by Kate-Madonna Hindes

It was Tuesday. My feet were in stirrups and in my mind, I was in another place entirely. It was a routine visit to my gynecologist and
I was routinely annoyed about having to take time away from work to be

As my brain wandered, I heard the doctor say, "I need to take a closer look at your cervix." I didn't have the typical history of cervical cancer patients. I had very few partners, I was healthy and I had regular checkups. "Your entire cervix is covered with dysplasia. Has another doctor ever
done a colposcopy?" My doctor shook his head as he peeked up.

This meant that instead of a beautiful and healthy cervix, mine was filled with potholes and eyesores. He started scraping then and explained that a healthy cervix was pink, mine was white.

I had symptoms for a year or so before my daughter was born-abnormal pap smears, pain, cramping. When my old gynecologist told me these were all normal for women I didn't think twice.

To me, this is one of the largest issues of how women cope with a scary diagnosis. We are not educated, we are marginalized. We are taught to
FEAR information and that our doctors are always right.

Going into my third colposcopy, I was armed with information. I had found a cervical cancer support group online, so I knew to ask
the right questions and my doctor answered truthfully. I was faxed
copies of my medical records and received second and third opinions. I was
now empowered.

I've had over 20 colposcopies and numerous cone biopsies, LEEP procedures and cryotherapy. At my last appointment in April 2011, I was told that I needed to have a hysterectomy and treatment immediately for more dysplasia that had unclear margins. Knowing it was my last opportunity, I decided to have a child and plan for a full hysterectomy and treatment after delivery.

My son will be born in August and I'll start a long process of recovery and hope that this will finally eliminate the cancer.

I was once afraid to speak out
and be labeled with the term, "HPV." Now, I travel and speak nationally to encourage women to ask the right questions and not fear a label. 

HPV does not define us. It does each of us no good to stay silent about our struggles. Life is too short to not empower ourselves.

Kate-Madonna Hindes is the editor-in-chief of Minnesota Business Magazine. She lives in Apple Valley. Her website is

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