Oct 22, 2014

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“I Survived Cervical Cancer:” A Latina Shares Her Story

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It was October 2008 when I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Cervical Cancer only three months after I had retired from the NYPD and was ready to enjoy retirement with my husband.

Life as I knew it STOPPED!!

Why did I not go to the doctor sooner?

I felt fine at the time and, like many women, found myself looking for any excuse:  I was too busy, I had no time, and the fact that I hated going to the gynecologist —  all led to not seeing one for over 3 years.

Looking back, I see how foolish these reasons were and the tremendous consequences that followed because I chose to be careless with my health as a result of this. I learned this the hard way.

Once I finally saw my gynecologist, he told me I had a tumor and since it was too big because I had waited so long, I was no longer a good candidate for a hysterectomy. The course of action we were going to have to take ( if we had any chance of beating this) was chemotherapy, external radiation for 8 weeks and two treatments of internal radiation.

Due to lack of education and misconceptions of the disease on my part, I was embarrassed that I had cervical cancer due to HPV (a sexually transmitted infection). I couldn’t understand how I got this until I started educating myself about HPV and its link to cervical cancer.

I was about to start the fight for my life.

I took time to do a lot of crying and looked back at my life thus far to ask, why me?

I also questioned my faith, why God, what did I do? Thanks to the support of my wonderful husband, family and friends, who gave me strength and made me realize the many blessings around me which comforted me, because I was scared beyond belief.

I started treatment early January 2009.

I had chemotherapy once a week and radiation treatments five days a week. Mondays were always the hardest. I had chemo and radiation making it a ten hour day. It used to take me the whole week to recuperate just in time for another Monday. Many times I just wanted to give up, but I had my husband, my rock, who would literally dress me and take me by the hand to my treatments.

Eight weeks went by and I thought the worst of these treatments had passed. Boy was I wrong! I started a course of internal radiation, in which the doctors inserted an implant inside my cervix with radiation rods. I had to stay in the hospital for 3 days and absolutely no visitors were allowed due to the exposure of radiation. I never felt so ALONE.

On May 5, 2009 I went in for a scan to see if all of these treatments had worked. Thankfully, my tumor was GONE and there were no cancer cells visible. The nightmare was over!!!

Latina Women are Twice as Likely to Be Diagnosed with Cervical Cancer (compared to non-Latinas women)

In the United States alone, 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 4,000 will die every year.

Cervical cancer is caused by “high-risk” types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), and at least 50 percent of sexually active women will have HPV at some point in their lives. Latina women are the most affected, they are twice as likely to get diagnosed with cervical cancer in comparison to non-Latina women. The death rate for them is almost 50% higher than any other ethnic group. Two of the major issues with this disease are lack of education and lack of screening. Early detection through pap tests and HPV testing are key to preventing this disease from developing into cancer.

No women should die of this preventable disease…

Patti Murillo-Casa uses her personal story in the hopes that other women will avoid what she had to endure, and not become a statistic. Presently serving as the President of the NYC Chapter of Tamika and Friends, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer and its link to the HPV (human papilloma virus), founded by cervical cancer survivor and advocate, Tamika Felder in 2005.  Visit her informative and empowering website:  The Voices of Two Mujeres.  Please also connect with her on Facebook, where you’ll find more valuable information.

For More Education & Support on Cervical Cancer, visit:

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Tamika & Friends, Inc.

Foundation of Women’s Cancer

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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Comments

  1. Wow. This story really pulls at my heart strings. Patti, you bring your story to life. So many times we hear about cancer and we don’t take it seriously until it happens to us or someone we love. Like most women, I hate those check-ups and put them off as much as I can, but I have to say…this post really makes me think twice. The message really resonates with me and I’m so sorry for all that you’ve been through and so glad that you have a strong husband that took on part of your burden and family and friends who have supported you. This is an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Chantilly, I’m glad my story made you think about “YOU”. Unfortunately, we tend to forget about ourselves especially when we are feeling well but most of these diseases do not have any symptoms at the beginning, and when you have them you are already in trouble. I encouraged everyone to listen to your bodies, don’t wait to see your doctor and be a lifelong advocate for your own health. I thank you for your kind words and I wish you much health and happiness. xxoo Patti

  2. Patti – thank you for sharing this. I hope that it nudges a few women to make that appointment they’ve been putting off. (My first one in several years is scheduled for this week. I haven’t had insurance, which is why I haven’t been able to go…a common obstacle for many women, unfortunately.)

    I’m so thankful that you’re here and healthy and able to tell your story. {Abrazos}

    • Tracy
      Thank you for your best wishes. I am so GLAD that you are going to see the doctor this week. Wooohooo!
      Unfortunately, like you said many women don’t have adequate insurance coverage and screening is one of the major culprits why we have these statistics. I hope that women realize that my cancer story doesn’t have to be theirs. We have the tools to prevent this disease.
      Wishing you all the best.
      Besos y Abrazos,
      Patti

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