I was 25 years old, living my dream of being a successful television producer in Washington, DC when I diagnosed with cervical cancer. Even though my cervical cancer was found through screening and was considered “early stage”, I still needed to go through chemotherapy and radiation.
My doctors also recommended a radical hysterectomy. If I ever wanted to have a child, I would have to become pregnant immediately or freeze my eggs. When I called my insurance company, I found out the process would only be covered if I was married. It was an impossible sum of money to raise. I had no choice but to move forward with the hysterectomy in order to save my life. But I had to give up my dream of one day being a mother.
Most people in my life were incredibly supportive. My mom and my best friend in particular were there for me every step of the way. But because cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and because HPV is sexually transmitted, some people said some cruel things to me. About 80% of all sexually active adults will get HPV at some point in their lives – there’s no reason for it to be stigmatized. While it was hard to begin to talk about my body and share my story, these individuals made me realize I had to.
To help women realize they’re not alone in their fight against cervical cancer, I started a nonprofit organization called Cervivor. While everyone experiences cancer as an individual, Cervivor brings survivors together to create a community of advocates that fight against cervical cancer. By telling our stories, we begin to break down the stigma that surrounds this cancer.
While we don’t have a cure for cervical cancer, we do have a way to prevent it. The HPV vaccine is incredible and it is recommended for all children at ages 11-12. That is the best time to protect them from HPV and future HPV-related cancers like cervical cancer. We want to vaccinate kids BEFORE they start having sex and are exposed to the human papillomavirus.
There is so much misinformation about the HPV vaccine online and it’s understandable that people are confused. That’s why groups like Vaccinate our Family are important. They help families navigate through the misinformation and get the facts about vaccines.
Life after cancer is beautiful, but sometimes difficult. I am blessed everyday that I wake up and get to share my story, and I’m working on a documentary about cervical cancer. I also met an incredible man who loves me for me and my journey. I now have an incredible stepdaughter who is one of the lights of my life. But I always think about the child that cancer took away from me. Would she have had my eyes or my husband’s nose?
The one thing I really want people to know…We have a vaccine to prevent cancer! Why wouldn’t parents around the country – and around the world – vaccinate their children against this virus as soon as possible?
Learn how to prevent HPV and HPV-related cancers.