Vanessa

Where should I start??... OK! Let’s start with I’m a cervical cancer survivor!!! In my 4 year journey with this disease I have found out that without God and the support of my family I would have not been able to endure it. People that know me, see me as a strong independent woman. I had my daughter at age 20 and raised her as a single parent. I bought my house at age 21, I finished my BA by the age of 25, I had a great job and I had just met a great man (which became the love of my life)...To sum it all up, I felt I was on top of the world!! Until the call came!! This was the first of far too many phone calls that started with “are you someplace where you can talk?” I have read many stories of people with cancer and I have to say that almost all of our journeys start with that @&#% call! (Excuse my French)... My call came in August 2006.

I had a PAP test in February 2006, but never bothered to go back for the results or call because I figured if there was something wrong they will call me. In August I needed a refill for my birth control pills so I called my doctor and it was then that the secretary told me they needed to see me as soon as possible. I told her "my nerves will not allow me to wait until tomorrow to know the reason why the doctor needs to see me, please tell me". She said, your PAP test came back abnormal and the doctor wants to do another one. Ok! Here I’m thinking that the result of Pap test done in February were incorrect and it needed to be re-done. The next day the doctor said: you have a STD called HPV and it may cause cancer. You have abnormal cells but until we do more tests we would not know for sure... I asked him: Will the STD go away? His answer was "NO"... I’m like what! what!!! As the conversation continued my heart sunk, all I can think about was that, I’m not one of those girls. I’m not one of the promiscuous ones who should have an STD! I was even more concerned how I was going to break the news to my boyfriend that I had given him a STD... Thank GOD he reacted and took the news well! He was concerned about me and wanted me to take care of the situation and told me that I had his support; his words were “what’s done is done already".

In September I had my first procedure done. I had a colposcopy....the results came back with high risk abnormal cells. In October the doctor did a Cryotherapy and the test result from that show abnormal low risk cells. After that the doctor gave me an appointment to see him in 6 months, when I went back the results from that PAP test came back High Risk again which in my book means 1 step to full blown cancer... The next month the doctor did a Laser therapy but results came back the same High Risk. A couple of months went by ... most of the time me trying to rush the doctor to do something else! My family and I were starting to feel that the doctor was not doing enough or being aggressive enough to take care of the situation. So after a lot of nagging on my part and my mother, the doctor gave me another appointment to discuss options. He said we can do a cone biopsy, but in some cases if you get pregnant it means that most likely it will be very hard to carry a baby full term. My boyfriend and I have already spoken about this and he had assured me that he would prefer having me in his life than to risk my life to have a baby and not being here to raise the baby with him. So we scheduled the procedure. The results reflected NO abnormal cells. Everything was looking good for about 3 months until my next appointment when the abnormal cells had come back... by then almost 2 yrs had passed since my first diagnosis.

Instead of scheduling an appointment with the same doctor I changed to a female doctor. It was then that she explained everything to me about HPV, that everyone gets HPV at some point or another, and that it can go away. YES it's a STD but is a common virus and that almost EVERY WOMEN gets at one point of their lives if they are sexually active. Most of the time your immune system will take care of the virus. I saw this doctor for about 4 months we did another round of Cryotherapy and Laser therapy…by then I was also moving to NY and planning my wedding. I had started focusing more in life and in my family. I had made up my mind that this will not run my life that I will run my life…. But 1 week before my wedding and 2 weeks before moving to NY. I received that call again...but this time with the great news that I was totally clear!!! No low, no medium, no high just CLEAR!! I had not heard that in 2 yrs..I took it as a new start a new life.... Now in my new life in NY, every 6 months I have my routine PAP test, they have came back clear, until this past April 2010 which it came back High again... with another round of treatments of Laser Therapy and a new one called LEEP it went down to low…This is good. I have my next appointment on November 29 of this year just 3 weeks before I move to VA. I’m hoping it will come out clear so I can have another chance of a new life again. I have faith! I don’t want to lose that!

During these 4 years since my diagnosis I’ve learned a lot about myself. I know that I hate the look of pity that people give you when they know you have cancer, it makes me sad for people not to know what to say to me because they don’t want to ask how I’m doing in case the answer is something they don’t want to hear, and I know that it’s more important to me than ever to tell family and friends that I love them. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty all around me, and I’ve learned to be truly grateful for every morning that I wake up. I was lucky that my doctors found the disease before it became invasive. I’m thankful that I have family that support me, and a very understanding boss who never questions why I go to the doctor so often. Even though I’m one of the lucky ones, I hope and pray that no more women have to go through what I’ve been through. Something I can’t help to think about is that I have never experienced full cancer, but have experienced the fear of not knowing if you will be here next Christmas… Every time I see a pregnant woman, or have someone ask me when I am going to have another child, I just want to burst out in tears because the answer is I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN, but I kindly smile and just say one is enough, but that is such a lie!!! I would love to share the parenting experience with my new husband or give my daughter a sibling.

I have felt ashamed to say I have HPV because of the perceptions that people have of it and have found myself saying I have ovarian cancer so I just don’t have to explain that this is not a result of having unprotected or being promiscuous because even if you protect yourself or have only one partner you can get it. People are set in their ways and I have too much on my mind to worry about what others think… I know the type of woman I am. I feel blessed to have a husband that gives me all the strength I’ll ever need, a wonderful healthy daughter, sisters that give me an unconditional support, friends and a unique wonderful mother who takes care of me like no one else in the world. I want women to know that it is important to have their annual Pap Test even though this virus is persistent at times you can be even more. Prevention and detection saves lives!! Telling my story has shown me that I am not ashamed anymore and it has given me a sense of power to continue and move forward. I will WIN this battle- I have so far.......