Patient Advocacy Officer and Cancer Thriver
I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec and graduated from Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business with a Bachelor of Commerce and a major in Accounting. After working in an accounting firm and helping with campus recruitment, I learned that I was more people-oriented and switched to a career in human resources focusing on recruitment. For the next decade, I worked in recruitment and really enjoyed meeting so many different people!
I also met the love of my life, Mike, towards the end of my university days and we got married and enjoyed travelling, camping, renovating our home, and adopting senior dogs. We decided to start a family but struggled with infertility for many years. However, after many attempts and losses, we had our miracle child after 2 IVF treatments. She was born in April 2019 and has been the light of my life ever since.
I had a few complications during my pregnancy and hemorrhaged significantly post-birth. I didn’t stop bleeding for 6 months, so I visited my doctor to see what was wrong. Several doctors said everything looked normal via ultrasound and that I was still breastfeeding, so it seemed normal. However, something didn’t feel right and I felt I needed to keep pushing and look for more answers. I needed to advocate for myself. I knew that I had had normal pap smears for the last decade and was generally in good health. However, back in university, I was part of a research study called the HITCH Study which investigated HPV infection and transmission. A few years after graduation, I received a letter from them indicating that I had tested positive for a high risk oncogenic type of HPV and that I would have to get tested regularly with a pap smear as it could lead to cancer one day. I kept the letter from 2011 all these years and I believe this is the reason I have continued to advocate for myself. In a way, this study saved my life. Had I not known about the HPV positive status, I probably would have listened to the doctor and thought everything was normal. After all, I had had over 7 normal pap smears in the last decade!
And so, I kept pushing for more answers and visited 4 more doctors. One of them thankfully saw me first thing Saturday morning on Labour Day weekend. She recommended I get a colposcopy. I finally got one at the end of November and the initial diagnosis was precancerous cells. Thankfully, the doctor trusted her gut and called me in right away and urgently suggested I do a LEEP procedure to get more accurate results. Less than a week later on Friday, December 13th, the biopsy confirmed that it was adenocarcinoma of the cervix. I was then transferred to an oncologist who diagnosed me at Stage 2B. I would go on to do chemo and radiation as well as brachytherapy in February and March of 2020, just before Covid hit.
As I write this, I am less than a week away from my “2 years since date of diagnosis” milestone. It has been quite the rollercoaster ride. Being a first-time mom with a toddler at home, recovering from cancer treatments and a worldwide pandemic has had its challenges, both mentally and physically. But I told myself when I first got diagnosed that I would work hard to spread awareness about HPV and cervical cancer prevention/screening tools and share my story. Joining HPV Global Action will do just that!