I’d always gone for regular Pap tests, whenever I got the reminder letter in the mail. I knew it was important that if anything was ever wrong, it was found early.
I went for a test in May 2007 and presumed everything was OK, as it had been every other time. My husband and I moved houses and changed phone numbers, which meant the GP was unable to contact me to tell me my results were abnormal. It was only when I went to see the GP again for something unrelated a few months later that I found out I needed further tests.
I was referred to a gynaecologist and on my first consultation I had a colposcopy, where they took a biopsy of my cells to analyse. Again, I just presumed everything was fine.
I called the gynaecologist’s rooms from work a few days later to see if my results had come back. The receptionist started reading from a letter she had on file for me, something she should not have done, and my whole world stopped when I heard her say: “I’m sorry to inform you that you have stage 1 cervical cancer.”
I sat in the office in total shock. I’d been married for just six months, we wanted to have children and now my whole future felt like it was threatened.
Thankfully, I was referred to an amazing gynaecological oncologist who was reassuring and brilliant. He told me we would take it just one day at a time and that he would try to preserve my cervix so that I could have children. I was immediately sent for a scan to check if the cancer had spread to my thyroid or any other part of my body; when we got the results I was relieved to hear that we had caught it early enough before it had spread from my cervix to other organs.
After I’d healed from the initial biopsy, I had a more thorough cone biopsy under general anaesthetic where they take a cone-shaped sample of cells from the cervix. Upon analysis of the biopsy, there was a clear margin of healthy tissue around the cancerous cells they had removed, meaning I didn’t need any further treatment. My gynaecological oncologist also gave me the news I was secretly hoping for - I was given the all clear to try for a baby once I had healed sufficiently from the operation.
Our son Reuben was born in September the following year, and although I had to be monitored closely because of my compromised cervix, he was born healthy, three and a half weeks early.
Now, my husband and I are blessed to have both Reuben and our gorgeous daughter Esther (born in 2013), as well as a clean bill of health.
I still have regular Pap tests to check everything is okay. I can’t stress enough how important it is that women go for their tests every two years. If I hadn’t, my cancer would not have been caught early. It may have spread to other organs, or I might have needed a hysterectomy or may not even have survived to tell this story.
It’s just a few minutes of embarrassment for something that could save your life.