine annual exam I tested positive for HPV 16 and 18. Upon further investigation, I had CIN3 and CIN4/CIS. I underwent a colscopocy and a LEEP procedure to remove the cells. I tested negative for the next 7 years.

In 2016, at the age of 35, my doctor ran an HPV test, which came back as positive for HPV 16 and 18. When I questioned her on the need for a colposcopy, she told me to wait a year, even with my prior history. I even argued with her and she kept saying to wait a year.

So I sought a second opinion via my old OB from the 2009 HPV/CIN. She immediately agreed that I needed a colposcopy and while it may, in fact, be nothing in the long run, it was better to err on the side of caution. So we had that procedure done and it came back CIN3/4, CIS, again. To which I had another LEEP. LEEP came back in fall 2016 as clear.

How I felt after diagnosis: Violated. How could my doctor brush me off and not send me for the second opinion?

Scared. It was back again? Is this a new strand or the old one? What did this all mean for me?

Telling my family and friends: I have only told those close to me, but i am working on being more open about it. Especially since I likely will continue to have repeat occurrences.

My treatment: LEEP followed by 4 month re-exams for 1 year.

How I felt after treatment: Angry. I didn't realize the full impact of Pap smears/examines, HPV, cervical cancer. The information has been available to me, and is partially my fault for not investigating further, but doctors have made it to be no big deal.

What was most difficult for me: That my doctor didn't listen to me and I had to seek a second opinion. I also feel like another piece of me is gone. I chose in 2011 to have essure done, so having kids isn't something I desire. BUT, I can't even desire it now with two LEEPs and a compromised cervix. I feel like my ability to choose has been taken from me, which it has in some part.

What I did to help myself: I listened to my gut. I followed it when my original primary said to wait. Who knows had I waited. What would be in a year from now?

I am now educating myself and others on cervical cancer and HPV. I am also working on being an advocate for others. HPV and cervical cancer should not be a dark and dirty secret that we don't talk about. It shouldn't be thought that women who contract it are promiscuous, because I certainly was and am not.

Where I am today: I'm not sure... I'm just starting this journey

I'm still scared, wondering if it will strike again and what it will be this time, but knowing it could come back and that I know my body gives me comfort. I hope I am informed enough to catch it before it becomes more... but I know that even as an abnormal PAP or HPV or CIN or CIS that I have the right to be concerned about my own health and treatments and education.

What I want other women to know: If something doesn't feel right or agree with you, seek a second opinion. It's your life. Literally.