Two-time cervical cancer survivor ,Janet Wagner is the head of the San Antonio chapter of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.
JANET WAGNER, National Cervical Cancer Coalition, San Antonio
From when the doctors first told me that I had cancer, oddly it wasn’t ever that I thought I was going to die. I was diagnosed originally back in 2000, so I am a long-term cervical cancer survivor-patient and when I was diagnosed, it was a fairly early stage, so I had a surgery and was considered cancer-free and went almost 7 years without a recurrence.
In February 2007, I was having some symptoms that didn’t really know what was going on. Finally went to the emergency room and got someone to take a look at me a little bit closer and found that I did have a recurrence of cervical cancer.
You know that’s – that was very difficult and even thinking about it now, it is a challenge because you think, “Okay, I did this once, I shouldn’t have to do it again – especially when you go so long being cancer-free and you’ve done what you think you’re supposed to do as far as, you know, your follow-ups every six months.” It’s difficult. It’s very, very difficult. I am very fortunate to have a great support system of friends and family. I mean that has got to be, you know, what gets me through. I get a lot of emails, a lot of Facebook messages or whatever, of people who, you know, pray for me and that just, that’s amazing. But that was the hardest I believe, was being told the second time that you have a recurrence and not that it’s a new primary, because if it’s a new primary there is a cure for it. But as a recurrence, and as a recurrence of a cervical cancer, there is no cure.
So the prognosis a couple of times they’ve told me, “Well, you know, you’ve got six months to live.” Well that was, you know however many months ago and my doctor knows how I feel. I keep saying, “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s my time yet.” My doctor has really never given me a timeframe, per se, because I am on disability. I have to do paperwork every so often and so it was on the paperwork what the prognosis is, which they have to give to the insurance company. So, and you know, statistics, statistically…but I believe, when I was given my recurrence two and a half years ago I was told at that point that the percentage of, you know six months out or nine months out or 12 months out, what they were statistically.
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It doesn’t have to be a death sentence, especially when we prevent it early. I think that’s why it’s really important that organizations like the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, who I am with – we have a chapter here in San Antonio – I think that’s why it’s so important that we’re doing what we do.
Cervical cancer can be prevented. Get your pap smears. Know what’s going on with your body. You are the number one doctor for your body because you’re the only one that knows if something is going on with it, so get your pap smear. If you’re qualified, if you’re eligible to get the HPV vaccination, get the HPV vaccination and ask your doctor if you should have an HPV test. Ninety-nine percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV and if we can prevent HPV, then we can prevent that cancer. So, why not? Why go through this if you don’t have to?
I have a wonderful doctor now who is very much into research and that has – that helps. I think that, yeah, there’s the standard of care that we have now, but I also believe…I was on a call Wednesday about clinical trials, and I think if you have an opportunity to participate in one, I think it’s something definitely that a person should look into.
I think the more people we can educate about cancer – any type of cancer – and how people can prevent or how we can research and treat it and get that out to as many people as possible, I think that’s great. I am in a position where prevention is not possible for me because I already have it. So okay, there’s currently no cure, but that doesn’t mean in three months there’s not going to be, or in six months. So right now I’m fighting, I’ll fight for time and every day and every moment that they put into research for trials or whatever is, makes that closer for me to be here twenty more years.
I definitely believe in miracles; I believe in attitude and positive. I think that it’s very important for people who are going through chemo or who have been giving, given a death sentence if you will – if you want to call it that – that they surround themselves with people who are going to strengthen them, who are going to be a positive. There’s too much negative in the world to surround yourself with negative. I believe I have too much living to do to die. I don’t have time to die right now. I don’t think God is finished with me yet.
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