In 2005 I developed a lump on my sphincter just outside the anal canal. My primary care doctor sent me to a proctologist. The proctologist diagnosed me as having a 'garden variety hemorrhoid'. Being HIV positive my first question to her was, "could this be HPV related?" She said no and assured me that it was a hemorrhoid.
After several months of unsuccessful treatments she referred me to a colorectal surgeon.
The first surgeon I saw said he suspected it was an HPV-related tumor. I got three more opinions and they all confirmed my worst nightmare.
I underwent surgery and had the tumor resected. I was diagnosed with HPV-related anal cancer. The resection margins were clear however chemo and radiation was recommended.
I was so sick at the time I chose not to take chemo and radiation. Thus the tumor came back exactly two years to the date in the very same spot.
Another resection this time followed by the standard chemo and radiation treatment. I contacted an anal dysplasia clinic to verify that the treatment I would be getting matched their protocol and it did.
I took my chemo treatment as a hospital inpatient and avoided having to have a port. My 30 days of radiation seem like an eternity.
The only thing that kept me going was my care from a best friend and the unconditional love I received from my dog, a service animal I named Hope.
I came to San Francisco in 2008. As fate would have it, I met a new soul mate in San Francisco and now eight years later have a beautiful family and a new chapter in my life I never expected to happen.
What you think may be a horrible ending might only be a beautiful beginning in disguise!
Looking for someone to talk to about your anal cancer diagnosis? We are here to help. The Peer to Peer Support Program is a free service provided by the Anal Cancer Foundation that matches anal cancer thrivers (our word for survivors) and caregivers with thriver volunteers and caregiver volunteers.