I was first diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at age 19. It was a gorgeous April day, and my roommates and I were enjoying a picnic on the lawn of our dorm when I got a phone call from the nurse at my ob/gyn. She said I had abnormal pap results, and had to come in the following week for tests. She said there was a small chance I had cancer, but I shouldn\^t panic.
Right, you tell someone they MAY have cancer, and expect them not to panic.
The second test showed that I had severe dysplasia on the upper left part of my cervix. I had surgery the following June, which left me curled in a ball in immeasurable pain for several weeks. My surgeon, a man I will despise until the day I die, performed the surgery under the assumption that I was a healthy young girl, and any small pieces of dysplasia he left in my body would be \"killed off in time\" by my own defenses.
He was mistaken.
For three years, I visited the gyno 4 times a year for follow up Paps. My third follow up came back abnormal, but the next one was normal. At my final 4-times-a-year Pap, my gyno checked me out, cleaned me up, and said \"see you in a year!\" I was finished, I was fine. After three years, I was fine. Or so I thought.
My test came back abnormal. And this time, it was worse. In June of 2009, my repeat Pap and biopsy came back Stage 1 cervical cancer. The cells covered 2/3 of my cervix, and were beginning to clump together to form small tumors. I had another surgery in July, this time with a different surgeon. I had my first follow up Pap in January, and it was clear. For the next two years I have to visit the gyno every 3 months until I get 3 back to back normal Paps. When I had my last pap I asked her to test me for HPV, it was negative.
She told me, based on my medical history and general lack of illness, that the most likely cause of my cancer was the fact that my mother smoked during her pregnancy.
I\^m 23 now and am unsure about the status of my fertility. It is a travesty that the option to bear children may or may not have been robbed of me at such a very young age, before I\^ve even decided if I want children. What happens if I find out the surgery resulted in me not being able to conceive/bear a child to full term? What if I decide I want kids, and then get a phone call from a stranger telling me I can\^t? What if I can\^t carry on my family\^s genes just because my mom couldn\^t let go of her habit?
It angers me that breast cancer--\"the loss of womanhood\"--gets so much more press and support than cervical cancer research. the loss of breasts is not the loss of womanhood, the loss of your body\^s ability to reproduce is the loss of womanhood. That deserves more attention.