WEST RIDGE — Suzie Campbell is never getting back together with her uterus — and she couldn’t be happier.
The Evanston mother of two — a big Taylor Swift fan — had a hysterectomy two weeks ago after being diagnosed with a severe case of pre-cancerous human papillomavirus, or HPV.
“I bought a Taylor Swift sticker on Etsy that said, ‘We are never ever getting back together,’ and I thought, ‘That’s a cookie,’” Campbell said, laughing. “I wanted some bright and swear-y ‘f— you, uterus’ cookies.”
Campbell celebrated the surgery by ordering custom-made sugar cookies from her friend, Hannah Campbell, who runs Top Notch Bake Shop out of her West Ridge bungalow. The baker let her creativity shine with 12 cookies decorated with humorous phrases, including “Goodbye, aunt flo” and “No more cramping my style.”
“I was really excited because Suzie is a good friend,” Hannah Campbell said. “I commissioned a whole set for her with bolder language — it hit a different kind of pun for me.”
The friends, who are not related, have been flooded with compliments and messages after the cookies went viral on Reddit. Suzie Campbell posted them Tuesday and was surprised to see her post was upvoted more than 54,000 times and received more than 1,000 comments, most of them positive.
The cookies have proven to be an unlikely source of education on women’s health and sexually transmitted diseases. The post inspired other women to learn more about HPV, share resources about the virus and tell Suzie Campbell about their experiences, she said.
Suzie Campbell said she’s been vocal about her experiences with fertility issues, postpartum depression and miscarriages.
“I have always thought that talking about women’s health issues is important,” she said.
HPV is an extremely common virus, with about 3 million diagnosed cases in the United States per year. There are more than 200 types of HPV, and 40 of them are spread through direct sexual contact with someone who has the virus. Low-risk HPV can cause genital warts or abnormal cells in the uterus, while high-risk HPV can cause various cancers.
Suzie Campbell, a 35-year-old mother, found out five months ago she had two types of pre-cervical cancer resulting from HPV. One was CIN 3, where severely abnormal cells are found on the surface of the cervix. It is not cancerous but can become cancer and spread to normal tissue if left untreated, according to the National Cancer Institute. She also was diagnosed with AIS, a non-invasive type of cervical cancer that can turn into invasive cancer and spread if not treated.
After pap smears, a biopsy and medical consultations, surgery was the only option to prevent future cervical cancer, Suzie Campbell said. She is recently separated and has been living with her sister temporarily, making her medical journey difficult to handle.
But Campbell’s not letting the past dictate her future, and she wasn’t scared to remove her uterus, she said.
“My baby factory is closed, so not having my uterus anymore is not really emotional, which is good. Now it’s like, ‘How do I live my life going forward?’” she said. “Having [the cookies] were a way to [say], ‘Screw this that happened to my life,’ but I can get past it and that was very impactful.”
Campbell’s advice for anyone who is sexually active is to get the HPV vaccine, which is available for everyone younger than 45. The vaccine is known to be about 90 percent effective against HPV-attributable cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Campbell said she hopes more women take the vaccine or get screened for HPV “so there are not as many women that have to go through this.”
Hannah Campbell, who started her business during the pandemic, said she’s received at least six orders for hysterectomy cookie batches following the Reddit post. She hopes to make more feminist cookies to educate people on women’s health — and as a reminder that women should have the autonomy to decide what’s best for their own bodies.
“I’ve learned to be a little louder about” women’s health, said Hannah Campbell, also a mother of two. “This is not about your opinions. This is about health care and taking care of ourselves.”
The baker will be at the Horner Park farmers market this summer and is taking custom cookie orders for July.
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