Cervical cancer survivor: Why I support the HPV vaccine

As a nurse, I’m a firm believer in vaccines. And that’s even truer now that I’m a survivor of cervical cancer, which is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). For years, I’d heard that most people my age had already been exposed to HPV, and I wondered how it might affect me. Still, I’d never had any problems, so I figured I was lucky. Then, in May 2010, a routine Pap test came back abnormal, and everything changed. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 45. Additional testing showed that it was caused by HPV. How my HPV-related cervical cancer diagnosis affected my son My HPV-related cervical cancer diagnosis was particularly hard on my son, who was only 15 at the time. My daughter had just graduated from college and lived far away, so it was just him and his dad at home in our small southeast Kansas town while I was in Houston for treatment. My son tried to be tough, but having a mom with cancer is a big deal. It was a rough year for him. It wasn’t until recently that he shared how angry he’d been with me. He said he knows now that it was misdirected, but that he had to be mad at someone and I was it. I understood, but I also told him he was lucky. When I was his age, we didn’t even know what HPV was, much less how it was transmitted, and a vaccine wasn’t available yet. Today, there’s a vaccine for HPV, so neither he nor any of his friends will have to go through what...