Location: Virginia

Cancerversary: January 2018

Age at diagnosis: 38

Diagnosis: Cervical cancer (unspecified)

Stage of cancer: IB2

How my story begins: When I was 20, I had precancerous cells and had the cone and leep procedure. Then gone, no recurrence until I was age 38. That year I was told since I have had zero findings, I wouldn't need a pap that year. In the back of my head, I'm nervous but I should be happy. Later on, I went to my PCP, as my already super heavy period was heavier - thought it might be age, gaining weight, or not really eating "healthy". My PCP was great. She said let's do an ultrasound, it's probably nothing "but let's check".

Scheduling the ultrasound was hard. When it was the day before, I started my period so, I rescheduled. Then my period became daily spotting/bleeding. I canceled my ultrasound twice. Until the third time I explained to the scheduler and she said "Oh no, get in here. That happens, we understand". I got a call about a week later and I am going to another military facility to get the results. I go in (this is a teaching hospital) and there are three doctors. They proceeded to tell me, I have a thick endo lining and they suggested an IUD, which will help reduce the lining and will help with my periods. They have to take a cervix biopsy too. If you know, you know the pain. I agree and am excited that I will have easier periods.

As soon as they place the speculum, I hear whispers. Then one leaves and goes and gets the head of the OBGYN department. He comes in and says he wants to do my exam. He then proceeds to tell me, that there is a visible mass on your cervix. He said, "You are too young for uterine cancer, but it seems odd for cervical". He then did a biopsy. He called me a few days later, around 7 pm (probably thinking I was at home) and told me that he made a call to a colleague at Walter Reed. He had got me in for an appt that Friday morning at OBGYN/ONC and I would need to get a PET/CT scan to get more clarification. In my head, I'm hearing they are still trying to figure it out.

Life before my diagnosis: You never think, 'I will get cancer'. You live carefree and never think, life changes. My husband and I had been together for 7 years before my diagnosis. We decided we weren't having kids. We were just living life!

How I felt after diagnosis: I sit in the room with my husband, waiting for the doctor to tell me the findings. He comes in with a few residents and what would be my case manager. Very directly says, "Trish you have cervical cancer and I have a plan." It didn't sink in that second. I was focused on the plan - he had added me to the surgery schedule that following week. I had plans to go to a concert in Philly the following week, and I was not letting cancer take that from me. So, it was scheduled for the following week. My doctor gave me two options: hysterectomy or radical hysterectomy with lymph node removal. I picked a radical hysterectomy with lymph node removal. Later, that choice would be my saving grace.

Telling my family and friends: It took me a few days to process. Then I only told immediate family and friends. The night before my surgery at 3 am (when I'm taking my pre-surgery shower) and I am alone, I make a long post to add to my social media. Along with a picture, of the envelope where I am donating everything (cells, tissues, blood cells) to a trial at NIC/NIH. If I could help one person, it would be worth it. Then I kept everyone updated on daily progress.

My treatment: Had a radical hysterectomy with lymph node removal, then 3 weeks later started 28 daily radiation treatments and 5 weekly chemo sessions (Cisplatin), as my margins looked great after surgery. However, the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes (See.. saving grace).

How I felt after treatment: The chemo comes and does its job. The radiation does a number on me. All my long-term effects are radiation related. My bowels took a beating as well. I take 4 cholesterol pills daily, so I can benefit from the "constipation aspect" which just thickens up my bowels. I have had neuropathy in my legs since the first week of radiation. It has gotten worse as the years of gone on. Edema is a fun aspect and luckily, I am in stage 0! I am in the process of purchasing a machine, which helps my edema and my neuropathy. However, my insurance won't cover it and I am to purchase out of pocket.

What was most difficult for me: I still struggle with the "new me". I still get frustrated when I can't do the things I used to do.

What I did to help myself: I listened to my Oncologist (my second one) but I broke down and said my quality of life sucks. This was the time when I couldn't leave my house, as my bowels were unpredictable. She grabbed my hand and said, "You have to change your mindset, that Trish is gone. You have to think of life this way. Quality of life over quantity of life". That has been my motto ever since and will continue to be.

My life after cancer: Medically-induced menopause is the worse. Ughhh..

Where I am today: I just celebrated my 6 year mark of "no signs of disease". I have changed jobs, and found a village of people I love. Found a sister survivor and we are supportive of each other!

What I want other women to know: Listen to your body!!!! We know when something is "off". If I didn't go in for heavier periods, my cancer would of grown for the following year.

How I will try to help others: Speak out!!!! Put a name and face to this disease!

Any additional information you'd like to share: We are our best advocate.