How my story begins: I was a young and vibrant woman in my early 20s. At the age of 22, I gave birth to my daughter. I had a natural and healthy pregnancy and delivery. I was healthy and active with no signs of medical concerns with the exception of endometriosis.
In 2008, I experienced a miscarriage. Following the miscarriage, I was unable to conceive thus leading to consulting with a gynecologist. I experienced extreme unintentional weight loss and irregular menstrual cycles.
In March 2009, I underwent my first of two laparoscopic outpatient surgeries removing the endometrial polyps from my uterus and bladder. In August 2009, I underwent the second laparoscopic surgery. In 2010, I was experiencing increased levels of pain so I scheduled another gynecological appointment. I wanted to talk about more testing and other medical options. Meanwhile, all of my Pap tests were normal and the endometriosis subsided. The pain was so severe that I couldn’t get out of bed without pain medication, especially during my menstrual week.
On July 13, 2010, I underwent a radical abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy resulting in instant menopause. A week later, I went to my gynecologist for a post-surgery follow up. Pathology result showed Cervical Carcinoma in Situ (CIS). Fortunately the cancerous cells were confined to the cervix. My gynecologist told me that he was glad that I opted for the surgery. The cancer cells were rapidly growing. The cancer would have progressed to stage 4 within 6-9 months. My hysterectomy literally saved my life!
Telling my family and friends: I remember the day my gynecologist informed me that my pathology results determined it was cancer. I walked out of the exam room and I was blank. My dad was in the waiting room and I walked to him saying, “He said it was cancer.” I did not even think twice that other people were in the room or what I was saying to my dad. I was numb and shocked – it just came out. We drove home in silence and there I told my mom.
My treatment: I had a radical abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. I was placed on the estrogen patch, cream and One-A-Day menopause for hormone supplements. After the first year, I was permanently placed on estrogen medication.
What was most difficult for me: There are different areas of difficulty. For the past nine years, I have battled survivor guilt. I struggled realizing that my hysterectomy WAS my cancer treatment. I battled grief acceptance when losing close friends or family members. When my daughter was younger, she would beg for a sibling without understanding why that was impossible.
Where I am today: In 2021, I celebrated 11 years NED (No Evidence of Disease)! Once a year, I visit my gynecologist for my necessary wellness checkup.
What I want other women to know: Ladies, please, please let your annual wellness exam be the one appointment you never cancel. Cancer does not discriminate. Regardless of your sexual history or partner preference – whether you’re sexually active, if you’re in menopause or whatever your sexual orientation is – you still need to schedule a wellness check annually! I wish there had been someone to educate me on HPV prevention and vaccinations. If you feel there is something wrong with your body, go see your doctor. If you are not satisfied, seek second or third opinions. No one knows your body better than you do! Please don’t put it off. It can save your life!
How I will try to help others: I want to share information on HPV, cervical cancer and the importance of annual gynecological exams.
Any additional information you'd like to share: My goal is to help women remember the importance of their cancer screenings regardless of their sexual orientation. I hope to educate, inspire, and support women, especially in the LGBTQ+ community.