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If your cancer has come back, we’re so sorry you have to face this again. A recurrence of cervical cancer can be unexpected and for some women more upsetting than the initial diagnosis.
Give yourself time to digest the news, don’t feel you have to inform everyone immediately. Deciding when you let others know will help you regain a little bit of control of the situation. You will have their reactions to deal with as well as your own emotions, so be discerning and make a plan for who you are going to tell. You might be able to share this plan with your partner or a friend.
When cervical cancer returns it should be taken on a case by case basis. You might be offered chemoradiotherapy or surgery and you may be eligible to join a clinical trial. Your hospital team will be able to advise you further about the types of options available. Your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) will help you navigate treatment choices and decisions. Remember it is okay to ask questions; doctors and nurses are used to this and expect it.
You may want to request a second opinion regarding your treatment options. This means your GP or consultant will refer you to seek a second opinion from another doctor, this could be at the same hospital or, in some cases, it might be a different one. This option is not for everyone. Many women find comfort in sticking with the hospital team that treated them initially, you may have built up a relationship with them and this can be helpful at this stressful time. Ask questions and use your CNS as your advocate; she will help get the most out of the treatments available.
My cancer treatment can help you find out more about hospitals.
Getting support during this time will help you manage the news and make decisions. Support can come from a variety of places including your family and friends, GP, CNS, local cancer support centre, or our support groups and online forum. We now have a private area of our forum for women living with advanced cervical cancer so you can express yourself freely with others in a similar situation.
You might not have thought about it before, but your local hospice may also provide support and therapies. Your instant reaction might be “Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not that ill”. Palliative care literally means holistic care and this is what hospices specialise in. The therapists are trained and experienced in supporting you, body and soul, to get the most out of life. They are not only there for people whose cancer is very advanced. You can ask your GP or CNS for a referral, alternatively you can call and ask about accessing their therapeutic out-patient services.
Friends and family can also be sources of support. They may also try to protect you. If you find them being overly protective or controlling you need try and make sure you let them know what help you do and don’t want. Your CNS can help you to plan for these discussions.
Your local cancer support centre will have a range of holistic therapies available free of charge to people undergoing treatment for cancer. Complementary therapies are used alongside your medical treatment received in hospital. These treatments can help you to relax, ease tense muscles and help you to return to a sense of equilibrium at a stressful time. There are a range of therapies available, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, reiki and reflexology. They will be delivered by a qualified therapist.
Many women find these types of treatments very supportive during a recurrence of their cancer and some patients’ find these treatments help reduce the side effects of treatments (eg., acupuncture for nausea during chemotherapy). Although these treatments aren’t necessarily proven to reduce side effects, there is an interest among the research community in examining the benefits of complementary therapies and some women who use them do find relief and comfort from them .
Speak with your local cancer centre and find out what might be available to you. If you decide to seek complementary therapies privately and pay for your treatment, ensure your therapist is registered with one of the organisations listed below and that they have experience of helping people with cancer.
Find out more about complementary therapies here.
Research has shown that many people going through cancer find relief in writing down emotions and feelings. You could try keeping a daily journal or using this more occasionally. It’s a way of managing your deep seated feelings and enabling you to digest or begin to ‘process’ them.
Creative activities such as drawing, art therapy or creative writing can be a wonderful way of enabling you to express emotions and get in touch with another side of yourself.
Your local cancer support centre or hospice will be able to offer you access to these sorts of supportive therapies and activities for free.