My name is Patti Murillo-Casa and I am a Cervical Cancer Survivor and advocate. In October of 2008, after having several symptoms and feeling very fatigued, I finally went to visit my GYN after almost 4 years of not doing so. Why did I not go sooner? The same reasons that many women have – we are too busy, we feel fine, there is no “need” to. I had been with the same partner for over 10 years, what could possibly happen to me? Well I soon found out that a lot can happen. Life as I knew it STOPPED!!
Here I was, about to enjoy life to the fullest, my husband and I had made so many plans after we both retired from the New York City Police Department after 20+ years of service as Police Officers. All those plans were NOT happening after my doctor hit me with the shocking news that I had Stage IIB Cervical Cancer. I thought, I’m finally retired, and now I’m going to die from cervical cancer? I had so many questions– Where did it come from? How did this happen? Have they just given me a death sentence? C’mon I carry a gun and I’m a pretty good shot– Can I shoot this intruder dead? So many questions to be answered, and not all the answers made sense. My husband and I left the doctor’s office numb. Due to my lack of education and misconceptions of this disease, I was ashamed that I had cervical cancer due to HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus – a sexually transmitted infection). We did a lot of crying and a lot of hugging and I kept asking myself what did I do wrong to deserve this? I was about to start the fight for my life….
Being my tumor was too big I was not a candidate for surgery, so my treatments consisted of chemotherapy, external and internal radiation. I was going to get radiation five days a week for seven weeks, chemotherapy once a week for seven weeks, and if that wasn’t enough, two treatments of internal radiation. The journey was long and difficult to say the least. It’s something I would not wish on anybody.
On May 5, 2009, I got my PET scan to see if all of these treatments had worked. I had never felt so anxious before in my life. Thankfully, my tumor was GONE and there were NO cancer cells visible. My prayers had been answered, the nightmare was over!!!
Now I use my story and my experience to make women aware about this preventable disease and to not become a statistic. Currently, I am the New York Chapter President of Tamika and Friends, Inc. T&F is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer and its link to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Cervical Cancer is preventable yet, every hour a woman gets diagnosed with cervical cancer and every 2.5 hours a woman dies from cervical cancer. We know where this cancer comes from – a virus (HPV) and we have the tools to prevent it. Know that you do NOT have to be ashamed if you have HPV. It is NOT the result of promiscuous sexual behavior, or being unfaithful to your partner nor does it mean that you will automatically have cervical cancer. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. According to the Center Of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States over 6 million people (men and women) get an HPV infection every year and at least 50% of the people who have ever had sex will have HPV at some time in their life. The good news is that for most people the infection is transient.
This disease takes away your identity, it changes your life and it affects the people around you and unfortunately, in many cases it can even take your life. No woman should die from this preventable disease or lose their fertility to cervical cancer. I have been cancer free for two years. It’s still nerve wracking when I visit my doctor because the fear of the cancer returning is always there, but I try to keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward. This is now the norm for me, and God willing I will be cancer free for many years to come.