MY STORY WITH CERVICAL CANCER

Life was going well, and about to get better, so I thought.

 In August of 2008, after working with the NYC Police Department for more than 20 years as a Police Officer, I was retiring and joining my already retired husband. We had so many plans, we were going to travel, and just plain enjoy life. Not too many people are able to retire in their 40's. We had worked hard and our time was here to enjoy. 

After enjoying retirement life for like a minute or two, we get hit with shocking news and our world as we knew it STOPPED. 

I retired and now I'm going to die from cervical cancer?  I did not know what it was, I did not know where it came from and I did not know how I got it. Well, needless to say I got a crash course on it and I was scared beyond belief.  

The Beginning
Let me rewind a little, and tell you how I came to this point. I did not have visit my OB-GYN for more than 3 years because..... Well, for the same reasons that so many women have: too busy, no time, I feel fine, I hate it, I've been married for 10+ years, etc. etc. These reasons are not valid and carry no weight. I learned this the hard way.

A few months before I retired I had started bleeding on and off between menstrual cycles, so I did what a lot of us do, I ignored it and diagnosed myself.  I accredited the bleeding to stress due to leaving my job.

 I finally got to see my doctor in October, 2008 when my bleeding had progressed and now I was feeling very fatigue. After several tests including a vaginal sonogram and several colposcopies, I knew that what was coming next was not good. 

The Diagnosis 
On November 5, 2008, my doctor finally told me my diagnosis.  I had Stage IIB Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cervical Cancer, and she had to refer me to a GYN-ONCOLOGIST. 

I was fortunate to have been sent to the most wonderful doctors at the NY Presbyterian Hospital in NYC.

My Oncologist as gentle as possible said to me, "the bad news is that you have cancer, but the good news is that we can treated." Getting strength from I don't know where and showing courage I asked him "how are you going to fix me?" He looked at me and smiled at the glimpse of spunk he had not seen in me until this point, and then proceeded to tell me that my tumor was too big, it was already protruding the cervix so I was not a good candidate for a hysterectomy.

Radiation Oncology Department
My treatment was going to consist of Chemotherapy, external and internal Radiation. I was going to get radiation every day for the next 7 weeks and chemo once a week for 7 weeks. As far as the internal radiation we did not know how many treatments I would require until the end of the primary treatments.

He brought up the fact about my fertility, due to the treatments of chemotherapy and radiation I would lose the ability to have children. I made myself believe that this fact did not affect me since my husband and I had already decided not to have any children for personal reasons; but regardless the decision, I did feel that something was being taken away from me. The choice was no longer there and for many women that want to have children this is a devastating fact. 

Fighting for My Life
My husband and I left the doctor's office numb. I was about to fight for my life- without knowing what the outcome would be.
We took time to do a lot of crying and a lot of hugging. Under the circumstances, you tend to lose your spiritual center and you begin to question your faith, your purpose and ask yourself what did I do wrong to deserve this? And at the time you forget about the other blessings around you.

Me and my husband Freddie
We had to recharge, so my husband, a pretty smart man in my book, sat down and began to empower himself with knowledge of the disease. As for me, due to my lack of education and misconceptions of the disease, I was ashamed that I had cervical cancer due to the Human Papilloma Virus, a sexually transmitted infection.

My husband at no time questioned me or looked at me with any doubts, instead he began to educate me about the virus and the disease. 

Treatments 
On January 5, 2009, I started treatments. Mondays were long days due to chemo and radiation.  I hated Mondays.  Many times I just wanted to give up, but I had my husband, my rock, who literally used to dress me and take me by the hand to every treatment. 

Seven weeks went by and I thought I had survived the worst, boy was I wrong. It was time for the internal radiation (brachytherapy). 

1 of 35 hospital bracelets
My doctors had decided that I will be needing 2 treatments of internal radiation.  The way that this treatment works is by inserted an implant inside the cervix with radiation rods, and I had to stay in the hospital for 3 days.

No visitors were allowed nor the nurses were allowed to stay too long in the room due to the exposure of radiation. I never felt so alone......
Day 3 was here and it was time to take the device out. I never understood why doctors give anesthesia to insert the implant and don't give you anything to take it out. Well, it is not a walk in the park. It feels like you give birth to the device because they actually pull it out of you.  

The good news was that I was going home; the bad news was I had to do it all over again the following week........

The End of the Nightmare 
At the end of April, 2009, I had a PET scan to see if treatments had worked. Waiting for the results seem like an eternity, but you pray and hope for the best.

On May 5, 2009 -my prayers had been answered. My tumor was GONE and there were no visible cancer cells. The nightmare was over!!! My doctor said:  "YOU ARE CANCER FREE"

The Beginning of my Journey Back
Cervical Cancer Survivors at the 2009 WTBTC
Fast forward to 4 months later, in an attempt to put me back into circulation my brother told me about the 2009 NYC Walk to Beat the Clock, a cervical cancer prevention and awareness walk.  How ironic is that?? He insisted that we participate.

At the walk, I immediately felt the warmth of all my survivor sisters and said to myself “I am not alone."  

Don't get me wrong, I had the support of my wonderful husband, family and friends all along and that's important but these amazing women knew exactly what I had gone through and they were sharing their own stories similar to mine. 

I felt inspired and I wanted to join the movement.  I was not keeping quiet anymore. I was grateful for my second shot at life, I wanted to pay it forward, and share my own story. I wanted to educate other women and let them know that my journey did not have to be theirs, and that they do not have to become a statistic. 

NO Woman Should Feel Alone in this Fight. No Battles is fought alone. 
  No Woman Should Die or Lose their Fertility from Cervical Cancer!!



                                              
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