Did you know that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month? In 2014, when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer I thought my world was going to end. I had dealt with abnormal cervical cells in previous years due to HPV (human papilloma virus), but the abnormalities had always cleared on their own and I was otherwise a healthy young woman. But cancer doesn’t always care if you’ve got good cholesterol and are of good weight. It doesn’t care if you live a fairly stress-free life or eat well. Cancer does not discriminate.
It didn’t matter that I never thought my HPV would cause cervical cancer. It happened anyway. I went through treatment with a foggy mind. I was anxious and depressed. All I wanted was my normal life back, a life I so obviously had been taking for granted. I had a radical hysterectomy at the end of August which was followed by 5 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of external radiation because pathology of my lymph nodes found traces of cancer.
When treatment was complete and I got my NED (no evidence of disease), I was tired but ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to go back to my every day routine of family and work. In the months that followed I learned how many people didn’t understand HPV or cervical cancer. How many people didn’t want to talk about it. And I learned about advocacy and how sharing my story and pertinent information about this disease could maybe help one other woman, or five, or 500, or more.
So I chose to share, which isn’t always easy when your talking about female reproductive organs or a virus that is often transmitted sexually. The stigma behind HPV so often keeps women from chatting about it. But advocating to get the word out has helped me understand the disease and want to keep other women from enduring what I, and so many other women, have had to. Though I had cancer, I know I am lucky. I am NED today and I feel good. But not every woman’s story is the same. Thousands of women deal with daily complications that arose from cancer treatment. Thousands of women die.
What is most important is that women understand the disease and keep up with well woman visits each year. To listen to our bodies, ask questions, and make sure they are getting the care they deserve. Early detection saves lives.
This month I have the honor of some of my story being shared in the Health Monitor’s Living with Cancer magazine. This magazine is placed in doctor’s offices and hospitals around the world. If just one woman reads the article and makes her well woman visit or takes notice of a current symptom because of my story, that’s enough for me.
You can check out the article here.
Ladies, call your doctor today and make your appointment.