HPV Cancer Survivor School: Where Are They Now? Catching up with Pixie Bruner
Tell us about your cancer survivorship journey.
I went in for a women’s wellness exam on October 26, 2020. The supervising physician called me a week later to tell me I had an abnormal Pap test. The test detected pre-cancerous cells within my cervix that are at higher risk of becoming cancerous. A week later, I went in for a colposcopy and three biopsies.
In November 2020, I received my official diagnosis of stage 1 cervical cancer, and found I also had a BRCA genetic mutation, which indicated I have an increased risk of developing certain cancers.
I underwent a total hysterectomy in January 2021. I had my reproductive organs removed, including my cervix, both ovaries, and Fallopian tubes. I woke up in the recovery room having my first hot flash. I became determined not to let anyone suffer what I endured and not be afraid to talk about cancer again. I refused to let ignorance about HPV take other people’s fertility and health.
What was your experience attending HPV Cancer Survivors School?
HPV Cancer Survivors School in 2022 educated me with updated guidelines and information. I met other survivors, and we bonded as we learned to advocate and educate about HPV-related cancers. I felt that cancer survivorship was truly celebrated.
How did you get connected with Cervivor? How did you hear about it?
I found Cervivor via a Google search, and they became my family. I sought expert, inclusive support immediately after my diagnosis. Cervivor supported me and kept me sane as treatment was postponed because hospitals were overpopulated due to the pandemic.
What have you been working on since Survivors School?
Since HPV Cancer Survivors School, I’ve spoken to community groups and become an advocate encouraging HPV vaccination for all children before they even are exposed or have to face stigma about HPV. I use what I learned at St. Jude to prevent cancers and give children a better life than I have had without HPV cancer. I just had my third “cancerversary” and am newly engaged, happier, better, and stronger than ever.
What has been the most significant change you see in yourself since you’ve started this journey?
I’m stronger, braver, and more outspoken. I’m willing to do “public cervix announcements” when before cancer, my cervix and intimate life was not a thing to educate or talk to people about. I want to save others from experiencing cancer.
What is your advice to other women about HPV and cervical cancer?
Get annual women’s wellness visits and demand Pap and HPV testing. Find a healthcare provider you trust. Get vaccinated and vaccinate all children age 9 and up to prevent HPV cancers. Vaccination prevents six types of HPV cancers. Early diagnosis saves lives. Trust your body. By age 30, over 80% of people have had or have HPV. It’s part of the human experience. It is nothing to be ashamed of and is transmitted intimate skin to skin contact, so even non-penetrative intimacy can cause HPV.