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POPSMEAR: Overcoming Cervical Cancer
Christine Baze

"I'm going to be a rock star!" That was my dream in January of 2000, when I quit my day job to pursue fulltime my one true passion, music. My band was doing great and I could not have been happier. One week later, I saw blood. Immediately, I called my gynecologist, who chalked it up to stress, told me not to worry and said he would see me at my annual exam in March. Of course, he's the doctor, so I trusted him and happily continued to write songs and book my band to play. I felt so lucky to be able to pursue my dreams.

This was not to last. Although all of my previous Pap tests had been normal, the results from my Pap in March showed some abnormal cell growth on my cervix. My doctor ordered a colposcopy, a more advanced exam that allowed him to take biopsy and test my cells for problems. At that point, I barely knew where my cervix was, much less about cell mutations that could turn into cancer many years down the road if not treated! 

My doctor assured me that because of my history of normal paps, he was sure I did not have cancer.  It was, he said, probably just "dysplasia" - pre-cancerous cells that can be easily treated. We were to meet the following week to discuss the results of the colposcopy and biopsy, and I was scheduled to have a simple follow-up procedure to remove the bad cells.

The doctor was wrong. On April 18, 2000, I was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer with extensive lymphatic invasion.  Everything happened so quickly after that.  Ten days later, I had a radical hysterectomy. One month after that, I had a laproscopic procedure to move my ovaries out of the "frying zone." Then, I had five weeks of daily pelvic radiation, concurrent with four rounds of chemotherapy followed by three rounds of internal radiation (brachytherapy).  They basically gave me everything they had to save me.  Within four months, I was done with everything.  Except, that is, for the deep, dark depression to follow.

Everyone knows that the treatment is hard and it takes an awful toll on the body.  But for me, the depression was undoubtedly the worst.  I felt like I lost everything.  Music, the one passion that always centered me and guided my life, was gone.  I couldn't play, sing or write; I didn't know who I was anymore.  Like my cancer treatment, I attacked the depression with full force, using individual therapy, group therapy, anti-depressants, acupuncture, yoga, journaling and more.  Time and perseverance gradually began to work; I had already worked so hard to stay alive and I refused to quit.  I wanted my life back.  However, the music seemed to have left my body with my uterus and I felt like it would never return.

My life-altering moment occurred while watching the movie "Harold and Maude."  The character of Maude is an older woman who embraces all that life has to offer -- every sensation, touch, smell, feel.  She lives in the moment while teaching a young boy, Harold, to do the same.  Maude's spirit and the Cat Stevens soundtrack drew me back to the piano.  I felt the song, "Trouble," had been written for me, and described what the last year and a half of my life had been.  That moment, in the fall of 2001, changed my life. I knew I needed to help others through my music and my voice.  Thus, I was motivated to create Popsmear.org.

In 2003, I decided to take my music on the road and created The Yellow Umbrella Tour.  We played six cities and Ms. Magazine named me one of "50 women who made a difference in 2003."  In 2004, The Yellow Umbrella Tour visited 22 cities, to continue to educate women about cervical cancer, HPV and the modern technologies - such as the HPV test - available to help women maintain their cervical health, with confidence. For the 2005 Yellow Umbrella Tour, 21 venues are already booked.

For more information about the Yellow Umbrella Tour, click here.

For more information about Popsmear, click here.

For more information about HPV and cervical cancer, click here.

Created: 8/30/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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