Embodying a warrior spirit against cervical cancer

By Erika Mahoney

January 17, 2014 Updated Jan 17, 2014 at 7:47 PM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) On January 17, 2011, Jeannie Rouse heard the "c" word escape her doctor's mouth.

What started out as a backache, became a full blown battle for her life.

Rouse was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer.

"They did chemo, radiation and five surgeries," Rouse said. "In a week and a half's time, I did these five surgeries, for internal radioactive and radiation. Not fun."

From there it was an uphill battle. Stage 3 became stage 4 advanced cancer, and a year and a half ago she was given six months to live.

Now, she's on two chemotherapy medications and is recovering from another surgery.

But she's still here.

"I don't know what my time is, God knows, but I don't," Rouse said. "But I am going to enjoy every minute of it that I possibly can."

And as she goes forward, she's not only fighting for herself, she's also fighting for others.

"One of my girlfriends was emailing me... 'how are you doing, how are you doing?' She said, 'Jeannie, you inspire me so much I am going to call you warrior woman.'"

That name blossomed. Rouse started the group Warrior Women in Action, which promotes support, awareness and screening.

Cervical cancer is dubbed the "silent cancer" because it doesn't show any symptoms until it's advanced.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 12,000 people were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013, and about 4,000 lost their battle to it.

"You have to go get a pap smear and pap smears are so easy to do now," Dr. James Kondrup, M.D., with Broome Obstetrics and Gynecology said. "You can get them at your local healthcare provider's office, you can get them at Planned Parenthood if you don't have funds."

Dr. Kondrup said the main cause of abnormal pap smear results is human papillomavirus.

He highly recommends the HPV vaccine for both females and males. While the virus doesn't show the same symptoms in men, they do carry it.

Dr. Kondrup said it's good to get the vaccine anytime, but the pre-teen age is the best time.

"My strong recommendation is that pre-teens get the cervical vaccine, the HPV vaccine, at a very early age because that is when they are really tanked up to make the antibodies."

While doctors can't pinpoint what caused cervical cancer for Rouse, she is a huge advocate of screening.

"If you want your hand held, if you don't have insurance, if you're scared to death, call me, I'll go with you, I will help you, I don't want to see anybody go through what I went through."

Meanwhile, her husband is holding her hand.

"He will come upstairs and I'll just be sobbing and he'll know. He says, honey, you just need a day where you can cry."

But more days than not, Rouse is embodying her warrior spirit.

"If I do lose the battle here on Earth, I've not lost the battle up above and the cancer gets to go away."

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