Kim Fitzpatrick's Story

"My ordeal began in 1994 when I had my annual gynecological exam, and the results of my Pap test came back abnormal. "

span quote left  After a history of normal Pap tests, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 40. My ordeal began in 1994 when I had my annual gynecological exam, and the results of my Pap test came back abnormal. My gynecologist assured me that because of my history, I had nothing to worry about – "Just come back in three to six months for a follow up exam," he said. However, my second Pap test was abnormal as well and so I underwent a colposcopy – a procedure that allows the physician to closely examine the cervix and to remove a sample of tissue for analysis. Two months of other procedures and tests followed, and then my gynecologist called and urged me to see a specialist. However, he would not elaborate.

To prepare for the appointment, I requested a copy of my paperwork from my gynecologist's office, never anticipating that I would discover that my worst fear had come true. As the pages came over the fax machine, I learned that I had cervical cancer. Two weeks after my initial meeting with the specialist, I underwent a radical hysterectomy and then later had my ovaries removed. Fortunately, I didn't need chemotherapy or radiation because the cancer hadn't spread, but I spent months away from my job recovering.

Ten years later, when I began looking for new employment, a recruiter introduced me to Digene Corporation (now merged with QIAGEN), a Maryland-based biotech company that developed an innovative test to detect the human papillomavirus (HPV). High-risk types of HPV are the cause of virtually all cases of cervical cancer, and women at risk for the disease can be identified nearly 100 percent of the time if the HPV test is done along with the Pap in women age 30 and older. If I had known earlier that I was infected with a persistent, high-risk type of HPV, my doctor could have performed a colposcopy sooner and treated the abnormal cells well before they became cancerous.

Since April 2004, I have worked as a technical-support field representative for Digene, and now QIAGEN. Based in Virginia Beach, VA, my position involves working closely with labs to teach them how to use the HPV test, troubleshooting any problems they have, and ensuring that they perform the HPV test properly. It's a joy for me to work for a company that wants to keep other women from having to endure what I went through.span quote right