In July of 2008 at the age of 49 I finally admitted to myself that I had to see a doctor. I had been putting off going to see a doctor for nine years mainly because I hated the gynecological exam. But something was very wrong. I was hoping I had an infection and they could give me some antibiotics and I'd be on my way. My PCP didn't say what was wrong, she just said I had to come back that afternoon to see a gynecologist. That was when I started to worry.
That afternoon the gynecologist told me the news. I was by myself. He said I had advanced cervical cancer and he thought some lymph nodes were involved. I asked him whether I was going to live. He said that if the CAT scan results were good I would have a 50% chance of survival. I ended up being diagnosed with stage 3b cervical cancer.
I felt guilty at what a stupid thing I had done to not get a Pap test for that many years. I blamed myself for putting my family and friends through this nightmare. I was single and so my elderly father had to take care of me while I went through chemo and external radiation and was so sick I had to sleep on the bathroom floor by night and get infusions during the day to try to replenish my fluids. My older sister had to disrupt her life to bring me in for a series of 5 internal (Brachy) radiation treatments, the first of which cause hemorrhaging and emergency surgery and an overnight hospital stay.
But I am now grateful for what I went through. It is 2 years since finishing treatment and I realize what is important in life and what is not. I now do yoga, work out, spend more time with family and friends and volunteer for those in need. I realize how extremely lucky I am just to be alive.
I tell my story to as many women that will listen hoping that they won't make the same mistake that I did. Please don't think you won't be the one, get all your preventive screenings (including a Pap) when it is recommended. Trust me, the pain and embarrassment of getting a Pap is nothing compared to what might happen to you if you don't get one.