Aug 18, 2017 12:00 AM

Author: Mandy Allfrey Murry

Mandy Allfrey Murry
Mandy Allfrey Murry

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI.

In a matter of days, I will exchange vows with my one true love. 2017 was one for the books, a flood of emotions. In March, I received some health news that made me gasp for breath. Still on the phone with my nurse, I sent a text to my fiancé, Scott—“We need to talk”—the most dreaded message a man could receive.

I had to tell him the results from my annual pap smear were abnormal. The nurse had explained I have an HPV strain that causes cancer. Once again, all the emotions of my history with the C-word rushed through my body.

Seventeen years ago, when I was 19, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. The treatment involved more than half a dozen surgeries during the next three years. At age 22, I had my first abnormal pap smear and a freezing treatment which was supposed to be 99.9% effective. I was in the 0.1% for whom treatment did not work. A follow-up procedure revealed tumors and fibroids in my uterus. Two months later, surgeons removed my cervix and uterus—the only option to remove cancer from my body. By age 25, both my ovaries developed tumors and were also removed.

I hated the word cancer. I hated that my pants would not fit because of the bloating and experimental drugs. I hated everything about it. But while others cried because I could not have biological children, I was in the corner quietly sobbing with gratitude at being alive.

My experience with cancer changed my life. Losing my woman parts took me through a spiral of trying to understand who I was and what I was meant for. It led me to growth, to patience, to love, and to humility. It conquered fears, inspired dreams, and gave me hope. I found my confidence, my purpose, and I followed my passions. I became the writer I always wanted to be. I started traveling, meeting new people, and saying yes to life. I know I am here to help others by sharing my story.

I don’t know if this HPV is something new or if it remained dormant in my body since I was 22. There is no evidence that I had HPV as a young adult, but the likelihood is strong. For many, HPV clears up on its own, but it could have been the cause of my cervical cancer. All I know is it decided to throw itself a party during the best year of my life.

When I was a teenager, the HPV vaccine did not exist. I wish it had; I would have been grateful for its protection. It saddens me that Utah has the lowest acceptance rate of the HPV vaccine. We need to protect our children from a growing problem. 

And I have news for you, HPV. You messed with the wrong woman. I will be married before I get the six-month test to see if my body has kicked HPV to the curb. Scott is standing by my side, for better or for worse, and that is the most incredible thing.

The only C-word I stand behind is Courage.

With love and hope,
Mandy Allfrey Murry

Learn about the HPV vaccine.
Learn about cervical cancer.
Learn about the Intermountain West HPV Vaccination Coalition.

Mandy Allfrey Murry

Cancer Patient

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