With little hope, there is life to embrace…
Growing up vibrant and beautiful, Sheila never knew that someday she would be fighting for her life against cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, observed every January, sheds light on a critical health issue. According to health sources, cervical cancer, closely associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, stands as the fourth most prevalent cancer among women. On a positive note, the HPV vaccine emerges as a safe and highly effective measure in preventing cervical cancer.
“Life is a journey filled with obstacles, and some are incredibly challenging to overcome. The day I learned of my stage three cancer diagnosis, it felt like my life had been stolen along with my happiness. I found myself in a situation where I had no freedom and control over my own body.”
Sheila noticed unusual bleeding and initially attributed it to a misplaced uterine device. However, upon consulting her gynecologist, she learned that a Pap smear was necessary. With the sample cells taken slightly higher up in the cervix, the results revealed a diagnosis of cancer.
Reflecting on her journey, Sheila acknowledged having modest expectations but embraced each moment, aware of the high costs of medical services, particularly in Zimbabwe. With the support of her family, she sought treatment in South Africa. Six weeks into her medical journey, Sheila commenced weekly chemotherapy sessions, coupled with rounds of external and internal radiation. Despite the toll on her body, hope persisted.
“At this juncture, I decided to seek a second opinion. While concerned about potentially disappointing my gynecologist, I recognized the importance of advocating for myself. The second opinion revealed the likelihood of residual cancer. Two weeks later, I underwent a radical hysterectomy, a decision that initially astonished me,” she shared.
With a clean PET/CT scan, Sheila received the official declaration of being cancer-free. However, her Pap test revealed the presence of more precancerous cells. “On seeking a second opinion regarding the recommended treatment, I was no longer concerned about potentially offending anyone. My primary focus was advocating for my health and taking control of my well-being. The second opinion affirmed the course of treatment suggested by my oncologist,” Sheila emphasized.
Expanding on her narrative, Sheila expressed that while she would never willingly choose to undergo the challenging battle with cancer, she actively chose to find blessings in the midst of the experience.
“I discovered the importance of listening to my body and standing up for my well-being, understanding that seeking a second opinion is not only acceptable but crucial. Throughout my journey, I realized I am surrounded by countless family members and friends, offering unwavering support. They sat with me during chemotherapy, drove me to radiation, shared laughter, shed tears, and became advocates on my behalf when I couldn’t do so for myself… and with each challenge, I discovered a well of inner strength.”
Offering advice to other women, Sheila passionately expressed, “It’s crucial for women to prioritize self-care. Never hesitate to undergo examinations, and don’t worry about inconveniencing or upsetting doctors. This is about life! Furthermore, I want people to understand that our generation could potentially be the last to face cervical cancer. We have the power to eradicate this disease by ensuring our children receive the necessary vaccinations,” she asserted.