McKerrin’s Cancer Survivor Story
—McKerrin K., Cervical Cancer Survivor
Age at diagnosis: 34
I am a director, voiceover artist, and health coach who lives in Los Angeles with my husband and 13-year-old stepdaughter. I love spending time with family and friends, being active, and helping artists bring their best work in to the world. I also continue to learn more about the physical, psychological, and emotional part of human development.
As an artist in my 20s, I had very little money and was lucky enough to get all my gynecological services through Planned Parenthood. I had my first abnormal Pap test at age 27, but after a follow-up, was told just to keep an eye on things and make sure to go in for regular Pap test every 6 months for a time. [Editor’s note: For women with a recent history of abnormal Pap test results, the recommended time between screening tests may be shorter than for women with normal Pap test results.]
After 2 years of normal results, I went back to doing annual exams, which continued to be normal for another 10 years. In my 30s I finally started a job with insurance benefits and was able to get annual exams through a private practice gynecologist. After a few years, I was laid off from that job, so I decided to go in and get my Pap test done 5 months early so it would be covered by my soon-to-be disappearing insurance. It was at that time that I was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer. Because we caught it so early, I was lucky to be able to get a clean bill of health with just a CONE and LEEP* procedure and careful follow-ups for about 18 months. I am grateful for that layoff, because without it I would most likely have waited another 6 months to go in for a checkup and the cancer could have been worse.
This experience has made me a vocal advocate for regular checkups, listening to your body, and improving overall health and wellness. I now coach clients on ways to improve nutrition, manage stress, and be physically active to improve their health and be more aware of their own bodies. Part of that coaching includes making sure they go in for regular checkups.
If I could say anything to other women out there it would be please, take care of yourself. You might have convinced yourself that you don’t have the time or the money to get regular exams done because your job, child, parents, friends, and career are more important. But how can you possibly be good for anyone else if you are sick? Listen to your body and talk to your doctor about which cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should have them. Remember, I had no symptoms at all. The only reason I went in at that time was because I was losing my insurance.
I also want to express how incredibly thankful I am for all the people who provided cancer screenings throughout my life, especially low cost or free screenings when I had limited resources. I will continue to support the people and institutions that bring health care to people who need it most.
If you have a low income or do not have insurance, you may be able to get a free or low-cost cervical cancer screening test through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. To learn more, call 800-CDC-INFO or visit CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program website.
*CONE or Conization is a procedure in which tissue from the cervix is removed and examined for cervical cancer. LEEP is short for loop electrosurgical excision procedure. It is a technique that uses electric current passed through a thin wire loop to remove abnormal tissue.