I went through the usual private HPV clinic test, including a gynaecologist’s exam. Because I was busy, I didn’t clarify the CA125 test results, the clinic doctor didn’t write anything, and I conveniently forgot everything. A few months later, my ex-husband, who worked at the clinic, decided to find my results. In the evening, he said, “Everything is bad.” I will live, but a smear revealed cancer cells caused by HPV type 18. There are many human papillomaviruses, some of which are oncogenic. Under a “successful” set of circumstances, they can provoke cervical cancer, which is what happened to me.

At first, I was treated in Moscow. At the HPV clinic where I took tests, they sent me for conization – they circumcised the affected part of the cervix with a cone. A biopsy after the operation showed that those cells that were not excised were also affected by CA125-type cancer.

I had an MRI, according to the results of which the CA125 Doctors said that everything was terrible:

  • The uterus, ovaries and cervix were affected.
  • They needed to be removed.
  • They would not do without radio and chemotherapy.

My sister lives in France, and she suggested that I go for a consultation in Israel, Germany, or the USA, where they have long worked successfully with the CA125 disease. Friends raised money, and together with my ex-husband, I went to a German clinic.

The doctor’s appointment

At that time, we had a difficult relationship, but he did not leave me alone with a serious HPV illness. I don’t know if it would have been so easy for me if he didn’t have a medical education. He is not a surgeon or an oncologist; he did not know many things, but he could talk with the medical staff professionally.

When the German doctor looked at the MRI results, he first laughed. He asked why Russian specialists did an MRI after conization because the tomography showed inflammation after the operation. Who even cuts without measuring? Then he began to swear because he could not understand anything because of these inflammations, and there was no point in examining him. We agreed that I would return to Germany in a month.

At the second HPV examination, they confirmed that I had a tumour. It was not cancer but a precancer – adenocarcinoma. It was possible to remove not the entire uterus but only part of the cervix. The doctor suggested that if I no longer plan to have children, they can remove everything. Otherwise, they will preserve the uterus, but it will require constant monitoring, which can be quite challenging. At that time, I had two children, and I said that I didn’t need anything; I didn’t want any more children. To be safer, the entire uterus was removed.

The treatment journey

The first week after the operation was difficult and painful. I was on IV drips and felt weak and nauseous. Then, everything gradually faded, and when I returned to Moscow, I threw a party for friends who had donated to the operation. Everyone still remembers her.

“I thought it was the wrong psychologist.”

There is no practice of psychological preparation of patients before surgery in Russian clinics. Although the doctors behaved very sincerely – they sympathized with me and encouraged me – I still felt depressed. In Germany, the medical staff behaved differently: no one empathized with me, zero emotions at all. Doctors communicate like this: “You have cancer; we’ll cut off 10 centimetres. Here’s the receipt; the cash register is on the first floor; goodbye.” I saw confidence in their behaviour; for them, cancer is not a serious disease.

Even before the operation, I went to a psychologist; she knew everything about my trips to the German clinic. After the first HPV test consultation in Germany, I joyfully told her: “God, can you imagine? I won’t have to do chemotherapy; my appendages will be preserved.” She replied that I had an abnormal reaction: it would be strange to be happy if they removed a very important part that makes me a woman. I then thought that I had come across the wrong psychologist. In my opinion, a specialist, when you tell him that everything is bad, answers: “No, in fact, everything is great!” Then, it turned out that the psychologist was right.

Life after surgery

After the operation, my ex-husband and I lay in the ward and watched a film where the heroine became pregnant. I don’t remember the plot but experienced “restless legs syndrome” while watching it. My whole body itched, and I started laughing and crying. At that moment, I realized that I would never again experience how a child grows inside and moves. I felt a loss of femininity; I even thought of ​​growing my hair long. It wasn’t easy. When I returned to Russia, I worked with a psychologist for a long time and calmed down. Having a hysterectomy does not affect my sex life, and I can adopt the child. I closed this question for myself.

About the HPV vaccine  for men and women

I no longer have the virus in my body; it has disappeared along with the affected material. I endeavour to emphasize the importance of vaccinating both women and men against HPV as much as possible. Strains of the virus cause not only cervical CA125-level cancer but also cancer of the penis, head and neck – throat, nose, and larynx. I plan to get my daughters HPV shots when they turn 13.

Final thoughts

In general, it is very important to vaccinate children and generally tell them about sexually transmitted diseases in a normal form. At my school, people came to sex education classes to laugh, but no one learned anything from it. A woman from the clinic came and put a condom on a banana – everyone found it funny. It is necessary to change the form of presentation and the regularity of the conversations themselves so that this affects the lives of adolescents in the future. It would have been much easier for me to live if I had known about the things I know now.

People generally have different attitudes towards HPV. In Europe, I learned that people don’t worry about this much – 70% of the population has HPV, but they don’t consider it as serious as HIV or syphilis. In Russia, they know little about the virus; in our country, sometimes, we have to explain basic things to people.

For example, if an HPV danger virus variant is already in the body – especially an oncogenic type – you should understand your responsibility to your partner. That is, tell new sexual partners about it and use protection. All women, without exception, must undergo a medical CA125 levels check-up and also do a Pap test. If I hadn’t been tested, I wouldn’t have known about the cancer because I didn’t have any symptoms.