August 21, 2009

Michelle's love letter to you~

My name is Michelle Whitlock and I am a cervical cancer survivor. Like most little girls, I dreamed of growing up, meeting prince charming, getting married and having children. But my life took an unwanted detour.

In Dec 2001, at 26 I was busy climbing the corporate ladder while completing my degree. I thought I had all the time in the world for those childhood dreams of marriage and motherhood. But I was wrong. My world came to a screeching halt with my diagnosis of cervical cancer. I was stunned!

Just a few weeks earlier I had gone in for my annual Pap, just like I had for the last ten years. But this time she performed the then new digene HPV test. The Pap came back normal but I tested positive for high risk HPV. My doctor called me in for biopsies, a leep procedure and conization. I didn’t understand the need for all these other procedures, because like most women, I believed a normal Pap Test meant everything was fine, that I was fine. But I wasn’t fine, I had Stage IB1 cancer. Thank God, my Doctor preformed the HPV test!

The doctor recommended a radical hysterectomy which would leave me infertile. I refused. I didn’t have children, I wasn’t married and I’d only been dating my boyfriend for 6 month. My dreams were unraveling fast.

Determined to fight, I researched my options, got a second opinion and asked my doctor all the tough and uncomfortable questions. I learned about a new fertility sparing procedure, called the radical trachelectomy. I chose that option!

But just two years later, in April 2004 only days after my boyfriend proposed, my worse fear became a reality—my cancer was back. My doctor immediate insisted I have a radical hysterectomy. I kept thinking not now, this is suppose to be my fairy tale ending. Desperate to preserve my fertility, I sought out a second opinion and did more research. My new doctor helped me find a reproductive endocrinologist. My doctor reluctantly agreed to give me eight weeks before my surgery. During that time I started fertility treatment, harvested my eggs and froze 7 embryos. One week later I flew to Jamaica and got married and ten days after that checked in Methodist Mid-Town Hospital and had my radical hysterectomy, partial vaginalectomy and lymph node dissection followed by weeks of chemo and radiation.

I found myself at twenty-nine with a whole host of new conditions courtesy of my cancer treatments: menopause, sexual dysfunction, and radiation damage to both my bowels and hips. I found myself faced with the reality that I would never be able to create life inside me. It was devastating both physically and emotionally. I spent my first few years married trying to piece back together my shattered life with the help of my loving husband.

Today, I am 41/2 years in remission and grateful to be here. My husband and I are trying to have a child with the help of a gestational carrier (surrogate). 8/4/09—We are 25 weeks pregnant finally!

Cervical cancer changed my life forever but No other woman needs to lose her life or fertility to this disease. Today, we have the tools for prevention and early detection. Please join me in spreading the word because together our voices are stronger than mine alone.

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