I had a smear test in April 2016 and the results came back all clear. However, I arranged to see the doctor in May as I was worried about the symptoms I was experiencing – painful intercourse, discharge, unexplained bleeding – and the fact that there is a history of cervical cancer in my family.
I was referred but the appointment wouldn’t be until October so I decided to go private. Things moved a bit quicker and I had an appointment with a gynaecologist who suggested I come off the pill for 3 months to see if anything improved. It didn’t, and I was booked in for a cervical cauterization. When I was under having this done they took a biopsy as things didn’t look right to the surgeon in October 2016 but nothing was rushed, everything was still just routine at this point.
Two weeks after the biopsy was taken I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer. I was just 31.
Due to the nature of the cancer booked in for a MRI and CT scan and seen by a consultant the following Monday. I was given two options – a full hysterectomy or a trachelectomy. I chose the trachelectomy because whilst my cervix, surrounding tissue and the upper part of my vagina would be removed, my womb would be left in place, hopefully preserving my fertility.
I was also given a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SLNB), which is not standard practise for cervical cancer patients in the UK at the moment. I had a dye injection into the cells around the tumour to see if they were cancerous or not. In my case, they were and the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. This was a much quicker way of finding this out and helped shape my treatment plan.
I had the trachelectomy and was told I needed chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I was also told that my fertility unfortunately hadn’t been preserved. I knew there were risks but I was still devastated.
I started chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time in February 2017 as I’d had to wait until I was healed from my operation. I was due to have five chemotherapy cycles but I was too ill to have the last two. I then had two sessions of brachytherapy.
My last brachytherapy was on the 4th May and I was told by my oncologist that I was “cancer free”. I was elated.
Whilst my treatment is over I still have regular MRIs to monitor everything and I will see either my surgeon or oncologist every six months for the next five years.
YouCan has been a massive support to me throughout my cancer journey. I didn’t realise how unfit I had become during treatment so getting personal training sessions has really helped. Marin is amazing! He has really pushed me and taught me a lot. He’s helped me learn about food and nutrition too.
YouCan’s Boot Camp has also been hugely beneficial to me after treatment. I started straight after treatment and it was a gentle return to exercise. It’s good because Shelley has been through it too and she understands any limitations. The sessions gave me the confidence to start the personal training sessions. It helped me get fit enough to do the Race for Life 5k after treatment, which was a massive milestone for me.
I joined Freddie’s Friends , YouCan’s support group, in March whilst going through treatment. I love going to the group, which is held monthly. When I go to Freddie’s Friends I know there is always someone to talk to. You’re in a group with people who understand. I didn’t know what tired was until I had radiotherapy. Whilst my friends were massively supportive everyone at Freddies’s Friends just gets it and I don’t need to explain.
I think it’s brilliant what YouCan can do. When my older sister was going through her cancer diagnosis there wasn’t any support like this for her. Even though I’m through my treatment and I look well, emotionally it can still be very hard and YouCan gets that. I feel I can pop in for a chat any time if I need it. I was also invited to the Shelby Newstead Ball as one of YouCan’s guests which was a lovely night out. It was really nice to get all dolled up and go to that.
I’m really looking forward to going to Hinton House soon. I went to the house opening last summer and it looked brilliant.
Having YouCan’s support makes you feel like you’re not isolated. Everyday during treatment I saw lots of people – doctors, nurses, friends. That all disappears after treatment finishes. YouCan were there for me.