On July 19, 2011, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was a Tuesday and I received a call from my gynecologist asking me to come in that afternoon to discuss the test results from a recent biopsy.
After an abnormal pap test, I knew the news couldn't be good. So, I called my mother and asked her to meet me at the doctor's office for moral support during the appointment.
I wasn't expecting the diagnosis I got.
I tested positive for the HPV virus years ago, but I never had any symptoms, and at times my exams came back with no evidence of HPV.
I'd undergone cryocautery once to freeze out some abnormal, pre-cancerous cells soon after the initial HPV positive test results. But my doctor informed me that those cells would need a decade or longer to become cancer cells.
I figured my test results consultation would be along these lines, perhaps one or two steps beyond this stage. I hadn't had a well-woman exam in a few years, but it hadn't been anywhere near the 10 years my previous doctor said those cells would need to become cancerous.
The 'C' word
I joked with Dr. Brian Blonder about being OK with the idea of never having to deal with another period. But I was confused when he replied that I'd never have to worry about that again. Then, he said the word: cancer.
At that point, my mother took over. My body went numb and everything sounded like I was underwater. I retreated into myself for several minutes, trying to make sense of what the doctor had just told us. My mother took notes, asked questions and looked at the lab results that Dr. Blonder provided.
I had a visible tumor on my cervix. The doctor saw it when he performed my initial exam and was nearly positive it was cervical cancer, but waited to inform me until we'd gone through the biopsy.
He told me I'd most likely have to have a hysterectomy and then have a few lymph nodes tested to see if I needed chemotherapy and radiation. He had already made an appointment for me the next morning with gynecological oncologist Michael Bevers, M.D.
I snapped out of it after hearing Dr. Bevers' name. In fact, I burst out laughing, and it was the first peep I'd made since the mention of cancer. I couldn't help myself; his name tickled me and struck me as hilariously amusing during such a serious consultation.
It was then that I made the decision to fight the cancer with every fiber of my being. My laughter may have interrupted my mother's conversation, but it was a needed icebreaker. Dr. Blonder smiled and said, "Ahh, she's back, and obviously going to be just fine."
Of course, there were a lot of tears to come -- tears, questions and more tears. However, that initial fit of the giggles set the tone for my experience. Since then, I've decided to fight and try to laugh my way through the experience as much as possible.