Cervical cancer survivor talks about beating disease 12 years ago
Jan. 18, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 17, 2011 at 7:18 p.m.
CERVICAL CANCER SYMPTOMSUnusual discharge from the vagina
Blood spots or light bleeding when not menstruating
Bleeding after menopause
Bleeding or pain during sex
Ongoing pelvic, leg or back pain
Urinary problems because of blockage of a kidney or ureter
Bleeding from the rectum or bladder
Bridgitt Heinold never imagined facing a decision quite like the one she was forced to face 12 years ago.
Waiting in a cold doctor's office, Heinold was told she had cervical cancer and could either wait it out to see if she'd survive, or guarantee her survival by terminating her pregnancy with twins.
"Thou shall not kill," Heinold said she heard as she lied in bed that night.
A dozen years later, the twins are 12 - one is on his skateboard out on the driveway, while the other is inside with his mother.
The twins survived and she beat cancer.
In 2010, the National Cancer Institute estimated there were 12,200 new cases of cervical cancers and about 4,210 deaths. January is also cervical cancer awareness month.
"That's what I chose to do," she said. "That night, there was a battle about the lives of my children and my life. If I die, I die."
Heinold's twins, Samuel and Stephen, and her oldest daughter Dalyn, sit on a couch in the living room as they listen and watch their mother ride the cancer roller coaster one more time.
"I think it's pretty amazing," said her son, Samuel. "No other person would do that for you."
"I think it's scary," the other twin, Stephen, said.
Dalyn was about 4 years old at the time and it wasn't until recently that she realized how powerful God was, she said.
"When I first heard my mom's testimony on how she could have died when I was really young, her story went straight to my heart," 15-year-old Dalyn said. "I had never known that I had come that close to not having a mom."
Little did they know their mother was going to have to face cancer one more time in 2009 - breast cancer.
Talking about the breast cancer is a bit harder for Heinold, because she thought after beating cancer 10 years earlier that she was done with the six-letter word that had haunted her throughout her pregnancy.
She had her mammogram and then an MRI after some calcifications were found. A biopsy confirmed the cancer and Heinold had a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation.
With the cervical cancer, Heinold had found out three months into the pregnancy after an annual pap smear detected some abnormal cells.
A doctor in Houston confirmed the cancer and it was there that she decided to wait out the pregnancy.
After giving birth to the twins, she had an immediate hysterectomy to get rid of the cancer.
Her entire pregnancy went without complication and she was cancer free after the hysterectomy.
"The Lord does not cause these things to happen to us, He does not do that," said Heinold, who is a devout Christian. "What he does is He gives us what we need to get through them. The reason we go through these trials is to be able to encourage others."
Her new husband, who she married a year and a half ago, sits by her side, holding her hand as she talks about all she went through.
"Both with cervical cancer and with breast cancer both, those things attack a woman's woman-ness," her husband Dennis said. "That's the foundation of the physical aspects of a woman."
Her husband's support has reminded her how beautiful she is, she said.
"He tells me, 'You have a beautiful body.' When I look at it, I see defect. But he tells me I'm beautiful," she said tearing up.
Dr. Dana Gonzalez, a obstetrician and gynecologist at the Victoria Women's Clinic, agrees with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommendation that women receive a cervical pap smear by the age of 21. The pap smear should be performed at least every two years.
Cervical cancer screenings has decreased the rate of cervical cancer by 50 percent in the last 30 years, she said.
"There are different ways to prevent cervical cancer," Gonzalez said. "These include obtaining a vaccine for Human Papilloma Virus, not having multiple partners and avoid smoking."
Cervical cancer needs to receive just as much publicity and support as breast cancer, Heinold said.
"There does need to be more awareness," she said. "There is a taboo with cervical cancer."
Now that Heinold is cancer free, she feels she has a mission, she said.
Heinold wants women to know that the best birthday gift a woman can give her self is to get a regular pap smear. She also wants everyone to know that the trials that happen in people's lives should be used to encourage others through words of encouragement, prayers and acts of kindness, she said.
"If you look past your circumstances to see how the Lord uses your trial, that becomes a gift for you and from you," she said.