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The Unspoken Cancer

by Avi Grant-NoonanSurvivor, Cervical CancerJanuary 16, 2024View more posts from Avi Grant-Noonan

The Unspoken Cancer: Cervical Cancer, My Personal Story of Survivorship

Cervical cancer is one of the cancers you don’t hear about. If you haven’t been impacted by cervical cancer, you don’t talk about it.

I want to share my story because I want to make sure every one understands there is no shame in being diagnosed with cervical cancer. In this age and time, it’s hard to find a space and people to talk to who can relate to what you’re about to go through, are going through, or have gone through—to ask questions or to just even have an ear to listen to you. This is why I advocate for cervical cancer and have become an open book and talk about it any chance I get and always remind people to book their annual pap smears because they can save your life.

On August 19th, 2021 four words changed my life: you have cervical cancer.

For years I had abnormal bleeding and inconsistent periods, but my OBGYN at the time didn’t go through all the testing to find out the reason behind everything that was going on. Then red flags began to show after losing our baby in 2019—we had been trying to continue growing our family but we were having a hard time getting pregnant. After changing my OBGYN, I found an amazing doctor who wouldn’t stop until he found out what was going on. I went in for my regular pap and it came back abnormal. He repeated it six months later and it was again abnormal. This is when he decided to do a colposcopy—and this is where my cancer battle started. The days that followed my diagnosis are a blur. A mixture of confusion, anger, sadness, feeling terrified, shocked, and extremely overwhelmed. What did this mean? What would happen to me; to my loved ones; to my/our plans, if I died?

More people need to understand this: cervical cancer is not “an easy cancer” or the “best kind” of cancer to get. It’s just not true.

The heartbreak I felt as I told my parents, my siblings, my grandmother, my husband, and my close friends… We cried…oh man, did we cry. And after a good cry, I told them that would have to be the last time we cried. From that point forward we would face this terrible disease like we face everything else in life: together. I hugged my only child, Denavi, a little tighter and longer than usual and smiled.

We faced a lot of challenges between deciding if we needed a second opinion to choosing to save my life instead of trying to save my eggs and create embryos to later on use a surrogate. Well, we didn’t have enough time for any of those options because the cancer was aggressive, treatment needed to start right away, and a radical hysterectomy was not an option.

Doctors appointments, PET scans, MRIs, diagnostic tests, deciding which route to take regarding my job, filing for FMLA, and learning about my stage 3 cervical cancer and what it meant had taken over my life. Then there was fighting with my insurance to provide proof of my cancer that was invading my cervix.

One of 28 rounds of external treatments began on September 20, 2021. Followed by one out of six weekly chemotherapy that began on September 22, 2021.

Fast forward to January 28, 2022—IN REMISSION. Words I thought I would never hear when I was first diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer.

Almost two years ago I was fighting for my life; cervical cancer came into my life and threatened to turn all my dreams to dust.

But God gave me beauty for ashes and worked all things together for my good.

Still, sometimes I miss the girl I used to be. This last year has not been easy. My first year in remission was a year full of countless appointments and tests, two major surgeries in two months. Days when I’ve felt inadequate. When you go from the girl who can take on the world to the one who can’t even take five steps without feeling out of breath. You push through.

This is survivorship.

28 rounds of external radiation, four chemos using Cisplatin (scheduled for six but my body couldn’t take them all), and five internal radiations took my fertility away, but it was all worth it for this exact moment. For the next couple of years, I will be getting a PET scan every six months and following up with my oncologist at the Miami Cancer Institute. I have completely changed my diet and lifestyle. We take one day at a time and plan vacations and weekend getaways, enjoying life to the fullest. Cancer changes the way you see life.

As a cancer survivor, I’m here to tell you that the experience of being diagnosed with cancer is scary, confusing, and leaves many people feeling lost and alone. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about advocacy and telling my story. You are not alone. We have the power to end cervical cancer and in order to do that we need more people advocating, telling their stories, educating others, and speaking about the HPV vaccines and early screenings.

Together we can end cervical cancer; it is within our reach.

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