November 1st, 2016
| Fighter: Cervical Cancer
At the age of 31 I feel like I am living someone else’s life, someone much older. I was diagnosed in October 2012 with stage 1b2 adenocarcinoma cervical cancer. I was originally told that I would need to have a hysterectomy to treat my cancer. I was only 27 and recently divorced. I had entered the dating scene, how was I supposed to explain this? I had a three-year-old son, however, I was not ready to give up on my fertility. I was thrilled on October 18th, 2012 when my oncologist told me I would be a perfect candidate for a fertility preserving procedure: trachelectomy and lymph node removal. If all went as planned I would not need additional treatments and I would be able to conceive and carry a child naturally in the future with a C-section delivery.
In November 2012 I underwent the surgery with only minor complications. The oncology board determined that I was not in need of any additional treatment and I would simply be monitored. We had successfully preserved my fertility and removed the 2.5 cm by 3 cm tumor from my cervix. I felt like a success story and immediately tried to put the cancer behind me. All I wanted to do was move on with my life.
But my cancer story didn't end there. In December 2013, I saw blood in my urine. In April 2014, my urologist ordered a scan and determined that my cancer had returned--with a vengeance. At this point I was engaged to be married, using birth control to prevent pregnancy, and planning to conceive a child in just a few short months. My son thought so, too. He said, “As soon as Momma gets married we can have a baby.”
This recurrence changed everything. It meant I couldn’t just forget that I had cancer. It meant time for treatment again. It meant putting my life on hold again. It meant my body was in danger again, and so was my fertility. I remember walking into the oncologist office expecting to hear that it was time for a hysterectomy and that I would no longer be able to conceive a child. To my surprise, he said, “Oh no, it is far too bad for that.”
I was 28 when I started treatment for my recurrence. Before my 29th birthday, I had officially lost my fertility and started menopause. I was devastated, unquestionably. But it was something I had to accept emotionally in order to make it through the aggressive treatment. I was forced to look at what I did have: my son, and that I had to make myself better so I could raise him. I had to put the fertility issue in the back of my mind and move forward with my life.
In March 2015 I received the news that my treatment had been a success and I was NED (no evidence of disease). The celebration was short lived, though, as I was diagnosed in May 2015 with my second recurrence.
Now, I am 31 and living my life with persistently recurrent, metastatic cervical cancer and I have gone through a spectrum of definitions for my body and my fertility. At first, I thought that I had push past the loss of fertility if I wanted to outlive the cancer. Then, I found out I could have a trachelectomy and save my fertility, I thought I was okay. I thought maybe I could both survive cancer and keep my fertility in tact. But then came the real kicker-- that recurrence that stole my fertility. I have mourned the loss of the life I was supposed to have.
Now I am moving forward and advocating so other women know they aren't the only one without their fertility. We need to know we are not alone. I am living my life to its fullest, even with cancer, and I challenge each of you to live life that way as well.
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Image courtesy of Jon Flobrant
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Erica is a thirty-year-old wife, mother, and teacher who is living her live with cervical cancer. She was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2012 at stage 1b2, in April 2014 she was diagnosed with an aggressive recurrence, again in May 2015 her cancer returned. Although she is in a treatment to slow the progression of her cancer there is no cure in sight at this time.