The following blog post was originally published from cervical cancer awareness website www.aboutcervicalcancer.com. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, many of those women below the age of 40 with no previous health problems. My very first few early warning signs of cervical cancer were intermittent vaginal bleeding & clear vaginal discharge that appeared when I was around 22 years old. My story started off and I was about 19. I was having vaginal spotting and irregular cycles off and on for several years. When my menstrual cycle abruptly stopped, I thought there could be a chance that I was possibly pregnant, but after tedious tests, pap smears and exams that were done, all came back normal (they were negative for abnormalities or possible pregnancy.
I did have further testing done with a MRI because of the problem with my periods and that’s how I found out I had a pituitary tumor. A pituitary tumor is a type of brain tumor in the pituitary gland. With having the tumor, I nearly stopped having periods and it came almost to a halt.
When I was around 23, I was getting used to not having periods and the doctors said there is absolutely not a chance that I could get pregnant. It was roughly about a year or so later I was starting to have some abnormal vaginal bleeding, however; I was also somewhat excited because I thought that I was maybe going to start having periods again. After a few months of the this going on, the vaginal bleeding was so intermittent and it was so spotty, that I was really starting to think that maybe it wasn’t a menstrual cycle after all.
Another month or so went by and I started getting blood clots and white thick discharge, it was just something so out of the ordinary that I was used to, that it started to get me. I started to be more and more concerned that there was something else going on. I was then passed on to another gynecologist after several stressful trips back and forth. I soon felt as I was getting nowhere and no one heard my cries or would listen. I knew something wasn’t right; It could feel it in my bones.
All the pap smear tests I was having, just kept coming back repeatedly within normal limits, or negative for any abnormalities such as cancer and dysplasia. After several phone calls, I was told I was bothering them and nothing was wrong. I was overwhelmed; and actually disgusted at this point. I was scared and I had to do something, and I had to do it quickly.
I was eventually referred to an OBGYN/Oncologist who said I was advancing rapidly with cervical cancer. He was very adamant and to be honest, arrogant. To verify, he had performed a biopsy, CT scan and a Pet scan. I was receiving mixed signals and mixed diagnoses; I was really getting frustrated with all the different opinions by now.
I had normal pap smears, how could I have cervical cancer? I always knew, or at least I was told, and under the assumption, that pap smears and pelvic exams would find types of female cancers such as: cervical, uterine, vaginal. I had to go for a second opinion; I just had to. I have been told so many different things and had such high hopes that the place said that I was a bother, was right. I would rather be a bother than have cancer. I made an appointment with another doctor for the following days ahead. The specialist was supposed to be one of the best and I wanted to know for sure if I had cervical cancer. I also had gone through another pap and pelvic exam. The pap test showed I had the disease of endometriosis and that there wasn’t any cancer.
We cried, celebrated and then called the oncologist right when I had returned home. I told him that my pap test was normal and they said I had endometriosis. I was so happy to explain to him he made a mistake that I couldn’t see straight. For some reason, I made a frantic appointment to see him to explain and go over the results with him. It was like I second guessed the best of the best; and I’m not sure why. When it comes down to do or die, it’s amazing where you find yourself going with all your gut feelings.
We had the appointment with the doctor first thing in the morning and told him the good news. This is what he said, “Young lady, I hate to tell you this, but you do have cervical cancer and we need to treat it promptly.” He said for me to come into the hospital the next morning and he was going to take a larger chunk of tissue to biopsy to send to confirm his diagnosis. I waited as I knew something was wrong- I had no idea what I was in store for.
As I dropped to my knees and screamed, the emotions that ran through my mind as I looked at my 2 year old son, were more than what anyone could imagine. Who was going to take care of my child? There’s nothing like a mother and dying of cancer was nothing I ever thought I would have to endure. After the shock of knowing for sure I had cancer, I asked him why the pap smear did not pick up the cancer on the pap smear. I had a different type of cancer which was a little harder to diagnose. I had Adenocarcinoma (which is a glandular type of cancer) of the cervix. The cancer cells were under the lining of the cervix. I had stage IIB cancer. I had to faithfully go everyday; 5 days a week, to my radiation treatments and had a total hysterectomy to treat; and at the time, hopefully cure the cervical cancer.
I made it past my 5 year mark, where they say you are considered cured of cancer. It has been 20 years since I have been cancer free. I am not saying the long journey was easy, but once the cancer is gone, you feel the world just lifted off your shoulders.
For more cervical cancer survivor stories and more awareness facts, visit www.aboutcervicalcancer.com.