Loss for Gina

Location: Maryland

Cancerversary: April 2021

Age at diagnosis: 32

Diagnosis: Adenocarcinoma in situ

Stage of cancer: III

How my Ureaplasma test story begins: During the summer of 2016, I experienced irregular bleeding even though I was on birth control. I had a pap test, which I had always been on top of, and it came back positive STI test for HPV, but not the high-risk types. We were planning on starting a family, but we planned a trip to Peru in August and wanted to wait until three months after due to the Zika outbreak.

I had been 32 for less than a week when I found out I was pregnant.

But I was so excited that I called my best friend and then waited for my husband to come home to tell him in person for lunch. I spent the entire weekend taking a kit for a fast Ureaplasma exam, ensuring it was true. And I arrived immediately at my OB office, who confirmed I was pregnant. So, I started getting morning sickness at week four, but it disappeared suddenly at week six, and I went into the OB office for a vital life STI test check. I mentioned I was starting to have a weird discharge, a milky/oily texture with a distinct smell. I tested positive for ureaplasma and was put on antibiotics. A couple of weeks later, the discharge came back; it was persistent, and it turned light pink the day before my 12-week appointment. 

I had an ultrasound at that appointment, and we saw the baby again. I felt great, but I mentioned the discharge and colour, and my OB decided to perform a speculum exam. She noticed two bumps on my cervix that weren’t there at my nine-week appointment. She did a biopsy and checked me again, and the ureaplasma test result was positive. I spent President’s Day weekend finally feeling good, so I baked and made dinner for my husband, who had taken care of me during the first trimester. Tuesday morning, I got a call from my OB asking to do a colposcopy; my biopsy had come back positive for endocervical adenocarcinoma in situ. I was so concerned about having a miscarriage that I didn’t give thought to anything else. 

My husband and I were both shocked and so scared. 

Telling my family and friends: I told my close friends what was happening. I called some friends and told them I was pregnant, but also that I had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. There were a lot of tears. Often, I felt like I was comforting my friends. I didn’t tell many people as we were still trying to figure out what was happening. And I finally posted a public statement on social media after we had our pregnancy loss. I finally posted a public statement on social media after we lost our baby.

My treatment.

Because we lived in rural Montana, the gynaecology office was six hours away. And we travelled to the University of Washington and MD Anderson for treatment options. I decided to go with UW as it was a single flight from Missoula. That was where we had friends and support. I ended up getting sick with an STI test. And infection when I was 15 weeks pregnant. And was life-flighted from Montana to Seattle and ended up in the ICU with septic shock. While still in the hospital, we had pregnancy loss at almost 17 weeks.

I had a cone biopsy and lymph node removal done. A couple of weeks later, I was released from the hospital. I was hopeful of being able to have one more chance of getting pregnant. Unfortunately, my margins were given an STD Lab exam, and I was possibly cancer-positive. I had to go for a cancer screening. And I had a total hysterectomy, leaving my ovaries after we had completed a round of IVF. 

I completed six rounds of weekly cisplatin, 25 external radiations, and two brachytherapy treatments that summer.

How I felt after treatment:

I was a little tired after treatment, but I was eager to get back to “normal”. I completed a 40-mile bike ride less than a month after treatment ended and a half marathon nine months later.

What was most difficult for me: Having my baby and fertility taken from me by STIs was the hardest part of all this. I had subchorionic hematoma, common in early pregnancies. And this is what caused my Ureaplasma STD Test and infection. I truly believe that if I didn’t have HPV cancer, my body would have fixed the hematoma, and I would have had our baby.

My life after cancer:

First was my STI Test. Then, after my first round of cancer, my life continued almost as if it never happened. The only difference was that pregnant women and babies triggered me. A friend carried our son for us, and we are now busy caring for and chasing after a little one.

Shortly after chemo ended, my right toes started tingling. Three months later, I experienced excruciating pain from my butt down to my toes that resulted in foot drop and numb areas in my calf. I finally have my pain under control, but I have to walk with an AFO and cane.

I also try to use my platform to remind my friends to get pap tests and the HPV vaccine and to listen to their bodies if they know something is wrong.