My cancer story started back in 2010. I was 25 at the time and had put off going for my first smear test for a few months. I should have gone in January but after a little pear pressure I finally bit the bullet and went in the July. My results come back 31st August – a day I simply won’t ever forget! I’d had the afternoon off work to go shopping with a friend, so finished work, raced home to get changed and there was my letter on the floor saying that my results weren’t right and that I needed to go to the hospital for a colposcopy. My partner at the time worked away so I call him to let him know, but being down the other end of the country what could he really do? So I met with my friend and as soon as she opened the door I told her.. Do you know what she said.. ‘Well why haven’t I had my results back? I went before you!’ Needless to say I was gutted.. Why would a friend react in this way! I’ve just been told some shocking news and where is the comfort that I so desperately needed?
So off I went for my coloposcopy, not quite knowing what to expect (I had googled but scared myself as I had googled the wrong thing, so just decided to go with the flow!) and there they took three biopsies. I will admit it wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but then lying there with your legs a kimbo, it never was going to be exactly wonderful! I was sent on my way, told all the usual things of not to have sex for 6 weeks, not to go swimming, use tampons and that I the hospital would write to me with the results. I kind of put this all to the back of my mind and got on with life – not everyone’s smears come back first time clear, so I was on the hope that this would all be clear and I would just have checks up a little more regularly – couldn’t have been further from the truth if I had tried!
If I remember right it took about 6 weeks for the next letter to arrive saying that they still weren’t happy with my results and that they wanted to do laser treatment! I spoke to work colleagues who had had the same thing and they reassured me that once this had been done that everything would be fine – laser treatment isn’t unusual to have after all. So off I went back to the hospital. One thing I’ve not mentioned is that the have you sitting in a clinic with expectant mothers.. nothing worse really when you are there for completely the opposite reason! On this appointment is where I met my consultant for the first time – to say he is the person who has reassured me for the last 6 years is an understatement, he really is one of the most amazing people I have met! Again, he did what he needed to do. Having laser treatment is an odd feeling, it doesn’t hurt as they numb you but it certainly was odd! He then gave me the speech again of no sex, no swimming pools, no tampons etc and sent me on my way. This time he wanted to see me back in clinic in 6 months.
You kind of forget about everything at the hospital and carry on everything else. I got married January 2011 – baring in mind that none of my family knew I was having to go back and forth to the hospital, we had the day like everything was fine.
My next appointment they did another colposcopy – I was getting used to these different things so this was fine, again saying that they would write to me with the results. This time when the letter came through it was inviting me for a LLETZ – this is just simply where they take a larger loop biopsy. I went on Wednesday 11th May 2011 and my consultant took tissue from my cervix which was about the size of a 2p – pretty big considering that your cervix isn’t very big to start with!
This time I went home expecting to hear back from the hospital in 6 weeks time like usual, however on Friday 13th May (typical isn’t it! Has to be a bloody Friay 13th!) my consultants secretary called saying that my consultant wanted to see me on the Monday – brilliant really – NOT! I had the whole weekend to work myself up over it! I’d already had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right from the very first letter and this certainly wasn’t helping with these doubts!
I have to say it was one of the longest weekends of my life. My appointment on the Monday wasn’t until 4pm, so I still had all of Monday to get through at work! However I got there and had to wait like you usually do when you just want to be seen quickly. The oncology nurses come to get me and took me to a side office and that where he said that from the loop biopsy they had found cancerous cells in most of the 2p sized tissue. He never said ‘You’ve got cancer’ like you hear on the TV, it was ‘We have found cancerous cells’. I think if he had said to me ‘You have cancer’ I would have taken it much worse, but I was like, meh it’s just cancerous cells. Talking about turning a blind eye eh!
My consultant had already got me booked in for an MRI scan on the Friday of the same week and I would also be seeing him the following week once he had the results to discuss my options.
I still continued going to work for the whole time this was going on – what else was I meant to do? Sit at home and feel sorry for myself? I’m not that kind of person, life is still going on and stuff still needs to be done, so you’ve just got to crack on right!
I will admit telling my family was the hardest part. I remember my mum breaking down in tears, not knowing what to saying or how to look at me. The hardest person to tell was my nan – she was my world and the head of the family really. She hadn’t been well herself so I didn’t want to add extra stress to her or make her even more poorly, but she still needed to know – for all I knew it was going to be a long old journey and how was I meant to keep that from her! So I told, made her sit down and everything in case she collapsed! There was no need of course, my nan was a tough as old boots! I remember she said, ‘Well it doesn’t rain it bloody pours doesn’t it!?’ Something which will always stick in my mind.
So I’d had the MRI scan done (I quite enjoyed it if I’m honest!!) and I went back to see my consultant. It was there that he gave me the option of a hysterectomy or a trachelectomy. Now I knew what a hysterectomy was but didn’t have a clue about the other. My consultant explained that rather taking everything away and me not being able to have children, that they would reduce the size of my cervix instead. The trachelectomy was what I chose, so he referred me to Birmingham City hospital to have the operation.
Off I sent on my merry way to Birmingham, with butterflies in my belly. Going to a hospital out of the county was strange and unnerving for me. But I got there, she examined me and then wrote to me with an appointment. I was due to go back 1st July to have my operation and the pre-op would be done the same week.
When I went for my pre-op, they did all the normal stuff, taking bloods, my height and weight, ECG’s etc and then I got to see my Birmingham consultant. She sat me down (I remember this clear as day and just wish I could have seen my face when she told me this..) and said to me that my cervix was already at the size that they would be looking at reducing it down to and therefore she would need to give me a hysterectomy instead!! I honestly couldn’t believe my ears!! My husband at the time told me to go for it as it would all be over and done with then!! Cheeky git, it’s not his bloody body! Now this is the only time I have ever said no to a doctor, they always know best don’t they, but not this time. I wasn’t going to give up on ME without a fight! For god sake, I had just got married and I was only 26 at the time and she wanted to take my chance of having children away, so I told her no. If need me she could have me back in 6 weeks time to do a hysterectomy then fine but for this surgery it was a no. Obviously they make you sign paperwork that says if it all goes tits up in theatre then she would be giving me a hysterectomy, but I was hopeful that there was no need for this. I needed to be anyway, everyone else seemed against me!
So 1st July comes round and I have to be in Birmingham for 7:30am, we decided to beat all of the work traffic so got up mega early and got there about 6:30am! More waiting around, caused by me this time! Surgery went well, although when I come round in recovery I remember asking what they had done – the nurses just looked at me like I was a weirdo, but I needed to know if they’d done a hysterectomy or not. It wasn’t until the following day that I found out they’d done the trachelectomy. Such a relief I can tell you! I was only in hospital for 2 days (thank god!). Although 2 days doesn’t sound too long, it felt like a week!
Anywho, back I went to Birmingham 8th July , just one week later, to have my catheter taken out (such joys of having a gyne op!). They wouldn’t let me go until I had passed enough water for their liking, but while I was there my consultant came to see me and confirmed that all the cancer had been removed in the loop biopsy I’d had previously. There was nothing in my lymph nodes either so no radiotherapy or chemotherapy for me! I had 2 more check ups at Birmingham and then I was handed back to Shrewsbury hospital. I couldn’t have been happier!
Like I say this was all back in 2010-2011, since then my check ups have gone from 3 months, to 6 months and then the scary 12 months. I bet those of you who haven’t been in a cancer position would be wondering why 12 monthly check ups are scary, it means that everything is OK and there’s no signs of cancer coming back? Yes, your right, but having been a cancer patient the thought of it coming back preys heavily on your mind and I personally would rather go once a month to be checked and then I can have some peace of mind!
8th July 2016 will mark my 5 years being cancer free, although 5 years isn’t a long time, in one respect it feels like it was a million years ago and in another it seems to have only happened yesterday. I was extremely lucky with my cancer, but I’m glad it happened. Not only has it made me have a different out look on life (I’d still be in a unhappy marriage for starters) but it also made my relationship with my mum 100% stronger and has bought us closer than ever.
I’m proud to be a cancer survivor, I try to tell my story to as many young girls as I can – they look (as did I) at smear tests as something scary and embarrassing, but they’re not. Uncomfortable yes, embarrassing a little, but I always tell myself they have seen worse! It takes 2 minutes to do and could save your life. When you look it that way what is 2 minutes?!