Cervical cancer survivor: Why I’m thankful for MD Anderson
I’ve had abnormal Pap tests my whole life — starting when I first began getting them around age 18. Since then, I’ve had at least one abnormal Pap test every year. So, getting retested frequently to rule out the possibility of cervical cancer was nothing new to me.
I only started to worry when I didn’t stop bleeding months after my third child was born in 2020. Once I decided to seek medical attention, I wanted answers fast. But I wasn’t getting them quickly enough near my home in Friendswood, Texas. That’s when I turned to MD Anderson.
My cervical cancer diagnosis
I saw gynecologic oncologist Dr. Jolyn Sharpe Taylor on a Thursday at MD Anderson West Houston, just a few days after calling for an appointment. She performed a colposcopy to examine my cervix closely, then a cervical biopsy to collect the abnormal cells she found there. She also ordered a PET scan for the following Monday to see if the cancer had spread.
By the time I got to the parking lot after my first appointment, I was already getting notifications through MyChart that my tests had been submitted and the results were starting to come back. I was in shock. The speed of my doctor’s communications with me was remarkable.
My cervical cancer treatment
The biopsy results confirmed that I had cervical cancer. But the PET scan showed it was still confined to my cervix, making it stage Ib. Dr. Taylor recommended surgery to remove my uterus. Since I already had three children, I was OK with that plan. And considering my prior history of abnormal Pap results, I was relieved to be having a hysterectomy.
I had the surgery on Feb. 2, 2022, just a few weeks after my first appointment at MD Anderson. The pathology report showed there was no cancer left, so the biopsy itself likely removed the entire tumor. The biopsied tissue did reveal that I had a higher grade of cervical cancer, though. That meant I’d need to be watched more closely for a recurrence. I was and continue to be so thankful that MD Anderson is so thorough.
My first day recovering from the surgery was painful. But within a week, I felt good again and I returned to work part-time. Within a month, I felt great and continue to feel better every day.
The only side effect I had was a little bit of abdominal cramping the first few weeks after the procedure. Considering how bad my menstrual cramps always used to be, though, the ones I experienced as a result of my surgery were nothing.
Why I recommend MD Anderson to everyone
I don’t go around telling everybody I’ve had cancer. But when the subject comes up, I’m always amazed by how many other people struggled as I did before coming to MD Anderson.
By the time I was finally diagnosed with cervical cancer in January 2022, I’d been trying to schedule a biopsy and learn the results for almost four months. It was mentally draining. The more time passed, the more frustrated I became.
All I could think about was that if I did have cancer, each day that passed without treatment was just another 24 hours of letting this thing grow inside me. That was scary. This is cancer we’re talking about. I have a history of it in my family. My father never got to see me graduate with my doctorate or enjoy his grandchildren because he died of glioblastoma at age 58. My paternal grandmother died of colorectal cancer. And my grandfather died of lung cancer.
That’s why I tell my out-of-town friends now that if they ever need to go to MD Anderson, my door is always open. MD Anderson is the best, and my house is only 30 minutes away from its Texas Medical Center Campus. And its staff is very on top of communication.
Knowing that I’m cancer-free now makes me feel great. Knowing I can always count on MD Anderson for fast answers should it ever come back makes me feel even better.