As part of her series on Gynocological Cancer Awareness Month, Jummy Olabanji is featuring the stories of women who are speaking out about their experiences with lesser known cancers that affect women locally and nationwide.
Stacy Padova loves to compete in marathons, attend Washington Nationals games and go on trips with her family.
Everything changed, though, in 2008, when she noticed something wrong around her vagina. Several weeks later, she found out that she had vulvar cancer.
About 4,500 women per year are diagnosed with the rare vaginal cancer, and it was a diagnosis that caught Padova off guard.
"I had never heard of anyone with vulvar cancer," she said. "You think you're not going to get it. You think there's no chance, but there's always a chance."
Gynocologic oncologists say that vaginal or vulvar cancers are most often as a result of an HPV infection. Symptoms of the cancer include an abnormal bleeding or discharge from the vagina, pelvic pain and sores or lumps that don't go away.
Infected women may also experience a change in their bathroom habits.
Luckily for Padova, she and her doctors were able to catch her cancer early and only underwent surgery to treat it; she didn't have to go through radiation, chemotherapy or take any drugs.
As her road to recovery continues, she hopes that other women focus on all facets of their health and not just ones that are highly publicized.
"We focus a lot on other cancers, and we should," Padova said. "We should focus on cancer as a whole. Women need to listen to their bodies from top to bottom."