My Story | Frankie M., South Carolina, USA
My name is Frankie. It was right before Christmas, 2000, when I was diagnosed with Stage 4a cervical cancer with metastases to pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes. My story really starts back in April of 2000. I had been experiencing bleeding during intercourse, spotting, and terrible pain. I just took ibuprofen and let things continue as they were. I never took the time to slow down, or think that something could be seriously wrong. After all, I was young and had always been healthy. Nothing could be wrong with me!
With that mind set, life continued at breakneck speed. Many months later, November, 2000, the spotting and pain had gotten to the point that I wasn't able to function, and my husband and even my clients were getting angry. I made an appointment with a gynecologist, the first in MANY years. I was, after all, INVINCIBLE.
The look on the doctors face was a sight I will never forget. I knew right away it was something serious. I was asked to get dressed and told the doctor would be back. Several minutes later the doctor came back and said he wanted to do a colposcopy. During this procedure, he took several biopsies, and when it was over, he told me that he was certain that I had cancer. All I could ask was, "When am I going to die?" and, at that point, he gave me the statistics for advanced cervical cancer. It was then I wished I had never asked.
In the days and weeks that followed, I was on auto-pilot. I look back now, and it's hard for me to remember the events leading up to that day in December. All I knew was my marriage was falling apart and I was going to die. My body had betrayed me. My youth, that I thought would protect me, FAILED.
As treatment began, I handled everything well. But by the third set of chemo, I was so weak I thought I would never make it through that round. During this time, I was also undergoing internal and external radiation. All the treatments pushed me into menopause, and my dreams of having children went out the window .
The treatments left me mentally and physically depleted. I was excited when they were over, as it gave me a chance to rest and heal. Unfortunately, when I had my follow-up scan, it showed a shadow on my liver. My cancer had spread. I was now a stage 4b, and I knew the treatments weren't working for me. This was devastating news.
The doctor offered another round of chemo and I had one treatment before deciding to discontinue therapy. My primary tumor had grown, spreading to other nodes, as well as to my liver. It was time for me to accept that the treatments had failed me and to reclaim my life and whatever time I have left. I want to live out the rest of my days without the devastating side effects of cancer treatments.
If there is one thing I could tell a young woman to convince them to have a yearly exam, it would be not to assume that your youth will protect you. Cancer does not discriminate; it will attack at random, and early detection is the answer.
Live each day to the fullest. Walk on the beach, dance in the rain, build a sand castle, go to family dinners, and sit on the patio and stare at the stars. These are all the things I never did before my cancer diagnosis. I only wish now that I hadn't waited for that terrible wake-up call.