When I was 25, I was living in Washington, DC, working as a television producer and loving life. I felt great and healthy, so I put off getting my routine Pap test for a few years. I thought it could wait.
When I finally did go for a check-up, I got the shock of my life. I had cervical cancer. I was devastated, and I asked myself how this was possible. I was too young and too strong for this.
My doctor recommended a radical hysterectomy, which meant I would not be able to have kids, something I had always hoped for. I searched for second opinions to understand my options. But in the end, I had the hysterectomy. I also had chemotherapy and radiation.
I was depressed, but with the support of my family and friends, I finished treatment.
Now I’m cancer-free and enjoying life! I learned just how important it is to have a Pap test regularly. If I hadn’t had that Pap test that led to my cancer diagnosis, I might not be here today. I’m living proof that screening can find cervical cancer at an early stage, when treatment works best.
The Pap test actually helps prevent cervical cancer. It can find precancerous changes on the cervix that can be treated before they turn into cancer. I’m a big believer in telling women about the benefits of the Pap test. In fact, in 2005, I founded Tamika & Friends, a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV).
I hope other women learn from my experience and make sure to have their Pap tests as recommended.