A survivor's story

Juliet Davis shares her experience with cervical cancer

Sunday, October 28, 2018

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For the month of October, Your Health Your Wealth, in partnership with the Ministry of Health (YHYW), will be discussing the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cancers including cervical cancer.

TODAY we will hear from cervical cancer survivor Juliet Davis, who shares her experience with the illness.

YHYW: How old were you when you were diagnosed with cervical cancer?

JD: I was diagnosed in 2009, when I was 59.

YHYW: What prompted your visit to the doctor?

JD: Funnily enough, I just went on a whim. I was not experiencing any symptoms; I had no pain, discomfort or spotting. I just went to the clinic the day for something else and decided to do a Pap smear.

YHYW: How did you feel when you were diagnosed with cervical cancer?

JD: I had to wait six months for the result. During that time I never even thought about it. But, when I went in they told me I had stage three cervical cancer. Truth be told, on hearing the diagnosis I was my usual calm self. I knew that I would need to stay calm to be best able to deal with all that would follow my frightening diagnosis.

YHYW: What treatment did you undergo?

JD: Well, it took a whole year before any real treatment was administered. They kept on testing. I even had to do a biopsy within that year and then they finally administered the first type of treatment, which involved a focused laser beam, directed through my vagina, which was used to vaporise (burn off) abnormal cells. They also removed a small piece of tissue for study.

Having done that, they then decided to do chemotherapy and radiation. I think they waited too long, because by then the cancer moved to stage four.

For the next three to four months I had to do intensive treatment — chemo five days weekly and one day radiation, weekly.

YHYW: How did the treatment affect you?

JD: Thank God I experienced little or none of the side effects that many persons endure. I went to work same way, only was absent on Wednesdays to rest. I must say that I had/have an excellent support system. My employer, husband, church, friends, family, and the Jamaica Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery group really provided the emotional and mental help I needed to get through. I know that I would not have been able to manage without each and every one mentioned. I must make special mention of my husband. At the time we were not even married, yet, every Wednesday he was present to help me in whatever way he could, even just by giving me moral support. We got married after the tough parts and he remains constant in his attention and care for me.

YHYW: How did getting cervical cancer change your life?

JD: (Laughs) Well I got married… But seriously, you see life a lot differently. You appreciate even the little things more and give thanks every day for life, energy and health. My cancer battle has since caused a major shift in my priorities. I now focus on living a healthy, relatively stress-free life so that I can stay in remission. I am lucky to still be here and will never take for granted this second chance to live.

YHYW: What do you know about the HPV vaccine?

JD: I wish I knew about it when I was young, as I would definitely have taken the vaccine. Since dealing with cervical cancer, I have been reading up and gaining as much knowledge. I hope other women are too, as knowledge is power.

YHYW: Would you encourage women to get it?

JD: Absolutely. Why go through sickness if you can prevent it? Having cervical cancer is frightening, like any other type of cancer, if you ask me. So since this one can be prevented, of course! By all means learn more, ask questions, and consider the vaccine.

YHYW: Would you encourage parents to give the vaccine to their preteen/teenage girls (age 9-14 years)?

JD: No question. I know every mother wants to protect their child, so, since the HPV vaccine is a way to protect your child from this disease, I would encourage mothers to consider it. Get the facts. Every chance, ask questions.

It is so important to know and understand. I, for one, thought that it was because I had children early why I got the disease… that is so wrong. So I know that with information we are all in a better position to make sound decisions.

YHYW: What message do you have for women and girls about cervical cancer?

JD: Ask your questions. Read. Get your facts. Myths and misconceptions will make us not act in the best interest of ourselves and our children. For some of us women, embarrassment prevents us from going to our doctor, but my advice is not to be embarrassed. And it may be uncomfortable, but it shouldn't hurt.

It is best to detect it before it has developed, or in the early stages before it has really developed. It is all about prevention. Screening is important. Get your Pap smears done regularly and get the HPV vaccine.

Now, I have to go back every six months for the next five years to be checked over, but that is a routine I am happy to participate in.

Come out the Ministry of Health's town hall meeting on Wednesday, October 31 at Webster Memorial Church — 53 Half-Way-Tree Road — at 5:30 pm, where you can meet Juliet, get more information, and ask questions about the HPV vaccine.

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