Authored and told by: Janelle P., New Jersey
I have two sons, and a wonderful husband. I love music of all kinds, spending time with my family, taking long drives to the beach, and relaxing while watching the sunset. I work in the education field and am now studying for my master’s degree.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis, my health was always decent. I did not have any major issues, and my monthly menstrual cycle was normal. Then, in November 2014, I had significant vaginal bleeding for about a week, followed by no period at all the next month, which was abnormal for me.
While January seemed to be a bit more normal, I decided to set up an appointment with a gynecologist since I had not gone in the past few years due to lack of good insurance. I had never had an abnormal Pap test in my life. I figured the worst it could be was ovarian cysts, which I had dealt with many years back.
My appointment was scheduled for Valentine’s Day in 2015, and the bleeding was abnormal once again in February. I was trying to shush my inner voice—that was screaming at me quietly—about having to be ready to hear something horrible. It was telling me there was cancer. I had a Pap test and my doctor’s office gave me a date in March to call back for my results.
February 27, 2015 was a normal Monday morning. That is when my life changed forever. My cell phone rang. It was my gynecologist saying she had some news, and it was not good. She said she had the results from my Pap test. Usually at this point they would usually do additional testing, she said. But not this time- it was definitive. We needed to get me an appointment with an oncologist as soon as possible. She said that I had aggressive form of cervical cancer, an adenocarcinoma, which ultimately turned out to be Stage 1B1 cervical cancer.
After that, everything she said was a big blur. I started shaking and just thought to myself, “Did she just say I had cancer?!“ It got even worse when I had to go home and break the news to my husband, and then to my sons. I could not bring myself to tell my mother, so I think my husband told her. I just could not bear to break her heart.
Within two weeks I was sitting in a gynecological oncologist’s office discussing my “cancer treatment plan.” It included a radical hysterectomy, weekly chemotherapy treatments, and radiation. I was not planning on having more children, but the thought of such a big decision being made for me, and such a major, final decision, was devastating. I think I went into shock and just became numb to it all. This is when my survival mode began.
During my treatment, my world came to a screeching halt and I was forced into bed rest. It allowed me time to reflect on my life, decisions I made, people I love, and things that mattered the most. I resolved to be the best person I could, to never settle for less than what made me happy and healthy and to love those that I love, more than ever. During this time, I found out that when it really comes down to it, all that really, truly matters is love.
I have learned to treat myself better. I listen to my body. When I am tired, I rest. When I am sad, I cry. When I am happy, I laugh. I am still getting to know my “new” body. Sometimes it works right, sometimes it does not at all. But I am alive, and I am well, and I am surrounded by those I love the most!
Ladies, please, do not let insurance or money be a factor in not getting checked out if something feels “off.” There are funds within your city, town, and state to help pay for gynecological services. Please, put your health first. Have regular Pap tests, either alone or in combination with HPV tests, and always listen to that inner voice. If you feel like something is not right, get it checked.