Lily’s Story – Cervical Disease

Tests for HPV And Cancer are Directly Connected 

At 27 years old, Lily learned she had cervical cancer. And now, we know from tests that HPV causes almost all cervical cancers. Lily is sharing her STD Test story to encourage parents to protect their children from HPV-related cancers by getting them vaccinated.

Lily’s story in her own words

When I say that I was the most normal 27-year-old, I truly mean that I was the most normal 27-year-old. I had met the love of my life, recently moved in with a friend, and started working with my father, helping out with the family business full-time. I had this beautiful dog, Rocco, who I adored. He went with me everywhere. I loved going to all sorts of different music concerts, walking around the dog park, and just hanging out with friends.

About a year into my relationship with my boyfriend, I noticed that I was having quite a bit of pain in my pelvis. I would wake up almost every day in pain, not so much that I couldn’t get out of bed, just enough to make me realise that the pain was there. Then, I would get up and take an aspirin and usually forget about it by the end of the day. I also started to bleed after sex. Still, I waited almost a year before going to the doctor. I was that person who would go to the doctor when it was really bad.

Why didn’t I go sooner?

I kept putting off my regularly scheduled pap smear because, as a young woman in her 20s, I didn’t think I needed to go to that one test appointment. But I could likely skip one and be just fine—okay, maybe skip two and still be fine.

I thought to myself, oh, probably just a bad infection. Okay, what do we need to do for this? It was when she called to see a specialist and asked if I could be seen immediately that day. I kept thinking: Why hadn’t I just gone and been STD checked sooner? Why hadn’t I taken care of myself properly? What have I done?

I think I was shocked because I called my boyfriend, and when I reiterated the story, he dropped everything and told me he would meet me at the specialist. After I went in, I was examined again, and now I am just silent, thinking the worst. I remember this specialist had a HORRIBLE bedside manner. He was cold and seemed upset that he had to squeeze me in as the last patient of the day. He told me he needed to take a sample, and it was some of the worst pain. I think a lot had to do with the fact that I was already so scared. The nurse held my hand, and I remember crying and crying.

When it was over, he told me I would have answers on Monday since it was Friday, and he left.

Receiving the news

After getting the test report, you can guess how much of a rollercoaster that weekend was for me. I went through sobbing fits; then I wouldn’t talk for hours, and then I’d convince myself that there was no way this could happen to me.

Monday came, and I got the STD test Results call. I was sitting against the wall in my dining room. I heard, “I regret that the HPV test report has returned as positive. There is a tumour in your cervix, and it is cancerous.” He explained more to me, but I just put the phone down and gave it to my boyfriend. I heard nothing. Genuinely, I saw nothing. I just stood there in shock. And I didn’t do anything at all. I did get two doses of the vaccine around age 18, but I had already been exposed to HPV when I got the shot. That is why it is so important to get it earlier.

My parents flew home immediately to be with me. We went to meet my gynaecological oncologist together. I also got a second opinion about being on the safe side. We got the same answer again. I had cervical cancer.

I went through 5 weekly chemotherapy sessions, daily radiation, 5 internal radiation treatments (requiring surgical placement) and an additional 12 weeks of chemotherapy because why not? After that, I was weak. Generally, I was sad.

From then on

I  went into a huge depression. I was throwing up almost all the time, and I wasn’t eating much. And I could barely get out of bed for days on end and then would sit and cry. Generally, I was so sick of being sick. I was sick of not laughing. I did not even go to get my regular HPV test anymore. Laughing pulls me out of depression, it can change my mood in a snap, and it can make other people feel good. Laughing heals all. It broke my heart that nothing was funny to me at this point. I thought the darkest things almost every day, but I was lucky to have my mother take care of me and pull me out of my depression nearly every day I was sick.

Moral of the story

Lily’s partner shaves her head while she cries. I want to tell other women to get regular HPV Tests and pap smears. And to get the HPV vaccine because now I cannot have a child of my own. At the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t care, and I just wanted to be healthy. Now, at the age of 31, I live with this huge regret every single day. I feel like the best part of being a woman has been stolen away from me. Vaccination and STD Test screening are preventative care, and you don’t want to end up in a situation like mine.

I lost some friends, and I lost some hair, but I never lost myself throughout the whole ordeal. I had so much support from friends and family, and I want to give my support to any woman dealing with cervical cancer! You are not alone, and you are not a bad person for getting this cancer.