Michelle was 26 when she found out she had stage 1b, cervical cancer. She knew she wanted to start a family someday, so she opted for a relatively new procedure called a trachelectomy, in which her cervix was removed but her uterus remained. This surgery gives women about a 50 percent chance of conceiving in the future.
The evening of her two-year remission check-up, her longtime boyfriend proposed. But five days later, she got bad news: The cancer was back—and this time it had spread. Now a hysterectomy was necessary to save Michelle’s life. But before she underwent surgery, she had two things she wanted to do: She visited a fertility clinic to create frozen embryos, and got married on a beach in Jamaica.
Now, thanks to a surrogate mother (called a gestational host), Michelle has a healthy baby girl and says she wouldn’t change a thing. “I don’t regret not having a hysterectomy right away. That decision bought me two years to fall in love, get married, and have a plan. So I don’t see that as a mistake—I see it as an opportunity.”
Michelle has even published a book, How I Lost My Uterus and Found My Voice: A Memoir of Love, Hope, and Empowerment, which explores her fight to live, love, and have children.
“Just before I went to the hospital, I got a card from the fertility clinic with a photo of my seven embryos on their first day of creation. The note read, ‘Good luck on your surgery. Here are your maybe babies.’ Those embryos symbolized hope and a life I could still have. They symbolized my future. I want to help other women know there is life after cancer and it can be wonderful.”
Advice to New Patients:
“Be empowered, do your own research, and ask the tough questions. Survival is so tied to your state of mind. In today’s world we often think of our doctors as the boss. But the doctors know only the disease, not you as an individual. As patients, we have to remember to use doctors as our partners, but to still speak up and be part of the treatment plan.”
How I’ve Changed:
“I advocate for women’s health and cervical-cancer awareness and prevention, and I do a lot of writing about the disease—I never knew I could write! I think I was happy before I had cancer, but I don’t think I felt fulfilled. Cancer gave me that purpose.”
“When I speak to other women about this preventable disease, it’s the greatest sense of fulfillment I can put out. Helping educate others so no other women has to learn the facts the hard way like I did is so rewarding. No woman should lose her fertility or die from this preventable disease.”
What I’m Proud Of:
“My daughter. I’m most proud of my forethought to be an advocate in my health and to preserve my fertility. Without that, I wouldn’t have this beautiful, precious little angel.”
What I Wish Everyone Knew:
“I wish everyone knew that HPV is a very common infection and almost all of us get it: 8 out 10 women will have an HPV infection by the age of 50. Women need to learn the facts and talk to their doctors. It’s about educating yourself, partnering with your healthcare provider, and staying up-to-date on your exams so you have the screening tools to protect yourself, your fertility, and your life.”
Reposted from Women’s health Magazine.