Vanka Ben Hur was born in Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When war broke out there, her family made aliyah to Beersheba and then moved to Kibbutz Revidim. After time in the Israel Defense Forces, when she served in Gaza, she lived in Israel and abroad, finally settling in Tel Aviv, where she started a successful business importing jewelry from the Far East. Outgoing and attractive, she had a busy social life—only hampered by chronic “women’s problems.”

“I always waved them away,” she says.

And she was losing weight—down to a very slim 45 kilograms.

Only after she married her boyfriend, Yarden, and tried to get pregnant did she undergo a thorough gynecological examination.

“We went for fertility treatment, and I was in such denial that I thought they’d find something wrong with my husband,” she says.

To their horror, they learned that Vanka, then 36, had advanced cervical cancer, a result of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV) at some unknown time in her life.

“I had never even heard of the vaccination and knew nothing about this virus,” she says.

Nor did she know anything about cervical cancer, and the Hebrew resources online were meager.

“All I knew was that instead of having a baby, I had cancer and might die.”

Vanka was referred to Dr. Tamar Perri, currently Hadassah’s director of gynecologic oncology.

Treatment for cervical cancer requires surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and internal radiotherapy called brachytherapy. The last is very effective but difficult to undergo.

While Vanka underwent this procedure, which put her into remission, she decided to create a social media group to prepare other women for the rigors of treatment and tell them frankly about the warning signs she’d missed. The hundred women who initially joined her Facebook group have now become 1,700.

“No Israeli woman with cervical cancer will ever feel alone again,” she says. Vanka and a friend have also started a support group. Dr. Perri makes herself available to answer their many medical questions.

Through a surrogate, Vanka and Yarden have achieved their dream of parenthood. They named their sweet little girl Rea.

Explains Vanka, “That means heaven in Bosnian.”