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Cervical cancer survivor and model
Genevieve SambhiPhoto credit: Her World Magazine
If it is one thing that I have learnt, it’s that there is a huge misconception about cancer. Cancer can affect anyone but it is not necessarily a death sentence, it can be beaten! I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 35. And as I went through the hardest 7 months of my life, I vowed that if I came out the other side, I would do what I could to educate and build awareness about this dreadful disease.
I remember the day my life came tumbling down so clearly. I was feeding my children dinner (Isabella was 4 and Alexander 15 months). My father rang (He is a gynaecologist and I had been for my annual pap smear 2 days earlier). He explained that the results weren’t normal and more tests were needed. I was in a state of shock, was I going to die? I had cancer?
I had to go in for a cone biopsy a few days later, and had hardly recovered from that when I was dealt the worst blow. The cancer had spread and a hysterectomy was needed. This is when I sat and cried. I was going to die and who would look after my babies? They were so young and they needed me.
Then I realised how lucky I actually was. I had a girl and a boy and a husband who loved me, and that was all I needed. I needed to be here for them and that was all that was important.
My next blow came 10 days after my hysterectomy, when the results showed that I would need chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was like I was in a nightmare, how much more could I take?
What I couldn’t understand was how I had got to this stage. I went annually for my pap smear, so how in 1 year had I gone from all clear to stage 2b and chemotherapy? The aggressiveness of the cancer shocked my doctors; this was a disease that took 5-10 years to get to the stage that I was at after less than 1 year.
On paper I am probably the last person who should have got cancer. I am young, have been with my husband since I was 20, have 2 young kids, don’t smoke or drink, and exercise regularly - yet I still got cancer. So if it could happen to me, it could happen to you!
So I try and make it my mission to build awareness about pap smears and vaccinations. If I had not gone for my pap smear I would not be here today. Cervical cancer is a treatable cancer if caught early, and the only way to do this is through a pap smear. Safe and effective vaccines protect against two types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases. And I am very glad to hear that many poor countries in Africa and Asia will soon be able to protect young girls with the HPV vaccine thanks to support from the GAVI Alliance.
So why would you not want to protect yourself and your loved ones? My daughter, when she is old enough, will definitely be vaccinated. She will be protected so that she never has to go through what I did. No woman should have to go through what I did.
I have decided to put up with the nasty and hurtful things people say as to why I got cervical cancer because there is always one who will listen. And if I can save one person, then that is 1 person saved, and I have done my job!
© GAVI Alliance 2014
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