INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 7th, 2016) – January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates almost 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2015. ACS representatives say pap and HPV tests are the best ways to screen for cervical cancer, and if it’s detected early, it can be one the most treatable cancers.
CBS4 News talked to one local mother and teacher who is constantly working to share that information and help others through her own story.
“I was having some abnormal bleeding and went in for my well woman’s check and they found a mass on my cervix,” said Erica Frazier Stum.
Erica got that life-changing diagnosis at just 27 years old.
“Stage 1B2,” she said.
Erica says she knew she had to fight cervical cancer for herself and her son, but hoped to preserve her fertility at such a young age.
“We found a doctor here in Indianapolis who can do a procedure called a trachelectomy where they take your cervix and all the lymph nodes around it,” Frazier Stum said.
After a 16 hour procedure, Erica was told she was cancer free. But the cancer came back, and this time, a hysterectomy wasn’t even an option.
“That was one of the hardest moments. [The doctor] came in and I was like, ‘so we’ll do surgery?’ And he said, ‘I just saw you, how did it get this bad? We can’t operate.’”
Erica was planning a wedding while doctors were planning a new treatment approach.
“I got married in June of 2014 , so right in the middle of all of the chemo, I was bald,” she said.
Then it happened all over again – Erica was told the cancer was gone, but it came back for a 3rd time. Doctors took out a lymph node on her 30th birthday.
Today, Erica continues to battle cancer. She says she’s found constant support from her family and motivation by helping others and spreading awareness.
“It gets her excited, gets her pumped up. It’s almost like another spark of life, you see it in her eyes -- they sparkle!” said Erica’s husband JR Stum.
“Her resilience gives you hope, it really does,” he said.
Erica says her husband and son have been amazing and she hopes her story can encourage more women to advocate for their own health.
“There are a lot of things that can be treated before it gets to cancer, but you have to know what to look for and to go into your doctor," Frazier Stum said.
Erica is using medicine now to maintain the cancer’s size and keep it from spreading. She says she always stresses the importance of the HPV vaccination and screenings.
“If my story can keep one woman from getting cancer, I feel like I’ve done my job,” she said.
If you’d like more information about potential warning signs, click here.
You can also check-out local events happening this month:
“Cervivor School” - For woman with HPV and/or cervical cancer
Saturday, January 16 - 9:30AM to 6:00PM
Cancer Support Community of Central Indiana
5150 W 71st St., Indianapolis
Breakfast & Lunch Provided
Tuesday, January 26 at 6:00 PM in the Atherton Union Reilly Room at Butler University - Click here for additional information