“My vital prognosis was committed”: her papillomavirus caused her two cancers, says this young Azurean

Unprotected sex almost cost Stacy her life. Leader? Papillomavirus, a family of viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and, in the most severe cases, cancer.

About 6,400 cases of cancer associated with HPV (human papillomavirus) are diagnosed each year in France, mainly in the cervix (44%), anus (24%) and oropharynx (22%) in France ‘according to the National Cancer Institute.

At 28, Stacy is in remission from two cancers of the cervix and colon, caused by HPV. “I’m a rare case”confides Théoulienne with a smile.

Removal of the uterus and brachytherapy

It all started in May 2020, five months after the birth of her first child. Worried about continuing to bleed, she makes an appointment with a gynecologist who gives her a smear for the first time, this examination is recommended from the age of 25.

“This is when I learn that I have papillomavirusremembers Stacy. So far, things are going relatively well. It is not very serious, it can be cured’.

Her optimism is extinguished when, after advanced tests, she learns that she has cancer caused by this virus and that she will not be able to keep her uterus.

“I tearfully asked the surgeon if I could have another child sooner, he answered me “you can, but this baby doesn’t want a mother anymore”.”

To avoid menopause, and therefore premature aging, Stacy has her ovaries transplanted under her ribs. “I was able to maintain my menstrual cycle, but I have no more discharge.”

At the same time, she begins brachytherapy, to irradiate the tumor directly and in high doses. “You hold a box inside the vagina so it’s very painful but very effective. It hasn’t been easy to live with, a lot of humiliation because it’s not a very comfortable area to show all the time to doctors.”

Nine centimeter tumor in the colon

In December 2020, La Théoulienne’s condition worsened. She loses 12 kilos and her stool becomes bloody. His oncologist and then a gastroenterologist assure him that it is probably an effect of brachytherapy and that there is nothing to worry about.

“No one believed me, so I packed my things and went to the clinic where I had already been operated on.” Finally supported, Stacy passes several exams.

“My surgeon, the one who operated on my first cancer, comes into my room and tells me that it may be hard to believe, but I have colon cancer and the tumor is nine centimeters.”

“At that point I have no words. I have nothing coming to me except the shock of telling myself that nine months later I still have cancer when I’m a young, young mother on top of that. The world kind of fell apart, but I decided to keep my head up.”

The biopsy reveals that the tumor is from papillomavirus, making Stacy a “rare case”. She endures a heavy operation by laparotomy, that is, with the stomach open, to remove it from the colon as well as part of the rectum. “I have come a long way because I later learned that my vital prognosis was committed.”

The laparotomy surgery left Stacy with a scar that ran from the top of her navel to her vagina. Photo Lauriane Sandrini.

Prevention on social networks

Today, two years later, Stacy is doing better but still has the effects of her surgeries. Recognized as category 2 disabled, the trained confectioner can no longer work.

“I can no longer hold my poo like everyone else, I have to go to the toilet 15 to 20 times a day and it’s very annoying.” In order to live, Théoulienne receives the maximum amount of disability allowance (AAH), i.e. €956.

“Post-cancer is almost harder to live with. Everyone thinks you’re cured, there’s no more surgery, we don’t talk about it anymore, but I’m constantly on this topic as I have a follow-up for five years. “

His body has changed and his state of fatigue remains constant, causing him to limit his social life. “Often I am told “Come on Stacy, get out, exercise” but no, I can’t actually do that, I have to rest.”

Post-cancer is almost harder to live with.

Despite the presence of her relatives, the young mother felt “alone in the face of cancer”. “I would have liked answers to my questions, so as not to see all that I have experienced in the most totally unknown.”

That’s why she took to social media in hopes of inspiring people to get tested for HPV and protect themselves during sex. Today, more than 21,000 people follow her on TikTok.

“It is absolutely not normal not to get a smear before the age of 25, as the first reports generally occur earlier. We do not have enough prevention, not enough checks and not enough listening to the topic of papillomavirus.”

Stacy wants to intervene in schools to tell her story and continue prevention. With that in mind, she wants to write a book. “I want to shout it to the whole world, because today it’s me, but maybe tomorrow it’s you.”

Despite her terrible journey, the young woman says she is happy. “Mentally I am very well. It is sad to have to go through such difficult trials to realize how beautiful life is. Today I am really satisfied with nothing, everything makes me happy. I have become a different woman and I am very proud of that.”

Papillomavirus: screening and vaccine

“Most sexually active women and men will be infected” of papillomavirus “during their lifetime”, warns the National Cancer Institute. It can be transmitted despite the use of a condom, including oral sex and caressing.

“90% of detected infections are naturally eliminated within two years and the majority of HPV infections [papillomavirus humains] are asymptomatic. When infection with certain high-risk HPVs (especially 16 and 18) persists, it can lead to the development of precancerous and cancerous lesions affecting the cervix, anus, oropharynx, vulva, vagina, penis, oral cavity and larynx.”

In the case of lesions that may progress to cancer of the cervix, conization is recommended. This intervention makes it possible to surgically remove these “high-grade” lesions.

Screening

There is only one screening and it only concerns women: the smear, which allows superficial cells to be taken by lightly rubbing the vagina.

This examination is recommended from the age of 25 and then once every two years until the age of 29, once every three years from the age of 30 to 35 and once every five years until the age of 65.

The smear can be carried out in particular by a gynecologist or a midwife.

Vaccine

“The most recently marketed vaccine (Gardasil 9) protects against HPV infections, which are particularly involved in 90% of cervical cancer, 80% of anal cancer and 90% of anogenital warts (condylomata).”assures the National Cancer Institute.

The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys aged 11 to 14, with a possible catch-up between 15 and 19, and up to 26 for gay men.

It can be carried out by a doctor, a midwife or a nurse on prescription, in a hospital, in certain public vaccination centres, in a free information, screening and diagnosis center (Cegidd) or a family planning centre.

“The efficacy and safety of vaccines against HPV have been scientifically proven. Despite this, vaccination coverage remains low in France (21% for the entire regimen at 16 years).”

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