Marissa Jaret Winokur: My Battle with Cervical Cancer
01/27/2007 AT 06:00 AM EST
Recently scientists have learned more about the cause of cervical cancer – HPV, a sexually transmitted virus – and Winokur, now 33, has decided to open up to PEOPLE about her battle.
Winokur in her own words...
In 2000 I was living in L.A., going back and forth to New York, working with the Hairspray producers, but they hadn't given me the part yet. I was back in L.A. when my gynecologist's office called. My routine Pap smear was "off" and I had to have a biopsy. A few days later I was in my apartment when I got the call. I was in shock, but my family and friends rallied around me. Within days part of my cervix was removed.
I went back to New York feeling awful. I couldn't tell anyone at work because they still weren't sure I was right (for Hairspray). I wasn't going to give them a reason not to give me the part. My sister made me a padded leotard because I'd lost so much weight. When I returned to L.A. a week later, they told me the cancer had spread and I would have to have a hysterectomy.
Shortly after the second surgery, I got the part. I didn't have time to be sick – I so wanted this part. I repeated over and over, "I'm going to be okay."
I woke up after the surgery, and I asked what they took out. They didn't know what they would find beforehand. But it was just my uterus. I had my ovaries, and I didn't have to go through chemo. I thought, "Okay, now the cancer is gone. Let's get going." My doctors gave me the all clear, and I moved to New York City in January 2002. It was the best time of my life.
When I was sick, all I wanted to do was get well. I never asked about the cause, except to check if it ran in my family. I learned about a year ago that HPV, a common virus, causes cervical cancer. Now there is an HPV test that might have caught my precancerous cells earlier. There's a vaccine, which can be given to women before theyre sexually active. It makes sense to take these precautions. I'll encourage my friends' teenage daughters to get vaccinated.
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