Cervical cancer survivor: Why I still have hope, even after six recurrences
Some survivors spend a lot of time worrying that their cancer might come back. That is totally understandable. But it’s also something I make a conscious effort not to do — even after having six recurrences of cervical cancer over the last 11 years.
Don’t get me wrong: facing a cancer diagnosis is frustrating, scary and tiresome, whether it’s your first time or your seventh. It’s overwhelming to have to figure out what your options are yet again, and dreadful to think about how your body might respond to treatment this time.
But the one thing many cancer patients hold onto is hope — hope that they might one day finally be done with cancer and that they can go on with their lives the way they want to. That’s why I keep sharing my story.
MD Anderson offers unparalleled expertise — and always more treatment options
Sometimes I worry that other cervical cancer survivors might feel discouraged, thinking this many recurrences could happen to them, too. But then, I realize that my story might also give them hope — hope that there may still be good treatment options available for them, after multiple relapses. And hope that they or their loved ones might still be alive, too, even after six!
If I’d gone somewhere else for my cervical cancer treatment, that statement might not be true for me. But MD Anderson’s expertise is the reason I still travel from central Florida to Houston. My gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Shannon Westin, has been saving my life for more than 10 years. And I trust her.
Dr. Westin doesn’t have a handbook for cervical cancer survivors like me. To my knowledge, there aren’t that many cervical cancer survivors who have had so many recurrences and lived to tell about them.
But Dr. Westin has an incredibly vast knowledge of this disease, as well as access to treatments and clinical trials that other doctors don’t. Dr. Westin also knows exactly which therapies would be best for my specific cancer, and which ones might make sense to consider later on, because they’re still being developed.
Looking forward to a cancer-free life
I suspect I won’t shift back to thinking of myself as a survivor instead of a patient until I finish my latest treatment cycle. But I’m finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel for my most recent recurrence.
My treatment this time has consisted of two surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy. I still have two more chemotherapy cycles to go. Then I’ll be on maintenance therapy, which means an infusion of the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab every three weeks. But that’s OK. It’s totally doable.
Right now, I just can’t wait to experience life without cancer again. And with the help of Dr. Westin and MD Anderson, I will.