Cervical Cancer Survivor Shares Her Amazing Journey

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“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway.”

Crystal was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2017. She has now successfully defeated her disease and now lives a happy & healthy life with her family.

The Diagnosis

“March 21st, 2017. In the hospital, four days after giving birth to my second child. My OBGYN, whom I am very close with, gave me the news. I was alone in the room when she walked in, I knew the moment she told me she received my biopsy results, even though I hadn’t even considered it when they requested to take one. She sat on the bed next to me, and we sobbed together. When my husband returned to the room we had to give him the news. It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life, for myself and for him.”

The Journey

“I have diagnosed with stage 2B Cervical Cancer at the age of 29, with a brand-new baby boy and a 2-year-old baby girl. They found the tumor during the delivery of my son, as I was unable to dilate because of the mass. They biopsied the tumor in my c-section and I received the results four days later. I was terrified, and I only use that word because I don’t know anything worse.

I have never been so scared in my entire life. I was devastated and spent the next several days in tears. I remember the night that I received the news, I woke up in the middle of the night and my entire body was shaking uncontrollably because of the fear. It was as if someone sucked all of the air out of my lungs, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know how to comprehend what was happening.

I spent the new few weeks healing from my c-section and living in the moment with my babies and my family. The day of my scan, six weeks later, I was very positive, I thought, this can’t be that bad! I didn’t have any real symptoms, I will just get a hysterectomy and be on my way. I was wrong.

The day I received my official diagnosis they told me that cancer has spread to my pelvic lymph nodes and that I had to do chemotherapy combined with external radiation, followed by several treatments of internal radiation. I was numb. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I remember my eyes went out of focus and all of a sudden, I couldn’t hear anything, just like in the movies.

I remember having to snap myself out of it because it was important to hear what they were telling me. I felt defeated, but I knew it was ready to fight. I have an incredibly amazing support team of friends and family and they all assured me that I AM strong and I CAN do this. And I did.

My journey started with surgery for a biopsy of my aortic lymph nodes and an oophoropexy, or the movement of my ovaries out of the radiation zone as to preserve them and prevent premature menopause. The lymph nodes came back negative for cancer, the oophoropexy, on the other hand, was not successful. It was a 50/50 shot, to give them credit. The surgery was a difficult recovery and I began my chemo-radiation therapy just two weeks later.

This is when the REAL fun began! It was a hard 6 weeks of weekly chemo and five days a week radiation, the medication made me jittery and uncomfortable yet without them I was vomiting. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t eat. I lost a LOT of weight and it was everything to just get a protein shake down. Not to mention that when you radiate your lower half you, um, have to deal with the unfortunate damage that happens to your digestive tract (thank god most of it was temporary!).

It was, by far, one of the most miserable and trying parts of my journey. At the end of my chemo, I was spent, I could barely do anything physical and certainly not be the involved mom I had always been. And then, it got worse. I began my first set of four internal radiation treatments that left me severely anemic, to the point of having to get two blood transfusions. I could have used two more! I was so weak I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time.

I didn’t even have the energy to be myself. My personality was gone, my light was gone. It was as if it had been slowly dimming until it finally went out. I remember thinking that the person I once was gone forever, that I would never be that smiling, energetic and happy person ever again. It was really scary and really sad. My husband described it perfectly in a song, True Colors by Cyndi Lauper (but the Trolls version if you’re a mom, because, well toddlers).

Once I was completely done with treatment, left as a shell of my former self, it took me four months to gain my strength, stamina, and light once again. Something that I don’t believe will ever be totally restored, but this is the new me, as they say. I began walking and stretching and eating healthy again and my body is back and better than ever.

My mind and my heart, on the other hand, still has a lot of healing to do. They think once you’re done with treatment, you’re done with cancer, but that isn’t true at all. It forever haunts me, day in and day out. I have learned so much from my journey and plan to do great things to help others in the future, I already am, but parts of me will forever remain broken.”

Motivation to fight cancer

“My kids. They need their mother. I simply can’t bear the thought of them having to grow up without me by their side. I refuse to leave them.”

The biggest hindrance

“Insomnia. Anemia. And my loss of appetite. I dreamt of juicing celery and eating bowls of fresh kale and quinoa, but it was anything to just get food in my stomach. My body was weak and I wasn’t even given the right opportunity to feed it to fight.”

Message to other fighters

“Keep pushing through each day and one day you will look back and wonder how you got through. We are so much braver than we give ourselves credit for. Find a little bit of good in every day, but also give yourself permission to cry, to yell, to feel sorry for yourself. Because cancer does suck, A LOT, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to always ‘be strong’ or ‘stay positive’, it’s okay to be human!

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