Lisa Lakey’s ?rst diagnosis was received in a Planned Parenthood at 18 years old. It was HPV, and with research discoveries of the virus still being relatively new, there were unfortunately no treatment plans o?ered or vaccines available.
It wouldn’t be until 2006 that the HPV vaccine would be o?cially approved for the public, and according to the World Health Organization1, it takes 15 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems. It can take only 5 to 10 years in women with weakened immune systems, such as those with untreated HIV infection.
With no treatment plan and the stigma stemming from her Catholic upbringing, Lisa told no one and continued on in her life – getting married at 20, raising her son (who is now 19 years old) and even ?nding new love in her current husband, Brian, after divorcing at 28. They had plans for their life together. They wanted to have a child and were making active plans to do that as they were beginning their fertility journey.
“I have a 19-year old with my ex-husband, but he doesn’t have his own biological children – my new husband. I do grieve what could have been and what should have been. And I think he does, too.”
Lisa was 35 is when she spoke up about her HPV diagnosis from nearly 20 years earlier. Her doctors immediately went into diagnostic and treatment mode. She underwent surgery where they discovered new cancer cells, and her gynecologist suggested a hysterectomy, and she also decided to schedule an appointment with an oncologist who could be able to o?cially stage her cancer. Her doctor diagnosed her with Stage 1A1 cervical cancer. Lisa made the di?cult decision to have a hysterectomy. Though she still had pains in her ovaries, her scans remained clear for the next three years.
Doctors told her that there was only a 5% chance that her cancer would return. Unfortunately, in 2019, at 40-years old, an ultrasound revealed an 18 centimeter cyst. Her cancer had metastasized to her ovaries, and after further tests, she was again diagnosed with Stage 1A1 cervical cancer. Given the nature of her diagnosis, her treatment plan was aggressive starting with the removal of her ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the cyst.
Lisa is now cancer free and when asked about the experience looking back, she describes her treatment plans and the support her of doctors and loved ones with immense gratitude. During the process, you’re given a plan that tells of the exact treatments you’ll receive as well as a timeframe for when you can expect to be ?nished with the treatment. But when all of that ends, the question is – what’s next? Moving forward after battling cancer is the new challenge, one that Lisa says has sparked her journey of self-discovery. She’s hopeful as she describes how her view on the preciousness of life is completely di?erent from before.
“I’m going to be a better Lisa. Like after all of this, I know I am. It’s there. This beautiful life, this world in front of us. And I don’t think I would have known any of that if I had just gone on living my life day to day like miserable sometimes and happy sometimes and materialistic, and like all of these things. For example, when I had cancer, I remember thinking money did not matter. Like nothing mattered to me. I didn’t want anything materialistic. I was just like, ‘None of this matters. Who cares if I have a credit card?’ You know, I actually saved money because I stopped spending money. Other people I’ve heard, go on spending sprees, or whatever but I was just like, I don’t need anything but like, love and happiness and health and that’s what I wanted to focus on.