My name is Morgan Newman and I am an optimistic, fun loving, young woman. I’m also a cervical cancer survivor. I emphasize the age part because I was diagnosed with cervical cancer on February 4, 2015 at the youthful age of 24. I was faced with something most 24 year olds shouldn’t have to face.
I think I was in denial just how serious my cancer was. I’ve heard of abnormal Pap tests and thought there’s no way it’s cancer! Before I started active therapy, my oncologist recommended seeing a fertility clinic. I was completely overwhelmed! I ran away just as fast as I walked in those doors. I needed time but time doesn’t stand still for those facing a serious illness like that. I traded my fertility for another chance at life.
The oncologist and radiologist decided and 5 weeks of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of external radiation. I went to my radiation appointments around lunch time Monday through Friday. I had to have a full bladder and the appointment took about 15 minutes to complete. What they failed to tell me was just how much the radiation would take its toll on my lady parts.
After the external radiation treatments were finished, I was to complete 4 internal radiation treatments. They surgically placed a plastic sleeve that would help keep the radiation targeted at the correct spot. It definitely wasn’t a walk in the park and I’ll never forget it.
When everything is said and done, I will say I was lucky in the sense that I got to keep my lady parts. Unfortunately, they were not spared from the “chemopause” most women with cervical cancer experience. I was no longer experiencing a menstrual cycle and the radiation damage was closing off my vaginal canal.
As I was being wheeled back to the recovery room in the hospital from my last internal radiation treatment, the nurse gave me a nice gift and 3-4 little boxes that contained dilators in them. She said I should start using them. I just got done fighting for my life and they wanted me to stick something up there?! My mind shut that idea out pretty quickly. In all honesty, I started to forget them completely. They were not comfortable and they were extremely rigid.
My story didn’t end there. I was diagnosed a year later, February 15, 2016 with metastatic disease in my lungs. They were the same cells that tried to kill me before. I underwent a more intensive chemotherapy from March to August. Nothing was discussed about dilators since I seeked a second opinion and our main focus was on my lungs. I had to live through this recurrence first and even then, there were no promises that I would overcome this disease.
It wasn’t until I went to Cervivor School in June of 2017 that I really started feeling comfortable with the idea of sexuality after cancer. I also heard for the first time, “It’s not your fault.” I didn’t realize how common HPV was! I was able to drop the stigma I was holding against myself (thank you Tamika Felder).
Yet again, I started seeing a new oncologist due to some insurance changes and he pushed the same cold, hard, plastic dilators at me just like the other hospital did. I really struggled knowing just how uncomfortable they were. I became frustrated so I asked a few friends what products they were using and I replaced the cold, hard, plastic with an alternate material. It. Was. Life. Changing!
My best advice for anyone going through a similar experience is to do your research and advocate for yourself. I’m also urging any doctors to listen closely and please help make their patient’s healing process easier. If we both want the same progress, these items need to be more comfortable (especially after a traumatizing experience like cervical cancer). I urge the doctors to continue educating their patients during and after treatment. Sometimes we really miss the communication mark because we’re not sure what we’re feeling or we’re not sure what questions to ask. We must also keep in mind that the recovery process doesn’t end when a treatment ends.
Healing takes time.
Thank you for sharing your story Morgan on VuVagirl!
You can follow Morgan on Instagram @mnewmcervivor3b