Oct 20, 2006 - 10:48 pm
I didn't know anything about my cervix. I was 31, I went for my pap test, like I did every year since I was 18. It was always normal, I didn't think it would ever be different. But it was that time. It came back abnormal - I went back for a colposcopy - and then I got the phone call. Invasive cervical cancer with extensive lymphatic invasion. My whole life stopped.
Ten days later I had a radical hysterectomy, then another surgery, then 5 weeks of daily pelvic radiation, 4 rounds of chemo, and 3 rounds of internal radiation.
Why me? What did I do wrong? I didn't understand anything... I was young and healthy. This was not supposed to happen to me. But it did. So I learned everything I could.
What I learned was that cervical cancer is caused by a very common virus - HPV. I also learned that pap tests are supposed to catch the celluar changes on the cervix caused by HPV, but they can be wrong up to 50% of the time. That is what happened to me. I was going in every year, and year after year the pap test told me I was ok, but I was not.
Now, there are better tests - there is a liquid pap that is much more sensitive than the traditional, old school pap smear. And there is a test - the HPV test - that can tell you if you are carrying the virus BEFORE it becomes invasive, BEFORE cells start to change... it is the only way to REALLY know what is going on with your body. It's incredible to think that we know what causes this cancer, and that we have these tests that can help us PREVENT it. That is why I talk about it all the time - because we CAN do something about cervical cancer. It is preventable - if we use all the tools available - it doesn't have to happen to one more woman.
So I am going to continue to talk about it - through my organization popsmear.org - to tell women that this doesn't have to happen. Go to the doctor. Make sure you are getting the best - a liquid pap and an HPV test - it can save your bits and pieces. It can save your life.