My Cervical Cancer Journey
My name is Terry, and this is my story. It all began in 2020
I can still remember when I got the phone call that no one wants to get. It was my doctor’s office calling to let me know my pap test was abnormal. What? How is this possible? Every year prior was fine. Why now? Why me? What does this mean? My mind was asking questions faster than I could process them. I was scared, and the fear was very real.
My doctor told me the next step would be something called a colposcopy. She explained to me that this is a medical procedure to get a closer look at the cervix. I was terrified not knowing what to expect. In my mind, I was already freaking out thinking I had cancer. I made the appointment.
During my colposcopy, I laid there trying not to think about anything. I was surprised that the procedure was relatively painless, and my doctor walked me through step-by-step. I felt pressure when they inserted the speculum. I felt a burning, stinging sensation when the solution hit my cervix. I remember smelling vinegar. Toward the end, my doctor informed me that she found a few concerning spots, so she needed to take some biopsies (tiny samples of tissue) and have them tested. There was a little pinch for each spot. Once it was done, she told me she would reach out with the biopsy results and what any next steps would be.
It was the longest few days of my life. I was trying to stay positive, but I was scared. Her call came telling me that my biopsies were abnormal and explained I needed to see a surgeon to have a procedure called a LEEP. I called and made the appointment. I then had an exam with the surgeon and was sent home with information to read about the LEEP procedure. LEEP stands for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure. It uses a wired loop that is heated by electric current to remove abnormal precancerous cells and tissue from the end of my cervix.
The LEEP procedure is like the colposcopy, but this time they will burn the remainder of the abnormal tissue that wasn’t taken during the colposcopy. I remember when she was burning it out and smelling my burning flesh. It was not a pleasant smell, but I knew it was necessary to make sure nothing harmful was left. This also got sent to the pathologist for confirmation that nothing remained, and the margins were clear. After the procedure was complete, I asked her if this could kill me and she said “If you hadn’t caught it early enough or if you left it untreated, yes. But now, no”.
While I waited for the results of my LEEP, I found myself continually wondering “what if’s”? It was driving me crazy. I decided to approach this with a positive mindset. I had faith in my doctors. I then got a letter from the surgeon telling me that everything came out fine and recommended a follow up colposcopy every 6 months for a few years to make sure it does not come back.
Fast forward two years to 2022…I’m at my doctor’s office for a follow up colposcopy. Fully calm because I expected to hear that everything looked good. Then, once the solution hit my cervix and I felt that stinging / burning sensation, I knew she was going to again tell me there were more areas of concern. I was told that the surgeon had done a nice job on the LEEP procedure I had already had. I was also told of more lesions in different areas of my cervix that needed to be sent to the pathologist. My heart sank, fear once again consumed me, but this time it was worse for me because now I am convinced that I am a walking ball of cancer just waiting to come out. My doctor said she would let me know the results.
Once again, the results came back showing abnormal high-grade dysplasia CIN3 on the cervix and also high-grade dysplasia from the ECC sample, which, from my understanding, is from a more inside part of the cervix. My doctor and I discussed the results. My options were to have another LEEP procedure, or since I am over 40 and don’t need my cervix anymore, consider a hysterectomy. I have been told that my cervix is small. In my mind, I am visualizing cuts and scarring all over the cervix, and I question what if it comes back in different spots for many years to follow? My decision wasn’t easy. On one hand, the LEEP has a quicker recovery than the Hysterectomy, but how many times do I want to live in this fear? I was feeling like my cervix was a breeding ground for this cancer, and it is only a matter of time before it finally gets me. My fear was so real. I knew that for me, the only way I would believe all the abnormal, dysplastic, cancerous lesions were completely gone was to have the hysterectomy.
Once again, I found myself back at the surgeon’s office doing an exam to make sure I was physically fit to minimize the risk of any surgical complications. They were very thorough. Once my pre-surgery tests came back showing I was safe to proceed, my surgery was scheduled.
I had my surgery at a surgery center. They were wonderful and reassuring. The operation went well. I woke up expecting to be in massive pain, but the nurses made sure my pain was well-managed before leaving. I was told the most important restriction for this procedure was to be sure I did not lift any more than 15 pounds for the next 6 weeks. It was stressed how important this was. They released me, and I went home to recover.
The first couple of days were the roughest, and I honestly slept through most of it thanks to the pain medication. I started coming around on the third day. I felt tired and like I had surgery, but it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I found that I lost my energy for about 6 weeks. It was bad at first but got better every day. The best part of having the surgery was getting the pathologist report stating that there was NO cancer left, so I would not need to have any chemotherapy or radiation. What a relief!
I can’t even express how happy I am that I am now cancer free. I will still need yearly check-ups, and I can guarantee you that I will not miss one because I know first-hand that early detection saves lives. Everyone’s journey is different and filled with emotions, but we all have the same goal of being cancer free. I’m forever grateful my journey with cervical cancer had a happy ending.