How my story begins: I went in for my routine PAP (I never missed one) and was told it was abnormal. I then went in for a punch biopsy which confirmed I had Adenocarcinoma in situ along with HPV. This was the first time I had an abnormal pap or came back HPV positive during my yearly exam.
Life before my diagnosis: I was 26, super active, loved lifting weights regularly, hiking and competing in powerlifting and overall living a healthy lifestyle.
How I felt after diagnosis: I felt ashamed, like it was my fault, and I felt alone. Having just left an abusive relationship on top of it, I felt like my world was crashing down around me and I went to a really dark place.
Telling my family and friends: Unfortunately, after I told my parents about my diagnosis and my upcoming cone biopsies/procedures, they didn’t even reach out before or after to see how I was doing or offer support. This (which I can now say is a blessing in disguise) was the straw that broke the camels back that led me to cutting ties with them completely after years of enduring this toxic relationship since childhood. I luckily had many supportive girlfriends who I consider my actual family along with my Aunt to help me through the tough time from the beginning in 2014 to the end in 2021.
My treatment: After getting my first cone biopsy in 2014, margins unfortunately came back positive and I received another cone with negative margins 3 months later. I then followed up with regular PAP tests every three months, being told I would eventually need a hysterectomy by the time I was 40 or after I was done having kids. (I had no children). Unfortunately, abnormal cells reappeared on a PAP February of 2021 and I went for a LEEP since I had little cervix left to find that AIS returned. I was told if abnormal cells were to come back again on a PAP, I’d have no choice but to get a hysterectomy as I had essentially no cervix left for another LEEP or cone biopsy.
I found this unsettling, knowing that every three months when I went back for a PAP there was a chance I’d have to schedule a hysterectomy. I refused to live with this constant fear, and made the self honoring choice (for me) to take control of the situation and freeze my eggs and schedule the hysterectomy on my own terms and not on AIS’s terms. I was 34 and in a relationship I wasn’t certain would last, so conceiving a child at that point in time (when I wasn’t even certain I even wanted children at that point) was not an option.
I decided for me, after deep thought and reflection, to freeze my eggs in case I decided I wanted to have children in the future as an insurance policy and scheduled my hysterectomy on my terms October 2021, after taking a liberating and empowering solo trip to hike the narrows at Zion National Park.
How I felt after treatment: After my hysterectomy, I had a sense of relief. I no longer needed to go back for PAPs every three months and could go back to yearly exams- and no longer had to live in fear every three months whether a hysterectomy was in my near future. It also took the pressure off of having to figure out if the person I was dating was “the one” or trying to figure out if I truly wanted kids and rush that very important decision, knowing my clock was ticking faster than most women’s.
What was most difficult for me: Grieving the fact that I’ll never be able to carry my own child if I decide to have them and acknowledging that that choice was taken away from me.
What I did to help myself: I allowed myself to receive all the support I needed from my Aunt and girlfriends along with going to therapy and making self honoring choices and creating strict boundaries of what behaviors I would and would not accept in my relationships with my parents and romantic partner. I ended my relationship with a boyfriend at the time while going through the IVF process leading up to my hysterectomy. While I was scared to go through the rest of this journey “alone,” I also knew I could not go through this difficult process with a partner who was unable to show up emotionally or physically during that time.
Where I am today: Having always loved sunshine, warm weather and the beach: Seven months after my hysterectomy I moved from NJ to sunny Florida in May 2022 and I couldn’t be happier knowing I am cancer free and that my frozen eggs are waiting for me should I choose to ever want to have children. I have since also met a wonderful man who is the most loving, caring, and compassionate partner I could ask for.
What I want other women to know: You are not alone and even if you don’t have a strong support system, know that there are groups like Cervivor and others that WANT to support you during this difficult time. It is not easy, it is not your fault, but there is life and endless possibilities on the other side.
How I will try to help others: A lot of things I have gone through in my life, including the journey with AIS, have led me to start my own coaching business in late 2022. I currently coach women who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by every day life into making the necessary shifts to gain control of their lives and make themselves a priority again (which includes scheduling those routine care appointments women tend to put off because they’re too busy taking care of others!) so they can start opening their eyes to possibilities and dreams of what they want their life to look like!
Any additional information you'd like to share: I absolutely love coaching and supporting women in taking back their power and prioritizing their self care and dreams while still also being able to take care of their families and friends.