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real life story of cervical cancer

Real Life Story of Cervical Cancer – My Shocking Diagnoses – By Cara

TLDR: Cara opens up about her real life story of cervical cancer. If you take one thing away from this please let it be this… stay on top of your screenings, it can literally save your life. This is a very brave and honest story, please share to help raise awareness.

I am Cara, and when I was 33 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. From the shocking diagnoses to finding out I would never have children naturally, this is my story. 

real life story of cervical cancer

I am a primary school teacher, so by profession I am very caring. I have always loved helping others and this shocking diagnosis has made me want to share my story in the hope it might help even one other person.

I have realised how little I knew about my own Gyne health and Gyne health more generally, so by sharing I hope to spread awareness.

I began to recognise the shame and stigma around talking about ‘taboo’ topics like periods, smear tests and changes to discharge, for example. We all need to know better to do better. 

Real Life Story of Cervical Cancer 

Very quickly and abruptly I plummeted into the unknown world of being a cancer patient. 

A world very alien to me and a million miles from my norm. In an instant my world was upside down and inside out, it had changed forever.

Thankfully, at the time I hadn’t quite anticipated how much my life had changed, and forever. Physically, mentally, emotionally. The vision and plans for the future are all hanging in the balance. 

My Cervical Cancer Symptoms 

For about 6 months previous to this, I was suffering with excessive bloating, pain and discomfort in my lower stomach and lower back. It started very sporadic but progressively got worse to the point it was completely debilitating.

I was having to take time off work, I spent many hours in the bath or with a hot water bottle strapped to me to ease the pain. I couldn’t stand or sit for too long. Car journeys were unbearable and sleeping more than a couple of hours was impossible. 

Wrong Diagnosis – Real Life Story Cervical Cancer

I had been back and forth to my GP many times, who originally diagnosed me with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It was suggested IBS could have been triggered by stress.

I went on a mission to do as much research into IBS as I could, as a result, I changed my whole diet, cutting out whole food groups, adding in pre and probiotics and adding in all sorts of supplements in the hope of some relief. I was willing to try anything.

My Experience – Getting The Cervical Cancer Diagnoses

My official diagnosis came as a result of being referred to the Colposcopy Clinic after my routine smear appointment – the nurse could see a discoloration at the neck of my cervix so she referred me to the hospital for a closer look at my cervix

This was before even my smear results were back, this showing the importance of the smear test appointment as a whole, not just the test itself.

The nurses at the Colposcopy clinic agreed that there was discoloring and believed that I needed to have ‘abnormal’ cells removed. By this time my smear results had come back to say there was a detection of high risk cells (high risk cells will be monitored or removed).

Thankfully the plans for cell removal were already in motion. At the time, this was a massive deal for me, as I have never been in a hospital or needed any treatment for anything before. I also have a phobia of needles. It was agreed it would be best to be put to sleep for the procedure.

When I woke up, I felt relieved and glad it was over. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The consultant came to speak to me and advised she believed “we were beyond cell removal”, I was instantly hysterical, assuming the worst.

I was firing all these questions in a state of shock and panic, questions that just couldn’t be answered at the time. I was then sent for further appointments to meet with Gyne specialists and to have biopsies and scans done so we could know for certain what we were dealing with. The wait for appointments and results was nothing short of horrific.

Exhaustion, emotional turmoil alongside lots of overthinking and anxiety was a recipe for disaster. 

In April 2023, it was confirmed I had cervical cancer.

real life story of cervical cancer

Cervical Cancer and Infertility

It was then I was asked about my future plans for parenthood. My long term partner Timmy and I, don’t have children, although they were always part of our future plans.

We learned that as a result of treatment it would be unlikely I would be able to have biological children or carry my own pregnancy. 

Another bombshell, another world I was thrown into that I had very little knowledge or experience in. Another life changing moment, not just for me but my partner and his future too. 

We were very grateful to have been offered one round of egg retrieval – this is the first part of the IVF process. Our future fertility will very much rely on finding a surrogate to carry our child/children, making it very uncertain.

Within a week I was sent to Aberdeen and started on the hormone injections. It was all very fast paced. Being needle phobic, it wasn’t ideal and I was not only petrified but I was still trying to process my diagnosis and get my head around so much about my health and future. It was a whirlwind, very surreal looking back.

However, it was now or never, my one and only opportunity to do what I could to preserve my eggs for the future. I wanted no regrets. For 5 days I had 1 injection per day, injected into the lower tummy, courtesy of my Mum and Timmy!

Although my Dad did drive up from Aberdeen to do the very first one as I didn’t trust anyone else. The way it was explained to us was that this first injection was going to harvest the eggs, stimulating the ovaries to make as many eggs as possible.

On day 5 I was to introduce a second injection each day, for a further 5 days. Again, into the lower abdomen. This injection stops the ovaries from releasing the eggs.

I was getting regular scans to monitor the progress of the eggs, the nurse would count and measure them and to make sure my ovaries were not over stimulated to the point they would burst. On the final day, day 10, a 3rd injection was administered at a very specific time to support the egg retrieval procedure the following day.

On the 5th of June, my 34th birthday, we were able to retrieve 14 eggs, 12 were healthy enough to freeze. It was a heightened, hormonal and emotional time. I am so glad we were given the opportunity and that I went for it despite the fear and hesitation. 

Starting Chemotherapy | Real Life Story Of Cervical Cancer

I then had further scans to start to prep and plan for the Cancer treatment. Which included 25 Radiotherapies, one session each day. Running alongside 6 Chemotherapies, which were done weekly, every Thursday.

Wednesday and Thursdays became the hardest because there were bloods and needles involved. I found some of the medications taxing, I was on steroids which kept me awake to the point of feeling demented and bloated me beyond recognition. On completion of this part of treatment was Brachytherapy. For me, the most invasive and traumatic.

Treatment as a whole was pretty intense in terms of physical side effects; fatigue, nose bleeds, sore heads, etc. It was tough but we were very well looked after from all the hospital staff we came into contact with.

Some truly incredible nurses and doctors. I think if I was to offer any advice for anyone about to go through the same would be to stay away from the horror stories that google has to offer, keeping calm and prioritising your mental wellbeing is vital.

It can be as simple as keeping on top of the basics – hydration, sleep and even short periods outside in the fresh air. I found daily gratitude really worked for me too, helping me to focus on the positives, no matter how small. Don’t be scared to ask ALL the questions, no question is silly or invalid. If something doesn’t sound or feel right, speak up! Self advocacy is vital!

Be kind to yourself and use your support systems, ask for help. I constantly worried about being a burden, however, when it was reframed to me ‘if the tables were turned, would you help’, I then felt more at ease to ask for, and accept help. Your friends and family want to help in any way they can.

The Menopause Symptoms Begin

A couple of weeks after leaving the hospital was when menopause hit and it took me to my knees. I was horrified that women suffer in this way and very little is spoken about it.

Up to this point all I had ever really heard about menopause was about hot flushes. I have never felt so low and deflated in my life, I genuinely felt like my soul left my body and I was left as a shell.

I had all sorts of ugly symptoms, including night sweats, my skin felt like it was crawling, it was so itchy. Extreme mood swings – rage like you wouldn’t believe, for no particular reason, then deep sadness.

I completely lost who I was and hated who I was becoming.

If I had the choice, I wouldn’t have wanted to be around me, it was pretty bad. Thankfully my GP was in the know when it comes to early menopause, however, I know this is not always the case, many GPs across the UK have very basic knowledge and minimal training in this area.

Here are our top tips for managing menopause symptoms with supplements after a hysterectomy >>

HRT – Menopause Relief 

My GP was fantastic and talked me through POI (Premature Ovarian Insufficiency) and what my treatment options were. I opted for HRT (the Oestrogen patch and progesterone tablets) which have made a huge difference. 

There are lots of different types of HRT which you can read about here.

It took a bit of trial and error to get the doses right for me but I am on the right path. The relief is unexplainable, literally life changing. I couldn’t have gone on much longer the way I was.

The cancer follow up process included an MRI scan around 4 months after treatment, this showed a small area of concern, still on the neck of my cervix. Naturally I was extremely concerned and disappointed.

I believed after finishing treatment in August I was on the path to recovery and navigating my new norm, as a 33 year old woman going through an early menopause. I was reassured and told this could be damaged tissue from treatment that is still breaking down and wasn’t uncommon.

Rachel also went into surgical menopause and you can read her story here.

Further Heartbreaking News From My Real Life Story Of Cervical Cancer

I was then booked a further MRI 4 months later, in April 2024. This showed the area in question was still visible and slightly larger than before. Pointing to it being active cancer, potentially a recurrence. Biopsies and further scans confirmed this.

A next level heart sinking moment, when you truly question when this nightmare is ever going to end.

Definitely not the news we had hoped and prayed for.

The process has been so long and grueling, with very little time to fully process and recoup. Not just for me, but those around me. It really does take its toll.

That is probably the hardest part, constantly having to break the bad news to those you love. 

The news that the goalposts have changed, with more hurdles to contend with and the finish line is yet further away. 

I am now in the process of finding out what cancer treatment 2.0 will entail. After further scans, examinations and consultations with surgeons, I know it will be a version of a pelvic exenteration. Requiring a 12 hour major surgery. With further life changing outcomes. Outcomes I am not sure I can or will fully accept and process any time soon. 

If you take anything away from my experience, please keep on top of your routine appointments.

No matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable they are, they could save your life. Take the HPV vaccine, if you are eligible, the research is showing a massive reduction in HPV related cancers. Know your normal and any changes should be reported to your GP – there are some fantastic apps for tracking symptoms.

Take care of your gyne health, this includes knowing what symptoms to look for, knowledge is power! Open up these conversations with friends and family, you never know who you might be helping by sharing, or who may finally act on a concern based on what you have shared.

Our Gyne health should not be something we are ashamed or embarrassed of. It will take time to break the taboos and stigmas. One uncomfortable conversation at a time, we can make a difference. 

Cervical Cancer Symptoms can include:

  • Unexplained and excessive bloating
  • Unexplained Lower abdominal pain
  • Unexplained Lower Back pain
  • Changes to toileting – needing to pee more frequently/urgently
  • Changes to bleeding – menstrual Cycle being longer/shorter/heavier than usual
  • Bleeding after sex or between periods
  • Unusual Pain or unusual discomfort during or after sex
  • Changes in discharge

Read more about this on the NHS website.

Ways to prevent Cervical cancer:

  • Attending your routine smear appointment
  • Getting the HPV vaccine
  • Consulting with a GP if you notice any of the above symptoms or changes you are worried about

Thank you to Cara for sharing her story. It’s very brave and incredibly selfless for her to take the time to spread awareness and encourage you to get regular sceening. If you would like to contact her, her instagram is @cara_can22

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