Unprotected sex nearly cost Stacy her life. The responsible? The papilloma virus, a family of viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and, in the most serious cases, cancer.
Every year, some 6,400 cases of HPV (human papillomavirus) related cancers are diagnosed in France, mainly of the cervix (44%), anus (24%) and oropharynx (22%), in France’, according to the Institute Cancer National.
At 28, Stacy is in remission from two cancers of the cervix and colon, caused by HPV. “I’m a rare case”Théoulienne confesses with a smile.
Removal of the uterus and brachytherapy
It all started in May 2020, five months after the birth of their first child. Concerned about continuing to bleed, she makes an appointment with a gynecologist, who does a smear for the first time, recommending this test from the age of 25.
“This is where I find out that I have the papillomavirusremember Stacy. So far, things are going relatively well. It’s not very serious, it can be cured.”
Her optimism fades when she is told, after advanced tests, that she has cancer caused by this virus and that she will not be able to keep her uterus.
“I asked the surgeon crying if I could have a second child before, he replied “you can but this baby won’t have a mom anymore”.”
To avoid menopause and thus premature aging, Stacy transplants her ovaries below her ribs. “I was able to maintain my menstrual cycle but I no longer have flow.”
At the same time, he starts brachytherapy, to irradiate the tumor directly and in high doses. “You keep 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 nice area to show doctors all the time.”
nine centimeter tumor in the colon
In December 2020, the condition of La Théoulienne deteriorated. He loses 12 kilos and his stools turn bloody. Her oncologist and later a gastroenterologist assure her that it is probably an effect of the 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 tests.
“My surgeon, the one who operated on my first cancer, walks into my room telling me that it may be hard to believe but I have colon cancer and the tumor is three inches.”
“At that moment, I am speechless. I have nothing coming to me except the shock of telling myself that nine months later I still have cancer as a young, young mother to boot. The world fell apart a bit, but I decided to keep my head up.”
The biopsy reveals that the tumor is from the papilloma virus, making Stacy a “rare case”. She undergoes a strong laparotomy operation, that is, with her belly open, to remove both the colon and part of the rectum. “I have come a long way because then I found out that my vital prognosis was compromised.”
Prevention in social networks
Today, two years later, Stacy is better but still has the consequences of her operations. Recognized as category 2 disabled, the trained pastry chef can no longer work.
“I can’t hold my stool like everyone else anymore, I have to go to the bathroom 15-20 times a day and it’s very annoying.” To live, La Théoulienne receives the maximum amount of the disabled adult allowance (AAH), that is, €956.
“L’après-cancer est presque plus difficile à vivre. Tout le monde vous croit guérie, il n’y a plus d’opération, on n’en parle plus mais je reste perpétuellement dans ce sujet puisque j’ai un suivi pendant five years.”
His body has changed and his state of fatigue remains constant, forcing him to restrict his social life. “They often tell me “Come on Stacy, get out there, go exercise” but no, I can’t really do it, I need to rest.”
After cancer it is almost more difficult to live with it.
Despite the presence of her relatives, the young mother felt “alone against cancer”. “I would have liked to have answers to my questions, not face everything that I have lived in complete ignorance.”
That’s why she took to social media, hoping to inspire 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 take a smear before the age of 25, since the first reports are usually given before. We do not have enough prevention, there are not enough controls and there is not enough listening on the issue of the human papilloma virus”.
Stacy wants to intervene in schools to tell her story and continue doing prevention. With this in mind, she would like to write a book. “I want to shout it out to the whole world because today it’s me but maybe tomorrow it’s you.”
Despite her terrible journey, the young woman says that she is happy. “Psychologically I am very well. It is sad to have to go through such hard tests to realize how beautiful life is. Today I am very happy with nothing, everything makes me happy. I have become another woman and I am very proud of it.”
Papillomavirus: screening and vaccination
“Most sexually active women and men will become infected” by the papilloma virus “during his lifetime”warns the National Cancer Institute. It can be transmitted despite using a condom, including through oral sex and petting.
“90% of detected infections are eliminated naturally within two years and most HPV infections [papillomavirus humains] they 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 the larynx”.
In the case of lesions that may progress to cervical cancer, conization is recommended. This intervention makes it possible to surgically remove these “high-grade” lesions.
put on screen
There is only one screening and it concerns only women: the smear, which allows taking superficial cells by lightly rubbing the vagina.
This exam is recommended starting at age 25, then once every two years until age 29, once every three years from age 30 to 35, and once every five years until age 65.
In particular, the smear can be carried out by a gynecologist or a midwife.
“The latest vaccine on the market (Gardasil 9) protects against HPV infections, which are especially implicated in 90% of cervical cancers, 80% of anal cancers and 90% of anogenital warts (condyloma)”says the National Cancer Institute.
The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 to 14, with possible recovery between 15 and 19, and up to 26 for gay men.
It can be carried out by a doctor, midwife or nurse with a prescription, in a hospital, in certain public vaccination centres, in a free information, screening and diagnosis center (Cegidd) or family planning.
“The efficacy and safety of HPV vaccines have been scientifically proven. Despite this, vaccination coverage remains low in France (21% for the full regimen at age 16).”