Finding joy after surviving cervical cancer twice
How one woman embraced life, marriage and motherhood despite her cervical cancer diagnosis
November 17, 2023
Several years ago, Christine Granado was living happily in New Jersey with her fiancé and then-9-year-old son, but she felt something wasn’t right.
In the span of a year, she lost three pregnancies. The first miscarriage came as a total shock. With the second, she felt confused. After the third, she was afraid something was terribly wrong. She decided to go for a routine checkup. While undergoing a series of tests ordered by her OB-GYN, she got surprising news: she was diagnosed with stage IIB squamous cell cervical cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. At just 28, Christine said she felt disbelief.
“How can I have cancer at this age?” she asked herself. “I remember peeking through my bangs, feeling like I was trying to hide behind them.”
Young women are at risk for cervical cancer, too
Granado wasn’t alone in asking herself that question. Younger women (cervical cancer is most often diagnosed between the ages of 35-44) and Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Black women in the U.S. are more likely to develop cervical cancer. In 2023, it’s estimated that about 13,960 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. Screenings may help to detect cervical changes before they turn cancerous, having played a part in reducing the incidence of cervical cancer by more than 50% from the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s.
Beginning her cancer treatment journey
Granado started treatment as soon as possible. She was prepared for physical side effects but was overwhelmed by the other changes that soon followed, including how she felt about losing her fertility. She and her partner discussed preserving her eggs but decided against it as doing so would have delayed her treatment.
Granado’s cancer went into remission for three years, and she found joy again: She and her fiancé got married and decided to have a baby via surrogate.
The shock of a recurring cancer diagnosis
Then, soon before her son was born, Granado started having unexplained chest pains. A CT scan found enlarged lymph nodes. She was diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
“When I got the recurrence diagnosis, I was devastated. It was hard to hear, but it motivated me to finish things, to contact a lawyer and get things in my kids’ names — to think about life after me,” she said.
It also motivated her to continue with more treatments. During her second round of treatment, Granado was able to welcome her new son. When she saw him, she took him in her arms: “I bawled my eyes out.”
A focus on mental health
In addition to her son’s arrival, Granado said a focus on herself has sharpened her resolve to live her best life. When the cancer came back, she grieved for her life. She would cry and sleep all day. Her depression stopped her from enjoying precious time with her family.
“The most disabling thing I dealt with was the depression,” she said. “There were days when I would feel physically OK, but I’d still stay in bed all day.” Thankfully, Granado had the support of a psychologist and a psychiatrist who helped her feel well again.
Cervical cancer won’t stop her from living her best life
Granado has been able to complete a master’s degree in health leadership, and her family has a new border collie named Harry. Even everyday activities like going to the hardware store and winding down with a book mean so much more now. She appreciates the small details, like watching TV with her son on the couch.
“Life has been amazingly boring,” she says. “In a good way.”
Granado said she hopes her story will inspire women and give them hope that there’s so much life to be lived – including the boring moments – in the face of a cancer diagnosis.