When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I was 32. Prior to my diagnosis, I was pretty much unaware of cervical, uterine cancer. Actually any cancer. I knew it was out there, but it wasn’t going to touch me so I just really never thought about it. Nobody in my family had had cancer.
I absolutely had no symptoms that would indicate ... there was no pain, there was no spotting, there was absolutely nothing. It was just a routine pap smear that allowed us to ... that allowed the provider to diagnose.
I went in for an annual pap smear and when the results came in, they showed some abnormal cells, so the provider at that time wanted to look into that deeper and decided that the next step in the diagnosis would be a colposcopic biopsy.
When they accomplished the colposcopic biopsy, they found that there was cancer. Cancer is a scary word and I was totally unnerved when my provider shared with me that I had cancer.
I really felt like I couldn’t entertain thoughts about ... about the cancer because I needed to survive it. Because my children were young. Because I had a three- and a five-year-old.
But I trusted completely that things would be fine. I knew that God was watching over me and my children. I knew that there was much more living that I had to do.
The procedure for the radical hysterectomy required not just the uterus but all the surrounding tissue. They needed to do what the physician called a bikini cut where my muscles in my stomach were cut in order to extract all that the doctor felt like he needed to extract.
After the hysterectomy, I woke up and was in severe pain. I was not given any pain medication until I was checked into the room where I would recover.
I was in the hospital for a week before they allowed me to come home and when I came home, of course, I had a catheter for a couple weeks and then I was followed up every six months just to check and make sure was fine and it’s been not a problem since and that was back in 1991.
If I had been diagnosed with cervical cancer prior to having my children, I think it would have been absolutely devastating. I can’t even imagine my life today without my children. So I’m grateful in a sense that it was found after.
I think the cancer helped me define my priorities. They ... it helped me decide what was important ... what was important — what did I need to cut out from my life.
I think a positive attitude is crucial. I think that hope in situations like this is necessary. I think that any inner strength, you know, and certainly if a person is a person of faith — all those things, I think, contribute to not only survival but being productive and using something as tragic as cancer to have a great life.