Kenzi Paquin is a wife and mom of five who is battling cervical cancer for the third time.
Kenzi has been sharing her story and her experience having cancer to help others and spread awareness. In doing so, she has gained a following of over 1.5 million on TikTok and hundreds of thousands on Instagram. Kenzi is also an autism, mental health, and domestic abuse advocate.
BuzzFeed spoke to Kenzi, who said she had early cervical cancer in 2016 that was taken care of in a small procedure. "I was supposed to be getting Pap smears every six months after that and I didn’t go. If I had been getting my regular check-ups, I would’ve caught it early again. I waited three and a half years and the next thing I was told is it was stage IIIB."
After Kenzi was told she had cancer again, she felt frightened. "The first thing I thought of was my kids and how hurtful it would be for them to live without a mother," she said.
"You don’t typically have symptoms with cervical cancer until it has progressed. That’s why annual Pap smears are so important," Kenzi said.
Some doctors have told Kenzi she only has a year left, while others have told her she has three years, tops. Others, however, are hopeful she will be cancer free again. No matter what, Kenzi is going to stay positive and keep fighting.
To get more information about cervical cancer, BuzzFeed spoke to OB-GYN Dr. Fatima Daoud Yilmaz, who is currently a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology. She has been practicing for five years.
"A Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. It involves taking a sample of the cells on the surface of the cervix so that they can be examined for abnormalities under a microscope. Pap smears are important because they are an easy way to detect cervical pre-cancers before they spread and transform into cervical cancer," Dr. Daoud said.
For the majority of patients, Dr. Daoud said a Pap smear is not very painful — many don't feel it at all. "Rather, the pelvic exam involving the insertion of a speculum into the vagina, which is done in order to visualize the cervix and collect the Pap smear, can be uncomfortable for some. Some people may experience spotting or cramping after a Pap smear."
And Dr. Daoud confirmed that Pap smears absolutely save lives. "Before Pap smears became routine, cervical cancer was among the most prevalent cancers. These days, thanks to early detection of cellular abnormalities via Pap smear, cervical cancer has become much, much more rare."
Dr. Daoud confirmed that early-stage cervical cancer often has no signs or symptoms, and this is why Pap smears are so important. When cervical cancer progresses and spreads to other organs, she said you may experience heavier prolonged periods, bleeding outside of the menstrual cycle, bleeding after penetrative intercourse, increased vaginal discharge, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, and pain during intercourse.
In addition to getting routine Pap smears, Dr. Daoud's final advice is to stop smoking and get the HPV vaccine. "The overwhelming majority of cervical cancer (as well as vaginal, vulvar, anal, and penile cancers) are caused by Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. Please stop smoking tobacco. It impairs your body's ability to fight off HPV, allowing it to linger longer inside your body and cause the cellular changes that lead to cancer."
Special thanks to Kenzi for sharing her story — you can follow her on TikTok and Instagram as she continues her battle against cervical cancer. Another special thanks to Dr. Daoud — you can also follow her on TikTok and Instagram for more medical-related facts.
You can get more information about cervical cancer here. And more information about Pap smears here.