How my story begins: In 2008, cervical cancer screening revealed that I had the HPV virus. I started having GYN visits twice a year. However, my life got hectic, like our lives sometimes do, and in 2011 I realized it had been some time since my last GYN appointment. I noticed some spotting and I was having ‘hot flashes’. The women in my family went through menopause at 45 so I thought I was just following suit. I made an appointment with a GYN who specialized in pre-menopause. I was pretty damn shocked when the first thing she noticed was a ‘large mass’. Four days later, I found out that mass was a 7cm squamous cell carcinoma tumor hanging out on my cervix.
Life before my diagnosis: I was a 46-yr old single mother who was enjoying a new-found love, hanging out with my young adult kids and working my butt off at a big, high-tech company in Silicon Valley.
My treatment: Pre-surgery chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, a radical hysterectomy and post-surgery chemo & external radiation due to one lymph node being cancerous. My cancer reoccurred ten months later and I had a second surgery called a pelvic exenteration (yikes!). I now have a urostomy and a colostomy, which I call Fred & Ethel. My cancer reoccured again and I went back on several chemo cocktails, even a clinical trial, to ‘keep the cancer at bay’.
I have now been in some kind of chemotherapy treatment more than not. But I always embrace and celebrate each good moment: my N.E.D. status, my first remission, and now my second remission as of September 2017.
My life now: I am living, fighting and thriving with my cancer. I want to make my story count. I want to be the last generation to face cervical cancer so I advocate for the importance of the HPV vaccine and bring awareness to the fight against cervical cancer by sharing my story.
What I want other women to know: Give yourself a place for your anger but don’t let it drive you. Share your story. It’s so important because there are many women who are living similar lives and they want to know they are not alone.