Pam Smialek's Story

"It still amazes me that if it weren’t for the HPV test, my cancer might not have been caught in time to save me."

span quote leftFor years, I have gone annually for my Pap tests and the results have always been the same: “normal.” In May of 2007, my doctor mentioned the HPV test for the first time. I had not heard of it before, but at that time he decided to give me the HPV test along with my Pap. Two weeks later, I got the call that my HPV test had come back as “high risk.” I thought, “high risk?” What does that mean? Since my Pap was normal, I was confused. I had come to rely on the Pap to tell me if anything was wrong.

After further testing, I got a phone call… “Could you please come into the office? The doctor would like to speak with you.” As I sat in the doctor’s office with Ken, the love of my life for over six years, the doctor said, “I’m sorry, but you have cervical cancer.” I will be haunted by those words for the rest of my life.

Let’s just say I’ve been medically challenged throughout my life and my general practitioner always told me he had to pull the books out whenever I got sick because it was never anything simple. In 1996, I had a hysterectomy due to a 12-year battle with endometriosis. Although they left in my cervix, having a hysterectomy at 34 was devastating. I had no children and the dream of ever becoming pregnant was taken from me. Then, in March of 2006, I had surgery to remove about eight inches of my colon due to a cancerous polyp. After having been through all of this, the cervical cancer diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks.

As I lay in bed that night, I had already given up. I bargained with God over the outcome and when I woke, I was terrified. Was I dreaming all of this? I had just gotten two puppies, siblings named Brewster and Maggie Mae. They were my babies; they were only 3 months old and they needed me. After the diagnosis, I wanted to absorb as much information about cervical cancer as I could. I read books and did a lot of online research. After much deliberation and many discussions with my doctor, we decided that my best option was to have surgery to remove the cancerous cells from the cervix. Since my cancer was in such an early stage, we chose to leave my cervix in place.

That was in August of 2007. I was 45 years old. It still amazes me that if it weren’t for the HPV test, my cancer might not have been caught in time to save me. All of these years, women have trusted the Pap, and as important as it is, it’s not foolproof. Women over 30 should get the HPV test too.

Since my diagnosis, I have been on a mission to make sure every woman 30 and over gets the HPV test along with the Pap. I started a non-profit organization that’s helping me reach this goal, called “My Day.” I am out in my community spending Saturdays educating women about the importance of HPV screening. In addition to education, my organization helps to raise money through various events that help assure that women who don’t have insurance still can get the Pap and HPV tests. I absolutely believe that no woman should have to go without these tests because of her lack of financial means, especially when this cancer can be prevented.span quote right

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